Not So Dumb (1930)

With an ex-con butler, silly parlour games and a house full of whackadoos, Not So Dumb is a direct ancestor to the screwball comedies that would become popular in the late 1930s. Dulcy’s jangly bracelets are reminiscent of Mame Dennis’ acting debut and plot points seen in Not So Dumb are used again and again in films like Arsenic and Old Lace, Holiday, The Philadelphia Story, and others. And for those of you who think Gone With the Wind was the first instance of a mainstream film using naughty, naughty swears, note that Mr. Forbes, the cranky businessman, declares, “I don’t care a damn about pictures!” And he doesn’t stop there. Continue reading

The Woman in White (1948)

Woman in White is a post-Code lurid Gothic horror, and as such pushes its own boundaries within the genre, mostly through the character of Count Fosco. It’s interesting to note that the film was made in 1946 and not released until 1948, when standards had lessened to a degree; I can’t imagine Frederick’s assertion that he personally has no problem with pre-marital sex being allowed in a film in 1946. But concessions were apparently made to appease the Production Code, and by the time the useless and unstable Frederick reveals himself to be a libertine, he’s been so sufficiently coded as evil and gay that his open-mindedness is easy to overlook. Continue reading

Completely Delightful Nonsense: Marion Davies in The Florodora Girl (1930)

Not precisely a revival nor a biopic, the 1930 Marion Davies vehicle The Florodora Girl takes little more than a name and the vague idea of a Florodora Girl and transplants her into pre-Code Hollywood, and to strange, though not uninteresting, effect. So light at times that it looks as though it will blow away, reviewer Creighton Peet of The Outlook dubbed The Florodora Girl as “completely delightful nonsense.” Continue reading

Station West (1948)

While the link between Westerns and noir films is well documented, very few films have been as literal as Station West in borrowing tropes from one genre and superimposing them onto another. Continue reading

Darling Lili (1970)

Darling Lili is a beautiful film, with some fine aerial shots during the battle scenes, some truly fantastic costuming, plus gorgeous sets and lighting. Continue reading

Hustle (1975)

To modern eyes, Hustle tries way too hard to be edgy, though it’s all in the service of creating a gritty take on films noir and early police dramas. Continue reading

Murder, My Sweet (1944)

Murder, My Sweet is frequently considered to be second-tier film noir (when it’s not being forgotten entirely), and that’s a shame, as it’s a fine example of the film noir cycle. Influential and entertaining, this psychological thriller is a must-see for classic film fans. Continue reading

Criminal Court (1946)

Criminal Court is a tight little noir directed by Robert Wise, starring Tom Conway as a hot-shot attorney who accidentally frames his girlfriend for murder. Continue reading

Wolfen (1981): Now on Blu-ray from Warner Archive

Burned-out police detective Dewey Wilson (Albert Finney) gets reluctantly called in to investigate the murder of high-profile millionaire Christopher van der Veer (Max M. Brown) in Wolfen, the 1981 sociopolitical horror film directed by Michael Wadleigh. Van der Veer, his wife Pauline (Anne Marie Pohtamo), and their driver Harrison (Jeffery V. Thompson) were found sliced to death in a public park, but police coroner Whittington (Gregory Hines) knows almost immediately that the weapon wasn’t metal. Wilson tosses around a few ideas about synthetic or plastic weapons and ritualized killings, before more dead people start turning up with similar wounds. They’re found all over New York City, however, from all socioeconomic walks of life; as one policeman says, they can’t possibly be connected, because “it’s a big jump from the South Bronx to Wall Street.” But they are connected, says Whittington, because all the victims’ bodies have unidentified hair or fur on them. A trip to local zoologist and wolf lover Ferguson (Tom Noonan) gives Wilson and Whittington their final clue: the fur is lupine, but wolves have been extinct in New York for decades. Still, there are radical elements in New York that would have wanted to take down van der Veer, who owned companies on every continent and had disrupted holy grounds and burial sites many times; as an investigator wryly noted, he was not exactly a friend to all nations. Most recently, he had been planning on developing an area of the South Bronx, coincidentally — or not … Continue reading

Once a Thief (1965)

Ralph Nelson’s jazzy, hard-boiled noir Once a Thief stars Alain Delon as Italian (!) immigrant Eddie Pedak with a criminal past who’s just trying to go straight, but his gangster brother Walter (Jack Palance) keeps dragging him back into the fold. Opening with the cold-blooded killing of grocery store owner Lisa Wing (an uncredited actress), we discover her husband (also uncredited) has seen the killer, and his description catches the attention of Inspector Mike Vido (Van Heflin). Seems Vido knows exactly the kind of car Eddie drives, the kind of coats he wears, and the kind of bullets that come from his gun, because one of those bullets was dug out of his gut a few years prior. When the bullet that killed Lisa Wing matches the bullet that shot Vido, he goes after Eddie. But Eddie is being framed by his brother as incentive to get him back into the game for one last million-dollar heist. Eddie resists at first, but he loses his job when Vido drags him off for questioning. Then his wife Kristine (Ann-Margret) has to go to work as a waitress at a bar to make ends meet, and Eddie starts feeling all the testosterone draining out of his body, what with having to rinse off dishes while she’s working and all, so he drags Kristine from her job, essentially sexually assaults her and beats her up in front of all the patrons, then tells Walter he’ll do the big heist after all.   As … Continue reading