A black leather jacketed, sunglass wearing amnesiac Beatnik
Jesus shows up in a small town in post WWII Poland and turns on the
townsfolk with miracles and music. Novelist/filmmaker Tadeusz Konwicki
conjurs up Salto from his novel A Dreambook for our Time.
It expresses the inexpressible remarkably. Once again the proto Beatnik
figure is seen as a semi Messiah, as in Cocteau’s Orphee. This
was the psychic build up to the creative explosion of the 60’s. But
just watch this clip, I dare you not to be impressed.
Arch Stanton, Bill Carson, Tuco Ramirez, Angel Eyes, Blondie, these
are the names that only a lover of Westerns and Classic American Cinema
could come up with and bring to life in a magnificent screenplay. An
epic sweeping tale of Greed in the American West,our Holy Three search
for Treasure, Buried Gold, and nothing, not a Prisoner Of War camp, a
raging battle for a meaningless bridge, the burning sands of an
impassable desert, nothing can stop them in their quest. One of the
writers of THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER MADE! has passed on. The Titans of
Cinema await you Furio Scarpelli. they will take you by the hand and
lead you to Paradise! Requiescat In Pace!
The idiotic “Shoot the match and prove you didn’t
kill my wife” Scene, although it looks like a cigarette, which is what’s
written in the script but was changed to a match during filming,
probably re-infuriating Raymond Chandler!
I got the published screenplay to Raymond Chandler’s The Blue
Dahlia. It has an introduction by the producer John Houseman.
Houseman tells the story of Chandler needing to get drunk to finish the
film after a secret meeting with the head of production who offered R.C.
a $5000 bonus to get the script done. Houseman claims that Chandler was
blocked, that George Marshall had shot almost all the pages written,
93 or so, and that the attempted bribe by the studio head had so
insulted and enraged Chandler that he wanted to quit. But rather than
let a fellow veteran of the English public school system down, Chandler
heroically opted to sacrafice his health by consuming vast quantities of
alcohol which he assured Houseman would enable him to finish. Now there
are a few points worth mentioning, the script was almost complete,
Chandler had begun work on The Blue Dahlia as a novel, and we
know from his correspondence that he had an ending in mind all along,
that Buzz (William Bendix) the steel plate in the head veteran was the
killer. The Navy objected to this most strenuously and Paramount agreed
to change the ending. Houseman does not mention this fact in his
introduction. So this is what I think happened, Chandler finished the
script as he planned, with Buzz as the killer, the Navy objected,
Chandler was called in to a meeting with the studio head, Mr. Head told
Raymond to change his ending and offered him $5000 to make it go down
easier. Chandler flipped out, he hated the movie business and couldn’t
stand anyone telling him what to write. Chandler went to Houseman and
threatened to quit. Then R.C. went home and thought it over, “I’ll write
their crap ending but on my terms. ” He made his list of demands, he
got to work at home, drunk, with round-the clock secretaries he could
chase around, and limos waiting at his beck and call and a doctor on
call to take care of him. He had to anesthetize himself to write that
idiotic scene where Buzz shoots a match in Johnny’s hand to show he
wasn’t the killer and then the captain tricks Dad the house detective
into giving himself away. Oh Brother! I think Chandler hated that
character,( the house dick) he has all the abuse in the movie heaped on
him. Houseman acts as if this was the great ending Chandler came up with
at the last minute, that Chandler didn’t have an ending in mind at all
which we now know is untrue. So that’s my take on why old R.C. needed to
get loaded to finish the script. Another point was revealed in
Houseman’s intro. During a fight scene a heavy oak table fell on Don
Costello’s toe and broke it. Director George Marshall staged the rest of
the scene so Costello didn’t have to walk around, he fights Alan Ladd
but on the floor. It was brilliant! A great example of taking an
accident that could have shut down production and making something
better out of it. Marshall really rose to the challenge and elevated the
scene creatively. Bravo! More Myth and Magic in the Land Of Make
The story goes that Paramount desperately needed to make a film in a
hurry, Alan Ladd their box office giant was due to report for military
service and they wanted a film to exploit his fame before he went in.
Ladd, a grip turned actor, for a non-actor he’s very good
So they asked Raymond Chandler to write a script in record breaking
time. He asked for and got a bunch of special conditions that he
insisted were absolutely necessary for him to finish on time. He wanted
to work at home, he needed two cars and drivers at his disposal, round
the clock stenographers and nurses and an unlimited supply of alcohol.
Chandler felt the only way he could deliver was to be constantly
inebriated, I guess this got his creative juices flowing. He delivered
the script. Is it a film noir? Maybe but it does veer from the form in
certain significant ways. The story starts with three returning WWII
vets arriving in Hollywood, U.S.A., Alan Ladd, William Bendix and Beaver
Cleaver’s future dad Hugh Beaumont. They stop in a bar for a
celebratory drink and we learn that Bendix has a “plate in his head”
from a war wound, also he is driven to near insanity every time he hears
“monkey music” or big band swing/jazz. A soldier playing a tune on a
juke box is the object of Bendix’s maniacal ire. This is an interesting
twist, I always felt that WW II era big band music was almost a drug,
that it relaxed soldiers far from home, reassuring them with it’s
soporific harmonies that everything was going to work out, they’d return
home to Mary Lou and grow old under the apple tree. Here Chandler takes
the musical promise of normalcy and shines a bright light of reality in
our faces by having it inspire madness and murder in the damaged mind
of a returned veteran. The other false promise, the faithful wife
awaiting her returning husband is likewise demolished when Ladd finds a
wild party in full swing at his wife’s “bungalow apartment”, not only
that but he sees his spouse smooching on nightclub owner-racketeer
Evil Sparkly Doris with corrupt nightclub owner/paramour DaSilva
She delivers the coup-d’etat by informing Ladd that their son Jimmy
died after she drove drunk and crashed. Doris Dowling plays the evil
wife and she is pure nasty badness. OK, usually the femme fatale dupes
the man, lies to him, appears sweet or sexy somehow lures him to his
doom, like Eve with her Apple, not Doris! She is so nasty and evil she’s
lucky Alan Ladd doesn’t kill her himself. She winds up dead pretty
quickly which is another curve thrown in the noir structure, the femme
fatale is killed in Reel One! Then we get some great Chandler set
pieces, Ladd meets Veronica Lake in the rain, (Chandler called
her”Moronica” Lake), the house dick (Will Wright) starts blackmailing
everyone in sight and is treated like dirt by everyone in the film! He
is at the absolute bottom of humanity, I found myself laughing out loud
as one character after another insulted, degraded, and humiliated him,
maybe I should say tried to humiliate him because he didn’t care, he
just wanted a few bucks, or a cigar or whatever he could cadge from
anyone in his path.
Ladd and Lake in fake Malibu. The poor, beautiful junkie paid dearly
There’s an incredible character- Leo(Don Costello), he’s DaSilva’s
partner in the night club and he is great, a true Chandler character, a
gangster that wears thick glasses, he looks more like an accountant than
the cold blooded killer that he is. I think he’s a truer picture of
what a lot of these racketeers were like, they considered themselves
business men and killing was simply a part of their business. A sharp
observer like Chandler surely based this guy on a real gangster in the
papers at that time. Then there’s the obligatory kidnap the hero, take
him out of town, tie him up, beat him into unconciousness scene. Just
like in The Big Sleep where it happens to Bogie. A great bit of
action occurs when Leo, who has injured his foot in a struggle with
Ladd, is soaking his toe in a basin of hot water supplied by his kind
henchman, Ladd awakens from being slugged and tips a table over that
smashes down right on Leo’s injured toe! The reaction from Leo is
classic! And I’ve never seen that particular move in a fight scene,
another Chandler stroke of genius. There’s plenty of snappy patter such
as “I’m not that kind of a rat” “Oh,what kind of a rat are you? or when
Lake picks up Ladd in the rain ” I guess you could get wetter if you lay
down in the gutter” etc. Chandler knew how to write that kind of stuff.
Another anti-noir element is the lighting, there’s no use of shadows,
venitian blinds, smoky silhouettes in this film. It actually looks like a
Monogram el cheapo. The sets are crummy, under decorated, limned in
just a few shades of gray, they actually remind me of the sets from the
Abbot and Costello television show.
The whole production looks grade Z, which is kind of surprising since
Ladd and Lake were big box office at the time, having recently struck
gold in This Gun For Hire. Another weird aspect is the almost
total lack of background music. The only music in the film is the big
band stuff that drives Buzz (Bendix) into homicidal amnesiac rages. Most
films of this era had incidental music playing under dialog scenes.
This has none. Was this a budgetary consideration? I don’t know, the
flat lighting and skimpy set design speaks more of the rapidity with
which they needed to make this film, they were under the gun with Ladd’s
induction looming. But I feel that the cheapness of the sets, the flat
lighting and the lack of music works for this film, it makes it more
creepy, it’s harder to dismiss it as a piece of fluff, it gets under
your skin like the home movies of a serial killer. It’s more real,
lifelike in it’s mundaneness, not movielike.
The one prop they seem to have spent any money on at all is the neon
sign that bedecks the front of DaSilva’s nightclub, a large gaudy Blue
Dahlia. That’s the name of the club. I think it represents a lot to
Chandler and this story. Da Silva publicizes his club by handing out
Dahlias dyed blue. Veronica Lake picks at one absent mindedly in
DaSilva’s office triggering an outburst from Buzz “She was picking at a
flower just like that when I killed her!” Buzz the disturbed veteran is
the murderer! The Dahlia, an exotic hot house flower represented
sex,debauchery, corruption to Chandler. Just like the opening scene in The
Big Sleep that takes place in General Sternwood’s green house.
Exotic flowers are perverse to Chandler, decadent. The fatal combination
of Dahlia and “monkey music homicidally unhinges Buzz. I think it
played out like this, Buzz met Johnny’s wife in a bar, not realizing who
she was. They went to her bungalow to have sex, he couldn’t perform,
she taunted him, tore up the flower( masturbated?) drove him to murder.
Femme Fatale Doris about to get her comeuppance from Shell Shocked
Steel Plated Buzz
The film ends with Will Wright being named as the killer but in
Chandler’s original script it was Buzz, the Navy intervened and demanded
the script be changed, they didn’t want a veteran to be portrayed as a
murderer. Chandler strongly objected to this but he was overruled. The
film was a big hit and several spin-offs or rip offs were made in it’s
wake, notably The Blue Gardenia by Fritz Lang. Shortly after
this film’s release a young woman was hanging out in a drugstore in Long
Beach, she had wavy black hair and a soda jerk referred to her as The
Black Dahlia in a joking reference to this film. Thus pinning a name on
one of the most famous unsolved murder cases in the history of L.A. and
further assuring a place in history to this strange bit of celluloid.
Beth Short bedecked with flowers, the real Black Dahlia
The beautiful Veronica Lake was in reality a troubled young woman.
Her husband and director Andre deToth revealed that she was a heroin
addict and an alcoholic during her meteoric rise to fame. She was found
near the end of her life working as a bar maid in NYC. She achieved the
fame girls like Elisabeth Short ( Black Dahlia) came to Hollywood to
find yet she wound up working in a bar, a fate Beth Short might have
shared if she’d lived.
A film of overwhelming moods, everything in this film seems filtered
through a veil of sadness. Visually stunning, the art direction and
cinematography are wonderfully rich. The colors jump off the screen in
beautiful compositions. Director of Photography Nic Roeg really outdoes
himself here. And Bernard Hermann’s music sinks you deeper and deeper
into a state of lugubrious drugged oblivion, like a person slipping
deeper and deeper into a bottomless vat of viscous oil. The powerful
rhythms and images of dream logic make this film even more effective.
For example the woman who burns herself with her books and Montag’s
Also I love films made in the 60’s yet set in the future for their take
on design, it’s the 60’s taken to a super cool extreme, like they had
reached the apogee of design and then found a way to show that somehow
in the future it would be improved upon in interesting ways.
The firetruck, the monorail, the doors that slide open on their own. Big
flat panel TV’s hanging on your living room wall.Truffaut didn’t like
this film that much although Ray Bradbury did. I think Truffaut is not
always a fair judge of his own films since he didn’t like The Bride
Wore Black either and to me that’s one of his best films. A
fascinating depressing work of Art, check it out on a rainy Saturday
afternoon. The opening credits are spoken over images of TV antennas,
no writing allowed in the future! Montag forces a group of his wives
friends to listen as he reads from a book by Charles Dickens, an
emotional passage about the death of the writer’s wife. One woman breaks
down in tears, the rest say he’s disgusting, “people aren’t supposed to
upset other people, that’s why they did away with books in the first
place!” This sounds to me like our politically correct society of today
where you can’t say anything slightly off center without being
pilloried. Also everyone takes massive amounts of prescription drugs,
the whole population is medicated! The mindless totalitarian society
hypnotized by Television and since there is no writing allowed, there
can be no scripts for the actors on TV, sounds to me a lot like Reality
Shows. Now The that the Supreme Court has allowed Corporations to spend
as much as they want on political campaigns Fahrenheit 451
doesn’t seem so far away. I just heard that it will be re-made with Tom
Hanks as Montag, Ray Bradbury is in frail shape this could finish him
off. So check it out and see what you think, it is a very unique,
Last night I went to another screening, part of the 11th Film Noir
Festival at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood USA. One of the films
shown was Deadline U.S.A., the directorial debut of Richard
Brooks, who shot to fame soon after with his mega hit Blackboard
Jungle. Brooks had been a newspaperman and the veracity his
experience brings into play is eye-opening. The scene at the paper are
great, especially the scenes in the printing room, these were the days
when the paper was printed on giant machines directly downstairs from
the reporters desks. A lot of important action takes places right there
in front of, over and in the enormous presses. It’s also a very timely
piece as the subplot has to do with the selling and closing of a vital
newspaper something we are being subjected to on a daily basis across
our country, probably across the world. Eddie Mueller (programmer of the
Noir Fest) spoke before the screening. He said his father was a
newspaperman and this was his favorite film. Then he asked how many
people in the audience were in the newspaper game, I would say about
half of the crowd raised their hands, this film is beloved by
journalists and I can see why. It’s really about the power of the press,
about the principles of journalism that inspires a young person to
pursue a career in that hallowed field. And never have I seen the ideals
of reporting better illustrated, a sensational story of a nude blonde,
wearing only a mink coat is fished out of a river, one paper plays it up
in true tabloid style, Humphrey Bogart’s paper “The Day” reports it
Bogart plays editor Ed Hutcheson, a tough, obsessed genius
newspaperman, unafraid to take on the biggest gangster in town,
uncompromising, a beautiful performance. The supporting cast is loaded
with great character actors, Kim Hunter as Bogie’s ex-wife, Ed Begley,
Jim Backus, Paul Stewart, you’ll see a gallery of faces that you
recognize from many films. But the real stand out for me was the
dialogue, some of the best, funniest, on the money verbiage I’ve heard
in any film. Brooks really knew what he was talking about or should I
say writing about.
Brooks on the Right
Michael Cimino was a friend of Richard Brooks and he told me a story
about him once. It seems Brooks had just come to Hollywood and he got a
gig writing something for Orson Welles. Welles was making Jane Eyre
at the time over at Samuel Goldwyn Studios in Hollywood ( across the
street from the Formosa Bar) Brooks lived nearby and one night as he was
typing feverishly in his apartment, he heard someone yelling his name.
He looked out the window and there was Welles, in full Jane Eyre makeup,
driving a horse and buggy from the film, out in the street in front of
Brooks apartment. ” Brooks, where are my pages! I want my pages!” Welles
shouted, urging the young writer to hurry up and finish his assignment.
Welles had just taken off from the set still in character, driving a
horse and buggy he drove in the film out the gate and down the streets
of Hollywood to check up on his writer. Those were the days! But see Deadline
U.S.A. if you can, it’s not out on DVD but somebody at Fox should
take note and release this wonderful film for the world to enjoy and
TCM has done it again, screened a somewhat obscure film I’ve never seen.
The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane is a stylish thriller
(sort of), a psychological fairy tale chess game, the board pieces
consisting of a precocious blonde angel, sexy, innocent brilliant,
deadly, an evil Prince, sadistic, pederast, coward, bully, with
pretensions of refined debauchery, a teen aged limping magician,
complete with top hat and cape, accomplice, lover, confidant, defender
of his lady’s virtue, a large village policeman, slow, good natured,
(later to write Jacques Brel is alive and living in Paris) and a racist
Queen of a landlady, driving in her Bentley like the wicked witch.
Beautifully directed and photographed TLGWLDTL feels like a EuroHorror
film, not quite a giallo ( no black gloved killers) but definitely
closer to the Italian style of filmmaking than the American. Complete
with a glimpse of a nude 13 year old Jodie Foster ( really her older
sister Connie, body doubling her) that was cut out of the American
release. Martin Sheen is excellent as the pervert neighbor who covets
Jodie’s nubile body, but Jodie is amazing, a captivating, mesmerizing
performance that dispels the incredulity this tale could easily raise.
It’s worth watching sheerly for her genius. She has a magnetic,
feral/angelic quality that makes it hard to take your eyes off her. The
camera loves her would be one way to express it but it seems to me that
some people can project their thoughts through the Cinema Eye (the
camera lens) much more powerfully than others. Is that Acting? I think
it’s more a psychic phenomena than a learned craft. The director,Nicolas
Gessner, a Hungarian, does an excellent job. A true Euro director. He
understands Film and manipulates it beautifully. One of the things I
look for in a great filmmaker is a memorable image for the last shot of a
film. True Cinema creators always have this, and this movie has a
The score is interesting, Chopin concerto played as source from a
record, and wah wah guitar funk, so 70’s, another aspect that draws
comparison with the Italian thrillers of that era. This film also serves
as an example of how to make an excellent film with basically one
location and only a few actors, it’s a great lesson in restrained
resource filmmaking. It was based on a novel and the author(Laird
Koenig) wrote the screenplay, so there was a lot of thought put into the
story before the cameras rolled, you can tell. It won a Sci Fi award
but I think Jodie should have gotten an Oscar for her work.
They’re screening two rare Robbe-Grillet films at the Billy
Wilder Theater on Friday Nov.7. L’IMMORTELLE and TRANS-EUROPE
Scene From L’Imortelle ( The Immortal Woman)
These films are almost impossible to see so go if you can, I’ll be
there. Here’s the details. I’ve been
reading a lot of Robbe=Grillet’s novels recently, very inspirational
stuff, creatively inspirational. The way he plays with plots making
intricate patterns out of genre plot devices. “Generators” he called
them, elements of genre storytelling that are now part of our collective
unconscious from years of pulp magazine writings, grade B horror films,
film noirs, etc. I’ve never seen these films so I can’t write about
them. But they are showing Last Year At Marienbad on Sunday
Nov. 9th, an influential structural film Robbe-Grillet wrote that was
directed by Alain Resnais. I’ve seen that one. I went to see it at the
Bleecker Street Cinema back in the late 70’s. There was a sign at the
door to the theater, it read something like this.”Dear Patrons, The
catalog lists the running time of this film as 107 minutes. We’ve timed
the print we have at 93 minutes but we can’t tell what’s missing.” That
should give you an idea as to what the film is like. It’s very cool,
definitely worth seeing, there’s a famous long shot of a formal garden,
people stand here and there in tuxedos and gowns and their shadows were
A Famous Image That Conveys Robbe-Grillet’s
Prismatic Approach To Storytelling
I just watched a powerful film noir. Made in 1950 it features some great
locations and an outstanding performance by Lloyd Bridges. For my money
this is one of his best. He plays an amoral killer named Jerry and he
steals the show.
Is This The Same Alley Where The Dude Would Learn
We start out following the story of Howard Tyler( Frank Lovejoy).
he’s an out of work regular schmoe whose wife is pregnant and who owes
the grocery store and the landlord. He can’t get a job to save his life
and when his wife starts bawling he grabs his coat and hits the street.
Unfortunately for him he drops in at a local bowling alley for a beer
and bumps into Jerry Slocum (LLoyd Bridges). If only he hadn’t gone into
that particular bowling alley at theat particular moment. But it’s a
Noir Universe our schlubby hero has fallen into and as such, he’s Out Of
Don’t go in there! Get out while you can!
Howard watches Jerry roll a strike and they start talking, within
instants Jerry is ordering Howard around. ” Get My shoes, will ya.” He
tantalizes the poor schnook with the offer of a potential job and Howard
is hooked like a trout in a lake.
The Reporter and The Incipient Criminal
coincidentally rub elbows at the Bowling Alley Of Destiny.
Meanwhile in the very same bowling alley Gil Stanton (Richard
Carlson), Ace Reporter for the local paper is kibitzing with the
barkeep. His story is told in parallel with Howard’s although you don’t
know why until later. So by now Jerry has Howard back at his flat where
he proceeds to show off his expensive wardrobe and treat Howard like his
personal valet. ” That’s real silk! Feel it. Those cufflinks are
platinum, button’em up for me.”
The composition of this Shot says it all!
Jerry plays Howard like a fish and when he tells Howie the job he has
in mind for him is driving the getaway car while Jerry sticks up gas
stations, Howard gets cold feet. But Jerry gets mad, calls Howard a
loser, throws 10 bucks at him and tells him to beat it. It plays out
like a seduction and Lloyd is amazingly good at it. His character is so
well drawn, so true, it’s a mind blower.
The 1st Stick-Up
The heat builds and Jerry and Howard pull off a kidnapping. This is
the big score, they can make some real money now. Unfortunately Jerry
smashes the trussed up young rich guy’s head with a rock before the
horrified Howard’s eyes.
Murder Most Foul!
The newspaper man writes a sensationalistic piece calling for blood
and when the two crooks are caught a lynch mob descends upon the jail
and tears it apart.
Sensationalistic Journalism, Go Peddle Your
Just before this happens the reporter has a change of heart, due
partly to an emotional visit from Howard’s wife. He tries to change his
latest bloodthirsty editorial but the greedy publisher just wants to
sell more papers and he’s not about to change his headline!
The Wife’s Best Scene, where she confronts
the rabble rousing reporter
This movie is a real indictment of mob violence and the social
responsibility of the media.
The Mob Wants Blood!
Jerry in Jail with a Lynch Mob Howling For His
Here’s a switch, The Mob Uses A Fire Hose On The
Howard is carried like Jesus to Golgotha!
It also hit home for me on a personal note. I had a friend , a very
nice guy, he was a musician. Like a lot of musicians he augmented his
income by dealing drugs, pot, then blow. He turned a big rock star onto
some coke and the guy reciprocated by turning my pal onto some high
grade heroin. My buddy got strung out in no time flat. The rock star had
to suddenly split and my pal was cut off, no dope. He was cracking up.
He told me he drove a getaway car for a stickup guy, a junkie like
himself, just to get some money so he could score drugs. Now this was a
guy who wouldn’t hurt a fly. He was an artist, peaceful, really a great
guy. So when I see Howard roped into crime because of need, I flash on
my pal. I could see how it could happen. My buddy’s dead by the way. He
straightened up, got sober, got married and then found out he was HIV
positive from sharing needles. Sound Of Fury was directed by Cyril Endfield. He ended his
days in England, forced to move there after he was blacklisted in the
50’s for being a Commie. This story was concerned with Society and the
different types of people interacting in it, and how they viewed their
morality , their responsibility to society, their identity. Cy Endfield
later directed the excellent Zulu, the film that launched
Michael Caine’s career. And if you think about it, Zulu is
about a microcosm of society, a regiment of soldiers, hopelessly
outnumbered, that perseveres through working together, a great story for
a Socialist to tell.
Also of note, this film was written by Jo Pagano, based on her novel.
I’d like to find out more about Ms. Pagano. A woman writing this ultra
violent noir in the 50’s? She sounds pretty unique to me.
After writing the above line I captured this frame, it says based on his
novel, so I guess Jo Pagano was a man. Although there is some confusion
on the IMDB.
This is pretty wild. The Army just released this picture of War
correspondent Ernie Pyle’s corpse. It was taken minutes after he was
shot and killed by a sniper on a Pacific Island in 1945. The Army didn’t
relesase the picture until now out of concern for Ernie’s widow. Ernie
wrote my favorite WWII movieThe Story Of G.I. Joe, he didn’t
live to see it released. I wonder if William Wellman ever saw this
picture. It reminds me of a shot of Robert Mitchum at the end of G.I.
Joe. The role that would make Mitchum a star. Ernie Pyle, I salute
you. You gave a voice to the dog soldiers, the guys slogging through
the mud and freezing while being shot at with Howitzers. In the photo it
almost looks like you’re sleeping. Rest Easy, you earned it.
I picked up a copy of Peter McCurtin’s 1970 pulp novel Mafioso.
This is the book Fernando Di Leo adapted for his 1973 film Il Boss(USA
Wipeout). The main reason I got it was to see if the story continued
beyond the ending of Il Boss, because at the end of Il Boss,
there’s a title that says CONTINUA (to be continued).
I figured the story in the book must go on for a while to a
conclusion. But I found out, although it has a different ending, the
film actually has a few more scenes than the novel. Let’s start at the
beginning. Nick Lanzetta (Henry Silva in the movie) is a rising star,
ultra cold blooded killer, his first hit, blowing up a rival gang in a
movie theater with a grenade launcher fired from the projection booth,
is lifted right out of the book, the main difference being in the movie
the Don and his cohorts are watching a porno film, in the book a
gangster film. By the way the book takes place in Brooklyn and the
author uses a lot of real locations, I lived there for a while and could
easily picture where things were happening, the movie takes place in
Sicily. The other main differences are, the head of the rival gang is a
black guy named Coakley, in the movie he’s an Italian named Cocchi. Don
Corrassco (Richard Conte in the movie) does not want to make peace with
the rival gang because they’re not Sicilian, in the book because they’re
black. In the movie the corrupt cop (Gianni Garko) wants to maintain
order in the mafia that’s why he helps them, sort of a proto-fascist. In
the book the corrupt cop is an old Irish guy, he’s just looking for
some extra money.
Pignataro Kills Don Corrassco. This is where
the film really differs from the novel and for my money the film’s
ending is vastly superior.
The main differences are at the end. In the book Lanzetta and his
lieutenant, Pignataro recruit the other gang members and do a air/ sea
assault on the Don’s Long Island compound. It’s the worst thing in the
book. Di Leo’s denouement is far superior. Then Di Leo goes one step
further, he has Pignataro try to kill Lanzetta, egged on by the lawyer
who seems to represent the Pope! In the book Lanzetta and his men kill
Don Corrassco and Lanzetta assumes control of Corrassco’s family. I
think Di Leo found this unbelievable to an Italian audience. In America
you can fight your way to the top of the heap, a guy starting out with
nothing can become rich and powerful. In Italy with all the centuries of
family history, it’s much more difficult to jump above your station.
Case in point, when I was in Rome I met a lot of up and coming
directors. A few complained to me that they couldn’t get their films
produced while their contemporaries, whose families had been in the film
business for generations got theirs produced right away. It’s just the
way it is. Also I was surprised at how similar the scenes between
Lanzetta and Daniello’s daughter Kate were. The arguments they have
while shacked up in Lanzetta’s apartment are almost verbatim in the film
and they’re great.
Silva and the Dead Don’s Daughter
Great Art often comes from transplanting an idea from one culture to
another and back again. This is an interesting study in cross cultural
fertilization. Comparing the film and the novel was fascinating and I
recommend the book to any fan of the film.
-------------------------------------------------------------- ARE WE THERE YET ?????
SSOS just showed on TCM as part of a Tony Curtis retrospective.
Sidney Falco on the threshold of Success, the
entrance to “21″
This time it really brought back memories of Lost New York. Some of
the spots are still there but they’re not the same. First off, this is
an incredible movie. Great classic performances out of Burt Lancaster
and Tony Curtis. Great dialog, “Match me Sidney.” ” I’d hate to take a
bite out of you, you’re a cookie full of arsenic.”
One of Burt’s Greatest Roles
There’s more quipping in this movie than any other that I can think of.
” Here’s your head, what’s your hurry.” It does not stop. James Wong
Howe’s cinematography is amazing, they went for a reverse, long lenses
to shoot long shots, exteriors of NYC stacked up in a telephoto lens,
wide angle lenses for close ups, distorting, paranoid, powerful images
of the characters and this technique works incredibly well. The
characters jump off the screen at you with all the dynamism of a Steve
The environs of New York never looked better. Great locations! Shots of a
bygone NYC. There’s a scene at A Times Square hot dog stand, you can
picture Jack Kerouac walking in. It reminds me of Papaya King, a stand I
used to frequent. Two dogs and a papaya drink for $1.50! That was a
Time Travel via HotDog Stand!
Hey Kerouac! Pass The Mustard!
All that stuff in midtown, the 40’s and 50’s , the “21″ club, the Ed
Sullivan Theater, the crummy offices, the streets, J.J.(Burt Lancaster)
lives in the Brill Building, 1619 Broadway. I used to work there, there
were a lot of editing rooms in that building. Saturday Night Live had
offices there, I once had a run in with a belligerent John Belushi on
the service elevator.
Sidney in the lobby of The Brill Building,
1600 Bway was right across the street Reverse on the Brill lobby. This was it, Tin Pan Alley!
Across the street was 1600 Broadway, the National Screen Services
Building. They had a ton of cutting rooms in there as well and it was
one of the last buildings in the city to have elevator operators! Next
door was the Rincon Argentina, a great restaurant, full of editors at
lunch time, half a chicken, french fries, salad for $3.59, plus a demi
boutee of house red for a buck! Those were the days. So to see J.J. and
Sidney cruising my old neighborhoods blew me away. I worked up the
street at my friend’s company “CineHaven”, 254 W.54th street. Rumor had
it that Marlon Brando and Wally Cox were roommates there in the 50’s.
I used to work (and crash) right up the
Just up the street from Studio 54 and Trans Audio , a mixing studio
with a lot of cutting rooms. But back to SSOS, the bar that Martin
Milner plays at when Sidney sets him up, I think it’s by the old West
Side Highway, the location is so cool, Sidney up on the overpass
signaling Kello the bad cop to get Martin. Incredible!
West Side Highway Location?
Evil Cop Harry Kello beats up Jazz Guitarist
Martin Milner Life imitates Art, Miles Davis was beaten up by a cop on 52nd Street
while standing outside a gig
The great Chico Hamilton Quintet appears in the film and they are
excellent. Great score by Elmer Bernstein, great screenplay by Ernest
Lehman and Clifford Odets, great direction by Alexander Mackendrick. Chico Hamilton on drums, the guy on cello is Fred Katz, he wrote the
super cool score for Roger Corman’s Little Shop Of Horrors!
Great characters, supposedly J.J. was based on Walter Winchell, the
influential columnist. It’s an interesting character, he wraps himself
up in the flag spouting a lot of rhetoric about patriotism, all the
while spewing vitriol on everyone he doesn’t like, and if anyone
complains, they’re un-American! A petty tyrant whose motivations are his
personal vendettas and small minded attacks pretending that he’s doing
it for the good of his “60 million readers”. I think this is a very
timely character, as relevant now as back then, even more so. We’ve got a
J.J. Hunsecker in the White House, only without the witty quips. The
movie introduces the wonderful Susan Harrison, what happened to her?
If you want to get a feel for that old lost New York check out this
guy, Jean Shepherd. He had a late nite radio show broadcast from NYC,
I’d listen to him when I was a kid. Sometimes he talks about NYC and it
doesn’t get any better than this. He also wrote the Christmas Story
film. Here’s a link to some of his shows. Here it is : Jean
Shepherd Shows I used to live around the corner from the
Flatiron Building, an early structural steel building in NYC courtesy of
Chicago architect Daniel Burnham
My pal Mark Boone Junior turned me on to a great DVD store, Old Bank
DVD. It’s down on 4th and Main and it has a great selection of films to
check out. I’ve been in need of a new place to rent stuff since Jerry’s
video closed a few months back. It’s next door to a great little cafe
where they make excellent coffee, have an impressive selection of wines
by the glass, and make a mean panini. The Banquette Cafe, very nice. But
check out what I got at Old Bank DVD, 3 dvds for $10, on a table by the
front door are some on sale specials from an Art Walk or something. I
got Hercules Unchained, Italian peplum starring Steve Reeves
and photographed by the great Mario Bava, Crime Boss, directed
by Alberto DeMartino and starring Telly Savalas, and Deep Red
by the master of Italian horror, Dario Argento! What a deal! I haven’t
watched them yet so I can’t speak for the quality but still, $3 and 33
cents each! Score! I was talking about Bava to the guy running the place
and two other guys asked if I liked Bava. They turned out to be
filmmakers from Italy and we had a great conversation about Italian
film, Cinecitta, and Bud Spencer! How cool is that! I’ve found my new
video spot, I can get there on my scooter in 10 minutes and pick up a
DVD. So head down to 4th and Main across from The Barclay Hotel, have a
glass of wine and check out the excellent selection at Old Bank DVD.
I’ll post some photos soon.
St. Alphonsus Deconsecrated Church, where Angel
Heart was filmed
We’re back from the great City Of New Orleans! It is an amazing place
and I encourage everybody to visit, some people go for Mardi Gras and
The City is fueled by alcohol, music,sex, murder and beignets! I saw a
sign on a building that said something like ” This is a government of
LAW not of MEN.” Maybe the government is of law but the people are all
passion. The law does not carry that much weight down there. I mean the
police will arrest someone for committing a crime but that does not
deter people from committing the crime.
Shop Widow in The Quarter
The Ethos is a hot blooded one, a patois of Tchapitoulas Indian,
African slave, French, Cajun, Creole and whatever else got tossed in the
gumbo pot. “Iko, Iko” was an Indian war cry that the local musicians
picked up on.
This is New Orleans!
But don’t get me wrong, I love this city, the music, the cuisine, the
bars, the buildings and the people. They are very friendly and willing
to talk, it’s really refreshing.
Central Grocery- Home of the Muffaletta!
Everything there is pretty intense although usually in a laid back
way. The tropical atmosphere, the lush plant life, the rain that can
come and go 5 times in a day. It’s intoxicating. The wonderful smells of
the city, they brought back memories of my childhood, aromas I haven’t
come across in 30 years.
But down to business! Which Beignet is better? Cafe Du Monde VS.
Morning Call! Beignets are kind of like archetypal donuts, like the
zeppole that was sold at Italian street fairs or Feasts, that celebrated
a Saint’s name day. They’re fried dough with powdered sugar and they’re
3 A.M.- Cafe Du Monde Beignets
Cafe Du Monde is in the French Quarter, Morning Call was moved lock,
stock and countertop to Metarie, just outside of NO. We tried both and
they’re both great but Morning Call’s Beignets are lighter, fluffier and
Morning Call Beignets
The ones from Du Monde come covered in powdered sugar, at Morning
call you have to powder them yourself with a shaker. But check them out
for yourself on your next visit to New Orleans, I’ll be back there as
soon as I can!
I’ll Meet You On The Corner Of Rampart And
P.S. Our screening of One Night With You was great! We met
some super cool people there who really dug the movie! That was the
cherry on top of the NO sundae!
Me with the beautiful Ali Duffy, the Festival’s
Hey Y’all! We’re having a great time down here in N’Awlins, where the
people are friendly, the food is killer, the music is inspiring and the
scents, sights, and flavors of living are intoxicating! We went and met
our friends, Skip and Mark over at Pal’s Lounge. The quintessential
corner bar! It is a place you dream about having in your neighborhood.
If you go to New Orleans, Go there! Check it out get a T- shirt or a
hooded sweat shirt! I did and it is super cool! Then head over to
Casamento’s , Skip took us there. It’s an old joint run by a family.
While we were waiting out front a nice guy introduced himself and
invited us in! His name is Mike and he’s the 5 time Champion oyster
shucker of New Orleans! A super guy!
Mike, King of New Orleans Oyster Shuckers!
We had raw oyster, fried crab claws and an oyster Po’Boy. Man, that
Damn! That was Good!
So if you find yourself down here in New Orleans here’s a night on
the town, pre-designed, just add yourself, Pal’s for cocktails and
Casamento’s for dinner. Then head over to One-Eyed Jack’s and tell Rio,
Joe sent ya!
Thus spake Frankenstein after learning from the blind man
about the finer things in life. I agree, not only do I agree but I go
one step further, I make wine! My wife and I have a small vineyard next
door to our house. We grow Syrah, We turn it into wine.
No, we don’t use our feet!
You can hear all about it tomorrow (Saturday) at noon and Sunday at
8pm on the KPCC, 89.3 FM show Off-Ramp (you can stream the show live
from http://www.scpr.org or download
the podcast from their website after the first airing). Here at Film
Forno we love film but we love wine and food as well! And we’ll be
writing all about it in future posts. So stay tuned in! Drink wine,
watch movies, enjoy life!
The little Old Winemaker, Me
Check it out! The wonderful folks over at KPCC put up a video promo
of the show!