Monday 28 December 2020

Neo Noir: Jade



Linda Fiorentino is back on top form as the femme fatale who may or may not be innocent, at least of murder. The erotic thriller that can easily slip into the guise of neo noir was ever popular in the 90s with seamless edges, half drawn supporting characters and usually one man, a law man, who’s drawn into the web weaved by a woman he just can’t resist.


The entanglement of deception that Katrina Gavin, a clinical psychologist, has created all starts to unravel when a wealthy businessman is found brutally murdered with a hatchet. Photographs are found leading to further deception and intrigue involving prostitutes, blackmail and further murders. At the heart of the investigation and somewhat a target himself is David Corelli, assistant District Attorney picking and literally chasing down clues throughout the film. Once a lover of Katrina before she married his friend, Matt, a powerful defence attorney. She doesn’t hide behind her husband’s power, letting us believe of her innocence but Katrina’s found sexual liberation is discovered through burnt out tapes and seedy photos. What’s different about Katrina’s reaction is at first shame at being found out, her secret is no longer just her. She enjoys the control she has over the men at beach house and doesn’t want to let this side of her go. But with her husband, she is the complete opposite. Her vulnerability is seen on a few occasions making us question whether she really is the killer as she’s been set up to be.


The corrupt politician in power and the corrupt policemen doing his bidding cheapens the story the slightly as its quite predictable. The menacing governor threating Corelli with losing his chance as becoming elected isn’t the bold move he thinks. Corelli is made of sterner metal, surviving multiple attempts on his life and being able to stand up to bullies. He does almost succumb to the charms of the femme fatale but knows better.  He is a rare character amongst the genre.



For more #noirvember & #NeoNoir follow @little_sister_filmnoir


Thursday 24 December 2020

Merry Christmas

Every year I watch a Christmas film I’ve never seen before, may be old or new. The added tradition now is I add the latest Netflix Christmas film too, but this year only a series caught my eye, Dash & Lily which was exactly what I had expected from Netflix. Wholesome, teen orientated romantic, family drama with a smattering of comedy. It got me in the Christmas mood at least. Instead of adding one more film to the mix, I ended watching several Christmas films I had never seen before. In these times, what else was there to do? I can at least savour the fact that I got to watch two favourites in the cinema before we were all deprived of that joy.


One film in particular has stayed with me throughout the month as I saw it in the first week of December. Released last year, on Netflix BUT not the typical Netflix film, Klaus. No idea how I missed this film last year. It is one of the most beautiful animated films I’ve seen in a very long time (Wolfwalkers aside here, this is Christmas). It tells the story of how Christmas was started or at least how the myth, the legend, the story of how Father Christmas was created and not from his point of view but from a spoilt arrogant postman sent to the back of beyond as a punishment. Rolling into one film a Scrooge type character who begins his quest to post 6,000 letters in a year by getting the children to send letters to the reclusive, woodsman who makes toys. The story isn’t forced or cliché as it unfolds, its magical, heart-warming and doesn’t go over the top. Even the side plot about the rivalry between two families in the town doesn’t derail this very wholesome tale of friendship, gift giving and yes, letters. The filmmakers even manage to include folklore and the Sami people too.


How on earth did this film lost out at the Oscars to Toy Story 4, which wasn’t the greatest, I’ll never understand. But at least the film will get a lease of life every Christmas season and hopefully more people will enjoy and know the wonder that is Klaus.



Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas wherever you are!


Tuesday 22 December 2020

Neo Noir: In the Cut

 Back in 2017, I wrote a peice for Curzon Film Blog about Jane Campion's films and the Female gaze. Through each of Campion’s films, the characters are exposed at some point in the stories and experience moments of pure pleasure, even in the more innocent of love stories. They show that women can feel these emotions and that it is perfectly normal for women to discover and live out their fantasies. They aren’t glamourised or suffer the notorious ‘male gaze’, the characters and films are an erotic exploration of the female soul. This is what makes Campion such a unique and championing filmmaker.


Although perceived by some as a film that yielded to the typical genre tropes, In The Cut can also be viewed as challenging film noir’s exploration of female sexuality. Frannie (Meg Ryan), a high school English teacher who collects memorable quotes, pretty phrases and dark words, finds herself embroiled in a dark and seedy world of crime after a young woman is brutally murdered. 

Frannie goes through a period of self-discovery and erotic encounters with a police officer working the case. This break from her ‘normal’ shakes her to her core, but despite the danger she knows she is walking into, she is drawn like a moth to a flame into this new world. Frannie is seen as an object of desire by one of her students and then by Detective Malloy (Mark Ruffalo) who is taken with her after a couple of meetings; but unlike the femme fatale character in most film noir stories, Frannie is not so easily swayed, she isn’t led by her need for men but instead her want for sexual contact. Ultimately it is her curiosity that leads her down a dark path, but Campion makes Frannie her own hero and even has her draw blood to save herself.

For more #noirvember & #NeoNoir follow @little_sister_filmnoir

This is an exact from a post first posted as in 2017

Monday 21 December 2020

Neo Noir: Black Widow


For a film from the 80s, Black Widow sure does miss some major points in any film noir/neo noir story. With FBI agents even going as far as saying its highly unlikely that a woman could seduce and kill several men. The only voice of reason (and suspicion) come from the seemingly only FBI agent in the city who is hell bent on proving who the killer is. From the start we know that Catherine, in her many disguises and personas, is the killer. This isn’t a murder mystery after all and unlike other stereotypical neo noir-esque films, it becomes passive aggressive game of who can outwit who when Alex, the FBI agent, goes undercover and befriends Catherine as she hunts down her next victim.


Turning the tried-and-true formula of a male agent/cop tracking down the femme fatale or teaming up with her being corrupted by her, its Alex, the hot head agent who is actually on the right track to finding the femme fatale. She isn’t seduced by Catherine but she does get a little carried away when trying to convince the Hotel tycoon Catherine has set her sights on but this happens with any other film of its genre, the ‘hero’ always looses their head at some point. Catherine and Alex’s brief fake friendship is tense and awkward, neither convinced of the other in their fake identity. These two women can’t fool each other.


There is something delightful cheap and trashy about the entire film which makes it easy to forget when thinking of films that slip so well in the neo noir genre but the story and characters are what keeps it at the back of your mind. Catherine is fantastic as the absolute cold-hearted killer who very casually murders each husband, smoothly transitioning from each new person she becomes. Her method is cruel as well as rare, causing her husbands to die in their sleep from Ondine’s Curse, a very rare condition that is just about plausible and for some reason only rouses the suspicion of one FBI agent. But then again, it’s very rare for a woman to kill a man just for their money, right?



For more #noirvember & #NeoNoir follow @little_sister_filmnoir


Wednesday 16 December 2020

Neo Noir: The Last Seduction


Most Film Noir stories feature the femme fatale, she is the one who leads men down the wrong path, convinces them to commit murder and then run away with them, only to leave the men in the dust to deal with the fall out of their actions. The femme fatale of the Neo Noir variety is often the main focus, sometimes they are even the protagonist themselves. Bridget Gregory is the ultimate femme fatale, even more so than Sharon Stone’s character Catherine Tramell in Basic Instinct. She lies, cheats, steals, seduces her way through a rough patch in her life. This is all triggered when her husband hits her, but by her actions throughout the film, it’s more likely she has been planning this whole ordeal before the incident.


Linda Fiorentino is a force to be reckoned with in this film. Robbed of awards recognition because of a technicality with the film’s release, she gained little notoriety after the film, appearing in similar orientated films and Dogma, she seemed to have disappeared in the 2000s. Her personal life reads like Neo Noir, when she became involved with an FBI agent to try and provide evidence to release her PI boyfriend, Anthony Pellicano who was on trial for several crimes. Maybe one day we’ll see that story on the big screen. 


Despite all the terrible things Bridget does, there is also some room to admire her for schemes and plans. She doesn’t do things by half measures and possesses talents that I think we all wishes we had at one point in our lives; her ability to manipulate with ease, actually commit to a job she talks herself into and execute a plan no matter how complicated. But most of all, she is always herself, even when lying, she refuses to be anything other than who she wants to be and will do anything it seems to get it.



For more #noirvember & #NeoNoir follow @little_sister_filmnoir


Wednesday 9 December 2020

Neo Noir: Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels


Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels has the signature cross over of story lines, which all come to a head and make complete sense. There also always seems to be a group or a couple of 'good guys' who are forced to do something bad that they're actually ok with doing. Then there are the usual 'bad guy gangsters' who surround the story with confusion, pitch perfect dialogue and deserved outcomes. In the later films, there does seem to be casualties but, where it all started, get tied up in a, not exactly a neat box but a room full of corpses. It sounds horrific but it’s a very amusing discovery scene.

The explain the complicated plot of all the groups and characters involved would take literally the entire length of the film, so I'll summarise. It all revolves around a card game gone wrong, a debt that needs to be paid, an attic full of weed and a pair of antique shot guns.


Eddy and his four friends, Tom, Soap and Bacon, all put money so that Eddy, a top poker player, can play at Hachett Harry's table. He is a notorious gangster, porn merchant and all-round nasty guy. He cheats at poker, forcing Eddy into a hole where he now owes Harry half a million pounds. Meanwhile, in the flat next to Eddy's, are a group of dealers planning to rob a group of posh guys who grow weed for another local gangster Rory Breaker. So, Eddy and his friends decide to rob the neighbours when they return from, they're heist. Harry's enforcer, Big Chris (and his son), visit various people to make sure they pay back money owed and end up caught in the mess later on.


This is the jist of the whole story, but it does indeed end in a blood bath and a shower of guns. 'This is fucked. No money. No weed. It’s all been replaced by a pile of corpses.' What is interesting is the show of guns in the film, as any Brit knows, getting hold of guns, shot guns not included isn't as easy as in the US. But Eddy and his friends do have a problem getting guns and at one point end up with the antique guns.

'A minute ago this was the safest job in the world. Now it's turning into a bad day in Bosnia.'

The film is unbelievably quotable. Every other line I seem to have heard before from someone somewhere. One in particular is during the heist at the weed growers, the posh boys attempt to defend themselves are start shooting. The leader of the group, Dog, gets fed up and says 'I don't fucking believe this! Can everyone stop gettin' shot?'. This is actually in a late 90's song at the start. I never knew until now it was from this film. I was laughing my way through the film, which may sound bad because of the high body count but the script is just too good. I'm sorry to say this but the British wit of Ritchie's earlier films hasn't carried over to the later 'bigger' films.

The cast are absolutely perfect and anyone who knows Brit Grit or just British films will recognise them all. Vinnie Jones of course is heavily used, especially in the trailer, as most would have known him as the footballer. Now it’s a shame for to be used as a stereotype, same with Jason Statham. But ah well, we can sigh and hope they return to excellent form and maybe Guy Ritchie. One thing that no one couldn't not notice is the lack of women. In fact, there are really only two women in the film. One doesn't talk but does make a point with a machine gun. The other is past middle age and only has a few lines at the poker game. That's it. The two women aren't on the screen for more than a minute each but when they're there, they make a point.

I've never been into gangster films and maybe this film isn't really about gangsters, but there is something gritty and yet effortless about British films of this genre. Nothing is glamourous and there’s always an underline that everything is actually pretty cheap and rough. With American gangster films, there is always that fine line where the life looks good but as always, character is better over substance and my gad does Lock Stock have brilliant characters. Plus, you know when a film has class and status when Sting plays the lead's Dad who owns a bar.

In the words of Big Chris 'It's been emotional'.



For more #noirvember & #NeoNoir follow @little_sister_filmnoir


This was first posted as part of the Blind Spot Series 2015

Tuesday 8 December 2020

Neo Noir: Batman Returns


My Christmas contribution last year was an ode to the beyond amazing Catwoman played by Michelle Pfeiffer but in recent weeks, while gathering up films for the upcoming follow up to Noirvember (still going by the way over at Little Sister) which will be Neo Noir, I noticed in a list Batman Returns was included. Rewatching Batman Returns not as 'just' a superhero film or Christmas film but as a neo noir genre film, was not exactly eye opening but more of an 'of course' moment. There's crime, bloodshed, murder, kidnapping, Christopher Walken and Catwoman is a perfect femme fatale. All that's added into the story are costumes and a batman cave, everything else is a very neo noir filmscape that engulf the whole of Gotham. The name of the city even screams neo noir!

There were a series of Marvel Noir comics that were released where the characters were put in a diferent setting, but Batman doesn't really need to be altered than much. There aren't even any real super powers in Batman, its all gadgets, technology and child abandonment. Although Catwoman has the only super charged experiences, being pushed out of a window only to have her fall broken and lots of cats reviving her, this could be seen as a super powered moment. This aside, Gotham and the residents could be in a permanent film noir story.

If you'd like to read more about Catwomen, check out last year's post HERE.


For more #noirvember & #NeoNoir follow @little_sister_filmnoir

Friday 4 December 2020

Watch List: October & November


The Other Lamb

 Full review HERE. 4/5

Alien Addiction

 Full review HERE.  3/5


 Full review HERE.  3/5

Saint Maud

 Full review HERE.  4/5 

Lucky Grandma

 Full review HERE 3/5 

On the Rocks

Sofia Coppola heads back towards familiar ground with a low-key drama about a daughter and father who bond over the investigation into whether her husband has cheated on her. The story would be quite bland if it wasn't for the excellent pairing of Bill Murray and Rashida Jones who play so well off of each other through the comedic and tragic exchanges. Having them scurry around New York and at one-point Mexico just adds to the screwball essence. 3/5



As a thriller, this was delightful and ominous accordingly but as an adaptation, I’m not too sure. Ben Wheatly is a very odd choice to direct such restraint story with minimal violence on screen and lots of things implied. Kristen Scott Thomas steals the film with her pitch perfect deranged Mrs Danvers and Lily James is her usual blinking breathy naïve newcomer. Armie Hammer really does deserve better in the thankless role of Maxim DeWinter and the end court drama scenes are all over the place. Still, in the end, an enjoyable film but we all know Hitchcock’s version is better. 3/5



From the poster I was worried that Emma Roberts was repeating her act again. For someone who made a great impression in Scream Queens and American Horror Story, her film choices had been lacking. But thankfully this was not the same old bit of fluff that Netflix churns out. At least not completely. The central characters, Sloane, 30-year-old, can't get over an ex constantly hounded by her family about finding a boyfriend and Jackson, Australian golf coach who doesn't want the commitment of a girlfriend. They team up to be each other's dates for various holidays and these are American holidays so there’s a few random ones in there. But of course, they end up liking each other and blah blah blah, its good Netflix fluff after all but, Sloane's attitude towards most things, apart from the ex, is refreshing and funny. So at least there’s that. 3/5

Under the Silver Lake


With a promising premise, slacker meets new pretty neighbour who then disappears the next day so he sets out to find out what happened, has a great hook. But as this is set in Hollywood where the rich use the poor and desperate, you just know there will be a load of weird scenes and characters that aren't exactly important. The many many derailments are the reason why the film is so damn long. It wants to be Hitchcock and De Palmer rolled into one but it just turns into the most bizarre conclusion that is satisfying as it is ridiculous. But you'll never get that time back. 2/5


Thursday 3 December 2020



Babyteeth doesn’t quite sit above all the others that have come before it in terms of story but it does make your heart break despite knowing what will ultimately happen. The central performances are what makes this particular dying teenager more than just another title to the pile.

My full review can be read over at Filmhounds HERE.

Sunday 29 November 2020

Lucky Grandma


Crime stories can feel like a dime a dozen so when a new inventive story comes along, it’s easy to sit up and notice, especially if the protagonist is a chain-smoking no-nonsense Grandma from Chinatown who gets mixed up with gangsters, the mob, and her grandson’s TikTok videos. 


Full review is over at Filmhounds HERE.

Tuesday 24 November 2020

Noirvember: The Bigamist


Film noir usually follows similar plot points and usually involves crime, murder, theft, kidnapping, police corruption and sometimes but not always, a femme fatale. But The Bigamist doesn’t quite follow these rules, except for the crime part to an extent. It is indeed illegal to be married to more than one person at a time (not including polygamists) which is the crime our protagonist, Harry Graham, is guilty of. But his double life and double marriages are not committed out of spite or resentment. He loves his wife but he also wanted to do the right thing when he got another woman pregnant, so married her too. This is one of the tamest films in the genre.


It could be easy to say that Ida Lupino’s Phyllis is the femme fatale of the piece but she never leads Harry on, never takes advantage or convinces him to do anything. She is understanding and diplomatic. Even Harry’s wife Eve isn’t the revenge taking person and its hinted that maybe she forgives him for his actions. There is little danger but immense devastation as three lives are ruined, four if you include the child. The fact that Eve cannot have children and Harry gets Phyllis pregnant after a one-night stand, just makes the entire situation heart-breaking. Cruel fates steps in at just the wrong time, which could be seen as an element of any film noir.


Ida Lupino both stared in and directed this film noir classic, which has been cited as of the first American feature films where an actress has directed herself. She also rounds up the cast with the likes of Joan Fontaine, her near opposite in the story and Edmond O’Brian as the man who just wanted to do the right thing. Each charismatic in their own way but here, they are subdued into a strange trance where all the characters in the story are actually decent people. There is barely a flash of violence or revenge or even anger. The placid feeling throughout does make the film uneasy to watch as nothing major really takes place, just the discovery of Harry’s double life. But the story is still compelling, thanks to great performance and the suspicion that things aren’t that easy.

For more #noirvember, follow @little_sister_filmnoir

Monday 23 November 2020

Noirvember: Four Film Noir Classics

It seems that Film Noir is a genre that is both of its time and one that has created modern sub genres, film noir never dies. Secrets fuel stories where women are centre stage and gangsters dominate the sidewalks where men are in the spot light. Back in 2018, Arrow Academy released a box of four films, classic film noir that I had yet to discover. The film included are; The Dark Mirror, Secret Beyond the Door, Force of Evil and The Big Combo.

For all reviews of each of the films, they are over at Vulturehound HERE.

For more #noirvember, follow @little_sister_filmnoir


This was originally published on Vulturehound in 2018

Sunday 22 November 2020

Noirvember: Gaslight

The expression ‘being gaslighted’ actually comes from this story about a cruel husband who is purposefully making his wife slowly go mad in order to keep his suspicious past buried.


Set in Victorian London, the story begins with a vicious murder of an elderly woman. The murderer then proceeds to frantically search for something, pulling out drawers, ripping up furniture, making a mess. After the discovery of the body, the house is cleared and left vacant for years.


One day, a married couple. Paul and Bella Mallen, move into the house but the top two floors are boarded up apparently due to the lady of the house and her nerves. One day after Church, a former detective recognises Paul Mallen. He had worked on the murder case years before and starts to suspect foul play. He befriends Bella while walking through the park one day which angers Paul. He has been taking and hiding objects around the house, blaming Bella, accusing her of being mad. He has also cut her off from her family, keeping her letter and has even started lusting after the maid, who is only too happy to play along. Paul disappears every evening, under the pretence that he goes for a walk but in fact he has been entering the house next door which is connected to the upstairs of his house. Bella hears footsteps and the gaslight dims down, but by now she believes she is losing her mind. The former detective has conducted own enquiries and is convinced that Paul Mallen is in fact Louis Bauer who was suspected of killing his aunt for the family rubies. Together with Bella and her cousin who has come looking for her, they set a trap for Paul and get the evidence they need to convict him.


The story is far more dramatic but it is played out in a very British way which I love to see. Directed by Thorold Dickinson, who was Britain’s first university professor of film as well as a director, this restored gem was beautifully filmed. Although on an obvious set, the eeriness of the house, the looming dread and the flickering of the gaslight feels like it was mean to be watched late at night.


Bella Mallen is played by Diana Wynyard who is actually quite irritating most of the time, drifting in and out of an unsettling staring competition with the wall opposite her. But in doing so she manages to convey the slowly disturbed wife. Anton Walbrook as Paul Mallen/Louis Bauer takes great delight as the sadistic husband, obsessed with finding his treasure and mentally torturing his wife.


Gaslight has an ‘inbetween’ feeling, being set in the Victorian age and released on the cusp of the 40s. A delicate balance of great storytelling and some sensitive subjects, that cannot be fully explored or shown. A film like this is of its time, it couldn't be remade today, it wouldn't transcend and I wouldn't want it to.



For more #noirvember, follow @little_sister_filmnoir


This was first posted as part of the Blind Spot Series 2016.

Tuesday 17 November 2020

Noirvember: The Long Dark Hall


There is something very different about British film noir, where it usually ends up in a court case drama or takes a darker sinister turn, either can be thrilling and all with the wonderfully stiff upper lip that comes with these crime dramas. With The Long Dark Hall, peculiar name but no less full of suspense when Arthur Groome played by Rex Harrison is accused of murdering his mistress. The twist in the tale comes when his wife, played by Lilli Palmer, stands by his side throughout the grizzly detailed court case. 


Beginning with a very brutal murder in a dark street, the murderer is revealed immediately along with his next intended target. Following the horror film rule where the sexually promiscuous female character dies first, so does Rose, the showgirl having an affair with a married man. Like other horror films, the killer isn’t known to her or his other victim. He is a complete stranger, which is rather disappointing, the lack of connection. But the court room scenes where Groome’s innocence is challenged plays out as if he could indeed have committed the crime. There is a need for more explanation at the end, but as soon as the real killer is found out, which we don’t see on screen, its only revealed through dialogue, is the very quick ending that feels rushed. There was more to be discovered there.  

For more #noirvember, follow @little_sister_filmnoir


Sunday 15 November 2020

The Limitless Control of the Robot


Science fiction has never shied away from the possibilities that technology brings as well as the downfalls it could cause. Exploring the means and mechanisms of this genre, a cornerstone ideal that that provides endless ideas, stories and theories is the evolution of the robot. 

Cinema Year Zero explores Fritz Lang's films through 8 different essays. To read these and the full version of mine, as well as a recording, check it out HERE

Saturday 14 November 2020

Noirvember: Mildred Pierce


Based on the novel by James M. Cain, the story about a woman who separates from her husband and has to provide for her two daughters in 1930s. She gets work as a waitress and soon decides to open her own restaurant. She becomes a success and remarries again but she is forever plagued by her demanding elder daughter, Veda, who looks down on her mother throughout her life, no matter what she does. It seems an unusual plot from Cain as he is known for his crime stories but director Michael Curtiz creates a very different beast entirely.

Changing the ending and parts of the story, Curtiz creates a film noir of sorts with Joan Crawford in the title role. The stereotypical roles of the genre are askew and don’t follow the normal pattern, instead it is the camera angles and the superb lighting, especially in the more dramatic moments that make this one the better films of its genre. The film is seen as flashback from Mildred’s point of view as she explains what has happened in the last 4 years to a police detective after she finds out her second husband has been murdered. Cutting back and forward from the past to the present, it unravels as to who the murderer could be.

Crawford is brilliant as the tortured and troubled Mildred, having come from nothing, working her way up in the world, becoming a successful businesswomen when not many thought she could, should be an achievement but Mildred is torn down by her demanding arrogant daughter Veda. Unlike the original novel, Veda eventually gets her comeuppance. Mildred’s strange devotion to her spiteful daughter is elevated when her youngest Kay, dies suddenly and she puts everything into pleasing Veda which is ultimately her downfall.

Veda is actually part of the cause of Mildred’s divorce and downfall. She says at one point that she believes that Veda looks down on her which is why she seeks her approval. Veda’s hate for her mother and where she is from is unexplained, except for when she blames her mother for spoiling her, she bites the hand that feeds her and thinks she is entitled to a better life for no reason. Veda’s character isn’t given depth beyond her childish demands and selfish plans, leaving much of the dramatic to her mother. Mildred changes throughout the film, her character and confidence but she is plagued by her past and told she is worth nothing, Veda is her reminder of this which is why, when the ties are finally cut, she is distressed and relieved at the same time. She is finally free of her demon and can start again, but this time for herself.

A fantastic film, that may be dark and violent, which isn’t just the murder at the start, at least there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

For more #noirvember, follow @little_sister_filmnoir


This was originally published on Vulturehound in 2017

Wednesday 11 November 2020

Noirvember: Double Indemnity


Insurance Salesman Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray), by chance goes to see one of clients about motor insurance but instead meets his intriguing and beautiful wife Phyllis. She plays the bored but concerned housewife trying to trick Walter into letting her sign accident insurance for her husband. Walter sees right through her plan and guesses murder. But already under her spell, infatuated the two begin an affair. Walter eventually comes round to the idea of murder and the two plan the would be perfect plot. When Phyllis' husband 'accidentally' falls from a slow-moving train and breaks his neck, at first no one is none the wiser until Walter's colleague, an investigator of claims, smells foul play. Soon the deadly couple's plan and feelings unravel. 


Although the film has very stereotypical elements of Film Noir, there are things that are slightly skewed. The lead male is not a detective or a useless drifter, he's an insurance salesman. The 'detective' role is Keyes, Walter's colleague who can sniff out any false insurance claim by listening to what he calls 'the little man' inside him. But although he knows something is wrong the $100,000 claim after thinking it over, he doesn't suspect for one moment his friend and colleague is involved. Unlike other Film Noir genre films, the story had a central friendship, Keyes and Neff. Unlike the be all and end all relationship of a man and a woman having an affair. The two friends, have some great exchanges and also alters the dynamics of the film. The little things make all the difference, such as the ongoing exchange where Neff always lights Keyes' cigars for him. These are welcomed. Especially as insurance is not the most exciting of settings.


It's not surprise that the film has some similarities to The Postman Always Rings Twice as the original novella was written by James M. Cain. As the film was made at the time of the damned Hayes Code, the original ending, double suicide, was cut. The ending that Billy Wilder planned involved Neff going to the gas chamber with Keyes watching but instead the film ended with the two men on the ground, Neff dying and Keyes lighting his cigarette for him, a gesture of friendship.


Of course, the story is really all about the femme fatale in this story, Barbara Stanwyck, she plays ice cold Phyllis who plays three women technically. The unwanted housewife, the lover and the sinister killer. She has the ability to be emotional and pretend to show love but in one quick stare, morph into a cold-hearted killer.


One of the most haunting images is in the opening credits. A lone man, on crutches, coupled with eery ominous music of impending violence sets the tone of the film, foreshadowing events to come. Double Indemnity is always listed as one of the greatest of its genre and it does indeed hold up against its contemporaries but there is something slightly lacking that even Stanwyck’s style just can’t quite measure up.


For more #noirvember, follow @little_sister_filmnoir


This was first posted as part of the Blind Spot Series 2015.


Monday 9 November 2020

Noirvember: The Killing


“You like money. You've got a great big dollar sign there where most women have a heart.” – Johnny Clay, The Killing, 1956


Before The Shining, before A Clockwork Orange, before Lolita, (named) one of the most influential directors, Stanley Kubrick adapted another story for the big screen. Film noir The Killing, based on Lionel White’s novel Clean Break wasn’t the first feature film Kubrick made but it is the one that caught people’s attention. A heist movie with a group who don’t know all the details, only what they need to know was a heavy influence on Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. The opening sequence of The Dark Knight also paid homage to The Killing with The Joker wearing a very similar mask to the one Johnny Clay wears during the heist.


Newly released from prison, Johnny Clay plans to do one last big heist and start a new life. He decides to rob the racetrack on the day of a featured race and ensembles a group of men who need the money for various reasons. Amongst the group is a corrupt cop and a couple of employees from the racetrack itself. Clay also enlists the help of a wrestler and rifleman to provide distractions on the day. The only one of the group to know everyone and the whole plan is Clay to avoid accountability. Everything seems to be in place but betting teller George’s spoilt viper tongued wife Sherry finds out about the heist and the money at stake and sets about making her plans.


Like all of Kubrick’s films, The Killing is unlike his others, apart from Killer’s Kiss, which is also a film noir. The film’s unique storytelling is shown out of sequence revealing what each of the gang members are doing and where they will be next. The overbearing voiceover was not originally part of the film and was only added when the studios insisted claiming an audience wouldn’t understand what was happening. It’s a shame that Kubrick’s narration free version won’t ever be shown. This feels as if the filmmakers underestimated their audience. The characters that make up the group each have their own strength and role to play in the grand scheme of the heist. Looking for the familiar film noir genres traits, they are all there, including Marie Windsor’s femme fatale who betrays her husband. But there are no happy endings to be found, nothing is that simple. The film ends on murders, a mishap and an over stuffed suitcase with an incident at the airport being quite unexpected.


Although the film performed poorly at the box office upon its initial release, the film lived on to critical acclaim, being named of the greats of its genre.  The Killing doesn’t ‘feel’ like a Kubrick film but something the director made because of his curiosity, which we can appreciate now and in the future. 


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This was first posted for Check the Gate at the Prince Charles Cinema

Friday 6 November 2020

The Ladykillers - 65th Anniversary

Its been 65 years since we were delighted by the dark comedy escapades of the Professor, Mr Harvey, the Major, One-Round, Mr Robinson and of course, Mrs Lopsided. One of Ealing Studios greatest comedies and one of the best British films of all time. With such a devious violent streak, the film plays out like Film Noir and ends up being a classic farce with a murderous side. The Ladykillers is finally getting its time in the 'limited edition' sun and getting released on 4K. It's a great day for all of us film fans!

My full review can be read HERE over at Filmhounds.