Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Janet, a woman recently married to a successful lawyer, is persuaded by her former fiancé to visit him one last time, to say goodbye before he leaves for a long-term job in the jungles of South America. The times being what they were, the fellow convinces her the meeting will be completely above board and held on neutral territory, a place where no one will see them, the apartment of one of his friends. She agrees, but must sneak away so her jealous husband will not find out. The husband once punched out her old boyfriend, and Janet wants to avoid trouble.
The two meet, and it is all very chaste, but leaving becomes a challenge as people are in and out of their apartments and these two do not want to be seen together. He leaves first. When she goes to leave, she pauses on the staircase as a man and a woman have an argument on the next floor. Watching for them to either go inside or go away, Janet sees the man stab the woman to death.
Now what will she do?
Well, that is the rest of this 71-minute, black and white picture.
Complications pile up and Janet does not seem get much help from her husband after she comes clean about the meeting and the murder she witnessed. He is supposed to be such a hotshot lawyer, but he makes several bone-headed blunders which worsen the case the police are building against her.
This is an enjoyable movie and the leads: Lana Morris as Janet, Ronald Howard as her husband, John Van Eyssen as a suspicious neighbor, and Denis Shaw as a police detective (none of whom do I recall ever seeing before) are all good.
It was directed by Max Varnel, who went on to have a long career in television.
(For more posts on film and TV, check out Todd Mason’s blog.)
Friday, November 17, 2017
My memory of his writing was that it had a hypnotic, nightmare quality.
That impression was reinforced reading his dark, 1956 novel, Down There, which was later reissued under the title, Shoot the Piano Player.
In this story, we meet Eddie, a once-promising pianist, now barely scratching out a living playing piano in a Philadelphia dive bar. He is an odd man, seemingly detached from everything around him. More than detached, he seems to have some connecting wires missing in his brain. He barely reacts to violence, he smiles at the wrong time, and the things that come out of his mouth baffle everyone.
The story starts with a bang – literally – as a man, running through the streets pursued by a couple of gangsters, smacks his face into a light pole. But he keeps running until he gets to the dump where Eddie works. The man is Eddie’s brother who is in big trouble with the mob and needs Eddie’s help getting away from the hitmen.
Eddie seems to barely notice his brother and continues plinking out tunes, grinning, and seeming so detached that a reader might think something is seriously wrong with this musician. That something might run in the family. His brother’s panic and fear turn quickly to lust, first for the tough woman who owns the bar and then for a young waitress.
The hitmen show up and Eddie surprises himself by helping his brother escape. The gangsters lose the brother but turn their attention to Eddie.
When they catch up with him, they force Eddie into their car and go looking for the brother. Riding around, the hoods have a bizarre conversation between themselves that Quentin Tarantino may have read before making “Pulp Fiction.” Then an incident occurs and Eddie is out of the car and on the sidewalk. Here, again, Goodis’ writing has a dreamlike quality.
I will stop at this point because summarizing this noir novel is like trying to recount a dream the next morning. That strange, hazy world Goodis concocts is one of the things that make his writing so unique. The way he does it is interesting. While the story is told in third person, Goodis often switches to first person when inside Eddie’s head, then switches again to second person as Eddie talks to himself about his screwed up family, about how he got away from them to study music, and about how his life came apart.
Reading this strange crime story about this strange character leads me to think Goodis (1917–1967) was acutely aware of the strange behavior of others.
(For more posts on books, check out Patti Abbott’s blog.)
Tuesday, November 7, 2017
They work and train and workout like a military unit to earn certification and the right to take the lead in battling wildfires.
“Only the Brave” is based on the true, and tragic, story of the 20 Granite Mountain Hotshots of Prescott, Arizona.
The film takes its audiences into the blaze and shows just how difficult, dangerous and frightening it is to work against a towering wall of flame that can be pushed by the wind and move like a tidal wave.
It is a tribute to the extraordinary people who volunteer for the job and to the families that support them.
The film stars Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, and Jeff Bridges.
This one is a must see.