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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Spiraling Ever Deeper Into Noir

September 17th, 2019 | Robin

Ken and Robin Consume Media is brought to you by the discriminating and good-looking backers of the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff Patreon. Each week we provide capsule reviews of the books, movies, TV seasons and more we cram into our hyper-analytical sensoriums. Join the Patreon to help pick the items we’ll talk about in greater depth on a little podcast segment we like to call Tell Me More.

For Robin’s capsule reviews from the Toronto International Film Festival, hop on over here. They’ll reappear in Ken and Robin Consume Media as titles receive wider distribution in theaters or streaming platforms.

Recommended

The Lineup (Film, US, Don Siegel, 1958) San Francisco cops trace a heroin ring as hired killer Dancer (Eli Wallach) murders the unwitting couriers. Siegel ratchets up the tension from routine cop-procedural to manhunt to a full-on car chase, drinking in the San Francisco location shots along the way. Special shout-out to Robert Keith as Dancer’s manager, who manages to somehow out-creepy Eli Wallach. –KH

Odds Against Tomorrow (Film, US, Robert Wise, 1959) Bitter ex-cop Burke (Ed Begley) masterminds a bank robbery with racist ex-con Slater (Robert Ryan) and hotheaded gambler Ingram (Harry Belafonte). Wise shoots a stark, dispassionate noir fronted by three terrific actors (plus Shelley Winters, outstanding as Slater’s too-sympathetic girl) and backed by John Lewis’ insistent jazz score. The climax drains out rather too slowly, but you can see why Jean-Pierre Melville watched it 120 times. –KH

Pushover (Film, US, Richard Quine, 1954) Assigned to cozy up to bank robber’s girlfriend Lona (Kim Novak), aging cop Paul (Fred MacMurray) falls for her instead. Although its themes of corrupt love and voyeurism echo other, better movies, its tight clockwork timing and professionalism demand respect in their own right. Plus, early Kim Novak is always Recommended. –KH

Good

Killer’s Kiss (Film, US, Stanley Kubrick, 1955) Washed-up boxer Davie (Jamie Smith) tries to rescue dance-hall girl Gloria (Irene Kane) from her sweaty boss Vincent (Frank Silvera). Kubrick’s second film, shot for $75,000 on location in New York, shows flashes of brilliance throughout. The polearm-mannequin fight scene has to be seen to be believed. –KH [Also available as an extra on the Criterion Blu-Ray of Kubrick’s The Killing, itself highly Recommended.]

Nightfall (Film, US, Jacques Tourneur, 1957) On the run from murderous bank robbers, Jim Vanning (Aldo Ray) runs into model Marie Gardner (Anne Bancroft). Beautiful Burnett Guffey lensing and Tourneur’s restrained direction can’t save the idiot plot, and insurance investigator Fraser (James Gregory) damps down the tension at every turn. But Aldo Ray is something to watch as an almost passive noir hero in a world where existential pain or willful blindness seem the only two choices. –KH

Okay

The Garment Jungle (Film, US, Vincent Sherman, 1957) Garment company owner Walter Roxton (Lee J. Cobb) deals with gangster Ravidge (Richard Boone) to keep the union out of his shop. Original director Robert Aldrich wanted to make a pro-union film about a reluctantly brutal small businessman, but interference from Cobb and studio boss Harry Cohn stopped him; Sherman made “guy and girl fall in love in a dress factory” instead. The result: an overcrowded, incoherent movie with a few glorious character bits in it: Robert Loggia as a union organizer and Wesley Addy as a knife artist stand out. –KH

Private Hell 36 (Film, US, Don Siegel, 1954) Cop partners Farnham (Howard Duff) and Bruner (Steve Cochrane) track down a robbery jackpot with the reluctant help of nightclub singer Lily (Ida Lupino). Although Cochrane’s oily corruption is a joy to watch, any film that depends on Howard Duff’s internalized acting has two strikes against it. As always, hardcore Lupino-philes should kick this up to Good. –KH

The Vengeance of She (Fiction, Peter Tremayne, 1978) H. Rider Haggard’s immortal villain-priestess Ayesha returns, in the body of a psychiatric patient in Guildford. Tremayne doesn’t do much with this premise besides re-run Haggard’s novel, but in dull England rather than exotic Africa or Tibet. A promising theme of Ayesha as the id of everyone involved remains barely invoked. –KH

Not Recommended

Cry Tough (Film, US, Paul Stanley, 1959) Young Puerto Rican Miguel Estrada (John Saxon) tries to go straight after a year in prison, but the temptations of gang life and Sarita (Linda Cristal) pull him back in. Is it a social-problem film? A melodrama? A gangster film? A movie that never decides what it wants to do? No location shots (all backlot stuff) and only intermittently sympathetic characters complete the “don’t bother” package. –KH

One Response to “Ken and Robin Consume Media: Spiraling Ever Deeper Into Noir”

  1. Bryan Lovely says:

    Ken, you wouldn’t happen to be working on a noir-related game or game supplement, would you by any chance? 🙂

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