Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media Takes a Turn For the Noir

August 21st, 2018 | 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.


Conflict (Film, US, Curtis Bernhardt, 1945) In love with her sister, Richard Mason (Humphrey Bogart) murders his wife — or does he? Sydney Greenstreet is the suspicious psychiatrist in this unique role-switch that screws tension and interest to a fever pitch for 98 percent of its length. Bogart plays Mason’s disintegrating self so well that the noir script holes just flit past unremarked. –KH

Devil in a Blue Dress (Film, US, Carl Franklin, 1995) Unemployed black veteran “Easy” Rawlins (Denzel Washington) stumbles into detective work, and into murders, when white fixer Albright (Tom Sizemore) hires him to find the missing Daphne Monet (Jennifer Beals). Excellent transposition of Walter Mosley’s novel to film relies equally on Washington’s intelligence, Tak Fujimoto’s expertly sun-faded camera work, and a manic turn by Don Cheadle as Rawlins’ psycho ace in the hole, “Mouse.” –KH

I Walk Alone (Film, US, Byron Haskin, 1948) Released from prison after fourteen years, gangster Frankie Madison (Burt Lancaster) seeks a reckoning with his old partner Noll Turner (Kirk Douglas), but finds that times have changed. Come for the Lancaster-Douglas showdown, but stay for the jaw-dropping set piece in which Frankie discovers the real crime of business accounting. –KH

Love Education (Film, Taiwan, Sylvia Chang, 2017) After her mother’s death, a stubborn schoolteacher (Sylvia Chang) launches a campaign to relocate her father’s grave, over the objections of his equally indomitable first wife, the ear-grabbing honorary granny of a close-knit rural community. Moving and funny drama with a wry eye for character observation.—RDL

Love Season 2 (Television, Lesley Arfin & Paul Rust & Judd Apatow, 2017) Despite her resolve to keep her distance, and his inability to navigate her boundaries, love addict Mickey (Gillian Jacobs) and awkward Gus circle ever closer to official relationship status. In an era of sophomore slumps, it’s exciting to see a series, especially one so dependent on a keen balance between sharp comedy and real behavior, understand and deliver on what made it great in the first place.—RDL

One False Move (Film, US, Carl Franklin, 1992) Three crooks (Michael Beach, Cynda Williams, and Billy Bob Thornton) fleeing a multiple murder in LA bring big-city cops and gritty violence to the cornpone flyspeck of Star City, Arkansas, and its exuberant police chief Dale “Hurricane” Dixon (Bill Paxton). Franklin blends the crime film and the Western better than most directors handle either genre. Williams’ character anchors the movie, allowing Paxton and Thornton to blow up their parts gloriously. –KH

Understudy For Death (Fiction, Charles Willeford, 1961) When a well-to-do housewife in a small Florida town kills herself and her children, the cynical local reporter assigned to pry into the case stumbles into infidelity. Revived after half a century and still mis-marketed as a crime novel, this features Willeford’s unsparing hardboiled voice but is really an exercise in mid-century American alienation. As if a typical noir cast decided to set aside mystery and murder and stick to the behavior of Cheever or Yates characters. If you don’t know Willeford, start with Cockfighter.—RDL

The Unsuspected (Film, US, Michael Curtiz, 1947) A seeming suicide, a return from the dead, and a mysterious marriage throw the household of radio true-crime host Victor Grandison (Claude Rains) into dramatic disarray. Although Rains oils and conspires beautifully, if Curtiz had gotten his first casting choices (Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine) this would have been another of his Pinnacles. The dialogue crackles, the cameras zoom and float, and shadows loom and stab in this not-quite-flawless thriller. –KH


Blind Spot (Film, US, Robert Gordon, 1947) A drunk writer (Chester Morris) may have murdered his publisher in a locked room right after coming up with a locked-room mystery plot. Strong viewer identification and the beautiful Constance Dowling (as the publisher’s pawed-at secretary) push this light work up to Good for me, but Morris’ ridiculous “drunk” performance in the first act and the lack of true mystery may drop it to Okay for others. –KH

Bodyguard (Film, US, Richard Fleischer, 1948) Dismissed from the LAPD, maverick cop Mike Carter (Lawrence Tierney) finds bodyguard work, and skullduggery afoot, in the Dyson meat-packing clan. Either you want to see Lawrence Tierney bully, slink, and growl his way through plenty of vital, interesting Los Angeles location shots or you don’t. –KH

Strange Impersonation (Film, US, Anthony Mann, 1946) Biochemist Nora Goodrich (Brenda Marshall) experiments on herself with a new anesthetic, sending the viewer on a thrill ride of blackmail, identity theft, alembics, and post-surgery cigarettes, with a terrific Anthony Mann shot every so often to goose the emotional stakes. Even William Gargan as the inexplicable bone of romantic contention can’t stop things dead. –KH


Escape in the Fog (Film, US, Budd Boetticher, 1945) Recuperating nurse Eilene (Nina Foch) has a nightmare of seeing a man stabbed on the Golden Gate Bridge — and then meets him when her waking screams bring him running. Budget limits and a hack script waste the appealing Foch and a great premise on a rote spy-smashing B-picture. Boetticher doesn’t really bother trying here. –KH

One Response to “Ken and Robin Consume Media Takes a Turn For the Noir”

  1. Jeff R. says:

    If I were the suspicious type I’d suspect someone was researching something…

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