WEIRDLAND: Film Noir Classics IV DVD, L.A. Confidential into TV Sequel

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Film Noir Classics IV DVD, L.A. Confidential into TV Sequel

"Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, The Film Foundation and Turner Classic Movies again partner to present the fourth collection in this series, Columbia Pictures Film Noir Classics IV. These five films, all fully restored and remastered and never before released on DVD, showcase the work of directors Joseph H. Lewis, Robert Rossen, Gordon Douglas and Alfred L. Werker—all of them masters at creating taut and atmospheric visions from morally-strained hard-boiled stories. The collection also highlights the genre-defining cinematography of Burnett Guffey and George E. Diskant, and iconic performances by film noir mainstays Dick Powell, Evelyn Keyes, Lee J. Cobb, Dennis O'Keefe and Edmond O'Brien, who excelled at revealing the raw heart that beat beneath noir's tough exteriors."

Evelyn Keyes and Dick Powell on the set of "Johnny O'Clock" (1947) directed by Robert Rossen

Johnny O'Clock (Dick Powell) is a junior partner in a posh casino with Guido Marchettis (Thomas Gomez), but is senior in the eyes of Nelle (Ellen Drew)—Guido's wife and Johnny's ex. This love triangle leads to a web of complications, leaving Police Inspector Koch (Lee J. Cobb) to unravel the threads of deceit and a murdered casino employee's sister (Evelyn Keyes) to tug on Johnny's heartstrings before it's too late.

Dick Powell as Johnny O'Clock and Evelyn Keyes as Nancy Hobson share some intensely erotic moments in "Johnny O'Clock"

Applying Raymond Chandler's dictum that a good plot is an excuse for a series of exciting scenes, rookie director Robert Rossen strings together tense vignettes—brought vividly to life by cinematographer Burnett Guffey. Source:

Ella Raines in "Phantom Lady" (1944) directed by Robert Siodmak

-SF360: Who are the directors you gravitate toward and why?

Deanna Durbin in "Christmas Holiday" (1944) directed by Robert Siodmak

-Eddie Muller: Robert Siodmak is my favorite director because he, more than anyone else, understands the noir style. He’s a very seductive, suspenseful, atmospheric filmmaker. It really bugs me when people talk about noir as tough, violent pot boilers and they think it’s all like Mickey Spillane. The best noir films are spellbinding. That’s the word that comes to mind. It’s a style of filmmaking that completely complements stories about a person drawn into a situation almost against their will; they really shouldn’t go there but they can’t help themselves. The next thing you know they’re caught up in a whirlpool of sin and there’s no way out. I love when a filmmaker directs a film in exactly this way and that’s what Siodmak always did. His films have an inexorable pull—they’re not fast paced, there’s no slam-bang editing. Lynch’s films also have that quality. They draw you in and you can’t help yourself, you have the feeling that something dreadful is going to happen but you can’t stop going down that path.

-SF360: So, here’s pop quiz. Name the steamiest noir moment or scene.

-Eddie Muller: The after-shower, tic-tac-toe scene from Thieves Highway is the one stands that out for me. It was an early film I saw and I always cite it as an example of why old Hollywood movies, even with the Production Code, were more erotic than movies made today. Take Gilda: It’s the most perverted movie ever made.

-SF360: Your favorite/most lethal femme fatale?

-Eddie Muller: The women I’d travel back in time to are: Gloria Grahame, Ella Raines and Linda Darnell. Ella Raines was never really a femme fatale but I just really like her.

-SF360: How did you find your way into this niche?

-Muller: I like the films and particularly like that period of American history because I think it’s the time—mid-20th century, the span from victory in WW2 to the Kennedy assassination—when America lost its innocence. We were kings of the world because we saved the world and then when Kennedy was assassinated, it was if we lost our way and there was something horrible and corrupt at the center of our society. How that happened and how it’s reflected in the popular art of the time has always been interesting to me. Source:

"The truth about Elizabeth Short is that she was a lost individual. She involved herself with a number of men, using their generosity for free dinners and money. The murder unfortunately was also a precursor to the decline of Los Angeles itself. The Black Dahlia murder is a symbol of change from what was once a young and innocent Los Angeles to a dark and gloomy Hollywood. The crime rate since World War II has increased in Los Angeles, and areas that were once considered middle-class neighborhoods have turned into rundown areas over a period of 20 years."

"What I have learned in the end is that the murder is not only a loss of a young life, it is also a loss of old-fashioned Hollywood. In the following years, race riots, immigration and civil rights have changed Los Angeles to what it is today; leaving all what was of 'Hollywoodland' behind, and bringing with it the unsolved case from a time that is gone but not forgotten." Source:

In this respect, "The Black Dahlia" is one of De Palma’s most unflattering mirrors, its entirely uncompromised mise en scène in every way the stylistic equal of James Ellroy’s source novel. I had as much trouble getting into Ellroy’s fictionalization of the Elizabeth Short murder mystery until I recognized that he is, in part, a parodist, using hard-boiled, floridly macho prose to get at deeper psychological truths about human nature. He wields a pen in much the same way De Palma does a camera—to create, for both men, is to bear witness with a fervor approaching, if not attaining, the religious.

Their shared vessel is the young warrants detective Dwight “Bucky” Bleichert, a model of first-person arrogance in the novel, cast as something of an androgynous specter in De Palma’s adaptation. Embodied by a never-better Josh Hartnett, Bleichert wanders through a falsified period landscape, recalling his loss of innocence (or acknowledging his always-present corruption) through a precisely employed voiceover that casts each and every event (save for the film’s brilliantly nonredemptive final sequence) within the deceptive realm of memory. Source:

Within 90 seconds of taking the stage, the author of "L.A. Confidential" and "The Black Dahlia" had referenced sex, drugs and physical anatomy, a warm-up for the searing commentary on liberals and hipsters that was to follow. It was a refreshingly unabashed articulation of a unique worldview that has produced one of the most distinctive voices on the local literary scene. In other words, Ellroy was a perfect fit for the Los Angeles Writers Reading Series, some of the best programming currently taking place on the Glendale campus. Source:

James Ellroy’s 1990s novel L.A. Confidential was turned into an acclaimed feature starring Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe and Kim Basinger and produced by Regency. Now Ellroy and New Regency are shopping an L.A. Confidential sequel targeted for the small screen, Deadline said. Ellroy wrote the project on spec as a TV drama series, which is being pitched to broadcast and cable networks as well as emerging distribution platforms, with multiple outlets interested. The project is reportedly eyeing a straight-to-series commitment.

The sequel continues the themes and stories from L.A. Confidential, a murder mystery which examined the intersection of organized crime, police corruption, celebrity and tabloid journalism in 1950s Los Angeles.

The 1997 film, co-written and directed by Curtis Hanson, earned nine Oscar nominations, winning two awards, for best screenplay and best supporting actress (Basinger). The L.A. Confidential sequel is one of the first major projects to come out of the TV division of New Regency, which was re-started last year with the hire of Syfy’s Andrew Plotkin. It combines the company’s strategy of mining its movie library for TV series adaptations and bringing in new material.

Meanwhile, Ellroy just sold another LA-set period drama. Based on Ellroy’s 2012 novella Shakedown, the project, which has been set up at FX as a pitch, is set in the tabloid world and underbelly of Los Angeles circa the late 1950s. Source:

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