Bernie pic

Bernie pic

Thursday, 10 October 2019

The Outlier: a short story

This is a short story from our upcoming anthology From the Edge. Enjoy.

Bernie Dowling
In memory of more than 2000 people who suicided, after receiving computer-generated ‘robo debt’ demands – many erroneous – from the Federal Government Centrelink social security organization.

South-east Queensland, September 1998

IT WAS BARBIE THE BARITONE who recommended me.
      ‘Barbie the baritone suggested you might talk to him, Steele,’ the Gooroo said.
      We were sharing tea and scones on a bright spring morning in Con’s Tweed Heads unit. The Gooroo had just turned 68 and he had decided to retire from his somewhat illegal SP bookmaking business. It was fun while it lasted but legal corporate bookmakers had begun to compete with the previous trilogy of government totalisators, on-course bookies, and the dwindling numbers of illegal SPs like the Gooroo.
      I had given my best mate, Con Vitalis, 35 years my senior, the nickname the Gooroo after the Local Aboriginal word for deep place or something like that.
     ‘I've created a spreadsheet to map all the punters who owe me money,’ the Gooroo said. ‘I’ve worked out probabilities of people paying me back and also the percentage they are likely to pay if they refuse to fork out the full amount.’ He smiled. ‘I was pleasantly surprised at the results and I have only one outlier.’
      I took a sip of tea before I inquired if the Gooroo was talking to me. ‘Are you talking to me or to yourself? Because I don't know what a spreadsheet is and I don't know what an outlier is. I pretty much understand the stuff in the middle and it's good that it looks like you’ve got a pleasing result coming your way.’ 
      ‘You know what a spreadsheet is, Steele. It's got information and maths calculations on it. A bookmaker’s ledger is a spreadsheet. You’ve been working with spreadsheets for 10 years. Just not as sophisticated as the modern computer ones. An outlier is a result far different to the average.’
      ‘Like an outsider in a horse race,’ I said.
      ‘Yair, something like that and Charlie Barra has come up as an outlier with me having next to no hope of collecting what he owes me.’
      ‘How much does this Charlie Barra owe?’
      ‘Three grand.’
      ‘Write it off,’ I advised.
      ‘This may surprise you, Steele, but writing off bad debts without trying earnestly to collect is frowned upon in the business world.’
      ‘Then talk to him,’ I said
      ‘I was going to, but Barbie the Baritone was concerned he was emotionally fragile.’
      I saw what the problem was. ‘Charlie’s dropped three grand betting on the ponies. Of course he is emotionally fragile. Once he’s wiped the slate clean, he will feel much better.’
      The Gooroo was not convinced. ‘I don’t know so much. Barbie is concerned.’
     ‘Did Barbie offer to clear his slate?’
     ‘She isn't that concerned. She suggested you talk to Charlie Barra.’
      I might be 6-foot tall but I wasn't coming at this. ‘I’m not heavying a bloke about a gambling debt. No way.’
      The Gooroo was offended. ‘Who said anything about heavying anyone? I’m just asking you to talk to him so I know what the score is. I'll give you a couple of hundred even if we have to write off the whole 3-gees.’
      I was embarrassed after being reprimanded for my dark thoughts. ‘Awlright, I'll give it a go but I don't need any money for it. I’ve had a good week on the punt. Maybe Charlie Barra has too. Where does he live?’
      ‘Dunno,’ the Gooroo said, reaching into his wallet for $40, what he called ‘petrol money’.       ‘We did business on the telephone and settled debts in cafes.’
      ‘I thought it was frowned upon in business not to know the address of customers.’
      Barbie’s mum called her Barbara and I called her Barbie the Baritone because it always made me laugh or, at the very least, smile to hear the moniker. She was the lead singer of an all-girl pub band which moved up financially to do cabaret and play corporate gigs for the big money. As a novelty, the blue-eyed blonde sang a set of songs usually performed by baritone or bass vocalists. She would do The Superman Song by Crash Test Dummies, Better Get a Lawyer by the Cruel Sea, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Fight Like a Brave, It's Midnight by Elvis, Light My Fire by The Doors, 16 Tons by almost everybody, and even way back to Old Man River by Paul Robeson.
      The punters loved Barbie’s baritone/ bass set and why wouldn’t they? It was way cool.
      She opened the door to her unit beside the Brisbane River and I admired the views outside, through the patio window, and in. ‘So, this is your new place. Wow, you done all right for a girl.’
      Barbie drummed her fingers on the back of the open door to an old Melanie tune, and invited me in. ‘You know you're not supposed to quote song lyrics without permission,’ she said. ‘How's Natalie?’
      ‘We’re kind of taking a break at the moment,’ I said. 
      ‘Why does that not surprise me? You know, Steele, you'd be a good catch for any woman. If you were not such a hopeless arsehole.’ On cue, Barbie's CD player gave us the satirical Pretty Fly (For a White Guy) from pop-punkers the Offspring’s new album Americana. ‘And what brings you to my humble abode?’
      I scoffed. ‘Humble abode, that new group of yours, Barbie and the Beetroots, must be going sensationally.’ 
      ‘It's Kirsty and the Kalettes. We were going to call ourselves the Scalettes but that was taken. So, we went with the vegetable.’
       ‘Like in that prickly stalky cabbage stuff. That tastes yuk. That kale will never take off. Kirsty and the Kalettes is cool for a band name, but.’
      ‘Way cooler than what you called us. As a name, Barbie and the Beetroots wouldn’t work, not even in those pub dives you frequent.’
      ‘You mean those pub dives where you learned your trade, Barbie.’
      ‘Fair point but I’ve told you not to call me Barbie.’
      ‘I always call you Barbie.’
      ‘And I always tell you not to.’
       We bantered about this for a minute and it led to good band names and great song titles and killer lyrics. We had to stop so the whole morning was not done before we talked about a more serious matter.
      Barbie was still playing the pubs for peanuts when she first noticed Charlie Barra at one gig. He was at others and he always sat in the same spot to her right, three tables back. He never tapped his knee in time with a song or mouthed the words. At the end of a number he would only clap politely. It was quite disconcerting.’
      I nodded. ‘I bet it was. For Charlie. Sounds like you were stalking him.’
      ‘That's not funny, Steele. You can get some creepy guys at gigs. That's how I met you, remember.’ 
       She got me there. I raised my hands in surrender, and sat mute as she continued her tale.
      ‘He surprised me one night when he came over during the break between sets to buy one of our EPs. He said he really liked the sad song I had just done.’
      Barbie appreciated the compliment because the song was an original she had performed in public for the first time. It normally takes quite a few listens before a punter catches onto a song and decides they really like it. 
      Charlie seemed safe enough and Barbie talked to him at gigs and occasionally they met over a coffee. Small world and all that, it turns out Charlie bets on horse races with Con Vitalis who is Barbara’s grandmother’s second cousin. 
      When I ask, Barbie does not know what Charlie does for a living. She suspects he may be on a pension as his complexion is pale and he is prone to bouts of coughing. She does not pry into any medical issues. At one time, he mentioned working in an air-force base, maybe as a civilian, Barbie thought.
      ‘Do you have his address?’ I ask.
      She sat silent for a while. ‘What do you want with him?’
      ‘I thought you said to the Gooroo I should talk to Charlie.’
      ‘No, that’s not what I said. What I said was you and Charlie probably spoke the same language.’
      I had some idea what Barbie was driving at and was not really offended but it was only fair to embarrass the successful performer. ‘What's that supposed to mean?’
      Barbie’s face tinged reddish but she was saved from attempting an awkward response. Dexter Holland, vocalist of the Offspring, burst into the song Why Don’t You Get a Job? Barbie laughed.
      I laughed. ‘Don't like that song much,’ I said. ‘I suppose it's about the band inheriting a bunch of hangers-on since their success. It just comes across as judgemental. Nice tune, but.’
      ‘It’s a hit with a lot of people,’ Barbie said.
      She got up and walked towards a coffee table with one CD and a sheet of note paper on it.
‘Sure is,’ I said to her back.
      Barbie handed me the CD and the paper with an address on it. The CD was Dream’s Up, Kirsty and the Kalettes’ new album. ‘I was supposed to post this to Charlie. You can take it to him if you like. I’ve got a copy for you, too. Just promise me you won’t ask Charlie for money until you come back to see me. Maybe we can work something out. I’ve a bit of cash at the moment but you know what the music biz is like, Steele. One day you’re a bird of paradise, the next day you’re compost.’
      Brendale is an industrial suburb north of Brisbane in the shire known as Pine Rivers named after the north and south Pine Rivers. The north and south branches merge into just the plain old Pine River before it empties into the sea. Everything's pine, up that way.
      Brendale has lots of industrial buildings, mostly small. But also modest houses and flats for some of its thousands of workers to live in. I was visiting an octet of brick flats, one of which might contain Charlie Barra. The flats looked like they were built on the cheap with bricks of varied colour. Some bricks were cracked and a few jutted at dangerous angles to the horizontal. Moss stained the base of the two-storey building. Some brick buildings lasted hundreds of years. This one would be lucky to see fifty.
      I knocked on the thin wooden door of ground floor flat n0. 4 and a tall man, maybe 6 foot 3, stooped over me, and I was looking at his forehead and the receding grey hair above it.
      ‘Hi,’ I said. ‘I'm Steele Hill and I was driving out this way so Barbie asked me to deliver this CD.’
      The man straightened his head but his shoulders still appeared hunched. ‘Who’s Barbie?’ he asked warily.
      ‘I mean Barbara,’ I corrected. ‘Barbara Truscott, Kirsty.’
      ‘But I already paid for the CD.’
      ‘I know, Charlie. I'm a friend of Barbara’s and I’m delivering it for her. There’s no charge.’
      He was trusting enough to invite me in. It was a one-bedroom flat which despite its small size looked larger because of the lack of furniture. A television set and a CD player sat on a round cane table. One lounge chair faced the entertainment devices. Another cane table had two cane chairs underneath. In the kitchen was a thin stove, a noisy old refrigerator, a single washbasin, and a bench running along one wall with a single set of drawers underneath. On the bench were an electric jug and a toaster.
      ‘Would you like a cup of tea, Mr. Hill? I only got tea. Coffee is very expensive except for the cheap stuff which doesn’t taste nice and I would rather go without.’
      ‘Tea’s fine, thanks. No milk, no sugar.’
      He indicated one of the cane chairs for me to sit in and retrieved tea bags and cups from one of the drawers beneath the kitchen bench.
      As we sat drinking bland tea and munching plain biscuits, I realised I would need to lead the conversation as the man had exhausted his dialogue with his observations on cheap coffee. Looking at him, I would say he was about 50, which made him 15 or so years my senior.
      I decided not to mention the Gooroo. ‘You go to a lot of Barbara’s shows?’ I asked.
      ‘A few. What about you, Steele? Did you ever go to the Storey Bridge Hotel when Barbara was in her other band? You look familiar to me.’
      ‘In ’94, ’95?’
      He nodded.
      ‘Probably. Yair, for sure,’ I said
      He seemed satisfied at his memory. ‘At first I thought you were from the Air Force. Undercover. But you don't look like you're Air Force.’
      ‘No I'm not in the Air Force. Are you in the Air Force Charlie?’
      ‘No. I'm in dispute with them.’
      ‘Over what?’ 
      ‘I used to work for them. As a civvy in the F-111 Deseal/Reseal section.’
      ‘Sounds heavy,’ I said. ‘What's that?’
      ‘Cleaning and patching up the fighter jets’ fuel tanks. That’s what I did for 12 years, the 12 years from 1981 to 1993. For 12 years.
      ‘I’ve always been a big bloke but I would crawl into those F-111 jet fuel tanks. I would scrape off all sorts of toxic shit and patch up holes with other sorts of toxic shit and seal the whole thing with different toxic shit.’
      Charlie sounded more regretful than angry. ‘Do you ever get depressed, Mr Hill.’
      ‘Call me, Steele. I guess we all do sometimes.’
      A wave of sadness crossed Charlie’s face. ‘People who say that, who say everyone gets depressed at some time, are usually the lucky ones. They don’t get real depression. They don't get so anxious they can't open the door to collect the mail. How old do you think I am, Steele?’
      I replied truthfully I was no good at ages but he insisted. I decided to be kind and shave a couple of years off what I thought his age was. ‘47-48,’ I said.
      It turned out he was 38-years-old. ‘I have grey hair. I have emphysema and I've never smoked in my life. I have depression, migraines, and anxiety attacks. I take seven types of medications every day. Some of my medicines are not subsidized on the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. After I started to get depressed, Amy took the kids and left.’
      This was not going well. I could not see any lead-in to questions about Charlie’s debt to the Gooroo. ‘Doesn’t the Air Force pay for your medication?’
      ‘I've been battling them for compensation for three years. They keep saying it is under assessment but my condition could have been caused by something else. I never had a day's sickness in my life before this. I thought that would work in my favor but they say they haven't got my medical records to eliminate other possibilities.
      ‘They have their own medical records on me. The Air Force won't give them to a journalist following my story. They say they're protecting my privacy. Even my specialists are having trouble getting information from the Air Force. I'm just about at the end of my tether. If I can put enough money together, I’m going to Vietnam. It's cheaper to live over there and I’m hoping I get to keep my invalid pension. I don't think I've got that long anyway.’
      Not knowing what to say, I sat silent for a while. ‘I probably can't do much, Charlie. But if there's anything, here’s my phone number. There is one thing, though.’
      ‘If I leave you 20 bucks, will you promise to buy yourself two giant jars of expensive coffee?’
      He smiled ruefully and the deal was done.
      I knew the Gooroo would anonymously send Charlie the money for the airfare to Vietnam and some more to set himself up there. Who knew what tall tale Con concocted to explain why Charlie was receiving the windfall?
      I did drop back into Barbara’s place. I stopped calling her Barbie because she probably didn’t like it. I told her the Gooroo had written off Charlie’s debt and she was pleased.
      Charlie and I corresponded for a while – neither of us owned a computer for those new emails thingos – and I was most pleased when he wrote he was seeing a young woman.
      His last letter to me told how he had lost his latest review for compensation and he was not sure if there were many anymore appeal avenues to travel down.
      My last letter to Charlie was returned to me along with a note from the Vietnamese police. Charlie Barra had hung himself.

The anthology From the Edge will be launched at Pine Rivers Art Gallery at 1pm on Saturday October 26. All are welcome. Here is our song:

Friday, 19 April 2019

A hard Rain still has heaps to say

Hard rain falls

Rain (1932) is likely to remain as one of Hollywood's most underrated films though it could appeal to a modern audience with its dominant themes of the abuse of power by men over women, and the oppressive effects of religious intolerance. If enterprising film-festival directors defied historical convention and put Rain on noir bills, appreciative viewers might find it.

Friday, 1 March 2019

Free noir double shows the classics

Enjoy two classic gritty noirs

FOR ME, KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL (1952) ticks all the boxes for an excellent little noir.
It is produced on the cheap by Edward Small Productions for an established but financially troubled distributor United Artists which, at the time, does not have a production studio of its own.
The cast is full of no names with the exception of lead John Payne who says he commands 25% of the profits to be in the thing.
The director is Phil Karlson who is an assistant director for 12 years and no one wants to give him a crack at sitting in the director’s chair so he goes off to fight World War II.

Friday, 8 February 2019

Free films put the noir into film noir

Take a walk on the dark side

A NOIR blending violence, sentimentality, and comedy may struggle for balance and Johnny One-Eye (1950) certainly does.
I could not recall having seen this movie before and I was expecting the Johnny in the title to be a gangster, somebody sprouting wise-cracks and New York slang, given the movie is based on a Damon Runyon short story. A fair way into the movie we find Johnny is not a gangster, not even a person.

Friday, 1 February 2019

Watch Fate on the rampage in noirs

Trouble is going my way

FATE TORTURING THE WORKING STIFF is a subset of film noir and includes Stranger on the Third Floor (1940) Scarlet Street (1945) D.O.A. (1945) Quicksand (1950) Kansas City Confidential (1952) The Hitch-Hiker (1953) and 99 River Street (1953)
What made the real-life story surrounding Quicksand both poignant and ironic was working stiffs,  director  Irving Pichel, and musical composer Louis Gruenberg, were blacklisted after it and one of the lead actors, Peter Lorre, was bankrupted by bankrolling it.
The full story about the behind-the-scenes turmoil of Quicksand is yet to be told. It cries out to be turned into a film noir directed by Martin Scorsese or the Coen Brothers.

Friday, 25 January 2019

Filmmakers fled Hitler for Hollywood

Bleak noir is hard to watch

FRITZ LANG'S SCARLET STREET (1945) is well acted and well photographed but I find it a most unappealing movie.
I have watched it three times now over the course of many years. After the first time, I promised myself to never watch it again. But I had forgotten how it progressed so I watched it the second time, only to promise myself not to give it a third viewing. 
Watching for this review produced a similar result and I again had forgotten the details. That’s it, no more Scarlet Street for me.
The film is unrelentingly misogynist and misanthropic. The excellent acting from Edward G Robinson, Joan Bennett, and Dan Duryea cannot redeem such an unpleasant movie.

I am mindful film enjoyment is a subjective experience.  Some may consider Edgar G. Ulmer's Detour (1945) difficult to watch but I find it in engrossing, poetic even. Similarly, some noiristas will wax lyrical about Scarlet Street.
As I have mentioned before, many of the best villains/ femmes fatale in noir have redeeming features. In Scarlet Street, Kitty March (Bennett) and Johnny Prince (Duryea) have none as they relentlessly steal the cash, possessions, and dignity of Chris Cross (Robinson). Cross is a sympathetic character but that only makes it harder to watch him stumble to his inevitable doom.
For a noir to be successful there should be light and shade in central personalities as well as in photography. A minor character can be unabashedly evil and that device can work wonders.

SCARLET STREET WAS THE FIRST Hollywood movie where a murderer was not brought to justice. While that noteworthy plot twist escaped the Hays Office, other censors pounced. The film was banned in New York State, and in the cities of Milwaukee, and Atlanta. One of the three censors described the film as “licentious” and “profane”. You are going to watch it now aren’t you? I have always thought censors doubled as publicity officers for the products they ban.

Scarlet Street is a remake of a 1931 French movie La Chienne directed by Jean Renoir. In English, the French title translates into “the bitch” which gives some idea of the hard-core misogyny which will follow the opening credits. Renoir, who himself relocated to Hollywood after Hitler conquered France, was said to dislike Lang’s remake.
 Lang was born in Austria and became a filmmaker in the Weimar Republic, a designation of Germany between the end of World War I in 1918 and 1933, the year Adolf Hitler rose to power. Lang made three sorts of films in the Weimar Republic: art-house movies, popular thrillers, and a combination of the two as with the expressionist classic M, starring Peter Lorre as a serial child killer. Lang also made the Doctor Mabuse trilogy horror films about a megalomaniac and Metropolis one of the most amazing films of all time. These films combined the 1920s art and theatre aesthetic of expressionism with the photographic and composition tricks which would become central to film noir.

Discussion of art and focus on the amateur paintings of Christopher Cross were innovative for a popular movie and worked well or at least held my interest and I am sure the interest of a lot of other viewers. We see Cross painting what we expect to be a still life of a fragile flower and it turns out to be an expressionist flat splat of colors. Lang’s theme of industrial capitalism throttling creativity was explored in Metropolis and here in Scarlet Street, time-bound white-collar jobs imprison the spirit.
Expressionism projects psychological disturbances into the outside world, hence noir’s obsession with askew places and objects, shadows, misunderstandings and manipulation. As expressionism grew from the horrors of World War I, inner feelings are often of dread, anger, and seeking relief through desperate desire for physical pleasure and happiness.
There are a lot of themes explored in Scarlet Street, probably too many, and too many plot twists as well. The movie does seem to wander about the bush after the climactic murder.
It is a good-looking film and the print I have chosen for viewing is excellent. There are some short ads but I doubt you will find them too intrusive,
 You will notice in my noir reviews, I rarely disclose much of the plots. Some people reading this will not have seen the films and some readers will have forgotten them.  It surprises me that so many reviews of noir extensively discuss details of the plot. I don't see why noir should be excluded from general warnings against spoilers.

The director

FRITZ LANG WAS A RESPECTED FILMMAKER in Germany when Hitler rose to power in 1933. The Nazis were suspicious of Lang because of his films which they correctly judged as being critical of their authoritarianism, Paradoxically, as a director, Lang was authoritarian though his films such as Metropolis and the Mabuse series warned against it at a political level. Somewhat bizarrely Lang was also under threat because his mother was Jewish though she had converted to Catholicism soon after her marriage to a staunch Catholic,
Even more bizarrely Joseph Goebbels, minister of propaganda, invited Lang to head the new Nazi Film Board.  Lang left Germany in 1933 for Paris while his Nazi-sympathetic wife, screenwriter Thea von Harbou, who had written the script for Metropolis stayed in Germany. There is some doubt how sympathetic to Nazism Harbou was and Lang was unfaithful to his wife during their marriage. The couple divorced.
In 1935 Lang moved to Hollywood clutching an MGM contract.
Lang’s first Hollywood noir was Moonstruck (1942) sort of. Lang walked off the set because leading man Frenchman Jean Gabin had started an affair with Lang’s mistress Marlene Dietrich. Archie Mayo took over the direction of Moonstruck which also starred Ida Lupino and Claude Rains. Moonstruck is an under-rated noir which, like Algiers (1938), with French lead Charles Boyer, has dashes of poetic realism. 
Lang’s first completed noirs were the anti-Nazi Hangmen Also Die! (1943) Ministry of Fear (1944), based on the Graham Greene novel,  and The Woman in the Window(1944). The Woman in the Window was essentially the same film as next year’s Scarlet Street. Robinson, Bennett and Duryea were in both and they had the same cinematographer Milton R. Krasner.
Noirs which followed Scarlet Street included Cloak and Dagger (1946) Secret Beyond the Door (1948) House by the River (1950) and Clash by Night (1952)
In 1953 Lang directed two of his most famous noirs, The Blue Gardenia and The Big Heat which included the infamous scene of Lee Marvin disfiguring Gloria Grahame with scalding coffee over her face.
Lang’s last noirs were Human Desire  (1954) Moonfleet (1955) While the City Sleeps (1956) and Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956)..

The photographer

MILTON KRASNER WAS A PROLIFIC cinematographer of more than 150 films between 1933 and 1970. (In 1942 alone, he shot seven films.) Depending on the assessment of classics, he may have shot more classic noirs than any other shooter. As well as the Fritz Lang two-in-one, The Woman in the Window and Scarlet Street, Krasner shot The Dark Mirror (1946) A Double Life (1947) The Accused (1949) The Set-Up (1949) House of Strangers (1949) All About Eve (1950) No Way Out (1950) and Deadline – U.S.A. (1952) He also shot the brilliant  Sweet Bird of Youth (1962) which I would suggest is neo-noir.
Krasner won the Academy Award for best color cinematography for Three Coins in the Fountain (1954). (From 1939 to 1967, there were separate awards for color and for black-and-white cinematography.) He also won best cinematography at the Cannes Film Festival for The  Set-Up, a boxing noir.
Krasner worked in black-and-white and color, standard format and widescreen, in a variety of genres, for a multitude of directors, at all the major studios. He also served an apprenticeship as a camera assistant from 1919 to 1932. Little wonder he was so good at his craft.

The finances
Backed by Universal Pictures, Scarlet Street had a quite substantial budget of $1.2m, enough to finance a dozen or more Poverty-Row films, and $16.75m in today’s values. (Again I will repeat my lament that modern Hollywood has lost its way with films with budgets of hundreds of millions of dollars choking out diversity.)
Scarlet Street grossed $2.95m or $41.2m, today, making it a success in any accountant’s maths.

 The Players
EDWARD G ROBINSON MADE A NAME for himself in gangster movies which became popular among the first talkies of the 1930s.  This was also the era of the Great Depression. These three events produced gangster films which in style and storytelling were America's contribution to the future aesthetics of film noir when combined with European expressionism.

Little Caesar
Three of Romanian-born Robinson's early gangster films were Outside the Law (1930) directed by Todd Browning, Little Caesar (1931) directed by Mervyn Leroy, and Smart Money (1931( directed by Alfred E. Green. Smart Money was the only time Robinson play beside another gangster most wanted James Cagney.
Robinson did appear beside Humphrey Bogart in five films: Bullets or Ballots (1936) Kid Galahad (1937) The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1938) Brother Orchid (1940) and Key Largo (1948).
Robinson's portrayal of sadistic gangster, Johnny Rocco, is superb in Key Largo, undoubtedly one of the best noirs ever made. Robinson also had a pivotal role in another celebrated noir Double Indemnity (1944) directed by Billy Wilder with a script by Wilder and Raymond Chandler.

LIKE ROBINSON JOAN BENNETT was an anti-fascist campaigner and benefactor.
She appeared in the noir The Woman on the Beach (1947) directed by Jean Renoir. Obviously Lang’s Woman in the Window had relocated. Her other Fritz Lang noir was Secret Beyond the Door (1948). Also in 1948 was Hollow Triumph directed by Steve  Sekely. The Reckless Moment (1949) was directed by Max Ophuis.
Bennett’s husband Walter Wanger (pronounced as in danger) produced Scarlet Street, Secret Beyond the Door, and The Reckless Moment.
In 1951, Wanger shot Bennett’s agent Jennings Lang in the groin because he thought they were having an affair which Bennett denied.
Wanger served four months on a prison farm. They dispensed just sparingly to Hollywood celebrities in those days. The agent recovered.

FOR A MAN WHO PLAYED loathsome villains, Dan Duryea was quite the cheery type.  It pays well and you last,” Duryea said.
In real life, Duryea raised his family outside Hollywood. He led his son’s boy scout troop. In the movies, he would have stolen their lunch money and made them rob strangers.
Duryea played the most selfish, the most obnoxious person who ever lived in Scarlet Street, The Woman in the Window, The Great Flamarion, Criss Cross, Too Late for Tears, and Johnny Stool Pigeon.

The year 1944 was a good one in Hollywood for former filmmakers of the Weimar Republic. Lang directed The Woman in the Window. Otto Preminger, born in Austria-Hungary, directed the noir classic Laura. Billy Wilder, born in Poland of Austrian Jewish parents, directed another noir classic Double Indemnity. (Wilder had been a scriptwriter in Germany and took up directing in Paris.)

The verdict

The full movie

Second feature

SOMEWHERE ALONG THE LINE, some critics decided Edgar G. Ulmer’s low-budget tale Strange Illusion was a re-telling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. This was something we might go with except it is only true at a most superficial level and only if we believe Freud’s interpretation that Hamlet was in love with his Mom and wanted to kill his Dad and got guilty when his uncle killed his Dad instead.

Not much of that happened in Strange Illusion though Paul Cartwright (James “Jimmy” Lydon) does see his dead dad in a dream which begins the movie and foretells the plot, making it the only flash forward I can recall in noir.
They did love their Sigmund Freud in noir and in other Hollywood movies from 1930-1960. My favorite Freudian film, the sci-fi Forbidden Planet (1956) constructed the whole movie around Freudian theory, not just dabbling with it here and there as in Strange Illusion.

As a movie, Strange Illusion is all over the shop with Freud, Hamlet, the generation gap, and noir scenes involving shadows, mirrors, angled photography, shots of reflections, and themes of lust and greed,
The film cries out, “we have no money” but honestly it should have been better.
Scriptwriter Adele Comandini was nominated for an Academy Award for Three Smart Girls (1936) and wrote the hit rom-com Christmas in Connecticut (1945).  Maybe she just did not connect with noir. She had created a crooked psychiatrist, and a crooked businessman, always good foils in noir but fun-loving teenagers speaking teen slang was an unwelcome intrusion. I did like the warning about sexual predators preying on teenage girls. Ms Comandini probably saw a bit of that in Hollywood.

The cast included veteran actors such as Warren William as Brett Curtis, Sally Eilers as Virginia Cartwright, Regis Toomey as Dr. Martin Vincent, Charles Arnt as Professor Muhlbach and African-American George Reed as Benjamin, the butler. The lead Jimmy Lydon was stretching his acting wings after playing the teen lead in the Henry Aldrich movie series, 1941-44. Maybe that was wgy we had teen biz in this one too.
I suspect lack of budget and putting too many ingredients in the stew detracted from the finished product. Still, with an Edgar G. Ulmer movie, something attractive is always going to grab your attention.

Strange line
Are ya  missin' ma kissin'?
Paul delivers this over the phone to his teen sweetheart and it seems out of character for the straight-laced Paul, his latent sexual attraction for his Mom, notwithstanding. The patter fools an eavesdropping Professor Muhlbach who wonders whether it is a coded message. Yes, it’s code for “we teens really need to come up with better slang”.

 I HAVE THREE ITEMS of trivia, one of which is personal.
1.      1. The first cigarette is at 14: 20 which is really late for noir.

2.   2. At 19.25 we meet bank manager Bill Allen played by John Hamilton, also editor Perry White on the television series Adventures of Superman (1952-58).
3.    3. At 54.1o, Paul places a sheet of newspaper under a door and retrieves a large metal key from the other side of the door. In my neo-noir novel Iraqi Icicle, my amateur gumshoe Steele Hill retrieves a metal key in a similar manner. I had actually done this when I was locked out of an old house I was living in. For some time now, doors have been sealed underneath, and electronic keys open many doors. But rest assured, Paul retrieval of the key is realistic, though, as I explain in my novel a bit of a fiddly exercise and a lot harder than Paul makes it look.
If you have somewhere to post a review and you would like a free review copy of Iraqi Icicle email me.

The verdict

The full movie

mpvieardew o is realsut exewrcuse and a lot hardewr than Pail males it look.wasa an unwelcome intrusion.
n Strange Ullu

Our song

Next noirs: 
Quicksand (1950) starring Mickey Rooney and Peter Lorre


The mystery movie, my favorite noir of all time. See you then.