They've got more wolves in New York than they've got in Siberia.
I Wake Up Screaming is one of the early entries in the film noir cycle that lays down noirish detective conventions. It's kicker is similar to that of Stranger On The Third Floor (1940), that of the chief suspect turning detective to try and prove innocence. Directed by Fox contract director H. Bruce Humberstone, the screenplay is by Dwight Taylor who adapts from Steve Fisher's novel of the same name. It stars Betty Grable (excellent in a rare dramatic role), Victor Mature, Carole Landis, Laird Cregar, William Gargan & Elisha Cook Jr. Picture is filmed as if in New York City, but although it's actually listed as the real location on other sources, it's more than likely just expert set construction. Edward Cronjager (Canyon Passage/Desert Fury) takes up cinematography duties.
The plot centers around cocky promoter Frankie "Botticelli" Christopher (Mature) who is accused of the murder of Vicky Lynn (Landis), a young actress he "discovered" as a waitress while out with his friends. Teaming up with Vicky's level headed sister Jill (Grable), Frankie finds the heat is on and it's getting hotter as the police, led by brooding heavy Ed Cornell (Cregar), are determined to put him in the electric chair, or "Hot Spot" (the film's original working title and a title held for the UK release of the film). Told in alternating flashbacks, nothing is ever quite what it seems, so with dark motives looming and deep suspicion enveloping our protagonists, the question is, just who will wake up screaming? It starts out rather briskly, jaunty music opens the piece up and one gets the feeling that this is very much going to be a standard Betty Grable picture. In fact when you consider that snatches of "Over The Rainbow" are used at frequent points in the movie, the makers have to be applauded for ultimately achieving the murky end product that I Wake Up Screaming becomes. There's very little "light" in the piece, what bright scenes there are serve as snippets of hope for our intrepid detectives, but outside of that it's deep shadows & dark interiors, perfectly given the high contrast treatment by the talented Cronjager.
This is very much Cregar's movie. A fine character actor before his sad and premature death, he had a hulking presence that dominated film's if given the material to work with. Here he gets a role to really unnerve the audience with. For although the character is watered down from the source novel, his Ed Cornell (apparently based on pulp novelist Cornell Woolrich) is creepy yet oddly garners sympathy too. Most of the best scenes involve the big man, I mean not many actors could dwarf Mature the way that Cregar does here, but the film is all the better for it as the characters persona's are unfolded in front of the audience. It helps of course that Humberstone & Cronjager get the best out of Cregar's shiftiness, semi-cloaking his face with window blind shadows or using his body shadow to act as another character bearing down on the latest person to be on the receiving end of his penetrative questions. While one sequence as Frankie sweatily wakes from a feverish nightmare will linger in the conscious as much as Cregar effectively lingers in the movie.
With devilish twists and turns and a genuinely hard to figure out "who done it" structure, I Wake Up Screaming is very much an essential movie for the Noir/Crime movie fan. And of course for those wishing to see just why Laird Cregar was so highly regarded. 8/10
GrÃ©goire Duval - The Pharmacist - The 7th Juror.
Le septiÃ¨me jurÃ© (The 7th Juror) is directed by Georges Lautner and adapted to screenplay by Pierre Laroche and Jacques Robert from the Francis Didelot novel. It stars Bernard Blier, Maurice Biraud, Francis Blanche, DaniÃ¨le Delorme and Jacques Riberolles. Music is by Jean Yatove and cinematography by Maurice Fellous.
Horrible Crime Near Pontarlier!
Overcome by the sight of a nude lady sunbather, GrÃ©goire Duval (Blier) forces himself upon her and in a panic strangles her to death when she begins to scream. Returning back to his hum-drum existence, Duval is shocked to find the victim's boyfriend charged with her murder on circumstantial evidence. He's even more shocked when he is chosen for jury service on that very trial...
Crime of a coward - or a madman?
A caustic and potent piece of French cinema, Le septiÃ¨me jurÃ© operates on many narrative levels. In parts it's a cracker-jack legal drama, featuring a court case of dramatic verve, while the observations about the sometimes folly of the law is brutally laid bare. At other parts it's a cutting deconstruction of small town mentality, of class distinction and standings, all of which are not favourably portrayed in the slightest.
First you must save your soul.
Firmly operating in the realm of film noir, the makers produce a clinically atmospheric picture. Georges Lautner opens with an ominous shot of a lone fisherman in his boat, out on a mist covered lake, the accompanying classical music amazingly in sync with the scenes. It's evident from this point we are in for some visual and aural treats. Blier provides a classic noir narration as we move among bohemian architecture, through smoky jazz clubs and clientÃ¨le exclusive bars. At night the streets are full of shadows, in daylight there's a muted tone to Maurice Fellous' photography, this is not a happy place to live - unless you be one of the secular bourgeois of course...
Othello was misunderstood too.
Other imagery strikes hard. A confession box sequence is brilliantly filmed, noir nirvana, a tilted mirror used during a key exchange between husband and wife is astute, and the piÃ¨ce de rÃ©sistance that involves grotesque reflections on a brandy glass. Haunting scenes drop in and out, normally involving the tortured Duval staring blankly out at someone, while the court case is a hot-bed of hurt and chaos, even turning to the macabre as the crime is reenacted at the actual murder scene. Lautner also likes pull away movements as well, and so do we!
Superbly acted, directed, scored and photographed, this is yet another French film that proves that although the first wave of American film noir had faded cum the start of the 60s, the French were keeping the flame alight well into the decade. From that opening misty lake scene, to the black twist finale that is crowned by a stunning ambulance light sequence, this is black gold cinema. Merry Christmas. 9/10
The Lyncastle Lasso.
The Long Wait is directed by Victor Saville and adapted to screenplay by Alan Green and Lesser Samuels from the Mickey Spillane novel. It stars Anthony Quinn, Charles Coburn, Gene Evans, Peggie Castle, Mary Ellen Kay and Shirley Patterson. Music is by Mario Castelnuovo- Tedesco and cinematography by Franz Planer.
Johnny McBride (Quinn) is a amnesiac who manages to get back to his home town of Lyncastle where he hopes to unravel who he is. But pretty soon he finds himself in a quagmire of trouble and strife...
Every once in a while I come across an instance like this, where a film noir picture's reviews back upon its release were savage, and yet today the more modern noir lover is mostly positive about the pic. In fact IMDb's rating sits currently at 7.2, which as the site's users will attest to, is pretty good going. So where we at with this Spillane revamp?
The complaints back in the day about it being dull and boring smack to me of writers back then not exactly understanding the noir ethos, though it's noted that there is the odd modern reviewer sharing the same complaint. It's a film very much erring on the side of bleak and moody, dabbling in the complexities of the human condition, and it's done very well, though the screenplay is hardly minus plot holes and is full of incredulous set-ups.
We also have to buy into Quinn being catnip to the dames, four of them no less! But Quinn does angry and broody very well, and he gets to do lots of both here. The aura of a town paddling in its own muck is evident, the amnesia angle merely an excuse to keep things on the side of murky, for it's imperative that we feel Johnny McBride's confusion and mistrust, and we do. All of which is framed superbly by Planer's (Criss Cross) photography, which never misses a chance for shadows and low lights.
With salty villains and sultry dames, violence and choice dialogue, and a few superb scenes (one sequence in an empty warehouse is stunning), this is very much a noir for noir lovers to sample. But with that in mind, these warnings should be noted, that as is often the way in noirville, the ending is divisive and the overt misogyny could well offend. 6.5/10
I love Ida Lupino in On Dangerous Ground as well. Very underrated actress.
Dead among the living and living among the dead.
The Lost Moment is directed by Martin Gabel and adapted by Leonardo Bercovici from the Henry James novel, The Aspern Papers. It stars Robert Cummings, Susan Hayward, Agnes Moorehead and Eduardo Ciannelli. Music is by Daniele Amfitheatrof and cinematography by Hal Mohr.
Lewis Venable (Cummings) is a publisher who travels to Venice in search love letters written by poet Jeffrey Ashton. Insinuating himself into the home of the poets lover and recipient of the letters, Juliana Bordereau (Moorehead), Venable finds himself transfixed by the strangeness of the place and its inhabitants, one of which is Juliana's off kilter niece, Tina (Hayward).
A splendid slice of Gothicana done up in film noir fancy dress, The Lost Moment is hauntingly romantic and ethereal in its weirdness. It's very talky, so the impatient should be advised, but the visuals and the frequent influx of dreamy like sequences hold the attention right to the denouement. The narrative is devilish by intent, with shifting identities, sexual tensions, intrigue and hidden secrets the orders of the day. Cummings is a little awkward and his scenes with Hayward (very good in a tricky role) lacks an urgent spark, while old hands Moorehead (as a centenarian with an outstanding makeup job) and Ciannelli leave favourable marks in the smaller roles. Mohr's (The Phantom of the Opera) photography is gorgeous and bathes the pic in atmosphere, and Amfitheatrof's musical compositions are powerful in their subtleties. As for Gabel? With this being his only foray into directing, it stands as a shame he didn't venture further into the directing sphere. 7/10