Angel’s Flight

Written by Joe D on August 28th, 2015

Here is an interesting movie, Angel’s Flight. Shot in L.A. right before the destruction of Bunker Hill, the characters even discuss the immanent annihillation of the neighborhood, one character, a bartender, wishes he could write so he he could immortalize this vanishing part of L.A., the alky writer he’s talking to finally fullfill’s his dream, penning the pulp noir story of Angel’s Flight.

Bunker Hill, Pre-Razing in all it’s seedy glory!

The same motivation the filmmakers had, capturing the sleazey leftovers of Victorian splendor, Bunker Hill. Once home to the rich and powerful, now Manses cut up into rooming houses, the last stop on the trolley of life.
Filmmakers loved this area, check out Kiss Me Deadly, Criss Cross, The Exiles, Little Shop Of Horrors,The Indestructible Man,Act Of Violence, all shot here. This film reminds me of Touch Of Evil, the grimy bars, strippers, juke boxes,gritty streets at dusk, poetry in the trash heap.

Gimme that old time religion!

There’s even an uptight landlady that is reminiscent of Dennis Weaver’s motel manager from Welle’s classic noir. The story? Beautiful blonde kiler, she was raped as a teen, now she obsesively paints the face of her rapist over and over. She’s a stripper to make ends meet and also to meet men, whom she then dispatches with a straight razor, revenge against the sex of the asshole that raped her. Here comes the Marlboro man, (the writer actually was the first model to represent the Marlboro Man) . He’s a wino, depressed over the death of his wife, he witnesses a murder but was too drunk to know if it really happened.

One of my favorite shots in the movie!

The girl is all mixed up, religious, she goes to church and to a Skid Row Ministry, but anytime a guy puts the moves on her, ZZZZT out comes the razor, kind of like GoGo in Kill Bill.

I’ll cut your ass!

Writer falls for beautiful killer but it’s too late baby. Great idiotic ending on Angel’s Flight. Guess what happens.

Tracks Of Death!

There’s a killing in the 3rd street tunnel, a beautiful spot you can still visit and a lot of crummy Bunker Hill rooming houses right next to Angel’s Flight, maybe where John Fante lived and wrote Ask The Dust.
What can I say, I love movies that are shot in places that no longer exist, the stuff that dreams are made of,here’s a chance to time travel.

The Metropolis Case

Written by Joe D on August 27th, 2015

Here is a very informative documentary about early German Cinema in general and Metropolis in particular. Fritz Lang said he never paid any attention to the critics, maybe he had something there, Metropolis was panned when it came out. I read somewhere that Lang was still editing the last reels of Metropolis while the first reels were being projected at the Premier, a motorcycle messenger would race with the reels to the theater as Lang finished them! This outdoes Michael Mann for editorial craziness and gives credence to the old saying “Films aren’t finished they’re abandoned”. Anyway if you are interested in the great Expressionist heritage of German Cinema check it out.

Bring Me The Head Of F.W. Murnau

Written by Joe D on August 18th, 2015

Here is a great documentary about German film director F.W. Murnau and the making of his early masterpiece, Nosferatu. Recently Murnau’s grave was broken into and his head was taken, authorities reported finding melted wax at the location and a possible “occult” connection was made.


Could a group of Satanists or Magick practitioners have made off with Murnau’s head? and why? Probably because he is the man that created Nosferatu, those indelible images of the bald, animalistic vampire.

In this great documentary an expert on the occult, Wolfgang Kistermann testifies that the producer of Nosferatu and founder of Prana films, Albin Grau, was a leader in German occult societies and had dealings with the O.T.O. , the group led by Aliester Crowley.


Albin Grau
Perhaps this secret society is still active in Germany? Perhaps they are responsible for the violation of Murnau’s grave and the theft of his kopf? I read an interview with Murnau’s brother, he travelled to Tahiti, where Murnau had made his last film, Tabu. The Tahitians told him Murnau had offended their Gods by building a mansion on a tabu site, a place the Tahitians shunned, and the Gods had caused his untimely death in an automobile accident.

The Cabinet Of Dr. Calgari- Masters Of Cinema BluRay

Written by Joe D on August 16th, 2015

This is a great restoration of a seminal film. Masters Of Cinema has done it again. They release high quality material. The Cabinet Of Dr. Calgari went through a rigorous restoration by the F.W. Murnau Siftung. The original camera negative was used whenever possible, I believe for most of the film except the first reel. You can see so many details that were lost, like the chalk lines on Cesare the somnambulist’s black outfit and the painted sets, costumes, and characters faces have never looked so good, so full of expression.


Ceasare, the sensative somnambulist

It is fascinating to watch a film that takes place in such an unrealistic setting, almost all scenes were photographed in front of painted backgrounds and yet is so effective. A miraculous achievement. This film was a huge commercial hit as well. Perhaps owing to it’s unorthodox “You Must Become Calgari” ad campaign.

It brings to mind Hitchcock’s “The Birds is Coming” campaign years later.

Hitchcock did spend some time as a young man at Ufa Studios in Germany, maybe he was influenced by Calgari.


A still from The Blackguard, a film Hitcock worked on at Ufa in Berlin in 1925

Tony Perkins does resemble Cesare, Cesare (Conrad Veidt) later played Maj. Strasser in Casablanca, the Nazi Bogey shoots at the airport. He was also in The Thief Of Baghdad with Sabu.


Cesare in Hollywood, transformed into evil Nazi Maj. Strasser

There’s a story that Fritz Lang wanted to direct Calgari but wasn’t able to do so because of other commitments, I believe it, Lang later went on to direct the DR. Mabuse films and The Testament of Dr. Mabuse shares a similar theme with Calgari, the head of an insane asylum is an evil maniac, spreading mayhem and murder.Lang was not above borrowing from his peers, in Murnau’s Faust, a fantasy sequence shows rising rings of energy surrounding the transforming Faust, this same imagery was used by Lang in Metropolis during the creation of the robot Maria.


Such an incredibly rich period of German Filmmaking! They really set the stage for fantastic, dark, atmospheric, dreamlike Cinema. Then they fled Hitler came to the USA and created Film Noir, a great legacy.
UPDATE: I recently read that Murnau’s grave had been broken into and his head was stolen. They found melted wax at the scene from candles, suggesting an occult angle. Satanists wanted the skull of the man that made Nosferatu and Faust?

Lee Marvin- M Squad

Written by Joe D on August 2nd, 2015

Here is a TV show that starred the great Lee Marvin! Wow , a treasure trove of unwatched pieces of Lee Marvin, how cool is that! You can watch episodes on the internet or buy a 16 dvd set of the entire series. I leave that up to you, how big a fan of Lee Marvin are you? Here’s a litmus test. Anyway it looks like they shot some second unit in Chicago, Lee’s big Ford barrelling around the city, so he could do some voice over, then cut to a process shot of him driving in front of projected footage of Chicago streets while he continued his expository VO.

Then onto the sets of Revue, a Hollywood TV production company, where Lee would slug it out with some gangsters and then to satisfy his fan base’s bloodlust blast someone with his 38 police special.

I guess Revue later became Universal Television, where Leee Marvin would star in the first 2 hour movie made for Television, Ernest Hemingway’s The Killers, you can read about that here in a previous post. That’s probably what got me on this Lee Marvin kick in the first place.

M Squad The Take Over by superannuatedlps

Wicked Woman

Written by Joe D on July 27th, 2015

Here’s a tasty noir treat from 1953, Wicked Woman. Written by filmmaking team Russel Rouse and Clarence Greene, directed by Rouse, produced by Greene on a shoestring, the movie works despite of our maybe partly due to it’s limitations.

Here’s a lesson to low budget filmmakers, keep your locations to a minimum. Wicked Woman basically has two, a bar and a cheap rooming house. The sets are pretty bad but that’s what makes them good, at one point Billie (the Wiced Woman) throws her sleazy neighbor out and slams the door, the wall of the set shakes, but I think that’s cool, it’s like Fellini said the magician must show the audience he has a card up his sleeve so when he does trick them it’s even more astonishing. This movie works on an iconic level, the Blonde Bombshell travelling from town to town leaving a trail of decimated men and women.

Percy Helton plays the slimy neighbor that has the hots for the Wicked Woman, this guy was in everything including Kiss Me Deadly, the coolest Late Noir of all time.

The Main Title Theme is sung by Herb Jeffries, The Bronze Buckaroo, a black singing cowboy star. Beverly Michaels is great as the Wicked Woman, too bad she retired after only a few more films, maybe she was too real, too ahead of her time to be appreciated. I think she’s great. Russel Rouse must have thought so too, he married her. They had a son Christopher Rouse, he’s a film editor that’s won an Academy Award.

Criterion’s Blu Ray release of The Killers

Written by Joe D on July 20th, 2015

What a great package! You get Robert Siodmak’s 1946 version, the one that introduced the world to Burt Lancaster, that smiling acrobat and great actor.


The beautiful Ava Gardner never looked better.

The filmmaking is top notch, beautful images , great lighting, great sets. The wonderfully evil Dr. Cyclops, Albert Dekker.( I’ve got some great stories about him but I’ll save them for a later post) William Conrad and Charles McGraw are the amoral Killers of the title and they are bad news.

This movie besides being beautifully made by a master craftsman at the height of his powers is a very influential film. The Killers terrorizing ordinary citizens in a lunch box diner, a scene we have seen many times since , the guy from the Past recognizing his prey at an out of the way gas station, a lot like Out Of The Past. The intricate flashback structure, effortlessly pulled off.Miklos Rosza’s score, introducing the theme from Dragnet.

A seminal film! One of the first Film Noirs! Then we get Don Siegel’s The Killers with John Cassavettes, Angie Dickinson, The amazing Lee Marvin, Clu Gulager and in his last role Ronnie Reagen! As a bad guy no less, wow!

This was the first 2 hour movie made for TV except NBC wouldn’t buy it when it was done, too violent! It is good mainly for Lee Marvin as the older Killer, Clu is his young healthnut sidekick.

The sets are pretty amazingly fake looking, especially in BluRay, you can see the blown up photograph backgrounds and rear screen projection a mile away. But in spite of that the movie works, a tribute to good acting and directing. Reagen is great as an evil prick, he even takes part in a heist! I had never seen this gem before and I’m glad I did. I am a big fan of Siegel. This movie is a bit wack but it doesn’t disappoint.

We also get as an adeded bonus, Andrei Tarkovsky’s student film version of The Killers and it’s great. It’s great to hear this dialog in Russian! Super Noir american gangster speak in Russian, how cool is that. They throw in a radio play version acted by Burt, Shelly Winters, and I think William Conrad, it’s cool but the coolest thing is to here Robert Siodmak speak! He’s on the show nd they’re trying to spin that he was born in Memphis Tennessee, a bull story to make him American and not a German! WWII was just over. He sounds very funny! The guy was a genius, he got his US directing break by amusing Preston Sturges and making him laugh. Also we get a recorded interview with Siegel, man can he talk fast! All in all, alot of bang for your buck. Get one today!

The Sand Pebbles- Road Show Print at the New Beverly

Written by Joe D on June 2nd, 2015

I went down to the New Beverly to check out The Sand Pebbles, a 1966 film starring Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborogh, Candace Bergen, Richard Crenna, Mako, and featuring my pal James Hong.
The print was striped with 4 track magnetic sound, and it did sound great, a lot of dynamics, and an extended frequency range. The score sounded incredible, (Jerry Goldsmith) and there was a lot of music in this film. The print was pretty faded so it was kind of like watching a Black and White film with pink overtones, every once in a while a bit of color would appear but after a minute back to pinkville.
The Great James Hong as Shu
I had never seen the film before and this 3 hour and 15 minute version (complete with intermission) is longer than the regular release. A Road Show Print was usually longer or had mag tracks or maybe was struck from the original negative. These were screened at big venues, NYC, Chicago, LA. before the film went into wide release. Now I am not sure what scenes were included in this version that were left out of the regular release but I have a feeling that there was more engine room footage in this long version. Why? Because there is a 20 minute sequence of Steve McQueen lovingly working on the steam powered ship’s engine and it is great!
McQueen was a motor nut, racing cars, motorcycles and amassing a huge collection of both. I think he really identified with Jake Holman, the character he’s portraying. One of the best scenes in the movie is a tense sequence of repairing the massive engine, a tour de force of suspense. McQueen’s company, Solar Productions co-produced the film and I think he had a lot of say as to what went into the final product. It feels like a personal film for McQueen. Maybe the fascination with machines, with the mechanics of things says something about McQueen’s world view.
There is also a great battle scene as the ship (The San Pablo) runs a barricade in the Yangtze River. Great stuff.
I relly liked a scene in a chapel where Richard Attenborogh marries his Chinese girlfriend Maily while McQueen and Candace Bergen look on. Something about that scene, the way it’s staged, it just feels like a movie scene from another era, but in a good classical way.
Robert Wise does a great job directing this film. He directed classics in so many genres, a great filmmaker. William Reynolds, a super editor cut it. I met him once at Genghis Cohen, an L.A. Chinese restaurant, having lunch with his crew. A good friend of mine, another great editor Bud Smith, worked with McQueen on the television show Wanted:Dead or Alive. He and McQueen bonded, both were avid motorcyclists and car racers. They spent time riding in the SoCal desert. And if you ever find yourself at Casa Bianca, waiting for a tomato pie, look on the wall. There amidst the many celebrity 8X10’s is a picture of Steve McQueen from Wanted:Dead or Alive. I guess he was a fan of their pizza too.

Hotel Modern & Arthur Sauer: The Great War at REDCAT!

Written by Joe D on April 17th, 2015

I am going to this show, it looks amazing. Tickets are still available. Check it out.

This reminds me of a scene in a cool Italian film Grazie Zia, check that out too.Read all about it here. It also reminds me of a play I saw at the Public Theater in NYC. The Mabou Mines production of a Samuel Beckett Radio Play The Lost Ones. Man it was cool, more about that later.

Mariano Pensotti: Cineastas at RedCat

Written by Joe D on February 19th, 2015

Sorry for the late writeup but GO to ReCat and see Cineastas this weekend before it’s gone. An amazing cast of very talented actors put on a complex cycle of tales that spin at the vortex of Film and Life. Creative, Moving and very funny, this show will give you a lot to think about long after it’s 1 hour 45 minute existence. Staged on a double decker set the virtuoso cast slips in and out of roles effortlessly, sharing Voice Over status and moving from real person to figment of one of the real persons imaginations, from character in a filmmakers work to filmmaker or character in the filmmakers life. A snapshot of a creative moment in Argentina that will resonate around the globe. Check it out!

Too Late For Tears

Written by Joe D on January 27th, 2015

Here’s a noir bombshell from1949. Byron Haskin directed it, he was a special effects guy at Warner Bros. and later directed The War Of The Worlds for George Pal. He also directed some of the best episode of The Outer Limits, Demon with A Glass Hand, and The Architects of Fear. Hunt Stromberg produced this “cookie full of Arsenic”. He had a long run as a successful producer at MGM, he came up under Thalberg and worked with Selznick, then he got into a beef with Louis B. Mayer and went independent. This is one of his independent creations. The script was by Roy Huggins, based on his novel and it’s a winner, great characters, excellent dialog, everything top notch except the very end, oh well. Huggins went on to be a giant among TV creators/Producers with such shows as The Fugitive, Run For Your Life and The Rockford Files.

But the real heroes of this opus are Lisabeth Scott as the one of the coldest killers ever to grace the silver screen and Dan Duryea, the slime king. Best known for slapping women onscreen, the poster for this film is Dan slapping Lisabeth! They marketed the film on his woman beater appeal.
I have a theory about noir, WWII is over, soldiers are returning home, a lot of G.I.s got Dear John letters, their wives left them while they were at war. Tokyo Rose would broadcast stories of infidelity by Statebound brides to the soldiers overseas. This led to the creation of the Noir Femme Fatale, the false female, who’ll smile , seduce, and kill without missing a beat, sure they can turn on the waterworks, shed tears at the drop of a hat, but underneath, all business. So here is the returning soldier’s nightmare come true. What’s the one thing a desperate soldier, far from home could think about to give himself some relief from killing, mayhem, explosions? Little Sally Jean, the girl he left swinging on the garden gate. What if Tokyo rose was right? She’s evil, corrupted. His dreams are all Lies! Well, here she is, the beautiful blonde with the morals of a scorpion. Lisabeth Scott is amazing in this film. She turns from a bitchy but seemingly happily married woman in an instant all because of money, the old do re mi, a lot of it that drops in her lap. I don’t want to ruin the story but there are some depraved scenes of her and Dan Duryea getting it on just because he can make her do it, they hate each other! It’s deliciously perverse! According to Eddie Muller, the czar of noir, almost all of the budget went to the two big stars, they were worth it!


It was later re-released under this title
So the production of the film was low budget, a lot of the action takes place in Scott’s apartment but it makes the film psycologically more real in a way. You feel trapped in that nest of evil. There are some scenes in Dan Duryea’s flop, it’s perfect as the dump a small time creepy crook would hang his hat in. Another couple of great locations are Union Station, maybe the most beautiful building still left in L.A. and the lake at McArthur Park, called WestLake Park in the movie. A one time high rent district that’s now kind of funky. Silent Film director William Desmond Taylor was murdered in his bungalow just around the corner. Anyway the film is in poor shape, Eddie’s Noir Foundation did a restoration with UCLA but I don’t think that’s out on video yet so you have to make do with what’s available. But next time it screens at the Noir Festival, I will be there.

Here’s the best looking Youtube version I could find.

An Optical Poem by Oskar Fischinger and Harry Smith’s Early Abstractions pt.3

Written by Joe D on January 26th, 2015

I’m in an animation frame of mind these days. Here’s Oskar Fischinger’s onlyHollywood Studio comissioned film. An Optical Poem. It’s pretty amazing cosidering it’s cut out paper circles and other shapes moved along wires frame by frame. Fischinger was a pioneer in creating visual music, abstract visual music and a huge influence on many animators like Harry Smith, Jordan Belson, the Vortex group, light shows etc. I knew Harry Smith when he lived at the Chelsea Hotel in NYC. He told me he went down to L.A. to meet Fischinger in the 50’s.They had a hamburger at a diner and were very engrossed in a discussion of abstract animation when a fed up waitress told them to “get a room” at a nearby motel. Fischinger was outraged! I guess the waitress misinterpreted their passion for Visual Music for something else.

Here’s Harry Smith’s homage to Fischinger.


Harry Smith outside the Chelsea