Showing posts with label First viewing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label First viewing. Show all posts

Friday, April 9, 2021

Ida/ Noir Watch: Woman in Hiding (1950)




Watched:  04/08/2021
Format: BluRay
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Michael Gordon

Well, it's still coming up on my birthday, and Jamie said "watch whatever, it's your b-day."  And, with a Totter movie cleared we moved on to Ida Lupino.  Well, friends, while it may have started pre-pandemic, Jamie has thrown in with the Ida Lupino Fan train the past year, for sure.  So, this selection was saluted.

I'd not previously seen Woman in Hiding (1950), but picked it up cheap on BluRay, because: Lupino.  

I will argue that the noir movement splintered into several familiar genres, from the erotic thriller to the Lifetime Network's basic movie programming.  Film's with "women in peril" such as Sudden Fear and Beware, My Lovely - which definitely have precedents from the start of film found a home in the crime genres of the 1950's, doubling as "women's films" with plucky heroines (scared out of their minds) and some chisel-jawed dude who might come to the rescue.  By the early 00's: I mean - have you seen the names of movies on the Lifetime Network?*

Woman in Hiding follows Ida Lupino playing the daughter of a wealthy mill-owner in small-town North Carolina.  After the accidental death of her father, she marries the factory foreman, only to be met at their honeymoon cottage by a young woman informing Lupino "he was my man, he married you for the mill, and he probably killed your dad."

Freaked out, Lupino goes into HIDING (see - the title is accurate).  Here she meets Howard Duff (whom she's marry the next year) and shenanigans ensue.  

The film does contain a drinking game noir item - there's a convention in the hotel where they're staying.  

The film co-stars the lovely Peggy Dow in one of her very few film roles - she was also in the film version of Harvey that same year - and she was out of movies by 1952.  Which is a shame - she's great here and totally different from her character in Harvey.  

It also stars "that guy" actor Taylor Holmes, as well as Don Beddoe.  

This isn't my favorite Lupino role, but that's the script more than anything she's doing.  But, man, when confronted by Dow's character with what her new husband of less than a day may have done - she's got a lot to do there and nails it.  

Special nod on this one to cinematographer William H. Daniels.  He manages to get in some great stuff, especially in the sequence on the stairwell, on the bus and in the finale sequence.  Gorgeous looking noir stuff.  And letting the drafts in the stairwell kick at Lupino's skirt of her dress was pretty great (and likely a happy accident).  


*it's a parade of playing on paranoia re: domestic insecurity mixed with actual issues of domestic trauma, and it's a wild ride that Lifetime programs that shit 24/7 and then flips to "and now two months of movies about Santa being your boyfriend's dad".

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Watch Party Watch: Lady Frankenstein (1971)




Watched:  04/06/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's
Directors:   Mel WellesAureliano Luppi


Weirdly, this European produced take on Frankenstein co-stars film great Joseph Cotten.  I have no explanation other than Cotten wanted to have a stay in Europe for a while and this work was easy and probably wouldn't be seen by Americans, especially fifty years later on personal computers.  But here we are!  

The basic set-up for the story is that the good doctor (Cotten) is getting set for his grand experiment to bring a human to life when his daughter (Rosalba Neri) returns from med school, a fully licensed surgeon with amazing hair.  He has a sort of side-kick who helps him out in the lab, as well as the usual grave-robber types hanging about.  

But when the monster springs to life, he is super into murder, and starts with Baron Frankenstein.  Well, funny story, because his daughter Tania is way more of a freak than he.  So, as the monster runs around murdering pretty much exclusively copulating couples (viva Italia), the NEW good doctor gets to work on a plan for creating her own monster who will kill the first monster.  WHAT COULD GO WRONG?

She first seduces and marries her father's invalid sidekick, then convinces him to undergo a brain transplant into the local handsome moron.  

You guys, I'm not gonna lie.  This movie has a ton of nudity and sex, and then you remember "oh yeah, this is an Italian horror movie.  They think Americans movies are way too tame."  And so.  But it also creates a certain very dark take on the proceedings as Lady Frankenstein herself manipulates the men around her and seems to thrill in the more sadistic elements of what's going on - leading to an ending that had our watch party basically saying "well, huh" as the film wrapped.

It IS a horror movie.  Horrible things happen!  Some of it was some weirdly dark content I did not expect from what seemed initially like a goofy Hammer knock-off.  Because, man, there are some sharp turns there in the second half.  

I'll at least say: it was never boring!  But it is absolutely not for everybody.  Did I like it?  I mean, I was entertained.  I'm not sure it was a good movie, but it at least surprised me and wasn't entirely camp.  So.  I dunno.  

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

PODCAST: "Godzilla vs Kong" (2021) - Kaiju Throwdown! Stuart and Ryan talk Monsterverse!

 

Watched:  03/31/2021
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Adam Wingard



Ape V Lizard! Who will win? You, the audience. Stuart and Ryan have a monster of a conversation about the latest installment in the Godzilla and Kong franchises! It's a podcast of epic proportions as we talk about how we got here, what's worked, what hasn't, and head right for the center of the matter. Stop monkeying around and join us as we go nuclear on the most important film you'll see about an axe wielding ape this year!





Music:  

Pensacola, Florida (Godzilla Theme) - Tom Holkenborg, Godzilla vs Kong OST
Godzilla Cartoon Theme, 1970's


Ryan's Random Cinema

Monday, April 5, 2021

Neo-Noir Watch: Body Heat (1981)




Watched:  04/03/2021
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Lawrence Kasdan

I'll go ahead and put this out there:  this may be the best of the neo-noirs I've seen, and most akin to the original noir movement.  

Also: finally watching Body Heat (1981) gives me a big clue as to how neo-noir took a left turn by the late 80's and saw a divergent strain that became the "erotic thriller", which, itself, had several branches on the movie cladogram.

Despite the popular vision of noir, it wasn't always sexy stuff with classy dames showing up in the offices of PI's desperate for help.  The movement encompassed a lot of takes on how things can go badly, and how lust could turn things sideways remarkably fast was just one (if a popular) angle.  Body Heat delivers a 1980's spin on the Joseph M. Cain flavor of crime melodrama that gave us Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice.  No detectives here - just guys in over their head when they see a chance at romance with a woman out of their league (but aren't they all).

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Watch Party Watch: They Came From Beyond Space (1967)




Watched:  03/30/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1960's
Director:  Freddie Francis


Meteors fall to Earth, specifically Britain.  Scientists are dispatched to check them out - minus an American who just happens to mention having a silver plate in his skull.  I *think* the story is that alien brain waves were living inside the rocks?  Anyway, the alien psychic waves transfer over to the brains of the science team and build a little fort from which they begin shuttling people to the moon to make more brain transfers with more aliens.  And there's a plague?

I fell asleep for part of this movie, but not much, and it's been a week, but I can't really piece it all back together.  I do know the heroes wind up wearing goofy helmets and going to the moon where a badly made-up Michael Gough awaits them (wearing a robe, because: alien).  

I can't recommend the movie as "good", I can recommend it as "this is whackadoodle".   It's Jenifer's selection from last week, so here's her words on the topic.

I will say - the poster promises something the movie absolutely refuses to deliver upon, but I have heard Amicus and Hammer both made the posters first to get financing, and then made the movies.  And, somewhere along the way, whatever they had in their heads about folks with sleek helmets, catsuits and space ray flamethrowers got turned into this.



Amazon Watch Party Watch: Piranha (1978)




Watched:  04/02/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Joe Dante

You can't discuss Piranha (1978) without pointing out that it's the first film by director Joe Dante- and is already very Joe Dante.  And that it's also written by indie film director and writer John Sayles.  

Here in Central Texas, we also always mention "you know, they filmed this partially around San Marcos".  But I didn't know the final bit occurred at now-defunct water park Aquarena Springs, which was a feature of summer-time-life for the strip between Austin and San Antonio along I-35 for decades, and then - somewhat inexplicably, went belly up while I was in college as parents decided it was no longer hip, I guess.

But, yeah, the movie is about a skip tracer looking for some kids who went missing (the young lady who played Louisa in Sound of Music), and who winds up pairing up with an alcoholic to learn a mad scientist has been breeding particularly nasty fish in a tank near his house.  And, whoops, he and Louisa accidentally release them into the local river that people live on, contains summer camps, etc...

And, of course, this being a horror movie, things go poorly.  

The movie includes Kevin McCarthy, Keenan Wynn, Dick Miller, Paul Bartel, and for some reason, Barbara Steele.

Anyway, it's a lot of fun, the fish make buzz-saw/ bee sounds, and you see some pre-80's Texas.  

Here's a link to a trailer for a doc on Aquarena Springs, and they kinda talk about Ralph the Swimming Pig, which was something I desperately wanted to see in 4th grade, but didn't see til 7th.  You know what?  It lived up to the hype.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Doc Watch: Tina (2021)




Watched:  03/29/2021
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's

I've never been a hardcore Tina Turner fan, but like everyone of my generation I am familiar with her work, and have some idea of her pre Private Dancer life through cultural osmosis.  The first one of her albums I ever purchased was greatest hits collection, Simply the Best because I *loved* "Simply the Best" as a song, and figured "can't hurt to own the greatest hits".  And I have no timeline of how I came to really understand Tina Turner's story.  I *do* remember watching the video for "What's Love Got To Do With It?" and my parents sort of watching in amazement that (a) Tina Turner was on MTV and (b) their kids, 9 and 11, were like "this Tina Turner seems cool".  And then my folks saying something about a creep of an ex-husband.

And, we lost our minds over how cool she was in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.  And she is.  Go back and watch it.    

I confess, I never had much affinity for biopics - 2 hours is not enough time to show a life, let alone how botched the movies tend to be vis-a-vis actual facts (which are always more interesting than the invention of the movie) - and I wasn't super interested in watching someone dressed up as Tina Turner get beat up for two hours.  But hearing about the movie is how I came to understand exactly how bad Ike Turner had been.  But I've still never seen What's Love Got to Do With It.

It seems I'm not alone in this opinion.  

Tina (2021) is a roughly two hour doc that uses intervies, original and archival, that charts Tina Turner's course from abandoned child in Nutbush, Tennessee to living in Zurch with her dedicated husband.  And it's a goddamn shattering ride.  And, as it turns out, possibly Turner's final word on her life to the public.  

Monday, March 29, 2021

PODCAST: "Paddington 2" (2017) - a Signal Watch Canon episode w/ JAL and Ryan




Watched:  03/22/2021
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's
Director:  Paul King



Justin returns to talk a movie everyone *should* agree on, the gargantuan movie about a very small and polite bear. It bears some discussion what makes it work and what makes it stand out in a crowded field of children and all-ages film. Have a good cry with two grown adults talking about everyone's favorite fellow from darkest Peru.



Music:
Winsdor Gardens - Dario Marianelli, Paddington 2 OST
Rain on the Roof  - Hugh Grant, Paddington 2 OST (originally Sondheim, Follies)

Signal Watch Canon:



Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Doc Watch: Operation Varsity Blues - The College Admissions Scandal




Watched:  03/22/2021
Format:  Netflix
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Chris Smith

Full disclosure:  My current role is in IT management at a major American university, and part of my portfolio includes Admissions.  I haven't worked for this office very long, just about a year and a half.  But I do interface continually with the folks who process, review and make admissions decisions.  

If you followed the story of actresses Lori Loughlin or Felicity Huffman as they were exposed and charged with participating in, essentially, a massively scaled bribery scandal in which coaches provided entrance to kids as walk-ons to their teams in exchange for cash, you know the broad strokes of what broke in the news back in 2019.  

Monday, March 22, 2021

"Well, That Was Delightful" Watch: Paddington (2014)


Watched:  03/21/2021
Format:  Amazon prime
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's
Director:  Paul King

We're doing a podcast on Paddington 2 in a bit, so I expect we'll discuss this movie and Paddington in general at that time.  

This movie is fantastic, and you should watch it.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Watch Party Watch: Staying Alive (1983)




Watched:  03/12/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  I dunno.  First?  I don't remember 95% of this if I saw it.
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Sylvester Stallone

Staying Alive (1983) is the un-asked-for sequel to the 70's cultural phenomenon, Saturday Night Fever.  If you've not seen Saturday Night Fever in a bit, it's not all about Travolta as king of the disco, it's also a story about directionless young people, misdirected energy, and generational schizms in a traditional family.  

Staying Alive picks up six years later and is terrible.  

Look, the point of the first movie was realizing the world was bigger and better than a disco on a Saturday night, but six years later, Tony has made maybe incremental progress and danced his way to a 0% bodyfat physique.  Stephanie from the first film is just... gone.  She has a surrogate character in Jackie, who is doing her best to look like a JJazzercised  Anne Murray.  Jackie is Tony's friend with benefits.  I thought she was supposed to be the female lead from the first movie, but she is not.  So, we basically know nothing about her aside from the fact that she's a doormat who Tony steps out on and then TELLS HER ABOUT IT.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Cattrall Watch: Meet Monica Velour (2010)




Watched:  03/08/2021
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's
Director:  Keith Bearden

I'm not really sure what qualifies as an indie film in this day and age, or even what constituted an indie movie in 2010 when Meet Monica Velour was released.  But it had been a while since I'd watched a lower-budget film like this one - and it almost hums with "this is an indie film" in a way the big studio releases I've been watching simply do not.  

The movie pitches itself as a "career high performance" for Kim Cattrall, and I'll argue - maybe!  I have only seen a fraction of her catalog, but she is, indeed, very, very good in this movie.  I totally get why she jumped at the chance to play this character, especially when the general TV and movie audience was associating her with her character on Sex and the City.  And, frankly, she nails it.  

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Watch Party Watch: Any Number Can Play (1949)


Watched:  03/08/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Mervyn LeRoy

Trying to be an Audrey Totter completionist, I had planned to watch this movie at some point, but just never got to it.  Had I known how many people are in the film, I probably would have watched it years ago.

Beyond Totter, the headline stars are Clark Gable and Alexis Smith, but there's also:  Barry Sullivan, Frank Morgan, Mary Astor, Wendell Corey, Leon Ames, William Conrad, and a whole bunch more you're going to recognize.  

I thought it was *fine*, but I just checked and - holy cats - do people seem to hate this movie.  There's complaints about "this movie takes place within a casino and doesn't moralize about gambling" which is... a take, I guess. It kind of misses or dismisses the actual morals of the film (don't forget your family on your way to #1, the path to friendship and respect is via truth, honesty and fairplay no matter what you do for a living), but don't let that get in the way of a good complaint.  

It's certainly not the first movie to show a man in crisis/ at the end of his rope and how it resolves in a single night as all the threads come together.  But it's the earliest one I've seen that I can think of.  Until I think of one I've seen from earlier.

I admit, the movie moved a bit slowly, and despite plastering Audrey Totter all over the poster, she honestly wasn't in it much.  Still, she's having fun playing the bad girl and fed-up wife (something she was doing a lot in this era) of Wendell Corey.  It's nothing I'd go out of my way to recommend, but once I clocked to what they were doing, I did enjoy it a bit more.

Anyway - it's a gamble to watch it.

Monday, March 8, 2021

PODCAST: "WandaVision" (2021) - Marvel Television w/ Jamie and Ryan


Watched:  03/05/2021
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director: Various
Creator:  Jac Schaeffer



Jamie and Ryan talk the first of the Marvel DIsney+ programs - a nine episode story that turns the spotlight on everyone's favorite Sakovian and her robot buddy. It's been a social media hot topic for months, so we're going to put it into re-runs and get nostalgic for two terrific Avengers.
A Newlywed Couple - Kristen Anderson-Lopez & Robert Lopez, WandaVision OST
Agatha All Along - Kristen Anderson-Lopez & Robert Lopez, WandaVision OST

Playlist - Avengers/ Marvel:

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Comedy Watch: Coming 2 America (2021)




Watched:  03/06/2021
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Craig Brewer

I saw Coming To America opening weekend in a packed theater.  For whatever reason, my mom thought that Eddie Murphy was a stitch, and we went as a family.  Over the years, I've probably watched Coming to America the most of any non-Christmas comedy, sometimes in whole, but certainly if you add up the chunks of time I've spent watching parts on cable.  In general, I feel like I know the movie pretty well. 

Jamie forewarned me that reviews for the sequel, realeased this weekend to Amazon, were lukewarm to unfavorable.  I haven't seen them.  We were going to at least try the movie.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Watch Party Watch: Deathsport (1978)




Watched:  03/05/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's
Director:  probably best we not dwell on it

This is kinda the new bar for our Friday night watch parties.  We've sampled many flavors of movie over the year we've been in lockdown (we started off live-tweeting The Shadow on April 10th of 2020!) - and you never know how it's going to go.  But I took the advice of Nathaniel C, a guy who really knows his genre stuff, and chose Deathsport (1978) as our feature of the evening.

Do you like motorcycles?  Explosions?  Exploding motorcycles?  Plastic swords?  Iffy sci-fi dialogue and boobs?  Friends, Deathsport (1978) has all that and more.  It may lack plot, character, direction and a steadi-cam harness, but it doubles down on what it does have.  

Sometime in the distant future, after a nuclear war of some sort, matte paintings of cities will be ruled by guys who look vaguely like Johnny Cash's ill sibling.  The wastelands between will be inhabited by mutants (people with ping-pong balls cut in half and covering their eyes), and "rangers", an idea stolen awkwardly from Tolkein.  The city's will have something called "Deathsport", which is like a motorcycle stunt show with murder.  

I cannot stress enough that you can get a flashlight that will disintegrate people, horses and doors, but folks seem obsessed with using swords and motorcycles to do their murder.  I should mention - the swords are well intentioned - someone made them out of plexiglass and the basic concept is kind of cool.  Except they look exactly like plexiglass, and I have to assume they broke a few in production.  

With an inevitable dash of pretention, the "rangers" have their own code and manner of dialog that isn't inherently bad.  I've seen similar pulled off just fine in all kinds of sci-fi and fantasy, but here - it just isn't working.  And so it is very bad, indeed.  I don't know if it's the flat line delivery or that we keep seeing Carradine in a diaper and Uggs, but it just feels like no one was sure how it would or should work.  

The movie is titled Deathsport, but unlike, say, Deathrace 2000, there's very little Deathsport.  Deathsport is a gladiatorial game that David Carrdine and his lady-friend (Claudia Jennings) get thrown into as Rangers, versus city-dwelling Statesmen, who hate the Rangers.  They are mercilessly driven near by guys on dirtbikes - here called "Death Machines" - who ensure they are within sword range and very, very combustible.  Like, look at them funny or a strong breeze hits them just right, and they're blowing up with 5x the capacity their gas tanks could have mustered.  So many explosions, just blasting off everywhere.

I guess there's a story, but it doesn't matter.  An argument is made about a lack of fuel and remainin technology, but it doesn't play into the movie - kind of the opposite.  Instead, it's Richard Lynch taking his helmet off and chasing Carradine and Jennings across very familiar terrain if you've ever seen anything ever shot outside in Southern California.*  There's a slowly maddening head of a city who is just a dick, gets his while taking a moment to torture a nude lady with Christmas lights in PVC pipes.  It's a whole thing.

Maybe the most remarkable part of this very remarkable film is the sound, both music and sound effects.  I can kind of see why letting a cat run across your synth would seem like a fine idea for a score, and there's all kinds of music that gets inserted in - including sexy sax during a fight scene.  But the score is... just really something.  

I don't know who did sound design on this, but it was not Ben Burtt.  Someone chose a few sounds, did not pay attention to whether they would be awful if you had to hear them every time a motorcycle passed the camera, and then never reviewed their work before releasing the film.  It's some absolutely insane/ maddening stuff.  Every choice made to suggest the motorcycles do not sound like dirtbikes is a tragic mistake, and may the sound designer find peace, for they were clearly a tormented soul if this was working for them.

Anyway - highly recommended.


The Vasquez Rocks may be the single most filmed location on Earth.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Noir Watch: Odds Against Tomorrow (1959)




Watched:  02/28/2021
Format:  Noir Alley on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Robert Wise

A year or two ago, twitter-friendly comics artist and classic movie buff Patch Zircher suggested the film Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) my direction.  This last weekend, the film aired on TCM's Noir Alley, so I was able to get the Eddie Muller discussion to frame the production and story.

The talent in the movie is undeniable - Signal Watch faves Robert Ryan and Gloria Grahame star, along with Ed Begley Sr. and Shelley Winters, and Harry Belafonte, who I think Jamie was eager to see (me too, maybe for different reasons).  But the talent behind the camera is also entirely notable.  Expert filmmaker Robert Wise was listed as both Director and Producer, Abraham Polonsky was secretly the writer (but blacklisted at the time, did it under cover), Joseph C. Brun as cinematographer, and the great Dede Allen in an early job as editor.  

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Noir Watch: Native Son (1951)




Watched:  02/28/2021
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Pierre Chenal

Look, there's easily a book to be written about this movie, not a blog post.  It's a remarkable bit of cinema for a multitude of reasons.  

Based on a novel by celebrated author Richard Wright, and *starring* Richard Wright(!), the movie is maybe the most surprisingly frank depiction of the world a Black American lived within in mid-20th Century America captured on film at the time that I've seen.  Now - let me also say: it is very true I watch studio movies of the era, and have not had access to, and am not aware of, much of the independent Black cinema of the the 1940's and 50's, which I am sure had plenty to say and show.

But, look, this movie was never, ever going to get made in America at a studio - at least until the 1960's.  And so it wasn't.  Shot in Argentina to get around the Hayes Code, the movie does feature a good number of American actors, but not all of them are... the best.  And there's some serious ADR work happening over some of the rest of the talent that must have been local.  But - just imagine in 2021 hearing "we had to leave the country because telling this story was so controversial, the US just couldn't handle it".  I mean - that is not a great thing to have to say in a supposedly free society.

Doc Watch: The Go-Go's (2020)




Watched:  02/27/2021
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Alison Ellwood

As a kid, I liked The Go-Go's as well as anyone who was, like, eight years old.  I thought they had catchy tunes and whatnot.  It was much, much later - probably in my late 20's that I was like "huh, actually, these are really, really solid pop songs."  And I gave them some reconsideration.   

Even back when I was a kid, I remember hearing "punk band" tied to The Go-Go's, and looked at Belinda Carlisle wearing pastels and with her hair up in a pony tail, and was like "what?"  But later started kind of putting the pieces together, but not really.

The Go-Go's (2020) documentary hit right around COVID and got a lot of festival play, but it's a tough year for something like that.  So, I was thrilled when it finally came to Amazon, because I would probably have just as likely paid for a ticket to see it in the theater.  

Friday, February 19, 2021

Noir Watch: Johnny Eager (1941)




Watched:  02/18/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Mervyn LeRoy

Summing up the plot to Johnny Eager (1941) would be extraordinarily difficult - but the short version is: ex-con pretends to go straight, meets Lana Turner, uses her and her step-father to get his new dog track open.  Poetic boozy pal plays Eager's conscience.  

Honestly, it's a hell of a movie, and it's likely the goofy title that's kept it from being checked out by enough people.  

I'm not a huge fan of star Robert Taylor - who is pretty rock solid here as a handsome, devil-may-care gangster with no refinement.  That's not a dig, but I think I'd only seen two or so Robert Taylor films previously.  But he's totally buyable as Johnny Eager.

The real hook is that Johnny can spot an angle, spot a dope, and has a mind perfectly set for operating in the criminal world - but he can't understand the straight world.  People with pure motivations are a mystery that gnaws at him.  More than that, his understanding of women is only as pliable tools, either as sexual playthings or as employees.  

What makes the movie curious - and maybe different from other gangster films with bent leads - is the presence of Van Heflin as Jeff Jartnett, a drunk and seemingly a man of education, who hangs around Johnny as pal, enabler, and because he sees the greatness within Johnny and wants to bear witness to either the rise or fall of a great mind.

Out of prison, Johnny has put everything he's got into a dummy organization trying to open a dog track with no permits, but meanwhile it seems his control on the city is slipping.  Others may be moving against him. 

Annnnd in the middle of all this, he meets Lan Turner, who more or less throws herself at him.  But winds up in way deeper than she barganined for, and it takes a toll on her psyche.

This is very early to be considered true noir, but not so as a gangster picture, which this most certainly is.  And Turner is a femme fatale only in that she leads Johnny toward his downfall because he actually does come close to understanding sacrifice via whatever passes for love in his heart.  It absolutely is a man making bad decisions (that, I mean, get him dead) over a woman, but they also redeem him, which isn't very noirish.  But that he goes down throwing a hail of bullets and popped off by the cop who married his first girl?  That's some symmetry there.

And that's the interesting thing about the movie, really.  It's a down-in-the-streets gangster picture about a guy trying to build an empire, and sees the poetry and literary mythology in it all - right down to pointing out "he's just some guy" who dies badly in the middle of the road.

Anyhoo... I enjoyed the heck out of this movie, and not just because Turner had amazing hair through the whole thing, even when we were told she looked "awful".*



*she did not