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Archive for the ‘DETECTIVE STORY’ Category

Nocturnal Animals

03 Jan

Nocturnal Animals – written and directed by Tom Ford. Melodrama. 116 minutes Color 2106.

★★★★

The Story:  The jaded owner of a chichi art gallery on the rocks, as is her marriage, reads a novel by her first husband which proves he loved her.

~

It won the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival. It is a kind of revenge story that makes Venetians lick their chops.

Amy Adams plays the remarried wife reading her first husband’s novel, and we see the novel enacted by the author of it. Three hoods attack its main character and his wife and teen-aged daughter on a lonely road. He is helpless to help them. They rape and murder the women, and would kill him if he had not escaped into the desert. Then he meets a local policeman ardent to do the attackers in.

What’s important in noir is to keep all the scenes tight-lipped, and this the writer, who is also the director, fails to do. The big scenes over-last their stay. The result is that they cascade from the cliff of drama into the puddle of melodrama.

But the film does provide Amy Adams with another selfish woman to play, and as usual she does this well. She doesn’t grip me as a leading woman, however. As a character lead, yes, but she lacks the general gusto great leading ladies possess.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays the fictional husband and the real husband. He fudges his big scene in which the three hoods take over his family and his car partly because it goes on too long, as does the finale where he gives the slayer his due. Opposite him is Aaron Taylor-Johnson as the killer, played in full snicker Richard Widmark manner. Both scenes end up in coyness as their thread is unreeled too long to sustain. But he also has great big dolloping scenes, just the kind an actor in his thirties loves to play. It is a performance bound to justify the large size of his following.

The performance that holds one, however, is Michael Shannon as the detective. He plays it so close to the vest, you think he’s going to burst out laughing at any moment. It’s a wonderful construction, filling the screen with our attention every time he appears.

If the director were as ruthless as the characters I would have liked it more. I like to like things more. But I can also like to like things not so much, as here. Don’t be put off on my account, though. Check it out. See for yourself.

 

Prisoners

27 Sep

Prisoners – directed by Denis Valleneuve. Police Procedural Suspense Thriller. Two little girls are abducted and cannot be found. 153 minutes Color 2013.

★★★★★

This picture trips up over the train of its final complexities. Even the great Melissa Leo cannot render the unnecessary exposition scene at the end. Motiveless malignancy is all you need. Rationales do not have to be given for human nastiness. Nastiness is a gift of God, and we all are capable of it, and that we are unites us with Medea, Richard III, and Iago in a way that excuses and personal history and reasons for villainy keep us away. Alibis don’t make an audience empathetic. They make us dismissive. Don’t tell me why Iago did it. He did it because, no matter what his “reasons,” he had the  means, the will and the bent to do it, just like the rest of us. If you find out his motives you diminish his size. Such is the case here.

But I go on too long, for otherwise what else but praise can be due to the director and writer for bringing this marvelous picture show to us. And what good fortune to have Roger Deakins film it in dank color. What a pallet he has! What a way of harvesting light.

The performances of all – Leo, Terrence Howard, Paul Dano, Viola Davis, and Maria Bello are terrific. They rise to the writing like the grateful actors they are, recognizing good material at long last.

And to carry the sleigh we have the tandem horses of Jake Gyllenhaal as the investigating detective and Hugh Jackman as the father.

Jake Gyllenhaal is as moody as his sister is merry. He is the knight of doleful countenance, a melancholy Dane for our time. It is always necessary to see any picture he is in. He has that in common with few other actors of his generation – perhaps only Joaquin Phoenix. Gyllenhaal grounds the detective in personal probity – a quality scripted for the character but which he plays without irony opposite Wayne Duvall, cogent as the sloppy captain of the force. But there is something inside Gyllenhaal which animates this probity, a search for gutsy justice against exhaustion, failure, and opposition. He irons everything out.

What mainly needs ironing out is the father played by Hugh Jackman. This is the surprise performance of his career, and he has never to my knowledge demonstrated himself to be an actor of genius. Always good, mind you, always juste in his craft.  Never have you seen Jackman at this pitch. Never have you seen him capture a character particular – not general – and an American particular, but also, never have you seen him go to such extremes as you might only find in a female actor, in Geraldine Page, perhaps, or Anna Magnani. He is something to behold, and I hope you do behold him. He is extraordinary.

The film is thrilling.

And beautiful.

 

12 Angry Men [Henry Fonda Version]

26 Aug

12 Angry Men [Henry Fonda Version] – directed by Sidney Lumet. Courtroom Drama. A hung jury unhangs themselves. 96 minutes Black and White 1957.

★★★★

Three years after the Robert Cummings original TV version, Fonda produced this film, and it didn’t do well – except in Europe where it took off. One wonders why it did not do well here. It was a small film put into huge release, and well publicized with a big star. Perhaps the American public had seen it done quite well on TV already in the Robert Cummings version, and, without subtitles, the Europeans hadn’t. It caught on later.

One trouble, might be Henry Fonda in the Robert Cummings role. Fonda is not an ambiguous actor. He is a good guy actor, so the audience would expect him to win out over this bunch of sweaty bigots, and this would undercut the suspense., Or perhaps Lumet’s treatment of the jurors as individuals, rather than as a mass grouped against Fonda worked less well.

At any rate, we do have Jack Warden stealing every scene by his clever and apt use of props. As to the other actors, Lee J. Cobb, as usual, eventually overplays his hand, which Edward Arnold in the same role, for once, did not.  Jack Klugman is a study in actor-attention, Joseph Sweeny is even better than he was in the first TV version, Walter Abel was more rich and active in reserve than E.G. Marshall who sulks.

The sopping heat of New York City in a summer downpour is not followed through, and is, in any case, a superficial outside pressure. None of them play a frantic desire to get out of that sweltering, un-air-conditoined room.

I did see it in 1957, and I was mightily impressed and moved, partly because of its grimy, paint-peeling setting and un-Hollywoody, Method-type actors,  and the theme of common justice. When critics say a picture has not weathered well or stood the test of time, that probably means that the critic has not. Have I lost my ideals? If so, blame it on me that I now see the fault lines in the piece. How did Fonda buy that knife? How could they calculate that elevated train ride? Why would they notice the glasses line on that woman’s nose?

Well, the charm of the piece is that it is actually a detective story, with Robert Cummings and Henry Fonda and Jack Lemon (in a later TV version) all playing Sherlock Holmes to eleven prejudging Dr. Watsons – while never leaving the room. As a detective story it’s a pretty good one. As a young idealist of 24 I rejoiced to see justice done. Now I am more interested in the truth of the casting, so while there is something to be said for each cast, I prefer Cummings in the leading role over Fonda. Fonda has a beautiful face, but the emotional affect of a small town druggist. I find him flat, dull, and slightly self-satisfied. So his is a prescription rather than a performance. We shall see what Jack Lemon brings to the role. Then we shall know all there is to know, shall we not?

Henry Fonda, Lee. J. Cobb, Robert Webber, George Voskovec, Ed Begley, Joseph Sweeny, Edward Binns, E.G. Marshall, Jack Warden, John Fiedler, Martin Balsam, Jack Klugman.

Robert Cummings, George Voskovec, John Beal, Franchot Tone, Edward Arnold, Joseph Sweeny, Paul Hartman, Bart Burns, Lee Philips, Norman Fell, Larkin Ford. 

 

 

Mississippi Burning

21 May

Mississippi Burning –– directed by Alan Parker. Drama. Two FBI agents search a small Southern town for the murderers of three young civil rights workers. 128 minutes Color 1988.

★★★★★

It hasn’t dated one day.

Two widely divergent investigative styles cross their purposes in this recounting of the actual murders. And in this the film has its only flaw, which is the casting of Wilhem Dafoe as the conservative by-the-books young Turk agent whose methods overwhelm the investigation. He is either miscast or not a good enough actor to play the role unconventionally. Instead we get the conventions: the glasses and the stuffy manner. We get the primness and the stiff necked pride. The problem is as soon as the role is played that way the audience dismisses the character as known.

It needed to be played with easy physical flexibility and charm. The character would still have to say the same lines, it’s just that you would never be able to expect what was coming. It needed an actor much more temperamentally lithe than Dafoe – Robert Downey Junior, say – an actor with whom you never know what’s coming, an actor who can play against the script and still reveal it.

Particularly as opposite him, Gene Hackman, as the second string agent, gives what may be his finest screen performance, in a character so fluid and variable that he can infiltrate a den of snakes and out-writhe them. Every choice is subtle and pertinent. His scenes opposite that great actress Frances McDormand, as the modest wife of the criminal deputy are exquisite.

The film uses Southern negro townsfolk, and their wonderful faces and beings illuminate the screen with telling force. The same is true of the sets and set decoration, which is first class (I know those Southern bungalows) and the locations, most of which were taken in the deep South. These lend an astonishing veracity to the poverty and down-troddenness of the black folk, and the brain-damage of the white folk whose blind bigotry strong-arms and gentles the negroes into the shanty mind of second class citizens in a free nation. Which changes with glacial rapidity. Not even that.

Yet it happened, and they caught those rats.

I was moved by the story and impressed by the authenticity of everything I saw in Mississippi Burning. All of it still pertains.

 

The Street With No Name

20 May

The Street With No Name –­– directed by William Keighley. Police Procedural. An FBI agent imbeds himself in a bank robber gang and almost doesn’t make it. 91 minutes Black and White 1948.

★★★★★

This good film is listed as a Noir, which it is not. It is not, because in Noir the protagonist much have something wrong with them, and there is nothing wrong with Mark Stevens at all. He is a good-looking honest-John male period.

The person who has something wrong with him is Richard Widmark who once again plays the psycho thug, which he began his career with by pushing Mildred Dunnock down a flight of stairs in Kiss Of Death while snickering. He did this sort of thing in a number of pictures in the ‘40s until he put his cloven-hoof down – but, in fact, he is much better as psychopaths than as a leading man. Here, thank goodness, he is a violent closeted homosexual.

Mark Stevens plays the agent who infiltrates Widmark’s gang, and to say he is too straight to be the hero of a Noir is not to diminish his gifts, for his playing is smart. He makes the character blithe, as though he didn’t have a care or worry in the world. He flirts with Widmark and sails into the harbor of the gang without a glance to the left or right. It’s a shrewd acting move, and Stevens is good at it. He laughs his way through peril. At least that is what he does while others are around and until the thrills start.

A word about such actors. Nice-guy actors form a blank which audiences fill in with themselves. The actor just stands there in his masculinity and his decency, and you do the rest. You find this all the way through literature, from Shakespeare’s Pericles, Prince Of Tyre to Dickens’ David Copperfield to almost everything Gregory Peck ever did. These good-guy actors sometimes seem to almost have no temperament as actors, no human imagination, although lots of moral imagination, which is why they crowd together as leading players in Westerns. There are too many of them to list. They provide an empty upright outline which it is the audience’s mission to flesh and fill, a job the audience readily adopts because such actors are always in heroic roles.

A word about Noir style. It’s easy to mistake such a picture as this as Noir because of the way it looks. This one looks terrific, and that is because it was filmed by Joe MacDonald, a master of city streets at night. He would film Sam Fuller’s remake of it, House Of Bamboo, and Kazan’s Panic In The Streets. You might say that the story is really told by the way Joe MacDonald lights and films and moves it, that the narration is really in his hands, rather than the director’s, although the direction is good. The astonishing shoot-out in the immense factory at the end is an example of Joe MacDonald’s extraordinary ability to make a story happen. Someone should fo a study about the narrative power of such photographers as William Daniels, Ernest Haller, Joe MacDonald and other master photographers – although it’s probably already been written, ignoramus as I am.

The film is an A level crime film, with Lloyd Nolan, John McIntyre, and a teen-age Barbara Lawrence, in a gorgeous performance as Widmark’s beard-wife.

 

The Formula

25 Jun

The Formula – directed by John G. Avildsen. International Espionage. An L.A. cop sets out to find who murdered his friend and his search leads him to higher echelons of European big money.117 minutes Color 1980.

★★★★

James Crabe was nominated for an Oscar for his beautiful filming of it, a skill which bring coherence and life and meaning to the entire piece. The director and particularly Steve Shagan, who also wrote it and produced it, talk well about it as it goes along, praising the minor actors handsomely and Crabe particularly, but also leaving us enlightened as to the behavior of George C. Scott while it was in production. I leave it to you to dive into the special features for those tasty anecdotes. They hired Marlon Brando because he was perhaps the only actor who could stand up to Scott, and so he does by making his character a sort of lolling baby – this, mind you playing a man who is one of the most merciless oilmen alive. It’s a daring and imaginative choice and Brando is choice in the role. He does something with his lower lip that is so odd and right. He is in his late fifties here and willing to take on character leads. The story involves a mysterious murder which Scott sets himself to solve. The murder seems to revolve around a secret formula for turning coal into fuel oil, which the Germans managed to do for the duration of World War II. It is a telling account of the international oil trade, as apposite today as when it was shot. My daughter went to the same school as Nancy Marchand’s children, many years before The Sopranos. She was an actor I liked a lot. One day, walking down the inside stairs I passed her and asked if she had seen George C. Scott’s TV performance the night before. “No, “ she said, “I don’t think he’s going to show me anything new.” Nor is what he does here new. I first saw him on the Broadway stage in The Andersonville Trial, playing a lawyer. He was very exciting in the emphaticness of his growl, and he was the best Shylock I have ever seen. He was brand new in those days. Later I saw him on stage in Uncle Vanya. He was no longer new. In him what we are faced with, unlike Edward G. Robinson, is a perpetual ire. He is always a sten gun about to go off. And so, seen-one-seen-them-all. The public tired of him. It’s a shame, for here he is quite good, and looking at his work now, piecemeal and years later, it does not weary one as, in its repetition, it did at the time. Indeed it impresses one with its force and intensity. He has tremendous reserves of insult and intention, great timing, the ability to focus and be still, the ability to not show his hand, and the ability to deliver his stuff full force and absolutely mean what he says. He can charm and be dangerous on a dime. You might say he plays everything the same way, but it does not matter so much here, since the story convolutions are what gather our attention in. Marthe Keller is just grand as the partisan love interest he falls in with, and John Gielgud gives great value as a dying chemistry professor, and Richard Lynch deserved an Oscar for his German general. There are three racetrack scenes, one with female jockeys and one racing on ice, and the final one played out between Brando and Scott in Brando’s office in front of Degas’ jockey scene, all of them captivatingly captured by Crabe, whose filming is a lesson in point on the art of lighting, color agreement, exposure, and how to shoot people walking while talking, of which this film has many examples. The film is a classic instance of how a cameraman alone can make a story cohere. In this case there are other coherences to count on. And of course, the presence of the greatest acting genius of the 20th Century.

 

 

 

Trapped [1949]

08 Mar

Trapped [1949] — directed by Richard Fleischer. Crime Drama. T-Men use a con to round up those $20 counterfeit bill plates, but he cons the cons and they con him and he cons them back, and con and con and con. 78 minutes Black And White 1949.

★★★★★

Another film listed as noir that is not. But good anyhow. It’s a police procedural of sorts, with sexy Lloyd Bridges (father of  the Fabulous Baker Boys) as the gum-snapping con. The director was to go on to direct many big pictures of his era, and even though this is a B-flick, it shows a strong hand and good story-telling instincts. Barbara Payton, as Meg Dixon, plays his loyal moll and she is very good. She’s a sort of poor man’s Virginia Mayo (although so was Virginia Mayo), and she, because she loves him so much, provides a realistic sympathy for the crook, which the audience would not share without her – not as easy to do as it looks. A secondary character played by John Hoyt carries a lot of the story, and supplies a certain necessary coldness of intent to it. He was to go on until old age, as an actor on TV, with a huge career there and in films as a supporting and sub-supporting player – an honorable profession. This is what it means to be a born actor. It means that God gives you a call, and casting directors give you one too. The film is shot noir-dark, and is good to look at, and the story keeps hopping. It’s a nifty movie, but it has none of the post-War depth noir captured, no sense of the lost soldier, the home-front betrayal. Never mind. It’s just fine like it is. Check it out.

 

 

A Murder Of Quality

04 Feb

A Murder Of Quality — directed by Gavin Miller. WHODUNIT. Spymaster George Smiley is dragged out of retirement to solve a murder in a boys’ public school. 90 minutes Color 1991

★★★★★

Gary Oldman and Alec Guinness, after and before, have been called upon to play the ruthless taciturn Mr. Smiley but the role clearly belongs to Denholm Elliott, who, granted, is asked to resuscitate the character only for the petites pommes de terre of a policier of a provincial whacking. Guinness, he of the moonstone school of acting perfected by Ralph Richardson and finally put out of business by Paul Scofield, was the most opaque and Gary Oldman the most ruthless of the Smileys, but Denholm Elliott outsmarts even those masters of scene larceny by giving Smiley not just one implacable spine but a suppleness of carriage that gives him a place to begin and a place to go. He first appears to be a mealy-mouthed amateur when meeting the local inspector, masterfully cast and played by Matthew Scurfield, not as a bumbling dope or bigot but as a highly proficient but frustrated professional with a strong personality and smart views. Denholm Elliott is assisted in the detection by the curmudgeon-mouthed Glenda Jackson, and one can see the reason for her Oscars by just the way she puts a napkin down on the table and rises in utter silent disgust at the fascism of the culprit when she learns of it. Billie Whitelaw scares us silly as mad Jane the local loony, simply by the swiftness and lack of motivation of her violence, a wonderful choice by an actor. Then on the one hand we have Joss Ackland as the grandiloquent gay master fascinating his boys with his magic quotes from the Rubyiat and on the other as one of the boys, Christian Bale, he of the inner smirk. Yes, even at 16 years of age this is so. A completely untrained actor to this day, Bale brings to the character a minimalism perfect for an adolescent out of his depth in the machinations of adult doings. If you look at him carefully, or even carelessly, you can see here his systèm. He begins with a tiny single point and retains it. In later years this skill spokes out to produce performances and characters of  terrifying intensity. Think of him as the opposite of Sean Penn, but playing the same sorts of parts with the same rash effect. He is one of those masters-through-experience actors I prefer. I find it very hard to look at him. I don’t like his face, which difficulty makes his work all the more admirable to me. A craft and a talent devoted to stretching beyond the extreme borders cuts through my revulsion of a physiognomy he simply cannot help. It would be fascinating to see him perform Noël Coward’s Private Lives, that is to say a high comedy of manners: Mirabel in Congreve’s The Way Of The World. Jack in Bunbury. Someone, that is to say, not doomed by what he knows.

 

The Big Sleep

22 Dec

The Big Sleep — Directed by Howard Hawks. Private Eye Drama. A very rich family hires a private eye to keep them out of trouble and it lands him in plenty of trouble. 114 minutes Black and White 1944/46.

* * * *

I found this irritating this time round. When it first came out, I found it glossy and opaque. It still is those things, but this time I got tired of the revamp of the B&B sizzle from To Have And Have Not. The story is a rabbit chase of red herrings – bunnies and fish, yes – and you don’t know which ones you’re supposed to pay attention to. Is it the herrings of the plot, which is a series of rooms opening into one another that you traipse though wondering why you are there? Or is it the series of bunnies in side-rooms, in which Bacall slinks to and from Bogart in a negligee of lies? Of course, in films like this, everyone is lying, including the rooms. I found the B & B relationship a put up job: they never have a conversation; what they have is repartee. So, strictly speaking, there are no real people here. Moreover the film is deficient in its supporting players, none of whom have the interest of those from To Have And Have Not (to which this was a follow-up), with the single except of Elisha Cook Junior, who never fails, but appears in but one scene, and Dorothy Malone, gorgeous at age 19 making her film debut. Her one scene is a case in point of what happens throughout this picture. In the morning, Hawks would rewrite a scene to be shot, set it in the afternoon, and begin shooting at 4 PM. What he was doing was setting the story aside and developing “interesting scenes,” such as the bookshop one with Malone, which is amusing, and for which there is no real excuse. Made in 1944/45, the film was not released until 1946, and then reshot in order to enhance Bacall’s role in the proceedings, so we are given a bunch of scenes with her that place her in close allure with Bogart, while the story itself dawdles among the extras. This makes the whole thing even more hard to follow. Not that you’re supposed to follow it; all you’re supposed to do is follow not-following it, which makes you feel like some dumb kid dragged along by the collar. Bogart brings the same character to us that he brought us in The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, and To Have And Have Not. Practice has made him perfect with this personage. He is not a very good actor, in some ways, and you can see it in the ear- rubbing Hawks assigned him to. It never works. It’s never motivated. It’s just an add-on. But at what he does, nobody does better, a calm, sensitive, smart, rueful, dogged, smart-mouth, with core-deep masculinity and a wrecked liver. His humor, especially, engages suddenly and rather lovingly, at the spectacle of human folly. In many ways he is an entirely responsive actor, good at badminton, aka stichomythia, and gifted with a monotone that cuts through steel. Louise Brooks accused him of having sacrificed his talent by becoming enamored of the movement of his own lips. Interesting, huh? I can’t say, but no one could have executed this material so well, so stringently, and with such unassailable dignity as Humphrey Bogart.

 

Crash

15 Nov

Crash — Directed by Paul Haggis. Detective Story. A fender bender leads to a web of universal bigotry. 112 minutes Color 2004.

* * * *

Anger is an emotion easy for actors to access, and this film registers as blatantly misdirected from so much of it being allowed them, anger, anger, anger, Venetian-blinded with tears, another easy access for actors. This is too bad, because it makes the film hermetic, self-congratulatory, and monotonous, or rather bi-tonous. Thandie Newton is clearly an excellent and well-trained actress, but she is allowed both expressions to a degree which cancels out her role quite nicely; fury added to the lachrymose equals nothing, because either one subtracts the other, either concurrently or sequentially, that is, either in a given scene or in scene by scene. Crash is written and directed by white males, who seem mightily pleased with themselves for having essayed the subject of bigotry out loud, and I do not know whether this causes the picture’s scenes with the black actors to fail, but they do —with the one exception of Terrence Howard’s, and for a very good reason, that being that he allows his character to bring a degree of modulation into the playing. There is only one actor who should be allowed tears in this film, and that is Beverly Todd, playing the mother of a slaughtered son. And there are only two characters who should be allowed out-and-out anger in this story, and neither one of them are angry because of bigotry but because they were born angry. The second of them is the storeowner played by Shaun Toub who is brilliantly horrible as a stupid berserk patriarch illiterate. The first is Sandra Bullock whose rage should set a tone which should never be duplicated again in the picture, but modulated and pulled underground by the actors, to make visual what the story actually tells which is that everyone is overtly or secretly a bigot. The scene in which the Don Cheadle character is offered a job in return for shutting up about a certain cop-slaying is a scene played with an excellent actor, William Fitchner, who simply is misdirected to play for excitement or insensitivity, whereas something else would be much more interesting, sympathy, for instance, o=r “Will you offended by what I am about to say?” As it is, we immediately take sides against him, which loses the conflict and thus loses the scene. Over and over again the direction causes the material to fall back in on itself, no more noticeably than when the music stoops to soften us up at the end with a dictatorial sentimentality. Because the film is essentially well written, the execution needed to be more subtle than glaring – after all, bigotry has already been put forth: Elia Kazan made Pinky way back when – and so all we get as our allowed response is “Aint it awful,” but, in fact, sadness and sympathy are not enough. Everyone’s done good? Nah. They have, but smugness is the wrong thing to end up with. Sandra Bullock’s playing is a miracle of impenitence, but she ends up in the arms of her Hispanic maid, saying, “You’re my only friend,” when the fact is that the maid would have many friends, of whom the Sandra Bullock character still knows and wishes to know nothing, while Sandra Bullock’s character unbeknownst to Bullock, is not one of the maid’s friends at all. It won Oscars that year for Best Screenplay, Best Editing, Best Film, and many other awards from other awarders. Matt Dillon did not win best supporting actor Oscar, but his moments while saving from a burning car while he’s lying on top of her a woman whom he has molested are remarkable in this actors long, underestimated, and remarkable career. Michael Peña is excellent as the locksmith whom Shaun Toub is too incensed to make sense of.  The picture is worth seeing for its diction and for the modesty of most of its cast, insofar as they were allowed it: Brendan Fraser, Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Ryan Phillippe, Michael Peña, Matt Dillon, and many others.

 

 

Kiss Me Deadly

14 Nov

Kiss Me Deadly — Directed by Richard Aldrich. Private Eye Flick. An L.A. detective tracks down the killer of a hitchhiker he picked up. 106 minutes Black and White 1955

* *

Howard Hawks should sue for criminal impersonation. Instead of The Big Sleep, Aldrich has made The Big Sleaze.  It is peopled by women who ravage the person of Mike Hammer on sight. They simply will not stop kissing him, and he will not stop discarding them like lint as soon as they do. Hawks’ famous females of sexual insolence are thus degraded to nymphomania, and Mike Hammer would have had to have had the sexual solidity of a pepper mill to respond, but he brooks no distraction, for he is not hot on the tail but hot on the trail. Aldrich seems to be a very bad director, and now that he is dead we can malign him as such with impunity if not with glee. For he makes the mistake which Hawks never made, of very fancy camera angles at every turn. Ernest Laszlo shot every scene from some crazy place, every scene with something jutting in the foreground, every scene as though Max Ophuls were the director. I would like to bet that the result is that it took so long to set up these scenes that the actors had no time to rehearse. The result is that every actor in the cast is absolutely lousy, even the great Cloris Leachman who is out of this farrago early, since she plays the hitchhiker. The one actor who does not suffer is Ralph Meeker who is just dandy as Hammer. Skip it.

 

 
 
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