Film Review: Clash by Night (1952)

Release Date: May 30th, 1952 (limited)
Directed by: Fritz Lang
Written by: Alfred Hayes
Based on: Clash by Night by Clifford Odets
Music by: Roy Webb
Cast: Barbara Stanwyck, Paul Douglas, Robert Ryan, Marilyn Monroe, Keith Andes, Silvio Minciotti, J. Carrol Naish

Wald/Krasna Productions, RKO Radio Pictures, 105 Minutes

Review:

“What do you want, Joe, my life’s history? Here it is in four words: big ideas, small results.” – Mae Doyle

While I love the hell out of Fritz Lang movies, especially his noir films, as well as just about anything that Barbara Stanwyck has done, this film mostly missed the mark for me.

This also has Marilyn Monroe and Robert Ryan in it too but regardless of the film’s star power, I found it mostly dull and sort of wrecked by Paul Douglas, who had me wanting to kill him by the third act of the picture.

Now I haven’t seen much with Paul Douglas in it, except for the original Angels In the Outfield, but he really started grating on my nerves due to how overly intense he was once he lost his shit due to his wife running around with Robert Ryan behind his back.

Sure, I understand the guy would be pissed but he wrecks the scenes he’s in by acting like a bull in a china shop. That might not be Douglas’ fault though, as Lang probably thought that it was effective, as he was sitting behind the camera directing these scenes. I guess my biggest issue with it is that it pulls you out of the picture and diminishes the great performance by Stanwyck, who felt like she was whispering her lines next to a madman with a bullhorn.

Still, it’s hard not to sympathize with Douglas’ character and maybe that’s just the magic of it all and Fritz Lang got the performance that he wanted out of him. And maybe I didn’t see how effective it was until that final scene that closed out the film, which had a surprisingly pleasant conclusion and made my heart warm for the two leads.

This isn’t the type of noir I fancy the most, however, as I like gritty crime stories. This one is more about a woman that creates human wreckage in her wake but starts to realize that she’s found something she didn’t even know she needed. Unfortunately for her, at least at first, she learns this way too late, after her selfish impulses have caused a lot of damage.

For those who prefer noir pictures that focus more on human romance, this will most assuredly be your cup of tea. It’s hard to deny how great Stanwyck, Ryan, Monroe and J. Carrol Naish are in this. And while this isn’t close to Fritz Lang’s best, you leave the film fairly satisfied with how it all turns out, which is kind of odd and unique for the noir genre.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other classic film-noir pictures of the era, especially those featuring Barbara Stanwyck or Robert Ryan or directed by Fritz Lang.

Film Review: Don’t Bother to Knock (1952)

Also known as: Night Without Sleep, Mischief (working titles)
Release Date: July 18th, 1952 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Roy Ward Baker
Written by: Daniel Taradash
Based on: Mischief by Charlotte Armstrong
Music by: Lionel Newman
Cast: Richard Widmark, Marilyn Monroe, Anne Bancroft, Elisha Cook Jr., Jim Backus, Donna Corcoran, Jeanne Cagney, Lurene Tuttle, Verna Felton

20th Century Fox, 76 Minutes

Review:

“You smell like a cooch dancer!” – Eddie Forbes

This is a really interesting film about mental illness. It came out in the 1950s when there wasn’t as much knowledge about the subject but compared to other films from the time, this one is actually really respectful towards mental health. Honestly, Don’t Bother to Knock is probably one of the best movies of its era to actually try and tackle the issue, as it doesn’t make the character struggling with it into a psychotic nutjob.

The film gives top billing to Richard Widmark but the real star of the picture is Marilyn Monroe, who plays a babysitter that mentally breaks down as the story rolls on. I’ve absolutely got to give Monroe props in this role, as she truly comes across as believable and makes you feel for her on a pretty deep level.

In fact, this is one movie that you can point to when people claim that Monroe was just a pretty face. She handled the material with a sort of grace and respect that transcends the picture. And if I’m being straight here, I’ve never been a massive Monroe fan. But her ability to act in this picture was stupendous and it kind of makes me want to reexamine her other roles.

Additionally, Widmark is superb in his role, as are Anne Bancroft, who I wish had more screen time, and the always entertaining character actor Elisha Cook Jr.

This is a sympathetic and intelligently handled picture where the cast figures out something is off with this girl but they ultimately rally around her to give her the help she desperately needs. It’s hard to say what happens to her after the film but you do leave with the feeling that the core characters in this story will be there to help her heal, as opposed to just sending her to an asylum and being done with her uncontrollable antics.

Directed by Roy Ward Baker, who would go on to do a lot of horror and sci-fi pictures, the film is well shot and it shows that the guy had a real skill that his later work might not have showcased nearly as well. While I enjoy the work he did for Hammer and Amicus, the two horror giants of the UK, this may be the best film of his that I’ve seen from an artistic and technical standpoint.

Don’t Bother to Knock has been a film that has been in my Prime Video queue for a long time. I’m glad that I finally got around to giving it a shot, as I was pleasantly surprised by it on just about every level.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other early ’50s film-noir, as well as other early Marilyn Monroe movies.

Retro Relapse: Girls & Marilyn Monroe Quotes

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2014.

One thing about social media, is that some person will post some asinine bullshit and then just about everyone else will repost and share that shit without really thinking about it. Something I’ve seen floating around the Internet a lot is this Marilyn Monroe quote:

..if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.

Bitch, please.

If you are a dude crushing on a chick that posts this to her Facebook wall or her Twitter feed, you better move on. At its core it basically says, “Yeah, I’m going to be a total unreasonable bitch and if you don’t put up with my selfish crap, no pussy for you!”

How would these same chicks respond if some guy posted to his Facebook wall, “I’m a complete alpha bastard, selfish asshole and pretty much a man whore, if you can’t deal with it, find some weak punk bitch to knock you up.”

I’m sorry, honey. If you’re going to have that philosophy throughout your life, you’re going to be a lonely bitch. Sure, if you look good, you may attract a few potential suitors but ultimately, they’ll go away after being exposed to your bullshit and drama. You may also get a full-time lapdog but once the boy toy novelty wears off, what then?

I get it though, Marilyn Monroe was glamorous and legendary. By trying to live vicariously through her ridiculous words you are imagining yourself to be glamorous and legendary but the fact of the matter is, you aren’t. I’d hate to be the bearer of bad news but you’re simply typical. With every other girl out there posting this shit to their walls and feeds, it is neither unique, edgy or cool. It goes back to what I wrote about in The Princess Syndrome, if you are all doing the exact same thing, who is the princess? Which one of you is the unique flower in a field of grass? The short answer: none of you.

Also, posting this type of shit is a deterrent to men, at least ones with a brain in their head.

Here’s the thing, as I stated, Marilyn Monroe was glamorous and legendary. She was also a drug-addicted booze hound that fucked a married man, the president of the United States. She also wasn’t a stupendous actress. So really, why do women idolize this mess so much?

The answer to that has to do with the fact that beauty, glamour and fame are apparently more important than the content of someone’s character.

Marilyn Monroe was also a hypocrite with just about everything she said.

She would parade herself around as an independent woman that didn’t need a man. She bragged about making a life of her own, on her own, yet she was unfaithfully married several times. Her first marriage, was due to the fact that her foster parents could no longer support her. She also forced one of her husbands to impregnate her before he was shipped off to war. Additionally, she had an affair with actor Tony Curtis, who she starred with in Some Like It Hot. She got pregnant by him and had a miscarriage.

I’m not even going to cover her long string of adulterous behavior but if the Internet and personal video cameras existed in her day, I’m sure there would’ve been a leaked sex tape or several.

As far as body image, girls are always posting Marilyn quotes about being proud to be curvy and all that jazz. Marilyn Monroe was full of shit. At her absolute heaviest, Marilyn Monroe was 130 lbs. She was a small petite woman being 5′ 5″ and having a 22 inch waist. For her size, she had nice hips (I prefer bigger, actually) but by today’s unit of measurement, she would have been a size 0.

This brings me to something else, a quote that is credited to Marilyn Monroe but is complete bullshit:

To all the girls who think you’re ugly because you’re not a size 0, you’re the beautiful one. It’s society that’s ugly.

Yes, this is a positive quote but it is bullshit because Marilyn Monroe died in 1962. A size 0 wasn’t even a thing until 1966 when it was used to describe the hot new supermodel Twiggy. So how exactly did Marilyn say this when ghosts aren’t real and time machines don’t exist?

Girls who aren’t a size 0 constantly refer to Marilyn as a hero because she wasn’t a “rail” and had a “healthy” body unlike the supermodels of today. The truth is, Marilyn Monroe’s measurements were 35-22-35. The average model of today is 34-22-34. Yeah, Marilyn was totally a fuller woman. Have any of these girls who worship Marilyn on body image issues ever seen a picture of her? She was skinny as a rail, despite their belief.

The point to all this is, know who your heroes are. Don’t just mindlessly repost crap because it sounds empowering. Marilyn’s words aren’t empowering when you see them within the context of who she actually was and most of the time, her words were those of a self-obsessed maniac. Parading around like an egotistical bitch is a sure way to not have a happy and meaningful life. Besides that, Marilyn wasn’t a hero. She was a substance abusing mess that used her vagina as a tool for selfish pursuits and a source of continued fame. Yes, she was attractive but she was also a manipulator and a pretty immoral person with shit for character. She was her era’s Kim Kardashian but worse.

Shit, that just gave me a horrible thought. Are girls 50-60 years from now going to be filling up their social media profiles with Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton quotes? The horror.

Please, stop deifying assholes.

Film Review: The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

Release Date: June 1st, 1950
Directed by: John Huston
Written by: Ben Maddow, John Huston
Based on: The Asphalt Jungle by W.R. Burnett
Music by: Miklós Rózsa
Cast: Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern, Jean Hagen, James Whitmore, Sam Jaffe, John McIntire, Marilyn Monroe, Anthony Caruso, Strother Martin (uncredited)

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 112 Minutes

Review:

“One way or another, we all work for our vice.” – Doc Riedenschneider

John Huston was a true maestro of film-noir. Sure, he made some other great films but there was just something special about his work on The Maltese FalconKey Largo and this, the grittiest and ballsiest of his noir pictures.

The Asphalt Jungle is a heist movie but it is so much more than that. However, the heist itself is a stellar sequence that probably went on to inspire just about every good cinematic heist after it. It takes its time, builds suspense and created a lot of the tropes associated with the heist genre.

The film also makes an immediate impact, thanks to the powerful opening theme by Miklós Rózsa, who really knew how to set the tone with all the film-noir movies he scored. The music is great throughout the entire picture and creates the type of mood needed to audibly enhance this gritty and tense film.

The cinematography was handled by Harold Rosson and was done in great contrast to his opulent and colorful fantasy world seen in The Wizard of Oz. And like Oz, this film got Rosson an Academy Award nomination. However, he was no stranger to nominations, as he also received the same honors for Boom TownThirty Seconds Over Tokyo and The Bad Seed. Before all those nominations, however, he was awarded an Honorary Oscar for his color cinematography in 1936’s The Garden of Allah, which was only the fifth film in history to be photographed in Three-strip Technicolor.

Needless to say, Rosson was an accomplished cinematographer, ahead of his time, and he captured things on this film, along with Huston’s direction, that showcased a real technical prowess and an ability to create more dynamic scenes with less shots and more natural and fluid motion between characters and their environments.

Sterling Hayden has a strong presence and we get to spend some time with Jean Hagen and a young Marilyn Monroe, who was on the verge of superstardom. Character actor Strother Martin even pops up in this.

This is an incredible film-noir to look at. It takes risks but it really is art in the highest sense in how it all comes together: a perfect storm and an amazingly woven tapestry. There are a lot of interesting characters, twist and turns and there aren’t any real faults to pick apart.

Rating: 9/10