Film Review: The Big Sleep (1978)

Also known as: Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep (UK)
Release Date: March 13th, 1978 (new York City premiere)
Directed by: Michael Winner
Written by: Michael Winner
Based on: The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
Music by: Jerry Fielding
Cast: Robert Mitchum, Sarah Miles, Richard Boone, Candy Clark, Joan Collins, Edward Fox, James Stewart, Oliver Reed

Winkast Film Productions, ITC Entertainment, United Artists, 99 Minutes

Review:

“Such a lot of guns around town and so few brains!” – Philip Marlowe

I never saw this film until now but I had assumed that it was a proper sequel to Farwell, My Lovely, a film that came out three years earlier and also starred Robert Mitchum as the famous literary private dick, Philip Marlowe.

However, this is its own thing, as this takes place in a contemporary setting, as opposed to being a period piece like the previous movie.

Still, this makes Robert Mitchum the only actor to play Marlowe more than once in a feature film.

Overall, this is a star studded affair with James Stewart, Richard Boone, Oliver Reed, Joan Collins, Sarah Miles and Candy Clark in it. And honestly, everyone does a pretty fine job with the material and you do become invested in most of the characters.

This film is pretty harsh, though. Especially when compared to other films about Marlowe, especially the older version of The Big Sleep, which starred Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. And while this is a modernized noir, it’s grittiness is over the top and it loses some of the luster that the Marlowe movies had when they were traditional film-noir from the ’40s.

I did like this for what it was and it’s worth checking out at least once for fans of noir and Mitchum. However, it seems like it is trying to be edgy while not fully committing to the bit.

This isn’t bad and it has a few memorable moments but it’s far from Mitchum’s best and nowhere near the top of the list when it comes to Marlowe pictures.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Robert Mitchum movie where he plays Philip Marlowe: Farewell, My Lovely, as well as other ’70s neo-noir.

Film Review: This Gun for Hire (1942)

Release Date: April 24th, 1942 (Denver premiere)
Directed by: Frank Tuttle
Written by: Albert Maltz, W.R. Burnett
Based on: A Gun for Sale by Graham Greene
Music by: David Buttolph
Cast: Veronica Lake, Robert Preston, Laird Cregar, Alan Ladd

Paramount Pictures, 81 Minutes

Review:

“You are trying to make me go soft. Well, you can save it. I don’t go soft for anybody.” – Philip Raven

I feel like this picture doesn’t get the respect it deserves for establishing the noir genre and style. A lot of people don’t want to consider anything that came out before Double Indemnity as true film-noir but that’s bullshit. In fact, I consider Fritz Lang’s M from 1931 to be a part of the genre, even if it predates the era by a decade and was a movie made in Germany.

This Gun for Hire predates Double Indemnity by two years but it also came out a year after The Maltese Falcon and if you don’t consider that classic noir, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Plus, this movie stars Veronica Lake in her prime; that alone screams noir.

I really like the story in this too, as it puts Lake’s character between a rock and a hard place. She’s really just an innocent woman wrapped up with trying to reason with a killer that doesn’t have her in his sights but is hunting down the man who double-crossed him.

In part, the film is a character study of Alan Ladd’s Philip Raven, who confides in Lake’s Ellen about his past and how he fell into a very shady and violent life. Ellen wants to save Raven from himself but this is film-noir and it’s very rare that the bad guy ever gets off scott free.

There are typical noir twists and they make this a pretty layered and exciting film from start to finish. Things escalate quite a bit as the picture rolls on and it’s not entirely clear as to whether or not Ellen could also have a bad fate just for trying to save Raven from himself.

I think that the fact that this has a great plot is due to it being an adaptation of a Graham Greene story. Every film based off of his work that I’ve seen has always given me a pleasurable experience.

Additionally, this encompasses the noir vibe in its visual style. The credit for that goes to cinematographer John F. Seitz, a guy who won seven Academy Awards before he hung it up.

Sure, director Frank Tuttle also deserves credit, as he brought all the pieces together and really got superb performances out of Veronica Lake, Robert Preston and Alan Ladd. Not to say that these three aren’t always more than capable.

This Gun for Hire isn’t a film-noir that gets talked about as much as some of the more famous pictures but some of those better movies probably wouldn’t have existed in their same form if it wasn’t for this trendsetting motion picture that was just a few years ahead of its time.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: The Blue Dahlia, The Glass Key, Murder, My Sweet, Criss Cross and Phantom Lady.

Vids I Dig 090: Razörfist: Film Noirchives: ‘Blade Runner’

From The Rageaholic/Razörfist’s YouTube description: To celebrate a Decade of Rage, Razör’s favorite film of all time finally gets the Noirchives treatment: Film Noir and Sci-Fi collide, creating an example of the best of both.

But is it truly Noir? And how did on-set struggles and behind-the-scenes conflict inform this apocalyptic masterpiece?

We need the old Blade Runner. We need the magic.

Film Review: Akira (1988)

Release Date: July 16th, 1988 (Japan)
Directed by: Katsuhiro Otomo
Written by: Katsuhiro Otomo, Izo Hashimoto
Based on: Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo
Music by: Shoji Yamashiro

Akira Committee Company Ltd., Akira Studio, TMS Entertainment, Toho Co. Ltd., 124 Minutes

Review:

“Look at what they abandoned in their panic, they were afraid! They were too scared, so they hid it away from the public. They forgot all shame and honor, cast off the civilization and science we had created, and shut the lid of the Pandora’s Box they themselves had opened.” – Colonel Shikishima

This wasn’t the first Japanese animated film that I saw but it was the first one to have a lasting impact on me. In fact, this is the one anime film that I have seen more than any of the others, as it is damn near perfect and the older it gets, the better it ages. Plus, it really got me into what was then called “Japanimation” before Americans started properly calling it anime.

Akira really opened the floodgates for me. Even though I was already a fan of Robotech, Voltron and Star Blazers, I didn’t really know that they were Japanese properties retrofitted for American kids. But after seeing Akira, I started renting or buying almost every anime I could find. Many were bad but many were also good. It was a rabbit hole I really enjoyed going down, especially from the early to mid-’90s.

But what makes this film the best of the lot, at least from its era, is that it has a solid story, truly embraces the cyberpunk aesthetic and was just too damn cool to turn away from.

Now I might not of understood the film as a kid but I didn’t care. In my mind, this was the best animation I had ever seen and it made the American cartoons I enjoyed look drab by comparison. Also, being that it was animated, I could watch it without my parents suspecting that it might not just be some regular Saturday morning action cartoon. And that was cool because this was so adult and I hadn’t experienced that in anything animated up until this point.

Through adult eyes, I still can’t turn away. This picture is absolutely beautiful and Katsuhiro Otomo did a stupendous job in adapting his stellar manga into an animated movie. Granted, I wish that he would’ve gone on to continue to adapt the manga series, as this film doesn’t give you the rest of the lengthy story.

But as a standalone film and a self contained story, this works well, even if it opens a Pandora’s box by the end and leaves you with a lot of questions as to what the future holds for those living in this world.

It’s also a film that is good in both the subtitled and dubbed versions. While I typically prefer subs, the English language dub is better than most.

But the sound and the music really take this picture to another level. Sound was used to great effect through simple effects and audio cues that still sound cool and otherworldly regardless of how many times I’ve watched this film.

If someone where to ask which single anime is the best to show people to see if they’re into the style, Akira would be my answer. But I’m also a fan of cyberpunk sci-fi, neo-noir and youth gang movies.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: the Akira manga series, as well as Katsuhiro Otomo’s other manga series. Additionally, Ghost In the Shell.

Comic Review: Tokyo Ghost

Published: July 5th, 2017
Written by: Rick Remender
Art by: Sean Murphy, Matt Hollingsworth

Image Comics, 257 Pages

Review:

I wasn’t aware of this when it was being published but having found out about it recently, I wanted to give it a read, as it unites the writing of Rick Remender with the art of Sean Murphy, whose Batman: White Knight was one of the best comics I’ve read in the last few years.

Also, this kind of borrows from anime, manga and Philip K. Dick stories. It has an Akira meets Blade Runner feel even if the story is wholly original and its own thing.

Remender, overall, penned a good and engaging story. It took a few issues for it to click for me but even if it started out a bit slow, Murphy’s art held my attention.

As the plot builds and this universe gets richer and more complex, you do find yourself immersed in this world. And frankly, that’s what you want from a comic book and Remender did his job.

My only issue with the plot is that the two young lovers’ codependency sometimes felt a bit overbearing. However, it’s kind of supposed to, I guess, as it is a big part of who the main characters are and where they need to go in their lives. There are lessons to be learned within these character flaws and Remender succeeded in bringing the lovers’ story to a proper close by the end of the ten issues.

I liked the villain, the plot twists and the neo-noir vibe that really channels classic noir narrative tropes.

The story does have a lot going on and that may be jarring early on, as things seem to jump around a lot, but it all comes together rather well.

Sean Murphy recently stated that he’d only do art for stories he writes going forward. However, it’d be cool to see him team up with Rick Remender on another project in the future.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other comics written by Rick Remender and other comics with art by Sean Murphy. Also, it’s influences like futuristic anime, manga and the stories of Philip K. Dick.

Book Review: LIFE: Film Noir: 75 Years of the Greatest Crime Films

While this was technically released in a magazine format, it’s written more like a book, is devoid of ads and I read it on my kindle. Also, I want to read more specialty magazines like this for review purposes but since there are only a few I have, at the moment, I’ll categorize them with books for now.

This one looks at film-noir throughout history. It’s really broken into two sections: one that deals specifically with classic film-noir and then a latter section that deals with neo-noir, showing the effects and influence that classic noir had on later motion pictures.

The films selected here are all pretty top notch pictures in the genre. I thought it a bit odd that Sunset Boulevard was omitted but this magazine did seem to put its focus more on noir that were primarily crime dramas. But not really mentioning the impact of that film, as well as the influence of Citizen Kane, as far as style goes, seemed off. Especially when this does mention the stylistic influences it took from German Expressionism.

But I’m not going to gripe about those films not really being on the radar of the staff that put this together.

I think that this would have been a better and much richer read had it been put into something larger than a magazine. I blew through this in an hour and while I liked reading about the films discussed here, each chapter was pretty damn short. But I also get that this is more of a crash course and primer on noir movies than a full semester at film school.

The best part wasn’t even the write ups about the films, though. It was actually a lot of the captions that came with all the photos thrown in here. I learned more new information that way than from the film write ups themselves.

Reading this was a breeze but frankly, it left me wanting more… a lot more. But there are several great books on film-noir that give you a lot more meat and potatoes.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other books on film-noir: Into the Dark, Film Noir FAQ and The Dark Side of the Screen.

Comic Review: Watchmen

Published: September, 1986 – October, 1987
Written by: Alan Moore
Art by: Dave Gibbons

DC Comics, 415 Pages

Review:

After recently reading through all of the Before Watchmen stuff, I thought that I should give the original comic a re-read. It’s been a long time and even if I know the story inside and out, it’s always a good comic to revisit every couple of years.

Plus, I wanted it to be fresh in my mind before delving into the Doomsday Clock maxiseries that is finally close to finishing. Additionally, there is that HBO Watchmen TV series that starts pretty soon and even though I’m highly skeptical of it, I want to give it a fair shot.

While I do think that Watchmen is pretty close to being a masterpiece, it isn’t a perfect comic book despite what the hype says.

I love the story, the art, the characters and it really is close to being a perfect marriage between the writing of Alan Moore and the astounding art by Dave Gibbons. It is a neo-noir fan’s dream come true on paper.

However, sometimes I feel like it gets bogged down by its wordiness. Plus, even though the narrative flows along at a good pace and multiple character arcs are well balanced, it doesn’t do a great job of keeping your mind on the mystery that opens the big story. Sure, you reach a resolution and all becomes clear but what starts out as the main narrative, takes a back seat in most of the comic’s twelve issues.

I guess it works absolutely fine if that’s not your primary reason for reading the book. I’m also fine with nontraditional forms of storytelling but the opening is so good, presents a good mystery and then sort of just touches on it from time to time. My main issue with it is that by the time the pieces fall into place, the big reveal doesn’t have much impact.

This is an ensemble piece though and with that the book does each and every character justice. So Watchmen‘s pros certainly outshine it’s very few cons. Plus, Moore does a superb job at creating such a rich and lived in world in only twelve issues. By the time one is done with this book, you have a very intimate understanding of this universe. And its overall effect has been so strong that this book maintained its legions of loyal fans over several decades without any sort of follow up.

Granted, there have now been prequels, sequels, a movie and a television show. But for a very long time, this was all that existed under the Watchmen brand.

Watchmen‘s legacy can’t be denied. This is a piece of stellar work that will still touch people years after we’re all dead. It is a comic book but it is also one of the greatest pieces of literature from the 1980s.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta and Mike W. Barr’s Camelot 3000, as well as the Before Watchmen stuff and Doomsday Clock.