Twilight Zone Inspired Short Story

If you are a fan of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, you may want to check out my latest short story, Make it Write.  It’s a tale about a wannabe writer, George Jensen, who comes into possession of an amazing software program. The program is the author’s dream come true and his worst nightmare. Soon George has a novel on the New York Times bestseller list. George Jensen should be on top of the world instead, his life is spiraling out of control.

Available at Amazon for only 99 cents!

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New England Crime Time

John Greco Author/Photographer

I recently posted a list of some of my favorite and grittiest of New York City films from the 1970s. This time around I thought I select some crime films from the combined states that make up New England. As you may suspect Massachusetts, Boston in particular, makes up the majority of the films and the grittiest. Not all these films are gritty or from the 70’s but they are films with criminal elements.

The Friends of Eddie Coyle  (Massachusetts)

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Dolores Clairborne (Maine)

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Mystic River (Massachusetts)

Mystic

The Stranger (Connecticut)

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Gone, Baby, Gone  (Massachusetts)

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The Stepford Wives  (Connecticut)

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The Trouble With Harry  (Vermont)

Harry

American Buffalo (Rhode Island)

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The Departed  (Massachusetts)

The Departed

To Die For (New Hampshire)

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The Boston Strangler(Massachusetts)

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Shutter Island (Massachusetts)

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Make it Write – New Short Story

If you are a fan of The Twilight Zone you may want to check out my new short story, MAKE IT WRITE.  It’s a slight departure from my usual tales tossing in a bit of Rod Serling fantasy along with the usual darker deadly deeds.  I hope you’ll like it.

“Another great story by John Greco. This one reads like a Twilight Zone episode. Every author can relate to this creepy story. And what a twisty ending.” Joseph Souza – Author of Pray for the Girl and The Neighbor.

MAKE IT WRITE is available as an ebook on Amazon for only .99 cents.

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My Gritty Dozen 1970’s NYC Crime Films

This list is a result of recently reading author David Gordon’s article on Crime Reads. Like David, I grew up and lived in New York during its grittiest down and dirty days.  It’s a bit ironic that during New York’s ugliest days some of the best films set in the city were made during that time. I was already a movie freak, and while I liked a wide variety of movies I found myself attracted to crime films at a very young age. Two of the earliest I remember seeing on the big screen were Al Capone and Baby Face Nelson. While most parents took their under ten years of age kids to only Disney films, my folks took me to more adult movies too including gangster films.

Without further ado, here are my favorite crimes films from the 1970’s.

 

The Panic in Needle Park (1971)

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Dog Day Afternoon (1975) 

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Mean Streets (1973)

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Taxi Driver (1976)

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Klute (1971)

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Shaft (1971)

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The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (!974) 

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The French Connection (1971)

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Serpico (1973)

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Across 110th Street (1972)

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Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970)

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Death Wish (1974)

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Originally posted at John Greco Author. 

Inspiration

John Greco Author/Photographer

After recently watching James Cagney in the 1931 film, The Public Enemy, I was inspired to begin work on a new short story. It was one of the film’s most famous scenes and lines uttered by the actor that caught my attention. Badly shot after a shootout, Cagney as Tom Powers, comes out of a storefront carrying two guns. He staggers down a rainy dark street. Just before dying and falling to the ground, he mumbles his  famous line, “I ain’t so tough.”

My story deals with a small time local hood on the run from the cops, after catching his girlfriend in bed with another guy, and shooting them both.  At this point in time those famous last words are the title of my story, but that could change as the tales evolves. Inspiration can come from anywhere.

Below is the famous scene from The Public Enemy.

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Five Favorite Films of the 50’s

The 1950s was such a rich decade in film that I found myself having a difficult time in selecting what films to eliminate. I could only select five  films according to the blogathon rules of engagement. Once I narrowed my selection down the question or questions became how can you leave a film like Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest off you list? How can you not select Sunset Blvd. or Some like it Hot or Strangers on a Train or The Searchers or High Noon or Paths of Glory or Singin’ in the Rain or Vertigo or On the Waterfront or Rio Bravo or well you get the point. The 1950s was a great decade. Narrow a select down to five favorites was not easy.

One rule I made on my own was to list a film  director no more than once. Otherwise I could have listed five  Alfred Hitchcock films: Vertigo, North by Northwest, Rear Window, Dial M for Murder and I Confess. Or I could have went with five Billy Wilder films: Some Like it Hot, Sunset Blvd, Ace in the Hole, Witness for the Prosecution and Stalag 17. I could also list five John Ford films but you get the point.

With that self set rule in place it became a little easier, however, I made one other rule. List a bunch of runner ups. Like I said the 1950’s was a rich decade. Anyway, here are my five favorite, not necessarily the bests, but favorites with a bit of an explanation followed by my runner ups.

Ace on the Hole

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Manipulation, exploitation, opportunism, and hard-boiled vile, shaken, mixed and slammed into your guts by Billy Wilder. Ace in the Hole (aka The Big Carnival) is a lurid, take no prisoners portrait of the news media delivering a knock down nasty assault on journalism and the morbid character of the blood leeching public. No one is spared. A film made more than fifty years ago, yet more relevant today than ever. Opportunistic journalists pushing the limits of ethics is a recurring trend. The news media, in general has become more bipartisan and show business, making news more than reporting news objectively.  So-called entertainment news shows, making “superstars” out of marginal personalities like Paris Hilton, the Kardasians on television almost ever night. Kirk Douglas’ Charlie Tatum would fit right in with today’s media world.

 

Rear Window

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This is my favorite Hitchcock film, not an easy task in itself to select. It’s also one of my favorite films of all time. A permanent top-fiver on every list I ever made.  It never gets bumped.  Maybe not so surprisingly I have written about Rear Window twice before. Rear Window gets to the roots of movie watching, and still photography, for that matter.  For anyone who is an avid film goer, it is no great revelation that watching movies is an extension of voyeurism; after all, what are we doing but looking into the lives of others. Observing, in a socially acceptable way, as opposed to peeping into the windows of neighbors or strangers. We are all, to an extent, curious to know what other people are doing, it’s human nature. However, most people can keep these voyeuristic tendencies limited to the socially accepted variety. Alfred Hitchcock was well aware of this trait in humans and he suckers us into compliance right from the beginning with the casting of James Stewart. Who better than Mr. Nice Guy, Mr. Straight Lace to lure you into peeping in on your neighbors and making you think there is nothing weird about it. You may not like hearing it but yes, if you like watching movies you are a voyeur! Rear Window is also smart, funny, tense, meticulous and intriguing. Oh yeah, there is the gorgeous looking Grace Kelly too, and the excellent Thelma Ritter.

invasion of the Body Snatchers

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An allegory on the infiltration of communism in America? A metaphor for people turning a blind eye to the McCarthyism hysteria that was sweeping the country in the early 1950’s? An attack on the potential dangers of conformity and the stamping out of individuality? Don Siegel’s 1956 gem of a film, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, has been said to “really be about” any and all of these themes since its debut now more than fifty years ago. Siegel, who should know, never mentions any of this kind of subtext in his autobiography, A Siegel Film, so one can assume, all the reading into this classic SF film is just that, critics and film goers reading their own thoughts and ideas into a work of pop art. After all, isn’t personal interpretation one of the elements and joys of enjoying art?

Invasion of the Body Snatchers is an expertly made science fiction thriller that slowly builds in tension and never lets up. Filled with perfectly composed cinematography, a pulsating music score, by Carmen Dragon, and top notch acting performances from Kevin McCarthy and the lovely Dana Wynters, in a gallant battle to save the human race from dehumanizing pods.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers cautions us on the problem of being complacent with our lives; falling asleep is a danger, we are vulnerable, one loses touch with the world, and pods can quickly take us over. This fear is as relevant today as it was more than fifty years ago, maybe even more so, when the film was made, as pod like ideologues and followers swarm into the political mainstream.

Gun Crazy

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The original title, Deadly Is The Female, says it all. A lethal woman and a chump of a guy whose life isn’t worth a plug nickel once the sexual sparks ignite and the bullets begin to fly. Gun Crazy is a compact, quick moving, finely tuned, low-budget piece of celluloid art. Brilliant in its minimalist approach, this small quickie accomplishes more visual beauty and excellent pacing than 99% of all high budget products that are excreted from today’s filmmakers. Note how director Joseph H. Lewis focuses entirely on the young lovers making all the other characters and their actions secondary. Even the police, as they close in on the couple in the swamp, are barely on-screen. The stunning bank robbery sequence, shot in one long take, sucks the audience, into the action practically making us all accessories in the crime.

Touch of Evil

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The opening is one astounding continuous long running brilliant shot. It’s a spectacular beginning to one of the most interesting film noir’s ever made. Touch of Evil is also my own personal favorite Orson Welles work. It’s low budget film making that cannot be beat. Released on the top half of a twin bill, at least in New York, the film played at theaters around the city for only four days; scaled back to one theater for another three days and then quickly disappeared. Orson Welles as Hank Quinlan is an unkempt, overweight, beastly looking character. Visually, Welles made himself grotesque by placing the camera at a very low angles to emphasizes his character’s bulk. In one scene, we see Quinlan lifts he massive body up and out of a car, getting the full brunt of his size and hideous unkempt clothes right in our face. If there is a weak link in the film, it’s Charlton Heston playing Vargas, the Hispanic detective. Can anyone really believe Heston as Hispanic? Touch of Evil is a dark dirty, gritty noir.

Read more about the Five Favorite Films of the 50’s here!!!

And below are a few Runner Ups. I’m sure I missed a few.

Some Like it Hot

North by Northwest

Rio Bravo

Night of the Hunter

Strangers on a Train

The Asphalt Jungle

Paths of Glory

The Searchers

The Killing

Rio Bravo

Dial M for Murder

High Noon

Sunset Blvd.

Singin’ in the Rain

On the Waterfront

From Here to Eternity

Witness for the Prosecution

Vertigo

Rashomon

A Place in the Sun

Bridge on the Rive Kwai

12 Angry Men

Rififi

Pickup on South Street

Abel Ferrara’s New Film includes My Photograph

John Greco Author/Photographer

Baronet & Coronet Theatres-001 CW

Back in the 1970s and living in New York City, I did a lot of street photography. Being a movie fanatic, I went thru a period of photographing the exteriors out many of the movie theaters around the city. Most are now long gone. One of those photographs was of the Baronet/Coronet theaters on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Those two theaters along with the Cinema One and Two were located on the same block, on 3rd Avenue between 59th and 60th street. Back then they most sort after theaters for filmmakers to showcase their films in the city. The Baronet/Coronet photo was taken in 1976. The film, playing in both theaters was Brian DePalma’s Obsession.

Since the age of the internet, I have posted the photograph online a few times. A couple of months back I received an email from a representative of film…

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