Point Blank (1967)

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John Boorman’s 1967 neo-noir Point Blank is based on the novel, The Hunter, the first of twenty-three hard-boiled paperbacks about a career criminal who goes by the singular name of Parker. The series was written by Richard Stark, one of many pseudonyms used by Donald E. Westlake, one of the all-time great crime fiction writers our time. Westlake’s career spread across novels, screenplay, and television. Several of his many books have made it to the big screen including The Split (1968) The Hot Rock (1972), Cops and Robbers (1973), Bank Shot (1974) and Two Much among others. Westlake’s screenplay credits include The Grifters (2000), adapted from famed pulp fiction writer Jim Thompson novel, and The Stepfather. Two of my own personal favorite works of Westlake books are both standalone novels: The Hook and The Ax. Continue reading

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The Manchurian Candidate (1962) John Frankenheimer

   Manchurian Candidate 1   Frank Sinatra was never shy about expressing his political beliefs. As far back as 1945, he made The House I Live, an eleven minute short film with a plea for tolerance. By 1960, Frank was back on top of the entertainment world. He was one of the most powerful figures in Hollywood. Still a political liberal, Sinatra wanted to produce and direct a serious film. He chose William Bradford Huie’s non-fiction book, The Execution of Private Slovik (1954), the story of the only American soldier executed since the Civil War. Sinatra hired Albert Maltz, who coincidently happened to have written the The House I Live In script to do the adaptation. Maltz was one of the original Hollywood Ten blacklisted in Hollywood. By 1960, HUAC and the witch hunts were over, though remnants of the stink it created remained. Many writers still could not get a job, at least under their own name.  Continue reading

Elvis – The Florida Films

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   Elvis Presley made three films set in Florida. Of the three, only one, Follow That Dream, was actually shot in the Sunshine State. Girl Happy and Clambake, except for some second unit work, were shot in California with west coast beaches substituting for the pristine Florida beaches. You know how the thinking goes, put a couple of strategically placed Palm trees around and who can tell the difference? Well, maybe some will not, but some folks will recognize in Clambake that Florida has no mountain ranges that we clearly see in some shots. Continue reading

Debbie Does The Rat Race

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   By the time Garson Kanin’s play, The Rat Race, premiered on Broadway the playwright, director, actor, biographer, novelist and musician already had 11 previous productions on Broadway, including his super hit, Born Yesterday, which ran for 1642 performances. The Rat Race opened only days before Born Yesterday closed after an almost five year run. It had a less auspicious run of only 84 performances.  The film plays as a warning to Middle America – Beware of New York, it will eat you up! The two lead characters are naïve wannabe artists. So, where else do you go but to New York if you want to hit the big time. Continue reading

Once a Thief (1965) Ralph Nelson

Thief7   The first time I saw Once a Thief was back in 1965. It was at a third tier theater called the Harbor located in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Why do I remember this? Most likely, because watching the film back then, with a non-critical eye, I just liked it. I always liked crime films and having already discovered Cagney, Bogart and Garfield on TV it seemed like a pretty good fit. It may have also had something to do with Ann-Margret who for a few years in the sixties I possibly had a crush on. Well, alright I did have a crush on her! Can you blame me? If I remember correctly, every time I saw an Ann-Margret film back in those days I had to spend extra time in the confessional revealing a few additional impure thoughts. If case you were wondering I never mentioned her name to the priest. I don’t kiss and tell, not even in my dreams.  Anyway, enough confessional time. Back to the show. Continue reading

Harper (1966) Jack Smight

Harper3 By 1966, the private eye had been regulated to television. Shows like 77 Sunset Strip, Peter Gunn, Hawaiian Eye, Honey West and Johnny Staccato are just a few of the better known shows that began in the late 1950’s and/or the early 1960’s. Part of the reason for the decline on the big screen had to do with the rise of James Bond and his fellow international spies. Foreign intrigue, fancy gadgets, sexy women and criminals with more on their mind than just robbery and mayhem superseded the bedroom antics of the lowly P.I. Continue reading