A dark Los Angeles night. A reckless speeding car is seen racing through the streets running a red light. When it comes to a screeching stop, a hunched over man gets out and enters the Pacific All Risk Insurance Co. Building. After looking at row after row of desk after repetitive desk, he goes into his private office. The man is hurt badly. Hunched over, perspiration running down his face, he begins to tell his tale into a dictaphone. His name is Walter Neff, and he is about to make a confession. Continue reading →
Film noirs have their stock characters: the dangerous double crossing dame with a gat strapped on her thigh and poison in her heart. There is the flawed hero, the male sap seduced into committing felonious misdeeds. There are crooked cops, squealers or weasels and other down and out losers. And there are felines. I’m not talking about the feline like femme fatales, like say Laruen Bacall, but the four legged felines. Like their human counterparts, cats walk those dark mean streets, they’re always on the hunt. They have attitude and they live on the edge.
Nicholas Ray’s films were filled with anti-heroes. Characters who were disillusioned with life. Outsiders in a system they could not or would not fit into or accept. Protagonist Dix Steele fits the mole perfectly. For Humphrey Bogart, playing Dix, was a stretch. This was not the typical Bogart character we were used to seeing. Whether on the right or wrong side of the law, Bogart’s characters were generally calm, cool and in control (The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca). As Dix, we are watching the flip side. A man who is always on edge: cynical, moody and ready to explode at the slightest moment. As a screenwriter, like Joe Gillis in Sunset Blvd., he knew where on the Hollywood pecking order he stood…way down at the bottom. He despised the Hollywood machine, considering most in the industry hacks or as he says, “popcorn salesmen.”Continue reading →
On September 2nd 1935, a category five, the highest level, storm slammed into the Florida Keys. The storm hit on Labor Day. Original predictions had it heading between the Lower Keys and Cuba. At first, it was thought to be of lesser severity. Then it blew up heading toward Upper Matcumbe Key, Plantation Key and Tavernier Key with wind speeds between 200 and 250 mph. It turned out to be the strongest hurricane to ever make landfall in the United States. Storm surges ranged from 18 to 25 feet. Towns like Tavernier and Marathon were left with no buildings standing. Other towns nearby suffered catastrophic destruction. Over 400 hundred deaths were reported, many were World War I veterans who were working on the completion of the Overseas Highway the road that would connect the mainland to the keys. The veterans were part of the government’s Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Continue reading →
Lawrence Kasdan’s Body Heat takes place in a small, dreadfully hot, humid Southern Florida coastal town. The heat of the title reflects three important elements of the film. First up, the obvious; the stifling hot Florida weather. Every character’s skin glistens with beads of sweat. Shirts are constantly seen with sweat stains. Continue reading →
Early in his feature film directing career Richard Fleischer made a series of exciting low budget film noirs, among them, The Clay Pigeon, Follow Me, Quietly, Armored Car Robbery and his masterpiece, TheNarrow Margin. Photographed in deep rich black shadowy light, most of the film taking place on a cross country train. The confined space results in a claustrophobic tense ride filled with twists and turns that do not let up for a second. Continue reading →