Classic movie site with rare images, original ads, and behind-the-scenes photos, with informative and insightful commentary. We like to have fun with movies!
Archive and Links
grbrpix@aol.com
Search Index Here




Monday, January 02, 2023

Film Noir #18


Noir: Brawl in Cell Block 99, Breaking In, and The Bribe


BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99 (2017) --- Title bespeaks retro fun circa fifties with Brod Crawford or kin busting out of stir with bulls hot after them. Don’t you believe it. Takes steel to cope with what Brawl in Cell Block 99 gives, it of sort the MPAA rated X back when standards prevailed. Not complaining, as what is here compels due to skill of writer-director S. Craig Zahler, his a cobra reflex for charnel places healthier viewership might shun. Dialogue is able in ways rivalry could envy, and once hooked, you're hell bound to a finish. This prison is not what Jim Cagney or George Raft faced. You could take youth to those and none come out scarred. Brawl would be tough for a sumo wrestler to get through without blanching. Give me Valium rather than Milk Duds going in, then prepare to be immersed, Zahler using again his player group, all capable. Vince Vaughn can snap any man’s arm by threes, does so repeatedly. Didn't realize he was over six foot four, equal at least to John Wayne, but Wayne never dashed opponents as done casually here. And what arresting dialogue Cell Block cast gets, hardest R content palatable with such wit attendant, Zahler thinking clever amidst corrosive levels of violence. Don’t expect sissy happy ending stuff. Saw this on Amazon streaming, rehab since ongoing. Do filmmakers resent that their work isn’t being seen in theatres? But what can they do about it?



BREAKING IN (1989) --- Old thief mentors young thief in what might have been, should have been, 1989 alert for one worthwhile in our midst. IMDB says Breaking In had a budget of six million, returned $1.877 worldwide. For a film at least pretty good, this was discouragement, as in think how many others so situated end up in a same scrapheap. Enough to make talent give up and go home. We were told in 1989 that Breaking In was dawn upon Burt Reynolds as a character actor, darned if he wasn’t good at it, etc., and so he was, but his “Ernie Mullins” is tired, walks with a limp, Reynolds unplugged and reminder that best days were behind and not likely to come back. A set injury and dire sickness a few years before was hard by itself to shake off, and here came Breaking In as if to confirm rumors as right. Old football wounds plus stunt work did damage, this actor’s decline seemingly overnight. Still he was good whatever the assignment and sentiment would always be there among plentiful who grew up on Burt Reynolds movies. Breaking In paces well, has good talk and situations (written by John Sayles, directed by Bill Forsyth), and is nourish to extent this man and comparative boy are criminals and dwell on society’s outer edge, however much of Breaking In is played for humor. They rob the drabbest places, a supermarket, homes anything but promising as scores, an amusement park (Portland, Oregon located, and fittingly run down). Threat looms that someone will be hurt or imprisoned, though when it comes, we are satisfied and can sign off cheerful. This is noir with a half-smile and pathos for Reynolds still able/willing, plus knowing Breaking In should have been treated better than it was, a small movie that today would stream to exclusion of cinemas. Kino has a nice Blu-Ray if anyone is curious. I’m pleased for having watched.



THE BRIBE (1948) --- There is for many a need to know noir the moment one claps eyes upon it, so to that end, I recommend The Bribe for show window to sum up the style and initiate those new to pursuit of dark doings. Ill-boding frame device, check. Flashbacks to where it all started bringing us eventually back to where we began, by which time we've forgot all that, check. Doubt lingers like Robert Taylor's cigarette cloud as to who might be trusted, or why they should not be trusted. A femme is possibly fatale, resolve of this delayed till final inning. The Bribe is several kinds of fine without being fine as a whole. It fairly shrieks backlot approximation of Central America, what Taylor refers to as a “whisky and quinine resort.” He starts off staring down a process projected storm, his final fag smoked and fingers dug into an empty pack, noir device and actor artifice surely taught at Pasadena Playhouse and points east to the Atlantic, foolproof thesping stratagem and I love it, cigarettes an always reliable crutch. People smoked for plenty good reasons and maybe dying sooner was worth it for a lot of them. Had Robert Taylor been warned, which I assume he was, and often, would he have quit? His Bribe character is named Rigby Reardon, a name I’d not dream up writing fiction a hundred years. Steve Martin was also Rigby Reardon in a 1982 send-up of noir called Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, woven from old footage dropped into new action, The Bribe a principal source and most representative of a world Dead Men makers sought to recreate. I went more to see the old clips than laugh at Martin, little enough to inspire the latter, was astonished by pains Universal took to match vintage views with ’82 effort at duplicating the look. Here was isolated occasion where real effort/expense went to presenting past film as it could/once did look. Imagine reward had they forgot Steve Martin and given us The Bribe, plus others excerpted, intact. For the sake of matching old with new, labs for once applied maximum effort, showing what could be retrieved from original elements.




The Bribe
would not likely inspire Blu-Ray release, though I could be wrong (hope so). Plot turns on postwar concerns, valuable goods sold amongst scrap and salvage, in this case airplane engines, latter valued enough by thieves to justify payoffs and murder. Taylor is a federal man who comes within hairbreadth of “selling out,” him by postwar no guarantor for doing right things on screen, Undercurrent and High Wall two so far to darken the Taylor image, plus fact his once-celebrated looks took on almost devilish demeanor, what with widow’s peak more peaked and brows to speak sullen even where words did not. G-men were seldom corrupted during the Studio Era, virtually never prior to the war when they were most venerated, but we’re not for sure of Rigby till almost an end. Metro must have walked a thin line to get this story passed. Leo explored contraband themes a following year with Malaya, again with focus on exotic action, so were third worlds and offshoot islands hotbeds for smuggled goods? I began wondering if that junkyard Dana Andrews went to work for in The Best Years of Our Lives might make profitable way selling plane parts offshore and let chump taxpayers get it in the neck per usual, as Charles Laughton colorfully puts it in The Bribe. There is history here, as with any noir, if you want to sniff for it. Taylor sniffs mostly after Ava Gardner, who here plays variant on “Kitty Collins” from star-making The Killers, singing in bare midriff black attire against smoky cantina backdrop. You can regard what Metro does with setting like this and get time's worth, Gardner on hand or not. Visuals are the sell with much if majority of noir, and it is this upon which The Bribe excels (Joseph Ruttenberg director of photography). There is a Warner Archive DVD that could be improved upon, but still will do for pleasure The Bribe supplies.

3 Comments:

Blogger Dave K said...

Interesting group! Haven't caught CELL BLOCK yet, and it's been years since I've seen the other two - but I'm afraid my big take away here is wanting to track down DEAN MEN DON'T WEAR PLAID. A forty year old movie making fun of (then) forty year old movies, my memory of which is a cute idea that under-delivered. But I think that was my impression of all those early Steve Martin movies directed by Carl Reiner. However, for the first time in decades, I watched THE MAN WITH TWO BRAINS the other night and was shocked, not just with how really funny it was, but how well crafted as well. Might go looking for DEAD MEN.

10:38 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Brawl in Cell Block 99 is a helluva picture.Thank you for turning me on to it.

7:54 PM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

Dave K: Yes indeed, The Man With Two Brains is easily the best of the Martin/Reiner pictures, managing to be both hilariously funny and distinctly weird. My memory of Dead Men was sitting in the theater wanting to laugh but only managing chuckles here and there -- not because of anything funny being spoken, but just the idea of, say, Martin making a phone call to Bogart. The whole thing was a great concept, though, and not one likely to be repeated in 2063 with clips from today's movies.

However, I loved Breaking In when seeing it on its original release, and was disappointed it didn't start Burt Reynolds's comeback in a big way. From everything I've read about him, it wasn't just injuries and illness derailing him, but bad script choices that seem like deliberate career suicide, as if he didn't believe how good he really was.

For what it's worth, I attended a Myrna Loy tribute at, I believe, Carnegie Hall in the 1980s where the actress was in attendance, and several other major actors spoke. Burt Reynolds was one of them; he sounded really out of it, as if under the influence of something or other. It was only much later I knew the physical pain he was in during that time, and that he was likely on painkillers.

7:15 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

grbrpix@aol.com
  • December 2005
  • January 2006
  • February 2006
  • March 2006
  • April 2006
  • May 2006
  • June 2006
  • July 2006
  • August 2006
  • September 2006
  • October 2006
  • November 2006
  • December 2006
  • January 2007
  • February 2007
  • March 2007
  • April 2007
  • May 2007
  • June 2007
  • July 2007
  • August 2007
  • September 2007
  • October 2007
  • November 2007
  • December 2007
  • January 2008
  • February 2008
  • March 2008
  • April 2008
  • May 2008
  • June 2008
  • July 2008
  • August 2008
  • September 2008
  • October 2008
  • November 2008
  • December 2008
  • January 2009
  • February 2009
  • March 2009
  • April 2009
  • May 2009
  • June 2009
  • July 2009
  • August 2009
  • September 2009
  • October 2009
  • November 2009
  • December 2009
  • January 2010
  • February 2010
  • March 2010
  • April 2010
  • May 2010
  • June 2010
  • July 2010
  • August 2010
  • September 2010
  • October 2010
  • November 2010
  • December 2010
  • January 2011
  • February 2011
  • March 2011
  • April 2011
  • May 2011
  • June 2011
  • July 2011
  • August 2011
  • September 2011
  • October 2011
  • November 2011
  • December 2011
  • January 2012
  • February 2012
  • March 2012
  • April 2012
  • May 2012
  • June 2012
  • July 2012
  • August 2012
  • September 2012
  • October 2012
  • November 2012
  • December 2012
  • January 2013
  • February 2013
  • March 2013
  • April 2013
  • May 2013
  • June 2013
  • July 2013
  • August 2013
  • September 2013
  • October 2013
  • November 2013
  • December 2013
  • January 2014
  • February 2014
  • March 2014
  • April 2014
  • May 2014
  • June 2014
  • July 2014
  • August 2014
  • September 2014
  • October 2014
  • November 2014
  • December 2014
  • January 2015
  • February 2015
  • March 2015
  • April 2015
  • May 2015
  • June 2015
  • July 2015
  • August 2015
  • September 2015
  • October 2015
  • November 2015
  • December 2015
  • January 2016
  • February 2016
  • March 2016
  • April 2016
  • May 2016
  • June 2016
  • July 2016
  • August 2016
  • September 2016
  • October 2016
  • November 2016
  • December 2016
  • January 2017
  • February 2017
  • March 2017
  • April 2017
  • May 2017
  • June 2017
  • July 2017
  • August 2017
  • September 2017
  • October 2017
  • November 2017
  • December 2017
  • January 2018
  • February 2018
  • March 2018
  • April 2018
  • May 2018
  • June 2018
  • July 2018
  • August 2018
  • September 2018
  • October 2018
  • November 2018
  • December 2018
  • January 2019
  • February 2019
  • March 2019
  • April 2019
  • May 2019
  • June 2019
  • July 2019
  • August 2019
  • September 2019
  • October 2019
  • November 2019
  • December 2019
  • January 2020
  • February 2020
  • March 2020
  • April 2020
  • May 2020
  • June 2020
  • July 2020
  • August 2020
  • September 2020
  • October 2020
  • November 2020
  • December 2020
  • January 2021
  • February 2021
  • March 2021
  • April 2021
  • May 2021
  • June 2021
  • July 2021
  • August 2021
  • September 2021
  • October 2021
  • November 2021
  • December 2021
  • January 2022
  • February 2022
  • March 2022
  • April 2022
  • May 2022
  • June 2022
  • July 2022
  • August 2022
  • September 2022
  • October 2022
  • November 2022
  • December 2022
  • January 2023
  • February 2023
  • March 2023
  • April 2023
  • May 2023
  • June 2023
  • July 2023
  • August 2023
  • September 2023
  • October 2023
  • November 2023
  • December 2023
  • January 2024
  • February 2024
  • March 2024
  • April 2024
  • May 2024
  • June 2024
  • July 2024