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Monday, March 27, 2023

Film Noir #22

 


Noir: Chicago Confidential and Chinatown


CHICAGO CONFIDENTIAL (1957) --- Posters say “It Rips Through “Chi” Like a Hurricane,” but really it doesn’t, being cautious look at labor unions incorruptible except when outside racketeers muscle in. Corruption as everyday habit of brotherhoods was hands-off as in no such hint from a film industry very much close shopped by 1957. Whatever headlines from real life, there was no blaming union policy or leadership for any acts that might or should be prosecuted, leaving villainy to dog heavies (unbilled Jack Lambert) or long-in-tooth holdovers from the Capone era (Gavin Gordon as Mister Big). Compare Chicago Confidential with Scorsese’s The Irishman and hand yourself a laugh. Still this modest one is fun so long as expectation lays low, Chicago Confidential close as 1957 got to a B by once-definition. Brian Keith has his first starring role as State’s Attorney who is all-upright, and we could wonder how crime had any chance when civil authority is bleached so clean, especially where it’s Chicago we’re dealing with. Union head Dick Foran is object of a murder frame, subordinate Douglas Kennedy the bad apple who has wormed into Dick’s otherwise pristine labor group.



Where “waterfront derelict” Elisha Cook, Jr. is key witness for the prosecution, you’ve got to figure something fishy. It’s for Keith with help Beverly Garland to find new evidence that will spring Foran from the death house, key break courtesy “Ryder Sound Research,” real-life entity we see in old film credits, here rescuing wrongly accused by separating “alpha” and “beta” signals from recording of a human voice. Technology serves as restorer of lost hope as in Call Northside 777, White Heat among exhibits for tools presumed to be out of crime’s reach. With such resource at enforcement command, where’s worry for any innocent party? Hitchcock had sternly answered that question but a year before with The Wrong Man, his stance that chance alone might rescue the wrongly accused, accent on “chance” translating to hundred against one in favor of the rope.




CHINATOWN (1974) --- There was real life noir behind these cameras … Roman Polanski directing, and he can’t even enter the country anymore (warrants waiting), plus Robert Evans as producer, and what sleazy outcome awaited him (best not to read “final days” account). Evans and screenwriter Robert Towne tangled, along with J. Nicholson, on a sequel in 1990 that went sort of wrong, The Two Jakes, a magazine story detailing “very public collapse” of the project, this five years before the movie got released, but I’ll save The Two Jakes until it comes up among T's (when … in 2040?). For meantime, there is Chinatown, a picture much better to mine eyes than in 1974 being still young to grasp subtleties or understand truly what was going on. Seeing Chinatown at a drive-in first was bungle for which I should have had my moviegoing license revoked. Chinatown belongs to still and quiet of dark space, walls, ceiling, and a wide screen. It and Barry Lyndon work period spells better than anything I know from the seventies. If there is old-style noir as rendered thirty years late, this am it. Yet some are discomfited by Chinatown, lots because of tie-up explain re Noah Cross (John Huston), his daughter (Faye Dunaway), and “granddaughter.” It is shocking still, so imagine how it connected in 1974, but then Oedipus shocked them plenty too, and that was thousands of years ago. Billy Crystal hosted the Oscars one 90’s year and gagged up Chinatown’s showdown scene between Nicholson and Dunaway, him slapping and her crying She’s my sister, She’s my daughter. Billy’s joke fell flat because no one in the audience got the reference. He stood looking at blank faces and said, Rent the video. That’s how quickly they forget, even in Hollywood, especially in Hollywood. Chinatown was popular enough in 1974 to make it seem for a while as if pictures like this might come back, as in disciplined and classically structured. The screenplay by Robert Towne was “taught” by writing gurus for years to come … is it still?



The story of how Chinatown (barely) got made is another to illustrate the miracle of any great movie seeing light, especially in the seventies when lifestyle and habits were so appalling that it’s a wonder creators lived into the eighties, let alone to now (many of course did not). Reading Chinatown’s backstory and fate for participants is dark walk. Still, the picture speaks for them, and did, I think, redefine noir as that language would be spoke after. Good as it
was, Farewell My Lovely of a following year seems quaint by comparison, an old movie done new, but stuck still in mindset of old. Chinatown seized relevance by centering its story on evil doings that really happened, water as most valued resource and worth killing to get. There are books on this topic, and I bet they are scary too. Was Noah Cross right when he said given the right time or circumstance, people are capable of anything? And how many less old buildings are left in L.A. than in 1974? Seems I read they had problems locating authentic surviving spots when 1990 time came to do The Two Jakes. Reminds me of when we drove through Culver City looking for where Laurel and Hardy shot shorts, precious few recognizable places found. Vanished sites of Los Angeles is such bittersweet aspect of film noir, be it buildings and housing used for Chinatown, or long-gone Bunker Hill that enlivened features from after the war and into the sixties. Easy to lament loss of all this when you see what took its place. You Tube explains via melancholy tours uploaded there.

ANOTHER FORGET: Checking Greenbriar index site just now and discovered a column from 2015 about Chicago Confidential. Doesn't overlap much, so HERE it is for CC second helping.




Monday, March 20, 2023

Tall Order of 50's Sci-Fi


Wade and Wood's and Other Worlds


Lost again amidst peruse of Filmfax, early issues crash upon shoal of what uncultivated call “bad” or more tactful, “camp” movies. If we still enjoy them, what else counts? Detox from four-day binge yields confess of watching these: Curucu --- Beast of the Amazon, Invaders from MarsThe Brain from Planet Arous, Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman, Night of the Ghouls (aka Revenge of the Dead), and 3-D capper Revenge of the Creature. Many monkeys on one’s back, but no apology or regret for any. I’m like Glenn of the local Tastee-Freez who proudly hung portraits of Rocky Lane and Lash La Rue about the place to remind us who his idols were. They still adorn walls ten years past Glenn’s passing (he would be 99 this year). I ate a ham biscuit ‘neath his lobby card for Santa Fe Saddlemates and reflected on what genre immersion does to healthy minds. Conclusion: It’s all to good! Let’s glory then for revisit to John Agar, Ed Wood, Yvette Vickers, Tor Johnson, Beverly Garland, cracked role models, beloved totems, splendid artists they all were. Most lived to realize how loved they were by generation that was mine and younger, plus some older, good to know reward came their way if not pecuniary ones. Is glory and fan hugs worth more than mere money? They found out, though I don’t recall any addressing such cosmic query. Those to meet-greet took ten-fifteen dollars for signature upon dupe stills, but was real reward looking up and into eyes of grown folk who revere you?



Having last revisited Filmfax Issues 1-4, I chose 1987’s 5-8 to explore. Here is how far back dedicated nostalgia for 50’s sci-fi goes, not just on my part, but for fair chunk of so-called “boomer” readership, Filmfax casting wide net to genre readership, seen upon shelves at book chains now broke or rusted. Border’s and Waldenbooks once were mighty, since gone, Barnes and Noble breathing, but will it stand like mighty oak that still is Filmfax? 1986 being birth of the venerable mag, let’s ponder thirty-seven-year distance tween 1986 and 2023. Rocky and Lash’s time finally passed --- when will Agar and Tor’s? Reminder that pilot light yet burns came with recent release of Invaders from Mars on 4K, restored to within inch of nirvana by Scott MacQueen of everlasting Doctor X and Mystery of the Wax Museum fame. Here’s the remarkable thing: Invaders from Mars was already intense object for childhood nostalgia when Filmfax did lengthy profile and appreciation in 1986, their second issue, a year infidels remade the classic in mistaken belief it could effectively be “updated.” Fans knew better then, the more so now. Jimmy Hunt was along for thirty anniversary recall, now back for sixty year reverie with a movie he did before I was born, my interface with Invaders from Mars not till 1964 on a snowy tube in black-and-white. Rose-hue mythology has grown around varied childish intros to Invaders from Mars. Seems everyone was terrified by initial sight of saucer landing that undid Jimmy and loving parents about to be corrupted by aliens, It could happen to me! sear upon evident all who watched at tender age.



Did Invaders from Mars similarly chill me at age ten when Charlotte’s Channel 3 ran it late one Friday night, my mother losing contest over which would fade first, her on the couch to sleep or Invaders to end of broadcast day and a test pattern? She lost, and yes, I wondered momentarily what might happen if Martians took possession of she and my father, but nah, it was no more likely than giant Gila monsters breaching our screen porch. Had I seen Invaders from Mars theatrically with its wackadoodle Cinecolor in 1953, impressions might have been deeper, more permanent. Speculation led me to friend Skip, who did experience Invaders from Mars plus every other sci-fi landmark when they were new. Did Invaders rock his nine-year-old world? He says no, liked it yes, though more Martians of monstrous mien would have helped. He got way more unease from the 1952 reissue of Cat People, not to mention The Thing when new in summer 1951. And here I go proud for remembering stuff like The Earth Dies Screaming first-run. Invaders from Mars first cut deep when Moon Mullins let go his 35mm Cinecolor trailer in 1974, a first time I’d see stark reds and greens and blues, if bite-sized for the two-three minute preview. 4K is marvelous sure, but when my mind conceives Invaders from Mars, it still is scrap off Moon’s shelf, evidence again that penetration by any film comes of early expose, time in life where willingness is there to be transformed.


Warning: Two at this Table are Alien Possessed, and Joyce Meadows is Not One of Them


Which obliges me to admit that nostalgia, embedded though it is, still needs perk we call “restoration,” or remastering, or just-found footage, to make viewing fresh again, innocence reclaimed if somehow the movie can be reborn. I seldom turn to old sci-fi unless there is something suddenly “new” about it. Troubling analogy might be others coming to ignore the old me, challenge being to reveal novel aspect of myself and be engaging again. A restoration of body and mind as it were, if not full 4K. Consider puppy in the pound that was Brain from Planet Arous, till recent object of contempt that was full-frame transfer from twenty years back, now a glistening 1.85 like theatres had it in 1957. Arous was independently made, given “Howco” release, fast shuffle to leave makers bare coffee and cakes, latter w/o sugar or glaze, coffee bereft of cream. Here’s for Fun Fact: J. Francis White, Howco co-chieftain, was born and lived in North Carolina. My father often played golf with him at Blowing Rock, told Mr. White of the son he had who collected movies and stuff. Next outing upon links saw forward of stills to me, on-set candids of Lash LaRue and others. This was in the mid-eighties, so why did I not volunteer to caddy for the group and learn more? By belated presence of mind, J. Francis White had passed (1987, age 85). Anyway, he exec-produced Brain from Planet Arous, whatever cloudy thing that meant (I’d assume completion cash Howco supplied). One who ran Arous to latter-day earth was Wade Williams, Midwest champion for film others figured worthless, decades he spent gathering negatives to yield what we call treasure today.



Wade departed recent, having stood criticism from a fan community that kept demanding his bounty toot sweet on Blu-Ray. In fact, some of it had begun trickling out before Wade’s death, including Brain from Planet Arous. Worth a long wait? Depends on disposition … mine leans toward love of whatever has John Agar and aliens and John Agar. Is it good will from gifts that were Tarantula and The Mole People at the Liberty in summer 1964? I propose pistol duel with anyone who’d call Agar a bad actor. In fact, he was the best, indeed the only, man who ideally played Agar parts, his an ingrained instinct to capture spirit of singular art that was sci-fi done cheap but always sincere, an approach not condescending nor spoofy. The planet Arous has sent two brains to engage with us, one good, the other distinctly bad. Agar must cope with both, the bad taking possession of him, result two Agars, dual rendering of personalities, magnificent as both. Good brain enters the skull of a dog, a device I’ve not seen deployed elsewhere. The dog lends less shading to his part than Agar however, being docile both pre and post-metamorphosis. Fifties sci-fi sets certain rules we of faith willingly observe, like with Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman, another uptick to High-Def and proper wide since flat and scissored by commercials on Channel 8-High Point. What if benign spirit came down and said, Get aboard, John, I’m taking you back to enjoy Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman same way you did on TV in 1965, blue skies and Saturday morning and hope and all the rest of it. What then would I reply? Sorry Archangel, not without HD and 1.85.



Yvette Vickers was a fine actress who never got her due. So was Allison Hayes. They both have parts more colorful in Fifty Foot Woman than women in “lobster” movies circa 50’s (lobster short for mainstream in Rick Sullivan’s Gore Gazette of lamented past). Something outlaw drives performances Vickers/Hayes give, being outside bounds, so why not give it the gas? Least respectable often yields most reward. Yvette was interviewed in an early Filmfax. I read it realizing every fact (or “Fax”) would be familiar. She chatted re 50 Ft. and other cheapies, like Giant Leeches where Vickers blood was drained s-l-o-w-l-y to still disturbing effect. Speaking which, Yvette’s own end, and talk about disturbing. If life pays off to the deserving, why didn’t someone look in on her? (months alone to mummify … ghastly) Another who died depleted and seeming forgot was Edward D. Wood, Jr., a name I like reciting full as endorse for Ed’s dignity, which he merited by being always there and work-ready, image kindly captured by Tim Burton’s bio-film. I made march through Night of the Ghouls (aka Revenge of the Dead), my thumb sore of pressing fast forward it's true, but job at long last done, and pleased for the doing. Here was infamous one rescued by Wade Williams from storage because Ed Wood couldn’t pay the lab tab. Wade did, and gave Night/Dead back to posterity. One more reason to salute both he and Wood.





Wade was a prince to me during chase after 35mm, going extra miles to make sure I was happy with deals made, him country-wide connected with rare prints. We talked frequent on collecting in general and he taught me lots. Never met Wade in person, a regret. I call Bride of the Monster and Plan 9 From Outer Space D.G.M’s (Darn Good Movies), but concede Night/Dead for runt of Wood chiller litter, Bela and Vampira sorely missed, too little of Tor and Criswell to compensate. Forrest Ackerman in Famous Monsters featured Revenge of the Dead like a new movie coming soon, and I waited for it, but nothing followed trumpets. Of Universal sci-fi, or “weirdies” as trade labeled them, all but one saw Blu-Ray, holdout Curucu, Beast of the Amazon till recent when “Vinegar Syndrome” served it to eager fandom. Curucu went on location that were living hell for cast/crew, this told colorfully by Beverly Garland in Filmfax, plus elsewhere by John Bromfield, writer-director Curt Siodmak. Did film folk suffer more for their craft in the fifties? To come home from ordeal of Bridge on the River Kwai left at least pride of accomplishment in a job worthwhile, but Curucu? And yet there were dividends, for Curucu played to endless midnights while Kwai dwelled solely it seemed in respectable primetime. Curucu is celebrated for being bad, not like others from Universal (even Mole People and Mantis have adherents, including me). Turns out U-I did not make Curucu, but bought it after completion by independents. There is color, a depart from Universal norm, jungly fun if a largely non-existent “monster” (mere man in scary get-up). An admitted cheat, especially when you compare outcome with posters set out for bait.



Last of sci-fi gorge came with replace I had put off of a defective Revenge of the Creature disc from Universal’s Gill Man Legacy set of seasons back, where for some reason Revenge looked lousy in 3-D. What refresh to get right this personal favorite of the Creature trio. Among things that make 3-D fun: insects flying in foreground appear like real ones in my den, me hopping off the chair for a swatter at one point. Magic of movies indeed, a trick to still work after sixty-eight years. The Creature of all monsters deserved least the many intrusions made upon his privacy. Was there an actor considered “best” at playing the Gill Man, or were they interchangeably tall, stunt proficient, swimmer guys? Tom Weaver and crew gave solid account of this and related data in The Creature Chronicles, which I consulted again after watching Revenge. Green suit wearers did shows through the nineties and then some. So did screamers plus idol Agar. I loaned Ben Chapman my pen at the Beverly Garland Hotel register, encountered Agar exiting a 16mm Revenge screening. Someone mentioned John Bromfield and he grinned, shook his head, and repeated “Bromfield!” as if to recall an unforgettable character. Julia Adams and Lori Nelson were present and autograph friendly. We imagined somehow that it would always be like this, film folk like then-still living parents to give glimpse of past we hoped never would pass. Is it really sixty years since I built an Aurora Creature model, bought for a dollar? To add authentic 3-D to Revenge of the Creature is such sweetener, like what they did for Invaders from Mars with 4K, plus sharpen and size to Arous, Fifty Foot, the rest. If all these can be made lovely again, surely there is hope of renewal for us all.





Monday, March 13, 2023

Two More Silents Salvaged

 


A Frank Borzage Double, and Both are Good


Characters in Frank Borzage pictures have a way of turning into real people, a gift with this director. Two of his silent features, obscure or absent till now, newly out on DVD, are the expected revelations. Back Pay and The Valley of Silent Men, both 1922, were programmers of their day, modest enough for Borzage to let better instinct that was his guide outcome. I’m beginning to think the best silents will turn out to be ones we haven’t found yet. If stuff this good still sits amidst archive shelving, there clearly is much to look forward to. Thing lately changed, and much for the better, is access to so far buried bounty. Fans so motivated can acquire and release newborn classics without begging studios dumb to what they own, yet still unwilling to share. Crowd-funding, which means those willing to step to the fore, make it possible to own titles largely lost till now, recent examples noted at Greenbriar the Billy Bevan collection, When Knighthood Was In Flower, Valley of the Giants, many more presently or to come. The whole of a silent era is soon to enter public domain, most of it already has. Donor restrictions make best elements unavailable on some titles --- is there is a modern Solomon who could resolve this? Meantime there is much at accommodating Library of Congress to serve desire of collectors --- they are where these Borzages came from, project initiated by Andrew Simpson, composer, performer, and conductor with a specialty in silent film music. Simpson adds benefactor of long unseen gems to his resume, the Borzages prepared in partnership with Undercrank Productions, a label well known for prior quality releases on DVD and Blu-Ray.




Back Pay
has familiar melodrama device of a small town woman suffocating midst quaint customs and folk she feels no common bond with. A sympathetic swain is small comfort, his ambition mere (to her) $100 a month he hopes to earn as clerk for dry goods. Borzage maybe sees her point, though a picnic he stages that the couple attends is so lovely as to bespeak paradise rural life could be and often was before city-country lines got blurred. Seena Owen is restless “Hester Bevins.” I knew Owen if at all from stills in the Griffith-Mayer book where she chased Gloria Swanson with a bullwhip in Queen Kelly, so clearly there is much to learn yet of silent players and what they're up to in features too long missing. Hester moves to New York and becomes kept asset of Wall Street magnate Wheeler (J. Barney Sherry), a character refreshing for at all times being reasonable and to my mind a better bargain than any rube back home whatever respectable intentions he’d bring to bare tables. Hester sacrifices comfort to do a series of right things that Borzage makes palatable for sensitive handling of what could be cliche in lesser hands. Fannie Hurst wrote Back Pay story, Frances Marion the scenario. Both had careers finding interest in lives of women put to moral questions, and things aren't changed so radically since their day that we cannot still be moved by drama sincerely dealt. I’m hearing that Back Pay has capacity still to move modern viewership; it did me thanks to sincerity applied by Hurst-Marion-Borzage, no rote villainy on anyone’s part just to clinch sympathies and wrap things up. Such lazy devices go happily missing here. Back Pay is mature filmmaking and I’m guessing there was lots more of it among programmers we don’t know for simple fact they are not out there to be seen.




Co-feature of the Borzage box is The Valley of Silent Men, based on a thick novel by James Oliver Curwood, whose work often found way to screens. Valley I’d watch again just for snowscapes done among Canadian drifts, clear hardship for Lew Cody and Alma Rubens who star, let alone Borzage and crew dragging gear up-down peaks (there’s a location still of that, too poor quality to snatch for here, but finished film gives plenty evidence of what this bunch went through). Harsh background was desired by 1922 for stories set in wilds. Again I’m exposed to leads frankly unfamiliar for too few silents seen. So Cody and Rubens both died young … 1934 and 1931, her from heroin addiction of long standing. These people seem ghostly for being less on screens than on pages of Hollywood Babylon or like trash. Here in quality from 35mm source and vivid-as-being-there backdrop, we get how capable these troupers did the drama thing plus staying alive for work I would have turned down for simple cowardice (Thanks Mr. Borzage, but call me when you do a drawing room comedy). The Valley of Silent Men is assembled from reels, parts, portions extant, plus titles, some stills, to fill narrative gaps, coherence maintained, these mattering less because it’s outdoor stuff we want, and all of that is breathtaking. I never saw thirties or forties talkers do so much with harshest setting. Bet Borzage looked longingly on days when men-women were men-women as he sat comfortable on Metro soundstages later. He had proved mettle well, as The Valley of Silent Men clearly shows. Both these Borzage features belonged once to Marion Davies, being Cosmopolitan productions backed by Hearst. Why did she preserve them? But let’s thank her sainted memory for doing so, for if not for Marion, neither Back Pay or The Valley of Silent Men would survive today.





Monday, March 06, 2023

Film Noir #21


Noir: Calcutta, Casino, and China Moon


CALCUTTA (1947) --- No more nice guy Alan Ladd slaps a murder confession out of dewy Gail Russell, shock to see such angelic visage abused, hers a face that couldn’t harm flies, a least believable of femme fatales. Noir was often for off-casting to keep kettles at  boil lest we get complacent as to who might do what. Ladd and pal William Bendix are fliers “over the hump” (dangerous mountain ranges) between China and wherever Calcutta lies on the map (I haven’t checked), all this done on terra firma that was Paramount’s lushly dressed backlot. Ladd movies were best dressed for him being payroll's MVP. Understood in vehicles was his not wanting to settle with any woman, strictly hit-and-run, poised always for next risk of limb in danger zones, a sort men dreamed to be and women to possess. I don’t think Ladd married onscreen until The Iron Mistress, and that didn’t sit so well for fans who liked him riding off solo at wind-ups, Shane classic application of this. He travels fastest who travels alone and all that. Calcutta has plenty noir, if on exotic ground, who one can trust the principal issue for Ladd or any who ends up dead for misplaced loyalty. Fix for that is putting faith in nobody, except maybe good girl having been around, June Duprez, whose booby prize Calcutta was for coming to Hollywood expecting to be a bigger star than back in England doing The Thief of Bagdad. She’d return chastened after Calcutta, but is good in it, as is Russell, always a fascination for tragic backstory we know of her. Writing and producer credit went to Seton I. Miller, who knew melodrama all over. Did any do these well as him? Formula where truly understood isn’t really formula anymore. John Farrow directs, good news in Paramount credits, same for Victor Young with scoring. Atmosphere in Ladds I wouldn’t trade for anyone else’s effort. Let’s see Kino release them all, assuming rights and a lease can be finessed. For the meantime, Calcutta is here on Blu-Ray as part of a Kino noir box.



CASINO (1995) --- My family visited Las Vegas (briefly) in 1962. Seeing Casino, I’m surprised I got out alive. Few movies are more celebrated at You Tube than Casino. Fans don’t just watch … they worship. Videos compile all of killings contained in its three-hour run time. I confess to knowing them by heart, can visualize each in order. Director Martin Scorsese is scrupulous as to setting. A first long section of Casino tells reality of Vegas on such terms as I never knew; you could wish they’d scotch the narrative and let all of length be documentary. How many mobsters of gone days are left? Quite a few were around when Casino was made, many helping out as to authenticity, but that’s over twenty-five years ago, and from what I understand, gangsters don’t live terribly long. But look at Scorsese! He does Good Fellas, then this, and decades later, The Irishman. We should pass a rule that he only make crime films, limiting sure, but hog that is me wants more. Scorsese too is a treasure among historians, him participating in special edition DVD’s always welcome. Is there trace of Casino life left in Vegas? My impression is of a place more like Disney World, having seen footage of old hotels collapsed by wrecker crews, then replaced by modern-in-most-enervating sense. Gambling as a compulsion is shown, also cheaters and what becomes of them in back rooms. What if I had been mistaken for a crook at age eight and given choice between money and the hammer? I don’t remember being sorry when we drove away from Vegas, a place perhaps to awe too much. I like how performers play themselves as immersed in corrupt business of Casino. They were maybe proud for getting through the era with their skin. Was any entertainer beaten, killed, at least warned, for not playing Vegas when commanded? Frankie Avalon might know, for he’s in Casino as Frankie Avalon. Others who understood appear … Alan King, Don Rickles … oh to know their private thoughts at the time. Whatever his perfidies, I like “Ace Rothstein” as limned by Robert DeNiro and regret to see him pulled down so far in Casino’s second half. From the moment Sharon Stone enters the show, fun is over (not that she isn’t good as a bad influence). Casino streams everywhere, including sometimes on the inside of my eyelids.



CHINA MOON (1994) --- We got socked with “erotic thrillers” after Basic Instinct and Fatal Attraction made respective marks. There were enough in fact to rattle brains. One called Fatal Instinct, meant to be a spoof, had been preceded by another with the same title a year before, and soon such were stacked high as pyramids. Best after a while to take them all for comedy, each cork-screwier than the last. This has Ed Harris as helpless snare in temptress trap baited by Madeleine Stowe, who surely felt life doing movies should not come to this. Harris can't help being good, but here was tall tree to climb, trouble being so many others had scooted up before. Do beautiful women invariably end up with louse husbands? Orion Pictures made China Moon in 1990-91, went bust, filed for bankrupt, did not release outcome until 1994. Should I ever meet Ed Harris, I must ask him (and Ms. Stowe) if they got paid for China Moon … bet such query would unleash tirade of bad recall. Not to knock result, China Moon going by numbers we can enjoy if not respect, proof that bad noir may yet get by. Stowe must jump naked in a lake at one point, which event common to E.T.’s (erotic thrillers) always makes me wonder (1) how cold is water, (2) how muddy, and (3) are there bad fish waiting? Harris and Stowe perform initial passion under and above surface, interlude one could wish for the Creature and Julie Adams, had 1954 been so progressive. Like many of its kind, China Moon gets snaky enough in a third act to make it seem we slept through vital info imparted earlier, but no, it is but reminder that life is random and so especially is generic noir. Give in to that and China Moon will please.

grbrpix@aol.com
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