Brainquake by Samuel Fuller

brainquakeSamuel Fuller was of course a writer before he became a director, writing books and screenplays following an early career as a New York crime reporter, and I’ve found his deliriously pulp novel Brainquake a fascinating insight into his films- while at the same time, having seen a few of his films now (both written and also those directed) those films also provide an insight into this book. Certainly, there’s elements of Underworld U.S.A. clearly on display here in how it describes the machinations of the criminal underworld which the novel’s chief protagonist, Paul Page works for as a bagman. The woman that Paul betrays his criminal overlords for, Michelle, has clear precedents in some of the strong but desperate women that are seen in the films.

Brainquake was written when his Hollywood career was over, and published (in English, at least), posthumously. My ‘education’ regards Fuller’s filmography  is obviously incomplete but I can easily see how this book could be seen as a ‘Greatest Hits’ for Fuller, and parts of this book’s charm is imagining it as one of those brash, larger-than-life black & white noir adventures that I have been watching on Blu-ray of late. That being said, its also clear that while its got many Fuller tropes (for want of a better word) its also a cheeky self-indulgence, Fuller writing things he knew he could never get away with in a film. Even Tarantino would struggle to get away with some of this, but it would be marvellous, now that I consider it, to see him try. Mostly this regards Father Flanagan, a hit man for the Mob who is always dressed as a Catholic priest who nails his victims to walls in the manner of crucifixion, and who mentally pictures all the women he meets as naked. Imagining his scenes in a film with all the actresses alternatively dressed and undressed depending upon us ‘seeing’ the scenes through Flanagan’s eyes, was a major part of the fun of the book.

Its wild, its crazy, its quite intoxicating; but its absolutely a rollercoaster ride and quite a page-turner. Its definitely a Samuel Fuller book- nobody else could have written it.

Indy’s not-so last Crusade

indy3Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, 1989, 127 mins, 4K UHD

Looking back on the Indiana Jones saga, its clear that the balance between action and comedy, drama and sheer fun, established so well in Raiders… well they never got that timeless, matinee-movie balance right again, not even close. I know many believe that Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is the best of the sequels, but I much prefer Temple of Doom, although that too has its own flaws, but I certainly believe time has been kinder to Temple of Doom than it has been to Last Crusade.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is evidently a reactionary film, leaning towards comedy and light adventure following the mischevious darkness of much of Temple of Doom and going, well, just too far. Spielberg seems to have lost the deft touch he displayed in Raiders– as I noted in a recent post, in that film the camera is doing all sorts of things to imaginatively move the story forwards; it could have worked as a silent movie. But that’s largely missing in this third film. While Raiders felt like something inspired, here there’s something coldly calculated about it, the placing of action beats, reprising the structure and sometimes even set-pieces (Raiders had Indy chasing a truck on a horse, now its Indy chasing a tank on a horse, and the ensuing fight on the vehicle against Nazi solders); Lucas and Spielberg obviously wanted to bring all the fun back and perhaps just didn’t know where to stop. What, after all, is the actual point of the diversion to Berlin for the Hitler gag?

Its all rather hard work, to be honest- the story is disjointed, and doesn’t really make a lot of sense. The film is largely carried by the chemistry between Harrison Ford and Sean Connery, their banter and the comedy that sparks from them. Without that, we’d largely be left with a film remarkably close in quality to the much-maligned Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Seriously: imagine it without Sean Connery’s character: we’d have the same convoluted, nonsensical plot, the surrounding non-characters, the same tired and sometimes ridiculous action set-pieces, as muddles Crystal Skull. Mind, Harrison Ford is as brilliant as ever- back in his prime he was such a dead ringer for matinee idols of old, there’s really been nobody quite like him for decades, really, just a few pretenders, so whatever problems an Indiana Jones film might have, its always watchable just to see Harrison Ford and his gift for physical acting, comic timing and just sheer charm in front of the camera.

I must note that this film looked particularly good in 4K UHD; its a very fine-looking disc with a highly detailed, filmic image in which the HDR really does add a ‘pop’ and sense of depth. Its a gorgeous-looking disc and likely the best I’ve ever seen the film, even compared to its original theatrical showing.

Last Week: one film leads to another. Endlessly.

they live byReal-life distractions got in the way of posting reviews last week, and it was a pretty weird week all round. I watched Nicholas Ray’s noir thriller They Live by Night having recorded it off a film channel on the cable box- not the best quality, and certainly no doubt far inferior to the Criterion Blu-ray which I nearly bought in their last sale several months back. Well, next sale-time I’ll be rectifying that mistake, because it was an outrageously great film and one I want to watch again in better quality. It really was one hell of a film.

Its a funny thing- for some reason, this particular January is actually becoming one of the best months I’ve had for catching really good films, although it is also becoming a little expensive purchasing catalogue titles on Blu-ray: my problem is how films seem to endlessly lead to others. You see a great film by one director and it leads to looking up what else he/she directed, or you are impressed by an actor so you look up their filmography. Sometimes it is the featurettes on a disc that do the deed, referencing films that I haven’t seen, which is great if they are accessible on streaming services but frustrating if it requires purchasing titles on disc. For example, a featurette on Indicator’s The Reckless Moment disc -and that’s another great film I need to post a review of soon- referenced James Mason and some of his films made around the time The Reckless Moment was made- one of which was Carol Reed’s Odd Man Out, which from the scenes shown in the featurette looked interesting enough to get me buying it on a Blu-ray from network, but which itself somehow then led me to another Carol Reed film, The Fallen Idol, which again looked really interesting, and as both that and Carol Reed’s The Third Man are in a sale at both HMV and Amazon….

scarlst2Back to The Reckless Moment though, because I was so impressed by Joan Bennett in that film that I went looking at her filmography. Fortunately Fritz Lang’s noir Scarlett Street which starred Bennett was on Amazon Prime, and while it wasn’t the best quality (its obvious streamers dump these older films on their services without much attention to print quality etc), at least it was in its original black and white. Unfortunately, the edition of Lang’s The Woman in the Window, another noir starring Bennett, which is  available on Amazon Prime, is a colourised version (I thought those had been outlawed long ago, but colourised movies somehow still seem to be surfacing). My goodness its unwatchable, I switched that travesty off within minutes of it starting, so my only current avenue for that film seems to be a Blu-ray from Eureka. Oh my wallet. I did spot another Joan Bennett on a cable movie channel so have recorded it – The Woman on the Beach, which I’ll give a try, if only because it also features Robert Ryan- yeah, him. Again. Mind, goodness only knows what films both The Woman in the Window and The Woman on the Beach possibly lead to.

Strangely enough, I found myself watching two more episodes of 1970s popular cop show Starsky and Hutch last week. I don’t know why I’m so cruel to myself, but nostalgia can be a rude mistress. Anyway, one of these two episodes in particular was of some passing interest- the third season episode The Action, from 1978, featured an extraordinarily young Melanie Griffiths in a guest role, and also M Emmet Walsh (only a few years away from Blade Runner) and James B. Sikking, later of Hill Street Blues fame and parts in both Outland and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. That episode seems ridiculously overloaded with notable guest stars. The second episode I watched was a late fourth-season episode, with the series clearly on its last legs,  my attention drawn by the episode title (Starsky vs.Hutch, which was intriguing but the actual episode quite another matter). I stuck with the episode because of it featuring an unrecognisable Yvonne Craig (Bargirl sorry, Batgirl, in the Adam West Batman tv show) in a very minor -insultingly so, really, I has a hard time tracking her down- role, and the great Richard Lynch as the villain. Lynch played a psychopathic Vietnam veteran who hated blondes, hunting a dating bar/dance hall – only the brunettes were safe (but he wasn’t fooled by blonde wearing a dark wig, the cunning bastard). Lynch seemed to be a regular bad guy in television shows of that era (Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, The A-Team, you name it he was a villain in it) and he had a notable turn in the fantasy flick The Sword and the Sorcerer (a poor-mans Conan which I gather is getting a 4K release before the John Milius film, somehow. Crazy world.).

On a curiously related note, I did see the very end of Conan The Barbarian during the week, catching the last moments of a showing on television when flicking the channels late at night. Every time I catch the end or mid-point of a film I have on disc -the Dirty Harry films were on over Christmas, so those are a few others- showing on the telly late at night, I think, wow, I’d love to sit and watch this right now, but its always at some ungodly hour. I must have had more stamina for late, late movie watching in the old days. I just can’t do it anymore.

Friday of course brought the final-ever episode of The Expanse (I’m still hoping that Amazon or Alcon Entertainment or the showrunners are bluffing us about it being The End). I had a long day work-wise on Friday (not helped by an eleventh-hour report of sickness re: our old nemesis, Covid) so had to bide my time until late in the evening before I could watch it. It was a bittersweet experience- a great finale, certainly, but we all know there’s three more books waiting to be adapted (as well as a few novellas) so we know the story isn’t complete and indeed, the seeds laid at the start of each of this season’s episodes for what happens beyond this final episode only added to the frustrations of all fans, I expect. But yeah,  its clear that the sixth book was a good cutting-off point (in the books there is a 30-year gap between books six and seven) so it makes some kind of sense. Anyway, Expanse Season Six is another post in the queue list. It seems a long time since I wrote about its first season, years ago; I just can’t believe I’m now writing about its ending.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture

STtmpStar Trek: The Motion Picture, 1979, 132 mins, 4K UHD 

Looking back on it, I’m tempted to suggest -sweeping over-generalisation that it is- that Star Trek: The Motion Picture is a pretty clear marker of the old giving way to the new. Star Trek: The Motion Picture has the feel of Old Hollywood, of creative teams more used to making westerns and crime thrillers suddenly getting scripts featuring aliens and spaceships. There’s a sense of people suddenly making sci-fi films with no interest in such genre material, and little affinity for it – indeed, at a time when such material was considered the realm of the cheap b-movie quickie. The days of genre fans/geeks who grew up loving the stuff then making genre films would still be a few years away, but already with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg the changing times were clear: post-Jaws and Star Wars, Hollywood was still in transition, and the old guard hadn’t yet been replaced by the geeks. So Hollywood sci-fi was still Logan’s Run, The Black Hole and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. 

In the case of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, that’s possibly its strength. It feels like a serious (albeit often misguided, at times) attempt to make a great ‘Motion Picture!’ back when that still meant something (today any distinction of quality between television and cinema is largely gone). Its not played for laughs, there’s no dodgy sets, there’s no geek in-jokes and surprisingly low-key fan-service if any at all (I suspect much of what we’d identify today as ‘fan-service’ in the film is actually incidental). It’s not 2001, and neither is it Star Wars, but rather it sits somewhere in between, in a place few genre films have dared position themselves (maybe Interstellar would be a modern example). I am endlessly surprised whenever I re-watch the film over the years, just how refreshing it is, and enjoyable.

Indeed, having recently read Robert Preston Jones’ superlative oral history of the film, Return to Tomorrow, I’m actually more surprised than ever that the film even got finished and in sufficient shape to be considered a film at all. Its possibly a textbook lesson of how NOT to make a film. The script wasn’t finished when they were shooting the live-action, the director and actors were cooking up the finale on the fly: imagine making a film like Ben-Hur and making the last reel on-set without a script (it wasn’t quite that bad, but not far off- I’m always amazed at films going into production without finished scripts but it continues to happen). The original effects team was great on ideas but lousy at execution, wasting millions of dollars in research and most importantly wasting priceless time. Once that effects team was largely dismissed (albeit most of the staff rehired), the deadline that Douglas Trumbull and his team/s were faced with, the task left them regards its scope and the visual effects it needed, back in that era of physical miniatures, lighting and motion-control rigs and photo-chemical printing… its mind-boggling.

The pacing is obviously the film’s biggest problem, something not helped by many visual effects shots hanging around too long or sequences being overloaded with just too many of them. Its tempting to suggest that Wise and/or the editor Todd Ramsay became too enamoured by all the expensive effects shots coming in at the eleventh hour but the simple truth is, the shots were all coming in very late (Preston’s book has some timeline stuff that is just jaw-dropping regards when models became available and filming happened and elements arrived at the optical printer etc) and they never had the perspective we have with the finished film- hence the justification of the Directors Cut. But considering how late everything was… its amazing that Jerry Goldsmith’s score was so good (in my mind the composers very best) and maybe having to cut the film to the timing estimates handed to Goldsmith which he scored the music to… well, little wonder the film’s pacing is dodgy.

The odd thing about this which bugs me, is when Trumbull and everyone got together with the script and storyboards, why didn’t they cut some of those boards? I find it hard to understand why, with effects teams working alternate day/nights shifts in at least three facilities working twelve to sixteen-hour days labouring over really difficult shots to unrealistic schedules, they didn’t rip up more of those boards. The Epsilon 9 and Orbital Office Complex sequences are obvious examples, featuring too many shots. The Orbital Office Complex is a lovely miniature and beautifully photographed, but do we need to see so many shots of its exterior before cutting to the interior and Kirk arriving? Clearly nobody could ‘see’ that so much of it would be redundant or could have been culled to allow more time and resources on stuff that really mattered. I suppose its a technology thing, nowadays films have CGI storyboards, and I recall ILM shot animatics as a guide for The Empire Strikes Back to help nail the pacing of effects shots/sequences like the Hoth battle.

But nonetheless, I still enjoy watching Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Many much prefer the second entry, Wrath of Khan, but for me there is always something special about the first. They aimed for greatness and largely failed but you have to admire that they tried, and watching it I often have a little mischevious fun berating the suits that enforced an unrealistic deadline agreed with theatres, and all the production cock-ups and crashing egos behind the scenes. Maybe this year’s version of the Directors Cut will indeed finally be the film it could/should have been; we’ll just have to wait and see…. (and yes, likely have to buy this film yet AGAIN).  So it seems I’m not quite finished writing about this film…

More Coming Attractions

I already seem to be falling behind on posting reviews, but here’s what I’ve been watching and will hopefully catch up with over the next week (mind, there’s still The Crimson Kimono and Ride the High Country already waiting..).

underworldusa

reckless

scarlet

indytemp4k

sttmpposter

dreamscapeposter

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom  and Star Trek: TMP are the 4K UHD editions finally caught up with, and Dreamscape… well, seeing Kate Capshaw in Temple of Doom reminded me I’d never seen that one- and really, I wish I still hadn’t seen it; horrible. Mind, its similarities to Inception not withstanding (could Christopher Nolan actually be a fan?) it did remind me of just how good Brainstorm is, for all its faults. I know, I know, going into other peoples dreams and a machine that records experiences aren’t the same thing but both films were made pretty close to each other and… well, one of them was pretty good. Why anyone want to buy, let alone own, a copy of Dreamscape for repeat viewing is quite beyond me, but I guess every film has its fans. Somewhere.  I just keep looking at that Dreamscape poster thinking, ‘that’s just not the same movie I just saw’.

Hollywood can sell ANYTHING.

The Protégé

ProtegeThe Protégé, 2021, 109 mins, Amazon Prime

Enlivened only by the winning performances of both Maggie Q and Michael Keaton, The Protégé is a typically nonsensical action flick that becomes increasingly preposterous as it goes on. It really makes me wonder where action movies go from here on, as they all seem to be becoming increasingly daft – The HItman’s Bodyguard films seem to be self-aware enough to be mocking their own silliness, but films like The Protégé, which seem earnestly serious, are in a celluloid dead-end now. For how long can we expect to see spies and killers and hitmen and thugs managing superhuman feats more suited to DC and Marvel heroes, and for how long can we suspend our disbelief watching wafer-thin beauties beating the shit out of gigantic assassins?

These action films seem to have become caught for several years now in an endless cycle of bigger and ever-more sophisticated stunts and feats of astonishing skills and its really in the arena of the superhuman now: indeed they have, I think, been infected and ruined by the comicbook capers dominating the box-office. Which is perfectly fine if you have a DC or Marvel logo at the head of the film, because at least then you know what you’re going to see is hyperbolic nonsense, but otherwise… well maybe a reset is in order.

I should at this point describe the plot of The Protégé, but its so unrelentingly stupid and even generic that it feels pointless. A young child, Anna, is saved and raised by an expert killer and naturally becomes a deadly assassin herself, as devastating with her fists, feet etc as she is beautiful… (broken bones and bullets don’t seem to stop her- maybe the bad guys should have tried kryptonite). When the killer that raised and trained her, played by no less than Samuel L Jackson – yes the casting is THAT generic- is murdered, Anna sets off on a mission of revenge and meets a male operative that seems her equal and one that she can respect, but is working for the other side. Dramatic, ain’t it? Okay that’s it, that’s enough of the plot, such as it is, albeit I didn’t mention the clunker of a twist that is possibly one of the biggest wtf moments that I will possibly be forced to stomach all year.

We really deserve better folks.

Shockproof

Shockproof, 1949, 80 mins, Blu-ray

sam7The clue is in the credits: Written by…. with Helen Deutsch’s name above that of Samuel Fuller. Which I didn’t really question when first watching the film, but in retrospect, considering how greatly the film is derailed by its lousy ending (which I mentioned in an earlier post) I should have smelled a rat. Turns out the script was entirely written by Samuel Fuller but the studio got nervous about its original conclusion so hired Helen Deutsch to give them a happy ending, which spoils the film terribly, and then to add further ignominy to it all, credited Deutsch above Fuller (ensured by Deutsch nabbing a co-producer credit too, further reward for arguably ruining the picture – that’s Hollywood folks).

But it is a terrible shame, because Shockproof is a great dramatic noir and has such a lot going for it, not least of which is Patricia Knight, whose performance here is particularly nuanced and arresting, and actually astonishing when one realises she had no formal acting training, according to what I’ve read about her since. She plays ex-con Jenny Marsh, whose parole officer Griff Marat (Cornel Wilde (Leave Her to Heaven)) is instantly attracted to her and whose attempts to ensure she goes straight may not be entirely professional or decent. Jenny served five years for murdering a man while defending her shady gambler lover, Harry Wesson (John Baragrey) and remains romantically involved with Harry, who stayed in contact with her during her incarceration. Griff threatens Jenny that she’ll break her parole if she continues seeing Harry, but while that seems reasonable, it also fits in with his own attraction to her and his attempt to be with her himself- to the extent of finding her a job within his own home, something against regulations. Griff further compromises himself by intending to secretly marry her, again against regulations, which is something which Harry and his criminal associates see as a way of ruining Griff’s prospects for political office, from where he could be trouble for them.

The brilliance of Shockproof, and of Knights’ performance, is that there is subterfuge and lies from the start. It is no mistake that prior to her first parole meeting with Griff, the brunette Jenny is seen shopping on Hollywood Boulevard for new clothes and visits a salon to have her hair dyed platinum blonde. She’s obviously using her sex and beauty as a possible distraction against Griff, assuming a role of wounded beauty, manipulating him to give her special treatment. This is tested immediately, as soon after her first meeting with Griff she is arrested with Harry in a police raid on a bookie joint, contrary to Griff’s instructions to stay away from her old lover and the criminal fraternity. Returned to Griff’s office and a likely immediate return to prison, Griff instead sends her to a doctor on the pretence of checking out her twisted ankle. Rather than just the physical examination it pretends to be, this is actually a psychological test of Jenny’s character which she passes, saying all the right things to the doctor, but unknown to Griff, Jenny has sussed it was a test and her responses are all an act to ensure he gives her another chance. She has no intention of breaking up with Harry and knows Griff’s fascination/attraction to her leaves him open to manipulation.

So far, so very noir and typical femme fatale. But there’s all sorts of things going on here. Griff’s attraction towards Jenny increasingly forces him to break the rules, and when she can’t get a job because of her criminal record, he gives her a job at his house which enables him to keep her close and romance her, which makes one wonder who is manipulating who? His controlling influence of who she can see, where she can go, becomes something possibly dark and questionable. Dependant on him for a job and a roof over her head, and living with his family, it could be argued that Griff’s seduction finally works when Jenny starts to have feelings for him too.

sam8Or does she? Because she’s also still in contact with Harry, who knows that Griff is breaking all the rules of his profession and therefore encourages Jenny to go along with it and lead Griff to ruin.

Shockproof is a brilliant tale of subversion and possible perversion. What makes it all work is Knight’s excellent performance- very often the viewer just can’t be sure if what she’s doing and saying is real or just part of an act. Are her growing feelings for Griff real? Just when you think her loyalties lie with Harry, who is clearly no good for her and likely manipulating her himself, one starts to wonder if her loyalties are really with Griff and her love for him genuine. And of course in the background one has to wonder if Griff’s feelings for her are natural or from some dark obsession of his own, manipulating a woman he knows is dependant upon him keeping her out of prison?

The chemistry between Wilde and Knight is inevitably genuine because they were actually a married couple when the film was made. There is an added tension to it which may stem from the fact that Knight later claimed that Wilde was a controlling and dominating figure in their marriage, and increasingly jealous- they were divorced soon after, in 1951. So does this inform the elements of Shockproof that suggest Griff’s controlling attentions towards Jenny and how he uses his professional authority over her are unhealthy and obsessive? It certainly seems to suggest an added darkness to it all.

sam9Incredibly, Knight only appeared in five films and one television episode, her acting career curtailed upon divorcing Wilde, which to me seems such a loss, because I really think she’s terrific in Shockproof. I can understand the impact she made upon Griff because she made such an impact upon me too. She’s beautiful and dangerous but there’s a fragility there. Possibly her limitations as a non-trained actress would have been found out in other roles, maybe its just that this one particularly suited her, but I think she was really impressive here, a femme fatale with some depth.

Which yes, brings us to the ridiculous ending. If you haven’t seen the film and wish to remain unspoiled, stop reading this post here and maybe come back later. In the film Jenny becomes increasingly desperate, caught between and manipulated by the two men in her life, and she eventually turns upon Harry after he threatens to ruin Griff, shooting him dead in a bizarre repeat/twist of her original crime years before. There is at least a suggestion that Jenny actually wanted to flee from both men, knowing its all destined to end badly, but instead she and Griff go on the run together. In Fuller’s original script, which was titled The Lovers, an increasingly desperate Griff and Jenny get into a shootout with cops and come to an ill end. In this reading, Griff’s love for Jenny is genuine and, as director Douglas Sirk observed, “something had changed… something had started blooming in (Griff’s) soul!”, something forbidden by his profession and society.

Instead, we get a ridiculous revelation that Harry isn’t actually dead, and he has a sudden change of heart/pang of conscience and takes the blame for the shooting himself in order to allow the lovers a wildly sudden and inappropriate happy ending: as bad a ‘love conquers all’ ending as any. Its so jarring that it is like it has suddenly become entirely another movie in its last five minutes. It doesn’t work at all, unless you subscribe to the inherent darkness of Griff’s own obsession and his own schemes winning out, which is digging out a noir ending not intended at all, but hey, that’s perhaps me just trying to save what is, other than the ending, a pretty great film.

Field of Dreams Expanded OST

FODexpFirst week of January, and they drag me back in. La La land Records have released one of my favourite scores, James Horner’s Field of Dreams, in a remastered/expanded edition- I’ve been waiting for this for years, but good lord, the shipping costs…

Well, who needs to eat? Guess I can miss putting fuel in the tank and maybe walk more. Yeah, its Field of Dreams. Been waiting for someone to expand this for almost as long as I’ve been waiting for Varese Sarabande to do right by Horner’s Brainstorm. Sure, its only expanded by about ten – twenty minutes depending upon how you look at it (ten minutes additional score and ten minutes of alternates) but… its Field of Dreams, one of my very favourite Horner scores, and indeed probably the one I’ve listened to the most, over the years- tender, emotional, intimate, its all the things Horner was best at.

I don’t buy many soundtracks anymore. With shipping costs from America that are damned near equal the cost of the actual discs, I’m glad most everything I could want has been expanded already, bought back when buying discs wasn’t so financially irresponsible- hell, they’ve never been exactly cheap, but these days… It takes a special soundtrack release to sway me now. What a sucker punch, though, landed by La La Land so early in the year- a possible omen for 2022? I dunno, there can’t be much left, unless Varese decides to finally blow my socks off, as Cliff Robertson once said in THAT movie…

Just a thought: noir happy endings

shock1Watching Shockproof (review coming soon-ish) I was struck by how a few noir just aren’t allowed to stay true to their narrative and intent, instead hijacked by presumably nervous studio execs and saddled with audience-friendly happy endings. In the case of Shockproof, I’ll get into it in more detail within the review, but suffice to say for about 75 minutes its a great noir about a parole officer gone bad because of his love for a beautiful woman who killed someone, and then in its last five minutes, maybe less, it becomes a different film entirely with a stupid ending that practically ruins the film. I mean, literally I was loving it, the cast, the story and the locations (they even filmed at the Bradbury Building!) and then boom, Game Over.

Its an ending that comes out of nowhere and I can’t see how anyone ‘buys’ it. A pretty much identical thing happens in The Brothers Rico, a edgy noir directed by Phil Karson (The Killers, The Dark Mirror) about an ex-Mafia book keeper who thinks going straight means he has left the mob behind. Its a very dark thriller that is totally undone by a happy ending so blatantly tacked on it almost undermines everything that has occurred before (which reminds me, I really need to rewatch that film and post a review).

One of the most beautiful and intoxicating things about film noir, about great film noir, are the grim, ‘downer’ endings that sometimes frustrate and sometimes disturb but yet always feel fitting and right, like  the ending of Criss Cross, which continues to haunt and disturb me, months after having seen it. Real-life is less like traditional Hollywood films and more like film noir; things don’t always go right, things sometimes get out of control and when push comes to shove, we are all far less in control of our fates than we like to think we are. Very often things go bad, very bad: there is a Truth in that. Noir films often get away with grim endings because they are about bad guys or good guys gone bad or good guys who do the wrong thing for the wrong woman- and the Production Code always stated that films should show that crime doesn’t pay, so hey, they get away with grim endings that ordinary flicks couldn’t. But sometimes the studio execs just can’t let it go.

Which allows me the excuse to mention Blade Runner again (oh yes, yet again) as everyone will recall its own abortive 1982 release version and its own tacked-on happy ending in which Deckard and Rachel are literally driving off, escaping to a happy future into the sunset. I just never appreciated at the time that the film had been shockproofed.

There. ‘Shockproofed’ is a thing now.