If you’re wondering what I’ve done today, and I can’t imagine why you would, well: you’re just not hitting buzz. It’s all there. With videos. After I left the Fair I picked up Gnat from her cousin’s house, did some quick grocery shopping, posted to buzz, slept for seven minutes – Jasper came upstairs, hungry, flopped on the floor and whined and argued and sighed and did his very best to tell me he’s hungry. I got up, fed him, scanned some stuff, posted to buzz, made dinner, then laid out the day’s video. Now it’s this, and to my relief it’s Frame Grab Tuesday, with another edition of classic noir shots. Movie number one: Mystery Street.
What makes good noir? Well, you can have all the basics – the corrupt man angling to do one good thing, or the good man trapped into doing one bad thing; the secondary cast of bruisers, bulls and poets; the caper; the barking roscoes; the doom-soaked mood; the gal, the frail, the square-jane sister with her heart on the wrong side of the tracks, et cetera. You can have all of that. But you need good lighting, and stairs:
They loved their stairs in noir. Perfect metaphor: going up, going down.
We meet this lass, and we don’t like her; she’s cheap and harsh and on the make. She looks like Perry Mason's private detective. Her landlord, Elsa Lanchester, hates her plenty:
, and she’s got man problems. Married man problems. She goes to a bar to wait; he doesn’t show. We don't care.
She gets a ride from a drunk and drags him to a cheap dive. Inside, a gal like that gets attention coming . . .
That's the kinda dame that’s stacked and packed, jack, that’s a fact, and always ends up smacked and whacked. And that’s what happens, after which the movie turns into a police procedural with Ricardo Montalban, and loses its noir vibe entirely. Too much forensics. So I popped in the next disk: CRIME WAVE! Low-class yeggs - including a young grinning Charles Bronson - knock over a gas station and shoot a cop:
Again, look at the lighting - it's a location shot, but it manages to make the building in the background look like some German Expressionist set, dead and bereft. Watched it all the way through; liked it. Compact little B-movie with a great non-performance by Sterling Hayden; he just walks through barking and snarling, nine feet worth of cop, chewing toothpicks and suspects.
But there’s more: like all good movies of the era, it’s an inadvertent documentary of the era. Does this kick you where you live, or would like to? Signage, signage. metal chrome and neon:
Trolleys and fedoras. LA, November, 1952. When the movie was over I looked at the Special Features; there was a commentary by Eddie Muller (link goes to his Film Noir Foundation) . . . and James Ellroy. This is like DaVinci and Michelangelo discussing 19th century painting. Best commentary track in the history of the medium, ever. You learn things. This, for example:
It’s the first Big Boy in the history of the world. That alone is reason enough to watch the movie. Well, that and the crisp cinematography, great locations and the commentary track. Two disks into this collection, it's already paid for itself - and I still haven't watched "The Big Steal." I think that's a crime movie, too.
Today in comics:
Just a cover, alas; the comic itself is as lame as 99% of most Jetson episodes. Except for the one with Uniblab and the one with Jet Screamer. Jupiter poker. Jupiter poker. Baby baby baby ah ah ah.
If you know what I mean. See you at the Fair.
Oh, one more thing. Remember the nasty landlady?
Twenty-five years before, she had another role. The Bride.
Someone could make the argument that the Frankenstein movies are somehow noir; I'll just stand back and watch you try. See you at buzz.mn! Also the funnies.