Day three without the daughter around. I have three more days of this. The only nice part – and it’s not a small thing – is that for once in, oh, eight years I don’t have to be anywhere at a certain time in the late afternoon to pick her up. No 4:20 bus, no 3:55 end-of-class, no 5:15 pick-up at a friend’s. The afternoon just wanders into the evening. They all used to be like this, I suppose, but I’d forgotten how flaccid the end of the afternoon feels if there’s nothing to set it apart. Even if you work at home, noon always stands straight at attention and blows a horn, but 5:30 is just a toot on a cheap harmonica. Unless you’re leaving the office, of course. Then it’s all thunderclaps and cannon fire.

So I worked, and that was it. Kept abreast of the dire news, depressed myself with the usual comments on the usual sites. Well, what do you expect? Bush invaded Iraq. History began in March of 2003; nothing that came before matters to some. I will admit that Putin’s year-long campaign to secure UN resolutions against Georgia, and his attempt to build an international coalition to invade the rogue nation – as well as Georgia’s flouting of international law, its violation of the terms of the last war and its assassination attempt on Yeltsin – does make the case for strong parallels. I’m not totally immune to reason.

There’s one small upside to Soviet recrudescence, aside from the chance to use that wonderfully viscous and crust-studded word recrudescence, and that’s the unlikelihood we’ll see the return of the Charming Urbane Communist who’s really kinda like us, in a way - you know, the other side of the coin, a worthy adversary. You could find that nonsense all over the movies of the 60s, 70s and 80s – with the exception of movies that portrayed the New Soviet Man as a humorless, ruthless, dedicated model of Communist efficiency – Arnie in “Red Heat,” Dolph Lundgren in Rocky IV. For some reason they were accorded respect because they had an ideology, a religion of sorts. At least they believed in something, and they weren’t Nazis, so, crank up the soulful Russian choir and give them a salute, like you’d flick a curt gesture of respect to the Red Baron after you’d engaged each other for the third time, and flown back to base alive with an equal number of holes in each of your fusillages. Now? Thugs without ideology or a logo. Hollywood has to be happy, though: whew. Now they can be the bad guys all the time and no one will think we’re avoiding making movies about the Uslim-mays.

This week’s black-and-white feature was a disappointment. It started off well; this is always nice to see:

None of that furrin stuff here, pal. It's two-fistedness, spades-wise. Ah, but what is it? Let's go back to the trailer:

Well, don't leave us in suspense, Mac, Of what? What? I can't sit here and admire the typeface all day.

Hey, don't give it all away in the trailer! Cripes. You could say it was the revelation of a lawless challenge, or the scorching revelation of a challenge whose attributes would be subsquently revealed, but specifics like this just ruin it.

What's it called?

. . . and the Enforcer is . . . a guy who works in a laboratory heaped with sacks of wet mail? What is that? No, don't tell me. But who's in it?

Ah: The Man Himself. Now we're going to see some smoking and shooting and dame-lip mashing, peppered with wry remarks that emphasized his aloofness while reinforcing his essential humanity. Alas,  even Bogart had an off movie – lots of them, really, but you didn’t care; the man accumulated so much capital in Falcon / Big Sleep that he could coast on a thin film of crushed, greased laurels for 30 pictures and no one would care. He managed to make a bowtie look badass, which takes some doing. He also goes out on a ledge for justice, thus:

He looks like he's riding some sort of butt-escalator at the 1939 World's Fair.

The plot: Bogart is trying to crack a murder-for-hire organization obviously based on Murder, Inc. It’s done mostly in flashback, with some flashbacks within flashbacks. Raoul Walsh supposedly had a hand in directing, and it shows in a few crisp moments, but overall it didn’t grab. I was surprised to see this fellow show up as a nervous crook:

Yes, it’s lovable, sweaty Zero Mostel in all his brow-mopping glory, and you’re thinking: Zero? In a noir? Well, men who were known for broad comedy were often quite excellent in different roles. True. Here’s Zero’s introduction in the film, played with the sort of cool, deadly subtlety that characterize the best noir:



New Comic - Mr. District Attorney series continues. See you at buzz.mn.