Even the bad days are good, if you look hard enough. It was hot and sunny all day, and in the evening Natalie played in the backyard with her cousin and Grandma: croquet. They played hide and go seek in the bushes and exhausted everything a late summer evening had to offer. Watching them took the edge off, and I have an edge you could use to flay a rhinoceros.

There’s no reason I can’t discuss the particulars, but I’m going to give it a fortnight for the relevant parties to get on the right side of the matter. I learned the details today about something I’ve suspected for a while, and it’s as bad as it can get: a level of personal and professional betrayal like nothing I’ve ever experienced. A good lesson in life, perhaps, and a test as well: when there’s nothing you can do at the moment, you have to set it aside or burn yourself up.

Or so I say; I’ve been staring at the screen for ten minutes, smoldering. Well, then: type therapy. Let’s go to the weekly B&W feature – not a movie review, but a look back to the images of another era. (Okay, a movie review. But with little reviewing and lots of pictures.)  Watched “Odds Against Tomorrow,” which stars the meanest SOB in noir, Robert Ryan.

This opening shot is quite disturbing - Ryan looks superimposed, a ghost walking down the streets of New York, but he's not. He's real, a devil made of chalk.

It was a low-budget flick financed by one of its stars – hence the name.

Meet HarBel. Think "Day-O."

It was directed by Robert Wise, who “helmed” last week’s noir, as they say in Variety, and it’s grim business – shot in the bleakest black and white during winter. Nothing green or living except for the characters, who seem to exist in a world that has about 40 people. New York included. There’s one happy fellow, and who wouldn't be happy working around a pump like this:

But we only meet him for a second. Mostly it’s Harbel, an ex-cop, and Ryan and his girl –

You may recognize her from “The Poseidon Adventure.”  There’s a bitter line of dialogue in the scene that sums up Ryan’s character – “It’s never easy for you, is it?” she says, and he replies “Only when I’m angry, Then things get too easy.” 

It’s the opposite for me, frankly. Anger may clarify, but sometimes it only clarifies the fact that you’re angry. If you’re not the kind of person to sort out the residual ambiguities with your fists, anger can just be a typhoon tearing past a mast with no sails.

The action takes place in “Melton” in the Hudson Valley, a town I can’t find on the map. Ryan and Har-bel and Ed Begley Jr’s father, Ed Begley Sr., are  going to knock over a bank, and since it’s a small-town bank we have to use Midget-Vision to make it seem more important.

Or maybe they’re planning to use ninja turtles to come up from the sewer to rob it?  Imdb says the movie was shot in Hudson, among many places, so this may be a shot of bygone Hudson commercial district:

If it sounds ordinary, it’s not. Here’s a little clip that should jolt you, because it’s just so mean and raw. But that’s Ryan.


Belafonte plays a singer with a gambling problem; before he goes in to see the Boss about his debts, a pal gives him a piece. There’s nothing notable about the clip below, but this may be the first time you’ve seen the fellow on the left. Look at his face; listen to his voice. It’s James Earl Jones . . . senior.


Before the heist. Ryan heads to a bar to take the edge off, and has his quiet disturbed by a young soldier who’s showing off for the girls.


Back from the MASH unit, and ready to mix it up with big old mean southerners!

It does not end well for him. One punch to the solar plexus and the fight, not to mention the air and urine, go right out of him. It doesn’t end well for anyone in this movie, but when does anything end well for crooks in a noir? The crime goes awry, and Ryan’s hatred for Belafonte’s “kind” leads him to turn on him the second things go south – and here the DVD went south and jumped ahead to a burned out warehouse where both had died, presumably after shooting each other while flames consumed them both. I’m guessing that Belafonte died for some people’s sins, hence this image:

For a closing shot, a comment on the uselessness of racism, or simply a little nihilistic fillip with which to conclude the tale:

The film ends there. Have a nice day!

This will be the last good noir – next up, for the next two years if all goes well, I’ll be chewing through 100 Mystery Classics series.

New comic up. See you at buzz.mn. He said, grimly.