Tuesday, April 30, 2019

So Dark the Night


1946. A film that in the first half hour has the feel of a series ("the Inspecteur Cassin movies" if you will), then continues in the milieu of a Clouzot or Whale, all the while consistently exhibiting the invention of a Lewis (Joseph or Jerome).

A twist premise shifts into a conceit in which Cassin commits his own homicide...


Previous pieces on Joseph H. Lewis at Cinemasparagus:

My Name Is Julia Ross [1945]


Wednesday, April 17, 2019

My Name Is Julia Ross


(All images are iPhone photos taken of frames of the film playing off The Criterion Channel.)

1945. No passwords to escape the house that beetles o'er its base: neither preceding, contemporary, or prophetic: not Gaslight; The Lady Vanishes; Rebecca; Suspicion; Notorious; Secret Beyond the Door...; Sisters...

Precipices in the "woman's hysteria" film drasticize the plunge and the drown and plasticize the stately manor exterior as the shell of the internal labyrinth: a hidden room for rape the-while Nina Foch’s knocked out. Menace us all, the shadow of the hand (George Macready's, Paths of Glory) across the landscape of Julia's breast, when come the end his claw lies limp in one last close-up, erased by the surf.


Previous pieces on Joseph H. Lewis at Cinemasparagus:

So Dark the Night [1946]


Sunday, April 14, 2019

While the City Sleeps


(All images are iPhone photos taken of frames of the film playing off the Warner Blu-ray of the film.)

The title of Fritz Lang's second-to-last American film not only suggests the midnight killer but also the night-shift of the newspaper/TV office whose craven figures jump to break details on the menacing killer story as soon as quick. —

"Item 7 — You're a mama's boy." This address from the TV by Dana Andrews in his best Orson Welles, as the killer watches in PJs, certainly constitutes one of the most wrecking and complicated mixed-up portrayals ever "committed" to film in this messy '56 when it needed to most be so. Fritz Lang had one shoulder over the velvet shoulder-padding, and he wanted to examine youth-horror crime more if he could literally see, and get the insurance through to do so, throughout the '60s. Slick PJs-Johnny doesn't know if he's a boy or he's a girl, like in "Sheila Take a Bow", that Smiths song.

Creepy-crawly business in the second-half about whether the husbands' and wives' affairs' can be rationalized... Lang goes back to this thing about dialogue dukings-out in living rooms, as, big, drama! And yet — the characters don't recognize these rooms as the rocket-chambers of Frau im Mond.

The whole office goes sex sick. "Put Nancy's picture in the paper." Why bother? She storms out on Mobley/Andrews and the Lipstick Killer's already ready to pounce! "The final insolence. Broad DAYLIGHT!" Daytime during work-hours in NYC apartments with bleaching sun! White terror wallpaint, white terror curtain gaps! Then the climax —

Terror re: a tunneled train. You might ask yourself: 'Where have I seen this before?' Unsure myself, but audiences first saw it here: While the City Sleeps.

... — And yet 15 minutes still to go. In this final act we're clued to the skullduggery in the politics of ink-and-print, Ida Lupino making her final gesture, a tonality closer to Milestone's The Front Page than Hawks' His Girl Friday.


Previous pieces on Fritz Lang at Cinemasparagus:

Der müde Tod [1921]

Die Nibelungen: Siegfrieds Tod [1924]

Die Nibelungen: Kriemhilds Rache [1924]

Spione [1928]

Frau im Mond. [1929]

M [1931]

Human Desire [1954]


March 2019 - Best Disc Supplements

Every month I highlight some of the best Blu-ray and DVD supplements (along with Criterion Channel features upon its return in April 2019). Too often these pieces are overlooked or given the most cursory mention in reviews (or on sites like DVDBeaver where they take a back seat to "A/V" assessment and are usually copy-and-pasted from the Special Features text from the relevant label's website). Pieces cited don't necessarily hail from new releases; rather come from whatever I've been watching that particular month. They represent the very best in supplementary material — critical, historical, personal — above and beyond the status quo.


• The House of Lang / 2017 20-minute video essay by the always terrific David Cairns included on the 2018 Arrow Secret Beyond the Door disc. A thorough overview of Lang's Career of Themes with a special focus on the director's Hollywood period: its presiding visual aesthetic: "the starkness: bare walls and barren places"; the prominence of Fate and of Guilt; the rivalry (second phase of agon?) with Hitchcock, most obviously in Secret Beyond the Door's relationship to Rebecca; the house as metaphor for for Lang’s psychological interior (Michael Redgrave's character's surname “Lamphear” derives from the Welsh for “great house").

• Restoring Detour / 2018 11-minute interview piece with Mike Pogorzelski, director of the Academy Film Archive, and film preservationist Heather Linville, also of the archive, discussing the hurdles across ten years of searching for elements to execute a proper pristine 4K restoration of Ulmer's film. Included on the 2019 Blu-ray of Detour from Criterion.


Best Films Included Alongside a Title Feature:

Directed by Andrej Tarkovskij
by Michał Leszczyłowski, 1966
included in the 2018 Kino edition of The Sacrifice


Cover and Package Design:

• Joseph H. Lewis's The Big Combo
Arrow - Scott Saslow, 2018

• Robert Siodmak's Phantom Lady
Arrow - designer unknown?

• Edgar G. Ulmer's Detour
Criterion - illustrator Jennifer Dionisio and designer Eric Skillman