Nostalgia City Mysteries

By Mark S. Bacon

Category Archives: Movie reviews

Publishing news, free books, reviews and surprises to come on this blog

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Welcome mystery fans.  It seems I took an extended hiatus from writing in this space.  I can explain.

Launching a new book takes time.  So does switching publishers. I was in the middle of the former but am now neck-deep in the latter, or maybe both.

All three Nostalgia City mysteries are available again on Amazon, both e-book and print.  They will soon be available elsewhere, although for the time being the e-book versions of two of the mysteries, numbers 1 and 3, are exclusively with Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited.

Each of the three Nostalgia City mysteries has a new international standard book number (ISBN) used to identify and locate books and identify the publisher.  As a result, some website links, if they’re older than two months, may not connect you to the books.  The easiest way to find them is to go to Amazon and type in the title.  Details and links are also always available on this website.

Articles (posts) in upcoming weeks will be book and movie reviews, observations about readers’ particular interest in authors, offbeat and background information on (my new book) The Marijuana Murders, hints about mystery #4 that I’m working on and a few surprises.

As you may have noticed, Death in Nostalgia City was recently–for two days– on sale for free.  Does that qualify as “on sale?”   I dunno, as one of my characters would say, but thousands of people snapped it up.  If you missed the sale, Death in Nostalgia City will be offered for free again on Amazon.  Stay tuned.

Free book:

Right now you can register to win a print copy of The Marijuana Murders. Kings River Life magazine is giving the book away. To be eligible, simply comment on the reviewer’s article about my book or simply send him an email.  Details here:  https://www.krlnews.com/2019/08/the-marijuana-murders-by-mark-s-bacon.html

Writing a novel is easy.  As you can see, I nailed it on the first draft.

I’ve been meaning to share this picture.  Many authors’ protracted blog explanations about the task of writing to the contrary, I don’t think many readers are interested in how we create a story.  Does it make a story more meaningful if you know, for example, it was written on a Mac, on a yellow pad or an old fashioned typewriter? 

So, I’ll make this brief.  Although I compose and edit on my computer, every so often I need to print out my latest chapters and go over them with a pencil. When a complete manuscript is finished, I redo things.  Several times.  Critique groups, beta readers and an editor all contribute to draft after draft.  Then it’s done.

Actually deciding it’s done is one of the most difficult tasks in writing a novel.  Thus my stack of drafts gets taller.  I usually save the drafts until the book is in print—sort of like a cloud backup, only this paper backup is recycled when the job is done.

Your vote: what are the best noir films?

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Anyone who thinks of Fred MacMurray mainly as the jovial father on the 1960s TV series My Three Sons or the screwball title character in The Absent Minded Professor film, doesn’t know the real Fred MacMurray.

The real Fred MacMurray was the scheming insurance salesman and murderer in the 1944 film, Double Indemnity. In so many scenes, from his first meeting with Barbara Stanwyck, the wife of the man he would ultimately kill for his life insurance money, to a secret rendezvous in a grocery store, MacMurray has an undisguised devious look in his eyes yet a guarded set to his lips.Crow-gun-Web-opt-w-title619 (It’s a different, yet equally dishonest countenance he bore as Lt. Tom Keefer in The Caine Mutinty.)

Combine MacMurray’s persuasive performance with his two assured costars, Stanwyck and Edward G. Robinson plus a script by Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler, based on the James M. Cain novel, and you have what many people think is the finest noir film ever made.

What do you think?

What are the best noir films?

Mystery fiction scholar Francis M. Nevins defines noir as, “…the kind of bleak, disillusioned study in the poetry of terror that flourished in American mystery fiction during the 1930s and 1940s and in American crime movies during the forties and fifties. The hallmarks of the noir style are fear, guilt and loneliness, breakdown and despair…” Although many noir films were stylish, often featuring avant garde cinematography, as Nevins points out, happy endings were rare.

If you do a Google search for “favorite noir movies” you immediately see a spread of movie posters in this order:

  1. Double Indemnity
  2. The Maltese Falcon
  3. The Third Man
  4. Out of the Past

It would be difficult to argue with that selection. The Internet Movie Database says Sunset Boulevard and Night of the Hunter edge out Out of the Past and Double Indemnity, though the latter film is ranked number five.

Films based on novels by the leading detective writers of the period rank high in many ratings. In addition to Double Indemnity, Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice is another highly rated noir flick. The Maltese Falcon novel was written by noir master Dashiell Hammett and Chandler novels also became classic noir films such as The Big Sleep and Farewell, My Lovely.

The writer who I would count as the fourth of the great noir authors, Cornell Woolrich, had more than two dozen of his novels and stories made into movies, many, unfortunately were forgettable adaptations. His most famous, Rear Window, was a superb suspense movie with many noir elements, not the least of which was the villainous Raymond Burr.

Other films I think you should consider for your top ten include: Brighton Rock, Lost Weekend, Touch of Evil and Kiss Me Deadly. Sydney, Australia, blogger, Tom D’Ambra, has one of the most comprehensive noir film websites you can find. Among his many suggestions: Journey Into Fear, I Wake Up Srcreaming and The Seventh Victim.

Many noir fans have favorite lines from films. One of mine comes from Sidney Greenstreet in The Maltese Falcon. He stares at Humphrey Bogart as he says, “By gad, sir, you are a character.”

So, think of some noir characters yourself, and let me know your favorite films of the noir era.

Hyperlinks:

IMDB/noir

Tom D’ambra on noir films

“Deadline at Dawn” uneven Woolrich adaptation

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Deadline at Dawn, the movie version of the book of the same name by William Irish, is an uncertain attempt at film noir with Susan Hayward, Paul Lukas and Bill Williams dashing about city streets–that are obviously soundstages–looking for a murder suspect and running into seedy types portrayed by a cast of familiar character actors who provide the darkest scenes and the darkest dialog.

The first scene of the 1946 movie is promisingly noire as Marvin Miller, looking a little like Peter Lorre, knocks on the door of an apartment where a semi-intoxicated Edna Bartelli (Lola Lane) is asleep with a fly crawling across her face. When she finally staggers to the door she says, “Why, it’s Sleepy Parsons. Aren’t you dead?”

Susan Hayward and Paul Lukas

Susan Hayward and Paul Lukas

Later, Bartelli picks up innocent-looking sailor Alex Winkley (Williams) and brings him back to her apartment. Winkley drinks too much, passes out, and eventually discovers that Bartelli has been murdered. First, he thinks he may have done it after he blacked out but June Goth (Hayward), a taxi dancer he meets, persuades him that he could not have committed the crime.   Since people saw Winkley go up to the victim’s apartment, he knows he’ll be accused of the murder and he has to catch a bus in a few hours to get to his navy ship. Goth tells him that to clear himself he must look for clues and find out who did kill Edna Bartelli.

That’s the improbable setup. The goal: With little or nothing to go on, they must find the murderer before the 6 a.m. bus.

Hayward is obviously the brains of the duo and she pushes the plot along with beauty and spunk while Williams, in his sailor suit, is the gee-willikers, guileless young seaman. (He actually delivers a line, “Gee, look at the time.”) The first clues lead the young duo to dead ends, but soon they’re joined by a cab driver (Lukas) who decides to help the struggling couple. The cabbie finds some additional evidence the youngsters missed and that leads them to the meat of the film when they encounter suspects played by Jerome Cowan, Osa Massen and the ever-menacing Joseph Calleia. The latter trio have the truly noir scenes in rooms with stark lighting contrasting with deep shadows.

Joseph Calleia

Joseph Calleia

Later, in a private club, Lukas gets a noirish line, courtesy of screen writer Clifford Odets. “The city is full of men like that. Nerves and worry. Living on cigars and bicarbonate of soda. Wrung out by sleepless nights.” Shortly thereafter, the mood shifts in a corny good-cop, bad-cop scene in a police station.

Miller makes another appearance as well, and the ending, although a surprise, does not save the picture. Directed by Harold Clurman, the film bears little resemblance to the mystery novel written by Irish, a penname for noir master Cornell Woolrich. Had I not seen the movie right after reading the book I might not have noticed similarities which are pretty much limited to Goth’s occupation and the 6 a.m. deadline. Certainly not A-list noir but worth watching if you’re a Hayward fan or a fan of the character actors of that era.

The film is part of a series, Film Noir Classic Collection, on DVD and available from Netflix.

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