10 September 2016

Detective Story, starring Kirk Douglas - A Movie Review

Detective Story is an hour and forty-three minute film noir and police procedural released in 1951 starring Kirk Douglas that was adapted from the play by the same name by Sidney Kingsley. Set during one eight-hour shift entirely in a New York City precinct, the story centers around one detective and the random and oftentimes unruly characters that are arrested in that timeframe.

Kirk Douglas stars as Detective James McLeod, an officer of the law who grants no wiggle room and never lives in the gray area; it is either against the law or it is not. A man of complete principle with his beautiful new wife, McLeod is at the top of his game in all areas, and one shift isn't going to get in his way, no matter what happens.

But along the way in that one shift, life dramatically  and surprisingly changes, for all characters. It's about a solid 55 minutes before the quiet pace picks up and you start to see which direction the story will take, how the characters develop and become more than surface of the stereotypical cops, criminals and 1950s housewives, but it's a movement which is sensible and clearly defined, one that matches the personality and vision of the main character and overall story. There is the young woman who is nabbed for lifting a pocketbook from a department store, the young businessman who embezzles, and you can't be a police story in New York without an arrest of a low-life mobster, Charlie Gennini. Combined with the gruff cops, everyone is just trying to get by on this steamy hot day in the city.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this somewhat dark and quiet story. You can tell it was based on a play, as the majority of the scenes take place in one setting of the police precinct. The clever twists provided a scandalous feel and I can only imagine what it must have been like when first released. I recommend this film, but would remind you that it's slow-going for almost an hour before it kicks into gear.

Favorite Quote: When McLeod's partner tells him, "You've gotta bend with the wind - or break. Don't be such a monument." I love this quote.

Favorite Takeaway: Russell Evans is an African-American patrol officer who is in charge of managing the mob man. His character is dignified and key to the precinct and, honestly, it's pretty cool to see an early film with an African-American actor as a police officer. Like the blogger at Film Noir of the Week mentioned, I also really can't think of any other movies during that time that not only have a minority actor play a fairly decent-sized role in a movie, but also never once have anyone make a comment on race. It is refreshing, especially for that time. 

I'm participating in the RIP Challenge, which is in its eleventh year. Click here for my original post, and definitely click here to visit Stainless Steel Droppings' site for more details.


04 September 2016

Based on Charlotte Armstrong's 1951 novel, Mischief, "Don't Bother to Knock" was filmed shortly after publication. On a whim, I selected it based off the below description on Netflix and sat in wonder for the short 80-some minutes, musing about the sadness of Marilyn Monroe's life, that the legacy she left was so very different than who she was and who she likely would have become, if only she could have scraped herself out of the hole of being typecast as the very dumb, but very sexy, blonde stereotype.

The synopsis from Netflix is:
On the rebound after a break-up, Jed meets gorgeous Nell, but soon discovers that she harbors a dark past and is dangerously unstable.
The movie showcases Marilyn Monroe's brilliant acting talent, playing the part of Nell, a tortured young woman with a terrible secret which alters her judgment when she's asked to babysit a young girl in a hotel. The movie takes place entirely in the hotel, giving it an ominous and weighted air of claustrophobia. Shortly after meeting this man who recently was dumped, Nell begins to spiral downward as she tries to maintain a stable image for him. But with frequent interruptions from the young girl, or Nell's uncle (the hotel elevator operator), and more, Marilyn Monroe successfully delivers moments purely disturbing and unsettling, likely to have been viewed as scandalous in 1952. The performance sadly seems to have been forgotten and overshadowed when movies like "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," "How to Marry a Millionaire," and "The Seven-Year Itch" were released.

I seriously want everyone to see this movie. I disagree heartily with Bosley Crowther's review in the New York Times in 1952. It almost feels as though the expectation was that the movie was to be a comedy of some sort, and when it clearly was quite the opposite, reviews settled on it being a ridiculous film with subpar acting. How disappointing it must have been for Marilyn Monroe to read these reviews at the time. Had she lived just a little bit longer, she would have read many more reviews from those not swayed by sensuality, or expecting more of it, and found that there was much more appreciation for her work in later years. I mourn for the passing of a Hollywood legend who would never be able to achieve the true acting stardom that she sought, one that was never based on her sexuality.

You're in for a real treat with this movie, and most especially if you're looking for something to watch in order to take part in the RIP Challenge this year. It's available on Netflix, and I highly recommend it. 

Leading cast: Richard Widmark, Marilyn Monroe, and Anne Bancroft
Director: Roy Ward Baker

Side Note
It's clear by the posters above just how the movie studios banked so much on Marilyn Monroe's sexuality - never once does she appear this sensual in the film, and never once did she wear the red corset top in the first photo above. In fact, she's got little make-up on, and when she does dress up, she chooses a dress and jewelry that might have been more glamorous if the film were in color, but in black-and-white, it simply comes across muted and understated, allowing her acting to shine through, unblemished and unspoiled by the typically expected, lusted-after response.

This is what she looks like when she first graces the screen. Hardly what you'd imagine for the Marilyn Monroe icon, dressed in an unflattering dress, coming across as prison-attire of the day. She looks slight and quiet, unthreatening, and innocent.
During this movie, there were moments when I held my breath, wondering what this character was going to do next. Nell's eventual breakdown was easy to believe, and as the movie closed out, all I could think was (for the millionth time when I think of this actress), "she was a brilliant woman and everyone just thought she was some stupid girl." How terribly sad.

So if you were unaware, Marilyn Monroe was so much more than the infamous "flying skirt" photo of her and sexy body pin-up girl. Instead, remember that this was the woman who read incredibly difficult novels for fun and for her own education. Marilyn Monroe was a talented actress who had so much left to offer in her legacy, and we, as the audience, sadly never got a chance to witness more from her. It truly is our loss.

I'm participating in the RIP Challenge, which is in its eleventh year. Click here for my original post, and definitely click here to visit Stainless Steel Droppings' site for more details.


01 September 2016

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XI

Oh, my wonderful book blogging and reading community, it is that time of year again. Pumpkin spice FOR LIFE. And one of the most eagerly anticipated online reading celebrations now begins!

I know, I know. Horrible, inconsistent blogging is my usual description over the past few years, but in my defense, there was quite a bit of personal craziness happening that is now officially in my rear view mirror! I appreciate everyone's support during that battle and now that all is well, I am loving life even more by spending every minute with my son, my husband, my work, my journal, my dreams, and of course, my books! And while I may be inconsistent with reading and blogging, this is the one event that is just different, one that always pulls me back in to this wonderful community of readers. In my six years of blogging I have always participated in one way or another. This is one that just can't be missed.

For those who are new to this reading celebration, Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings celebrates the coming of the autumn season, Halloween, and all things that go bump in the night by hosting the RIP (R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril) Challenge. Of course, a challenge it is not; instead, it's more like a literary festival of all things scary. For me, it more officially marks the change in seasons, and is just so much fun. Hot cocoa, the changing of the colors, shorter days, and darker nights are now beginning.

Fun fact
This year is the eleventh year for this event! ELEVEN.

All you have to do is take a look at the below links and just have fun. That's it!
  • Carl's overview
  • The review site
  • R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XI takes place from September 1st, 2016 through October 31st, 2016. 
Reading and film subject matters would fall into some form of the following areas:
  • Mystery
  • Suspense
  • Thriller
  • Gothic
  • Horror
  • Dark Fantasy
There are only two expectations if you want to participate with us:
  • Have fun reading (and watching*).
  • Share that fun with others.
I will try to read at least one book and I will most definitely be bingewatching all the scary movies. A new level has just been created which is called Peril in Play, and that is definitely piquing my interest...

Fun Fact
Carl's been working with illustrator Abigail Larson and she is the creative designer of the banners and buttons for this event over the years. She recently won the Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist at the 74th WorldCon which was held in Kansas City, Missouri. Wha?? How cool is that?

What books do you plan to read to get into the autumn mood?