Bebe Barron from Greenwich Village to the Forbidden Planet

Written by Joe D on April 27th, 2008

Bebe Barron, groundbreaking composer of “electronic tonalities” for the seminal scifi flick Forbidden Planet is listening to the music of the spheres, looking down on planet Earth as she surfs with the Silver Surfer, skimming on comet dust throughout the Galaxy. What a shame that she only scored this one feature. I guess when synthesizers were invented people could create weird sounds at the touch of a button or a keyboard, not by hours of intense work with vacuum tube circuits, tape heads, razor blades and primitive mixers.


Bebe and Louis in The Village Studio


Soundtrack LP

But no one ever created those exact sounds that Bebe did, even with modern sophisticated equipment. Another lost art form.


Come Fly With Me!

Here’s a sample of Bebe and Louis’ music.

Night And The City at The American Cinematheque

Written by Joe D on April 25th, 2008

What a pleasure to see this great film projected in glorious 35mm B&W! One of the most beautiful noirs of all time splashed across the silver screen, Richard Widmark running like a cornered rat in a checkered suit through the alleys and back streets, under the bridges, along the waterfront, through the dives, the clip joints, the crooked nooks and crannies of London’s underbelly. Beautiful! Some of the coolest locations, so atmospheric, fog, magic hour photography, this film is a textbook of urban atmosphere.


Julie Dassin- Master of Cinematic Atmosphere

The noir guy (Alan K. Rode) gave a spiel at the beginning of the show, he spoke about Dassin’s uneasy relationship with Hollywood and how he formed a love/hate alliance with Darryl Zanuck. This film was produced by 20th Century Fox under Zanuck’s aegis. Mr. Z shipped Dassin off to London to escape the Commie witchhunts then igniting in Hollywood. Darryl also persuaded Dassin to put Gene Tierney in the film so she could get away from an exploding marriage and have something to do to occupy her mind. Zanuck told Dassin to write her into the script and he did, it’s pretty obvious, after a stellar opening of Widmark being chased through the seamy streets of London, he makes it home to a long dialouge scene with Tierney, not a great 2nd scene, obviously inserted to give Tierney a part.

Widmark and Tierney- tacked on love interest
I’m sure in the original script Widmark’s love interest was the fat club owner’s chick Helen, who he screws royally.

Widmark and Googie Withers aka Helen- original love object?

Also Hugh Marlow was tacked on as Gene Tierney’s other love interest, the patient good guy neighbor, waiting for Widmark to dump her so he can be there in the wings, rush out and pull her off the railroad tracks or whatever. His character Really does not belong in this movie. But forget all this fol de rol, this is a great movie! The wrestler Gregorius and Mike Mazurki have an epic battle that is unique in all of Cinema! It’s terrific!

Battle Royale- Gregorious (Stanislaus Zbyszko) Vs. Mike Mazurki!
And you can feel the noose inexorably tightening about Widmark’s neck, no matter what mad desperate genius scheme he comes up with, and he comes up with some brilliant twists and turns to avoid destruction. Probably one of the best hustlers ever to hit the screen! He makes Sidney Falco look like a chump! There is a montage of the word spreading across London ” Get Widmark! Big Reward!” that is pure cinematic bliss, locations, action, characters, genius. Like something out of Dickens or a scene from Fritz Lang’s “M”. Beautiful! Watching this film I was reminded of Mike Hodges “Get Carter” an English noir from 1971. I wonder if Mr. Hodges is a fan of Night and The City? Hats Off to The American Cinematheque for showing this masterpiece in all it’s silver nitrate glory! There was a big crowd on another Thursday night in Hollywood, the Center Of The Noir Universe!

Some Came Running, Dean Martin, Jean Luc Godard

Written by Joe D on April 22nd, 2008

They recently released Some Came Running on DVD. Vincente Minelli’s icy hot movie with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Shirley McClain.
It was based on a novel by James Jones and it has become an iconic movie, mainly for me because of Dean Martin. Check it out and see what being cool in Technicolor in 1957 was all about.




Jean Luc Godard that genius, recognized Dino’s ultra coolness. He didn’t buy into the Sinatra legend, he made up his mind for himself and he went with Dean.
He has Michel Piccoli reading James Jones’s novel in the bathtub in Le Mepris and telling Brigitte Bardot that he’s wearing a hat “to be like Dean Martin in Some Came Running”.

A Treasure For The Ages- Brigitte Bardot’s Ass
I think Godard has another character reference this movie in another film, but I can’t remember if it’s Jean Paul Belmondo in Pierrot Le Fou or in Une femme est une femme. I’ll check but if one of you eagle eyed film brains out there knows, write in! Maybe you’ll win a delectable, hard to come by prize!

Tomorrow Is Another Day

Written by Joe D on April 18th, 2008


A Still From Highway 301, the 2nd half of the double bill
Scarlett O’Hara uttered this line in GWTW. It doesn’t have anything to do with this movie. Thank God. This noir gem starts out with brooding tough guy Steve Cochran being released from prison after an 18 year stretch. The kicker is he went in when he was 13 for killing his old man, Oedipus baby. The story zigs and zags with more turns than an anaconda doing the twist. He gets befriended by a guy in a greasy spoon, the guy buys him some pie, takes him to where he can get a job, then writes an expose about “the youngest killer in state history getting out of jail” complete with recent picture. Steve Cochran kicks the slimy reporter’s ass then he’s off to NYC for a 10 cent rendevous with destiny. He slides into a rent-a-date dance parlour and falls for the hardest chippie in the joint, Ruth Roman.

Ruth Roman, Va Va Voom!
He pursues her like a hound dog in the swamp and in spite of her acid edged personality, he makes progress. She invites him up to her pad where Bingo! An older dude is waiting, this angry cat tells Steve to blow and begins slapping the shit out of R.R. so Steve being a red blooded American convict starts slugging Mr. A-hole. The guy pulls a gun but Ruthie breaks a dish on his hand and Steve gloms the heater. He’s got grandpa covered but he has a flashback to when he plugged his old man and freezes up. The older guy slugs S.C. knocking him cold. R.R. grabs the rod and when hot head comes at her it goes off accidentally. The cool thing is when the guy gets up you can see a bullet hole in his back, the exit wound! Now this is a similar scenario to Fritz Lang’s Woman in The Window with Edward G. Robinson and Joan Bennett, but in that earlier film you don’t see any blood or wounds at all. Anyway it turns out Mr. Bad was a cop, a detective. So Steve tracks down Ruth, Steve doesn’t remember what happened so Ruth blames him! She says he did it!

More Ruth Roman, Can You Ever Get Enough!
He buys it and they’re off, a killer sequence has them hiding in a sedan on the back of a big car transporting rig. They head out cross country and the movie switches gears in a super cool way, up till now it’s been a typical 40’s type noir, all urban night, smoke, gunshots, hard dames that’ll get you strapped in the electric chair on the first date, the usual, now as the two star crossed lovers cross the big old USA it transforms into a 50’s movie, like a socially conscious teen angst James Dean type thing. They switch from double breasted suits and strapless chiffon numbers to blue jeans, leather jackets, Ruth even dyes her hair brunette, her real color. They’re like beatnik dharma bums living in a migrant farm workers camp picking lettuce and falling in love for the first time, Steve because he spent his entire adolescence in jail and Ruth because she had to fight off every guy that got within two feet of her. Things are looking good when the devil’s bargain rears it’s ugly head.

Steve looking like the Cat that swallowed the Canary
I won’t reveal what goes down but it’s a good predicament that ensnares the innocent as well as the guilty. Felix Feist did a great job with this epic. It’s got some excellent performances, a whole lot of story and several scenes that work like gangbusters. I didn’t like the end that much but other than that it’s pretty damn good. Check it out if you can, by the way the theater was pretty full, old Steve Cochran can still get people in off the street, even on a Thursday night in Hollywood!

Ciao Baby!

Hazel Court is playing Chess with Vincent Price

Written by Joe D on April 17th, 2008

Hazel Court queen of 50’s horror and sci-fi has shuffled off this mortal coil at the age of 82.
She was an earthling terrorized by an early leather clad alien dominatrix in Devil Girl From Mars and screamed her head off in several Hammer films before coming to the USA and gracing a slew of Roger Corman helmed horror flicks, The Raven, The Masque Of The Red Death,Premature Burial. She also appeared in a bunch of cool TV shows, Twilight Zone, Burke’s Law, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Wild, Wild West and a lot of others. She had red hair and green eyes, a real traffic stopper. Cheerio baby, you fueled countless adolescent fantasies with your sexy /horror one-two punch.

Steve Cochran Double Bill at The American Cinematheque Noir Festival

Written by Joe D on April 15th, 2008

The American Cinematheque is holding the 10th annual festival of Film Noir, Return to Noir City. This Thursady April 17th at 7:30 they’re screening two rare gems starring the late, great Steve Cochran. Tomorrow Is Another Day Felix Feist’a masterpiece featuring a delicious performance by Ruth Roman and Highway 301, Andrew L. Stone’s early location crime feature, one of the first, “docu-thrillers” shot on real locations in a quasi documentary style.
Cochran is probably best remembered as Big Ed Somers, the double crossing henchman in White Heat. But this cowboy from Wyoming made it over to Italy to star in Michelangelo Antonioni’s Il Grido as well!



Il Grido
He is also reputed to have been hired as a pipe layer by Mae West and later heated up the screen and the dressing room with Mamie Van Doren. Cochran died under mysterious circumstances, he set out on a sailboat with 6 women, none of the women knew how to sail, Cochran keeled over from a coronary and the boat was found drifting off the coast of Mexico, the women had to be rescued after floating around with Steve’s corpse for a week! He’s a legendary character with a powerful screen presence. Check out this double bill, I sure as hell will!


Maybe Steve’s Good Friend, Max Baer, Jr. will be at the screening, I hope so!

Godard vs. Truffaut

Written by Joe D on April 10th, 2008

There’s a great article by Richard Brody in the New Yorker about the relationship and feud of these two superstars of the New Wave.Check it out if you can. I recently watched Contempt on TCM. It was pan and scan and not a great copy but the stunning power of the film rang through clear as a bell. Godard plays with so many ideas in such a unique way. Fritz Lang is filming The Odyssey for American producer Jack Palance, Michel Piccoli is hired to write the script and they argue about re writing Homer. The purity and immediacy of The Odyssey, the experiential purity is at stake. The American wants to change it, Lang resists, Piccoli tries to talk him into it so he can earn enough to buy an apartment for his wife, Bridgitte Bardot, until he loses her to the American. Then he agrees with Lang. The emotions of the characters in this film are so true, so reminiscent of that first big breakup, your first adult breakup, it’s as if it were written by a modern Homer, a cinematic Homer, Godard.

The magical prism of Cinema, free of the restraints of Time, takes us back to Capri, 1964 and at the same moment the Hellenic Greece of Odysseus

Here’s an interview with Jean Luc from the time of Contempt.

And here’s a recent quote from Mr. Godard in the New Yorker article “Today I feel rather like an exile in my own land. The land of Cinema.”

Il Mafioso- Alberto Lattuada- Alberto Sordi

Written by Joe D on April 9th, 2008


The Great Alberto Sordi takes aim in Il Mafioso

This is an incredible film, it languished in obscurity until the geniuses at Rialto brought it back from the dead, just like they did with Jean Pierre Melville’s Army Of Shadows. All I can say about this film is that it accomplishes something that is very hard to do and does it better than any other film I can think of. It changes from a comedy to a tragedy in the blink of an eye and it works perfectly, seamlessly, in an exciting effortless way. Maybe because the comedy is understated, not stupid, real situations that reveal something about human beings, in this case the Sicilian clan of our main character, Nino. Sordi is a great actor, compare Nino with the Sordi’s portrayal of The White Sheik in Fellini’s film of the same name, they seem like two entirely different people. Speaking of Fellini, it was Lattuada who gave Federico his directing break, sharing credit on Variety Lights. The end of Il Mafioso is incredible as well, an off the cuff remark that teeters you on the edge of the Abyss. The incredible music is by the Genius Pierro Piccone, you can hear some of it in the trailer I’ve linked to. It’s magnificent.

Heaven & Hell To Play with- The Filming Of Night Of The Hunter

Written by Joe D on April 6th, 2008

All you would be directors out there, listen up! Check out Heaven & Hell To Play with- The Filming Of Night Of The Hunter. It’s a great book by Preston Neal Jones, written after years of painstaking research. It documents the creation of Charles Laughton’s only directorial effort. ( In Motion Pictures) through the voices of all the major players and through watching the recently unearthed outtakes at UCLA’s film preservation department with Robert Gitt. Let me say here and now that I love this movie. I grew up watching it on television and it was very influential to me. So if you haven’t seen it, go rent it now! Then read this book, it is not only inspirational, it also shows in great detail what goes into directing a film! What’s important! Laughton, a great actor and a great communicator got so much from his cast and crew by his way of working with them. He surrounded himself with talented people and inspired them to do ( in many cases) their greatest work. That’s a director’s primary job! Hats off to Mr. Jones for this great work, a real service to the Film Community. Also I’m looking forward to watching Mr. Gitt’s documentary on Night Of The Hunter made from the aforementioned outtakes.

Mexican Lobby Card from the Original Release, part of My Collection of Cool Film Stuff

Robert Mitchum- I Am A Hamburger

Written by Joe D on April 3rd, 2008

My recent post on Night Of The Hunter and some correspondence about it got me thinking, here’s a Confidential Magazine piece about the star, Robert Mitchum and the producer, Paul Gregory and the director, Charles Laughton. Mitchum sued the scandal sheet and won. Thanks to Larry Harnisch and his DailyMirror Blog for the article.confidential_1955_07_mitchum01.jpg

p.s. click on the scans to make them bigger.

Jules Dassin

Written by Joe D on April 1st, 2008


Jules Dassin as the Informer Cesaer in his masterpice “Rififi”

The great filmmaker Jules Dassin has dies at age 96. I grew up watching Brute Force , a masterful prison drama with Burt Lancaster and a fascistic warden, Hume Croynin,


and The Naked City on WOR’s Million Dollar Movie. The Naked City is a groundbreaking film, shot on location in NYC, it’s gritty, real,and a genre creating film. It spawned a TV show of the same name and countless cop shows and films.


Angry Mob Of Convicts in Brute Force

But it’s Dassin’s two foreign noirs that really get me. Rififi, the classic heist film shot in Paris. It’s a model for all caper movies and it’s 30 minute wordless burglary sequence has never been equalled.Economy, style, pace, drama, musical editing and use of natural sound make it a timeless heist gem that will be studied as long as people watch film.
Jean Pierre Melville was pissed off that he didn’t get to make Rififi and his response was the sublime Le Circle Rouge. Dassin wound up in Paris after an auspicious Hollywood beginning, he was apprenticed to Alfred Hitchcock and Garson Kanin, and he directed several studio pictures before he was blacklisted as a Communist. It took 5 years of scuffling in Paris to get Rififi, he was dead broke, he hated the book it was based on but he needed a job. He took it, wrote the script in a week (based on a small episode in the book) and made the film. At the last moment an Italian actor cancelled so Dassin played the part of Cesaer (under the psuedonym Perlo Vita), an interesting choice as Ceaser informs on his fellow conspirators and is murdered in retribution. Edward Dymytrk and Frank Tuttle named Dassin a Communist at their trials.
The other great noir Dassin directed abroad is the fantastic Night and The City set in London and starring the recently deceased Richard Widmark.

One of the most beautiful Noirs ever made. All Dassins films and his noirs in particular are incredibly photographed. He would wait for the right light, an overcast day, he took the time to make it right and it shows.

Night and the City will screen at the American Cinematheque as part of their up coming film noir series. There’s an interview with Dassin on the Criterion dvd of Rififi, he tells of going to Cannes with the film. He was absolutely flat broke and he asked the producer of the film to give him some money so he could enjoy himself a little. The producer forked over a small sum. Dassin and his wife went to the roulette table and put all the dough on a number, the wheel spun, their number came up! They had some money to enjoy themselves and the film won the Palm d’Or!


A while back I was working at a trailer company in NYC, a place where we made Previews Of Coming Attractions for films. I was talking to a fellow editor named Nick Meyers and I mentioned Jules Dassin. At the time I thought he was French so I pronounced his name Francophonically “Jhooles Dahsan”. Nick says “Who?” I repeated it. ” Oh, you mean Julie Dassin, he’s from the Bronx.” Nick’s dad Sidney Meyers was an old pal of Julie Dassin from NY theater and a fellow Lefty. Sidney went on to be a founding member of NY’s Editor’s Guild. So Fare Thee Well Jules Dassin, your films will be watched till the end of time.