WITHOUT WARNING!

Written by Joe D on September 26th, 2009

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I got the DVD of Arnold Laven’s film Without Warning! and watched it last night.
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Psycho Killer Carl Martin

It’s a good film that features some incredible 50’s Los Angeles locations. The killer offs his first victim at a sleazy motel, they never show the actual killing in this film just the aftermath. The first one is great, a huge close up of the upside down face of the victim, this is an early cinematic use of this disturbing image, later used to great effect in Apocalypse Now for example. The police investigate and we are off on a cat and mouse chase throughout the seedy side of L.A. There is some early forensic science used to track the murderer, fibers from his torn suit jacket, and it’s interesting how the killer figures out that he could be traced by these means and so burns his expensive new suit. He also refrains from killing a blonde victim when she writes his name on a receipt, stamps the time on it and locks it in a safe. He realizes this damming document would lead the police directly to him so he must not act on his blood lust.
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Chavez Ravine- In all it’s glory!

We see the killer at home, he lives in Chavez Ravine, a working class community with a birds eye view of downtown Los Angeles and City Hall. This is pre Dodger Stadium Chavez Ravine, a big community that was wiped out by bulldozers in the name of progress. Some people wouldn’t leave and were ripped out of their homes, kicking and screaming, as bulldozers crushed their domiciles and their slice of the American Dream.
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An Unwilling To Move Resident is Dragged Out Of Her Chavez Ravine Home!

Check out Ry Cooder’s album for a musical re-telling of the story. Also Chavez Ravine is one of the most popular dumping spots for serial killers so having their protagonist live their was a stroke of psychological cinema verite.

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The killer takes one of his victims under the Brand New not yet opened Hollywood Freeway and it’s cool to get a glimpse of the nascent road system before hordes of angry commuters descended on it.
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The lead actor Adam Williams is very good as Carl Martin gardner/killer but I found the investigating police kind of stiff. There is a tense climatic scene where the daughter of the nursery owner delivers an orchid to the killer, realizes he’s the killer and has to hang around and have a cup of tea with him while he tells her of his failed marriage. If you dig 50’s L.A. crime, check this movie out. James Ellroy would drool over this film.

Arnold Laven, R.I.P.

Written by Joe D on September 21st, 2009

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Producer- Director Arnold Laven has passed on. He’s responsible for a large amount of influential film and television. I just read a great interview with him the other day. It was done for the Noir City Sentinel, the newsletter of the Film Noir Foundation and you can read it here. I was so impressed with this interview I ordered the DVD of Laven’s directorial debut, 1952’s Without Warning, one of the first serial killer pictures and full of great Los Angeles location photography. I will post about it once I get it.

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Besides his great film noir work Laven was in a large way responsible for two giant Western television sagas, The Rifleman and The Big Valley. Both big sources of inspiration for a generation of filmmakers including Quentin Tarantino who has expressed as much to me.

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He also directed Tim Holt’s last picture The Monster That Challenged The World, Laven and Holt met many years earlier on the set of The Arizona Ranger and became good friends. He talked Holt out of retirement to make this SciFi /Horror movie. It has a gripping scene of a woman and a young girl trapped in a closet as the monster breaks through the door to get them. Check it out.

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Fellini!

Written by Joe D on September 5th, 2009

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Here’s part 1 of an 8 part documentary on the late, great Cine Maestro Federico Fellini. The best part of the film are the interviews with Fellini, when he speaks of the filmmaking process it’s like a philosopher, so sensitive and insightful, worth watching by every would be filmmaker. He speaks of editing on a Moviola and screening the film with only the dubbed voices of the actors for a sound track, no music, no sound effects and how different the film is when played that way. Check it out.

R.I.P. Kitty White

Written by Joe D on September 3rd, 2009

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The great L.A. born vocalist Kitty White has moved on to the next dimension, she’s singing up among the stars now, harmonizing with the music of the spheres or more likely soloing over it. She sang a duet with the King (Elvis Presley) in King Creole, dubbed the vocal of the lounge singer (Mady Comfort) in Kiss Me Deadly and sang the Farmhouse Lullaby in Night Of The Hunter. You can’t pick three more influential 50’s films to be involved with, from a super-coolness perspective! Fare Thee Well beautiful voiced Kitty, we’ll all hear you again in the Promised Land. I thought she had dubbed the little girl’s voice in the boat as they float down the river but I was mistaken, thanks to Preston Neal Jones author of the fabulous book Heaven And Earth To Play With, The Filming Of Night Of The Hunter for pointing this out.

Night Of The Hunter- Kitty’s vocals come in at 1 min. 42 secs.

Here is her voice in Kiss Me Deadly at 7 mins 39 secs. in from the top