Part Four of ‘Killers From Space’

It’s the weekend and time for the next part in this rather bizarre unique movie.

Be advised that the following scenes contain graphic depictions of aliens with eyes like golf balls.

Having duly warned you said that, let’s get on with the show, shall we?

PS: Did you know Billy Wilder’s nephew co-wrote this movie? And Wilder’s brother produced and directed the film?

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My Review of ‘The Narrow Margin’ (1952)

This is a taut film noir thriller that takes place almost entirely on a train.

It starts with an LAPD detective, Walter Brown (played by Charles McGraw) and his partner Sergeant Gus Forbes (played by Don Bedoe) picking up their assignment. Their task is to protect a boss’ widow name of Mrs. Frankie Neall (played with acidic zest by Marie Windsor), as she travels from Chi-Town to the City of Angels to give grand jury testimony.

Unfortunately, en route from Mrs. Neall’s apartment, Forbes is shot to death by an assassin named Densel (played by Peter Virgo), who gets wounded but escapes. Naturally, as Brown and Mrs. Neall bicker their way to the train station, they’re followed. And despite Brown’s clever attempts to evade them, the followers join them on the train to L.A.

Brown soon has his hands full, between trading snarky remarks with the oddly-uncooperative Mrs. Neall, trying to avoid undue attention from what appears to be a hyperactive child, and flirting discreetly with an attractive blonde, Ann Sinclair (played by Jacqueline White). All while dealing with the hoods on the train.

Without going into great detail—because that would spoil everything—it’s hard to know who to trust in this story. The plot is a nail-biter, complemented well with its use of sound and shadowy cinematography. It also has a plot twist that I never saw coming—and I’ve seen my share. This plot twist was, in fact, meticulously set up—or would have been, had they not changed one tiny detail about Forbes. Which I won’t reveal, because … spoilers! 🙂

It should also be noted that, instead of a musical soundtrack, train sound effects serve as the accompaniment, creating tension and suspense in a more naturalistic way.

For a low-budget B-production with a cast of relative unknowns, this movie is top-drawer in every sense. As befitting a film noir, the story is one in which nothing is as it appears.

This film totally merits five stars. Check your local library for a copy or buy it online.

PS: Shades of North by Northwest? Or Double Indemnity? 🙂

PPS: I love this review, but be forewarned—spoilers!

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‘Killers From Space’ — Part Three

As always, here’s another part of the B-movie cavalcade. (That’s the Word of the Day. Cavalcade! 🙂 )

I’m speaking writing, of course, about Part Three of Killers From Space!

Barbara Bestar. Shouldn’t that be Barbara B-Movies? 🙂

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My Review of ‘Blast of Silence’ (1961)

There’s much to like about this movie, but it falls short of perfect. Let’s go over the good stuff before we turn our attention to the not-so-good. And—warning—this review does reveal spoilers.

To begin with, Blast of Silence is an indie film—a low-budget production that in look and tone suggests it’s a film noir. While IMDB.com identifies the movie as a crime drama/thriller and Wikipedia simply calls it a crime film, I say if it looks like a film noir and quacks like a duck, then roll with it!

The story is about Frankie Bono, a hitman from Cleveland, who comes to New York City during the festive Christmas holidays. He’s been hired to take out a mid-level mob boss—and I don’t mean to a holiday party.

A few notable things about the film.

The beginning—in a not-so-subtle audio/video re-creation of the birth process, Bono is thrust into New York out of a railroad tunnel. This while his own birth is described in voiceover, basically ending with the following sentiment: “Bye, Mom. You’re done here.”

Narration is also done in second person. It comes across as a bit stilted at first (even bordering on parody—I kept thinking, “I should be taking notes”). However, the overall effect eventually works.

Our antihero protagonist talks a lot about anger and hate. “You hate cities, especially at Christmas.” “You hated the target almost as much as you did the old man.” That kind of thing.

I grew quickly accustomed to the narration as an inner dialogue rather than explanation. It’s not only unique, but it gives you the character’s backstory without bogging the story down in exposition. Creates a bond with him. Even makes him a sympathetic antihero.

Also, the cinematography and sound. The use of lit shop windows and holiday decorations sketch out the scenery in light and shadow. The jazz soundtrack, combined with the noir ambiance and jump cut editing, is fitting for the tone and period of the film.

I haven’t talked much about the story. Like I said, Frankie Bono (a.k.a., Cleveland—his cute code name) comes to town to knock off a mob guy. He carefully takes his time to do this, guarding his approach with the same fervor that he guards his heart. Until he’s undone by—what else?—an old flame.

The woman named Lori, who Bono remembers from his days in the orphanage that raised him, is hardly a femme fatale. What transpires between Bono and Lori is little more than a failure to communicate.

The real problem comes from the middleman, Big Ralph, who (wising up to exactly who Bono is taking out) gets a deadly case of greed when providing Bono with the required gun for the job.

All very nice, but—and here come the spoilers!—after all that careful planning, waiting, surveillance, calculating, etc., etc., Bono tells his client he wants out of the deal, only to be rebuffed and held to finishing his contract with his “retirement plans” to be settled later.

Now, do you really expect me to believe that after all that, Mr. Professional Hitman would sashay off without a care to the middle of freaking nowhere to collect the rest of his fee? Without a weapon? Without some sort of backup or alternate plan? Surely, he didn’t expect to be greeted with open arms.

I’m here to get my severance pay! 🙂

Do I have to spell it out? This does not end well.

In the end, the narration should have included something to the effect of “You were careful and professional every step of the way. Until you suddenly lost your marbles dropped the ball and trusted the Mob after telling them you were quits.”

So … yeah, it’s existential, it’s the you’re alone from birth to death thing, I get that.

But that ending. Well, it’s a cop out I could think of better ways to achieve the same thing.

This one had me in all the way to its disappointing end, which knocks off a star.

 

Posted in Crime Drama, Crime Movies, Film Noir, Movie Reviews, Thriller | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

‘Killers From Space’ – Part Two

Here it is, folks! The movie you’ve been breathlessly waiting for!

It’s Part Two of Killers From Space!

PS: Happy Cinco de Mayo! 🙂

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My Review of ‘Crossfire’ (1947)

This movie goes beyond the usual territory of film noir—postwar, nuclear age anxiety about gender roles, etc., etc.—into the realm of social commentary. The message in this case being one against anti-Semitism.

The plot revolves around a group of soldiers back from the war and the murder of a man named Joseph Samuels (played by Sam Levene) they met at a bar. The groups friendly get-together at Samuels’ place devolves into an ugly mess when Samuels is murdered.

Among the remarkable aspects of this film is the way it openly deals with anti-Semitism. Robert Ryan, who plays one of the soldiers, pulls out the stops in his portrayal of an angry and unapologetic bigot.

Image via TCM.

The movie also has a fragmented storyline, told in a series of flashbacks, in which each soldier pieces together the events leading up to the killing. Robert Mitchum plays the “good soldier,” who fears his friend Mitchell (played by George Cooper) may be charged with the crime and does his best to clear him.

Image via Baron Wolf’s Blog.

Each character lays out pieces of the puzzle in their accounts of the chance meeting and ensuing festivities with Samuels to a police investigator played by Robert Young. So the movie has an awesome trifecta of Roberts! 🙂

Image via OCD Viewer.

Not to be outdone by The Three Roberts, Gloria Grahame (in the role of a potential witness) delivers her usual excellent performance as one of those down at the heels women she plays with the perfect balance of sensitivity and sass.

Interestingly, the movie was based on the novel The Brick Foxhole, in which the victim was a homosexual. But the Hays Code put the kibosh on that topic, because being gay was considered sexual perversion. So the homophobia theme was changed to racism and anti-Semitism, which were apparently much less perverse than homosexuality in the good old days everyone could agree were awful, even then.

The movie’s exemplary use of flashbacks, shifting points of view, and cinematography all lend themselves to the tropes of film noir. And while it may be classified as such, it also transcends genre conventions with a hard-hitting message against intolerance.

I think this one deserves a five-star rating!

Posted in Drama, Film Noir, Movie Reviews | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Part One of ‘Killers From Space’

I’m happy to say I have a new entry in this series of B-movies.

This week we start the fun with Part One of Killers From Space!

Plus, a review of the film I found on another YouTube channel! 🙂

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