Film Review – Angels With Dirty Faces (1938)

Angels With Dirty Faces

1938

Director: Michael Curtiz

Whaddya’ hear whaddya’ say?”

 

One of the genre’s most renowned works, Angels With Dirty Faces is a classic gangster film which gives James Cagney one of his most memorable roles, and which makes a true attempt to present something different and take a new look at the role of gangsters in a post-prohibition society.

Released in 1938 and directed by Casablanca and Yankee Doodle Dandy director Michael Curtiz, the film centres around Rocky Sullivan (Cagney), a life-long tough guy who has spent lift in and out of various prisons since childhood, and the story picks up following his latest prison release, having taken a fall for a $100,000 armed robbery so that his ‘associate’, a crooked lawyer called Jim Frazier (played by a young Humphrey Bogart) can set up a criminal outfit with the proceeds from their past endeavours, only to find himself double-crossed and eventually forced to blackmail his gang in order get his ‘cut’, setting him up for inevitable conflict amongst his former associates. Continue reading

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Farewell, My Lovelies: Three Faces of Philip Marlowe

 

Following on from a re-read of Raymond Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely (reviewed here), I was surprised to find how much I enjoyed reading it again. One of Raymond Chandler’s best works, it’s a mean, dark story of a detective working his way through the rotting streets of Los Angeles. Tasked to find an ex-con’s former fiancé, a nightclub crooner called Velma Valento, Marlowe is dragged into a tale involving gangsters, crooked cops, psychic consultants, rich politicians, mysterious hold-ups and not to mention quite a few beatings around the head…

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it made a fairly swift transfer to the big screen – beginning with 1942’s The Falcon Takes Over – and holds the honour of being the Chandler novel which has been adapted the most times, with three film versions to its credit (The Big Sleep and The High Window scored two adaptions, with all the others having the one, save for Playback which never was made – rather ironically, given that it started life out as a screenplay rather than a novel). Owing to having a free weekend, not to mention a bit of a hangover to also work through, I nobly committed myself to spending a Saturday re-watching these three films with the view to doing a small comparison piece.

Here goes… Continue reading

‘Laura’ – On Page and On Screen

‘Laura’ – On Page and On Screen

Novel by: Vera Caspary

Film directed by: Otto Preminger

1944’s ‘Laura’ is typically considered one of the highlights early film noir. A murder mystery based around a detective’s investigations into the death of the titular character, Laura Hunt, the story is an engaging study into the twisted love and irrational obsession over the mere existence of another human being, and is considered a highly influential entry within the genre.

After having seen the film some months before, I stumbled across a copy of the original novel and decided, having quite enjoyed the movie, to give it a go. It’s a fairly short book (much like the film) and makes for suitable travelling reading. Upon reading it, I was surprised my how much I enjoyed it and followed it on with an immediate re-watching of the movie. Given how popular the film adaption is, I thought a comparison of the two might be of interest, particularly for those less familiar with the original novel. Continue reading

Film Review – The Big Sleep (1946)

“How do you like your brandy, sir?”

“In a glass.”

One of the titles most closely identified with 20th century crime fiction, Howard Hawks’ The Big Sleep is a vast labyrinth of a film both on and off screen, thanks its winding, intricate series of plot threads, memorable characters, snappy dialogue and, not least of all, the real-life romance of the leading stars. Much like the book, it stands up as one of the true high points of all hardboiled, noir, and detective fiction. Continue reading

Film Review – Smart Money

Smart Money

1931

Director: Alfred E. Green

The one and only collaboration between Edward G Robinson and James Cagney, Smart Money is an early entry into the gangster era, released on the coattails of 1931’s Little Caesar and The Public Enemy. A bit of an overlooked classic, due to the shift in focus in subject matter, and featuring less controversial elements than the aforementioned films included, it stands up as a film worth revisiting for any fan of the genre.

Continue reading

Film Review – The Falcon Takes Over

The Falcon Takes Over

1942

Director: Irving Reis

One of the earliest screen adaptions of Raymond Chandler’s works, 1942’s The Falcon Takes Over is an interesting take on Chandler’s 1940 novel Farewell, My Lovely, the second novel to feature gumshoe Philip Marlowe, which, looking back on them all now, stands out as one of the best entries in the series. At the time, Marlowe himself wasn’t as well-engrained into crime culture as would later become, and so rather than doing a straight adaption, RKO Pictures decided to fit the adaption within their ongoing series featuring George Sanders as amateur sleuth ‘The Falcon’. Continue reading

Film Review – The Brasher Doubloon

The Brasher Doubloon

1947

Director: John Brahm

Rule number one of being a detective – always cash the retainer check before the client has a chance to change their mind.”

One of the lesser-known cinematic adaptions of Raymond Chandler’s works, The Brasher Doubloon is an adaption of Chandler’s 1943 novel The High Window, the third novel to feature legendary gumshoe Philip Marlowe. A somewhat overlooked entry, both now as well as at the time of release, the film never received too much praise, but in viewing the movie recently, it stands up as being a light yet definitely entertaining entry into the Marlowe film series.

Continue reading

Film Review: Bugsy

Bugsy

Director: Barry Levinson

1991

Based on the life of legendary gangster Benjamin ‘Bugsy’ Siegel (not to be confused with ‘Bugs’ Moran), Bugsy tells the story of Siegel’s ambitious plans to create an oasis in the desert – the city that eventually became Las Vegas – as well as the mafia’s key role in funding and developing that dream, alongside showing the beginning and tragic end of his infamous relationship with Hollywood actress Virginia Hill.   Continue reading

Film Review – Touch of Evil

Touch of Evil

1958

Director: Orson Welles

Usually credited as being one of the final entries in the original era of film noir, Touch of Evil stands out as being one the darkest and most sinister noirs of them all. Co-written, co-starring and directed by Orson Welles (known for other noirs including The Third Man and The Lady from Shanghai, as well as a little-known filled called Citizen Kane…), it is a story into corruption and the abuse of power set amongst a Cold-War era backdrop of racial tension and suspicion set in a small town on the Mexican border.

The law protects the guilty as well as the innocent…a policeman’s job is only easy in a police state, that’s the whole point, Captain – who’s the boss, the cop or the law?” Continue reading