Needle Magazine, Spring 2014

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Apr 232014
 

The new Needle Magazine for Spring 2014 is now available in print, here.

"Needle Magazine is hardboiled, lean and mean. Crime fiction from some of the best-- Heath Lowrance, Rob W. Hart, Patti Abbott, Taylor Brown, Jen Conley, Stephen D. Rogers, Court Merrigan, Sandra Seamans, Trent England, Christopher L. Irvin, William Boyle, William Dylan Powell, and Tom Joyce. Cover art by Scott Morse."

All for just seven and a half bucks on Lulu. A bargain.

THE BRUTAL ILLUSION

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Apr 222014
 


THE BRUTAL ILLUSION
By Stephen Jared
161 pages
Solstice Publishing

Since Hollywood first appeared amidst the bustling beehive of Los Angeles, California, it became the Mecca for thousands of young men and women hoping to find fame and fortune in the film industry.  But only a tiny percentage would ever realize those dreams. The majority would either return to their small town homes, find other menial employment or worse, end up lost souls beneath the heartless wheels of the motion picture world.

Stephen Jared’s cautionary tale of Allyson Rockwell is such a tragedy and from the first page to the last, it is a grim, unrelenting descent into a young woman’s personal hell. Depressed and ready to call it quits, Allyson is within hours of taking a bus home when, on a whim, she goes to a glitzy Hollywood film premier and there meets a Lenny Carsen, a sadistic mobster who is captivated by her good looks.  Seeing her vulnerability, Carsen convinces her to give up her plans of going home by suggesting he can get her a film contract. When he manages to make good on that promise, it is then simple for him to suggest Allyson move into his small home in the suburbs.  Not wanting to appear ungrateful and still euphoric by having just signed a contract with Universal Studios, Allyson naively accepts Carsen’s offer.

Days later, while in a drunken stupor, he rapes her on the kitchen floor.  He makes it quite clear she can expect more of the same on a regular basis.  Too ashamed to go to the police, Allyson is afraid a scandal would jeopardize her fledgling acting career which she had worked so hard to attain.  But by choosing to keep her situation a secret, Allyson begins her descent into a dark, bottomless pit of despair from which there is no return.

After beginning his writing presence with several action adventures, Stephen Jared focuses his considerable talent on his own back yard.  A professional actor in both films and television, he is no stranger to the back office deals and exploitative manipulations young actors are subject to on a daily basis.  It is this intimate knowledge of the players in this industry of illusion that lifts his tale to a level of poignant reality that is difficult to ignore.  It is by far his most personal work and thus his best.  There are no happy endings in “The Brutal Illusion,” only broken hearts.

Apr 222014
 
Reviewed by DAVID VINEYARD:          YOUNG DETECTIVE DEE: RISE OF THE SEA DRAGON. China Film Co-production / Huayi Brothers Media, 2013. Original title: Di renjie: Shen du long wang. Mark Chao, Feng Shaofeng, Angelbaby, Lin Gengxin, Carina Lsu, Kim Bum. Screenplay: Kuo-fu Chen, loosely based on the historical Judge Dee. Director: Tsui Hark.    Judge Dee, the [...]
Apr 222014
 
Reviewed by JONATHAN LEWIS:          STORM WARNING. Warner Brothers, 1951. Ginger Rogers, Ronald Reagan, Doris Day, Steve Cochran, Hugh Sanders. Screenplay: Daniel Fuchs & Richard Brooks. Director: Stuart Heisler.    As much a cultural artifact as it is a film, Storm Warning (1951) is about a big city woman who witnesses a murder in a small town, [...]
Apr 222014
 
Reviewed by JONATHAN LEWIS:         


STORM WARNING. Warner Brothers, 1951. Ginger Rogers, Ronald Reagan, Doris Day, Steve Cochran, Hugh Sanders. Screenplay: Daniel Fuchs & Richard Brooks. Director: Stuart Heisler.

STORM WARNING Ginger Rogers

   As much a cultural artifact as it is a film, Storm Warning (1951) is about a big city woman who witnesses a murder in a small town, the KKK’s stranglehold on otherwise decent people, and a county prosecutor’s determination to both solve a murder and to bring down the local Klan. Directed by Stuart Heisler (The Hurricane) and starring Ginger Rogers, Ronald Reagan, Doris Day, and Steve Cochran, the film is both a captivating tale of suspense and a cinematic jeremiad against the Klan’s role in the post-war South.

   With a screenplay written by Richard Brooks (Elmer Gantry) and Daniel Fuchs (Criss Cross), Storm Warning is notable for its strong anti-Klan message, its bleak depiction of the mores of a particular slice of small town America, and its tragic, downbeat ending.

   Indeed, shadowy black and white cinematography, a setting with dark streets, a neon-lit diner, and an abandoned bus terminal, and a brutal on screen murder, signal Storm Warning’s arrival as a film noir. After about forty minutes or so, however, the film morphs into a middling courtroom melodrama more suited for television than for the big screen. It then reverts to noir, albeit of an even darker shade, for film’s shockingly violent and tragic conclusion.

STORM WARNING Ginger Rogers

   The plot’s basics are as follows. A bus is passing through the small southern town of Rockpoint. One of the passengers, a dress model named Marsha Mitchell (Ginger Rogers), has a sister in town. Since she hasn’t seen her sister in person for two years, she decides to get off the bus in hopes of catching up with her sibling, promising her traveling companion that she’ll catch up with him soon.

   Something seems eerily wrong with the town. The guy who checks luggage at the bus terminal is in a hurry to close up, the local cab driver has no interest in driving his cab, and a diner is closing unusually early. Without a cab to take her to the recreation center where her sister works, Mitchell has to walk alone through the town’s dark, abandoned streets.

   Soon Mitchell witnesses a scuffle outside the local jail. Klansmen are beating a print journalist, Walter Adams, who had been imprisoned on possibly trumped up charges after investigating the Klan. Mitchell witnesses the violence and tries to hide. Things go from bad to worse when one of the Klansman, his hood removed, shoots and kills the reporter.

STORM WARNING Ginger Rogers

   Mitchell finally makes her way to her sister’s house. While catching up, she learns that her sister, Lucy Rice (Doris Day in an early non-singing role), is not only happily married, but also pregnant. Soon, her sister’s loser husband, Hank (Steve Cochran), comes home. Not only do we learn that he has an alcohol problem; he’s also the same guy who shot and killed the reporter.

   Marsha Mitchell has an ethical dilemma. Does she admit that she knows what the husband did? Does she tell the authorities? What responsibility does she have to ensuring her sister’s happiness? What responsibility does she have to tell the truth? What would the consequences be of each possible choice? The movie deals with these very questions.

   Tasked with solving the murder is the local district attorney, Burt Rainey (Ronald Reagan), who is well aware that many of his former high school classmates and neighbors are either in the Klan or are afraid to say anything negative about them.

   Rainey is determined, however, to seek justice for Walter Adams. He doesn’t think much of the Klan, essentially viewing it as a corrupt racket. Eventually, Rainey learns that Marsha Mitchell had witnessed the crime and orders her to a coroner’s inquest. From there, the film takes several twists and turns, only to culminate in an especially noir ending that takes place at a chillingly realistic looking Klan rally out in the woods.

STORM WARNING Ginger Rogers

   As I viewed Storm Warning, several things struck me. First, despite its clear anti-Klan message, there are no explicit references to the Klan’s racism. The viewer is supposed to understand what the Klan is and what it does. This is no Mississippi Burning.

   More notable is the fact that the Klan is presented as a corrupt, fraudulent organization rather than as a vehicle for hate. There are also very few non-white faces in the film. Likewise, not a single character has a Southern accent. Finally, the film is notable for its almost complete lack of levity. Except for a moment in which Rainey’s mother notes that she didn’t vote for her son in his election for district attorney, but would do in the future, the film has almost no memorable humorous or happy moments.

   Reagan succeeds in portraying Rainey as a lonesome warrior for good. Steve Cochran portrays Hank Rice as almost too stupid to be truly evil. The two female leads, Ginger Rogers and Doris Day, portray sisters who have completely different personalities. While Mitchell (Rogers) is guarded and cynical, Rice (Day) is ebullient and distressingly naïve.

   Storm Warning is very dark, unhappy, and claustrophobic film. But it’s not one a viewer will soon forget. If you choose to watch it, the violence of last ten minutes or so will probably stay in your mind for some time to come. I’m pretty sure that’s what the screenwriters wanted.

STORM WARNING Ginger Rogers

 Posted by at 6:00 pm

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