Oct 212014
 
Reviewed by JONATHAN LEWIS:         


CORNERED. RKO Radio Pictures, 1945. Dick Powell, Walter Slezak, Micheline Cheirel, Nina Vale, Morris Carnovsky, Edgar Barrier, Steven Geray. Director: Edward Dmytryk

   Cornered is the type of suspense film where, for a time at least, you really don’t have a clue exactly where you’re headed. But you’re in good company, because the film’s protagonist doesn’t really know what’s going on all around him, either. It’s not the easiest plot structure to pull off in a book, let alone a film.

   You’d surely agree with me that far too many crime films have been ruined by a director holding back important information about what’s going on from the viewer without his ultimately, and successfully, clearing the obfuscation so as to bring the plot to a satisfying conclusion. Sometimes, trying to do too much to give the film an air of mystery ends up letting all the air out of the proverbial bag.

   In Edward Dymytrk’s Cornered, however, the mystifying and suspenseful plot ultimately works quite well. This is thanks in no small part to the film’s casting of Dick Powell as Laurence Gerard, a Royal Canadian Air Force pilot on the hunt for a Nazi collaborator, and Walter Slezak as Melchior Incza, an enterprising scoundrel who serves as Gerard’s Virgil on a tour of the war criminal underground of Buenos Aries. Powell and Slezak are both such talented actors that you don’t mind not being temporarily in the dark.

   On the surface, at least, the plot is fairly straightforward. The Second World War is officially over. Unofficially, of course, there are many unresolved issues. The murder of Laurence Gerard’s French wife is one of them. Gerard resolves that he will track down his wife’s killer, a French collaborator by the name of Marcel Jarnac. He travels from France to Switzerland and then to Argentina on the hunt for the mysterious man.

   Once he arrives in Buenos Aires, Gerard is immediately thrust into a web of deception and psychological turmoil. He’s not sure whom to trust or who is lying to him. All the while, he is struggling with headaches, a reminder that the recently concluded war’s casualties include those struggling with post-traumatic stress.

   Among the nefarious, or potentially dangerous people he encounters are the enigmatic Melchior Incza (Slezak), the sophisticated Argentinian lawyer, Manuel Santana (Morris Carnovsky), and a woman who is thought to be Jarnac’s wife (Micheline Cheirel). All the players seem to have hidden agendas.

   But Gerard is a man on a mission of revenge and will not heed calls to abandon his task, no matter what the cost. He descends deeper into the shadowy underground of Buenos Aires, all culminating in a violent showdown on the waterfront in which we finally see the unassuming Jarnac. He looks like he could easily blend into a crowd without anyone noticing something was amiss.

   And that’s the point. Fascism hides in plain sight. It is Jarnac, in his discussion with a captive Gerard, who most clearly enunciates the film’s strong anti-fascist message and warning: the Second World War may be over, but fascists like him still live, hidden both in plain sight and in the shadows.

   In conclusion, Cornered is both a suspense film and an early example of film noir. Gerard is caught up is a labyrinth of uncertainty, often subject to historical forces well out of his control. Many of the film’s pivotal scenes occur in interior settings, well away from the disinfectant power of bright sunlight. Nowhere is this the case more striking than in a beautifully filmed sequence in the Buenos Aires subway in which a traumatized Gerard struggles to maintain his composure in a broken world.

 Posted by at 1:24 am
Oct 202014
 
THE BACKWARD REVIEWER
William F. Deeck



BEVERLEY NICHOLS Horatio Green

BEVERLEY NICHOLS – The Moonflower Murder. E. P. Dutton, UK, hardcover, 1955. First published in the UK: Hutchinson, hardcover, 1955, as The Moonflower.

   In his second recorded case since his retirement as a private detective, Horatio Green is in Dartmoor in hopes of viewing the blooming of the fabulous Moonflower, transported at great expense from South America. Since he had some twenty-five years earlier investigated a jewelry theft for the owner of the Moonflower, Green had been invited to her estate to view the plant.

   The plant does bloom, forty-eight hours early, but its owner is not there to view it. Someone had strangled her and made off with her jewels.

   Since Superintendent Waller of Scotland Yard — both a friend and rival of Green’s — is in the area dealing with a recent escape from Princetown Prison, he begins an investigation of the crime with Green’s help. With the aid of his keen olfactory sense, Green identifies the culprit, while I wondered about genetics and slipshod post-mortems.

   Nichols first novel featuring Green — No Man’s Street — seemed to me to be a book by an accomplished author feeling his way into the mystery field, and thus left something to be desired. He does much better here.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 11, No. 3, Summer 1989.


NOTE:   Bill’s review of Murder by Request, also by Beverley Nichols, was posted here earlier on this blog. Following that review is some biographical information about the author and a complete listing of his Horatio Green series.

 Posted by at 11:23 pm
Oct 202014
 


Harry Dean Stanton: at 88, still going strong down Route 66

A screening of an acclaimed documentary about the actor offered a rare chance to see him in concert

from The Guardian UK
Harry Dean Stanton in Hollywood, October 2014.
Harry Dean Stanton in Hollywood, October 2014. Photograph: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images
California is crippled by a three-year “mega-drought”. The rivers are withering, the landscape a scratchy brown, and woe betide those who break the hosepipe ban.

Perfect weather, then, for a gravelly performance from Harry Dean Stanton: a man with a face like dust bowl, dessicated further by 70 odd years of cigarettes.

Stanton has appeared in more than 200 movies including Paris, Texas, Wild At Heart and as cat loving Brett in Alien. I first saw him as the dad in Pretty in Pink. Laconic, beaten-down, accepting, I thought he was the coolest thing since Molly Ringwald’s prom frock.

His backstory was explored Sophie Huber’s brilliant documentary, Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction (released in 2012, now available on Netflix).
This Swiss-born film-maker first meets her subject in his regular drinking haunt, Dan Tanas in Santa Monica, and uses music as her route in to this intensely private man. She follows him as he potters about his day-to-day routine, splicing the footage with pared down renditions of his favourite songs, such as Danny Boy and Blue Bayou, which are performed from the safety of his living room.
Late last month, the film was screened at the Grammy Museum in downtown LA, and both Stanton and Huber took part in a charming Q&A afterwards. Followed by some tunes: Stanton singing and on harmonica, accompanied by guitar and bass.
As he took to the stage, fragile as a larch, the audience moved to the edge of their seats. Stanton fumbled first for his reading glasses, then for one of his many harmonicas, all tuned to different keys. Would he make it through the first bar? He would; albeit from the comfort of an overstuffed armchair (as he said - he is 12 years off 100).
His exit was quicker: Stanton scarpered immediately after the three tracks were over; his guitarist, Jamie, revealed to the crowd that he’d called the night before to try and wriggle out of the performance.
Stanton was one of those rare beasts: exactly in the flesh as you’d suspect from the screen. Introspective, and mischievous; a loner, and old-fashioned with it. In an age of white noise and celebrity hysteria, this was a reminder of a previous time; refreshing courtesy in the drought. He’d never married, he said in the film - and only once proposed because it seemed the civil thing to do. He’s wiser now he’s older, he said. After all, “what’s wrong with silence?”

Headlines that shouldm’t be true but are

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Oct 202014
 




Daily soda consumption not only expands your waistline — it
destroys your DNA

Justice Ginsburg admits to keeping stash of ‘Notorious RBG’ shirts to give to friends

Cage-fighter War Machine blames anti-male society for his domestic violence in suicide note

Bagpipe-playing Oregon racist’s message backfires as community unites against hate

Revealed: King Tut had overbite, club foot because his parents were brother and sister

Pat Robertson rants over ‘deadly’ gay marriage in Idaho: It’s an ‘onslaught of homosexual behavior’

Texas men accidentally shoot each other while firing at partygoers over beer pong loss

SC GOP candidate: Don't be deceived -- 'cute' same-sex 'gremlins' will destroy US

Teen convicted as 'armed clowns' spread panic in French towns

John Oliver ‘dogs’ Supreme Court with hilarious canine re-enactments

Tavis Smiley rips Bill Kristol: You are ‘the worst of America’ for
using Ebola in politics

Pumpkin Festival coordinator gets physical with local reporter trying
to cover riots

Russell Brand’s anti-voting revolution makes Sex Pistols’ ‘Johnny
Rotten’ want to puke

Video shows scuffle between St. Louis Rams fans and Ferguson protesters

Oklahoma man opens fire on ex-girlfriend for not leaving 'fast enough':
police

Kafkaesque ‘bureaucratic clusterf*ck’: Oliver slams US treatment of
military translators

Fox News priest: How can we baptize kids in same-sex families if
parents are sinners?

Tennessee lawmaker arrested again, this time for stalking and
threatening neighbor

Researchers develop tiny tractor beam, and they’re sure they could make
a larger one

Welcome to the best World Series ever — and why ESPN can’t see it

Black Nevada conservative and ‘brave white man’ Cliven Bundy call Eric
Holder out

Supreme Court denies request to block Texas voter ID law

Will there be enough fish to go around? Not if we follow healthy eating
guidelines

Ebola fearmongering is the GOP’s new crazy, racist dog whistle

‘I’m not panicked, I’m just pissed’: Bill Maher blasts Dallas hospital
‘morons’ over Ebola

Two guys show up as famous women for dress as celebs event, and school
freaks out

Willie Horton 2.0: Republicans launch ‘race-baiting’ ad linking
Nebraska Democrat to murderer

Tesla Motors slams Michigan car dealers for new bill banning them from
in-state sales

Question of lynching lingers around hanging death of black NC high
school football player

California man eaten by bear after dying from heart attack







Featured in KDP Newsletter!

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Oct 202014
 

Just a quick note to say I got tons of email from folks congratulating me on being featured in the newest KDP newsletter.

Pretty cool. If you’d told me couple of years ago I’d be featured by Amazon as an example of indie success, I’d have said you were insane.

Now, you’re the smartest guy in the room.

Hopefully sales will go through the roof. My gut says probably not, but hey, can’t complain about an Amazon feature, especially when it didn’t cost anything. I mean, I could, because God knows I could complain about anything, but I won’t. For which we are all grateful.

I’ve also gotten a spate of questions asking what my secret is. To that end, here is everything I know about self-publishing and writing, collected as a few blogs that lay it all out. I have no additional info to share – this represents everything I’ve learned and done, and represents my current and past approach:

How To Sell Loads Of Books

The Three Ds

Author Myths #1

Author Myths #2

Author Myths #3

Good luck with your writing. It’s an interesting and difficult road, but one I’m glad to have traveled.

 

 

 

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Oct 202014
 
Narc #6: The Beauty Kill, by Robert Hawkes March, 1975  Signet Books The sixth volume of the Narc series is full-on blaxploitation; hell, Superfly is even namedropped on the cover. Yet again our hero, John Bolt, is lost in the colorful shuffle, Marc Olden focusing more on his vast cast of street-wise villains. Also as usual, The Beauty Kill has no pickup from previous volumes; the Narc

Best Last Scene in a Movie?

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Oct 202014
 


And there are a lot of great ones. But the other night I was reminded of one of my favorites. In the last scene in BIG NIGHT, a movie about two brothers trying to get a restaurant going, the brother who is the lesser cook but more the manager, (Stanley Tucchi) makes an omelette for his brother (Tony Shaloub) and a waiter. 

And then they sit down and eat it. This occurs after a particularly trying night for the brothers. 

There is absolutely no dialog in the scene but it perfectly encapsulates the brothers' relationship and what their life is about. 

What is your favorite last scene?
Oct 202014
 

Methinks there's dirty work afoot...

"On the Saturday morning at twelve o'clock he left England, on the wildest chase that any man had ever undertaken. And behind him, did he but know it, stalked the shadow of death."

Cue the organ music. Get the monsters and misfits ready offstage. Could that melodramatic bit of writing have originated with anyone other than the master of the early English thriller, Edgar Wallace? Of course not. It is, in fact, a key development in the rather confusing but thoroughly entertaining plot of The Door With Seven Locks, first published in 1926, and a fine example of the kind of book which made Edgar Wallace one of the most popular novelists of his day. The Door with Seven Locks is the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to that full review by clicking here.

The plot is difficult to sum up in a few well-chosen words. It begins with a Scotland Yard detective who is about to retire from the force. He becomes involved with a small-time crook, an expert at picking locks, who tells him about a recent lock-picking job that has made him quite nervous. Before he can pass along details, the lock-picker is murdered. Next, our retiring detective gets involved in a couple of seemingly unrelated incidents – the theft of an obscure book from a lending library (whose librarian, a young woman, will be the heroine of the story), and an assignment to go chasing around the world after a very rich and very elusive young heir who is rarely seen. That assignment leads to the departure I quoted at the beginning of this post.

In the midst of all this chasing about, we discover that there is a desperate search under way for seven individual keys which, when all used together, can open a mysterious door in a family's tomb. We meet a doctor – clearly an unsympathetic and sinister character – who is suspected of carrying out unethical medical experiments, to say the least. And we get glimpses of some powerful and dangerous creatures who may or may not be linked to the doctor. Add in our heroine’s unfortunate habit of getting herself into dangerous situations and you have a very fast-moving, easy-to-read and easy-to-enjoy – if not very easy to summarize - thriller. The Door with Seven Locks is certainly Wallace in fine form.

Wallace's popularity has endured, by the way: more than 160 movies have been made from his work, more than have been made from any other author's books. In fact, this book was made into a movie which was given a new but entirely appropriate name: Chamber of Horrors. They don't write 'em like that any more, do they?

The Challenge

As part of my continuing commitment to the Vintage Mystery Bingo Reading Challenge under way at the My Reader's Block blog, I am submitting this to cover the Bingo square calling for one book that has been made into a movie. For details about the challenge, and what I'm doing for it, please click here.

Oct 202014
 
In the debut episode of A Man Called Sloane (airing September 22, 1979), top level UNIT agent Thomas Remington Sloane (Robert Conrad) and his partner Torque (Ji-Tu Cumbuka), a giant of a man with a huge, mechanical hand, is investigating the thefts of "K3" plutonium pellets from the U.S. government.

As it turns out, the thefts have been arranged by Manfred Baranoff (the always great Roddy McDowall), a mad scientist building a private army of super-strong androids. Posing as a mercenary thief with irradiated K3 pellets to sell, Sloane attempts to infiltrate Baranoff's organization, only to have his cover immediately blown. Needless to say, agent Sloane is captured, and locked in a rather nice bedroom sealed with deadly electrical force fields. With the help of pretty Sara Nightingale (Diane Stilwell), an artist employed by Baranoff to sculpt his android's faces, Sloane escapes from his prison.

In a nice twist, Sloane discovers Baranoff's body lying on the floor of a now-empty laboratory – the scientist has been murdered by one of his own creations, a "perfect" android named Alexander (Chris Marlowe). Alexander takes command of the other 'droids, and plans an assault on a scientific laboratory, where he plans to secure enough radioactive material to power himself and his army forever.

It's a fun little bit of Seventies spy-fi fluff, with a nicely layered performance – as usual – from McDowall. There are a couple of decent fight scenes, with Conrad actually involved in the action. Unlike on The Wild Wild West, where the athletic star insisted on doing all his own stunts, on Sloane, the mercurial Conrad wasn't always as enthusiastic, and frequently let his doubles do the sweating.

The only spy gadget in this episode worth mentioning is a two-way radio hidden within a rather ostentatious money clip. And, as will frequently happen over the dozen episodes, Sloane's towering, cyborg sidekick Torque has little-to-nothing to do in this installment.

Probably because I grew up as a science fiction fan in the Seventies (i.e. "The Roger Moore 007 Years"), I find that I am very fond of the more sci-fi spy-fi; androids and death rays are so much more exotic (and fun) McGuffins than dreary old "secret documents" or mundane nuclear warheads. I love the more down-to-earth, realistic spy stories, too, but I'm not a snob.

The title of this Sloane episode is reminiscent of the episode titles on The Wild Wild West, which all began with the words "The Night of...," and specifically, the title of the first Dr. Loveless episode, "The Night The Little Wizard Shook the World." Coincidence?