Archive for September, 2022


Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , , , on September 30, 2022 by dcairns

CONFESSIONE DI UN COMMISSARIO DI POLIZIA AL PROCURATORE DELLA REPUBBLICCA (1971), directed by Damiano Damiani, has been claimed as the film which launched the whole poliziotteschi genre, though there are rival candidates.

Damiani denied that A BULLET FOR THE GENERAL was a western, but I don’t know if he was similarly picky about his cop movies. It may seem a foolish delicacy, but perhaps it helped him think in non-generic terms. CONFESSIONE is no DIRTY HARRY knock-off, although it does make vigilantism of a kind seem an understandable reaction to Italy’s widespread Mafia corruption.

I don’t think of the following as a spoiler — run away if you feel you must, however — Damiani follows the logic Polanski explained with regard to CHINATOWN — if you want the audience to come away caring about the issues you’re outlining, you can’t have a traditional clean and happy resolution. So most Italian crime movies, and certainly all Damiani’s that I’ve seen, end with a worst case scenario, the good punished, the evil rewarded. His good guys are defeated by their very humanity.

There’s a flipside to Polanski’s theorem — if you keep slamming the audience with downer endings, they may find they prefer escapist nonsense — that’s one reading of what happened to the New Hollywood cinema. Keeping the audience engaged and angry without driving them to the despair of mere cynicism would be a hard balance to strike with the uncoordinated cinematic produce of an entire film industry. One interpretation of Italy’s current predicament might be an overall loss of hope in the democratic project.

Still — can’t blame Damiani for that. This one has Martin Balsam as the rogue cop and Franco Nero as the straight shooter. Marilu’ Tolo’s role could have stood enlarging, since she’s potentially the third point of the narrative triangle, and her role is a little predictable. Still, giving her more to do could have caused that problem to get worse. As soon as she’s put in the position of needing sheltered from assassins, we fear the worst. What saved the film from any rote quality is that Damiani can imagine a “worst” that’s worse than what I could have come up with. It’s pretty damn bleak.

Still, it has the gaudy fashions, frantic energy and pop-operatic Riz Ortolani score we like to see, and a plot that mostly keeps lurching, unbalanced, in wholly unpredictable ways — always from bad to worse, aided by Balsam’s zero-fucks-left-to-give character — but the actor’s underrated soulful quality greatly deepens the affect. And the film features a man-to-man love story which might have rivalled A BULLET FOR THE GENERAL’s, except that the flashbacks showing Balsam’s departed idol never show Balsam interacting with him… A narrative firewall against homoeroticism which might be read as revealing in and of itself.

A guy like you

Posted in FILM, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 29, 2022 by dcairns

A lyric from Disney’s THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME there, but what we’re looking at tonight is the Blu-ray from Masters of Cinema of the Universal/Lon Chaney version. Which comes equipped with Kim Newman and Jonathan Rigby and Stephen Jones extras. Which are great. But it’s the film you’d buy it for.

A century of abuse has applied to this film a patina of scratches and scars, but the video upgrade allows us to see the film beneath them with far greater clarity than in all those public domain DVDs, and that includes being able to see the PERFORMANCES, which is the best reason in this case for restoring the thing. The impressive sets — which employed both Charles D Hall and Charles Gemora — are amazing, but Chaney, Patsy Ruth Miller, and grotesque woodblocks Nigel De Brulier, Brandon Hurst, Ernest Torrence, Raymond Hatton and Tully Marshall, make the human side of it vivid also.

Newman mentions in his bit that Lon Chaney Jr finally got to don a version of his dad’s Quasimodo makeup in an episode of Route 66, also featuring Karloff and Lorre. Here it is — the hunchback’s shamble-on appearance is the first thing we see.


Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on September 28, 2022 by dcairns

WELL — finished (I think — I hope) two of the three video essays I’ve been slaving over. The last one is the most complicated, but the end is in sight. Then I hope to be doing one for new company Radiance Films…

Currently too tired to plunge into BLONDE, which I’m very curious about, so instead we’re watching THE REAL DEAL, Marilyn in THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH. Not my fovourite Wilder or even my favourite Wilder & Monroe (obviously) but I wouldn’t be able to do SOME LIKE IT HOT justice in my depleted condition.

Can’t get around the problem of Tom Ewell looking like Skelton Knaggs’ withered twin, and I’m morally certain Walter Matthau, who Wilder really wanted, and who merely looks like Ben Gazzara’s deflated uncle, would have been funnier… but Ewell, it must be admitted, gets some good laughs, particularly when he staggers off out of the FROM HERE TO ETERNITY pastiche on zombie legs.

The film where you see more of Ewell’s skin than Monroe’s.

The in-jokery — Wilder collaborated with ETERNITY director Fred Zinnemann back in Berlin — is rampant, with an audacious name-check for former George Axelrod collaborator Charlie Lederer early on. Possibly a sign that both Wilder and Axelrod felt the film needed every extra gag it could get, since the censor was taking much of the sex out of it. But what the movie loses in schmutz it gains in schmaltz, or sweetness, as it’s known outside of that cynical old town Hollywood.