|Vintage Pulp||Jan 23 2017|
Tonight the Noir City Film Festival is also screening Stanley Kubrick's 1956 crime procedural The Killing. The title refers not to murder but to making a killing—i.e. a highly profitable score. Sterling Hayden leads a cast that includes Coleen Gray, Elisha Cook, Jr., and Marie Windsor. Hayden and crew hope to rob a race track, and to do this they lay out a precise plan that includes causing a brawl at the track bar as one distraction, and shooting a horse mid-race as another. What could go wrong, right? But the crazy plan makes sense, and if you have trouble following it a stentorian narration breaks down the action for you. We didn't mind that so much—the entire premise of the movie is that it's a faux-documentary, so the voiceover is something you have to accept. But the trumpets and tympani on the soundtrack—wow—are way overcooked. Still, this is a nice piece of noir, occasionally running on parallel timelines, with plenty of directorial style from a twenty-eight-year-old Kubrick. Some might take issue with the film's heavyhanded irony, but it's all somewhat redeemed by the perfection with which Hayden delivers his final line. The Killing didn't do well at the box office, however as often happens with films from directors who later become icons, opinions have shifted over the decades. But even if modern day critics are in agreement that The Killing is a top effort, it still won't be everyone's cup of tea. You'll just have to judge for yourself.
|Vintage Pulp||Jan 20 2017|
The best poster for the movie The Asphalt Jungle was, beyond doubt, the one we showed you a while back painted by the Italian artist Angelo Cesselon. But that one came a bit later. The above poster was made for the film's initial release in 1950. We think it's very nice as well, if remarkably different from Cesselon's masterpiece. As for the movie, we could tell you it's a top effort, but you already know that. If you haven't seen it, definitely do. It's showing at the Noir City Film Festival tonight, but even at home it's worth a screening.
|Vintage Pulp||May 23 2016|
|Vintage Pulp||Jan 11 2010|
The Asphalt Jungle is half a century old, but remains one of the best procedural heist films ever made. The men who commit the robbery at the center of this movie come from all walks of life—some are perennial losers, others are opportunists, and others are just having a hard time and need a way out. All of them long for better lives. All desperately need the money to get there. These footmen, facilitators, and financial backers plan every aspect of a lucrative heist, but the caper begins falling apart almost immediately, due to back luck, mistrust, and greed.
Sterling Hayden, who we’ve mentioned before, is incendiary in the lead, exuding extreme menace but with a hint of recognizable humanity behind the eyes. One of his best moments comes in a brief but exquisitely choreographed shooting involving a thrown valise. All of this takes place under the sure hand of director John Huston, working from a 1949 book by William Riley Burnett. Burnett was a bit of a legend himself. He was a prolific crime novelist who wrote the source material for Little Caesar, Scarface, and High Sierra, and whose screenplays include This Gun for Hire, I Died a Thousand Times, and Nobody Lives Forever.
Put Burnett, Huston and Hayden together (not to mention James Whitmore, Jean Hagen, Sam Jaffe, and a young Marilyn Monroe in a small role as a rich man's plaything) and you get exactly what you’d expect—a genre classic that transcends its boundaries and becomes instead a piece of high art. The film was a major hit that wowed audiences worldwide. At top you see the Italian promo art, and below that we have both the hardback and paperback cover art. The Asphalt Jungle opened as Giungla di asfalto in Italy today in 1951.
|Vintage Pulp||May 28 2009|
Today we have a beautiful promo poster for Von der Polizei gehetzt, aka Crime Wave, starring Sterling Hayden, Gene Nelson and Phyllis Kirk. This is truly great ’50s noir for various reasons, not least of which is director Andre de Toth’s extensive usage of L.A. exteriors as backdrops to the action. For that reason, this isn’t just a great movie, but a document of mid-century Los Angeles in which we see places that are gone and a time that has faded into history. We mentioned back in January when we commemorated the U.S. release of this movie how Hayden got caught up in the American commie hunts of the 1950s and capitulated to HUAC investigators, but we didn’t talk about his acting. This is the film to view if you want to see him in full, type-A, supermacho mode. It’s hard to imagine Hayden—a real-life tough guy who parachuted behind enemy lines in WWII—meeting his match in a bunch of oily HUAC politicians, especially after seeing him burn up the screen in this role, but that’s exactly what happened. Just goes to show everyone has a tipping point. Von der Polizei gehetzt was released in West Germany and Austria today in 1954.
|Hollywoodland | Vintage Pulp||Jan 12 2009|
Actor Sterling Hayden was a major pulp figure. Before starring in Crime Wave, acting in other noir films, working as a model, and writing novels, he was a genuine war hero. More specifically, he was an undercover agent with the COI, the American intelligence agency that predated the OSS, and during WWII he ran guns to Yugoslavia and parachuted into fascist Croatia. Despite being decorated for these and other death-defying missions, he later found himself in the crosshairs of the House Un-American Activities Committee for daring to associate with communists. Though he was innocent of any crime, HUAC threatened his career and reputation, and so under pressure Hayden eventually named names. It was a capitulation that haunted him to the end of his life. We’ll have more on Hayden in the future. Crime Wave premiered today in 1954.