Vintage Pulp Dec 5 2019
CONCEALED CARY
How many secrets can one man keep?


Charade is one of the great romantic thrillers in cinema history, and is a movie you should definitely see if you haven't. Audrey Hepburn plays a woman whose husband is fatally thrown off a speeding train and Cary Grant is a charming but mysterious stranger willing to render aid in solving the murder. But Grant has ulterior motives, as well as multiple identities. Others are interested in the killing too, and it soon develops that they're after $250,000 worth of missing gold.

The movie is great, as legions of fans and critics have agreed, but in addition to its narrative, directorial, and acting brilliance, what we like about it is that the unlikeliness of the May-December attraction between Grant and Hepburn does not go unaddressed. At one point Grant, 59, quips to Hepburn, 30, that he's afraid he'll be arrested for transporting a minor. We love the tack taken in dealing with the romance because it gives the audience credit for being intelligent enough to appreciate the subtleties of life. That's increasingly rare in popular movies—as well as in popular culture.

For example, these days there's talk of such things as “age appropriate” relationships, the inference being that older men should not be with younger women (and possibly vice versa). Horseshit. We can think of little more sexist than assuming women aren't able to make their own life choices. Consenting adults—older/younger, male/male, female/female, other/other—trying to find love will tend to look anywhere they can, and internet tribunals can take a flying leap. We don't say that merely because neither Pulp Intl. girlfriend is age appropriate. We say it because nothing in this life is more important than finding the right partner.

Interestingly, numerous other mid-century films—among them classics like Sabrina and To Catch a Thief—also addressed the presumed incongruity of older men with younger women, and did it in an empathetic, humanistic way. Charade does it more amusingly than most. Grant is initially embarrassed by Hepburn's attentions, but of course she eventually wears him down. The film mixes comedy, romance, and thrills, plus it was made in beautiful locations around Paris, all of which makes it a total winner. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1963.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 28 2017
CHARLEY'S WEB
Seven hundred sixty-five thousand problems.

After a week of films with plots climaxing in robberies, 1973's Charley Varrick gets the heist out of the way on the heels of opening credits. Unfortunately, it goes violently, lethally wrong for Walter Matthau and his partners. Worse, though they clear $765,000, the stolen money belongs to a mafia clan that had been using the bank as a laundry and wants every dollar back. Add in a statewide dragnet, a brash and alcoholic partner, and cops out to avenge a dead colleague, and you have a tangled web indeed. The question of whether to keep the money never really comes up. The smart move is to return it. But Matthau may not get the chance to do it before he's ventilated by the mafia gunman on his trail.
 
The Noir City Film Festival's desire to push beyond the confines of noir has led to the inclusion of movies far outside the genre. This is another one festival organizers want seen in a new light. But it's missing something. While there's a heist and gunplay, Varrick is not a character we ever considered to be at serious risk of dying, which means a critical feature of film noir is missing—menace. Matthau is simply miscast. He's the guy from Hello Dolly! and Cactus Flower, after all. He isn't going to get shot. Oops. What was that we were saying about no more spoilers? Oh well. Now you know he lives. Sorry. You may still like Charley Varrick, even though it plays like an ambitious television movie. It's not noir, but it's not bad.
 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
November 29
1963—Warren Commission Formed
U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson establishes the Warren Commission to investigate the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. However the long report that is finally issued does little to settle questions about the assassination, and today surveys show that only a small minority of Americans agree with the Commission's conclusions.
November 28
1942—Nightclub Fire Kills Hundreds
In Boston, Massachusetts, a fire in the fashionable Cocoanut Grove nightclub kills 492 people. Patrons were unable to escape when the fire began because the exits immediately became blocked with panicked people, and other possible exits were welded shut or boarded up. The fire led to a reform of fire codes and safety standards across the country, and the club's owner, Barney Welansky, who had boasted of his ties to the Mafia and to Boston Mayor Maurice J. Tobin, was eventually found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
November 27
1934—Baby Face Nelson Killed
In the U.S., killer and bank robber Baby Face Nelson, aka Lester Joseph Gillis, dies in a shoot-out with the FBI in Barrington, Illinois. Nelson is shot nine times, but by walking directly into a barrage of gunfire manages to kill both of his FBI pursuers before dying himself.
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