Out of the Blue
Dennis Hopper has always played the person who unsettled me the most in a movie. There was something about the naturalness behind his screwy, brutish characters that made me feel as though the role was more personal therapy than acting. But I must say that I've always been captivated by his roles, and I try to see as many as possible because they do have such a strange effect on me. That being said, I've yet to see Easy Rider, which he directed, nor was I even aware that he directed it and several others, including this film. Many of the details in Out of the Blue seemed familiar; the womanizing husband, as seen in several Cassavetes films; the youngsters from broken homes, like in The Outsiders; the robotic, forced, and sometimes unnatural dialogue in David Lynch films. This familiarity turned me off at first, and I must admit that the overall feel of the movie didn't grab me the way I thought it would. What ultimately kept me focused and quite pleased was Dennis Hopper and his young co-star Linda Manz.
In the movie we find Cebe (Linda Manz), a 15-year old girl who's searching for someone to look up to. Her father (Dennis Hopper) is at the tail end of a 5-year stretch in prison after accidentally driving his semi into a school bus full of children. Her mother (Sharon Farrell) is a heroin addict who tries to find security and a good time with different men. Cebe aspires to be a punk rocker and often recites phrases and philosophies made popular by Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten. She also enjoys listening to and dressing up like Elvis. Her attachment to their music is a catalyst for the film, and because they're dead and gone, she tries to find direction and excitement in local punk bands. Her aggression, and that of her small group of friends, is what often saves her from the perverts and lowlifes in her town.Continue Reading
For a downbeat noir as pessimistic as they come look no further than Andre De Toth's Pitfall (1948). It's a film that depicts a time often thought of as a golden age of American prosperity and nuclear family bliss and then tears our warm and fuzzy notions to pieces. After the end of WW2 the G.I. Bill changed America for the better. For the first time many more Americans would get a chance to go to college while also being able to own their own homes. People had tons of kids. Suburbia and the good life soon followed and we never really looked back. But all this peace and prosperity left some feeling trapped. Life for some became bland and predictable and if noir has taught us anything it's that a husky-voiced blonde can be as lethal as dynamite.
Dick Powell plays John Forbes, a man who seemingly has it all: an adorable son, a loving wife, a nice middle-class house, and a decent job working in insurance. But John is sullen and not terribly appreciative of how good he has it. He goes out on a call about a woman in possession of stolen goods that her incarcerated husband had given her. Lizabeth Scott, best known for her noir vixen roles, plays Mona Stevens, the girl with the loot. Forbes expects to find the kind of girl he thinks would take up with a criminal but instead sees that Mona is a victim of circumstance and never asked for the things her husband stole for her. She's also beautiful and Forbes takes the opportunity to spend the rest of the day with her, conveniently forgetting to mention to her that he's married.Continue Reading
Anthony Mann had a storied career as a director of westerns, many of which starred Jimmy Stewart (Winchester ’73, Bend of the River, The Naked Spur). He directed one of the most ecstatically bizarre examples of the genre—The Furies starring the great Barbara Stanwyck. But before he made his name with westerns and sprawling epics such as El Cid and The Fall of the Roman Empire, he is best remembered as one of the original progenitors of the noir style. Mann made some of the most classic films associated with noir in the late 1940s and, for my money, nothing beats his shadow-drenched masterpiece Raw Deal. With its rich expressionist visuals and eerie Theremin score, Raw Deal is a poetic depiction of a world in perpetual twilight.
Dennis O’Keefe —one of those beautifully rough hewn actors in the Burt Lancaster and Sterling Hayden mold—plays Joe Sullivan, a guy doing time in jail for a crime he didn’t commit (as a favor to a local crime syndicate boss with the promise of $50,000 coming his way if he plays along). Joe’s girl Pat is played by Claire Trevor, who provides a haunting voiceover throughout the film in a whispered voice that suggests she’s mourning Joe before he’s gone. She would do anything for him, and he is happy to let her. She shows up for a prison visit with information about how she’s going to spring him from jail. Rick, the crime boss of Corkscrew Alley, a.k.a the bad part of town, has engineered a scheme to bust Joe out of jail and have him snuffed out before he can claim his 50 Gs, but all Pat knows is if things go as planned he’ll be out of the big house and back in her arms that night. Joe has another woman in his life complicating his relationship with Pat, though. Marsha Hunt plays Ann, his case worker, a prim brunette to Pat’s life-hardened blonde, who believes that the real Joe Sullivan is a decent guy who deserves a second chance in life if he agrees to play by the rules. But Joe never had much luck from the start and he has no intention of going straight now. At dusk he makes his escape, barely outrunning prison guard gunfire to a waiting car and, once inside, Pat and Joe make their getaway. But before they can get out on the lam Joe insists they first take Ann hostage and force her to play along until they get to the hideout (which is really a set up) that Rick has arranged for Joe.Continue Reading