Episode 268 – Night of the Hunter (1955)

As we come to the close of our “Walk the Dark Street” series, let us consider hunting. One can hunt for many things: gold, Red October, wascally wabbits . . . but what sort of man does it take to hunt for two adorable children and their cash-filled doll? I’ll tell you what kind: Robert Mitchum’s Preacher in “Night of the Hunter” and here’s hoping there aren’t a lot of his kind of man out there. Brrr. Regardless of what you might think of the movie overall, Mitchum’s performance is remarkable in its intensity and stress-inducement. So join me and Mike as we HUNT for the overall quality of this final film noir in our series (see what I did there? Of course you do. I don’t even know why I bothered to ask. I’m just so tired . . . when I try to sleep, I keep seeing Robert Mitchum standing over my bed, holding a stick of Mitchum deodorant . . . I think I need help).

By the way, to satisfy your burning need to know, “Walk the Dark Street” is the title of a stunningly bad “thriller” starring Chuck “The Rifleman” Connors that sort of tries to be an urban “The Most Dangerous Game.” We watched it; you don’t have to.

Poll question: who or what is the scariest movie character you’ve encountered?

Episode 267 – The Thin Man (1934)

Great googly-moogly, we’re at the penultimate “Walk the Dark Street” episode and what do we have? A muurrrrrrrderrrr. Murder most foul! Missing persons! Terrible deaths! Conniving relatives! What can possibly solve this confounding conundrum? The one thing that always helps: booze! Yes, booze, and lots of it! Booze makes you charming and enhances your deductive faculties! Booze makes everyone in New York, from cops to crooks, like you and find you delightful! Booze makes your terrier obedient and lets you ignore bullet wounds! Booze! [Disclaimer: all prior effects of booze are only applicable if you are William Powell or Myrna Loy and only in the 1930’s and 40’s. All the many negative medical effects of booze apply in all other cases. Not available in all states (sorry, Tennessee!). Only apply booze if you only take taxis, have your own chauffer, or your own private railway car]. Yes, join us for the first in the very successful alcohol-soaked “Thin Man” movie series. Drink deep of the only one of these many films actually based on a Dashiell Hammet novel. Chug this very early example of film noir (or is it?)! Come and knock back a few with Max, Mike, and Bumpy the Wonder Terrier (I’m working on a trade-in).

Poll question: what is your favorite laugh-out-loud comedy?

Episode 266 – Le Samourai (1967)

Ah, oui . . . the way of le Samourai. Surely there is nothing more French than le code of le Bushido, non? For was it not Jean-Paul Sartre who said “Existence precedes and rules essence, and so I must cut my belly open.” How often have we thrilled to the exploits of that master of le dai-sho, Marcel Marceau, who slaughtered his enemies with his merciless blades while never speaking a word. Also while smoking. Of course, you silly Americans must think this strange, in your ignorance, assuming that le Samourai is a Japanese cultural creation. C’est l’absurd! Now, enjoy some fine sake from the rice paddies of Bordeau.

No, this week’s entry in “Walk the Dark Street” may not fit the traditional notion of a samurai film but, well, it sure as heck seems to fit the notion of film noir. I mean, it sure as le heck . . . ok, I can’t keep this going. Anyway, this film appears on many lists as an excellent example of film noir, even if film noir is pure ‘MURICA! . . . despite the fact that the term is French but never mind! Join your amis Maxamillion et Michel as we see if we agree with all of these folks who think this film is le bee’s knees. Alons-y!

Poll question: who is your favorite non-American actor?

Episode 265 – Tokyo Drifter (1966)

Kon’nichiwa, minasan, Makkusu, Maiku, eiga, soshite watashitachi no sirīzu `u~ōku za dāku sutorīto’ e yōkoso. Ok, that was supposed to say “Hello, folks, welcome to Max, Mike, Movies and our series, Walk the Dark Street.” However, apparently what it actually says is: “Hello, everyone. Welcome to Max, Mike, the film, and this series, Walking on Dark Paths.” At least, that’s how I hope it translates. If it’s something worse, I deeply apologize and it’s Mike’s fault. I kind of like the name Makkusu, though . . . And why are we butchering the language of the Land of the Rising Sun? Because that’s the origin point of this week’s film, “Tokyo Drifter.” The “Tokyo” part is kind of a giveaway. This is a groovy, swinging scene from the heart of the 1960’s, which proves the 60’s were the 60’s, no matter what part of the world you were in. But how well does this Japanese New Wave film handle the genre of film noir? Slip into your best powder-blue suit, tune up your harmonica, and join your bros/pals Makkusu and Maiku to find out.

Poll question: what is your favorite example of one country successfully making a movie in a genre associated with a different country? An American samurai movie? An Italian cowboy movie? A Russo-Finnish Sinbad movie?

Episode 264 – Dark City (1998)

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to today’s tour of Dark City, brought to you by Max, Mike; Movies, the podcast for your busy Dark City life, and their latest flavor . . . sorry, series, “Walk the Dark Street.” And how appropriate is that, folks, because all our streets are dark! Here. Because it’s Dark City . . . tough crowd. So, on your left, there’s a fine example of our city’s neo-classical architecture in the famous Sutherland Building, but you can’t see it . . . because it’s dark. Right now we’re going over the picturesque Connelly bridge which spans Sewell river but you can’t see either of those things . . . because it’s dark. Seriously, why does anyone shell out money for these tours? It’s dark here; that’s our whole thing! It’s in the name of city, for gosh sakes! No! Get off me! They have to know that these tours are a fraud! A fraud, I tell you!

But our podcast is not a fraud and is certainly not created by bizarre aliens wearing human forms, attempting to understand what is to be truly hu-man. What a silly idea. Or is it? This 1998 film is another non-standard choice as an example of film noir, as it’s science fiction (or fantasy, really; the science doesn’t bear a lot of scrutiny) and deals with the nature of the self and raises the question: are we nothing more than the sum of our memories? Whoa, deep! Does it work? Does the science fiction element help or hinder? And does this film belong in our Catalog of Noir? Give a listen to Mr. Max and Mr. Mike and find out!

Poll question:Is there still room for film noir in today’s cinema? Or has it all been said before? Is it still relevant?

Episode 263 – Sin City (2005)

“Hello, hi, is this thing on? Ok, I’d like to call to order this meeting of the Sin City Chamber of Commerce. Could I get some water, please? Um, ok, I’d like to start off by saying kudos to all you guys; we’ve had a great year for at least SOME sins. Wrath, well, we sure have that covered, and big, big thanks to you guys, Marv, Dwight, and Hartigan. Lust, wow, what can I say? That’s always been a biggie here, thank you Nancy and Gail! Another great year. Let’s hear it for them! Pride, well the Rourke brothers have that pretty well covered, but folks, let’s not ignore the sinful elephant in the room (seriously, could I get some water, please?). I mean Greed has been sort of implied but not really well represented, neither has Envy and don’t get me started on Gluttony or Sloth! I mean, come on people! When people think of Sin City, we want to think of ALL the Seven Deadly Sins, not just the ones on the billboards. Now, I’ve got a 430 slide presentation on how I think we can improve the presence of our under-represented sins, but first, could I get some water, please?”

Well, that went on a bit longer than expected but if you haven’t guessed, this week’s “Walk the Dark Street” deals with a noir-type film inspired by a Frank Miller graphic novel series from the 90’s. So how does this extremely faithful-to-the-source-material film stack up? Pull on your fine, fine coat, grab lotsa guns and a vintage car and give a listen!

Poll question: What’s your favorite film adaptation of a comic book? Doesn’t have to be a superhero comic book!

Episode 262 – Double Indemnity (1944)

Well, we’re about halfway through our “Walk the Dark Street” series and Mike and I are learning things about film noir that we never imagined. We’ve learned hard lessons, rough lessons, painfully tight lessons . . . ok, this is going in a weird direction, but perhaps the most surprising thing we’ve learned is from this week’s Billy Wilder film, considered by many to the first film noir, and that is: forget about private eyes, forget about ex-cops or ex-spies. The hardest, nastiest, coldest guys with the sharpest edge are . . . insurance salesmen. That’s right, what use is a gat in the face of a skillfully wielded actuarial table? How many of you wouldn’t quail in the face of a detailed distribution of assets as valued in the previous tax year, including, but not limited to, personal property, annuities and general fiduciary responsibilities? These guys would make the strongest of us curl up and whimper. Phillip Marlowe and Sam Spade would run screaming into the night in the face of a table of policy holder’s rights and responsibility. Brrr. Makes me cold just thinking about it. And this movie has one of the sharpest, oiliest boys in the business . . . Fred MacMurray! That’s right, before old Fred invented Flubber or lived with His Three Sons, he romanced a tough-as-nails dame played by Barbara Stanwyck and went toe-to-toe with Edward G. Robinson. Give a listen and see what it’s like in barbed-wired-and-razor-blades world of . . . personal insurance! Dun dun DUUUUUNNNN!

Poll question: What was the worst movie viewing experience you ever had? Was it the movie, the venue, the patrons, or a combination of all three?

Episode 261- The Big Sleep (1946)

In this week’s episode of “Walk the Dark Street” we return to the Age of Classic Noir with the 1946 Bogey and Bacall vehicle, directed by Howard Hawks and with a screenplay written by none other than William Faulkner, adapted from a Raymond Chandler novel. Faulkner, later legendary for his simple, clear-cut storytelling and basic, almost child-like use of language is the perfect person to adapt this painfully easy to follow story about a simple family, a simple mystery and I’m simply lying to you. This film is not easy to follow and is less of a whodunit than it is a “why is my forehead throbbing now that the movie’s over?” sort of film. Sure, the cast is amazing, Howard Hawks’ direction is slick, tight, and speedy but is that enough to overcome a, um, SLIGHTLY convoluted plot that ends up with more holes in it than a . . . thing with a lot of holes? I believe I’ve mentioned that I’m not good at these noir similes, haven’t I? Well, give a listen, and see if this is muddled mess or the sort of movie where you don’t really know what’s happening but you just don’t care? I’ll be over here with my Big Book of Film Noir Similes so maybe I’ll have a handle on it by the end of this series.

Poll question: when you watch a mystery or thriller, do you prefer to try to figure out whodunit in advance or do you like to just let the story carry you along?

Episode 260 – Diva (1981)

“Hey, man, you know what they call Max, Mike; Movies in France?”

“No. What do they call it?”

“They call it Le Max, Mike; Cinéma.”

“That’s cool. What do they call ‘Walk the Dark Street’ in France’?”

“That’d be “Marcher Dans La Rue Sombre. “

“Cool. Cool. Is that because they use the metric system?”

“What? No! How does that make any sense? Well, you’ve ruined it now.”

As you may have surmised, this week’s potential example of film noir comes from the land of 400 cheeses, Peugeots, and dressing: France, what with it being French and all. So, it’s French, it’s in color, and did we mention it’s not in English? Is this film actually film noir or, is it, as the French would say . . . um, film noir? Huh . . . Give le listen and findez-vous out!

Poll question: what is your favorite foreign film?

Episode 259 – The Long Goodbye (1973)

And we’re back, walking the dark street with our series “Walk the Dark Street.” Works out rather nicely, doesn’t it? This week our subject is a 70’s take on that classic Raymond Chandler character Phillip Marlowe in Robert Altman’s film version of “The Long Goodbye.” This one’s a little different folks; for one thing, it’s in color, which is an issue in and of itself (see the poll question below). For another, the hard-bitten, hard-drinking, razor sharp detective, so ably portrayed before by Humphrey Bogart, is now played by . . . Elliott Gould? Sure, that tracks. Natural progression, going from Bogey to Gould to Robert Mitchum (1975, “Farewell My Lovely”). I mean . . . at least they’re in correct alphabetical order? So this one is a poser, most dear and impeccably dressed listeners: can a noir film work with such an odd choice for Marlowe, and in color no less? Do please consider: this movie does have a cat in it, and it’s kind of surprising who plays the feline part. And a future governor of California makes an uncredited, non-speaking appearance, so we’re in for some interesting weather. Give a listen and see what we thought!

Poll question: do you think film noir works better with black-and-white movies or does color not make a difference?