Friday, December 05, 2014


I am moving Arts of Darkness over to a new location, Journeys in Darkness and Light: Exploration in Film and Comics. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

2015 Film Projects

In 2014 I really only tackled two film projects: the entire Up documentaries (1964-2012, ongoing) directed by Paul Almond (1964) and Michael Apted (1971-present), and the Universal Monsters collection. For 2015, I'm considering one or more of the following projects:

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Film Noir FAQ (2013) David J. Hogan

Film Noir FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About Hollywood’s Golden Age of Dames, Detectives, and Danger (2013) David J. Hogan
Paperback, 397 pages
$22.95 retail
ISBN 9781557838551

We close Noirvember, not with a film noir, but rather a book about them: Film Noir FAQ.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Dark Passage (1947)

Dark Passage (1947) Delmer Daves
Warner Brothers
B/W 1:46

Warner Archive Instant

Dark Passage has a lot going for it, so much so that you might think it would be included in discussions of great noir films. It’s not, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad picture, not by a long shot.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Criterion Titles for February

I always look forward to the middle of each month when Criterion announces it’s upcoming titles. In February 2015, I see at least two must-own titles, Nicholas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now (1973) and Martin Rosen’s Watership Down (1978). 


I saw Don’t Look Now in college and at least once since then, yet it still creeps me out in a major way. I really like the cover art for this new edition, but I confess to a fondness for the old cover with the ornately framed photo and the stream of blood that resembles a piece of a jigsaw puzzle. (I also secretly wonder if my red raincoat with a hood freaks people out...) 

I only saw Watership Down once when I was in high school. We’d just gotten cable and it seemed like the film came to HBO almost immediately after its theatrical run. I remember a grim, violent, yet beautiful animated film featuring the voice of John Hurt, whom I thought at the time was the greatest thing ever. (Maybe he was...) I was captivated then and look forward to seeing it again.  

So what are you looking forward to in February? 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950)

Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) Otto Preminger
20th Century Fox
B/W 1:35

Netflix rental

While New York City’s 16th Precinct welcomes new commander Detective Lieutenant Thomas (Karl Malden), Detective Mark Dixon (Dana Andrews) isn’t exactly in a celebratory mood. Dixon’s superior, Inspector Foley (Robert Simon), reminds Dixon that he and Thomas started at the same time, but Dixon’s career has been riddled with complaints of police brutality. “Your job is to detect criminals,” Foley tells him, “not to punish them.” 

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Enforcer (1951)

The Enforcer* (1951) Bretaigne Windust 
Warner Brothers
B/W 1:27
(*aka Murder, Inc.)
Netflix rental

Assistant District Attorney Martin Ferguson (Humphrey Bogart) loses a man who has agreed to testify against crime lord Albert Mendoza (Everett Sloane). Mendoza leads a group of killers-for-hire and their hard-to-trace methods leave Ferguson baffled. As odd as it seems to us today, terms like “hit” and “contract” were somewhat new in 1951, and Ferguson and his men spend significant time trying to define them. Even once they do, Ferguson realizes that getting to Mendoza won’t be easy. 

The Enforcer is a good, solid film noir that isn’t great, but is pretty darn good, thanks mostly to the cast. Bogart seems just a bit pedestrian as the DA, far from the wise-cracking detective he played in many of his other noir pictures, yet believability eventually gains a foothold. More impressive is the supporting cast, including wonderful performances by Zero Mostel as “Big Babe” Lazick, one of the contract killers, Ted de Corsia as the informant, and Everett Sloane, who’s always excellent. 

A plethora of flashbacks make things a little murky, but this is noir, right? Flashbacks are practically obligatory. Although Bretaigne Windust is credited with directing the film, many of the movie’s action scenes (as well as the ending) were directed by Raoul Walsh (uncredited). 


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Noirvember with Criterion

Thanks to the Barnes & Noble Criterion 50% off sale, which starts today in stores and online, you can stock up on some great film noir and neo noir titles including:





You can't go wrong with any of these titles, but if you need more ideas, here are more than 50 other suggestions


Monday, November 10, 2014

B&N - Criterion Sale Starts Soon...

The Barnes & Noble/Criterion Collection 50% off sale starts tomorrow in stores and online. 
I'm going to try to limit myself to these titles (listing my most desired titles first) and these titles ONLY, but you never know...

Although not specified on the images, the next two films are in dual format:

So what's on your list?

Friday, November 07, 2014


We’ve been in Noirvember now for a week, so if you haven’t watched any film noir classics yet, don’t worry: there’s still lots of noir out there for you.

If you watch your movies streaming, you have many options. I certainly didn’t exhaustively search each of these providers, but you can find at least a few noir films here:





and many, many more...

Many titles, including...

Please Murder Me
The Man Who Cheated Himself
The Big Combo
Raw Deal
Dark City (1950)
Blonde Ice
Parole, Inc.
Crime of Passion
Kansas City Confidential
Plunder Road
The Hitch-Hiker
Private Hell 36

Watch early, watch often. Be sure to report back and tell me what you saw. 

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Mad Love (1935)

Mad Love (1935) Karl Freund
B/W 1:07

Take four people, put them in four separate rooms, show them four different scenes from Mad Love and ask them to tell you what type of movie it is. Depending on which scenes they’re shown, their answers might be horror, suspense, romance, or melodrama. Mad Love is, in fact, none of these, although it certainly contains elements of each. It’s been labeled a horror film for nearly 80 years, but no matter how you classify it, you can’t forget it. 

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Spooky Silents

My wife and I (and several of our friends) were treated to an event at Maryland Hall in Annapolis last night called “Spooky Silents: A Silent Film Halloween,” featuring three silent short films with live music provided by the Peacherine Ragtime Society Orchestra, a 12-member group of local musicians led by Andrew Greene. 

Greene began the performance with a couple of short tunes, “More Candy: One Step” (1917) by Mel. B. Kaufman and “The Peacherine Rag” (1901) by Scott Joplin before giving the audience a brief history lesson on silent films and how they were enjoyed by audiences nearly 100 years ago. 

I’ve never done much research on silent movies and how the music accompanying them was performed, but I always imagined that most theaters (especially small-town ones) hired a local pianist to play during the films. Larger venues were lucky enough to have combos or small orchestras, such as the Peacherine group. 

I’ve always thought that watching films with an audience adds a completely different dimension than watching them at home, even if you invite several guests over. (I touched on this a few months back after visiting a small-town theater in West Virginia.) Adding live music takes that sense of community one step further, creating an atmosphere that’s instantly more exciting and spontaneous. That certainly was the case as the Peacherine Orchestra provided music for the following short films: 

“Haunted Spooks” (1920) starring Harold Lloyd, directed by Hal Roach and Al Goulding

Lloyd seeks to end it all after being dumped by the love of his life, but what’s this??? A young woman - needing a husband in order to receive an inheritance, which includes an old mansion - hurriedly marries Lloyd. Yet there’s some strange (and hilarious) stuff going on in this old house... (You can find an excellent review of the film here.) 

“One A.M.” (1916) starring Charlie Chaplin, directed by Chaplin

In what is essentially a one-man show, Chaplin plays a young man who’s totally wasted after a night on the town, simply trying to get into his house and go to bed to sleep it off. But things aren’t quite that simple. Only Chaplin could pull off a “Man Against House” comedy that involves sliding carpets, a tiger rug, a spinning table, a Murphy bed and much more. You just can’t beat Chaplin’s physical comedy and inventiveness. 

“The Haunted House” (1921) starring Buster Keaton, directed by Keaton and Clyde Bruckman

The deadpan “Great Stone Face” Keaton plays a bank teller who unknowingly finds himself in the middle of a group of counterfeiters posing as ghosts in a haunted house. I’ve seen some of Keaton’s other short films, and while this one isn’t exactly his best, it’s still very entertaining (especially the impossibly long set of stairs in the dream sequence). 

I’d always wondered what it was like to have been a part of a movie audience during the silent film era, and now I have at least an idea. I sensed an unmistakable feeling of community that Greene touched on during one of his remarks. He mentioned that even though the members of the audience might never see each other again, we shared - for a few moments - something that binds us together. It’s not just a love of film, although that’s certainly a part of it, but I think it’s also a sort of community agreement, that - despite all of the negative things that may be going on in the world and in our lives - we can all agree that the hero onscreen deserves to be cheered, the heroine is beautiful, the villains deserve our enthusiastic contempt, and - perhaps most importantly - we give ourselves permission to laugh out loud with no restraint. 

I hope this isn’t the last silent film project with live music we see in this area. I also hope that other cities and towns are fortunate enough to hold similar events. Silent films on DVD and Blu-ray make for some wonderful viewing, but those same films on a big screen (even if they’re not the best prints) combined with live music (even if it includes a few clunkers here and there) is a treat you shouldn’t miss if you have the opportunity to do so.  

Saturday, November 01, 2014

October Movies

October was mainly a month for classic horror (no surprise) and film noir. Other than one documentary, I saw nothing that was newer than 1973. I finished up the Universal Monsters box set and signed up for Warner Archive Instant streaming service. Here are the details of the films I saw last month: 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Revisiting the Horrors of Youth

When Halloween approaches, I love to figure out which horror movies I’ll want to watch, usually one I’ve never seen or haven’t seen in a long time. When I was a kid, it seemed like my hometown theater screened just about every horror movie that came along. I saw a lot of them, but also missed a fair number. Here’s a list of ten movies I’d like to see again or for the first time.

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) Terence Fisher

I used to devour my older brother’s copies of Famous Monsters of Filmland, always regretting that the Christopher Lee era of Frankenstein movies had already passed. I hope to see this one soon. (Hey, what’s a 40-year wait?)

The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) Roman Polanski

I absolutely loved this film when I was a kid, going to the theater at least twice to see it. I’m sure one of the reasons I loved it was Sharon Tate, but it was also probably the first time I’d seen horror and comedy combined effectively. Give me a break - I was probably only seven or eight at the time. We didn’t get many first-run movies at our theater, so I probably saw this in 1970 or 1971.

Count Yorga, Vampire (1970) Bob Kelljan

I don’t remember much about this one, other than all the girls in the theater screamed a lot. 


The House that Dripped Blood (1971) Peter Duffell

This may have been my first “What’s on the poster isn’t necessarily in the movie” experience. I’m pretty sure we never see Peter Cushing’s head on a platter, but I could be wrong. I hope to see it again to find out. Great title, though. 

The Legend of Hell House (1973) John Hough

I remember being creeped out by this one when I was a kid. I also remember liking just about anything that starred Roddy McDowell, so there was also that. 

The Horror at 37,000 Feet (TV 1973) David Lowell Rich

I was eleven when I saw this TV movie starring William Shatner as a former priest called upon to exorcise a demon-possessed jet on a transatlantic flight. Yes, you read that correctly. I’d still like to see it again. 

Trilogy of Terror (TV 1975) Dan Curtis

Ah, Karen Black will always be remembered for this film. All the kids in the eighth grade were talking about this one for days after it aired. I don’t think any of us had ever seen anything that scary on TV. 

Suspiria (1977) Dario Argento

Unbelievably, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the entire film. 

The Changeling (1980) Peter Medak

I think I missed out on this one as well. 

The Keep (1983) Michael Mann

Although I read and enjoyed F. Paul Wilson’s novel of the same name, I’ve never seen the film version. At one time it was very difficult to find. I’m not sure if that’s still the case...

So what horror movies would you like to revisit or experience for the first time?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Halloween Suggestion

This weekend, countless people will no doubt find themselves gathered in darkened rooms, sitting on couches and chairs, watching a movie (or two) designed to put them in the Halloween spirit (no pun intended). Some of the more obvious viewing choices might be any of the Halloween movies (especially the 1978 original), The Shining, The Silence of the Lambs, or even more recent films such as the Paranormal Activity movies or The Conjuring. Regardless of the quality of any of these or other films, the possibilities are endless. (I went to a party this weekend and watched The Exorcist in the host’s backyard, the chilly night air creating an appropriately spooky atmosphere. You might not be able to recreate that atmosphere, but atmosphere certainly helps.)

My suggestion for your Halloween movie (or at least one of them) is an often neglected masterpiece that has, for most people, several things working against it:

It’s in black-and-white

It’s from a director most people have forgotten (or never heard of to begin with)

There’s no gore (and possibly not even any blood, if I’m remembering correctly)


So why in the world would you want to watch The Innocents?