Sunday, May 31, 2009

Movie: Cop Hater (1958)

This low-budget adaptation of the first 87th Precinct novel by Ed McBain has been parked on my DVR since last October. I promised Matt at Scrubbles a review, so here it is.

Someone is picking off detectives at the 87th, and Steve Carella, here named Carelli and newly engaged to girlfriend Teddy, is leading the investigation. Underrated character actor Gerald S. O’Loughlin is his partner. The story felt a little Law & Order, which makes sense considering how much that warhorse series owes to McBain. But it’s told in gritty, New York in the blast furnace of summer style, building to a dandy twist ending followed by a potent kicker – Carella catching his next case as the credits roll past his weary mug, the grind of police work unceasing. Jerry Orbach, looking like Valley Girl-era Nicolas Cage, owns the joint in his big screen debut. It’s strange to watch Robert Loggia, so young it’s unseemly, as Carella and “Vince” Gardenia in a scene and think, “The pair of yous will have long careers and in thirty years you’ll get Oscar nominations.” Loggia, still going strong, was a special guest at this weekend’s Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival in Palm Springs.

Semi-related rant #1: There’s a potent and very real sexual undercurrent running through Cop Hater. Not the typical golden boy/pretty girl vibe of most movies, but an earthier and at times angrier kind. Two bored people sweltering in the same tiny apartment, familiarity breeding contempt breeding arousal, tormenting each other with their availability. I’d like to see more of that. In movies, not in life. I’ve got enough problems.

Movie: Dreams With Sharp Teeth (2008)

This documentary on Harlan Ellison is on DVD and the Sundance Channel, which is offering additional clips. Harlan, as always, is great copy. And he answers some long-standing questions about The Oscar, the overheated melodrama that he says essentially ended his feature film career. According to Harlan, he wrote it for Steve McQueen and Peter Falk and got Stephen Boyd and Tony Bennett.

Semi-related rant #2: The doc features plenty of clips of Harlan being interviewed by the late Tom Snyder. Who’s booking writers now, other than Craig Ferguson? In an environment with multiple web talk shows in which B-list celebrities talk to C-listers, how come there’s not a quality program highlighting author raconteurs? I could book the first month of shows off the top of my head. Do I have to do everything myself?

Movie: Drag Me To Hell (2009)

I enjoyed every minute of Sam Raimi’s gypsy curse scarefest, from the ‘80s Universal logo to the last ballsy shot. Great fun. Go now.

Semi-related rant #3: Um, actually, I don’t have anything for this one. I’m good.