Sunday, December 27, 2009

Stream Street of No Return Movie Online

Street of No Return is available for streaming or downloading.

This is Samuel Fuller’s last film, 1989, starring Keith Carradine as a musty pop star (wearing overly glam clothes and singing schmaltzy guitar and orchestra 80s pop songs to an adoring audience in flashback) who loses the girl of his dreams and wanders into the life of a drunken bum after getting his vocal cords reduce for his dallying with the girl, a mobster’s babe. No cords, no singing. No singing, no money. Et cetera.
Based on a strong hard boiled current by David Goodis, ca. 1950s, the film is, unfortunately, a travesty of the original. While the book does a stout job of linking Eugene’s (Michael in the movie) descent into the lower depths with the corruption of the world around him–cop and criminal both–the movie short changes the viewer on everything: the place, the characters, emotional resonance.
The movie was made in Portugal with Portuguese and French actors in most roles, along with Americans Keith Carradine and Bill Duke. In fact, the film feels device too distinguished like it’s a B minus movie made exclusively for the European market, with its truncated, cliched dialogue. You’ve seen these movies before, in which unprejudiced about all the characters spout dialogue that’s tailor made for actors who struggle with English, since it’s not their native language. Because of that, the script is made up of short lines, easy to memorize and swear for non-English speaking folks. This, of course, tends to substantially limit the depth of emotion at any given point in any of these films. And that is, unfortunately, the case with Street of No Return.

Carradine is delicate, but he doesn’t have distinguished to do. The book portrays Eugene’s emotions far more deeply than does the film, so that the reader understands–FEELS–how it is that this man could sink so uncouth after the loss of a worship. The movie moves through this space point(s) so abruptly that it’s basically impossible to sympathize with Michael/Eugene; we merely survey him go through the motions of drinking and reacting to stuff as it happens. But even the stuff that happens is cursorily or tritely portrayed. A hurry riot in the beginning of the film is mighty too stagey to recognize credible, for example.
The three stars are for the conception of the film which is vast, and also for the extras, principally the terrific 32-minute featurette on the Making of Street of No Return, in which Fuller is interviewed on the plot. He’s quite a character and evokes gargantuan sympathy, with his strong views on society, violence, and hypocrisy. Keen around the state with an 11-inch cigar in his mouth, he looks like–and was–the last of the legendary maverick directors.
The featurette gets five stars; the film gets about 2 and a half. Hence the three stars for the DVD.
Jean-Luc Godard described Samuel Fuller’s films as “cinema fist,” and that’s certainly good of Fuller’s last film, the underrated _Street of No Return_. A bizarre, fast-moving noirish cocktail of esteem and death (with an unexpected ending that feels more like fantasy than fact), _Street_ bears the director’s indelible ticket on every frame. The exercise of Lisbon locations to stand in for an unnamed American city creates a perverse visual poetry out of the production’s budgetary constraints.
Keith Carradine acquits himself well as the film’s male lead, but it’s Bill Duke as a Sunless police chief who explodes all over the cloak. The DVD from Fantoma features a very worthy video transfer and remixed audio; special features include an snide audio commentary from Carradine (couldn’t they have roped a few film scholars into doing this instead? ), a text interview with Fuller, and a safe current featurette with plenty of conceal time devoted to Fuller’s outsized personality.
Fuller’s autobiography _A Third Face_ mentions that, as was often the case with his projects in the ’70s and ’80s, this film was taken out of his hands at the last little and re-edited. The version of _Street of No Return_ that he intended us to glimpse is probably lost by now. But even in this shortened version, it’s a ripping beneficial swan song. No one before or since has made films like Fuller, and it’s our loss.
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Monday, December 21, 2009

THE BLONDE ON THE STREET CORNER - a review by Mike Dennis


by David Goodis
reviewed by Mike Dennis
"Ralph stood on the corner, leaning against the brick wall of Silver's candy store, telling himself to go home and get some sleep."
That's the opening line of The Blonde On The Street Corner, a 1954 novel written by David Goodis. Of course, Ralph doesn't go home. Instead, he spots a blonde across the dark street and gawks at her. She eventually calls him over to light her cigarette, which he does.
Now, at this point, one might expect that Ralph would be lured into a tight web spun by this dazzling femme fatale, resulting in his eventual moral destruction, if not death. But Goodis doesn't write that way. In fact, the blonde is fat, sharp-tongued, and lives in the neighborhood. Ralph knows her, and knows that she's married. She propositions him right on the corner, but he rejects her. "I don't mess around with married women," he tells her. Then he goes home.
Much to the reader's surprise, this encounter does not trigger the plot of the novel. In fact, it would be right to say that the novel has no plot, in the usual sense. Ralph returns to his impoverished Philadelphia home and spends the rest of the book wallowing in misery with his friends, all of whom are in the same boat as he: in their thirties, usually unemployed, and filled with unrealistic dreams. One of his friends says he is a "songwriter", but no one has ever recorded any of his songs. Another wants to be a big-league baseball player, but lasted only a week on a class D minor league team. They spend most of their time leaning up against buildings, wearing only thin coats against the bitter Philadelphia winter, and wishing they had more money. They talk a good deal about going to Florida, where they can get jobs as bellmen in a "big-time hotel", convinced this would jump-start their desperatelives.
The book goes on like this pretty much all the way through, with no moving story line, but it's Goodis' prose that keeps you riveted to the page. No one can paint a picture of a hopeless world better than he can. For Goodis, Philadelphia is a desolate place, whose bleak streets offer little in the way of promise. Many of his novels were set there, and they all shared that common trait. Life in that city is, for him and his characters, usually an exercise in futility. These are people who walk around with twenty or thirty cents in their pockets, who cold-call girls out of the phone book asking for dates, and for whom escape to Florida is always right around the corner. The finale provides the mortal body blow to Ralph, stripping him of the last shred of his dignity.
The Blonde On The Street Corner is a potent novel, filled with the passions and despair of its characters.All through this book, you find yourself longing to run into characters whose lives mean something. Then, you realize there aren't any.

as seen at 
# # #
Copyright © Mike Dennis, 2009
After a long career as a professional musician, MIKE DENNIS moved from Key West to Las Vegas to become a professional poker player.  His first novel, The Take, a noir tale of human desperation, will be published in 2010.  His short story Pickup Across The River was published online at A Twist Of Noir, and another story, Block, is now available in the 2009 Wizards of Words Anthology.

Saturday, December 19, 2009



Le Casse (1971)

'The Burglars'

Published: June 15, 1972

For the first five minutes, about as long as the main title credits last, Henri Verneuil's "The Burglars" suggests a degree of technical competence, of simply knowing what to do next, that is rare enough in movies these days to perhaps make up for any lack of real quality—at least to the level of passable entertainment. But by the second five minutes, technical competence has become technical quirkness, and before a quarter of an hour has passed "The Burglars" reveals itself as yet another international caper film—this time, set in Greece—that does nothing very well and almost everything in excess.
The excesses start early, with the caper, which takes place at the beginning rather than at the end of the movie. It is a jewel theft and it involves opening a safe with the aid of a handy attaché case that contains an X-ray vision TV camera, TV screen, tape recorder, three kinds of computers, miniature hand drill, metal-working vise, keys-made-while-you-wait machine such as you find in your local hardware store, and an instruction booklet. Such a machine might excite the envy of James Bond's armorer, or the delight of Rube Goldberg. But what it does for Henri Verneuil is to fill up a great deal of film time with a device rather than with an action, and that is exactly the method by which all of "The Burglars" has been made.
The devices extend to an endless (and pointless) car chase, a warehouse full of grotesque toys, an automated harbor-side granary, a spicy nightclub, and a spicy meal in a Greek restaurant — take out 10 minutes to photograph and explain the local cuisine. There are also two murders. The only reason for the first murder is to justify the second, so I suppose they belong in the category of mechanics as well.
Under Verneuil's direction, characters resolve themselves into a collection of emphatic mannerisms — the way a cigarette is lit, a nervous habit with the hands — which, together with the wooden English-speaking voices dubbed for most of the cast, tends to make people into things: cleverly automated, but things nevertheless.
There is, of course, a plot. The plot pits a good crook against a bad cop and places a million dollars worth of emeralds in the balance. Jean-Paul Belmondo plays the crook, Omar Sharif plays the cop, and Dyan Cannon plays an enigmatic woman attached to both of them. I was especially taken with Miss Cannon's part, which seems not so much a role as a succession of brief guest appearances requiring mainly that she smile and walk and wear clothes.
"The Burglars" opened yesterday at the Loew's State I and Columbia I theaters.

The Cast
THE BURGLARS, directed by Henri Verneuil; script by Mr. Verneuil and Vahe Katcha, based on the novel by David Goodis; editor, Pierre Gillette; music by Ennio Morricone; produced by Mr. Verneuil; released by Columbia Pictures. At Loew's State I, Broadway and 45th Street, and Columbia I Theater, Second Avenue and 64th Street. Running time: 114 minutes. This film is classified PG.
Azad . . . . . Jean-Paul Belmondo
Abel Zacharia . . . . . Omar Sharif
Lena . . . . . Dyan Cannon
Ralph . . . . . Robert Hossein
Helene . . . . . Nicole Calfan
Renzi . . . . . Renato Salvatori

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Friday, December 18, 2009


The gangsters Ernest and Momo kidnap Fido after pretending to be customers of Fido’s mother, Clarissa the prostitute.  Based on the novel Down There by David Goodis, the downwardly mobile title character reveals to Lena that he was Edouard Savoyard, even though he now performs as Charlie Koller.  Charlie stabbed Lena’s ex-boyfriend Plyne in self-defense, but Lena gets shot by Ernest and Momo in the end.  FTP name this Francois Truffaut classic of the French New Wave about a down-on-his-luck keyboardist.

Answer: Shoot the Piano Player (or Tirez sur le Pianiste)

When asked about his religious views, he said, “Thank God I’m an atheist.”  In 1930, he sparked riots among French right-wingers, because of the anticlerical content in his film, L’Âge d'Or.  He depicted poverty among the Spanish peasantry in Land Without Bread, then made several films in Mexico, including El Bruto, The Young One, and Los Olvidados.  Awarded the Golden Palm in 1961 for Viridiana, FTP name this Spanish surrealist filmmaker who collaborated with Salvador Dali on Un Chien Andalou.

Answer: Luis Buñuel       


Thursday, December 17, 2009


Thursday, February 4th 2010, 7:00 pm

Rochester native and Edgar-nominated mystery writer Charles Benoit (Relative DangerOut of Order, and Noble Lies) talks about film noir, writing noir, and the work of Dark Passage author David Goodis before the screening of the film. Benoit will answer questions and autograph his books after the talk. Regular admission price includes 8 p.m. Dark Passage screening. Curtis Theatre. Use Dryden entrance.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009



Here is a home film of Elaine Astor GOODIS 
Withers circa 1962 or 1963.

Elaine Withers is the woman in black with the pearl necklace.

Thank you Larry for shedding light on the Mysterious Elaine!

Friday, December 4, 2009


If you know CORNELL WOOLRICH’s (1903-68) oeuvre at all, it’s most likely through the films of the standout directors who’ve interpreted it: Hitchcock’s Rear Window, for example, was based on Woolrich’s story “It Had to Be Murder,” while Truffaut’s The Bride Wore Black jumps off the 1940 novel of the same name. That’s a shame, because his tales of utter, abject doom fuse Hammett’s toughness, Cain’s nihilism, and Chandler’s sense of despair into works that rank up there with his masterful crime-writing colleagues. If love & death motivate the bulk of crime fiction, in Woolrich’s world the stink of one seeps into the promise of the other until the two can no longer be distinguished — as, for example, in I Married a Dead Man (1948), in which a pregnant woman who has attempted to flee a hopeless situation by posing as the widow of, yes, a dead man is blackmailed by an ex-lover. Small wonder, then, that Woolrich spent many of his later years as a near-recluse, living — like another noir master, David Goodis — with his mother.

Paradise Cove Is Too Far: Notes on Paul Wendkos by Styephen Bowie

Paradise Cove Is Too Far: It could’ve been the name of one of the sixties TV dramas Paul Wendkos directed, during the years when shows like Naked City and Ben Casey.

Visit Mr. Bowie's site for more about Wendkos.

Since I started making notes for this piece, good obituaries have appeared in theNew York Times and the Independent, so I don’t feel obligated to outline the whole of Wendkos’s long career.  He began with a regional independent film, The Burglar, which is a common way for directors to enter television now, but was extremely unusual then.  The Burglar is an impeccable film noir.  It derives from a novel by David Goodis, the reclusive Philadelphia native whose home town figures essentially in most of his prose.  Wendkos also hailed from Philly and deployed his camera along its streets with a knowing eye; he was a perfect match for the material, as was surly sad-sack star Dan Duryea. 

The Burglar led immediately to a feature contract and a number of mostly commercial films for Columbia, including Gidget and its two sequels, which led off most of his obits.  .  The oddity from among Wendkos’s early films, another indie called Angel Baby, has a small cult following that may grow following its recent sort-of DVD release (in Warners’ new burn-on-demand library).  More on Angel Baby further down.

There’s one discrepancy I haven’t resolved, and that’s the question of Wendkos’s age.  Most reference books report his date of birth as September 20, 1922, but the obits all state that he 84 rather than 87.  If I sort out the facts, I’ll report back.  UPDATE, 12/3/09: Lin Bolen Wendkos says that Paul’s birth certificate bears the 1925 date.  No one in the family seems to know how that 1922 business got started.  Intriguing!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Paul Wendkos: Director who made his name as a pioneer of made-for-television films

Paul Wendkos, who has died aged 84, had the misfortune of seeing his first Hollywood film become a massive hit. Gidget (1959) starred Sandra Dee as the eponymous 16-year-old “girl midget”, a prototype “beach bunny” chasing fun and romance among California’s surfers. It marked the beginnings of the surf craze which encompassed pop music typified by the Beach Boys and a slew of movies, including two Gidget sequels which Wendkos also directed. Trapped at Columbia Studios, Wendkos never directed a major feature, or had another big hit, but became a mainstay of episodic television, and in the 1970s carved out a substantial career as one of the first, and best, directors of “made-for-television” movies.

Wendkos was born Abraham Paul Wendkos on 20 June 1925 in Philadelphia. He served in the navy during the Second World War, then moved to New York, where he received a BA from Columbia University, then studied film at The New School, which led to his first film, a documentary about blindness called Dark Interlude. He caught Hollywood’s attention with his first feature, The Burglar, an exemplary low-budget noir film, which grew from Wendkos’ friendship with the pulp writer David Goodis, a fellow Philadelphian who adapted from his own novel for the screen.

Shot on location in Philadelphia and Atlantic City, it starred Dan Duryea, featured a rare substantial part for Martha Vickers, and provided an early dramatic success for a young Jayne Mansfield. Harry Cohn bought the film for his Columbia Pictures to distribute, and it may have been Wendkos’ success in coaxing a good performance from Mansfield which led to his assignment to Sandra Dee.

For Columbia Wendkos also directed another interesting crime film, The Case Against Brooklyn (1958), two war films (Tarawa Beachhead, 1958, and The Battle Of Coral Sea, 1959) and the off-beat evangelical drama Angel Baby (1961). In 1958 he began directing for television, with two westerns for the prestigious “Playhouse 90” series.

After working on Robert Taylor’s The Detectives, he became a lead director on The Untouchables, the edgiest and most noirish of all television crime series. He was sought after for episodic television throughout the Sixties, including long runs on shows like I Spy and The Invaders. Meanwhile, his film career remained stalled in the Bs, though Guns Of The Magnificent Seven (1969) is an entertaining sequel, and The Mephisto Waltz (1971) is a wellmade rip-off of Rosemary’s Baby starring Alan Alda and Jacqueline Bisset.

The last of his 12 feature films was Special Delivery (1976) an early Cybill Shepherd vehicle. Wendkos directed an NBC “movie special”, Fear No Evil (1969), a dry run for The Mephisto Waltz, but his career in made-for-television films mirrored his feature film path. He made a number of excellent crime dramas with the pulp writer David Karp, who once described the ease, in those early days, with which he and Wendkos could go to a network with a one-line pitch and get the immediate go-ahead to spend half a million dollars. Brotherhood Of The Bell (1970) and The Family Rico (1972), based on a Georges Simenon story, are particularly hard-edged.

Footsteps (1972), a sports-fixing drama, was nominated for a Golden Globe, but Wendkos’ reputation for directing actresses would form the core of his best work, including The Legend Of Lizzie Borden (1975) starring Elizabeth Montgomery, with whom he had worked on “Playhouse 90”; A Woman Called Moses (1978) with Cicely Tyson playing Harriet Tubman, and The Ordeal Of Patty Hearst (1979).

He directed a TV pilot film, Underground Man (1974), based on Ross MacDonald’s detective Lew Archer, and worked, uncredited, on the subsequent TV series, which Karp executive- produced. But such projects gave way to his both producing and directing the hugely popular mini-series, Harold Robbins’ 79 Park Avenue (1977). He continued to work with glamorous actresses taking serious dramatic roles, such as Raquel Welch in Right To Die (1987), Lindsey Wagner in The Taking Of Flight 847 (1988), or Loni Anderson playing the 1930s actress Thelma Todd in White Hot (1991). But his best work remained hard-edged, including two prison dramas, The Ordeal Of Dr Mudd, with Dennis Weaver as the doctor imprisoned for treating Lincoln’s assassin, or Six Against The Rock (1987), based on the 1947 escape attempt from Alcatraz.

The last of his 55 TV films or miniseries was Different (1999) with Annabeth Gish as a disabled girl and Lynn Redgrave her mother. Wendkos died of a lung infection, after a long illness following a stroke. His first wife, Ruth, predeceased him in 1978. He is survived by their son, Jordan, and his second wife, the former NBC programming executive Lin Bolen.

Michael Carlson

Abraham Paul Wendkos born Philadelphia 20 September 1925; married twice (one son); died Malibu, California, 12 November 2009.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Shoot the Piano Player by David Goodis. Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler may have first brought what is now call "noir" or hard-boiled fiction to the world, but David Goodis was one of those writers (like Jim Thompson) who took readers down further into the lower depths, and we mean this as a compliment. The inspiration for Francois Truffaut's 1960 classic film, this novel of a hard-fallen concert pianist unable to play his way out of the long shadow of his past stands out with its genuine emotional core of despair and grimy gamy details of life as it's lived "Down There" (the novel's original title) on the lower slopes of the American underworld. The criminals who scramble through this ultimate hard-luck story are not cunning criminal geniuses, but bumbling losers whose limited minds and poor impulse control only entangle them further in a web of fate and pull even the best of us around them. One the best books I've read so far this year.

Luc Sante's Folk Photography and David Goodis by Beadel Debevoisse

Sante? He was just a five letter word in the headlines to me. I vaguely knew he’d done some things— maybe even great things— but not until an hour ago did I know realize was a poet too. But, lo and behold, here I am, house sitting in Gowanus and there it is, snug between Edward Sanders and Edith Sitwell, Luc Sante, My Life In Poetry: 1970-1981— an orgy of sibilants! (Sappho, in this home, resides in the Greek and Latin collection; Friedrich Schiller in the German, etc.) Reading it, I was inspired to listen to the music of Erik Satie, specifically Aldo Ciccolini’s 1965  recording of Sports et divertissements. Luc Sante in “Le Water-Chute”? If only Captain Boynton were alive to see it.
Poetry, of course, was not Sante’s true wheel. His latest book, Folk Photography:The American Real-Photo Postcard 1905-1930, most certainly is, however, and it’s further evidence a proper poetic inheritance (Homer, Jean de Bosschère, H.D., Dave Van Ronk) is a thing of louche beauty. Sante— dare I say the Sepia Sante?— recently explained his project in Art Forum. Fellow postcard collector Jim Lindeman, author and editor of the astounding Take Me To The Water: Immersion Baptism In Vintage Music and Photography 1890-1950 (for which Sante wrote an introduction) gives Folk Photography a couple deep dunks himself: rejoice!
A good cook needs a new chopper
Once a year— he cuts
A poor cook needs a new one
Every month—he hacks!
—Thomas Merton, from The Way of Chuang Tzu
Berger found four postcards and two stereopticons “down south”; his questions were composed overlooking the Nantahala mountains. Sante wrote his answers by hand, not far from the Catskills. They play all the notes Bird missed.
— Beadel Debevoise


Tacony-Palmyra Bridge Over Delaware River, Philadelphia, PA.

Cohocksink M.E. Church, Philadelphia (interior)

Brian: I don’t know Philadelphia well but I imagine David Goodis masturbating furiously here, a quiet pew in Cohocksink Methodist Episcopal Church— lust cuts frustration, a breakfast zep not for victory but enough to absorb the detritus of another failed drunk fuck. There was room elsewhere in the bar, he recalled, but he preferred to squeeze beside the ample blonde smoking Chesterfields and still wearing her Lehigh Valley Transit Company trolley driver uniform. He’d always wanted to visit Norristown.
Luc: As concerns Norristown, please consult Mimi Lipson’s story, “Tomack” (in Food And Beverage)— it’s the last word on the place. Norristown was just made for Goodis, who appreciated him a good dead end. Philadelphia, on the other hand, is a top contender for the great lost American city. It’s like a collision of the 18th and 20th centuries (respectively: grand and noble and scholarly, and rough and tumble and beached) that’s been hung out to dry in the 21st. I love Philly. But I have a major soft spot for inhabited ruins.
Cohocksink M.E. Church, Philadelphia (exterior)

Beadel Debevoise is a poet, editor and translator. Her most recent collection of verse, Thinking About Your Cock Thick And Unyielding Like The Walls Of Blarney Castle (Gowanus Dog Press) won the National Book Award in 2008.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Delmer Daves, Director and Screen Writer

David Goodis, Author of Story


Paul Wendkos  Director
David Goodis  Story Author, Screenwriter

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Unknown Paul Wendkos by C. Jerry Kutner


Bright Lights After Dark

I just learned, via Peter Nellhaus, of the passing of one of America's most obscure-but-talented directors, Paul Wendkos.

Wendkos would be far better known today if his first film, the great low-budget noir, The Burglar (1956), were more readily available. The Burglar, an unabashedly arty film based on the David Goodis novel of the same name, starred Dan Duryea in the title role, and Jayne Mansfield as his ward (a serious acting role that preceded her "bombshell" period). A fatalistic heist film clearly influenced by Orson Welles, particularly The Lady From ShanghaiThe Burglar ends in a Coney Island [Atlantic City, New Jersey to be exact] funhouse where a loudspeaker proclaims, "We, the Dead, Welcome You!"

Wendkos directed several other films of interest, the well-known but atypical Gidget (1959), The Mephisto Waltz (1971), and two more stylish noirs, The Case Against Brooklyn (1958) starring Darren McGavin as an undercover cop, and the fascinating rural noir Angel Baby (1961) which stars Salome Jens as an Aimee Semple McPherson-like revival preacher, and has a terrific supporting cast that includes George Hamilton, Mercedes McCambridge, Henry Jones, Joan Blondell, and Burt Reynolds. Angel Baby's striking black and white cinematography, most of it shot in the Deep South, was by Haskell Wexler.

Eventually, Wendkos found his niche in television. He directed several episodes of the '60s right wing sci-fi series, The Invaders (in which aliens were equated with Communists). Of far more interest were a series of made-for-TV movies he directed (he was a pioneer of the form), including The Brotherhood of the Bell(1970), The Legend of Lizzie Borden (1975), Cocaine: One Man's Seduction (1983), and the mini-series Celebrity(1984) - all of them distinguished by a paranoid world view communicated through unstable wide-angle compositions, and performances skillfully pushed to the edge of hysteria (Glenn Ford in Brotherhood of the Bell, Dennis Weaver in Cocaine ...).

If anyone ever published an interview with this *unknown* auteur, I would love to see it.