Pretty Boy. Private Eye. Powell.

tumblr_naw53w1pHT1thrcsao2_1280Thank you, TCM, for letting us watch throughout Monday and Monday evening how Dick Powell morphed from a 1930’s pretty-boy crooner (who could really get on your nerves, frankly) into the very heart and soul of classic film noir heroes and hard-boiled P.I.’s. How that actor pulled it off and with such seeming ease and style will always be a mystery to me.

They juxtaposed 1930’s Powell musicals with 1940’s/50’s noir’s, including the truly great Murder, My Sweet, 1944

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“Noir Is A Color”…Nicole Kidman by Steven Klein

1‘Noir Is A Color’, I often say (not just B&W and all shadows), and the September 2014 Interview magazine photo suite by Steven Klein with Nicole Kidman is grim and kinda sizzlin’ colored noir if ever there was any. I first spotted these images this evening at the amazing We Are So Droee WordPress blog (follow, folks…follow), and had to go a Bing and Googling on my own to see what it was all about.

But…are these passionate lovers, or is it a brutal attack? Not sure. Never can tell anything in most fashion photography.  I’m still trying to decide if the viewer is intended to find them sexy, frightening or…what? Art is rarely easy to digest or understand. Even applied arts like ‘artsy’ fashion photography. But the images are arresting, to say the least.

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Well, it’s a darn good poster…Pale Blood (1990)

Pale Blood PosterPale Blood (1990) is an odd little vampire film that I assumed was one of many, many direct-to-video/direct-to-cable films made in that explosion of low-budget horror, action and ‘erotic thriller’ movies Hollywood churned out to feed the insatiable monster that Blockbuster and Hollywood Video, along with early days cable television, I suppose. I remember seeing it ages ago (pretty sure it was, in fact, a Blockbuster rental — one that caught my eye with its cool package graphics), and I was very surprised to spot it on the usually dreary list of free movies On-Demand. It was like nostalgia night.

The film itself is kind of a shrug-your-shoulders so-so affair. The story is thin at best, with a series of ‘vampire killer’ murders terrifying L.A. — fang marks and bodies drained of blood. The killer, we learn is Van Vandameer (Wings Hauser) a whacked-out performance artist/fashion-art videographer who’s also fixated on all things cultish and weird, from UFO’s to spiritualism to vampires.

Enter Michael Fury (George Chakiris — yes, Bernardo, from the 1960 masterpiece West Side Story) an a European special investigator brought in (by whom is unclear) to solve the crime wave, and is teamed up with a spunky young lovely who just happens to be totally obsessed with vampires herself…but in a ‘good’ way. That is, her apartment is cluttered with vampire memorabilia and posters and she’s watching Murnau’s Nosferatu and so on…not kidnapping and murdering bosomy Hollywood starlet wannabe’s. Ultimately, Vandameer figures out that Michael Fury is a real vampire and sets a trap for him, hoping to become rich and famous with live video of a for-real vampire. But Chakiris’ Michael Fury is saved by his vamp fan-girl, who’s now a vampire herself, and they manage to turn the table son Hauser’s Vandameer. He ends up in the loony bin, and the lovely vampire couple vanishes into the moonset.

George ChakirisIt’s all pretty silly stuff with a fairly hard-to-follow story, but it’s fun period viewing, pure late 80’s/early 90’s style kitsch, from the Hollywood locations to the set décor, to the vintage wardrobe…and especially to the soundtrack, the overly long L.A. dance club new wave band musical segments in particular (the So-Cal styled group ‘Agent Orange’ doing late 80’s style dark psychedelia note-perfect). In fact, that pretend band (I assume it’s a pretend band) is headed by a then very young Austrian Michael Palm, who went on to a productive career as a film director and editor himself in his post-Pale Blood years.

Notably, Pale Blood was co-directed by a woman when that was still a mighty tough gig to get: Hong Kong filmmaker V.V. Dachin Hsu, who also co-wrote the screenplay.

Dr. Donald Reed (1935 – 2001), co-founder of the Count Dracula Society and then head of the Academy Of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films (The Saturn Awards), called it “the best contemporary vampire film ever made”. Hmmmmm. You have to wonder if Dr. Reed would later want to rethink that. I’ll have to say that Pale Blood isn’t the ‘best’ anything, but is very good for what it is: enjoyable 80’s/90’s style vamp-candy for a night with nothin’ to do…and if nothing else, has a really great poster.

Noir City Chicago

From The Film Noir Foundation:

tumblr_naqz250xs71tgm8l7o1_500“Noir City Chicago! Just a little under a week away! Are you ready? Do you have your tickets?

NOIR CITY: CHICAGO kicks off next Friday, August 29 at the Music Box Theatre, with the FNF’s latest 35mm restoration, Too Late for Tears (1949). Rounding out the opening night bill of Los Angeles-based noirs is a newly struck 35mm print of the tough-as-nails Roadblock (1951), starring noir favorite Charles McGraw, provided by our friends at Warner Bros. Host Alan Rode will also be giving away copies of Warner Archive Collection DVDs to lucky winners during the Monday night screenings of Caged (1950) and Tension (1949). If you don’t attend, you can’t win.

Hollywood is only one stop on this year’s globetrotting program. This year’s festival explodes the long-held belief that noir stories and style are specifically American. The focus is on the immediate post-WWII years, spotlighting noirs from France, Japan, Argentina, Spain, and Italy—including Death of a Cyclist (Spain, 1955),Ossessione (Italy, 1943), Pépé le Moko (France, 1937), Rififi (France, 1955), Two Men in Manhattan (France, 1959), Hardly a Criminal (Argentina, 1949), Drunken Angel (Japan, 1948) and Stray Dog (Japan, 1949)—and the first screening of a brand new English-subtitled 35mm print of El Vampiro Negro, the 1953 remake of Fritz Lang’s M that wowed a San Francisco audience at NOIR CITY 12. FNF president Eddie Muller will be in to host the festival’s final three nights! Visit the Music Box’s website for the full schedule for this international edition of NOIR CITY: CHICAGO, running August 29-September 4.”