Crime Marches On

A new batch of crime films from the Warner Archive Collection suggests how styles in anti-social behavior change over the course of a decade, from the rise of the autonomous, inexplicable psycho-killer in the wake of World War II (in Felix Feist’s “The Threat” and Richard Fleischer’s “Follow Me Quietly,” from 1959) to the teenage rebels of Frank McDonald’s “The Purple Gang” (1959) and the endangered individualist of Budd Boetticher’s “The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond” (1960). A review here in The New York Times.

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New Perspectives in Film History

“I also have an unhealthy addiction to vintage Persol sunglasses, the kind that look like what Marcelo Mastroianni wore in early neo-realist films.”

Anthony Bourdain, chef, author and cable television host

38 comments to Crime Marches On

  • FOLLOW ME QUIETLY inspired one of my favorite recent film essays, a collaboration by B. Kite and Bill Krohn called “Deadpan in Nulltown,” which appeared in Cinema Scope in 2006. Regrettably it’s not online.

    I tend to prefer the kind of sunglasses you find on racks at drugstores, that cost between $10 and $15. Spending more than $100 on sunglasses is no guard against losing them or sitting on them, which for me is an inevitability.

  • Craig Keller

    I like Bourdain. His Criterion list last month was entertaining and it shows he knows something about cinema.

    Also the burger at Les Halles is my favorite now and reasonably priced. It comes with a red wine reduction on the side, and foie gras smothered on top of the meat. You can go to the Park Ave location, order that and a glass of wine, and walk out with a bill just a notch over thirty bucks.

  • JBS

    According too the always-reliable interweb, Guido’s glasses in 8 1/2 are Prada, not Persol.

  • I suppose Mastroianni must have abandoned his Persol glasses for Prada in the shift from neorealist to fabulist….

  • Robert Garrick

    Anthony Mann has a story credit on “Follow Me Quietly,” and he’s reported to have directed some of it as well, though I don’t know if he talked about it in any of the interviews he did before he died. For years the film was almost impossible to see, and not well known, but lately TCM has been showing it once or twice a year. (They recently showed it on Mann’s birthday.)

    Certainly the film’s final sequence, a shoot-out at an industrial site, feels like Mann. Mann also worked on “He Walked By Night” (1949), credited to Alfred L. Werker, and that film’s final sequence in the Los Angeles sewers is a classic.

    “Follow Me Quietly” never quite congeals, but it has some great moments, one of which is described by Dave Kehr in the New York Times. The other is the final chase at the industrial site. The “Judge” character seems frightening and ominous until we actually meet him, and then he becomes all-too-human and vulnerable. Maybe Raymond Burr was busy.

    Regarding sunglasses: Are we talking about shades like the ones that Woody Allen wore in the “Why Do Some Women Have Trouble Reaching an Orgasm” segment from “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex”?

  • Robert Garrick

    Felix Feist directed several interesting noir titles between 1947 and 1953. Besides “The Threat,” there’s “The Devil Thumbs a Ride” (1947), “The Man Who Cheated Himself” (1950), and particularly “Tomorrow is Another Day” (1951), which was described on the FilmNoir 1999 program as “‘Gun Crazy’ scripted by Steinbeck” and “Feist’s masterwork.”

    I’ve seen them all, but my viewings have been spread over 35 years and I don’t remember them well enough to give an intelligent appraisal here. Nobody has done more to revive Feist’s reputation over the past fifteen years than Eddie Muller, who has contributed to this board in the past.

  • Crime films that are made for excitement are far less interesting to me than those that get underneath the reasons for crime. In other words, I prefer crime films that show it for the messy business that it is. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is a good example, so is The Executioner’s Song. I think my favorite example though is Fritz Lang’s M, which shows us a grimly little man who goes about murdering children for no other reason than because he is operating out of a diseased mind. Peter Lorre’s performance in that picture was brilliant, especially his plea to the crowds at the very end.

    @ Robert Garrick. For me sunglasses are more of a modern thing. Arnold in Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Tom Cruise in Top Gun, Kate Hudson in Almost Famous.

  • Robert Regan

    I had a feeling that the name of Felix Feist was going to turn up here soon.

  • BTW, I can find none of the films listed in the main article, not on YouTube, nor on Netflix.

  • Tom Brueggemann

    Netflix no longer stocks new releases of older movies, including most of what Dave reviews. They want these films to be live-streamed, and not buying them is the biggest part of their strategy to force the issue. Since they have in the past been a significant buyer of these, they may end up drying up this market, although of course it is possible it forces those interested to buying them, increasing their sales.

  • Does NetFlix ever have any of the Warner Archive titles? I’ve never looked.

  • Tom Brueggemann

    Not that I’ve found.
    It is also that some of the bigger companies (like TW) that are selling at what they perceive at reduced prices don’t want to sell at further wholesale levels to Netflix – back when WB Archives started, Netflix still was stocking similar from others, but they never did get these.

    This includes new Criterion titles.

    If anyone knows any different, love to hear, but I check on these regularly.

  • Oliver_C

    Don’t forget the sinister sunglasses worn by the kidnapper in High and Low back in 1963.

  • Craig, Bourdain may know something about cinema, but apparently not much about either sunglasses or neo-realism!
    Try the burger at Veselka, choice of New York cinephiles for generations. Only $9 and you can hear yourself think.

  • Barry Putterman

    May I add that our host certainly knows his burgers, with or without onions. I might also add that if you are in a different mood, you could opt for Paul’s Burger Joint, just a few blocks further down from Veselka and around the corner from St. Marks Place. You can therein get a fine cheeseburger delixe with a black cherry soda, all for only twelve bucks amid an atmosphere worthy of Charles McGraw.

    But you know, new vistas in film history are opening up all around us now that we have entered “the information age.” And not just about what kind of sunglasses they wore in neo realist films.

    In yesterday’s New York Times magazine, during the course of interviewing Rose McGowan, eager young journalism cadet David Colman found out that back in the day, there was actually a film studio called RKO!!! In the words of the astonished Mr. Colman; “Who knew?” But hey, it MUST be true. After all, it was printed in The New York Times, and I’m sure that they did some serious fact checking on that.

  • Richard T. Jameson

    Anent Anthony Mann and Follow Me Quietly: For what it’s worth, in 1979 I had the opportunity to ask Richard Fleischer about Mann’s contribution. “None at all,” said the director of record. I pressed, pointing out that Mann had a story credit on the picture. “It’s a total canard,” Fleischer insisted, maintaining an air of genial amusement at the tenacity of auteurist types.

  • Stephen Bowie

    Tom, Netflix has never carried anything on DVD-R. I was hoping Warner Archive would force a change there, but of course it went in the opposite direction — Netflix can’t be bothered to buy the few real DVDs that come out any more. There are other ways to get one’s hands on MOD discs, but I’m not sure how many I want to divulge here. Although, for New Yorkers, the NY Public Library bought about 125 of the initial Warner Archive releases … I’ve been though most of them now, so I guess I can safely give that one away.

    Craig, I’ve never spent $30 on a burger and probably never will, but I live right around the corner if you’d like to buy me one and listen to some praise for MOC! And for other Kips Bayers, I recommend the Chicken Burger from Better Burger and the Steakhouse Burger from Black Shack.

  • To continue the culinary theme, here’s Charles McGraw in THE NARROW MARGIN (Richard Fleischer), on the tough dame heroine: “She’s the sixty cent special. Cheap. Flashy. Strictly poison under the gravy.”

    I didn’t know that anyone who wasn’t a card-carrying right winger still ate beef. It’s one of the chief causes of Global Warming. Not to mention every dread disease in the book. Restaurants that serve beef should be ashamed of themselves!

    A double check: celebrity chefs to the contrary, Marcello M did NOT appear in early neorealist films like OSSESSIONE or PAISA.

    I really like FOLLOW ME QUIETLY. But haven’t seen much trace of Mann in it.

    Have never seen THE THREAT. So far, my favorite Felix Feist is TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY. It sounds like a film noir about Scarlett O’Hara tracking down a crook in the mean streets of Atlanta. Actually, it’s an interesting film about a modern day equivalent to the Ringo Kid in STAGECOACH.

  • Could Bourdain have been talking about Renzo Avanzo in PAISAN?

    I like 67 Burger in Fort Greene, but Five Guys will do in a pinch.

  • Fleischer probably never met Mann, whose involvement came at a much earlier stage in the production. Here’s what the AFI Catalog says:

    Contemporary news items add the following information about the production: Francis Rosenwald and Anthony Mann’s story was first purchased by Jack Wrather Productions, to be released by Allied Artists. Don Castle was to star for the Wrather production. In December 1947, RKO purchased the story from Wrather and assigned Martin Rackin to write the script. Rackin’s contribution to the final film has not been confirmed. .

  • jbryant

    Barry: I took Colman’s “Who knew?” for snark. Comedy is hard.

    THE THREAT sounds really familiar. I may have seen it a few thousand movies ago. Possibly Feist’s THE BIG TREES, too. Definitely saw his DONOVAN’S BRAIN (which I believe TCM ran again recently), and liked it.

    William Nigh alert: TCM is showing MR. WU (1927) today as part of Lon Chaney day. 5:45 EST, I believe. Check your local listings.

  • Barry Putterman

    Snark? Who knew?

  • I haven’t tried it, but ClassicFlix.com is a rental-by-mail service that carries a ton of pre-1970 MOD titles, including Warner Archive releases.

    I’ve recently been sated by burgers at Great Jones Cafe, Bonnie’s Grill and Dram Shop. I’m also fond of Whoppers, so I may not be trustworthy.

  • FOLLOW ME QUIETLY is a great film, and one that I find genuinely scary, primarily because of the dummy. Another great scene is when the killer comes home and everybody have been evacuated so the street and building is completely empty. It also has a nice sense of humour. Although it doesn’t really look like a Anthony Mann film, the theme of doppelgänger is certainly one familiar to Mann. (An old blog post of mine about Fleischer http://fredrikonfilm.blogspot.com/2010/01/early-richard-fleischer.html) The French title for FOLLOW ME QUIETLY is, by the way, ASSASSIN SANS VISAGE – Killer without a face. I like that one better than the original.

    Charles MacGraw I like very much, with or without sunglasses.

    And THE RISE AND FALL OF LEGS DIAMOND is also a great film. But that you knew, probably even Colman. Thanks for the paragraphs about it Dave, it’ll give me something to stand on for my research.

  • Jim Gerow

    I’ll second Jaime’s recommendation of 67 Burger in Brooklyn, just a block or so from BAM Cinematek, which coincidentally will be presenting a series in late September called “When Movies Mattered: Dave Kehr Selects.” Among the great films Dave has chosen from the reviews in his book, I’m looking forward to THE HUMAN FACTOR, STORY OF THE LAST CHRYSANTHEMUMS, FRANCISCA and LOST IN AMERICA (a zeitgeisty title for today if ever there was one).

    Also, TCM alert — Thursday is Jean Gabin day on TCM, starting with two rare Gremillon films at 6 AM Eastern, GUEULE D’AMOUR and REMORQUES.

  • mike schlesinger

    L.A. is not much of a red meat town, but when it comes to burgers, Cassell’s still tops ‘em all.

  • Stephen Bowie

    For BAM eats I usually go to the Smoke Joint. The barbecue is just okay (which is to say, about as good as any BBQ I’ve eaten outside the south), but the sides are great.

    And FRANCISCA is one of Oliveira’s best … an excellent choice.

  • I don’t know why everyone seems to eager to attribute “Follow Me Quietly” to Mann. As Fredrik points out, it doesn’t look at all like an Anthony Mann film (as opposed to “He Walked by Night,” which carries his signature in almost every shot) but it does look a great deal like a Richard Fleischer movie, with its naturalistic use of locations and avoidance of expressionistic effects (which makes the dummy scene all the more effective). “Follow Me Quietly” was the first of Fleischer’s films to deal with a serial killer, a them he continued to explore over the long course of his career: “Compulsion” (1959), “The Boston Strangler” (1968), “10 Rillington Place” (1971), “See No Evil” (1971). So clearly it had some personal resonance with him.

  • “Follow Me Quietly” also has a number of the pans that were a constant feature of Fleischer’s early B movies.

    I was interested in Dave Kehr’s comments on science and technology in 40’s thrillers.
    Semi-documentary film noir tends to have three recurring elements:
    an elite government police force team
    use of technology by the team
    a finale in a high tech area such as a bridge, water works, or factory.

    Have traced these out in a chart on my web site:
    http://mikegrost.com/semigrid.htm

  • Robert Garrick

    The IMDB lists Anthony Mann as an uncredited director of “Follow Me Quietly.” I don’t know where that particular piece of data came from, but I first saw the film back in the mid-1980s, long before the internet, and I remember knowing about Mann’s supposed involvement back then. So it didn’t start with the IMDB. And as noted, TCM recently showed the film on Mann’s birthday.

    It would be interesting to know where the story began. It will be hard to correct, since everyone who sees or writes about a film starts with the IMDB these days.

    It’s not like Fleischer needed help at that stage of his career. “Armored Car Robbery” (1950) and “The Narrow Margin” (1952) are major pieces of work, and “Trapped” (1949) is also good.

  • Alex

    “Follow Me Quietly” is good, well crafted fun… but great? The killer’s just a devise without psychological elaboration or depth, the weather accoutrements are out of mystery radio malarkey, the romance is OK but just rote with a biyt of charnand Fleischer’s youthful sharpness is hardly uop to the standards of “The Narrow Margin.” It’s well crafted and I loved streamimng it last monthy at Netflix, but all I can say about the suggestion it’s a great movie is Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

    Dunno about mann’s role, but if he’d been directing I suspect he’s have manage snazzier ciunematogtraphy, for whatever that’s worth.

  • Y’all have such high class choices (except for the Whopper crack). I either go for a White Castle, or order the kebab at Times Square, opposite Toys R Us. They do their kebabs medium rare on request, and add salt when you ask. Best grilled meat in the city, in my opine.

    I hear M Wells in Long Island City serves a mean burger, but never tried it. I did try their bibimbap, which is to die for – – light, sweet, seafoody, and enriched not with an egg, as is traditional, but with foie gras.

  • Robert Garrick

    Further to the legend of Anthony Mann directing some of “Follow Me Quietly”–Jeanine Basinger in her book “Anthony Mann” says it’s easy to imagine that Mann might have contributed to “the visual presentation of the final shoot-out in an abandoned chemical plant and in the mixture of a semi-documentary police story and an atmospheric murder mystery.” But she adds that without access to RKO files it is difficult to say for sure what input Mann had.

    Mann gave several interviews before he died–I remember one in “Cahiers du Cinema in English,” from the mid-1960s–but I doubt “Follow Me Quietly” came up. (I have that issue but it’s buried in storage somewhere.) Mann is also in Sarris’s “Interviews with Film Directors,” but again my copy is not immediately accessible.

    The comments of Fleischer himself via Richard T. Jameson are noted, of course. They’re data, but they shouldn’t end the matter. Did Christian Nyby happily admit that Howard Hawks pushed him aside and directed most of “The Thing”?

    Most persuasive are the observations by Dave Kehr and Fredrik Gustafsson that “Follow Me Quietly” looks more like a Fleischer than a Mann film. But that’s not true of the finale, and it’s also possible that Mann directed a short scene here and there.

  • Gregg Rickman

    Mike, I too am interested in the overlap between crime technology and crime cinema. I was quite pleased to see the recording technology used to defeat the villains in SOULS FOR SALE (1913) during a run of watching THE WIRE.

  • Just off topic a bit, Dave I just bought your book “When Movies Mattered”. Can’t wait to dive into it.

  • Come now Alex, there’s no need to name-drop Russian submarine classes.

  • jbryant

    Jerry: My copy of “When Movies Mattered” arrived yesterday. I’m pacing myself – I’m at page 35. And I really want to see Blake Edwards’ 10 again.

  • @ jbryant. It is in the corner of my office right now. I have school work to get through and I’m in the middle of another book, “A Short History of the Movies”, by Gerald Mast and Bruce Kawin, which begins at the very beginnings of film and traces the path of how they were invented and developed. I want no obstructions when I get to Mr. Kehr’s book.