Film Review – BODY HEAT (1981)

Body Heat (1981; USA; Technicolor; 113m) ***½  d. Lawrence Kasdan; w. Lawrence Kasdan; ph. Richard H. Kline; m. John Barry.  Cast: William Hurt, Kathleen Turner, Richard Crenna, Ted Danson, J.A. Preston, Mickey Rourke, Kim Zimmer, Jane Hallaren, Lanna Saunders, Carola McGuinness, Michael Ryan, Larry Marko. In the midst of a searing Florida heat wave, a woman persuades her lover, a small-town lawyer, to murder her rich husband. Modern reworking of the classic film noir DOUBLE INDEMNITY is hot and intense with a sultry performance from Turner. Hurt is also good as the ensnared lawyer. Elements and dialogue are occasionally overbaked in an attempt to recreate the noir feel, but Barry’s moody score and Kasdan’s low key direction make this a compelling tale. [18]

Film Review – SHAMUS (1973)

Related imageShamus (1973; USA; Eastmancolor; 106m) **½  d. Buzz Kulik; w. Barry Beckerman; ph. Victor J. Kemper; m. Jerry Goldsmith.  Cast: Burt Reynolds, Dyan Cannon, John P. Ryan, Joe Santos, Georgio Tozzi, Kevin Conway, John Glover, Ron Weyand, Beeson Carroll, Larry Block, Kay Frye, Merwin Goldsmith, Melody Santangello, Irving Selbst, Alex Wilson. A New York private eye likes girls, drink and gambling, but by the look of his flat business can’t be too hot. So, an offer of $10,000 to finds some diamonds stolen in a daring raid with a flame-thrower is too good to miss. Tonal shifts jar in this detective vehicle for Reynolds, whose easy-going charm is the best thing about this yarn. The action sequences are well staged and there is good use of grimy NYC locations, but the script lacks focus and the characters are stereotypical. Followed by the TV movie A MATTER OF WIFE… AND DEATH (1976) with Rod Taylor taking over the lead. [18]

Film Review – TROUBLE MAN (1972)

Trouble Man (1972; USA; Colour; 99m) ***  d. Ivan Dixon; w. John D. F. Black; ph. Michel Hugo; m. Marvin Gaye.  Cast: Robert Hooks, Paul Winfield, Ralph Waite, William Smithers, Paula Kelly, Julius Harris, Bill Henderson, Wayne Storm. Things begin to unravel when a supercool black fixer is hired to straighten out some crooks. Typical example of the blaxploitation cinema that dominated the early 1970s. Hooks is the supercool Mr. T, whose attitude carries more than a hint of SHAFT – on which both producer Joel Freeman and writer/exec producer Black had worked. The script is fairly routine as is the violence and mayhem, but there is a sense of style in Dixon’s direction. Gaye provides the funky score. [15]

Film Review – BLOOD WORK (2002)

Image result for blood work blu-rayBlood Work (2002; USA; Technicolor; 110m) ***  d. Clint Eastwood; w. Brian Helgeland; ph. Tom Stern; m. Lennie Niehaus.  Cast: Clint Eastwood, Jeff Daniels, Anjelica Huston, Wanda De Jesus, Tina Lifford, Paul Rodriguez, Dylan Walsh, Mason Lucero, Gerry Becker, Rick Hoffman, Alix Koromzay, Igor Jijikine, June Kyoto Lu, Dina Eastwood, Beverly Leech. Still recovering from a heart transplant, a retired FBI profiler returns to service when his own blood analysis offers clues to the identity of a serial killer. Interesting premise is occasionally undone by lapses in logic and the routine nature of the production. Eastwood is as charismatic as ever in the lead role, but as director fails to inject sufficient suspense. The strongest moments are the character conflicts. It remains an entertaining enough and serviceable mystery despite its flaws. Based on the novel by Michael Connelly. [15]

Book Review – INVISIBLE DEAD (2016) by Sam Wiebe

INVISIBLE DEAD by SAM WIEBE (2016, Quercus, 342pp) ***½

Blurb: An ex-cop who navigates by a moral compass stubbornly jammed at true north, Dave Wakeland is a talented private investigator with next to zero business sense. And even though he finds himself with a fancy new office and a corporate-minded partner, he continues to be drawn to cases that are usually impossible to solve and frequently don’t pay. When Wakeland is hired by a terminally ill woman to discover the whereabouts of her adopted child-who disappeared as an adult more than a decade earlier-it seems like just another in a string of poor career decisions. But it turns out this case is worse than usual, even by his standards. With only an anonymous and vaguely worded tip to guide him, Wakeland interviews an imprisoned serial killer who seems to know nothing about the case, but who nonetheless steers him toward Vancouver’s terrifying criminal underworld. And it all goes downhill from there. Whatever ghosts drive Wakeland, they seem to drive him inexorably toward danger-a journey he’s content to take so long as it means finding out what happened to someone the rest of the world seems happy enough to forget. With nothing to protect him but his wit and his empathy for the downtrodden and disenfranchised, Wakeland is on the case.

Whilst there are occasional affectionate nods to its pulp fiction roots, this is a thoroughly modern take on the first-person private eye mystery. Here the case surrounds the search for a girl who has been missing for ten years, having been estranged from her family after being sucked into a life of drugs and prostitution. Wiebe’s view of this sleazy world is a nasty and violent one populated with self-satisfying characters who you would not want to meet on the dark streets. Throughout this, the writer manages to keep Wakeland a likeable hero – seemingly the only character in the book with a moral compass – and it is his observations that keep the book readable through to its inevitable conclusion. It is not for the faint-hearted – there are a number of unpleasant sequences, which may suggest Wiebe is trying too hard to shock at times. But it may also be that he is merely trying to de-glamorise the legacy he also pays homage to.

Film Review – THE LONG GOODBYE (1973)

Image result for THE LONG GOODBYE 1973 BLU-RAYLong Goodbye, The (1973; USA; Technicolor; 112m) ***  d. Robert Altman; w. Leigh Brackett; ph. Vilmos Zsigmond; m. John Williams.  Cast: Elliott Gould, Nina Van Pallandt, Sterling Hayden, Mark Rydell, Henry Gibson, David Arkin, Jim Bouton, Warren Berlinger, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rutanya Alda, Jo Ann Brody, Vincent Palmieri, Pancho Cordova, Enrique Lucero, George Wyner. Detective Philip Marlowe tries to help a friend who is accused of murdering his wife. Altman re-imagines Raymond Chandler’s classic novel in a contemporary setting with Gould portraying Marlowe as a detective out-of-his time. The gimmick allows Altman to pass comment on the degradation of society and the values of life, but in doing so he sucks the power from Chandler’s original story. There are some nice directorial touches and improvised set-pieces, but this will ultimately only fully please those fully attuned to the director’s surreal vision. Schwarzenegger, who plays a bodyguard, has no lines in the film. [18]

Book Review – THE SECRET (2016) by Katerina Diamond

THE SECRET by  KATERINA DIAMOND (2016, Avon, 404pp) ***

The Secret Paperback by Blurb: When Bridget Reid wakes up in a locked room, terrifying memories come flooding back of blood, pain, and desperate fear. Her captor knows things she’s never told anyone. How can she escape someone who knows all of her secrets? As DS Imogen Grey and DS Adrian Miles search for Bridget, they uncover a horrifying web of abuse, betrayal and murder right under their noses in Exeter. And as the past comes back to haunt her, Grey must confront her own demons. Because she knows that it can be those closest to us who hurt us the most.

Diamond’s follow-up to The Teacher treads much of the same ground with its penchant for graphic body horror and sexual violence. Here we delve deeper into DS Imogen Grey’s past and the case that haunts her from two years earlier becomes entwined with her current investigation. Diamond’s plot calls on the reader to accept a lot of coincidental twists, which stretch the credibility of the narrative. If you can accept these, then the book will give you an absorbing read. Others may find these contrivances distracting from an otherwise well-written crime thriller from a talented writer. The book leaves enough room for Diamond to further explore her characters and a third book in the series, The Angel, was published last year.

Film Review – HELL IS A CITY (1960)

Image result for HELL IS A CITYHell is a City (1960; UK; B&W; 98m) ***½  d. Val Guest; w. Val Guest; ph. Arthur Grant; m. Stanley Black.  Cast: Stanley Baker, John Crawford, Donald Pleasence, Maxine Audley, Billie Whitelaw, Joseph Tomelty, George A. Cooper, Geoffrey Frederick, Vanda Godsell, Charles Houston. A police inspector pursues a dangerous jewel thief. Fast-paced and atmospheric crime thriller shot on location in and around Manchester. Baker is excellent as the driven detective on the hunt for Crawford. Director Guest works efficiently with a strong supporting cast (notably Pleasence as a tight-fisted bookmaker and Whitelaw as his promiscuous wife) and witty dialogue. Exciting rooftop climax adds to the suspense. Based on the novel by Maurice Procter. [PG]

Film Review – SERPICO (1973)

Image result for serpico 1973Serpico (1973; USA; Technicolor; 130m) ****½  d. Sidney Lumet; w. Waldo Salt, Norman Wexler; ph. Arthur J. Ornitz; m. Mikis Theodorakis.  Cast: Al Pacino, John Randolph, Jack Kehoe, Biff McGuire, Tony Roberts, M. Emmet Walsh, F. Murray Abraham, Cornelia Sharpe, John Medici, Allan Rich, Barbara Eda-Young, Norman Ornellas, Edward Grover, Albert Henderson, Damien Leake. The true story about an honest New York cop who blew the whistle on rampant corruption in the force only to have his comrades turn against him. Pacino delivers an excellent portrayal of Frank Serpico, expertly capturing the frustrations of a cop isolated within the system. Lumet delivers an engrossing and realistic account spread over five years. Extensive New York City location work and a cast of relatively unknown actors add to the authenticity. Based on the book by Peter Maas. Followed by a TV pilot, SERPICO: THE DEADLY GAME, and series in 1976. [18]

Film Review – THE MALTESE FALCON (1941)

Image result for THE MALTESE FALCON BLU-RAYMaltese Falcon, The (1941; USA; B&W; 100m) *****  d. John Huston; w. John Huston; ph. Arthur Edeson; m. Adolph Deutsch.  Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Sydney Greenstreet, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Walter Huston, Elisha Cook Jr., Barton MacLane, Lee Patrick, Gladys George, Ward Bond, Jerome Cowan, James Burke, Murray Alper, John Hamilton, Emory Parnell. A private detective takes on a case that involves him with three eccentric criminals, a gorgeous liar, and their quest for a priceless statuette. Classic hard-boiled private-eye movie is a wonderful vehicle for Bogart as the cynical Sam Spade. The complex and twisting plot is expertly handled by Huston and brilliantly edited by Richards. It crams so much plot progression into its first ten minutes and never lets up its pace. The supporting cast – notably Lorre and Greenstreet – is wonderful. This would become the template for many film-noir movies to follow. Based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett previously filmed in 1931 and 1936 (as SATAN MET A LADY). Also available in a computer colourised version. [PG]