Film Noir ♥ Transgression Into the Cultural Cinematic Gutter: From Shadowland to Psychotronic Playground

“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.”
Sigmund Freud

“Ladies and gentlemen- welcome to violence; the word and the act. While violence cloaks itself in a plethora of disguises, its favorite mantle still remains sex.” — Narrator from Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965)

Faster Pussycat
Tura Satana, Haji, and Lori Williams in Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! 1965
Cul-de-Sac
Françoise Dorléac and Donald Pleasence in Roman Polanski’s Cul-de-sac 1966
the Naked kiss
Constance Towers kicks the crap out of her pimp for shaving off her hair in Sam Fuller’s provocative The Naked Kiss 1964
Shock Corridor
Peter Breck plays a journalist hungry for a story and gets more than a jolt of reality when he goes undercover in a Mental Institution in Sam Fuller’s Shock Corridor 1963
CapturFiles_3 copy
Bobby Darin is a psychotic racist in Hubert Cornfield and Stanley Kramer’s explosive Pressure Point 1962 starring Sidney Poitier and Peter Falk.

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Constance Towers as Kelly from The Naked Kiss (1964): “I saw a broken down piece of machinery. Nothing but the buck, the bed and the bottle for the rest of my life. That’s what I saw.”

Griff (Anthony Eisley) The Naked Kiss (1964): “Your body is your only passport!”

Catherine Deneuve as Carole Ledoux in Repulsion (1965): “I must get this crack mended.”

Monty Clift Dr. Cukrowicz Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) : “Nature is not made in the image of man’s compassion.”

Patricia Morán as Rita Ugalde: The Exterminating Angel 1962:“I believe the common people, the lower class people, are less sensitive to pain. Haven’t you ever seen a wounded bull? Not a trace of pain.”

Ann Baxter as Teresina Vidaverri Walk on the Wild Side 1962“When People are Kind to each other why do they have to find a dirty word for it.”

The Naked Venus 1959“I repeat she is a gold digger! Europe’s full of them, they’re tramps… they’ll do anything to get a man. They even pose in the NUDE!!!!”

Darren McGavin as Louie–The Man With the Golden Arm (1955): “The monkey is never dead, Dealer. The monkey never dies. When you kick him off, he just hides in a corner, waiting his turn.”

Baby Boy Franky Buono-Blast of Silence (1961) “The targets names is Troiano, you know the type, second string syndicate boss with too much ambition and a mustache to hide the facts he’s got lips like a woman… the kind of face you hate!”

Lorna (1964)- “Thy form is fair to look upon, but thy heart is filled with carcasses and dead man’s bones”

Peter Fonda as Stephen Evshevsky in Lilith (1964): “How wonderful I feel when I’m happy. Do you think that insanity could be so simple a thing as unhappiness?”

Glen or Glenda (1953)“Give this man satin undies, a dress, a sweater and a skirt, or even a lounging outfit and he’s the happiest individual in the world.”

Glen or Glenda
Ed Wood’s Glen or Glenda 1953

Johnny Cash as Johnny Cabot in Five Minutes to Live (1961):“I like a messy bed.”

Dr. Moreau (Charles Laughton) Island of Lost Souls: “Do you know what it means to feel like God?”

The Curious Dr. Humpp (1969): “Sex dominates the world! And now, I dominate sex!”

The Snake Pit (1948): Jacqueline deWit as Celia Sommerville “And we’re so crowded already. I just don’t know where it’s all gonna end!” Olivia de Havilland as Virginia Stuart Cunningham “I’ll tell you where it’s gonna end, Miss Somerville… When there are more sick ones than well ones, the sick ones will lock the well ones up.”

Delphine Seyrig as Countess Bathory in Daughters of Darkness (1971)“Aren’t those crimes horrifying. And yet -so fascinating!”

Julien Gulomar as Bishop Daisy to the Barber (Michel Serrault) King of Hearts (1966)“I was so young. I already knew that to love the world you have to get away from it.”

The Killing of Sister George (1968) -Suzanna York as Alice ‘CHILDIE’: “Not all women are raving bloody lesbians, you know” Beryl Reid as George: “That is a misfortune I am perfectly well aware of!”

The Killing of Sister George
Susannah York (right) with Beryl Reid in The Killing of Sister George Susannah York and Beryl Reid in Robert Aldrich’s The Killing of Sister George 1960

The Lickerish Quartet (1970)“You can’t get blood out of an illusion.”

THE SWEET SOUND OF DEATH (1965)Dominique-“I’m attracted” Pablo-” To Bullfights?” Dominique-” No, I meant to death. I’ve always thought it… The state of perfection for all men.”

Peter O’Toole as Sir Charles Ferguson Brotherly Love (1970): “Remember the nice things. Reared in exile by a card-cheating, scandal ruined daddy. A mummy who gave us gin for milk. Ours was such a beautifully disgusting childhood.”

Maximillian Schell as Stanislaus Pilgrin in Return From The Ashes 1965: “If there is no God, no devil, no heaven, no hell, and no immortality, then anything is permissible.”

Euripides 425 B.C.“Whom God wishes to destroy… he first makes mad.”

Davis & Crawford What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
Bette Davis and Joan Crawford bring to life two of the most outrageously memorable characters in Robert Aldrich’s What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? 1962

WHAT DOES PSYCHOTRONIC MEAN?

psychotronic |ˌsīkəˈtränik| adjective denoting or relating to a genre of movies, typically with a science fiction, horror, or fantasy theme, that were made on a low budget or poorly received by critics. [1980s: coined in this sense by Michael Weldon, who edited a weekly New York guide to the best and worst films on local television.] Source: Wikipedia

In the scope of these transitioning often radical films, where once, men and women aspired for the moon and the stars and the whole ball of wax. in the newer scheme of things they aspired for you know… “kicks” yes that word comes up in every film from the 50s and 60s… I’d like to have a buck for every time a character opines that collective craving… from juvenile delinquent to smarmy jet setter!

FILM NOIR HAD AN INEVITABLE TRAJECTORY…

THE ECCENTRIC & OFTEN GUTSY STYLE OF FILM NOIR HAD NO WHERE ELSE TO GO… BUT TO REACH FOR EVEN MORE OFF-BEAT, DEVIANT– ENDLESSLY RISKY & TABOO ORIENTED SET OF NARRATIVES FOUND IN THE SUBVERSIVE AND EXPLOITATIVE CULT FILMS OF THE MID TO LATE 50s through the 60s and into the early 70s!

I just got myself this collection of goodies from Something Weird!

weird-noir
There’s even this dvd that points to the connection between the two genres – Here it’s labeled WEIRD. I like transgressive… They all sort of have a whiff of noir.
Grayson Hall Satan in High Heels
Grayson Hall -Satan in High Heels 1962
mimi3
Gerd Oswald adapts Fredrick Brown’s titillating novel — bringing to the screen the gorgeous Anita Ekberg, Phillip Carey and Gypsy Rose Lee and Harry Townes in the sensational, obscure and psycho-sexual thriller Screaming Mimi 1958
The Strangler 1964 Victor Buono
Victor Buono is a deranged mama’s boy in Burt Topper’s fabulous The Strangler 1964
Repulsion
Catherine Deneuve is extraordinary as the unhinged nymph in Roman Polanski’s psycho-sexual tale of growing madness in Repulsion 1965

Just like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, Noir took a journey through an even darker lens… Out of the shadows of 40s Noir cinema, European New Wave, fringe directors, and Hollywood auteurs, brought more violent, sexual, transgressive, and socially transformative narratives into the cold light of day with a creeping sense of verité. While Film Noir pushed the boundaries of taboo subject matter and familiar Hollywood archetypes it wasn’t until later that we are able to visualize the advancement of transgressive topics.

Continue reading “Film Noir ♥ Transgression Into the Cultural Cinematic Gutter: From Shadowland to Psychotronic Playground”

Jack Arnold’s The Tattered Dress (1957) “When I spill a drink on the carpet, my butler cleans up after me.” “When you spill blood, your lawyer is expected to do the same.” “Exactly”

Jack Arnold’s The Tattered Dress (1957)

A Woman and a Tattered Dress…that exposed a town’s hidden evil!

The Tattered Dress is a story actually utilizing the Noir canon of misdirection. The film appears like a melodramatic pulp fiction court room drama, yet it’s muted focus on the object as Charleen Reston and the ensuing crime is a ruse. The film wrings out the real underlying quality of it’s psychological thrust which winds up telling a very different story in the end.

This is a soft sleepy noir court drama that takes place in a wealthy Nevada desert town and might be considered quite the departure for Jack Arnold who is beloved for his memorable contributions to some of THE best 50s sci-fi cautionary tales. The imposing gigantism in Tarantula (1955) The vast shots of sand and open expanses left me wondering if the large ghastly spider would come creeping out yet again from behind a bolder in The Tattered Dress. Arnold is actually very well known for his contributions to the western (No Name On The Bullet 1959) as well as several vintage television series such as Peter Gunn, Rawhide, Perry Mason, Mod Squad, and It Takes a Thief.

I particularly love Arnold’s transcendental masterpiece The Incredible Shrinking Man. (1957) And his colonial inspired science fact/fiction, study of the savage jungle reaches with The Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954).

To his sympathetic alien castaways in It Came From Outer Space.(1953) But consider that Arnold is also responsible for High School Confidential, (1958) The Glass Web (1953), Girls In The Night (1953) , Man In The Shadow (1957) and The Mouse That Roared (1959), you see that he is a very versatile film maker with a vision toward social commentary.

JACK ARNOLD

The story is written by George Zuckerman and faithful Hollywood make up artist Bud Westmore is on crew for the make up. Produced by Albert Zugsmith.

The film’s music is sensational. The overall vibe that swings between pulp melodrama orchestra and burlesque jazz is invigorating to the script. The score utilizes a Blues style Burlesque/ Show Tune Jazz using bassoon, oboe , horns , clarinet, piano timpani bass and viola and a brass section.

Frank Skinner does the music and it’s supervised by Joseph Gershenson. With an uncredited musical contribution by Henry Mancini. (Charade 1963) Mancini was a genius known for countless film scores and musical direction for television. He died in 1994

It stars Jeff Chandler (Broken Arrow 1950 Merrill’s Marauders 1960 and Return To Peyton Place 1961) as the ego centric top criminal attorney James Gordon Blane, Jeanne Crain (State Fair 1945, A Letter To Three Wives 1949, Leave Her To Heaven 1945 and Pinky 1949) as his wife Diane, Jack Carson (Arsenic and Old Lace 1944  Mildred Pierce 1945 & Cat On A Hot Tin Roof 1958) as Sheriff Nick Hoak, Elaine Stewart as Charleen Reston, Phillip Reed as Michael Reston, Gail Russell  (Night Has A Thousand Eyes 1948 and Angel and The Badman 1947) as Carol Morrow, Edward Platt (the Chief on Get Smart) as Journalist Ralph Adams, George Tobias as Billy Giles, Roger Corman regular Paul Birch as Prosecutor Frank Mitchell, and the familiar, omni present television and film character actor Edward Andrews as Lester Rawlings a seedy, pompous defense attorney.

Jeff Chandler is an interesting actor for me. I don’t particularly like the essence of his acting. He’s stone like, in fact his features are rather chiseled in a way that makes his looks unreal, more like a marble statue spouting lines. Yet there’s something in his face that is equally compelling at times. It’s hard for me to divine it. Having done plenty of war and western films, I’m not as familiar with his work such as Cochise in Broken Arrow 1950 or Away All Boats 1956. I’d like to acquaint myself with his work more as I don’t want to stop on The Tattered Dress and assume Chandler doesn’t possess a range to his acting. It might be a stylistic thing, chemistry is very important, and either the role of Blane turned me off, or this actor just isn’t my cup of tea. I’ll have to study him a little closer from now on. The one fact that popped up in doing this post is that he was suspected of being a cross-dresser.

I think it’s fascinating to take an actor who has worked along side of American masculine icons such as John Wayne the epitome of a certain brand of masculinity and have him secretly playing with the gender continuum. I’m not making a value judgement here, just to be clear. Nor am I confusing being a cross dresser with being gay. There are diverging differentiations between sexual orientation, gender identity and sexuality and projected self image. None of which is an issue with me.

I do how ever enjoy finding out when these male role models of iconic American manhood, secretly like to walk around in  lacy bodices and cover their very male lips and cheeks with fuck me red goo whilst balancing on heels that I wouldn’t even punish myself with on a dare. Then again, I like to wear metal tipped men’s boots and I myself prefer girls most of the time, so there it is. But I’m not pretending to be June Cleaver in a dozen gender appropriate films. Without dwelling on it, here is the wiki link that mentions Chandlers shall I say hidden habit.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_Chandler_%28actor%29  The wiki bio refers to Esther Williams dating Jeff Chandler then dumping him after she discovers that he is a cross dresser.

Back to the The Tattered Dress!

CHANDLER AND STEWART OFF TO MAKE ILLICIT HAY IN CHARLEEN’S CONVERTIBLE

In short the story starts after a night out where the wealthy wife Charleen Reston comes home to her smarmy husband Michael Reston, with her dress ripped, showing her half naked body. In a controlled bit of rage, he grabs a gun and his wife roughly by the arm and heads out into town, where he proceeds to gun down the popular young man his wife was sleeping with, while he is out walking in the street. Reston Shoots him in the back as he starts to run away. Once lying dead on the street, the couple callously walk over to the lifeless body as if merely to look at a cigarette butt they’ve discarded out their car window. Looking down at the body as if it is nothing more than useless garbage.

A New York Lawyer is chosen to come to a quiet Nevada desert town of Desert View, to defend the wealthy husband for killing this young man who supposedly assaulted his provocatively alluring and cheating wife who is lensed as ‘a bad girl.’

The town is run by an affable man on the surface, yet a very head strong sheriff with a chip on his shoulder, and once Lawyer Blane manages to get a not guilty verdict for rich Mr Reston, the sheriff vindictive nature, concocts a plan to set up Blane on phoney extortion charges out of revenge for not only defending the wealthy playboy who killed his friend, young Larry Bell, but also the humiliation he endures while on the witness stand at the hands of this pompous lawyer from New York. From the beginning Blane is met by a distinctly hostile townsfolk, who not only mistrust him, but despise the Restons and everything they represent. The environment of vast desert wasteland sets the stage for a modern day non conformist flavor, a throw back to the old fashioned western, and the ensuing confrontation between 2 dueling forces. Continue reading “Jack Arnold’s The Tattered Dress (1957) “When I spill a drink on the carpet, my butler cleans up after me.” “When you spill blood, your lawyer is expected to do the same.” “Exactly””