The Autobiography of a “JEEP”

Voice of John Garfield.

“A new kind of Army mule on wheels...” A focal character in the war years, 11 x 5 x 3, 60 hp. “Can this be an automobile, men wondered.” The businesslike conduct of military operations expressed in a single invention. “I was getting turned out one every two minutes.” The soldier’s friend, “wherever you see one of us, the other won’t be far behind.”

A film as energetic, vital and descriptive in a hundred ways.


murder by contract

Homage to secondhand Welles, opening scene of contractor at his toilette (Journey into Fear, dir. Norman Foster), score and conclusion (The Third Man, dir. Carol Reed).

“I don’t even carry a room key.”

“It’s business, same as any other business, you murder the competition.”

“There’s lipstick on that coffee cup. I don’t like to drink coffee out of a cup some lousy pig left her trademark on.”

“He must be a genius in his own field.”

“He’s a genius and I’m dyin’.”

“Today I’m an expert comptometer operator.”

“I don’t like women. They don’t stand still. When they move it’s hard to figure out why or wherefore.”

“Watches TV, does her eyes, reads the newspaper and listens to TV at the same time.”

“It wasn’t his fault. It was a good idea, a brilliant idea! High voltage electricity in a TV set, she turns on the set, BOOM. Very clever!”

“Now, are you a civilized country?”

“Me? I didn’t even graduate third grade.”

“What is this place?”

“It’s a movie studio.”

“Not much business.”

Variety, “sufficiently interesting.” Leonard Maltin, “intriguing little film... ultimately sabotaged by pretentious dialogue and posturing.” Jonathan Rosenbaum (Chicago Reader), “an existential hipster”. Tony Sloman (Radio Times), “darkly sinister plot masks a deeply original screenplay proffering philosophical insights”. Time Out, “like something by Jean-Pierre Melville.” The New Yorker, “Lerner had extensive experience with documentaries when he made this film noir, in 1958, and it shows.” Catholic News Service Media Review Office, “bogs down”. Halliwell’s Film Guide, “minor distinction,” citing John Gillett, “completely unsentimental.”

Sarris, “often the promising work turns out to be the ultimate work, and Murder by Contract seems to fall into that category.”


City of Fear

The San Diego cosmetics salesman on the road from Monterey to Los Angeles with a pound of heroin, he thinks.

The transformation scene before the credits tells the story, two cons from San Quentin, an ambulance driver, the traveling salesman, who doesn’t know the score (cf. Kazan’s Panic in the Streets).

Leonard Maltin, “programmer”.

Time Out, “strong on seedy atmosphere” (with praises for Ballard and Goldsmith).

TV Guide, “settles down into a chase”.

Eleanor Mannikka (All Movie Guide), “standard thriller”.

Halliwell’s Film Guide, “occasionally gripping”.


Studs Lonigan

William, “Bill”, son, lover, youth in Chicago, life in the mobs (ever so fleet), subsequent career.

Score by Jerrald “Jerry” Goldsmith doubling for Kurt Weill (“Cannon Song”). Wexler associate and consultant, Philip Yordan writing and producing.

“Maybe I’ll be damn important someday, a politician or somethin’.”

Mozart is a brief interlude, death and taxes intervene.

“Nobody ever called me good before.”

The major effort is applied to the back lot and interior settings of the Nineteen-Twenties for an immediacy of view emulated in color by Robert Altman (Thieves Like Us), without antiquarian flavor or nostalgic purpose, the thing seen in its native soil.

“Extra, extra! Read all about the big stock market crash!”

Howard Thompson of the New York Times, “requires real indulgence.” Variety, “earnest attempt gone wrong.” Leonard Maltin, “interesting if not altogether successful”. Pat Graham (Chicago Reader), “scrubbed-down”. TV Guide, “lacks depth.” Eleanor Mannikka (All Movie Guide), “does not quite do justice to the literary whole.” Halliwell’s Film Guide, “not a bad try but insufficiently detailed to be any kind of classic.”


Cry of Battle

Invasion of the Philippines the day after Pearl Harbor, bandits and patriots, boy and brute, contend. “Innocence will get the better of crime,” says Eluard (Guernica, dir. Alain Resnais).

“And, damn it, you have all the important qualifications. You can read, you can write, and you can count to a hundred.”

Are you tellin’ me—“

“You are now a lieutenant in the United States Army.”

Cp. Back to Bataan (dir. Edward Dmytryk), They Were Expendable (dir. John Ford), American Guerrilla in the Philippines (dir. Fritz Lang), and in the force of circumstances Captains Courageous (dir. Victor Fleming) à outrance, just the difference between war and peace (Eluard, “la mort cœur renversé”). Samuel Fuller remembers the stumbling American in Tinikling, or the Dragon and the Madonna. The Jap train passing overhead is from The Bridge on the River Kwai (dir. David Lean), or for that matter Bhowani Junction (dir. George Cukor). And speaking of Ford, What Price Glory... The conclusion is where Kubrick begins Full Metal Jacket. “Make war on war,” says George Bernard Shaw in Major Barbara (dir. Gabriel Pascal).

“Never really believed it, all those stories you hear about the Japs.” Question of friendly relations before the war, a doxy for the duration. “The father of waters again goes unvexed to the sea,” remembered by Lean in Doctor Zhivago. “A nasty business,” Eisenhower said of the war in Europe.

“I guess I taught you plenty.”

“I guess you did, Joe.”

Bosley Crowther of the New York Times, “I kept waiting for some dramatic purpose, some clear statement of truth, to crystallize. Hal Erickson (All Movie Guide), “static”.

Andrew Sarris (The American Cinema), “Murder by Contract is a minor classic of murderous understatement, and is all that need be said about Irving Lerner’s career.”


The Royal Hunt of the Sun

Further explications by Werner Herzog certainly include Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes and Fitzcarraldo.

“Your god is inside you, how can this be?”

“Oh, they eat him. Furrst he become a bis-a-cuit, then they eat-a him.”

The slow-motion battle is a year after 2001: A Space Odyssey (dir. Stanley Kubrick). “Tell me, soft Father, if Christ were here, would He kill the Inca?”

“To save love in the world, you must kill lovelessness.”

“Hail to you, Father, sole judge of love! No salvation outside your Church, no love in it either?”

Baptism of Atahualpa (cf. Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor), his death, usurper of the throne, son of Sun and Moon. Before The Devils (dir. Ken Russell), departure of one who has seen the light. Before Savage Messiah, sovereign works for the camera.

“The palace of disinterest has a craphouse,” exults a foreigner when asked by Army, Church and Crown to kill the prisoner.

Variety, “striking in many ways.” Geoff Andrew (Time Out), “unwisely ignores the material’s potential”. TV Guide, “talky and philosophical.” Dan Pavlides (All Movie Guide), “historical accuracy is cast aside”. Halliwell’s Film Guide, “deadly literal... resembles nothing so much as an opera without the music.”