Noir City: THE MIDNIGHT STORY and MONKEY ON MY BACK

Still sick, but slowly getting better. I’ll probably keep my loud, ugly cough out of the theater for one more night, but come hell or high fucking water I’ll be there tomorrow for closing night. Anyway I miss the hell out of my fellow Hollywood Noiristas, but I’m really glad I’ve been able to play Noir City the Home Game from my sick bed (or couch, to be more precise.) I hope all you far-flung Faustketeers have been doing the same.

On to the show. For starters, THE MIDNIGHT STORY.

A priest gets murdered and one of his former charges from the orphanage, a rookie motorcycle cop played by Tony Curtis, takes it upon himself to hunt down the killer. Curtis goes undercover to cozy up with one of the suspects, a gregarious Italian crab man who seems to harbor a dark secret. Next thing our hero knows, he’s been taken in by the guy’s big extended family and finds himself falling for his beautiful cousin. Solving the case might mean breaking the hearts of the only family he’s ever known, but he just can’t let it go.

This was an odd one for me. It’s got all kinds of great stuff to recommend it. Shirtless Tony Curtis! Vintage San Francisco! THE KILLING veterans Jay Flippen and Ted De Corsia! It’s a pretty good flick, no question. So why didn’t it send me?

Hard to put my finger on why not. Maybe because so much of it is so sunny and upbeat. When it turns dark, it’s better, but on the way there’s a lot of time spent over Sunday Gravy with the boisterous Italian family. I almost forgot I was in Noir City for the whole middle third of this film. Also, our youthful protagonist seems way too ernest and genuine and not nearly jaded and fucked up enough for my taste. By the time we get to the scene where the black-eyed blonde is being questioned at the police station, I wanted to kiss her for bringing just a little taste of that classic noir flavor I’d been missing for the whole rest of the film.

As with all my reviews, your millage may vary. It’s definitely worth checking out, especially if you’re a Tony Curtis completist, or just like seeing him shirtless, and/or in leather.

Next up, MONKEY ON MY BACK.

This is the true (well, truth-adjacent) life horror story of prizefighter and WWII war hero Barney Ross, who loses everything as he battles morphine addiction.

I’m coining a silly new word for this one: Mem-Noir. You’re welcome. Anyway, I really liked this dark, biographical gem, directed by Noir City frequent flyer Andre de Toth. The war scenes are genuinely harrowing. The shadowy back alleys, seedy flop houses and their sweaty, desperate denizens were the perfect antidote to the previous film. Of course there’s a happy ending, or like the title card at the end of the film said, a beginning. But hey, you couldn’t make a film back then in which the protagonist gets up to all this twisted and shameful action if he doesn’t get straightened out at the end. I can live with that. Mistress Christa says check it out.

Tonight, a legendary film in which Charlton Heston still isn’t Mexican. TOUCH OF EVIL, paired with a jazzy little French flick called ELEVATOR TO THE GALLOWS (ASCENSEUR POUR L’ECHAFAUD.)

We’re almost in the home stretch, kids. Stay tuned.

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