Friday, February 28, 2014

NON-STOP (2014) - A Review
I suppose people go to the movies for all sorts of reasons. This weekend, my wife and I wanted to go to see a movie to celebrate living in a town with three different multi-screen theaters. The town we previously lived in will be closing their only theater this weekend, and we are so grateful to be in a place where we have cinema options.

And that is how we wound up on a plane with Liam Neeson today. Non-Stop was the only new movie in town that was of much interest to either of us, and so we were off to fly the not-so-friendly skies.
The set-up is pretty straightforward here: Neeson is flight marshal Bill Marks, onboard a transatlantic flight. Soon after the plane lifts off, he starts getting threatening text messages on the airline's closed network. The mystery texter promises that a passenger on the plane will die every 20 minutes until $150 million is wired to a bank account - an account that is in Marks' name. Complications - and a death every 20 minutes - ensue.

This is a popcorn movie in the best sense. Given that Marks doesn't know who is sending the texts, the film starts right in with introducing his fellow passengers in the most suspicious of ways. From the get-go, everyone seems at least potentially a little questionable, both to the audience and to Marks, and the filmmakers manage to keep both the plane and the mystery up in the air until the end. Neeson, a hulking man and a capable actor, is very good as the man-with-a-past Marks who is in even more of a jam than Keanu Reeves was in Speed (1994) - at least he wasn't 20,000 feet in the air.
Of the reviews I've read of this film, almost all have said that when the identity and motives of the texter is revealed it's unbelievable and somehow not up to snuff. I disagree. Without going into who it is, or why they're doing it, my wife and I found it to be all too plausible. In any case, the reveal comes very near the end, so even if you found it a buzz killer, well, the movie is almost over anyway. (The closest thing to this film is 2005's Red Eye, which in my opinion very much does fall apart in its last quarter. Thus, Non-Stop emerges the better movie-you'll-never-ever-ever-see-on-a-plane.)
I also appreciated that, from my perspective, most of this film was pretty plausible, and that there were no painful or embarrassing "make my day" lines in the script. (There are, however, a few maudlin moments to give us the emotional backstory for Bill Marks.) Another thing of note, especially for an American action film, is the real lack of gunplay here. Yes, Neeson's character has a gun, but being that most of the movie is spent in a pressurized airplane at 20,000 feet, there would be real consequences for being fast and loose with his handgun. By the time there is some gunfire, near the very end of the film, there are already other, bigger problems for everyone onboard to deal with.
Some might say that Neeson, Julianne Moore, and current Oscar nominee Lupita Nyong'o are slumming, but I see nothing wrong with a well done, satisfying and not insultingly stupid thriller. Good action films are a rare breed these days, and this is a good one. That's nothing to be ashamed of in my book.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

"Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son."
Dean Vernon Wormer, Animal House
Dying is easy; comedy is hard. Harold Ramis did the hard part first.
R.I.P. Harold Ramis
1944 - 2014

Sunday, February 23, 2014

HUO SHAO SHAO LIN SI (1976) - A Review
One of the DVDs we picked up in San Francisco recently was this mid-70s Hong Kong martial arts period piece, The Blazing Temple. I'd never heard of it, but it was brand new, the cover art looked promising, and it was only a couple of bucks. So why not?

I'm glad we took a chance, because this movie is a lot of fun, has plenty of action, and features high production values throughout. Both my wife and I enjoyed it very much.
The plot is fairly standard: An Evil Emperor is out to destroy the Shaolin school of martial arts, because they're the only ones who might possibly be able to oppose his evil (of course) plans. He sends a huge battalion of soldiers with cannons to destroy the Shaolin Temple and the monks who live there. The temple burns, hence the title, and most of the monks are killed. The handful who survive want to rebuild their school - but first, they'll have to get some getback on the Emperor. Their efforts are made more difficult by a traitor in their midst, but, in the end, which is wonderfully abrupt, the (SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!) Evil Emperor finally gets his head lopped off. END!
This was one of four films that director Joseph Kuo turned out in 1976, and it seems to possibly have a tie-in to his The 18 Bronzemen (parts one and two), since the bronze men make an appearance here too. Given the somewhat fractured nature of the subtitles, I'm still not quite sure what exactly the bronzemen are - men in gold paint? Spirits? In any case, they are one of many nice visual touches here.
Though the actual blazing temple is clearly a model - a very good model, to be sure - all the other sets, locations and effects are top-notch. Several scenes feature hundreds of costumed extras, so it looks like some money was spent on this production. The acting is generally good, there are touches of humor at times, and good use is made of a number of outdoor locations. Several shots show meditating monks in the lotus position being calmly engulfed by flames as the temple burns, an image that's clearly meant to evoke the monks who had recently emolliated themselves to protest the Vietnam war. I don't know if the filmmakers were trying to draw any parallels between recent events and their story, but whatever the meaning, the images are pretty eerie.
But, of course, the action is what movies like this are really all about, and The Blazing Temple does not skimp on that commodity. It wouldn't be accurate to say this film has non-stop action, but it is spread liberally throughout the entire story. Things start with a young woman challenging and fighting the Emperor's personal guards, and ends (SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!) with the same woman suddenly reappearing and decapitating the Emperor. END!
In between, there are numerous well-staged martial arts scenes - both between individuals and with larger groups. There is kicking, there is sword fighting, there is all manner of jumping, spinning and acrobatics. There's a sword-proof vest, and a bracelet that shoots poison darts. The fight scenes are varied in style and content, and all uniformly well done. I can't imagine action fans wouldn't be pleased with this movie.
There are also some wonderfully garbled subtitles at times. After one battle, the character Fung is badly, badly beaten, obviously nearly dead. One of his comrades tells him, "Fung, cheer up." Needless to say, Fung is way past simply cheering up.

I'm not going to pretend to know how much of this story is based on any sort of historical facts, or to know a lot about the cast or crew of this film. I don't. All I do know is that I'm glad we gambled a couple of bucks on this DVD, because it turned out to be pretty great entertainment. Now I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for more films directed by Kuo, and/or featuring Ling Chia (AKA Jia Ling) or Barry Chan (AKA too many names to list here).

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

THE BROOD (1979) - A Review

We've been on a little bit of a David Cronenberg kick lately, with the most recent entry being The Brood (1979), which we watched last night. It's one of my favorite Cronenberg films, for a variety of reasons.
The story of The Brood is as follows: Frank (Art Hindle) and Nola Carveth (Samantha Egger) are a married couple who have been having major problems as a couple. Just short of splitting up, Nola has gone away to be under the personal care of controversial psychologist Dr. Hal Raglan (Oliver Reed). Raglan has created his own approach to therapy: Psychoplasmics, which involves his patients literally manifesting their mental ills as physical realities (stigmata, tumors) in order to ultimately purge them from their lives. As Frank and Nola fight for control of their daughter, Candice (Cindy Hinds), it turns out that Raglan has given Nola a decisive weapon in this struggle. (SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!) Taking psychoplasmics to a new level, Nola gives birth to partially formed children, all of whom resemble Candice, who are under her control and respond to her emotional state. When she is calm, the brood is too. But if Nola is angry with someone, they will track them down and express that anger in violent, murderous ways. The situation comes to a climax when the brood kidnap Candice and take her back to Nola at Raglan's institute.
I have to say that, in general, I find David Cronenberg to be a fascinating, brilliant writer and director. The recurrent theme that runs through so many of his films - the body turning against itself in one way or another - is unique among filmmakers. It's the cinema of cancer, and it made perfect sense to me when I found out that Cronenberg originally majored in biochemistry at the University of Toronto, before making the switch to English. His work shows a perfect union of those two worlds. Even when he has worked with material that isn't his own, such as in The Dead Zone (1983) or his version of The Fly (1986), this theme still holds true.
I also appreciate that Cronenberg applied his brilliance, at least initially, to genre films - horror and science fiction - that all too often suffered very much from a seeming lack of any intelligence. Yes, films like The Brood, They Came from Within (1975) and Videodrome (1983) are, in the simplest sense, bloody, gory horror shows. But they are much more than that as well. Cronenberg's films function on more than one level, and his body of work is filled with social and political commentary, as well as numerous instances of nearly psychic prognostication. Cronenberg is the Jules Verne or H.G. Wells of filmmakers. His films often feature medical, technological or other devices or ideas that seem fantastic at the time, but quickly turn up in the real world.
But, broader strokes aside, The Brood was, apparently, a very personal film for Cronenberg - who had just gone through a divorce and custody battle of his own. Though this film absolutely strikes that patented Cronenberg cinema as cancer tone, in other ways The Brood plays against expectations. For one thing, Nola Carveth is a mother, the archetype of life and regeneration - yet she produces murderous monsters. She is aided in this by her doctor, who, rather than healing, facilitates the horror that Nola produces. And this doctor is played by Oliver Reed, an actor and personality not necessarily known for his gentility - yet he plays Raglan as a soft-spoken, restrained man.

Further, a grade school classroom becomes the scene of one of the brood's deadly assaults. And, of course, those assaults are carried out by children. Nothing is quite as it should be in The Brood, either in the world Cronenberg has created or in the audience's expectations, and this disconnect, this otherness, serves the film well. Art Hindle does a good job as Frank, our guide at navigating this somewhat familiar but very dangerous territory.

With all this intentional dissonance and the effectively creepy use of the children of the brood, The Brood more than makes the grade as a superior horror thriller. As usual, Cronenberg has attracted some talented and interesting performers, and the acting here is very strong across the board. Some have carped about Egger being over the top, but I disagree. Her character is supposed to be, at best, on the bleeding edge of madness, and I don't think that Egger overplays her.
Growing up in the 1970s and 80s, Cronenberg was one of the key genre directors working and turning out classic films. This group included John Carpenter, George Romero and Wes Craven. (Of this group, Carpenter has commented that "Cronenberg is better than the rest of us combined.") In this era of cookie-cutter nostalgia and remake mania, all of these filmmakers have had some of their films remade - except for Cronenberg. Though he has made just as many iconic, name brand films - They Came from Within, Rabid (1977), The Brood, Scanners (1981), Videodrome - no one has actually come through with a Cronenberg remake. (A Scanners remake has been talked about for years, but...) I think this is because, when the rubber hits the road, it runs out that David Cronenberg has laid out a very weird, very involved road indeed - one that resists an easy or glossy redo. You can almost hear a modern producer saying something like, "Can't we make it a little, you know, less dark?"
In a word, no. David Cronenberg makes films that may light up the dark, but that light does not eliminate the dark. It just draws us in deeper. But as his films show us time and time again, getting in deeper usually means getting in over your head.
Or put another way, as pertains to The Brood...Soft-spoken or not, if you're in a movie and Oliver Reed is playing your doctor, you're in trouble.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

TOM YUM GOONG 2 (2013) - A Review

I'm a fan of the Thai action star Tony Jaa, and I was pretty blown away by Chocolate (2008), the debut film of up-and-coming Thai action actress Jija Yanin (AKA Jeeja Yanin). If you've seen Chocolate, or Jaa's work in the first Tom Yum Goong (2005) or Ong-Bak (2003), then you've seen some very high-level, crowd pleasing martial arts action cinema. (When we were in Bhutan last year, there was a TV channel out of India that seemed to show nothing but a constant rotation of the three Ong-Bak films.)
So I was very excited when I heard that these two would be appearing together in TYG2. On our recent trip to San Francisco, my wife spotted the DVD of TYG2 in Chinatown, and, as I'm sure she would attest, I was practically bouncing up and down with excitement. (The film will open in theaters in the U.S. in May of this year.)
Now that we're home, and I've had a chance to watch the film, I am sorry to report that it is somewhat less than the sum of its parts. Don't get me wrong: It's a pleasing enough, proficient enough action film. But it doesn't come close to the best work that either Jaa or Yanin have done in the past.
As in the original Tom Yum Goong, the plot here swings into action when villager Kham (Tony Jaa) has his beloved elephant stolen. His search takes him into the big, bad city, where he crosses paths with various thugs, assassins and an arms dealer named Mr. LC (played by American rapper RZA). He also runs into his old friend Mark (Petchtai Wongkamlao), a police detective, who had been in the first film as well. The plot is little more than an excuse to send Jaa into situation after situation that he'll have to fight his way out of - which is fine for an action film. Who really comes for the story, right? The problem here is that there's nothing that quite compares to some of the work Jaa did in the first film.

TYG2 was shot in 3D, and makes quite a lot of use of CGI in some of its big action scenes, especially a Jaa vs. motorcycles battle that takes place across various rooftops. Given Jaa's talents as a martial artist/performer, it's a little disappointing to see such "tricks" used.
Even more disappointing is the profound underuse of Yanin. In Chocolate, she made a big impression on me with both her acting and her martial arts and stunt work. She's clearly a very talented young woman. But she has little to do here, and almost no dialogue at all. Her presence in several scenes feels very much like something that was thrown together at the last minute, and it is not vitally important to either the plot or the film.
The casting of RZA was also a problem, being that I didn't find him believable for a second, either as an arms dealer or as a martial artist. Less of him, and more of Yanin, would make this a better film, in my opinion.
But I understand why RZA is there. And why this was shot in 3D. It looks like this will be Tony Jaa's big chance in American movie theaters, so Jaa and director Prachya Pinkaew (who also directed the first TYG) have pulled out all the stops to try and make a film that will have numerous marketable angles to audiences in the U.S. With that in mind, I think they've crafted a serviceable enough film. There are several impressive action sequences, Jaa can still bend, kick, jump and fight like a demon, and, if you're not familiar with the earlier work of the players, then you're likely to be impressed and satisfied.
On the other hand, I am familiar with the earlier work of both stars, so I found it underwhelming overall. But I wish Jaa (and Yanin) lots of luck with American audiences. Unlike more recent action transplants like Jackie Chan or Jet Li, Tony Jaa is (in my opinion) extremely handsome, almost pretty, and thus may have a sex appeal that goes beyond his multiple martial arts skills. If this film doesn't put him over in the U.S., then his role in the upcoming franchise sequel Fast & Furious 7 (due out in 2015) should. Jaa also has not one but two films in the pipeline in which he co-stars with Dolph Lundgren. (Not so sure about the wisdom of that Tony - no offense to Dolph.)

The question I have now is...If there's another Tom Yum Goong film, how are they going to explain Kham having his elephant stolen for a third time? 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

ROBOCOP (2014) - A Review

To start with, I should state that I have a pretty firm anti-remake policy when it comes to films. Remakes generally have little behind them other than a naked profit motive - especially in modern Hollywood.

I also will go on record as saying that I think the original Robocop (1987), with Peter Weller as the title character, is a nearly perfect film, a great film, and, dare I say it, perhaps even kind of an important film. It was lightning in a bottle, one of those times where a story, script, director, cast and crew all came together to create something special.

Having said all that...I have no problem at all with the idea of doing a remake of Robocop. I've been thinking a lot lately about how films are really our modern folk tales. (How many of us have sat around an open fire telling stories lately?) With that in mind, it actually makes sense for certain cautionary tales to be retold, refashioned for an evolving society. Think about the continued relevance of the Frankenstein story in a world with skin grafts, limb transplants, artificial organs and other medical advances. Add a layer of robotics to the Frankenstein story and you've essentially got Robocop.

So I went into the screening tonight with an open mind. I knew the early reviews of this remake were very mixed. But I was prepared to like the film. I also knew that I could wind up leaving the theater angry and offended.

Well, I'm home, and I'm not angry. I'm not delighted, either, but I am glad to at least not be upset by a total travesty of a film. Do I need to see it again? No. Will I watch the original version again? You bet.

Fair or not, the two versions will be compared - and the new one will come out the loser pretty much every time, every way. Where the original (in the best sense of the word) Robocop managed to be at once both an intelligent and dark black comedy and an action film that would please action fans, the remake is much more like a standard-issue action film with a few bigger thoughts and ideas added for ornamentation. The edge of the original, while acknowledged, is dulled way, way down.

Some may say I'm crazy, but I think that Robocop (1987) is a black comedy that surpasses Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove (1964), and is still much more relevant as a story. It was a bold and bleak melding of comedy with tragedy - and it worked. Robocop (2014) doesn't even really try to compete in the black comedy department, though there are a few lines thrown in that are clearly intended to get laughs from the punters.

As for the action set pieces, the remake settles (a word chosen intentionally) for a by-the-numbers approach that I found to be the most disappointing thing about the film. The Robocop visor comes down, the gun comes out, and cue the generic hard rock on the soundtrack. How many films have we seen that in at this point? Indeed, with this approach being so generic now, what is the point?

The general outline of the story in the remake is pretty similar to the original: Honest Detroit police officer Alex Murphy is very nearly killed in the line of duty, and is brought back to cybernetic life through the profit-driven efforts of a multinational corporation (OmniCorp) that has partnered with the Detroit Police Department. Robocop is pitched as a supercop with a human heart and experience to the public, while being regarded as a prototype of future profits by the corporate bigwigs. When his mission/programing begins to conflict with what's left of Alex Murphy, problems arise.

I applaud the new film for actually trying out some new ideas, in addition to the expected technological upgrade. Some of the new ideas work, and some don't. But the one that I would call a crucial mistake was that, in the remake, Murphy's family not only know he's Robocop, it's his wife who signs his remains over to OmniCorp to "save" him. In the original, Murphy's sense of loss of his family - who are only seen in flashback - provides an ongoing and effective reminder of all that he's lost. So far as they know, he's dead. The best he can do is visit their empty house and remember. Weller made Robocop/Murphy's impotent rage at his loss clear and very affecting.

In the new film, with his wife and son still in the picture, that sense of loss is itself lost. In its place there are some cheap attempts at sentimentality, a few new plot twists, and a none-too-believable happy ending. The change very much lessened the emotional weight of the story for me (though, in fairness, my wife thought the change worked well enough). But having a very nearly destroyed Robocop/Murphy tell his wife at the end that things will be fine, just fine, totally lacks the impact of the scene in the original where a nearly destroyed Robocop/Murphy tells his badly injured partner not to worry, because "They'll fix you. They fix everything." It's a line that, as written, conveys some sort of hope. But as delivered by Weller, with an air of exhaustion and defeat, it comes across as more of a threat than a promise of better days.

I'd also say that the decision to have all of Murphy's face visible once he becomes Robocop was a misstep. Given that he's a hormonally controlled cyborg with limited emotional output, Joel Kinnaman (who plays Murphy) has to put on a sort of cartoonish frozen tough guy face for a number of scenes, and it just didn't work for me. It seemed ridiculous, frankly. In the original, pretty much all we see of Murphy once he becomes Robocop is a his mouth. Having his eyes literally, physically blocked from view was, in my opinion, a much more effective method of conveying the distance and remove of the hard-wired but struggling Murphy.

I also found the TV cop show style handheld camerawork to be a distraction. In action scenes it merely made things even more confusing; in quieter scenes, it just draws attention to the fact that you're watching someone being filmed. During quiet scenes, I found myself wondering if the actors find it harder to concentrate with the camera operator swaying from side to side in front of them. Needless to say, these are not thoughts that kept me deeply focused on the story unfolding in front of me.

From script to direction to pacing to acting, the remake fails to approach the original, despite some nice touches and good performances. In short, the remake comes up short. Not embarrassingly so, but still. Then again, it's a remake of a film that got it right the first time, so that's a tough assignment. If nothing else, I thank the makers of Robocop (2014) for at least not embarrassing themselves, and for not sending me out into the evening angry. Faint praise, perhaps, but...It's the best I can do. It'll be interesting to see if the film is successful, or strikes a chord with the public.

In the meantime, go watch the original Robocop, and see how well it holds up. As satire, as social commentary, and as a straight-up action film, it's still a powerhouse.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Films of Noir City 2014 - Part V

The fifth night of Noir City was billed as a "Double Dose of Death," which, by the way, looked great on the Castro's marquee. First up that night was a Spanish film from 1955, Muerte de un Ciclista (AKA Death of a Cyclist), followed by a Norwegian film from 1949 called Doden er et Kjaertegn (AKA Death is a Caress). They proved to be two of the most interesting films we saw at the festival.

Cyclist tells a story that is deceptively simple: A couple, Maria (Lucia Bose) and Juan (Alberto Closas), out for a drive accidentally hit a bicyclist. Given that Maria is married, and not to Juan, they flee the scene of the accident, and the cyclist dies. Soon after, a bitter art critic, Rafa (Carlos Casaravilla), who is in their social circle starts to make hints to them about knowing about their "secrets." Juan wants to own up to what they did and go to the police; Maria wants to keep it all covered up. But as Rafa ramps up his taunting and threats of blackmail, Maria feels she has no choice but to settle things in a most final fashion.

I've tried to give you enough of the plot here to interest you, without giving it all away, in case you're able to see this great little film. The story was very much what you could call Hitchcockian, and it wouldn't have been any sort of stretch to see him pondering doing a remake of this if he had seen it. This film absolutely kept me absorbed, waiting to see what happened next. Enough of the motivations of the three main characters are kept hidden to keep you guessing - especially with Rafa. Does he know about the affair? Does he know about the accident? Or is he just being obnoxious and hoping to shake things up? Whatever his motivation, Casaravilla is excellent in the part. He looks like an evil Buster Keaton, and is extremely easy to dislike. No wonder he gets the couple so rattled.

This film struck a similar chord as several others (In the Palm of Your Hand, Too Late for Tears) in the festival - couples who somehow get involved with something illegal or immoral, and then experience conflict when the man wants to come clean. In Cyclist the difference in moral temperaments is symbolically made clear when Juan asks Maria, "Are you cold?" She answers "Yes." And not just cold room cold - she's cold soul cold. As with the femme fatales in the other films, this difference puts Juan at a severe disadvantage in his relationship with Maria.

At the end of the film, when there has been another accident, I was reminded of all things, of the movie The Ring (2002), with its plot of murder and moral, if not literal, contagion. Cyclist begins and ends with accidents, both of which put someone in the position of responding - either by helping or by fleeing. When Juan and Maria hit the cyclist, we know nothing about that person, and the couple come off badly for leaving the victim to die.

But when the final accident comes, we know much more about the person who is the victim of it, and, knowing that, the audience could well root for the person who witnesses it to do as Maria and Juan did, and simply leave. I thought it was a great way to loop the audience right back into the questions of morality and responsibility that run throughout the film one last time.

Cyclist was directed and co-written by Juan Antonio Bardem, and after seeing this, I would be very much interested in seeing some of the other films he made. (This one won the 1956 Cannes International Critics Award.) And yes, if that last name is familiar, he is the uncle of actor Javier Bardem.

The evening's second feature was also of great interest. To begin with, Death is a Caress was directed by a woman, Edith Carlmar, from a script written by her husband, Otto. Women weren't directing many feature films in the 1940s (and they still aren't even now in this country), so that made this film something of a rarity, foreign or not. Caress is widely considered to be the first film noir - from anywhere - directed by a woman.

Also, though many of the foreign films shown in the festival featured frank and open sexuality of a kind you would never have seen in an American film from that period, Caress took this openness further than the others we'd seen, and also included some near-nudity that was notable. (Check out the images on the poster above, which gives a good idea of the erotic tone of much of the film.) All of this was done in the service of a story about a woman with a very healthy sexual appetite indeed.

That woman is Sonja (Bjorg Riiser-Larsen), a wealthy, married and middle-aged woman who takes a fancy to handsome young auto mechanic named Erik (Claus Wiese). Though Erik has a girlfriend with whom he obviously enjoys a full sexual relationship, he quickly takes up with Sonja after she has her husband hire him as a driver. Given that Sonja is the one in the marriage with the money, she has no hesitations about dumping her husband to make room for Erik.

But, once they are married, Sonja seems to tire of Erik quickly - especially since he tries to act in a grown-up, responsible fashion. No longer "fun," Sonja starts casting her eye about for a new playmate, while also behaving in an increasingly angry and erratic way toward Erik. Eventually violence flares, and someone ends up dead on the bedroom floor, while the survivor relates the tale of their relationship in flashback from the police station and courtroom.

Both my wife and I came to the same conclusion about Riiser-Larsen: She's very much like a more hostile Norma Desmond from Sunset Boulevard (1950). She not only looks quite a bit like Gloria Swanson, but the two characters have some striking (literally!) similarities. In any case, Riiser-Larsen was great fun to watch.

On the other hand, I have to agree that Wiese comes across as a bit of a bore as Erik, Handsome, yes, but a kind of a stiff. Still, that was his job in the story, so I guess he did it well. And with its flashbacks and obsession leading to destruction theme, this was some very interesting Norwegian noir. I didn't find it quite as interesting or involving as Cyclist, but still enjoyed it very, very much.

Anyone who is interested in film noir, female directors, or films made by actors turned directors (Carlmar had been an actress prior to directing this, her first feature) should find much of interest here. As part two of the "Double Dose of Death," this went down well with me.