September 2015


According to Wikipedia, Moloko was an English-Irish music duo from Sheffield, England. The duo consisted of vocalist Róisín Murphy and producer Mark Brydon. Their music has been described as “alternative dance and trip hop, as well as dance-pop, experimental pop, and electropop.” The song “Dominoid” is from their first CD Do You Like My Tight Sweater? (1995). The group disbanded after a final tour in 2003.

THE REMARKABLE ANDREW. Paramount Pictures, 1942. Brian Donlevy, William Holden, Ellen Drew, Montagu Love, Gilbert Emery, Brandon Hurst, George Watts, Rod Cameron. Story & screenplay: Dalton Trumbo. Director: Stuart Heisler.

   A mildly amusing and engaging comedy-fantasy about several of this country’s forefathers (among them George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and more) coming to life from the past to assist a mild-mannered town accountant (William Holden) in his time of need. First and foremost among them is Andrew Jackson (Brian Donlevy), however, returning a favor — Andrew Long’s great, great grandfather at one time saved Jackson’s life.

   It seems that Andrew Long has discovered some discrepancies in the town’s books, and when he won’t go along with hushing it up, the political elite of the city decide to frame him for embezzlement. Convinced by these illustrious guests from the past that an honest democracy is worth fighting for, Andrew Long gives a courtroom speech almost worthy of a Gary Cooper (Mr. Deeds) or Jimmy Stewart (Mr. Smith), but somehow it never caught on. No one’s heard of this movie today.

   What is even more interesting is to see William Holden as an actor when he was only 24. Even though he had been picked to star in Golden Boy three years earlier, his acting skills as displayed in Andrew seem rather limited — just suitable enough to play a mild-mannered boy-next-door sort of guy who’s been engaged to a girl for five years waiting for a raise of $2.50 per week before they can get married. There’s nothing in this film to suggest in the slightest that he’d grow up to be an Oscar contender every time the nominations came around.

   And oh, yes, one more thing. You may have noticed Rod Cameron’s name in the credits. I’d forgotten he was in the movie while I was watching it, and didn’t even recognize him, not all dressed up as Jesse James the way he was, complete with a wide bandito mustache. I don’t really know why Jesse James was in this movie, but he was.


MICHAEL ALLEGRETTO – Blood Relative. Jacob Lomax #4. Charles Scribner’s Sons, hardcover, 1992. No paperback edition.

   I had read a couple of the earlier Lomax books and hadn’t been tremendously impressed, but on the other hand liked them well enough to try another. I’m a little more impressed after reading the fourth.

   Jake Lomax is a Denver PI, an ex-cop whose wife was murdered five years ago; this destroyed his career as a policeman, and remains the central fact in his life. He is just back from an extended vacation in Mexico, and wondering what he’s doing with his life. He is hired by a lawyer for a man accused of murdering his wife, and who seems to be considered guilty by everyone even his children, and Lomax.

   Lomax is to find some helpful witnesses, and see if he can track down a possible lover of the murdered woman. As the stones are turned over the worms crawl out, and Lomax prods them to see which way they move. They move, as always, towards secrets and other crimes.

   This is a well-done standard private eye novel; if the concept of genre has any meaning this is probably the kind of book it applies to. Lomax walks the mean streets like he’s supposed to, and does the things a man’s gotta do when and where he’s gotta do ’em.

   Allegretto writes well if not exceptionally, and the plot is tight and more than normally realistic. I wouldn’t put him in the top rank of PI writers yet, but based on Blood Relative, I believe he’s moved up a notch. I look forward to the next one. Recommended.

— Reprinted from Fireman, Fireman, Save My Books #3, September 1992.

The Jacob Lomax series —

1. Death on the Rocks (1987)

2. Blood Stone (1988)

3. The Dead of Winter (1989)
4. Blood Relative (1992)
5. Grave Doubt (1995)

Kasey Chambers is an Australian country singer-songwriter with a list of nominations and awards several pages long. “I’m Alive” is the final track on her most recent CD Bittersweet (2014).

Reviewed by JONATHAN LEWIS:         

SAN QUENTIN. Warner Brothers, 1937. Pat O’Brien , Humphrey Bogart, Ann Sheridan, Barton MacLane, Joseph Sawyer, Veda Ann Borg. Director: Lloyd Bacon.

   For fans of Warner Brothers’ crime films and Depression-era realism, San Quentin is a well-paced crime melodrama with enough solid characterization to keep viewers fully engaged with the story for the duration. Indeed, watching the film, a short programmer filmed on location at the California prison, is like hanging out with old friends. Not only is Humphrey Bogart front and center, you’ve also got many of the studio’s finest by your side: Pat O’Brien, Ann Sheridan, Barton MacLane, and Joe Sawyer.

   Bogart portrays Red Kennedy, a low-level crook at odds with the world. It seems the only good thing he’s got going on in his life is his devoted sister, May (Sheridan), a singer in a San Francisco nightclub. Soon after the film begins, Kennedy is nabbed by the law and ends up in San Quentin. Little does Kennedy know that his sister and the prison’s new chief guard, Captain Stephen Jameson (O’Brien) are beginning a romantic relationship. When he does find out – from the mouth of thuggish fellow inmate, Sailor Boy Hansen (Sawyer) – he’s enraged and is more prepared to do something about it.

   Although San Quentin is by no means a classic or comparable to Bogart’s better known movies, it nevertheless succeeds as a film due to its script and fine coterie of actors. As was the case in many Warner movies from the era, San Quentin is a crime film with a conscience. Kennedy isn’t really such a bad guy so much as a victim of time and circumstance. Even so, the lesson is plain enough for all to see. As much as we might sympathize with Red Kennedy, ultimately his decisions to pursue a life of crime will usher in his tragic downfall in a world that’s ultimately indifferent to his fate.

I awoke this morning to discover that all of the comments on this blog are missing. I don’t know why or how, but I’m hoping they can be retrieved. As I’m sure you’ll agree, the discussion that takes place in the comments is often as useful as the posts themselves, sometimes more so. More later when I know more.

UPDATE: The comments are back, thanks to my son-in-law Mark, who reminded me that the same thing happened almost exactly three years ago. So all he had to do was to remember what he did then, and do it again, and it worked! I wonder if it has anything to do with the autumnal equinox?

If by chance you tried to leave a comment while the system for handling them was down and it never showed up, please try again.

This Tom Waits song was on Shawn Colvin’s CD Cover Girl back in 1994, which is when I purchased it. It is hard to believe that that was over 20 years ago.

GEORGE HARMON COXE – The Camera Clue. Alfred A. Knopf, hardcover, 1937. Dell #27, mapback edition, no date [1943?]. Dell #453, mapback edition, 2nd printing, no date [1950].

   Another useful feature of these old Dell mapbacks, besides the obvious one, of course, is the listing of the cast of characters, right before the title page. The map didn’t help much with the mystery this time, but it is interesting to note that of the twenty characters listed, at least nine of them are on the scene outside the murdered man’s office when Kent Murdock stops to take a candid shot of a sandwich advertising man on stilts.

   Most of them don’t want their picture taken, either. Murdock’s office soon begins to resemble Grand Central Station, with worried people continually running in and out, desperately trying to keep him from publishing theirs in the newspaper. Murdock’s assistant, Gowan, even gets his skull crushed in, by someone even more desperate than the others.

   This was George Harmon Coxe’s third novel — Kent Murdock is still definitely married, and whatever became of Joyce Murdock anyway? Formerly a writer for Black Mask and the other detective pulps of the twenties and thirties, Coxe was never known as a great wordsmith, and his massive total of camera-oriented plots soon became rather repetitious.

   He was a pretty good master of misdirection, however, and here’s a fine example of how he played the game of “fool the reader” so well. The big climax misfires just slightly, but even so I have to admit, I was caught off-balance by its outcome, exactly as I was supposed to be. In one sense I wasn’t even close, and I am chagrined to say I should have been.

   And no, the sandwich man didn’t do it.

Rating:   C plus.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 6, No. 6, November-December 1982 (very slightly revised).


CONFLICT. Warner Brothers, made in 1943, but not released till ’45. Humphrey Bogart, Alexis Smith, Sydney Greenstreet, Rose Hobart. Screenplay by Arthur T. Horman and Dwight Taylor, from the story “The Pentacle” by Robert Siodmak and Alfred Neumann. Directed by Curtis Bernhardt.

   An off-beat misfire that has its moments, Conflict will disappoint some Bogart fans, because it reverses the stereotype: Bogie is the bad guy here and Sydney Greenstreet the amateur detective who trips him up. And when I say that, I’m not selling any state secrets: The capsule reviews of this film all say up front that Bogie kills wife Rose Hobart and makes a play for sister-in-law Alexis Smith. The slip-up that incriminates him is perfectly obvious to mystery fans the second he makes it, and director Curtis Bernhardt even throws in a reaction shot of Sydney Greenstreet — well — reacting to the clue.

   The real plot of Conflict hovers around Bogart’s growing suspicion that the wife he thoroughly killed is not actually dead –- or worse, that she may be dead, but making her presence felt anyway; her personal effects show up in odd places, notes in her handwriting land on his desk… The sense of Bogart’s growing dread in a world gone awry would become a staple of film noir, but since we know they’re on to him, and we’ve figured out this is Greenstreet’s strategy for making him tip his hand, it counts for very little here.

   On the other hand, I have to say that Conflict was done with the usual Warners’ care and polish. There are some striking visuals here, with the studio fog machine pumping full-blast, and some intelligent dialogue that coveys the weakness in our protagonist but retrains our sympathy.

   And there is one aspect of Conflict (whatthehell does that title mean, anyway?) that deserves discussion and it’s the kind of thing that is better discovered than described, so I’m giving the following WARNING! If you think you might see this movie sometime in the near future or remember these comments unduly, skip the next paragraph!

   At the ending, tormented by fear, Bogart betrays himself and finds it’s all been a (sigh) trick. We were expecting this all along, but it’s handled in a surprisingly insightful fashion. As Bogart prepares to face his worst fears and make the mistake that will cost him dearly, the camera angles upward to his face, lit from below, like a man at the edge of a precipice summoning up the courage to jump.

   And when he’s caught, what comes across most compellingly is his sense of relief. His capture is not so much comeuppance as catharsis, and there’s an unexpected look of relief on his face as they slap the cuffs on him and lead him upwards toward the light; the whole ending, in fact, is played with a surprising sense of redemption that seems to put the rest of the film in a whole new context — one of the unexpected and perhaps inadvertent pleasures that sometimes come out of Hollywood.

The son of alternative country artist Steve Earle, Justin Townes Earle sings his own mix of folk, blues and country. From his second CD, Midnight at the Movies, released in 2009:

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