Edited by Don Malcolm on 6/24/2016, 5:47 am
--This looks a little more like a pre-2014 issue, and it's amusing to see lavish praise for an essay about the OSS and neo-realism when an essay moving in analogous tangents (on 60s spy mania, the "culture of testosterone" and the JFK assassination) was shunned, marginalized, and printed in a "secret section" of the magazine without illustrations. The piece itself is good, but it is a heavy "name-dropping" piece that's most useful for showing how Roberto Rossellini became highly venerated after WWII, and like a lot of the material favored by the current editor, it is heavy on documenting in-process changes to work in progress rather than examining the themes/styles of the actual works themselves (in this case, neo-realism).
--Those who might expect from the FNF blurb that Imogen Smith's essay on Douglas Sirk would analyze the connective tissue between his Columbia noirs and his Universal melodramas will likely find things a bit wanting. While Imogen still demonstrates her patented effortless elegance, I can't help but feel that she's pretty much cribbed this whole piece from far more detailed and penetrating examinations of Sirk that can be found in James Harvey's MOVIE LOVE IN THE FIFTIES. Steve Kronenberg, who contributes a very nice piece on George Macready a bit further down in the Spring 2016 lineup, is more forthcoming about his sources, citing Diane Jarrett's fine biographical work on our favorite silky villain.
--Nice to see Marc Svetov represented here, even if he is mining familiar territory with the returning vet theme. The tenor of the essay, focusing as it does on the horrors of war and its lingering effects on those forced to endure it first-hand, probably precluded any tangents, but I would have loved to have seen some discussion of the American solider in Italy films, which are contemporaneous with much of what's discussed in the essay (some mention of John Kitzmiller in SENSA PIETA would have at least created some more overt connective tissue with the "Spooks and Neo-Realism" essay, and a mention of W. Lee Wilder's THREE STEPS NORTH, in which vet Lloyd Bridges returns to Italy to make off with his stashed contraband, would have shown how the theme of the troubled/tarnished vet had some other variations).
--Our own Mr. Deane is in good fettle discussing NIGHTMARE IN CHICAGO, Robert Altman's first feature that features noir icon Charles McGraw as a cop as least as irritable as the one he played in ARMORED CAR ROBBERY. Some of the context meanders a bit, but there is the usual good grounding in the source materials, and the essay is especially good at reminding us about just how irascible and cantankerous Altman was. I would have like to have seen more details concerning the differences from the original TV version and the theatrical release, as I recall reading elsewhere that the studio did not allow Altman to be involved in the editing process for the theatrical release, he having famously burned several bridges during the TV shoot (one of which is hilariously recounted by Gary, with his characteristic dry turn of phrase).
Criticisms and quibbles aside, this is a significant improvement on the previous theme issues...more of this, and with essays that dig a little deeper and are edited to better intermesh, will get things firmly back on track.