And it appears he remains most comfortable with forgotten B-noirs, as that has been how he's been (mostly) typecast in his increasingly occasional (is that an adverbial oxymoron...?) contributions for the NC e-zine.
But we're pleased to report that as the COVID crisis hovers over all of us like a silent shroud, Gary has roused himself with two new entries, each of which is crammed with useful but self-limiting details to generate the impression that they are more substantive than they actually prove to be:
CLUB PARADISE is probably the least of the films Gary cites in his useful compendium of Monogram B-noirs, but it has some riveting moments thanks both to a motivated cast (as Gary spends a good portion of his prose describing) and a sure hand in the director's chair (which Gary glosses over) in Christy Cabanne, one of the most interesting and prolific of the B-directors in Hollywood's "Golden Age." Cabanne made only this one noir, so we'll need someone like Jeff Stafford or one of the more wide-ranging writers at a place like CINEMA RETRO to (hopefully) do him justice, but Cabanne takes a well-worn setting and story and gets it as close to a boil as anyone could have done. The late John Grant, a truly gifted writer, gives us a far more specific example of a particularly strong section in CLUB PARADISE:
The scene in the Night Court where these sentences are handed down is admirably nightmarish. The focus is on the face of the judge (Hamilton) who rhythmically, robotically intones a name, then “Thirty days or thirty dollars,” briefly awaits a reply, delivers one or another sentence, then carries on to the next person. Clearly the judge is bored. Clearly it creates not the slightest ripple on his consciousness that the sentences he’s dishing out for trivial offenses have the power to destroy lives--as indeed could have been the case for Ray, who loses his factory job, his sole source of livelihood, in consequence of this bored man’s lack of concern. We’re witnessing the machinery of justice--an uncaring, dehumanized machinery. The rest of the movie can be dismissed as merely a fiction, but here, we sense, is reality. The sequence is chilling.
And there also is "prose worth reading." RIP, John.
Gary's look at STOLEN IDENTITY is odds-on to wind up in the NC e-zine, given that the piece goes way out of its way to plug the FNF (twice!). Perhaps that is what seems to have thrown Gary off his game a bit, as he's usually pretty strong at making as many useful/interesting historical connections as possible: though he alludes to STOLEN IDENTITY as a "near shot-for-shot remake" of the Austrian production ADVENTURES IN VIENNA (ABENTEUER IN WIEN), he chooses to ignore the original film completely as he continues on with a copious amount of filler (what big-name actresses he's reminded of by Joan Camden, and a perfunctory career background for Francis Lederer which misses a real opportunity to discuss his affinity for noir) about a film that, while certainly a creditable remake, is clearly inferior to the original.
And while he makes sure to namecheck the original 1935 film ICH WAR JACK MORTIMER (thus facilitating the reference to Anton Walbrook that sets up the first of the plugs for NC...), he chooses to leave ADVENTURES IN VIENNA in the dustbin. In doing so he omits even a brief examination of the obscure but intriguing director of the that film, Edwin Emile Reinert. Reinert's name will be familiar to those who continued to support the FRENCH HAD A NAME FOR IT festivals as the director of a most unusual French noir, QUAI DE GRENELLE (1950)--screened in 2018 at FRENCH 5--a film far removed from the Expressionistic visual/psychological tropes of ADVENTURES IN VIENNA but significantly more perverse in its sexual/emotional relationships. (We were surprised after rediscovering it to find out that the great film critic/historian Raymond Durgnat was quite familiar with GRENELLE and considered it to one of the noteworthy achievements in France in the so-called "lean years" between WWII and the advent of the Nouvelle Vague--when the French made about 250 noirs, most of them actually unlike GRISBI or RIFIFI or BOB LE FLAMBEUR).
The common lapse in these useful but ultimately marginal essays is actually a strange one, given Gary's prior auteurist tendencies (his most extended work in the NC e-zine focused on director Andrew Stone, the "mom and pop auteur" who was variably galvanized by the advent of film noir). These two essays each have the unfortunately effect of pushing the films' directors to the margins, while other writers--Grant and Matthias Merkelbach (in his discussion of ADVENTURES IN VIENNA)--manage to keep them "in the picture."
And the final irony here, perhaps, is that Gary's write-up causes STOLEN IDENTITY to steal the thunder (if not the identity itself!) of ADVENTURES IN VIENNA. Given Gary's enthusiasm for the NC international noir series, it's doubly ironic that he gives such short shrift to what is, after all, an international noir (and a tremendous one: Merkelbach, a pretty tough grader, gives it four out of five stars).