Saturday, June 5, 2010

Capsule Review - Two old school CSI films

A bonus double feature of classic oldies that are best described as old school CSI, with the crime lab and the people who work there taking a front and center place in the solving of the crime. While I have reservations about the second film, both are actually wonderful little films and should actually get longer fuller reviews however I just can quite come up with the words to do them justice so this thematic double feature will have to do.

The Tattooed Stranger
is pretty much CSI NY ala 1950. It’s a police procedural shot gloriously on location in New York City about a woman who is found in car having been shot gunned in the face. She is the title character, though tattoos play a major part in the plot. The police then set about trying to solve the crime using both leg work and the latest scientific methods. This is a real lost treasure that is much more modern than many of its contemporary films of a similar bend. Actually it plays like a really good episode of CSI or NCIS with witty repartee and a real sense of science driving the mystery to a conclusion.

I can’t recommend this film enough. If there is any flaw it’s the introduction of romance between one of the cops and a female scientist he gets information from. Its naturally put into the story but its kept a part of the story a little too artificially. This is in the TCM rotation and worth keeping an eye out for .

Kid Glove Killer (1942) concerns murders in connection with an effort to clean up a corrupt town. Van Heflin stars as a forensics expert who is doing the investigation to find out who is responsible.

It’s the first film directed by Fred Zinnemann. It’s a good little film but not wholly satisfying because the film seems to be wandering around with too many characters and in too many directions, at least at the start. I never fully clicked with any one. Its clearly the work of a director with a sure hand but at the same time the film shows signs of a director who is trying to do a bit too much. As good as it is its straining to be better and it almost achieves it. In this case Almost great is still pretty damn good.

I do have to say that I did find this film to be frequently funny for all the wrong reasons. It’s owing to the over done smoldering looks between Van Heflin and his female assistant…smoldering? Perhaps smoking looks. I say this because the pair are constantly smoking and doing so in the most suggestive manner I’ve ever seen. It’s as close to clothed sex as you’re likely to see. It’s a one of the clearest definitions of lust you'll ever seen on screen. Had this film been made 25 or 30 years later they would have been doing less smoking since they would have been engaged in other physical pursuits.

My minor reservations aside, its worth keeping an eye out for.

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