RARA-AVIS: TV Noir at the Roxie

Bruce Townley (btownley@sirius.com)
Sat, 4 Dec 1999 14:07:10 -0800 (PST)

Went to one of San Francisco's beloved and indispensable art/repertory cinema, the Roxie (www.roxie.com) over in the Inner Mission, last night to catch the second night of their TV Noir showings this week. The first program was made up of four episodes from the John Cassavetes' late 50s/early 60s private eye show, JOHNNY STACCATO. The front cover blurb from the Gold Medal tie-in 1960 paperback assures us that the title character is: "A smooth man on the ivories, hot on the trigger, and cool in a jam" On the back cover a blurb says: "... this novel of love in Greenwich Village, murder in midtown, beats in the Bowery, sex on Sutton Place and blackmail, racketeering and violence in the world's most savage city". Jazzy jivey stuff indeed.

Two of the episodes showcased talents of the always screen-filling Elisha Cook Jr. Most memorable was the one where he played a hard-hitting criminal defense attorney who'd undertaken the difficult case of pacifist Cloris Leachman who was accused of her husband's violent murder. In a stark, very nearly abstract rendition of a NYC jail interview cell the shocking truth is finally dragged out by Staccato (this show was also directed by Cassavetes, by the way). Lighting and set design were very noir in visual texture. I've seen a few other STACCATOs, at an earlier show at the Roxie. This small sampling only makes me hungry for more.

Also showing that night were two episodes of Blake Edwards' super-suave PETER GUNN. Mancini's theme for this program remains one of the toughest sounding tunes that I've ever heard (right up there with "Green Onions" by Booker T and the MGs). Something that struck my friends and myself was that each of these programs from some three decades ago were very much a
"story", down to the fact that each one began with a shot of a title card
(e.g.: "The List of Death" for one of the STACCATOs).

The evening was rounded out by an episode of 77 SUNSET STRIP. I watched this program a <lot> when I was a kid. It hasn't really aged that well
(well, neither have I, come to think of it). Most disappointing, of course, was the nonappearance of Ed "Kookie" Byrnes. The story was something about a murder in kind of dormitory for proto starlets, featuring awkward and stilted performances from actresses who could well have been the amateurs they were playing. There was also an absurd and stagey fight scene at that concluded the program abruptly by having the bad guy plummet to his death from an upper floor balcony of a fancy Hollywood apartment house.

I dunno, I just wish Nick at Night would drop the comedy shows and re-run JOHNNY STACCATO and PETER GUNN.

Bruce T. = btownley@sirius.com

Toad-skin: A one-dollar bill.


# To unsubscribe, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to # To unsubscribe, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to majordomo@icomm.ca.
# The web pages for the list are at http://www.miskatonic.org/rara-avis/ .

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.0b3 on Sat 04 Dec 1999 - 17:07:41 EST