RARA-AVIS: Psycho Noir

From: George Tuttle ( noirfiction@whoever.com)
Date: 17 Mar 2006

My favorite psychotic protagonist is Jim Thompson's Nick Corey of Pop. 1280, but I am also very fond of the character of Jim Grayam from the movie Brainstorm (1965), unpublished story by Larry Marcus, screenplay by Mann Rubin.

I so want to believe in Jim Grayam, his sanity and his role as hero to the troubled Lorrie Benson. When he explains to Lorrie how he can get away with murder by not concealing it and then pleading guilty, I believe him because he says it with such conviction. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that something is not right -- Jim's behavior with Dr. Larstadt -- his unwillingness to touch the other patients at the institution. Still, I find myself hoping that Jim will escape with Lorrie, even after it is clear that it is not possible.

I love the economy of the story telling in Brainstorm. It reminds me of Lionel White. The writers and director William Conrad waste little in dialog or action, and in the last half of the story, the segues between scenes are removed, leaving just a series of scenes with no padding, just total economy, no wasted words or images. If you ever find a video tape of this movie, remember that there are two ways to watch it: the traditional way (from begin to end) or from the middle
(the scene following Cort Benson murder) to the end, then begin
(Lorrie Benson's suicide attempt on the railroad tracks) to middle
(the murder - controlling, smug Cort Benson who realizes he is facing something that can't be controlled)

Question: No doubt, psychosis is a great story devise in noir fiction, but how true is it to real behavior? Has there ever been a critical analysis of Nick Corey and other representations of psychotic behavior from a psychologist's point of view? Does this type of fiction capture the symptoms and traits? Having no training in the area, I am curious.

George the Librarian

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