A. B. Richard in JESUSLAND!

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Around two today I realized that this was the release date for Halo 2, and that meant we must gear up and go NOW.

Put on your shoes and socks, hon. We’re going to get Halo.

(quizzical look, as if we would also get a robe and a harp.)

"But I want to have a picnic and do art."

You know, she had a point. It was almost sixty today. We hadn’t done any painting or coloring for a while. That’s adulthood: Halo can wait. Besides, I’d been feeling somewhat punky all day, convinced another cold was en route. (They’re rolling through the house one after the other, laying us low) So we went outside, sat in the treehouse, looked through Christmas catalogs, played baseball, had a snack (triscuits, peanut butter, banana slices) after which she pronounced this the best day ever. No argument from me. Off to choir; I went upstairs and sagged in a chair in the library, convinced I was in the tumbrel again en route to the scaffold. Blurgh. But after dinner I felt better, and when I heard Hugh Hewitt announce that he was going to devote an hour to Halo 2, and that he was one of the world’s best players – well, where did I keep that studio number? Ah.

Spent an hour talking about Halo, which was fun. Haven’t played 2, but the lack of first-hand experience doesn’t keep me from discussing other matters about which I know little; why should it be a deterrent here? At the end of the hour a caller referenced my statement, made here earlier, that Halo 2 could be read as an indictment of the invasion of Iraq. The caller said the author of that statement made a post on Free Republic stating that his quote had been trimmed: he’d said it could be read that way, “but you’d be wrong.”

In other words, the reporter screwed him.

Here’s the statement. (You may have to scroll down. Keyword search "Director of Cinematics". ) Don’t you love Google? The Web? The world in which we live? Of course you do.

An hour later. Back in the trough. Well, I don’t think it’s pneumonia; that usually doesn’t start with itchy eyes, as far as I can tell. This is the problem with a robust constitution – you never really get into the cold full-blown and experience it, so you know when it’s here and when it’s leaving. For all I know my body is heroically repelling the wretched hordes of Germdom right now, and this minor fatigue is like the distant boom of shelling ten miles from town. All I know is that everyone, and I mean everyone I talk to has been sick recently or is sick today, and everyone has taken to their bed for at least a day. Not me. I probably should. So I’m going to finish with the Noir Grabs and hit the hay early, for once.

This week it’s Criss Cross, starring the ever-unhappy Burt Lancaster. This one is noir to the end, and it ends on such a down note it makes “M” look like “Singin’ in the Rain.” Our bad guy:

The Thin White Mook

Hello, it’s Dan Duryea AGAIN. I'm really starting to like this guy. His performance is typical: dry slime. He’s good, and he gets to wear a white suit. Not so for our boy Burt:

So that whole "criss cross" thing was not meant as a literal directive to the costume designer, detective? Well, crap

Proof that designers from the 70s traveled back in time to advise clothiers.

This guy was a character actor specializing in Fat Southern European types. Tom Pedi.

Me, I'm peeing gravy lately

Mr. Pedi was the original Maytag Repairman; did one episode of the Mary Tyler Moore show, and had a role in “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three.” Memorable fellow, and you’d think he had a larger career than he actually did.

An example of how good lighting gets across that “whoa this dude is BAKED” look. Burt is both drunk and crazy, and I think this comes across well:

I am channeling the unborn spirit of Mickey Rourke

Do not screw with a guy who looks like this, regardless of the decade. And now, a face you’ll recognize:

very good sir

Alfred the Butler! Aka Alan Napier. Cousin of Neville Chamberlain, believe it or not. He was only 46 when he did this role. Had quite the resume; did almost 50 movies before this one. Hard to believe there’s only 17 years between this role and “Batman” – they seem to inhabit different centuries.

Sometimes you see a great shot, and you have to stop and admire. This is one such shot.

objects in the mirror are pretty much the way they are

Guys like this fascinate me:

princess, QUIET!

Fifteen seconds screen time as the Newsstand Clerk. That’s Ralph Brooks. You know, Ralph Brooks! IMDB puts him in 128 movies. One hundred and twenty eight. And for most he’s “uncredited.” The perennial extra, the always-ran, the overlooked chin, the fella all the gaffers and actors alike knew: heya Ralphie boy. His last movie was “Madigan” in 1968 (Dance extra, uncredited)
The same year he did his last TV show, “Petticoat Junction.” (His role: “Third Band Member.”) Then it all ended. No jobs. Nothing until he died 24 years later. What did he do until he shuffled off? Was he amused by his status as the Extra's Extra, or deluded by the belief he was a star of some note? Did he shuck it all to sell houses and died comfy, or did he spend his last years in a bathroom shusshing yappy little dogs when the liquor-store deliveryman knocked on his bungalow door? He was 11 when he made his first movie, in 1926, “The Collegians.” (Student. Uncredited) One of the writers on that movie was George Plympton, who – the same year “Criss Cross” was released – did a movie serial version of Batman. Without Alan Napier, of course. The role of Alfred in the 49 movie went to Eric Wilton, who spent his career playing Butler, Uncredited.

Okay, I’m entering the IMDB Mobius Strip, so I’d better step back.

The femme fatale of the film, Yvonne De Carlo. Yes, Lily Munster.

she's canadian

She wears pants for much of the movie. Only in the 30s and 40s is such a look maddeningly sexy; it just is. Dangerous women wore pants.

Oh, the guy she's dancing with? Uncredited. He made a few more movies, I guess. I think he even did one with Burt. Whatever happened to him?

yonda is de castle of my faddah

Finally: the most existential shot in movies, period.

with mounting dread, we watch and wait

By itself, it means nothing. When it comes at the end of the story, it has a horrid power you can’t imagine. I recommend “Criss Cross,” because A) it’s a caper film B) it has Burt Lancaster, displaying his early mastery of the whole quiet-bitter-regret-illuminated-by-self-lacerating-anger-matched-only-by-righteous-fury-towards-others thing; C) a final scene that every modern-day QT-wannabee should watch. Point the camera at the victims, and you have pulp trash. Point the camera at the shooter, and you have art. Sometimes it really is that simple.

(Note: if you noticed that this week's Noir grabs have alt texts, do not go back to check the alt text on previous Noir Grabs. Because they don't have them.)