Where Forgotten Films Dwell

Welcome to this site! It exists for one reason: to preserve the memory of films that have been forgotten about or under-appreciated throughout the ages. Take a seat, read an entry, leave a comment. You might discover your new favorite movie!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Editor's Note: You all may have noticed that activity has been...well...slow. That's because I'm doing my final projects and exams for my Film Studies Master's Degree. So, in the meantime, I've asked some of my friends to do guest reviews. Next up is the amazing Dorian Tenore-Bartilucci with a review of John Sturges' MYSTERY STREET!

Mystery Street:  The CSI of Its Day!
By Dorian Tenore-Bartilucci

John Sturges' taut, tense thriller combines a documentary style—including location shooting in Boston—with intense performances, striking photography, and a fresh-for-its-time approach to its murder mystery plot. Floozy Vivian Heldon (Jan Sterling from Union Station; Ace in the Hole; The High and the Mighty, for which Sterling earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination) hijacks a car belonging to grieving father Henry Shanway (Marshall Thompson), whose baby had just died in labor.  But selfish Vivian couldn’t care less about the heartbroken Henry.  She only cares about finding and shaking down James Joshua Harkley (Edmon Ryan of The Breaking Point; The Americanization of Emily; Alfred Hitchcock’s Topaz), the upper-crust father of her out-of-wedlock baby-in-progress.  

The next time we see Vivian, she’s a skeleton washed up on a Hyannis beach. Lt. Pete Moralas (Ricardo Montalban) enlists the help of Harvard forensic criminologist Dr. McAdoo (an avuncular yet no-nonsense Bruce Bennett, a favorite of mine since The Treasure of the Sierra Madre; Dark Passage; Mildred Pierce).  The results are as riveting as a good episode of one of the "CSI" TV series. I liked the way the investigation and forensic evidence rang true, while the story by Sydney Bohem, Richard Brooks, and Leonard Spigelgrass (the latter got an Oscar nomination for Best Writing Motion Picture Story) kept me on the edge of my seat with twists and turns, including a monkey wrench thrown into the works by the late Vivian's blackmail-minded landlady, Mrs. Smerrling, well-played by sly, crafty scene-stealer Elsa Lanchester. 

When Henry is wrongly accused of Vivian’s murder and is thrown in prison, the ripple effect on him and his wife Grace (Sally Forrest of The Strip; Hard, Fast, and Beautiful; Vengeance Valley) is enough to put any family in a deep depression.  With Henry in jail, housewife Sally is broke; the crumbling of the Shanways’ finances were movingly and believably rendered. I found myself both empathizing with the Shanways and frustrated with Henry at the same time, thinking, “You dope, what good was it getting drunk and despondent?  Why the hell didn't you stay with Grace in the hospital when your baby died, instead of going off in your misery to get drunk at ‘The Grass Skirt’? Sheesh, you think you're the only one mourning?!” 

The performances are uniformly excellent, although I was particularly impressed with Montalban. Having grown up watching Montalban in relatively lighthearted fare like TV's Fantasy Island, I was impressed at how good he was as tough, cynical Pete, the kind of cop who thinks a suspect is guilty until proved innocent. Even when I was angry at Pete for refusing to believe Grace when she swears Henry's innocent, I could feel his frustration when he realizes that, after all his hard investigative work, his airtight case against the accused man has crucial cracks in it after all. There's also a great moment when the smug Harkley notices Pete's accent (smoothly explained away as Pete being from the Portuguese district) and starts trying to pull rank on Pete, class-wise. There are even some witty moments, like when Pete and his partner end up walking all over Harvard Square trying to find out where the heck the department of legal forensics is.  In the past, this all-but-neglected post-war film noir gem occasionally turned up on TCM, but now it’s included in the Film Noir Classic Collection, Volume Four.  If you’re interested, it’s available from Amazon.com!


Dorian Tenore-Bartilucci, who writes fiction as “Dorian Tenore” to give the world’s typesetters a break, is Communications Director for the sales/leadership coaching firm Performance Based Results.  She was a researcher for David Hajdu’s books Positively 4th Street  and The Ten-Cent Plague (2008). She writes about suspense movies and fiction on her blog site Tales of the Easily Distracted (http://doriantb.blogspot.com/). Dorian is also marketing her suspense novel The Paranoia Club; wish her luck! <smile>

Friday, November 16, 2012

Guest Post: GOMORRAH

Editor's Note: You all may have noticed that activity has been...well...slow. That's because I'm doing my final projects and exams for my Film Studies Master's Degree. So, in the meantime, I've asked some of my friends to do guest reviews. First up is the always charming Page with a review of Matteo Garrone's GOMORRAH, a film that I dearly love. So, without further ado, let's go!

An inside look at Italy's modern day crime families.

This foreign film with it's Italian subtitles was one I had read about while searching for lesser known films in this genre. I decided to give it a go after reading the positive reviews. Yes, it's one of those films you stumble upon then tell all of your friends about ASAP even though most of them won't find the film as appealing. 

Gomorrah was initially released in Italy with a limited release worldwide, grossing only $34,861,000 but garnering BAFTA, Critics Choice and Golden Globe nominations for Best Foreign Language Film. while winning three Italian Golden Globes.  

Salvatore Abruzzese as Toto
Simone Sacchettino as Simone
Salvatore Ruocco as Boxer
Vincenzo Fabricino as Pitbull
Vincenzo Altamura as Gaetano
Italo Renda as Italo
Francesco Pirozzi as Michele

DIRECTOR: Mateo Garrone

While the film follows the lives of five different families their lives don't all intersect although they're all impacted in a negative way by Camorra, Italy's largest crime syndicate.

If you're used to, a fan of films where crime is glamorized and the gangsters walk around in $5,000 suits, sporting Rolexs while living like King's off of the proceeds of their criminal enterprises, you'll be disappointed.  It's gritty, a tour of the slums of Naples. While the tourists flock to the cities nicely scrubbed, paved streets to their overpriced hotels, cruise ships dock for World travelers to experience Naples beautiful beaches and local culture we get a glimpse of what goes on in the back alley's, dilapidated housing as the forgotten, ignored try to survive under the thumb of Camorra. Either by force or for the need of approval. Every crime family has it's hierarchy although nobody is treated with any empathy or compassion. Take Goodfellas and turn it on it's head.

In the opening scene we see your typical tough guys in a salon getting their tan on, nails done.

Our tough guys take a break from busting heads and hustling.

Everyone's joking, having a good laugh. They all look pretty harmless while obviously over tanned.

The last thing this guy needs is a lamp or UV exposure of any kind.

Things quickly turn though as guns come out  and we quickly see who the bad guys are as everyone in the salon is mowed down. Pretty sure the other guys were on their turf or equally as shady but who's to say this early. I'll give it the Scarface rating as far as violence for now.

The salon quickly turns into a blood bath. Five overly tan thugs down and a few dozen to go.

Still reeling from the opening scene we go to a couple of teen boys, Marco and Ciro who roam around the slums scheming, looking for a way to make some quick cash, get some street cred while clashing with their parents who are just trying to keep food on the table and their kids from falling through the cracks.

"Naples youth, out trying to turn a buck and stay alive in the slums."

They look as tired and broken as the shacks they call home. I find myself rooting for them but I get the feeling this won't end well.

It's time to shakedown the locals. This apartment is actually pretty nice considering everything else we've seen so far.

We go to a couple of college graduates who find themselves trying to work their way up the Camorra ranks. They make their money by disposing of the city's toxic waste by dumping it onto the outskirts of Naples. While most crime syndicates leave casualties in their wake its kept within the confines of the criminals, not so in this instance and I find this the most disturbing. No guns or brutality, just exposure of cancer to innocent victims.

The outskirts of Naples where toxic waste dumps are the norm and only the brave or desperate wander about. It looks more like Chernobyl than a tourist destination.

We get a glimpse into the life of a struggling designer who uses sweat shops to get his clothing made. Camorra has its hand print on it so instead of a feel good story we're jerked back into the reality of how desperate everyone is. Nobody gets a break here regardless of how hard they try to pull themselves up out of poverty. I really don't want to give much of the plot away or even get into how brutal the 'top tier' Mafiosos are.  They're fat slobs who oversee their little kingdom. We get a few more gun battles over turf, our teens on a downward spiral, the smart college kids using their chemical knowledge to reek havoc on their community. The dumping of waste never stops, the violence escalates and we get a few confusing scenes before winding our way back to the slobs and their total lack of compassion for who's lives they're destroying. 
Our college graduates use their chemical knowledge to sludge through manure for fertilizer. Luckily they aren't making bombs although dumping toxic waste to line their pockets is bad enough.
There really are no happy endings here but I applaud the filmmakers as this story needed to be told. It has the feel of a documentary with superb cinematography. Do yourselves a favor and see this before you take a trip to Naples. You'll never look at it the same way, good or bad. With the Camorra crime organization having it's roots all the way back to the 18th century you would think with time we would see a bit more humanity and as we watch we realize this is going on in Italy as I type this. While Camorra is known for being a 'secret' society its obvious that Government, the local police turn a blind eye to the drug dealing that affects the poor, the toxic waste strewn about that affects the working class and the constant violence that rains down upon anyone in the way. As the racketeering, gun running, and armed robberies fueled by these thugs halts any dreams that anyone might have to have a better life. Just a stones throw away from Mt. Vesuvius where unsuspecting tourists gather to take in its magnificent beauty. Eye awakening and raw!

Check out Page's website: http://myloveofoldhollywood.blogspot.com/