It’s another week here at BCB After Dark: the boppin’ blowout for night owls, early risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. It’s our first show of the year and we’re glad you’re here for it. Come on in out of the cold. And the snow or rain, depending on where you’re coming from. There’s no cover charge this evening. Let us take your hat and coat for you. There are still a few good tables left. The show will start shortly. Bring your own beverage.
BCB After Dark is the place for you to talk baseball, music, movies, or anything else you need to get off your chest, as long as it is within the rules of the site. The late-nighters are encouraged to get the party started, but everyone else is invited to join in as you wake up the next morning and into the afternoon.
Most of tonight’s edition was written before tonight’s Monday Night Football and the medical situation that caused the game to be postponed. Clearly we hope for the best for Buffalo Bills defensive back Damar Hamlin. Our thoughts and prayers are with him, his family, friends and teammates. Something like that is every sport’s nightmare.
Last week, I asked for your thoughts about the situation with the Mets and free agent shortstop Carlos Correa, who has still not officially signed. In the end, only 26 percent of you thought that Correa would not end up playing for the Mets this year. But 38 percent think that Correa will sign a deal similar to the agreed-upon 12 year/$315 million whereas 36 percent of you think that Correa will end up agreeing to a deal with fewer dollars and/or years.
Here’s the part where I talk about jazz and movies. You’re free to skip ahead to the baseball question at the end. You won’t hurt my feelings.
I don’t think I’ve featured anything from Miriam Makeba, the giant of South African music who was nicknamed “Mama Africa” because she was that huge. Here she is in her prime on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1967, singing “Pata Pata,” a song that made it all the way to 12 on the Billboard charts in the US. I will admit this song is more along the lines of Afropop than Afro-jazz, but it’s still a great introduction to Mama Africa.
The votes are in for last week’s BCB Winter Noir Classic and we had a close one. But in the end, Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing snuck past Jules Dassin’s Night and the City by just two votes.
Tonight we’ve got Detour (1945), a cheap noir from a Poverty Row studio with an unknown cast that good positive review at the time, was promptly forgotten and has now be re-evaluated as a classic. It’s taking on a big budget M-G-M classic with a big name director and a big name cast as well as a young actress in her breakthrough role that would start her path to superstardom. That film is The Asphalt Jungle (1950). Seems like a mismatch? Then you probably haven’t seen Detour.
Detour. Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer. Starring Tom Neal and Ann Savage. Sometimes you’ll see someone call Detour the greatest noir of all-time. I personally think those people are crazy, but I can see where they’re coming from. Maybe you’re one of those people.
Al (Neal) is a down-on-his-luck piano player who misses his girlfriend, a torch singer who left for California in search of fame and fortune. With no money to take a train, Al hitchhikes across the country. In Arizona, Al gets a ride from a rich bookie with lots of money and a heart condition. When his ride’s heart gives out and dies, Al thinks the police will think he murdered him, so he takes off with the money and the car to California. Along the way, he runs into Vera (Savage), one of the most cruel and unforgettable femme fatales in movie history.
The screenplay for Detour, written by Martin Goldsmith, is saturated with the kind of dialog that you quote when you’re trying to parody film noir. (For example: “I was tussling with the most dangerous animal in the world—a woman,” and “Money. . .Little green things with George Washington’s picture that men slave for, commit crimes for, and die for.) The stark neo-realist cinematography springs from the on-location shooting from California’s Antelope Valley north of Los Angeles.
But above all, the film is made from the over-the-top performance from the aptly-named Ann Savage. (Yes, it’s a stage name.) It’s a shame that Savage never graduated out of cheap B-pictures because her bold and in-your-face performance makes her stand out from all the actresses of the era. Most femme fatales in big budget films are going to do in the male lead with their sexuality and their subtle scheming. Savage’s Vera is much more likely to just punch him in the face.
Here’s the restored trailer for Detour.
The Asphalt Jungle. Directed by John Huston. Starring Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern and Jean Hagen. Also with featuring Sam Jaffe and, billed fifth, Marilyn Monroe in a part that would prove to be her breakout role.
The Asphalt Jungle is another heist film, but it’s not just another heist film. It’s the heist film that set the tone for all the heist films to follow. For one, it goes into great detail into how the heist is actually pulled off, which is something Hollywood never did in the past for fear it could serve as an instruction manual for actual criminals. On top of that, The Asphalt Jungle gives each character in the film a separate motivation for getting involved in the heist as well as their own fatal flaw. No crime film before it tried to humanize the crooks like The Asphalt Jungle did. The film also portrays the cops as venal and corrupt as the gangsters, making they city a true “asphalt jungle” where only the strong survive. The women, mostly Hagen and Monroe, aren’t true femme fatales as much as they are simply more animals in the jungle struggling to survive.
Every heist film owes a little something to The Asphalt Jungle. Especially indebted are last week’s winner The Killing. Also Dassin’s Rififi, which would have been included here had I not made the decision to exclude non-English language films.
I wouldn’t say that Huston invented the look of film noir in The Maltese Falcon, but I would say he established it as the way that every noir should look. It became a shorthand for audiences to know that they were in for a certain kind of tale. In The Asphalt Jungle, Huston and cinematographer Harold Rosson update that look for the 1950s. The shadows and the angles are all still there, but they mix it in with a more naturalistic style that draws from Italian neorealism. The result is that this is a enthralling movie to look at, and not just because Marilyn Monroe is in it.
Here’s the trailer for The Asphalt Jungle.
Detour or The Asphalt Jungle?
This poll is closed
The Asphalt Jungle
You have until Wednesday evening to vote. Then we’ll have the final matchup of the first round in a matchup of two films that were both inspired by the lives of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Darrow. They Live By Night (1948), directed by Nicholas Ray, will face off against Gun Crazy (1950), directed by Joseph H. Lewis and featuring a script by the blacklisted Dalton Trumbo.
Welcome back to those of you who skip the music and movies.
Tonight’s Cubs question is inspired by this piece from Jordan Bastian on the five returning Cubs could determine the course of the 2023 season. Bastian list five players—Seiya Suzuki, Justin Steele, Christopher Morel, Adbert Alzolay and Hayden Wesneski—who are critical to the Cubs’ hopes for this season. These aren’t the best players returning from last year—that would be Nico Hoerner and Ian Happ—but rather they are ones that could be either good or bad and the Cubs really need them to be good.
So tonight, I’m going to ask you which one of those Cubs is the most important to the Cubs chances in 2023? I’m not asking who is going to have the highest WAR, but rather which one of these five players do the Cubs most need to be the best version of themselves this year? Which one of these five do the Cubs really need to step up this year if they’re going to make the playoffs?
Which one of these 5 players do the Cubs most need a great performance out of this year?
This poll is closed
Thank you so much for stopping in. I hope we’ve made your evening a little more pleasant. Please stay warm out there. Get home safely. Tip your waitstaff. And join us again tomorrow for more BCB After Dark.