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Monday, August 25, 2014
James Ellroy's new novel, Perfidia, will be published next month. It is the first book of a planned second L.A. quartet, which will take place during World War II (Ellroy's original L.A. quartet covers the years 1946-1958). As Ellroy told The Channels' Emerson Malone a couple of years ago, the new quartet "takes characters from the original [one] and places [them] in Los Angeles during World War II as significantly younger people." And according to The Telegraph's Chris Harvey, two of Perfidia's main characters include Dudley Smith and Kay Lake. There is also a young Elizabeth Short. As Harvey reports:

Short provides the most striking element of Perfidia. Ellroy has introduced the 17-year-old Boston native as the love-child of his fictional – and deadly – Irish cop Dudley Smith. He was gripped, he says, by the idea of showing Beth Short “breathlessly alive, sweet natured, presciently intelligent” … “just the idea that there is this wrenching love between this bad man and this young girl who will go on to have her life snuffed out”.

Ellroy is unconcerned that some might find this stretching credibility. “People are connected in ways that we can’t imagine. I’m sure you know people that I know. I might have petted your dog at one point. We’re out there, we’re one soul.”


Posted by Geoff at 12:56 AM CDT
Updated: Monday, August 25, 2014 1:02 AM CDT
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Monday, December 2, 2013
Paul Walker was one of two people killed Saturday in a single-vehicle crash in Santa Clarita, California, according to a CBS Los Angeles report. Walker was a passenger, and the driver is believed to have been Roger Rodas, a close friend and business partner of Walker's, according to other reports.

In 2004, after Mark Wahlberg had dropped out of the Lee Blanchard role in Brian De Palma's The Black Dahlia, Walker expressed interest in replacing him (the role eventually went to Aaron Eckhart). "Brian De Palma’s got a movie he’s gonna do called The Black Dahlia," Walker told Cinema Confidential in 2004. "De Palma’s my favorite. And I heard that one of the cast members, someone that’s attached dropped out. I want to do that movie! De Palma’s the man." When asked if he had seen all of De Palma's films, Walker replied, "Every one. And Jeff Byrd is my agent at ICM. Jeff Byrd represents De Palma. So I’m like, 'yo, Byrd, make this happen.'"

Wayne Kramer, who directed Walker in the excellent Running Scared, as well as this year's Pawn Shop Chronicles, mentioned in a Facebook post Sunday that De Palma had offered Walker a film project some years ago. "It always pained me when critics and internet talkbackers slammed him as an actor," Kramer wrote, "because I knew the truth about the guy: he was fucking awesome in every way. And he was just coming into his own as a strong leading man. I always told Paul that his most exciting years were going to be his 40s and 50s, and even beyond, as a masculine American tough guy in the vein of Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin. We talked about how Paul was going to be my Lee Marvin and we were hungry to make those kind of films that could show Paul in that light. In some alternate reality somewhere, he’s still on that career trajectory and I’d love to be there to see the work because it would be something to experience indeed. For every anonymous internet hater who bagged on him, there were great actors and directors who made a point of letting him know how amazing he was. Kevin Costner was a fan and wanted to do a western with Paul. Vincent D’Onofrio (whom I recently worked with) made a point of telling me how much he dug Paul as an actor. Quentin Tarantino called Paul after seeing Running Scared to tell him how much he loved Paul’s performance. Sylvester Stallone was a fan of Paul in Running Scared. Walter Hill and Brian De Palma offered him projects a few years back. Paul was very discriminating with the films he picked. He chose to make them for personal reasons, regardless of the quality of the finished film or the reputation of the director. And once he signed on, he was there one thousand percent for his directors. We shared the same taste in material. Usually dark and extreme, but with a lot of soul. Closer to the films of the 70s and 80s that they no longer make anymore."

Posted by Geoff at 12:07 AM CST
Updated: Monday, December 2, 2013 12:11 AM CST
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Thursday, November 21, 2013
Emily Mortimer, who has already been cast as the lead in Brian De Palma's upcoming Therese Raquin project, revealed Monday that she auditioned for De Palma's The Black Dahlia about ten years ago. According to Page Six's Emily Smith, Mortimer attended Monday's Artios Awards in New York, where she told the story of her most embarrassing audition. From Smith's column:

She auditioned for the femme fatale role in The Black Dahlia 12 weeks after she had her third child. When a casting director told Brian De Palma that Emily had just had a baby, she lied that she’d given birth many months earlier. She added, “I would have gotten away with it until I was asked when my daughter’s birthday was. I blanked . . . under the pressure of the lie.” Needless to say, she didn’t get the part.

Posted by Geoff at 4:44 PM CST
Updated: Thursday, November 21, 2013 4:46 PM CST
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Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Mark Isham, who scored Brian De Palma's The Black Dahlia in 2006, was interviewed for the recent book, Soundtrack Nation, by Tom Hoover. Hoover asked Isham if he could name a few personal favorites out of the "vast portfolio of scores" he has composed over the years. Here is Isham's reply, from pages 4-5 of the book:

Well, there are lots of reasons for having favorite moments in scores. Crash, I have to say, still has a fond spot in my heart, because I felt that it was the right choice of genre for that film, and I think it did everything and more that you could ask a score to do for a film, under "interesting" budgetary constraints, which seems to be more and more a part of the equation these days. Having said that, the opportunity to score a Brian De Palma film with a large symphony orchestra still remains one of my high points, simply because as a composer, that's a great opportunity-- the large orchestral scores are a hell of a lot of fun! That particular one, because it had the jazz influence and I played the solo trumpet parts myself-- I have a lot of fond memories of that one.

Posted by Geoff at 11:44 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 11:48 PM CDT
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Thursday, December 1, 2011
This week's episode of FX's American Horror Story, which aired last night, features Mena Suvari as "the Black Dahlia," aka Elizabeth Short. The episode is the second so far this season that was written by Jennifer Salt (also an executive producer on the show), and it ends with a bang: an unforgettable line of dialogue that seems to nastily set up the final leg of the season.

Posted by Geoff at 11:26 PM CST
Updated: Thursday, December 1, 2011 11:26 PM CST
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Sunday, November 6, 2011
Mark Isham had a very interesting conversation with Broadway World's Pat Cerasaro, in which the composer discussed, among other projects, his work on Brian De Palma's The Black Dahlia. While there was a version of The Black Dahlia screened for test audiences in early 2006 that was longer than the final released film, Isham seems pretty certain there was no overt studio involvement that specifically led to the shorter version. Instead, he speculates that producer Art Linson may have simply discussed with De Palma trimming the almost three-hour cut down to two hours. Isham also relates how he initially mis-guessed what kind of music De Palma would want for The Black Dahlia. Here is the section of the interview pertaining to that film:

PC: What was it like working with Brian De Palma on THE BLACK DAHLIA? Was it cumbersome to come in already knowing his amazing legacy of great scores for his films - particularly those by Pino Donaggio and Ennio Morricone? His film’s scores are always so specific.

MI: Well, he was a gentlemen about it, too. I think that I had sent him some music early on for that and he didn’t respond to it, and, so, I called the producer and I said, “Look, I would really love to do this movie. What is he looking for?” And the producer sent me over some pieces they were using for the temp-score and I realized that I had completely mis-guessed on how he wanted to score this thing.

PC: Oh, really?

MI: Yeah, so I re-sent him some music and he called me immediately and said, “This is what I am looking for!” So, I think we started off right on the right foot because, once I knew what he was looking for, I duplicated it and presented it to him immediately and he said, “That’s perfect.” So, we went in with a high degree of mutual respect and delight and willingness in doing this together. He was just great. Like you say, he is very specific and when he says, “That’s good,” then, you know you are doing great. [Laughs.]

PC: And if you are not?

MI: “Don’t do that! That’s terrible!” - then you know you have to rewrite it. [Laughs.]

PC: That film was plagued with behind-the-scenes shenanigans and I know there was originally a much, much longer original cut, so how did you deal with that? Did you score that version or only the version that eventually was released? Have you ever gone to an opening night and half your score was missing?

MI: [Laughs.] Actually, I have - but, not on that picture! From the time that we started scoring it, it was pretty much as it came out. I believe that the studio actually stayed out of that and I think what a lot of it was about was that he was working with Art Linson - who produced THE UNTOUCHABLES and they have a long, long history - and, I think Art is one of the few who can say, “Brian, you can’t have a 3-hour movie,” [Laughs.] and Brian will actually respect that.

PC: How interesting.

MI: I think they had already gone through the process of editing it down. Art actually came to me at one point and said, “Look, there are still a couple of things that I think Brian needs to change - but, I think Brian and I have sort of had as much of a discussion as we are going to have, so why don’t you see what you can do to help these areas?” And, then, I think there were a few picture-trims at that point - but, pretty much, I worked on it when it was the final film and not much changed.

PC: There are some thrilling music cues - especially the opening scene with Josh Hartnett and, later, the Fiona Shaw mad scene.

MI: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

PC: Were you influenced by Jerry Goldsmith’s CHINATOWN score?

MI: Oh, yes - of course. I love that score and know it very well.

Editor Bill Pankow has described how he had to edit down the k.d. lang song and floor show in the lesbian night club from five minutes to one minute, so it does seem there was at least the potential for some trimming even after Isham had completed his score. Pankow showed the uncut version of the scene to a master class in 2007, describing how he managed to get it down to one minute. Perhaps one day, we will get a cut of the film that is a bit longer...

Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CST
Updated: Monday, November 7, 2011 11:32 PM CST
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Wednesday, February 10, 2010
If you've been looking to complete your collection of music from Brian De Palma's cinematically sumptuous adaptation of James Ellroy's The Black Dahlia, your task just got a little easier. Yesterday, k.d. lang released Recollection, a two-CD set that includes, finally, her version of Cole Porter's Love For Sale as performed in The Black Dahlia. Meanwhile, yesterday, I learned something I hadn't realized: the music on the soundtrack during the Man Who Laughs sequence (where the three friends are watching the silent movie at the theater) was done by Mark Isham's assistant, Cindy O'Connor. You can hear the track, titled The Man Who Grimaces, in full at O'Connor's MySpace page.

Posted by Geoff at 12:12 PM CST
Updated: Wednesday, February 10, 2010 12:16 PM CST
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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Space Ace sent in this poster image for The Lodger a few weeks ago, noting the obvious similarities with the poster for The Black Dahlia. In the November 28 issue of Entertainment Weekly, Jesse North criticizes the "criminal" similarities on display in the Lodger poster:

1. A dead woman's ghostly visage faces heavenward.

2. A joker-esque trail of blood oozes from the corner of the woman's plump red mouth.

3. The titles are stylistically severed in two by an ominous red line.

4. The credits list a quartet of actors-- but Dahlia's cast is way, way sexier. (Sorry, Alfred Molina!)

Posted by Geoff at 11:11 AM CST
Updated: Sunday, December 7, 2008 11:15 AM CST
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Sunday, October 26, 2008
Armond White on Changeling

From the New York Press:

By some unaccountable phenomena, Clint Eastwood’s Changeling resembles a Spike Lee movie. It starts with a simple premise: single mother Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie) asks police to find her pre-teen son gone missing in 1928 Los Angeles. Then, like Lee, Eastwood piles on extraneous, aggravating subplots: a corrupt police force (“The Gun Squad”) manipulating Christine’s misfortune; her sexist exploitation by both the rabid media and opportunistic radio evangelist Rev. Gustav Briegleb (John Malkovich); bogus psychiatry practiced by a menacing shrink (Dennis O’Hare) who terrorizes Christine in a mental institution. Plus, Eastwood’s usual film-noir furbelows: His favorite hues are green and darkness. The only red in the entire film is Jolie’s 3-D lipstick.

For these reasons, Changeling isn’t suspenseful: It’s creepy. Lacking the historical veracity of De Palma’s Black Dahlia, its style is a bizarre form of old-school storytelling, mixing masochistic dread with ugly reportage. The opening credit, “A True Story,” is an immediate bad omen. Fact and fiction are tools that Eastwood uses, like Lee, for a shrewd form of demography. Critic Gregory Solman long ago suggested that Eastwood works both sides of the aisle: Jolie plays a pre-feminist martyr surrounded by men who simultaneously represent conservative repression (the cops) and sentimentality (the Rev.). Eastwood also agitates by throwing in serial-killer episodes that lapse into gruesome pedophilia—including a set of child performances that are the least convincing since Jake Lloyd in The Phantom Menace.

Posted by Geoff at 12:07 PM CDT
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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Michael Guillen
has riffed off a nice summary of the links between The Man Who Laughs, The Dark Knight, and The Black Dahlia in a two-part piece stemming from a recent screening of The Man Who Laughs at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. In part one, Guillen describes in well-researched summary how Conrad Veidt's Gwynplaine inspired the creation of the Joker. Then, in part two, Guillen explores the themes that link The Man Who Laughs with The Black Dahlia and The Dark Knight. Discussing the "problematic erotic triangulation" between Lee, Bucky, and Kay in The Black Dahlia, Guillen writes:

That triangulation is articulated through a scene in De Palma's film where Lee, Bucky and Kay—in what Village Voice critic J. Hoberman terms "an unlikely date"—catch a screening of Leni's The Man Who Laughs. In a September 2006 interview with Daily Breeze reporter Jim Farber, Brian De Palma stated, "If this film works, it's because I stayed scrupulously on the Ellroy road. I didn't try to change things. What I did do was try to find visual equivalents for some of the things he's doing in the book, like introducing a scene from the German Expressionist silent film The Man Who Laughs, rather than having somebody have to explain what that key image is all about. I tried to keep very much to Ellroy's story structure and the way he explains things, which sometimes explains nothing." Expressionistic dualism, anyone? De Palma's strategy in this scene is to observe how The Man Who Laughs reveals the varied interiority of his three main characters. As Armond White delineates for Cineaste, "Bucky is transfixed, Lee is bemused and Kay is frightened—reflecting their individual response to life's horrors." (Cineaste, 12/22/06). Hoberman qualifies Kay's "agonized response to [Gwynplaine]'s scarred face" by reminding that the audience soon discovers she herself has been branded.

By the way, we can add Keith Uhlich to the list of Dark Knight critics getting tons of hate mail for disliking the film. Uhlich does, however, make a De Palma reference in his review of the film at The House Next Door. Uhlich makes a quick comparison between the nightmare at the end of De Palma's Dressed To Kill, where Bobbi kills a nurse and then dons her uniform to escape a mental institution, and the Dark Knight sight of Heath Ledger's Joker moving through a hospital wearing a nurse's uniform.

Sure, we've seen plenty of critics compare The Dark Knight to De Palma's The Untouchables, but somehow we missed Dave Poland's early review of Nolan's film, where he stated that Nolan here is reaching for "a Godfather-esque effort" that nevertheless shoots itself in the foot by being too long, and yet not long enough. Poland writes:

This is not a Batman movie… this is a 2008 version of The Untouchables with The Batman as Elliot Ness, The Joker as Al Capone, much better toys, and, it seems, a topper. Great. But the topper is a bit unwieldy, in that it makes the film too long to sustain by pushing beyond the main story – De Palma and Mamet’s The Untouchables was 119 minutes – and too short to do the second push of Nolan’s thematic idea real justice at 152 minutes. Unlike many long films, the problem with The Dark Knight is that it is too short.

Posted by Geoff at 11:36 AM CDT
Updated: Sunday, July 20, 2008 6:14 PM CDT
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