Tag Archives: John Carpenter

John Carpenter’s Top 10 Noirs…

Are you like me and like John Carpenter’s films? Are you also a fan of the film noir genre?

Then how about taking a look at…

John Carpenter’s Top 10 Film Noirs

Have to say, he likes many of the ones I really like.

Mild Spoilers:

Of the ones he’s pointed out, Double Indemnity, The Third Man, The Killers, Kiss Me Deadly, and Blow Up are some of my favorites.

He doesn’t note it in his comments, but the screenplay to Double Indemnity is an adaptation of the John M. Cain novel by Raymond Chandler. Chandler is probably my all time favorite author. His Philip Marlowe novels (The Big Sleep, The Long Goodbye, etc.) are superb.

I love the original Burt Lancaster starring The Killers (yes, the movie is based on a short story by Ernest Hemingway!) but don’t go totally to sleep on the 1964 Lee Marvin starring remake. It features Ronald Reagan in his last acting role as a pretty slimy character…

Then there’s Kiss Me Deadly. If you haven’t seen that film, do yourself a favor and check it out. Incredible work that was light years ahead of its time! Also the source of the “glowing suitcase contents” which Quentin Tarantino used in Pulp Fiction

Finally, Blow Up is one wild work and Carpenter puts it best: It’s a meditation on what is real and what isn’t and the ending… it’s haunting…

There are, of course, other films very much worth checking out that Carpenter doesn’t mention.

Among them, I would recommend the following:

Out of the Past (1947): Easily one of the all time best film noirs ever made. Robert Mitchum gives career defining acting as the doomed protagonist and Kirk Douglas, also in a very early role, is appropriately slimy. And Jane Greer is perfection as the… oh… I’m not going to spoil it!

The Maltese Falcon (1941): Humphrey Bogart knocks the ball out of the park as Dashiel Hammet’s detective Sam Spade. Mary Astor is right up there as are the incredible co-stars he has to stay one step ahead of. All of them are searching for the titular falcon, a statue that’s “the stuff dreams are made of”.

Memento (2000): The film that first brought audiences to director Christopher Nolan… and which may still be his very best film. Guy Pearce is Leonard, a man who suffers from extreme memory loss. He can’t recall things beyond a few minutes at a time. The movie plays out in reverse, giving audiences the same disoriented feel Leonard goes through and yet, if you pay attention, the story unfolds logically and, in the end, devastatingly. A wonderful work of modern noir!

I could go on and on but I’ll leave it at that for now!

Black Moon Rising (1986) a (Very) Belated Review

There’s a few bits of film trivia that really intrigue me, and several of them involve writer/director John Carpenter.

The first one is probably the juiciest, though it has nothing to do with the film I’m about to review: While John Wayne’s final film The Shootist (1976) is considered a beautiful wrap up to his career, Mr. Wayne actually set his sights on a follow up film. That film, Blood River, was written by a very young John Carpenter and Mr. Wayne intended to bring along Ron Howard (who was in The Shootist) to co-star with him in it. Mr. Wayne would pass away from cancer before the film was made, though and, years later and in 1991, Blood River was released as a TV movie starring Wilford Brimley and Ricky Schroder in the roles which were intended for Wayne and Howard.

The second bit of trivia, which does relate to this movie: Tommy Lee Jones has starred in two films written by John Carpenter but has not appeared in any John Carpenter directed films.

The first film is the 1978 Irvin Kirschner directed The Eyes of Laura Mars -the film he directed before directing The Empire Strikes Back!- and the second is the one I’m reviewing here today: 1986’s Black Moon Rising.

Here’s the movie’s trailer

Featuring Linda Hamilton, Robert Vaughn, and Lee Ving (!), Black Moon Rising plays out very similarly, plot-wise, to of all things Escape From New York!

How? Welp, Tommy Lee Jones playing Quint, a thief who is hired by the government to break into a tech firm and steal a computer tape (this was the 1980’s) with their financial improprieties on it. He has a tight deadline to produce this tape to them, and has to deal with all kinds of difficulties -including a thief (Lee Ving) who the company hired to take Jones’ character out and retrieve the incriminating evidence.

Quint gets a hold of the tape but pursuit is hot and heavy after him. He manages to hide the tape in a super-high tech car called the Black Moon, but before he can retrieve it, the car, along with many others, is stolen by a high tech car thief ring. Among the thieves is Linda Hamilton’s Nina, who is only a couple of years removed from her classic role in The Terminator and looks almost exactly the same!

There’s romance, of course, along with a pair of hissable villains, but the reality is that the film makes very little sense and, if you think about those things, you may find yourself not liking what you see.

The tape the government needs for their court case, it struck me right away, would get tossed from any trial if the government couldn’t state how they got it, and I seriously doubt they’d admit to hiring a thief to steal it from them!

Later in the film, a character is murdered and no one calls the police or makes a report… the murder of this innocent person is pretty much used as incentive by his friends to work with Quint but otherwise, forgotten!

Robert Vaughn is good as the steely and evil head of the car theft ring, but given the fact that he owns what appears to be two skyscrapers, one wonders if a car theft ring could make that much money… even if they were the best out there.

These are but some of the things that one has to accept if one were to come away liking the film or, conversely, cannot swallow and therefore wind up walking out not liking the film.

For me, the problems were pretty clear yet the film has enough swagger provided by Tommy Lee Jones in what is a similar to (but not close to identical) Snake Plisskin-type of role, that of the loner thief who is hired to do something good. Quint isn’t the anarchist Plisskin was, but he does at times show a similar attitude, though Jones makes him a little less mythic. Linda Hamilton, similarly, is quite good as the car thief come love interest, though none of the characters in the end are given an incredibly large amount of depth.

Perhaps most intriguing of it all is that the car, the “Black Moon” doesn’t take up huge amounts of screen time, as one might have expected it to. It shows up and is the goal -because of what’s hidden inside it- but the film’s makers wisely don’t flood the movie with shots of the super-car doing super-car stuff, instead showing the way Quint slowly works his way to getting the car back.

Black Moon Rising isn’t some lost classic of the 1980’s. It’s an at times cheesy bit of popcorn filmmaking which, as I have stated over and over again regarding “older” films, may play too slow with modern audiences who are by now expecting a far quicker pace to their action films.

Yet there is enough within Black Moon Rising to offer enjoyment, especially if you are a John Carpenter fan. I don’t know how much of his original script ultimately made it to the screen, but the main plot, character, and antagonist sure do play out like other Carpenter works, and if you’re a fan of John Carpenter, you may want to check it out for that reason alone.

For the rest of you, its a decent film -provided the problems I outlines above don’t ruin it for you- that’s enjoyable enough especially if you long to see a young Tommy Lee Jones and Linda Hamilton.


Sketchin’ 95

Ah, Escape From New York (1981).  I could write pages and pages about this vexing -and much beloved- film.  The visual style of the film was supposedly inspired by the then recently released original Mad Max (1979).  Kurt Russell, who would play the wonderfully cranky Snake Plisskin in the film, was supposedly the one to bring attention to that Aussie film to director John Carpenter.

Ah, but I mentioned the film was vexing.  It is.  I feel the film starts with a HUGE bang. I love the wonderfully wonky plot/premise: That the then future New York is closed off and converted into a prison.  I love the idea of the President of the United States -played with a British accent by Donald Pleasance!- winds trapped in that hellzone.  I love, love, love the first meeting between Plisskin and Hauk (a wonderful Lee Van Cleef) and I love the entry into New York and the bizarre citizens he encounters.

But if I’m honest with you, I’ll tell you to me the film loses steam in its second half, though it presented a hell of an ending, complete with Plisskin’s second and last meeting with Hauk.  But the climax leading to that ending…?  Eh… not so much.  It feels, to me, like the film’s very meager budget weighted what should have been a far more suspenseful showdown between Plisskin and The Duke.

And yet…

Even with that hiccup, there is just so much to LOVE about the film, some of which I mentioned above.  Ultimately, I can’t help but admire the film and feel it is easily one of my favorite John Carpenter directed works (did I mention the soundtrack?  It may well by John Carpenter’s best).

So I love the concept of this future.  I love Plisskin.  I love Hauk.  I love all those other ancillary characters, good and bad and in-between, and, ultimately, I can’t help but love the film.  Even after all these years, I’ll pop it on my television and give it a look see and think to myself…

“Plisskin?  I though you were dead.”

And I’ll keep watching as he proves everyone wrong.

More music…

…though I’m going to avoid David Bowie!

First up, as I’ve been reviewing my latest Corrosive Knights novel (the concluding Book #7!), I’ve been listening to some mood music.

Nothing better than John Carpenter movie scores…  Among my all time favorites are these two, from Escape From New York and Assault on Precinct 13:

There is something so gripping about this music and so appropriate to the movies they come from.  This is something that makes John Carpenter’s movies (many of them) so unique: The director is also the writer (or co-writer) and also created some of the music!

Before I go, and apropos of nothing at all, the Talking Head’s music video to their song Road To Nowhere.  While I’m not a big fan of the video (it does, IMHO, get pretty silly), the lyrics and message behind the song is incredibly touching and sobering…

Here are the full lyrics to the song:

Well we know where we’re going
But we don’t know where we’ve been
And we know what we’re knowing
But we can’t say what we’ve seen
And we’re not little children
And we know what we want
And the future is certain
Give us time to work it out
We’re on a road to nowhere
Come on inside
Taking that ride to nowhere
We’ll take that ride
I’m feeling okay this morning
And you know
We’re on the road to paradise
Here we go, here we go
We’re on a ride to nowhere
Come on inside
Taking that ride to nowhere
We’ll take that ride
Maybe you wonder where you are
I don’t care
Here is where time is on our side
Take you there, take you there
We’re on a road to nowhere
We’re on a road to nowhere
We’re on a road to nowhere
There’s a city in my mind
Come along and take that ride
And it’s alright, baby, it’s all right
And it’s very far away
But it’s growing day by day and it’s all right
Baby, it’s all right
Would you like to come along
You can help me sing the song
And it’s all right, baby, it’s all right
They can tell you what to do
But they’ll make a fool of you
And it’s all right, baby, it’s all right
There’s a city in my mind
Come along and take that ride
And it’s alright, baby, it’s all right
And it’s very far away
But it’s growing day by day and it’s all right
Baby, it’s all right, yeah
Would you like to come along
You can help me sing the song
And it’s all right, baby, it’s all right
They can tell you what to do
But they’ll make a fool of you and it’s all right
Baby, it’s all right
We’re on a road to nowhere
We’re on a road to nowhere
We’re on a road to nowhere
We’re on a road to nowhere


As with everyone else, I imagine, I experience days that are sunny and bright.  There are days that are frustrating/annoying.  There are days that are rainy and sad.  Sometimes, you have days which are a combination of all of the above.

To me this song encapsulates those emotions and life in general.  Time flows and ultimately the end will come to all of us.  In two hundred years, will anyone remember you or I and the gamut of emotions we experience in our lifetimes and, most importantly, will they matter all that much?

They probably won’t, so make the best of your day and, in turn, life.  This is not a dry run and this is not a rehearsal.  This is the real deal.

You need to make the most of the time you have while you can.

Sketchin’ 16

Moving from a genuine hero in Flash Gordon to perhaps my favorite “anti” hero…

Of all the characters presented within the movies John Carpenter made, my favorite is easily Snake Plisskin, as portrayed by Kurt Russell.

While I feel Escape From New York, the movie that gave us that character, is far from perfect, there’s little doubt that Snake Plisskin is the real deal.  Love, love, love the character.

The issue I have with the film is that it starts so damn well but seems to run out of steam in its later third.  I feel part of the problem is that the movie’s budget caught up with John Carpenter’s vision and he wasn’t able to make the extravaganza he was hoping for.

Still, Escape From New York is nonetheless a favorite film of mine, if only because of Kurt Russell and that crazy bad ass Snake Plisskin.

For a man so many thought was dead, he sure has a hell of a lot of life in him!