Category: Crime

“Touch of Evil (1958)” adapted, directed and starring Orson Welles, starring Charlton Heston & Janet Leigh / Z-View

Touch of Evil (1958)

Director: Orson Welles

Screenwriter: Orson Welles based on Badge of Evil by Whit Masterson

Cast: Charlton Heston, Orson Welles, Janet Leigh, Joseph Calleia, Akim Tamiroff, Ray Collins, Dennis Weaver, Valentin de Vargas, Mort Mills, Victor Millan,Harry Shannon, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Mercedes McCambridge, Joseph Cotton  and Marlene Dietrich.


The Plot…

Miguel “Mike” Vargas (Heston) and his new bride, Susan (Leigh) are visiting a small Mexican/American border town.  Mike is a Mexican Special Prosecutor.  Susan is an American.  Their honeymoon is cut short when a car bomb explodes killing two people.  Although the explosion took place on the US side, the bomb was planted while the car was in Mexico.

Mike tells Susan to go back to their hotel while he assists with the initial investigation.  Hank Quinlan (Welles), the local police Captain, arrives and takes over the investigation.  Quinlan is a recovering alcoholic, and a bigot with a bad attitude.  In short order, Quinlan has a suspect.  He’s a Mexican married to the daughter of one of the victims.  It looks like an open and shut case when two sticks of dynamite are found in a shoebox.  What Quinlan didn’t know is that Mike had accidentally knocked the shoebox over minutes before.  The box was empty.  Mike accuses Quinlan of setting the kid up.

Meanwhile, Susan is stopped before she gets to the hotel.  Her husband is prosecuting a drug case against a major Mexican crime family.  “Uncle” Joe Grandi attempts to scare Susan and sends her to the hotel with a message for Mike to drop the case.  Uncle Grandi learns that Mike won’t back down and that Mike has made an enemy of Quinlan.  Grandi approaches Quinlan and suggests a partnership.  They’ll kidnap Susan and force Mike to do their bidding.

Of course things don’t go as planned for anyone.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

Touch of Evil gets better with every viewing.  If someone preferred it over Citizen Kane, I wouldn’t argue.

Janet Leigh is best known for her role in Psycho.  She shows a wider range here and if Norman Bates saw how sexy her character is, his head would explode.

Welles is the powerhouse behind Touch of Evil.  He adapted the novel and made changes to improve the story.  He starred in and directed the film.  When Universal Pictures locked him out of the editing booth, Welles submitted a 58 page memo of suggestions to improve the cut.  Decades later that happened.  The restored version won several awards and a spot in the National Film Registry.

Heston and Welles have a great supporting cast.  Akim Tamiroff as Uncle Joe Grandi is both funny and scary. Welles wanted Dennis Weaver to improvise.  Weaver took that to heart.  His character is all over the place… and I mean that in a good way.  Zsa Zsa Gabor shows up in a blink-and-you-might-miss-her cameo.  While you can have eyes wide open and miss Joseph Cotton’s.  For Mercedes McCambridge’s role, she dyed her hair, adopted an accent and rough look. While some of the folks are only on screen for a short time, their impact is huge.

Touch of Evil (1958) rates 5 of 5 stars.

“Cape Fear” starring Gregory Peck & Robert Mitchum / Z-View

Cape Fear (1962)

Director: J. Lee Thompson

Screenwriter: James R. Webb based on The Executioners by John D. MacDonald

Cast: Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum, Polly Bergen, Lori Martin, Martin Balsam, Jack Kruschen, Telly Savalas, Barrie Chase, Paul Comi, Edward Platt and Will Wright.

Tagline: Now, he had only one weapon left – Murder!…To prevent an even more shocking crime!

The Plot…

Max Cady (Mitchum) was recently released from prison.  Cady served eight years for a sadistic rape.  Now Cady has one thing on his mind, to take revenge on Sam Bowden (Peck).  It was Sam Bowden who stopped Cady’s assault.  It was also Bowden’s testimony that got Cady convicted.

Sam Bowden is a well respected small town lawyer.  But the law is going to be of no help.   Cady is smart and as devious as he is cruel.  Cady stops Bowden on the street.  From all appearances the meeting is cordial.  But Cady lets Bowden know he’s out of prison.  He subtly threatens Bowden, his wife and their young daughter.

Cady increases the threats and intimidation. Bowden realizes that Cady won’t stop until he’s done the sick things he’s threatened.  There may be only one way to stop Max Cady…

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

The film covers some very dark topics for 1962.  Despite censors, the movie makes it very clear what Max Cady has done and plans to do.

I like to describe Cape Fear as the best Hitchcock movie not made by Hitchcock.  The score by Bernard Herrmann helps.  J. Lee Thompson was an Alfred Hitchcock fan and it was his intent to film scenes like the master.  Cape Fear is my favorite film directed by J. Lee Thompson.

I’m a Robert Mitchum fan.  Mitchum always adds to a film’s enjoyment factor.  His portrayal of Max Cady is my favorite Robert Mitchum performance.  That’s saying a lot because he’s always good.

Gregory Peck was an excellent choice to play the good man who discovers that the law isn’t going to save him or his family.   Peck and Mitchum are supported by an outstanding cast. Polly Bergen, Lori Martin, Martin Balsam, Jack Kruschen, Telly Savalas and Barrie Chase all get opportunities to shine.  Look for Edward Platt in a cameo.

Cape Fear (1962) rates 5 of 5 stars.

“The Stone Killer” (1973) starring Charles Bronson / Z-View

The Stone Killer (1973)

Director: Michael Winner

Screenwriter: Gerald Wilson based on A Complete State of Death by John Gardner

Cast: Charles Bronson, Martin Balsam, Jack Colvin, Paul Koslo, Norman Fell, David Sheiner, Stuart Margolin, Ralph Waite, Alfred Ryder, Walter Burke, Kelley Miles, Eddie Firestone, Charles Tyner,  Byron Morrow, Frank Campanella and Robert Emhardt.

Tagline: Take away his badge and he’d top the Ten Most Wanted list!

The Plot…

Detective Lou Torrey (Bronson) killed a 17 year old hood who fired first.  Torrey’s shooting is justified, but the heat is on.  Torrey is quick with a gun and pushes past what is legal to get the guilty.  So Torrey leaves the New York City to become a member of the LA police force.

When Detective Torrey comes across clues that the Mafia is planning something big, no one believes him.  As he digs deeper, Torrey discovers that mercenaries are working with the mob bosses.  Soon Torrey is in their sights.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

Charles Bronson and Michael Winner hit gold with The Mechanic.  Unfortunately, lightning didn’t strike again with The Stone Killer.  It would however, when they teamed the following year with Death Wish.

The Stone Killer is definitely a ’70s movie.  Detective Torrey is made in the mold of Harry Callahan, but The The Stone Killer is at best a poor man’s Dirty Harry.

If you’re a fan of character actors, you’ll enjoy all of the faces popping up throughout The Stone Killer.  You’ll see Martin “Psycho” Balsam, Norman “Three’s Company” Fell, Stuart “The Rockford Files” Margolin, Ralph “The Waltons” Waite, Alfred “Star Trek” Ryder, Charles “The Outlaw Josey Wales” Tyner, Robert “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” Emhardt to name just a few.

The Stone Killer isn’t one of Bronson’s best, but it does have more high falls than a John Wayne western and a car chase worthy of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

The Stone Killer (1973) rates 2 of 5 stars.

“The Ledge” (2022) starring Brittany Ashworth / Z-View

The Ledge (2022)

Director: Howard J. Ford

Screenwriter: Tom Boyle

Cast: Brittany Ashworth, Ben Lamb, Louis Boyer, Nathan Welsh, Anaïs Parello and David Wayman.

Tagline: Don’t Lose Your Grip.

The Plot…

The night before a climb, Kelly (Ashworth) and Sophie (Parello) meet four guys in the cabin across the way.  The guys, less experienced climbers, are going up an easier path of the mountain in the morning.  When the fellas invite the girls over for a drink, they agree to “just one”.  After some small talk and the drink Kelly is ready to head back to their cabin.  Sophie decides to stay longer.

After a few more drinks, Sophie is ready to call it a night.  On the way to her cabin she is attacked by one of the guys.  He tries to rape her.  She scratches his face, In their fight he kicks Sophie. She falls twenty feet onto rocks.  When the other guys show up, they are forced to come up with a cover story.  Sophie was drunk. She fell while showing the guys her climbing skills.  Once they have their alibi, the guys throw Sophie off the side of the mountain.

Kelly had heard Sophie’s cries and arrives in time to see Sophie thrown to her death. The men see Kelly and begin to chase her.  Realizing that there is no help around, Kelly begins to free climb the mountain.  Her only escape is up.  The guys grab gear and head up an easier path.  The rock face is too sheer for Kelly to climb down.  They get ahead of her, trapping her on a ledge just below them.  It’s just a matter of time now…

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

The Ledge is an okay way to spend a little less than an hour and a half.  Much of that credit goes to Brittany Ashworth.  She’s believable as a climber and likeable as the character.

What keeps the movie from a 3 star rating are the clichés.  Kelly’s lover, also a climber, fell to his death trying to retrieve her engagement ring.  Now she’s climbing in his memory.  The rapist character is a psycho who has been bullying his three friends since elementary school.  Now as adults they continue to hang with him because they fear him.  He’s so bad that he’s been having sex with one of his friend’s wife on a regular basis for years.  The other friends knew but were so afraid they never told.

Still, the situation of being stuck on a mountain top ledge with a psycho right above you provides an interesting scenario.  If there’s nothing better on, give The Ledge a go.

The Ledge (2022) rates 2 of 5 stars.

TOO MANY BULLETS by Max Allan Collins / Z-View

TOO MANY BULLETS by Max Allan Collins

Publisher: Titan Books

First sentence…

At the end of this narrative, certain guilty people go free.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

When Robert Kennedy asks Nate Heller to be his bodyguard, Heller agrees.  How could he refuse?  Nate and Bobby had been friends for years.  Plus security is a service that Heller and his agency provides.  Nate agreed even when Bobby’s demands made protecting him nearly impossible.  “No guns” and Nate as the only bodyguard. That’s how Nate Heller came to be present when Robert Kennedy was assassinated.

Of course the conspiracy theories started almost immediately.  The same people who killed John Kennedy got to Robert.  It was the mafia, the C.I.A., the… you fill in the blank.  It was a conspiracy.  There’s no way it was a lone gunman.  Heller didn’t buy into any of it.  He was there.  Hell, he was one of the first to grab Sirhan Sirhan as the little murderer was still firing.  No, they got the right guy.

Then Heller begins to hear things that don’t add up.  The number of bullets for instance.  By almost every account, there were more bullets fired than Sirhan’s gun could hold.  There were witnesses who saw more than one gunman.  Their reports were dismissed without merit.  Plus Sirhan Sirhan’s lawyer didn’t present evidence that could have brought doubt as to if he acted alone.  Then there were the questionable characters all around the periphery of the assassination.  Even though Nate was there, he was starting to have questions.

So Nate Heller decides to do his own investigation.  What he discovers isn’t in any history book and just might get him killed.


I’m a huge fan of Max Allan Collins’ Nate Heller series.  Heller is a fictional detective who finds himself in the middle of real crimes.  Heller ages in real time as the series progresses. His tales are fiction mixed with extensive research and historical fact. Heller has been in the mix on everything from the Lindbergh baby kidnapping/murder to the suspicious death of Marilyn Monroe and much more. It’s fun watching Heller interact with famous (and infamous) folks right out of our history books. Equally enjoyable is Collins’ take on the crimes and what may have really happened.

TOO MANY BULLETS is another great addition to the Nate Heller legacy.  It gets my highest recommendation.


“Your Lucky Day” – The Poster and Trailer are Here!

I love the poster for Your Lucky Day.  The trailer gives away a lot, but it looks good.

Deal me in.

YOUR LUCKY DAY | In Theaters November 10, On Digital November 14 |
After a dispute over a winning lottery ticket turns into a deadly hostage situation, the witnesses must decide exactly how far they’ll go—and how much blood they’re willing to spill—for a cut of the $156 million.

Directed by: Daniel Brown
Cast: Angus Cloud, Elliot Knight, Jessica Garza, Sterling Beaumon, Mousa Hussein Kraish, Jason Wiles, Sebastian Sozzi, Spencer Garrett, Jason O’Mara

“Hard Boiled Mahoney” (1947) starring Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Dan Seymour & the Bowery Boys / Z-View

Hard Boiled Mahoney (1947)

Director: William Beaudine

Screenplay: Cy Endfield, Edmond Seward, Tim Ryan

Stars: Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Gabriel Dell, William ‘Billy’ Benedict, David Gorcey, Dan Seymour, Pierre Watkin, Bernard Gorcey, Patti Brill and Noble Johnson.


The Plot…

A woman mistakenly thinks that Slip (L. Gorcey) and Satch (Hall) are detectives.  She hires them to find her sister.  The clues lead to Dr. Rolfe Carter (Watkin).  Slip and Satch arrive at Dr. Carter’s office just as he’s being murdered.  Slip is knocked unconscious.  He awakens to find that he’s been set up to take the fall.

Slip escapes.  Now Slip, Satch and the rest of the Bowery Boys need to find the real killer.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

This is one of the Bowery Boys better outings.

Dan Seymour is a welcome addition to the cast.  He plays the main bad guy.  You may know Seymour from his appearances in To Have and Have Not, Key Largo, The Big Heat, or another of his over 100 acting credits.

Patti Brill is in only a few scenes as Slip’s girl, but she makes an impact.

Heads up: There is a scene where two of the Bowery Boys are disguised as a shoe shiner and customer.  The shoe shiner is in blackface.

Hard Boiled Mahoney (1947) rates 3 of 5 stars.

“The Devil on Trial” – The Poster and Trailer are Here!

The Devil on Trial provided the inspiration for The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It.  The Conjuring film was a dramatization while The Devil on Trial is a documentary of the one and only time demonic possession was used as a defense in a US murder trial.

Deal me in.

The Devil on Trial explores the first – and only – time “demonic possession” has officially been used as a defense in a U.S. murder trial. Including firsthand accounts of alleged devil possession and a shocking murder, this extraordinary story forces reflection on our fear of the unknown.

DIRECTOR: Christopher Holt

“The Beekeper” written by Kurt Wimmer, directed by David Ayer, starring Jason Statham – The Poster and Trailer are Here!  

The Beekeeper is written by Kurt (Sons of Anarchy) Wimmer, directed by David (Sabotage, Fury) Ayer and stars Jason (The Transporter) Statham.

Deal me in.

Expose the corruption. Protect the hive.

Watch the trailer for #TheBeekeeper, directed by David Ayer and starring Jason Statham. Only in theaters January 12.

In The Beekeeper, one man’s brutal campaign for vengeance takes on national stakes after he is revealed to be a former operative of a powerful and clandestine organization known as “Beekeepers.”

Directed By: David Ayer

Starring: Jason Statham, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Josh Hutcherson, Bobby Naderi, Minnie Driver, with Phylicia Rashad and Jeremy Irons

Written By: Kurt Wimmer

“Reptile” (2023) starring Benicio Del Toro, Justin Timberlake, Eric Bogosian, Alicia Silverstone & Domenick Lombardozzi / Z-View

Reptile (2023)

Director: Grant Singer

Screenplay: Grant Singer, Benjamin Brewer, Benicio del Toro from a story by Grant Singer, Benjamin Brewer

Stars: Benicio Del Toro, Justin Timberlake, Eric Bogosian, Alicia Silverstone, Domenick Lombardozzi, Frances Fisher, Ato Essandoh, Mike Pniewski, Catherine Dyer, Michael Beasley, James Devoti and Matilda Lutz.

Tagline: Shed the Lies

The Plot…

When real estate agent Summer Elswick (Lutz) is brutally murdered, Detective Tom Nichols (del Toro) and his partner, Detective Dan Cleary (Essandoh) get the case.  As they dig into the murder several suspects begin to appear.  There’s Summer’s boyfriend, Will Grady (Timberlake), co-owner of the real estate company she worked for.  The murder victim’s ex-husband also looks good for it.  Then there’s the guy who thinks Grady was responsible for his father’s death.  Maybe he did it to get revenge.

The twisted truth is there.  Nichols will just have to dig through the lies and alibies.  He won’t like what he discovers.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

Reptile features an excellent cast.

  • Benicio del Toro always brings his “A” game.
  • Justin Timberlake surprised me.  He plays the boyfriend of the murder victim.  The guy’s just drained due to her death… or is he?
  • Alicia Silverstone is great as del Toro’s sexy wife.  She appears to be devoted and in love.  But is she?
  • I love when Domenick Lombardozzi shows up in a movie/series.  I first took notice of him in Tulsa King.  Then I went, “Yeah, that’s the guy from…”  Lombardozzi is always solid.
  • Eric Bogosian,  Frances Fisher and Mike Pniewski are in smaller, but important roles.  They are welcome additions to the cast.

Hats off to director and co-writer Grant Singer for creating a murder mystery populated by characters that all feel real.  Singer handles the action and quiet moments well.  I look forward to his next project.

Reptile (2023) rates 4 of 5 stars.

ALL SINNERS BLEED by S.A. Cosby / Z-View


Hardback: ‎ 352 pages
Publisher: ‎ Flatiron Books (June 6, 2023)

First sentence…

Charon County was founded in bloodshed and darkness.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Titus Crown is the first Black sheriff in Charon County, Virginia.  Titus grew up there.  He then served ten years as a F.B.I. agent.  Now he’s come home. Hopefully to do some good. Although elected by a majority, there are still some who can’t get past Titus’ skin color.

When an active shooter call comes in, Titus and his deputies rush to the local high school.  They arrive to find one of the community’s most beloved teachers murdered by a former student.  As the young killer walks out, gun in hand, Titus attempts to take him in to custody without more bloodshed.  Unfortunately, one of Titus’ deputies fatally shoots the kid.

Titus’ investigation into the teacher’s murder uncovers evidence of more crimes.  The beloved teacher, a pillar of the community, was involved in sadistic crimes against children.  As Titus digs deeper it becomes clear that three people were torturing and killing children.  Two are dead.  But one is still alive.  Hiding in plain sight among the people of Charon County.

Things become even more complicated. Evidence surfaces that Titus’ Deputy may have had a secret reason to kill the kid.

Another person is murdered.  The killer stages the body to let the world (and Sheriff Crown) know it is related to the murders of the children.  The killer begins taunting Titus.  Publicity about the gruesome murders puts the town on edge.  It also gives those who oppose Titus as Sheriff a reason to remove him from office.

As Titus continues to dig into the evidence, he uncovers dark secrets hidden for decades.  Of course Titus has a secret of his own.  The real reason he left the F.B.I..


S.A. Cosby is one of my must-buy authors.  He won the Anthony Award for Best Novel two years in a row for BLACKTOP WASTELAND and RAZORBLADE TEARS.  Both get my highest recommendation.  As does Cosby’s MY DARKEST PRAYER.

ALL SINNER’S BLEED is another winner.  Titus Crown is a great lead character.  I was surprised by the ending, but it felt right.  Especially Crown’s last act.

Each novel that Cosby has created made me hope for a sequel.  Yet, each new book brought new lead characters that I come to love.  Perhaps a crossover is due.  Truth is, it doesn’t matter what Cosby writes.  I, like many, many others will be in line to buy it.