Jules Dassin, who directed the classic films The Naked City, Brute Force, Rififi, and many others, died yesterday. I’ve known about Rififi for years, but I’d only recently caught up with many of the tremendous noirs he made in the late ’40s and early ’50s, thanks to their Criterion Collection reissues.
Two of those films are novel adaptations. British author Gerald Kersh wrote the novel Night and the City, which Dassin made into a great tale of small-time crooks in the London wresting world. Kersh was also apparently Harlan Ellison‘s favorite writer, and a section of Ellison’s official Web site is dedicated to Kersh’s life and works.
Bezzerides is the better-known writer–or at least his works are better known. He wrote the script for one of the all-time great noirs, Kiss Me Deadly, and his novel Thieves’ Highway was made into Dassin’s film of the same title, a great night-in-San Francisco down-by-the-docks yarn that Bezzerides also scripted. The tale largely revolves around the seemingly simple matter of trucking apples up to the city. Which, of course, isn’t so simple, as this exchange points out:
Nick Garcos: Hey, do you like apples?
Rica: Everybody likes apples, except doctors.
Garcos: Do you know what it takes to get an apple so you can sink your beautiful teeth in it? You gotta stuff rags up tailpipes, farmers gotta get gypped, you jack up trucks with the back of your neck, universals conk out…
Rica: I don’t know what are you talking about, but I have a new respect for apples.
Bezzerides died early last year. The Criterion Collection reissue includes a documentary on the author, 2004′s The Long Haul of A.I. Bezzerides, which features commentary by Mickey Spillane, George Pelecanos, and Barry Gifford; the Web page for the film also has an essay by Michael Sragow. I haven’t read Bezzerides’ books, but Sragow nails what he brought to film: “Bezzerides’ writing at its peak boasts a dynamic blend of iconoclasm and bitterness––an ideal combination for the intersection of kinetics and moodiness that is film noir.”