VERA DRAKE
2004, Warner Bros., 125 min, UK/France, Dir: Mike Leigh

In this heart-wrenching story of injustice set in 1950s London, Imelda Staunton plays the selfless Vera Drake, a woman whose compassion leads to her downfall. A housecleaner, Vera works hard to care for her working-class family, while searching for ways to serve her community - one of which is performing abortions for young women. But this is a crime in the eyes of her government, and the abortions must be kept a secret, driving a wedge between Vera and everyone she loves. An Oscar nominee for Best Director, Best Actress and Best Original Screenplay (though it was filmed without a script), this thoughtful period piece remains surprisingly relevant. Featuring Eddie Marsan, Phil Davis, Lesley Manville and Sally Hawkins.


99 RIVER STREET
1953, Park Circus/MGM, 83 min, Dir: Phil Karlson

An aspiring actress (Evelyn Keyes) gets entangled with a washed-up boxer (John Payne) framed for the murder of his trampy wife (Peggie Castle). They’ve only got a few hours to hunt down the real killer. No director crafted rugged crime dramas bursting with violence better than director Phil Karlson, and this film (set entirely at night) is one of his best. Keyes lights up the screen and former crooner Payne is a convincing noir tough guy. With Brad Dexter, Frank Faylen, Jay Adler and Jack Lambert.


CITY THAT NEVER SLEEPS
1953, Paramount, 90 min, Dir: John H. Auer

Few things are as satisfying as a down-and-dirty crime noir filled with ingenious plot twists and bursting with eccentric characters in life-or-death struggles. For a brief, seedy moment in the ’50s, this wanton and wonderful world was the stamping ground of producer-director John H. Auer and writer Steve Fisher. Here they present a sordid tale of one night in the urban jungle, narrated by the city (Chicago) itself! A vivid cast of B-movie stalwarts (Gig Young, Mala Powers, Edward Arnold, William Talman, Marie Windsor) highlights the tale of a cop ensnared in the shady dealings of a slew of sinister suspects - including the tear-jerking Mechanical Man (Wally Cassell).


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