House of Games (1987) Shrinks, Stings And Scams In The Shady Shadows

There I was sat in a Travelodge. Shoes kicked off and socks still steaming. I drooled at my prize. A 4 Piece Colonel’s Meal for one. Pillow placed on seat for maximum buttocks comfort. I winked at the four real ale bottles lined up awaiting to go. You see, I had deserved this treat. Friday and Saturday I’d danced non-stop til the twilight hours. Tonight, I’d danced again. The mind was willing but the legs were tired, shattered if I tell no lie. Like an old fool, I carried on. Still, I knew I’d finish early and treat myself. So you now see why my socks were steaming, honestly, they didn’t hum. My ears did, still do, ha. The bass still rattled around in my chest. I was content but now I had hungry eyes. Mikey does loves me chicken.

I’d planned this earlier night. Found a few films that I hadn’t seen before and loaded up a flash drive. I’d been recommended The Spanish Prisoner (1997). I hadn’t seen it. Hesitant to see Steve Martin connected to a drama thriller? Had I seen him do serious before? I don’t know. What intrigued my interest more was the writer, director David Mamet when I spied though his credits. Most his directed films had glowing reviews. I hadn’t heard of any before? I switched to hit up his writing credits!

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992), Wag The Dog (1997) and Ronin (1998) to name a few until my finger slammed the breaks on the mouse wheel! The Untouchables (1987), really? Ok, Steve Martin’s serious acting chops can wait, I’m gonna check out David’s debut directing duties first. A 1987 thriller called House Of Games. The posters tagline grabbed hold of me…..

Tagline – “Human Nature Is A Sucker Bet!”

Excited I simultaneously press play, guzzled beer and began to rub chicken grease all over my face.

Chain smoking psychiatrist Margaret Ford (Lindsay Crouse) had just published a book. A detailed study in the field of obsessive compulsive disorder. It was called “DRIVEN: Obsession and Compulsion in Everyday Life“. It was selling well and she’d received much accolades and success. Yet, she was still unfulfilled and hungry to learn more about the human condition. Maybe she suffered from her obsession? It drove her, motivated her, kept her ruthlessly working and discovering.

Billy (Steven Goldstein) was one of her patients. He’d turned up late, anxious and twitchy. Billy was a compulsive gambler. His addiction had resulted in a large debt to a local hoodlum working out of a pool hall called the House of Games. Billy was in despair. He had a gun. Would he kill himself or others? Margaret’s calm negotiation skills come into play. Reassuring Billy, she promises to help him, if he gives her the revolver.

Later that night Margaret takes a little trip to this House of Games. With balls of steel she tracks down this shady small time gangster called Mike Mancuso (Joe Mantegna). Instantly they charm each other with equal intrigue. Mike is taken with this brazen straight talking lady coming into this world, demanding he drop the debt that Billy owes. Margaret on the other hand is seduced by this dark underworld and relishes the opportunity to learn, to study. Mike has a simple job to wipe Billy’s slate clean. All she has to do is join his poker game as his girl and keep a steady eye on the high stakes gambler he’s battling.

You see, Mike has noticed that the guy has a “tell”, a subconscious give away. When putting down a bet he slowly spins his ring on his finger. The problem Mike has is the guy has realised he does it and stopped. It’s a long shot but if he takes a toilet break the guy might start twiddling with his “tell” when he’s out the room. Could Margaret help? The excitement draws her in and she lights up another cigarette…

House of Games is an expertly written thriller. Not only that, it’s filming and dialogue harks back to the age of Film Noir. It’s all dark shadows, seedy alleys and no nonsense conversations and dodgy eye glances. Filled with dubious characters. This is a perfect example of Neo Noir I’d say. It would make a fantastic double bill alongside the Coen Brothers equally outstanding directorial debut, Blood Simple (1984).

Yep, I have no idea how this one passed me by? However, I’m extremely thankful it did as it was such a joy to watch. There’s enough twists and turns, slight glimpses of humor at times and just the right amount of dated cheese to make you smile. It’s a fantastic crime thriller.

IMDB Rating 7.2/10

Mikey Wolfman’s Rating 8.5/10

Here’s a few things I learn whilst writing this…

  • Leading lady Lindsay Crouse has had a great career with many varied TV roles from recurring roles in Hill Street Blues and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And films like Slap Shot (1977) Prince of the City (1981) Communion (1989) and The Arrival (1996). And the one I learnt today was she dubbed the voice from Princess Lyssa in the science fiction fantasy film, that I so adored as a kid, Krull (1983)
  • The legendary American stage magician and sleight of hand grandmaster, Ricky Jay also stars.
  • Lindsay Crouse was married to David Mamet.
  • Leading man Joe Mantegna also has a huge list of roles on his CV. But best of all has to go to Fat Tony in The Simpsons! Also many will know him from 15 years of playing David Rossi in the TV series Criminal Minds, which is still running. A few film picks would be, Eye for an Eye (1996), Above Suspicion (1995), The Godfather Part III and also playing the producer Harry Flugleman in one of the greatest films ever made…. The Three Amigos (1986).
  • Along with Ricky Jay, Joe Mantegna would work with David Mamet on many of his productions. I’ve not seen any? So please feel free to recommend away.

Yeah I know, I’ve been away for so long. So I’m easing my way back into my film blog. It was good to try and shake some rust off. House of Games made me think how much I love this hobby. It put a spark back in the old engine. I hope to return more. Let me know if you liked this film, any tidbits of info and recommendations on any connected films to all involved if you wish.

Keep watching that square screen and having fun.

Mikey Wolfman

Johnny Nobody (1961) Priest Nigel Patrick Investigates Blasphemy & Divine Intervention

James Ronald Mulcahy (William Bendix) was a successful author. Was this quiet and quaint Irish village actually his birth place? I wasn’t sure. He was an American, maybe the returning prodigal son? With his newest book flying off the shelves he had money to flash. To the dismay of the local residents he had decided to settle within the community and they weren’t practically best pleased. James Mulchay’s mouth was as big as his personality, HUGE!. A thuggish man, large and obnoxious. You see, the village was centered around the parish church and the locals were all God-fearing Catholics. Mulchay’s book on the other hand was centered directly against the Church and the belief of an all seeing and powerful God. He was an atheist and extremely opinionated about it. You didn’t need to ask him or listen to him, he would bulldoze his thoughts onto you as loud as he possibly could. So one thing you didn’t want to see was James Mulchay matching down the road heading for the local pub. Sober he was unbearable but filled with whisky he became the most loathsome, offensive, man on Earth.

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Where Has Poor Mickey Gone? (1964) Jazz Clubs, Delinquents & Record Shops In London Soho

A friend sent me word of this once rare, and I imagine, seldom seen British film oddity called Where Has Poor Mickey Gone? (1964). I’d never heard of it, however, I knew the filming location well. Set in the early 60s in London’s Soho area. Long before I would travel there on the train from my south coast hometown every other weekend to spend my wage packet on vinyl records. From the late 80s through to the early 2000s it was a mecca to me and many music heads for its vast assemble of filled to the brim, record shops. Most famously for Berwick Street, a street lined with the holy grail of crate digging flicking fingers.

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The Window (1949) And The Tragic Case Of Bobby Driscoll

Firstly, anyone heard “crying wolf” anywhere around me will be getting a jolly good telling off, that’s for sure. Using my esteemed name in vain, well whatever next? Further more, wolf’s don’t cry! And don’t listen to those wicked rumours about that wolf shaped ball of fluff, whimpering and sobbing at the back of the Odeon cinema in 1999 during the opening scene of Disney’s Tarzan. It simply wasn’t true, it was not! Sniffles. Oh no, I’ve just thought back to it. “Oh dang it! pass the tissues, please!“. Ok the legend of the crying wolf is true so I’ll let you use the quotation for the Aesop’s Fable to start the film.

Opening intro –The boy cried ‘wolf’. ‘Wolf’ several times and each time the people came to help him they found that there wasn’t any ‘wolf.”

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Doomwatch (1972) A British Thriller Reviewed For Mystery & Suspense Magazine

I was excited to be asked if I’d like to do a review for an American Mystery and Suspense magazine. I said “Are you sure?” “Have you read my reviews?” “They are not in anyway normal!” The editor must of been on happy pills because he still went for it. Which I’m very grateful for. So here it is…. A full spoiler review of a 70s Brit film called DOOMWATCH and it’s MASSIVE!! So be warned if you did have a wave of madness come over you and contemplated reading it!!! hehe. The original review can be found here Mystery and Suspense Doomwatch Review.

So you can’t quite imagine yourself venturing out to see this British low budget mystery thriller called Doomwatch? Well why not? Let the Wolfman take you on a spoiler-filled journey instead. It’s generally me having a giggle at the film’s expense, I’m afraid. Having said that, I will quickly add, it’s actually a pretty good story. It’s just surrounded by pure crazy!

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36 Hours (1964) James Garner WW2 Nazi Mind Control For D-Day Info

One of the biggest secrets of 1944 was the creation of a planned full assault invasion of German occupied Western Europe. An operation that would include hundreds of thousands of troops. To strike a hammer blow against the axis of evil that was Adolf Hitler and his Nazi forces. The 5th of June was put a side for D-Day the top secret Normandy landings and the beginning of the invasion. This enormously important mission would go under the code-name Operation Overlord. Five coastal strike points had been calculated to achieve such a gargantuan undertaking. America was assigned to land at sectors code-named Utah and Omaha, the British at Sword and Gold, and the Canadians at Juno. A task so immense that it needed the utmost secrecy to accomplish. A map was designed for the planning room to coordinate the operations. This map and the mission’s secrecy were of the highest top level importance.

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