Review: ‘Empire State Building Murders’

An awkward mock-doc spin on 'Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid.'

Ambitious and intriguing, but inept enough to desecrate the memory of many great films, “Empire State Building Murders” is an awkward mock-doc spin on “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid.” French documentarian William Karel remixes classic movie clips to create a new story, recalled in faux interviews with the characters as replayed in the present day by Kirk Douglas, Mickey Rooney, the late Cyd Charisse and others. Snippets of everything from “Kiss of Death” to “King Kong” and “Singin’ in the Rain” don’t begin to match in Karel’s hamhanded recontextualization. Buffs are hereby warned.

Narrated by Douglas’ ex-cop, Jim Kowalski (voiced by Patrick Floersheim), a character created out of clips from “Champion,” “Detective Story” and others, Karel’s pic labors to tell of Tony Carlucci (James Cagney), a mobster who ordered rub-outs from his Empire State Building apartment. Seems the cop fell for the crook’s wife, Penny (Lauren Bacall), a romance made vaguely intelligible by scenes from Bacall/Douglas starrer “Young Man With a Horn.” Pic tries to stifle the original dialogue in deference to its uninvolving story, but Kowalski can be heard calling his lover “Amy.” Karel’s “Murders” is indeed a crime.

Empire State Building Murders

France

Production

A Canal Plus, Roche Prods. presentation, in association with Arte France, YLE, SBS-TV Australia, BeTV, in collaboration with RTBF-Television Belge, with the participation of Centre National de la Cinematographie, with the support of Procirep, Angoa. (International sales: Canal Plus, Paris.) Produced by Dominique Tibi, Bernard Tibi. Directed by William Karel. Screenplay, Karel, Jerome Charyn.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Remy Tournois, Franck Dhelens, Greg Smith, Eric Turpin; editor, Stephanie Mahet. Reviewed at Vancouver Film Festival (Cinema of Our Time), Oct. 14, 2009. English dialogue. Running time: 72 MIN.

With

Kirk Douglas, Cyd Charisse, Ben Gazzara, Richard Erdman, Marsha Hunt, Anne Jeffreys, Mickey Rooney. Narrator: Patrick Floersheim.

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