KISS OF DEATH (Film, 1995)

Kiss of DeathDirected by Barbet Schroeder

Screenplay by Richard Price, adapted from the original 1947 screenplay by Ben Hecht and Charles Lederer; story by Eleazar Lipsky

Kiss of Death, based on the renowned 1947 film noir of the same name, marks the point at which Hollywood started to get lazy in its use of Richard Price: This, the industry seems to have decided, is the guy who writes remakes of old crime movies. So while Sea of Love and Mad Dog and Glory used some elements of film noir storytelling to deliver original stories that addressed themes Price was interested in, Kiss of Death (which follows in the footsteps of the Night and the City remake) feels more like the for-hire job it is, with little evidence that Price ever held it particularly close to his heart.

But it’s still well-done and enjoyable in its own right, even if it doesn’t provide many thematic dots for me to connect. Continue reading

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MAD DOG AND GLORY (Film, 1993)

Mad Dog and GloryDirected by John McNaughton

Screenplay by Richard Price

“I was a prolific screenwriter in the late ’80s and early ’90s,” Richard Price says in this Washington Post profile from 2006. “Hollywood had room for the $25 million movie then. And the movie could be about darker, edgier subjects. It could be about subjects that might not pack ’em in at the movie houses in Iowa.”

Mad Dog and Glory is a good example of the kind of film Price is talking about, and it’s a great demonstration of what a loss it is that that kind of film isn’t getting made so much anymore. It’s not “dark” or “edgy” in the sense of, say, Nymphomaniac, but it’s a movie for adults, funny without shying away from the harsher implications of its plot, well-executed without being stylistically flashy. And it’s got Bill Murray playing a mobster who does stand-up comedy. What more could you ask for? Continue reading

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Night and the CityDirected by Irwin Winkler

Screenplay by Richard Price, based on the Jo Eisinger screenplay adapted from the novel by Gerald Kersh

Following in the tradition of Bloodbrothers, Streets of Gold and “Arena Brains,” Night and the City is the final Richard Price film to have never been widely released on DVD in America despite featuring impressive A-list talent both behind and in front of the camera. (Unlike Bloodbrothers and Streets of GoldNight doesn’t seem to have ever been released in widescreen on any home video format–made-to-order, import or otherwise.) Like the others, it can’t really be considered a lost classic, but it’s probably the best of the bunch, and I’d guess the most likely to someday get resurrected out of VHS purgatory. Continue reading

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CLOCKERS (Novel, 1992)

ClockersIf Richard Price had retired in 1992 he would have already been leaving behind an impressive body of work: Four critically acclaimed novels, an Oscar nomination for his screenwriting, a #1 box office hit, even a credit on a Michael Jackson music video. He could’ve laid down his pen and settled into a professorship somewhere, or even coasted on his reputation while churning out middling work, and no one would’ve been able to say he hadn’t had a hell of a run.

Instead, he released Clockers, the novel that would come to be regarded as arguably the best work of his career. This is going to be a long post (I think I kept it at least slightly shorter than Clockers itself), but that’s because there’s a lot to unpack here; out of all of Richard Price’s works, this one casts the longest shadow. Continue reading

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SEA OF LOVE (Film, 1989)

Sea of LoveDirected by Harold Becker

Screenplay by Richard Price

The novel Clockers is probably Richard Price’s most emblematic work, the one most commonly associated with his identity as a writer. The Wire looms large on his resume as well and is certainly his most highly-regarded TV gig, as it will probably remain for everyone who was ever involved with it. But when people talk about Richard Price’s career writing feature films, the credit they most often bring up is the 1989 romantic thriller Sea of Love. It was his first full-length original script to be produced (not counting The Color of Money, which was sort of based on Walter Tevis’s novel), it was a box office hit, and it set the template for the kind of neo-noir movies he’d be working on for the next decade and beyond. Continue reading

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New York StoriesDirected by Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese

Screenplay by Richard Price, Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola and Sofia Coppola

This may just be me, but when I think of anthology movies I generally think of scary story collections like Creepshow or Trilogy of Terror, so the concept behind New York Stories immediately seemed unusual and intriguing: Three of America’s most respected directors (Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and Woody Allen) each contribute an approximately 40-minute short film set against the backdrop of New York City in its 1980s heyday of decadence and crime. One rarely gets to see filmmakers of this caliber working in the medium of shorts, so this whole project had a lot of potential even apart from the fact that Scorsese’s segment, “Life Lessons,” reunited him with his screenwriter collaborator from The Color of Money and “Bad,” Richard Price. Continue reading

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“ARENA BRAINS” (Short Film, 1987)

Arena BrainsDirected by Robert Longo

Screenplay by Eric Bogosian, E. Max Frye, Robert Longo, Emily Prager and Richard Price

Richard Price had his name on two projects released in 1987. One was the short film “Bad,” possibly the most-viewed, highest-profile project of his career. The other was the short film “Arena Brains,” now one of the most obscure, hardest-to-find titles in his filmography. I’ve referred to other movies on this blog as being available only on VHS, but this is the most VHS-exclusive of them all, without even a foreign DVD release like Streets of Gold or Night and the City have. Except for a couple excerpts, it doesn’t seem to be online anywhere, either, so without a working VCR you really just can’t see it. And this despite its crazily star-studded cast, which includes Ray Liotta, Steve Buscemi, Sean Young and R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe! Continue reading

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