on August 01, 2008 by Tim Cogshell
If you know anything about classic film noir, you know the work of Albert Isaac Bezzerides, known as A.I. Bezzerides for his screenwriting credit and “Buzz” to the powerbrokers and stars from Hollywood's golden era right through the early ‘60s. If you don't think you know anything about film noir, but you've seen the movies of Quentin Tarantino, early Martin Scorsese (“Mean Streets” and “Taxi Driver”) or even certain films of Steven Soderbergh (“Out of Sight” and “The Underneath” particularly), then you still know the work of A.I. Bezzerides. Though he is perhaps not as well known as contemporaries such as Sam Fuller (“Shock Corridor”) and Dashiell Hammett (“The Maltese Falcon” and “The Thin Man”), Buzz laid much of the foundation for the genre that became known as film noir on which the Tarantino's and Soderbergh's now firmly stand.

Though he was born in Turkey, Bezzerides was fundamentally a Greek immigrant, thus a component of the passion that documentary filmmaker Spiro Taraviras shows for the iconic writer is partly nationalistic. But Bezzerides himself was staunchly American both in identification and style. The writer of novels, screen and teleplays, his work includes such classics as “They Drive by Night,” “Thieves' Highway,” “Sirocco” (starring Humphery Bogart) and the ever classic “Kiss Me Deadly,” adapted by Bezzerides from the Mickey Spillane novel.

In Taraviras' documentary we see the screenwriter's work through a plethora of clips and stills and hear of his genius from expert film historians, stars such as Cloris Leachman (“Kiss Me Deadly”) and notable filmmakers the likes of the Jules Dassin (“Rififi”), who actually corresponds with Bezzerides onscreen. We see and hear from the writer, too. Indeed, much of the documentary is taken up with Bezzerides framed in single wide shots waxing, not always fondly, about working in Hollywood and his legacy as a film and television screenwriter -- a career that was impeded by the House Committee on Un-American Activites investigations of the ‘50s, though he himself was not blacklisted. Here's a juicy bit of trivia: Bezzerides wrote for the television series “Bonanza” and “The Virginian” and created the Barbara Stanwyck series “The Big Valley.” And he says he never saw a penny in residuals -- about which he's still pretty pissed. Albert Isaac Bezzerides, Cloris Leachman, Terry Moore, Gloria Stuart, Jules Dassin. Directed, written and produced by Spiro Taraviras. An Outsider release. Documentary. Rated PG-13 for brief strong language. Running time: 120 min

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