Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Requiem for a Fall - A Film Noir Treatment

High above the pacific, bomber pilot Capt. Guy Hawkins struggles to get his crew safely out of their damaged B-32. He’s down to just one man, young gunner Tony. He reassures the frightened young man not to worry and urges him to jump. Just then, the strap of Tony’s parachute gets caught on a jagged edge of the plane and Guy is left with no other option than to try and shoot the strap free. It’s a million-to-one-shot; it’s either the strap or the young gunner. Guy takes aim and fires.

Guy wakes up in his hotel room. The year is 1945 and the war is over. He’s covered in sweat, having just relived this nightmare for the umpteenth time. He’s distraught. He gets up, opens the window, hears the sounds of street life below him and pours himself a drink.

Janice Comely is adjusting the artwork on display in her small gallery. She’s smart, beautiful, well-dressed. She’s enduring the attraction of her fatigueless admirer, Dr. Lenny Self, the local psychiatrist. Lenny wishes to whisk Janice away, but Janice makes it plain she is already spoken for. Lenny is dapper, well-spoken, but a bit of a heel. He catches Janice by the arm and tells her that he doesn’t give up easily. Janice, not taking the good doctor seriously, leaves, telling Leonard she has a lunch date with the man she loves.

Guy emerges from his hotel room with a duffle bag hoisted over his shoulder. There’s a ruckus in front of the hotel. Police have custody of a couple teenagers caught vandalizing property. Guy recognizes one, Kid, who he was close to before leaving to fight the Japanese four years ago. Kid looks up to Guy but has been mingling with a bad crowd in his absence. Guy goes out on a limb for Kid, agreeing to pay for any damages. Kid promises to come around later to the gym where Guy suggests he can find work. Janice is a witness to Guy’s unselfish act of benevolence and beams with pride.

Janice and Guy walk to the diner where everyone greets Guy with a hearty, “Hey Champ!” They go into the diner where Pop greets them enthusiastically. Here we reveal that Delores works as a waitress for Pop and she has a crush on Lenny. Seems Lenny is the forgetful type and is always leaving behind something, this time, his expensive gold lighter. When she sees Lenny standing outside having a discussion with other gentlemen, she leaves her busy tables and rushes to take him his lighter, much to the consternation of Pop, who recognizes the one-sided relationship.

Lenny won’t have much to do with Delores, but he does seem to enjoy her attraction (makes him feel desirable). Lenny’s main objection to a relationship with Delores has to do with class distinction. A respected psychiatrist can’t go around being seen with a lowly waitress. This hurts Delores feelings but not enough to make her give up hope.

Later, at Puggy’s gym, Guy spars with another boxer in the training ring. Looking on with excitement is the gym’s owner, Puggy, and Guy’s trainer, Doc. Puggy expresses concern over Guy’s lack of killer instinct - he seemed to have lost it since the war. Doc reassures Puggy he’ll be back to contender-status in no time at all. “He’s the Champ, after all!” Kid cleans up, having secured work just as Guy had promised.

Also in the gym is a seven-foot mass of human flesh known as The Monster. He’s as ugly as he is tall and every ounce of him ripples with muscles. He’s the mobster’s main boy, and eager to get in the ring with Guy in order to steal his thunder. Guy’s trainer waves off his intentions, only saying, “When the time is right.” Kid vows that Guy can “clean the floor with that ape” and inadvertently secures the mobster’s scorn (you don’t want to mess around with these guys).

Later that evening, at the local restaurant/bar, Guy dances with his girl, Janice. She’s concerned about him. “Still having nightmares?” Guy nods. She suggests that maybe Lenny can help. “He is a psychiatrist after all…” Guy responds that he’s not ready to fall down the rabbit hole yet. Meanwhile, we discover that a couple of mobsters have given Kid a “working over” to shut his big mouth. When Guy finds out, he’s furious and almost vows to settle it in the ring against the mobster’s main boy, The Monster. Doc restrains Guy, warning him, “You’re not ready yet, Champ.”

That night, Guy has yet another nightmare. Distraught, he goes to see Janice. He explains to her that since he’s been back, he’s been trying in vain to find the parents of Tony, the gunner who was lost, in an effort to explain what happened, to seek absolution. He reveals he’s even gone so far as having hired a private detective, who he’s not heard from in a while. Janice once again pleads with Guy to give Dr. Self a chance. “He’s a licensed hypnotist, darling. Perhaps he can help.” Reluctantly, Guy agrees.

In Lenny’s ornate office, the doctor lowers the blinds, setting the mood. Something tells us he’s got Guy right where he wants him. He has Guy recline on the couch and hypnotizes him. Slowly we re-emerge back to that fateful moment on the plane, with Guy drawing his sidearm and taking aim at the strap, while the poor gunner’s body flops in the wind, like a fish on the end of a hook.

At last the lights come back on and Lenny sits back, thoughtfully inhaling his cigarette. Yes, he has undercovered the truth, he tells Guy, and it isn’t going to be pleasant. “Are you sure you can handle this?” Guy nods. Lenny reveals that while Guy was under his hypnotic spell, he revealed the truth. His gunshot went awry and struck and killed the young gunner, which Guy witnessed in horror. “Your conscious mind has spent weeks keeping it from you. That’s why you wake up in a terrible sweat. But your subconscious mind knows the horrible truth: if you had hesitated just a moment longer, you would have seen the strap break free on its own accord, and the young gunner you so desperately wanted to save would be alive today.”

The revelation stuns Guy. He staggers in anguish from the doctor’s office, refusing to be comforted by anyone, especially Janice. He roams the empty streets alone, forming a resolution in his mind. At last he comes upon the hospital. He goes up to see the bandaged and unconscious Kid, and vows to make things right by the Universe, correct once and for all, all his wrongs.

The next morning in the gym, Guy appears, drunk. He tells Doc to set up the match between him and The Monster. Doc and the gym’s owner Puggy urge him to reconsider but he refuses. The match is set, much to the delight of the well-tailored mobster who sees in The Monster a sure-win.

The town now is abuzz with activity. Will Guy really face The Monster, a man he seems clearly outmatched by in every regard? Janice is worried sick and Guy refuses to let her into his heart. “It’s time for the dues to be collected,” he tells her fatalistically and then stumbles off.

Janice goes to see Lenny who, it turns out, has made a sizable wager regarding the fight. She turns to him for advice, but he has now grown wildly full of himself. “Soon I’ll be rich, darling,” he tells her. “I’m looking to invest and your father’s diner seems a prime investment.” She looks at him as he continues. “I’d hate to see it razed to the ground to make room for a parking lot.” And now, finally, Janice realizes the evil that Lenny embodies and she’s filled with regret that she ever let him weasel himself into the mind of someone as pure and noble as Guy. “What did you do to him?” she asks accusingly, but Lenny only looks at her and smiles.

Back at the bar, Lenny enjoys a drink and then pays his tab and leaves, just as Delores comes in looking for him. She finds his empty barstool, and beside it, his journal. She picks it up, and is driven by curiosity to glance in it. Something catches her eye. She looks up, desperate to find the one person who can make sense of it, but that person isn’t there. Delores races out, notebook in hand.

Janice is upstairs in her office above the gallery, crying, head in hands. An urgent knock at the door below. Janice finds Delores waiting, her arms wrapped around Lenny’s forgotten diary. Back in her office, Delores paces as Janice puts the pieces together. Something occurs to Janice. She quickly scrambles for the phone book and then dials a number. “SMITHFIELD 1 4 7,” she says. “It’s urgent.” Delores’s eyes widen as she struggles to comprehend. Janice looks up and their eyes lock. She’s definitely onto something...

But, unfortunately, the night of the big fight has arrived...

The auditorium is packed. In the center, a boxing ring. Doc is giving Guy, suited up in gloves and boxing shorts, one last appeal to beg off, but Guy will hear none of it. He looks like he’s standing on shaky legs. In the other corner, The Monster looms threateningly, and his corner is brimming with confidence.

The bell sounds. Guy stands up, and can’t help but look around the room for Janice who isn’t there. He faces The Monster and the horrible beating begins…

Janice waits impatiently at a bus stop for someone to disembark the bus. She’s a nervous wreck. Over loud speakers nearby, announcers describe in bone-crushing detail the lopsided beating Guy endures. “This is horrible! Someone should put an end to this fight! But Guy Hawkins won’t let his trainer intervene!”

Ringside, Lenny sits next to the mobster in the fine tailored suit, an evil smile upon his lips as he witnesses the beating of his life-long nemesis. Soon, Janice will be his, even if he has to blackmail her into his bed.

And now the doors of the arena burst open and Janice comes racing in, with a man in a trenchcoat in tow. Everyone turns to look at the commotion. She fights her way next to the ring and calls out Guy’s name as he sits gasping on his stool, a bloody pulp, waiting for the bell to ring, announcing the start of the next round. Guy, his eyes barely able to open, turns and looks at Janice. She urges him, “Look Darling, Look who I brought!” His eyes travel slowly over to the man in the trenchcoat and his heart skips a beat.

It’s Tony, the gunner from the plane!

“Your detective found him,” she desperately pleads. “He’s alive and living with his parents upstate. She turns and points a finger of hate at Lenny, who is witnessing the events with a startled expression. “It’s all in here,” she says, holding up the diary. But Guy is too dazed and too confused to make sense of it all and just then, the bell sounds and Guy struggles one last time to his feet.”

The young gunner rushes up to the ropes. “Don’t ya remember, Capt? You made us bail out and my strap got stuck. You pulled your pistol and fired. Don’t ya remember? You hit the strap, Capt! It was a million to one shot and you did it! You saved me!”

And now, we find ourselves back in Guy’s mind, back above the clouds over the south pacific, and Guy leaning out, aiming the pistol, taking careful aim and Tony giving him a nod, that nod that says, “I know you can do it!” And Guy firing, and the strap goes free and Tony is whisked away, in a motion that would’ve been impossible for Guy to tell the difference without knowing the truth, which is why his mind struggled for so long. And now everything comes back to Guy and he realizes he was wrong to blame himself. And he turns and looks at the towering mass of flesh facing him and he begins to strike, to strike with such ferocity The Monster doesn’t understand what’s happening. And the crowd is on its feet, and The Monster, having winded himself from eight rounds of constant pummeling to a man who refused to go down, who would rather die than give up, The Monster, he now finds himself against the ropes, struggling to protect his face, his torso, but it’s too late, because The Champ is back and pummeling him. Finally, Guy hauls back and hits The Monster with everything he’s got, and The Monster spins and hits the canvas hard. Knocked out cold!

And the crowd is on its feet and Guy, regaining his composure, looks down and sees Janice racing up to greet him and he wraps her in his arms as they embrace.

And ringside, a sullen and shocked Dr. Lenny Self looks down at his program and rips it up. Beside him is the unhappy gangster, whose disgusted look says it all.


THE END

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