Oh those great old films of the 1960's are rediscovered as new films a born in the abyss of mediocrity. Even somewhat remote films like Jiri Weis' noir drama "90 Degrees in the Shade" demonstrates how vastly superior those great old films were.


Born in and working predominately in Bohemia (Czech and Hungary), it is only recently that his films have started creeping into the U.S. market as retrospect examinations in art houses and film schools. "90 Degrees in the Shade" with Anne Heywood, Rudolph Hrusinsky and British actor James Booth is a perfect example of the styles that influenced Hitchcock and so many other directors.

AQ seemingly simple story of a illicit romance between liquor store worker Alena (Heywood) and her boss Vorell (James Booth) during a time when an audit discovers a discrepancy in the number of bottles of cognac. On the case is the dog diligent inspector Kurka (Hrusinsky). Kurka, is a self-described wretched social reject whose own family life is in the crapper.


Alena is clearly tired of the married Vorell and his constant promises of leaving his wife, but she doesn't break it off with him either because she enjoys the sex he provides or because she enjoys his lifestyle. A lifestyle that has been afforded by pilfering cognac and replacing it with tea.


When it is about to be discovered by Kurkova, there is a semi frantic attempt to replace it, though Vorell is willing to through the low self-esteem Alena to the dogs to protect his own hide. Kurka can relate to Alena's lack of self worth and identifies with her, but perhaps not enough to alter his by-the-book mentality.


While the story is rather lame, the tension is built by Weiss by presenting Kurka in the shadowy mystique generally associated with Peter Lorre and Gert Frobe. Unfortunately, western sound and miking techniques were not used and recording was done by cramping cast members in tight circles to capture their voices. But even that is easy to overlook when appreciating the lighting.


It is amazing how well Eastern filmmakers mastered the noir genre and continued producing such films into the 1960s long after American film had moved away from dour mood of the genre.


"Ninety Degrees in the Shade" is not a great film, but is an excellent example of eastern European noir that demonstrates long forgotten lighting and set design techniques to make a mundane story more captivating.   -- GEOFF BURTON