S.L.I.F.F. Review: 'The Empire State Building Murders' - We Are Movie Geeks


S.L.I.F.F. Review: ‘The Empire State Building Murders’

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After watching William Karel’s film ‘The Empire State Building Murders’, you may just be asking yourself, “Where have all the great film noirs gone?” Â  Well, Karel answers that question pointedly. Â  They haven’t gone anywhere. Â  They are still there in all their black and white glory.

Karel’s film tells the story of the corruption that infested New York City in the 1930s and ’40s. Â  It tells of the criminals and innocents alike who came together in a wave of violence during that period. Â  It tells of the bad people of that time and the horrors they inflicted on the world and of the good people and how their hands were tied to stop it.

But, it’s not Karel’s story, along with co-writer, Jerome Charyn, that is so intriguing about ‘The Empire State Building Murders’. Â  It’s the way the director decided to tell his story that makes this better than the average film noir. Â  Being an avid fan of the cinema and the art of filmmaking, Karel decided that his story had already been told in the vastness of the great, age-old film noirs of yesterday.

In a nutshell, Karel took dozens of films, films that are among the greatest, and cut them up. Â  Clips using such notable actors as James Cagney, Kirk Douglas, Humphrey Bogart, Glenn Ford, and Lauren Bacall are used to tell Karel’s story. Â  He pieced together his own film by running clips from these other films next to one another, gluing his narrative together via voiceover narration.

Also  moving his own narrative along are the countless number of interviews he conducted with the actors that appear in these clips, actors such as Douglas, Ben Gazzara, and Mickey Rooney.

The film moves at a breakneck pace with clips shooting by left and right. Â  At times, it is easy to get lost within the mire of characters and events. Â  The who, what, when, and why of what is going on can often become bewildering, but, like any good film noir, Karel’s use of voiceover narration helps unravel much of the mystery.

Nonetheless, it is kind of jarring to see iconic clips used from very familiar films. Â  It takes you out of the film a time or two when you recognize what film Karel has lifted a particular clip from. Â  Luckily, the clips don’t stick around too long, and, before you know it, you’re on to the next clip.

It goes the same for the actors we see in those clips. Â  Bogart and Ford, in particular, are used for characters who are not in the story very long. Â  Since we don’t really have much devoted to these characters, it becomes a matter of playing the “Hey, it’s that guy” game whenever they pop up.

All of this aside, Karel has put together a very engaging film that utilizes an equally interesting and innovative form of filmmaking. Â  The story may not be so imaginative, and the way the film unfolds could probably have been handled a little more carefully, but ‘The Empire State Building Murders’ absolutely gets an A for effort. [Overall: 3.5 stars out of 5]

Festival Screening Date: Saturday, November 22nd @ 4 p.m. (Webster)


  1. Pingback: We Are Movie Geeks » 17th Annual St. Louis International Film Festival, Nov. 13-23

  2. louise

    September 4, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    Would like to purchase copy on dvd or video.

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