Television Review

GIVEN THAT we're unlikely to have a white Christmas, we might as well go the whole hog and make it noir - something like that, I'd guess, was the thinking behind Fallen Angels (BBC2). This is an American series of half-hour dramas, based on short stories by acknowledged masters of the noir genre, which lurk in the shadows of the late-night schedules this week and next.

From the opening titles - black-and-white shots of lipsticks, expensive lingerie and nickel-plated revolvers nestling in dainty handbags, overlaid with a smoky theme by Elmer Bernstein - it's obvious that this will be a classy affair. The first part of last night's double-bill was a Mickey Spillane story, starring Bill Pullman and directed by John Dahl who, with The Last Seduction and Red Rock West, has established himself as the leading modern exponent of the classic film noir tradition. It was followed by Steven Soderbergh directing a story by David Goodis. Goodis is not such a big name, but he inspired a number of classic films, including Fran-cois Truffaut's Shoot the Pianist.

You may wonder, given the pedigree, why this series has been buried away so late at night. One answer is that the BBC never knows what to do with sharp American imports, which is why Seinfeld and Larry Sanders have bobbed in and out of the schedules for years, and why Buffy fans so often find themselves confronting unexpected treats like dressage from Munich.

Another reason might be that this is very dark material, offering crassly direct connections between sex and violence. In Tomorrow I Die, the Spillane tale, Pullman played a fresh-faced stranger stopping over in a one-horse town, and being taken hostage by fleeing bank-robbers. The pretty girl who was one of his fellow hostages, and had recognised him as a minor Hollywood star, was so struck by his heroic refusal to run when he had a chance to that she let him do anything he liked to her (and you got the distinct impression that what he liked was pretty much out of the mainstream). The twist was that he wasn't a Hollywood type but the typical Spillane hero who knows there's no percentage in a pretty face, a stone killer only sticking around for a shot at the loot and a chance to dispose of all the witnesses, girl included.

Goodis's Professional Man wrote sentiment out of sexual relations in an even bleaker fashion. The central figure was Johnny (Brendan Fraser), by day, an ace elevator-operator, never missing his floor; by night, a cold-hearted knife-man, never missing his mark. But his tight control over his life was threatened by his lover, Paul. When the local Mob boss (a slimy Peter Coyote), frustrated by Paul's indifference, put a contract out on him, Johnny carried it out with barely a whimper (though he did miss a couple of floors on his elevator shift). You were left uncertain as to whether Johnny resented having to do the deed, but felt impelled by profess- ional honour; or whether he was relieved at being able to blot out a disruptive factor.

The stories jar in a way that authentic film noir never dared, though at the same time, their impact is damped by the period detail: costume- drama emotion is never as abrasive. All the same, Fallen Angels is a terrific treat.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas carried Lady Edith over the flames in her bedroom in Downton Abbey series five

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

    Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

    ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
    Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

    Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

    Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
    'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

    The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

    Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
    BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

    BBC Television Centre

    A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
    Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

    My George!

    Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
    10 best rucksacks for backpackers

    Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

    Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world