The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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domino harvey
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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#576 Post by domino harvey » Wed Jun 10, 2015 2:19 pm

With TCM's summer event having already begun and many people are starting/continuing their noir watching, I've updated the first post with info about the Noir List Redux and the changes in voting, &c. Technically this list doesn't restart til next month, but since we always use the Genre List threads after the film to continue discussions of the genre and films seen, you should feel free to participate in the thread now if you wish, though again keep in mind more people will be focused on this particular genre starting next month when the Films of Faith List ends. I will not be accepting any spotlights for the first post or any personal lists until after July 22nd

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#577 Post by essrog » Wed Jun 10, 2015 4:38 pm

OK, this can't technically be labelled a spotlight because of the timing, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that Too Late for Tears plays at 8 p.m. ET on July 17 as part of TCM's Summer of Darkness (five days before the start of our project and new spotlight titles). It will be the Film Noir Foundation's restoration that screened in 2014, and which currently has no Blu-ray/DVD release (Flicker Alley will be putting one out, supposedly this year, but who knows if that will be before lists are due). In other words, this might be your only chance to see this film in its best possible condition for the purposes of this list. So watch it or set your DVR's. Long story short: It's noir told basically through the femme fatale's point of view (an amazing Lizabeth Scott); Dan Duryea oozes his way through the movie the same way he always does, yet still isn't the most dangerous, conniving character; and finally, if you need a contemporary connection, a Letterboxd review lays it out nicely -- "Gone Girl before Gone Girl."

Literally no one voted for this last time around (I didn't participate), so comfortable seating is still available on the bandwagon.

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#578 Post by domino harvey » Wed Jun 10, 2015 5:10 pm

Like a lot of PD titles, I put it off because the less than optimal elements moved it to the back of the viewing queue. I look forward to finally seeing it when it airs, thanks for the heads-up on the TCM broadcast.

In other good noir films no one voted for last time and damned to PD news, I recently watched HD Cinema Classics' the Red House Blu-ray and despite it being smoothed over to a hilariously overblown degree, the film's transfer doesn't suffer from the most obnoxious aspects of public domain titles (to me, at least): no dropped audio, unsteady camera gate scanning, or missing footage (other than maybe one or two split second missing frames). Considering some of the third gen VHS rips I've sat through, it looks like a Criterion release by comparison, even with the waxy delivery

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#579 Post by essrog » Wed Jun 10, 2015 5:19 pm

domino harvey wrote:Like a lot of PD titles, I put it off because the less than optimal elements moved it to the back of the list. I look forward to finally seeing it when it airs, thanks for the heads-up on the TCM broadcast.
Yeah, the only reason I've seen it is because it had fifth billing on a collection of PD noirs from Questar that I picked up in 2004 because of the other four films on it (Detour, The Stranger, D.O.A., and Scarlet Street). It was even listed by its 1955 re-release title -- Killer Bait. I had never heard of it under either title.

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#580 Post by domino harvey » Wed Jun 10, 2015 5:25 pm

I have two massive PD sets but I've never been able to get more than ten minutes into any film included without abandoning ship. Thank God for back-channels where TCM copies and versions captured from other countries (plus uploaders tinkering with the image quality when making their rips to correct some of the inherent problems [interlacing, &c]) help to fill in the blanks on things like Hollow Triumph that are just unwatchable in R1 for the time being

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#581 Post by domino harvey » Fri Jun 12, 2015 6:30 pm

Recent viewings:

City That Never Sleeps (John H Auer 1953) Narrated by Chicago itself, this noir unfolds over one long night as Gig Young's harried cop decides to go crooked for Edward Arnold (perfectly cast as the criminal lawyer who earns his title) with predictably unsuccessful results. Some interesting characters pepper this one, including William Talman's magician and one romantic interest who serves as a "mechanical man" in the window of a strip club.
SpoilerShow
This is probably the only noir film with the gall to actually drop an angel into the proceedings, and for good reason, but it's pretty obvious that Chill Wills' character is supposed to be supernatural given no mere mortal could be as unflappably upbeat and positive while still serving as a beat cop in Chicago, so at least the final reveal isn't too cheesy, only expected
the Lady Gambles (Michael Gordon 1949) Barbara Stanwyck develops the world's fastest gambling addiction in what could probably be better classified as a social problem picture, though its noir credentials are in better shape than a lot of other films bandied about more freely in the genre. The film is well-made and the frequent scenes of Stanwyck humiliating herself as she spirals downward are surprisingly unsympathetic to her rather pathetic and weak protagonist. There are some unnecessary and distracting attempts at explaining away her addiction and family drama dynamics present that only serve to cloud the good done here, but overall Stanwyck's ballsy performance (she is introduced by getting punched in the face in a back alley!) still makes it worthwhile

Madigan (Don Seigel 1968) I see some members of the board have lobbed some heavy praise at this movie, but I can only guess/hope that they've not seen it lately, because this late period detective film (which is only a noir if we call something like the French Connection a noir) is filmed like TV (though it's in unutilized 'Scope for no reason) with old school talents like Richard Widmark and Henry Fonda going through the motions in their respective quests to enact justice. A terrible score only frosts the dull and inadequate cake.

Man-Trap (Edmond O'Brien 1961) When this genre died with the popularity of TV, it did not go out peacefully. This is one of the more annoying entries in the last dying gasps of the genre, with unhappily married contractor Jeffrey Hunter offered beaucoup bucks in exchange for being the getaway man on an airport theft. The film peppers Hunter's life with obnoxious caricatures of the 50s' worst excesses, and any scene that makes the audience suffer through the antics of his drunken neighbors (who look to be one drink away from a key party at all times) makes one long for the temptation the fast forward button provides (or the stop button, for that matter). A dumb waste of time without a single thing to recommend about it, I'm not sure what the great actor O'Brien saw in this material and he certainly doesn't rise above it.

the Red House (Delmer Daves 1947) Wonderful teenage noir from the master of youthful emotional expression, this atmospheric, borderline horror film finds Edward G Robinson playing genial crippled uncle to wide-eyed Allene Roberts (in the Cathy O'Donnell role) who nevertheless tends to go ape at the mere mention of some neighboring woods. The film's best moments are when Robinson becomes truly unhinged (a nice warm-up to his best and most menacing performance in 1948's Key Largo) and Roberts must navigate interactions with an insane man. I've seen most of the movies Roberts has been in but I must admit she failed to leave much of an impression til now, however I think she does a good job of being called upon to look worryingly at increasingly dire developments. Beautiful finale and final exit for one character (in one of the best and visually creative deaths I've ever seen in a noir). Could make my new list.

Ruthless (Edgar G Ulmer 1948) Anti-capitalistic film that seems to anticipate the 50s' turn into commodity as community, this is a fairly pessimistic story of a social climber who is left with nothing once he reaches the top. I didn't get much out of this one other than thanking the lord for Sydney Greenstreet, who doesn't show up til the third act and singlehandedly steals the film and redirects it to his presence whenever he's on-screen. If we ever get around to compiling a masterlist of great performances in not great films, this merits strong consideration (Wilford Brimely in Absence of Malice and Bryce Dallas Howard in Hereafter are my go-tos and now Greenstreet can join the ranks). I also do not think it is even remotely a noir, though its bonafides are not much in question to others.

Suture (Scott McGehee and David Siegel 1993) A film with almost everything working in its favor, and yet two fundamental problems keep it from being truly great. Filmed in black and white 'Scope, this is a noir homage that by all markers appears to have been made by those who actually understand the genre on more than a surface level. I kept smiling and nodding my head as the film accurately plugged away and hit all its marks (especially when Sab Shimono's psychiatrist is on-screen). The basic story is deliciously pulpy: A rich man discovers his recently deceased father had another son out of wedlock and the newly discovered son, a common day-laborer, is a dead ringer for the rich man. The rich man then fakes his death by blowing up his brother. Only the brother survives, believes he has amnesia, and begins to "learn" to be the rich man, a guy who may or may not have killed his own father. It's a novel and juicy premise, and the movie has fun with it. But, like I said, there are two missteps in the conception of the film, one minor and one major.

Firstly, many of the affectations and stylistic choices are tied to the 50s and yet the film is set in then modern day, and this often creates a disconnect that doesn't need to be there (nothing in the film couldn't be done in another way to accommodate a period piece). The other problem is far more fatal: The rich man is a white man and the newly discovered brother is played by Dennis Haysbert, a black man with no shared physical characteristics. No one in the film ever notes that the two look different, and indeed everyone goes to great lengths to reinforce that the two are identical so that the audience gets the idea. But there is no reason for this, and I'm sure anyone reading this could conjure up countless ways how this decision may be read or interpreted, but the film has no ideas with regard to this provocation and anyone bringing meaning is doing the heavy lifting on their own. It's an empty and fruitless gimmick and what's especially frustrating is that the film doesn't need it. Suture is still worth seeing, especially for the scenes between Haysbert and Shimono (do a nice double feature with this and the Dark Past or the Snake Pit to see how perfectly the directors captured the spirit of this line of discourse in noir films), but it could have been more than a mere curiosity.

Vicki (Harry Horner 1953) Fox remakes I Wake Up Screaming with the b-team on-screen and off and the results are exactly as unnecessary as you'd suspect. This is an irritating film, cheaply made and poorly executed. If you really want to see this material again, just rewatch the original (which I don't hold as some unimpeachable classic, but it is in comparison to this)

I also picked up a bunch of books on film noir for summer reading (ah the perks of being a teacher, I have a couple months' worth of vacation coming up), I will try to weigh in on those in addition to viewings as I get to them!

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#582 Post by YnEoS » Sat Jun 13, 2015 10:08 pm

TCM Summer of Darkness Week 2

The quality of films for TCM’s second week of noir was really great, had a lot of fun watching all these. It appears the way this is programmed is that most of the films are shown chronologically to coincide with the class run by Richard L. Edwards. Then later on there will be a handful of films introduced by Eddie Muller that break from the chronology of the previous selections and sometimes have a theme of element that ties them together. Then there's one Neo Noir film shown late at night. Since I'm reviewing most of the films anyways I figure I'll include titles I skip (at present just the neo noirs and anything I've watched recently), so that people who are interested in how this is being curated don't have to look back at the website. I'll edit my previous post to this format as well.

1942-1946

The Glass Key (Stuart Heisler, 1942) – After a pretty exciting opening, I was initially thrown off by the number of characters in this and trying to figure out exactly what all their political/personal relationships to each other were. But as things got clearer, I got really sucked into the world and was quite happy with how everything finally tied together in the end.

Laura (Otto Preminger, 1944) – I really enjoyed the way this began with a murder investigation as a character study and gave us insight into the relationships between all the characters while maintaining a good mystery. Then I absolutely loved the twist that completely changed what kind of story this was going to be but still built off of everything in a logical way. Eventually though, my working memory gave up trying to hold onto who said they did what and were where, but the overall experience of the film was still quite satisfying and one of my favorites so far. The one part that seemed a bit off to me was development of the detective’s growing affection for Laura. I could understand how listening to lots of stories about a person and reading their private correspondences could lead one to that, but when it happened in the film I really didn’t seem like that had been previously established, maybe I missed something.

Ministry of Fear (Fritz Lang, 1944) – This is absolutely one of the most brilliantly surreal spy plots I’ve ever experienced, especially the opening scenes. As it goes on and we learn more of what’s happening it lost a little of the initial momentum for me, but it was still a great ride.

Murder my Sweet (Edward Dmytryck, 1944) – I’m not really sure how to verbalize any clear thoughts about what exactly happened in this movie, but I found this to be a really fun ride, lots of good intrigue, witty dialog, and interesting side characters.

Danger Signal (Robert Florey, 1945)
– This was a very simple movie and by a quick glance at a lot of reviews out there on the web possibly bland by most people’s standards. Though, I’m quite a fan of a story told plainly and well and I was with the movie pretty much the whole way. This script really gives Zachary Scott the chance to be his creepiest and we even see most of the movie from his perspective and are clued in on all his twisted scheming . I was just squirming waiting for all the characters to finally figure out what was going on. Part of me feels like maybe there’s not enough here to call this anything special, and yeah Mildred Pierce gives you a similar Zachary Scott character weaved into a much richer tapestry. But I really dug this movie.

Detour (Edgar G. Ulmer, 1945) – This was fantastic, wonderful build of tension. I think what works for me with this sort of doomed protagonist is that he was fairly reasonable and well meaning and it was more that everything that could possibly go wrong for him did, rather than him engineering his own downfall through a series of wild schemes. Every scene was just, nope… nope… nope… oh noooo…..

Johnny Angel (Edwin L. Marin, 1946)
– I was a bit surprised this film managed to tie itself together in the end. This started out with a unique setting and intriguing mystery but the middle section felt like nothing but delaying information without any interesting hooks or twists. Things eventually pick up at the end, when I was finally able to see why all this stuff was put here together in the same film, but it lost a lot of good will from me along the way.

Mildred pierce (Michael Curtiz , 1945)– Seen it a bunch, read the Bordwell essay a bunch, still great.

Deadline at Dawn (Harold Clurman, 1946) – This all takes place in one night and largely in the same location although there’s a bit of room for the characters to roam around the city. A young Navy sailor involved in a murder mystery is helped out by a girl he met at a taxi dance hall. The side characters soon become re-occurring characters and our two protagonists steadily pick up a whole group of people potentially connected to the murder until we’ve got a whole ensemble cast at the end. I suppose some other noirs spin a better intrigue, but the 'going through a single crazy night with a group of people' vibe of this film earned it a hell of a lot of good feelings from me.

King Brothers Productions

The Gangster (Gordon Wiles, 1947) – This was quite a treat, it follows a neurotic gangster who’s self-conscious about what everyone thinks about him and reacts by directly interrogating them on the motives behind any small interaction he has thereby just pushing everyone further away. There's also a wonderful scene of him on the beach in his usual ganster clothes that just perfectly sums up his character. In addition to this there’s a really great cast of side characters, and I love that the gangster confrontations basically boil down to some economic and logistical discussions (what do you think this is, 1929?). The protagonist is also very casual towards his position as the most terrifying gangster in the region, but when he goes into action he knows who to talk the talk. In the future I’ll probably have to some soul searching with this about what exactly makes a noir and how noir does a film have to be to make my list. This one didn’t really seem to hit the right mood til it’s finale, but its probably one of my favorite viewings for this project so far.

Gun Crazy (Joseph H. Lewis, 1950)
– I’ve seen this movie quite a few times for reasons I don’t understand, and despite its reputation it’s never really done much for me. It’s certainly well crafted, but once it goes into the steady decline I can’t really keep much interest in it. I don’t have any problems with this kind of story theoretically, but I feel like the least interesting parts are getting too much screen time here for my tastes.

Uncategorized

Tomorrow is Another Day (Felix Feist, 1951) – This had quite a few exceptionally well directed scenes. I didn’t know what a taxi dance hall was before today, and the taxi dance hall scene here really stood out against the more straightforward treatment in Deadline at Dawn. Though while having the buzzer sound every minute is a great dramatic device, I can’t imagine any real business constantly breaking the illusion of genuine human interaction that their service hinges on thriving for very long. I also really enjoyed how calmly everything was handled, how little actions got the characters caught up in bigger machinations, as well as how the threat of being chased wasn’t externally verified in the beginning, just established from their own reckoning. Lots of other memorable stuff to, like the whole opening and sneaking onto the car carrier (which then gives the main character a lift later). Yeah, good things here.

Nightmare Alley (Edmund Goulding, 1947) – Some parts of this were really difficult for me to watch, but overall this was pretty great. I have some difficulty with character taking big risks that ruin everything when they’re already doing so well, but I guess that’s the whole point and all and I shouldn’t quibble too much. Overall excellent, but yes, I still quibble.

Neo Noir

Night Moves (Arthur Penn, 1975) - unviewed
Last edited by YnEoS on Sun Jun 14, 2015 9:38 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#583 Post by domino harvey » Sun Jun 14, 2015 6:37 am

A far more impressive slate on TCM's part this time out (I've seen all but Danger Signal, Deadline at Dawn, and the Gangster). Lots of titles in that bunch guaranteed to place in my own Top 50. Tomorrow is Another Day was my last minute number one pick in the previous round and while it won't be number one again for me, it's still a lock for the Top 10. I love how the film recontextualizes its characters within a series of fluid noir tropes. If you like all the Taxi Dancing stuff, I strongly recommend the book the Taxi Dance Hall: A Sociological Study in Commercialized Recreation and City Life by Paul Goalby Cressey, which as the title suggests goes into the ins and outs of the process. It was written and released in the early 30s but just got reissued by one of the university presses.

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#584 Post by YnEoS » Sun Jun 14, 2015 9:37 am

domino harvey wrote:If you like all the Taxi Dancing stuff, I strongly recommend the book the Taxi Dance Hall: A Sociological Study in Commercialized Recreation and City Life by Paul Goalby Cressey, which as the title suggests goes into the ins and outs of the process. It was written and released in the early 30s but just got reissued by one of the university presses.
Thanks, I've been looking to get more social and historical context to supplement my film viewing beyond the quick glosses provided in film books, and this looks really great.

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#585 Post by domino harvey » Sun Jun 14, 2015 3:23 pm

There's a few more noirs with taxi dancers (Lured and Killer's Kiss off the top of my head) and some non-noir films about the subject as well, Sweet Charity being the best of the ones I've seen. There's also the Barbara Stanwyck pre-code flick Ten Cents a Dance, which was directed by Lionel Barrymore but isn't anything worth going out of your way to see (It's in one of the TCM Vault sets)

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#586 Post by YnEoS » Sun Jun 14, 2015 10:58 pm

domino harvey wrote:If you like all the Taxi Dancing stuff, I strongly recommend the book the Taxi Dance Hall: A Sociological Study in Commercialized Recreation and City Life by Paul Goalby Cressey, which as the title suggests goes into the ins and outs of the process. It was written and released in the early 30s but just got reissued by one of the university presses.
This might be getting a bit tangential, but kind of circles back. But by an interesting coincidence the author Paul Goalby Cressey just showed up in the current book I'm reading Inventing Film Studies in the chapter on the rise of media experts in the 1930s. Apparently he was one of the most important figures in the Payne Fund studies on the affects of movies on the behavior of children, and was doing research for an unpublished work that was going to be called Boys, Movies, and City Streets.

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#587 Post by domino harvey » Mon Jun 15, 2015 11:20 am

Making my way through the backlog

Bound (the Wachowski Brothers 1996) Another modern noir that relies too heavily on a gimmick, here with the central romantic pairing being two women. That's pearl-clutching on the level of exciting a thirteen year old boy, and the film's about as clever as a horny teenager. Precious dialog and too-cute camera set-ups can't hide the basic impetuses behind this film. Namely, it wants desperately to be a Coen Brothers film, it takes itself way too seriously despite the fact that everything about it is laughably self-important, and the plot hinges on characters doing the stupidest things over and over without any respect for the audience.

Columbus Circle (George Gallo 2012) Co-written by Kevin Pollak, who also has a supporting role as a helpful concierge, this film about an agoraphobic shut-in in a luxury high-rise who finds herself aiding and abetting an abuse victim who moves in across the hall toys with a few potentially intriguing notions before it reveals the actual con at work, which like every twist in this film is telegraphed, obvious, and yet somewhat nonsensical in practice. It doesn't help that the film is poorly directed, with too many shaky camera moves and crummy procedural TV visual stylings. Lightweight and painless, but also unnecessary.

Crashout (Lewis R Foster 1955) Tough and mean-spirited flick about six inmates who escape prison and gradually get picked off either by cops or each other as they make their way to a hidden stash of loot. The film gets softer as it progresses by unwisely painting one of the men with a kinder brush, but the film is stronger in the early passages when all of the characters are bad men and it looks like there will be no one to root for. I especially liked William Talman's religious fanatic, who is set up as being the kind voice of reason and then of course commits the most atrocities. The ending has one of the more obvious and unnecessary Code appeasement reshoot inclusions of the era, as one character's redemption is totally undermined by the necessities of punishment.

Cry Vengeance (Mark Stevens 1954) Ten minutes of material stretched to 84. Scarred wrongfully accused man tracks down those he believes set him up and killed his family. He ends up in Alaska. Everyone is dozy or annoying or both. Terrible direction. Lousy script. Cardboard acting. Awful in every way.

Hoodlum Empire (Joseph Kane 1952) Brian Donlevy and Claire Trevor top-line this film, but they barely appear in it. Instead we get a lot of flashbacks about criminal activities and spurned floozies and forced gambling and so on. A complete snooze, and even a last minute attempt to jolt the audience just comes off as desperate, as a friendly blind priest is toppled down an elevator shaft. "Oh how daring," said no one.

Palmetto (Volker Schlöndorff 1998) Tonally wonky and inspired more by 80s interpretations of noir than the real thing, this nevertheless has some component parts that work. Woody Harrelson plays one of the dumbest noir protagonists ever, and the film to its credit doesn't confuse his almost non-stop stream of mistakes and idiocies for anything other than what they are. It's no surprise that the source novel was called Just Another Sucker, because for a former reporter, Harrelson does everything wrong. The two female leads seem miscast and should have been switched: Elizabeth Shue plays the sexually voracious bad girl and Gina Gershon is the stay at home supportive good girl? Are you sure that's the choice you want to make here, movie? Though, to be fair, Shue overcompensates hilariously (intentionally so) by making her erotic come-ons so overblown and florid that at one point she mounts a wall and presents herself in a gloriously tasteless sequence that is one of the few moments the film really embraces its utter silliness. And the kidnapping plot at the heart of the film is dopey and predicated on Harrelson being as dumb as possible, which, based on the evidence, made it a safer bet than most convoluted noir plots!

Peeper (Peter Hyams 1975) Another self-aware noir pastiche, this one with an annoying ironic winking quality that kills any nascent charms it might have otherwise possessed. Set in 1947, the film is standard private detective boiler plate, with Michael Caine and Natalie Wood miscast as the wisecracking PI and the Bad Girl (poor Wood is especially in over her head) navigating a typically convoluted plot. The dialog is overwritten and not nearly as clever as it wishes it was, and it's not helped along by Caine playing it for laughs and not straight. A film with no purpose other than to remind one of better films they could be watching instead.

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#588 Post by YnEoS » Sun Jun 21, 2015 6:12 pm

TCM Summer of Darkness Week 3

This week was back to being more mixed quality and the good films were grouped together rather than evenly dispersed. This was a bit disappointing after last weeks near perfect lineup and having raised expectations made me disengage with some of the less interesting films so I didn't try and pick them apart as much as I'd usually like. I may be evaluating some a bit too harshly, so if anyone thinks I've too quickly glossed over what is actually a decent film worth considering, I might be willing to give some of these a second chance later.

1945-1947

Cornered (Edward Dmytryk, 1945) - Another Edward Dmytryk directed film starring Dick Powell, but a very different feel than Murder my Sweet. The beginning is very slow to develop and the hints that are unveiled weren't really enough to keep me engaged. There was an interesting scene in a subway later, but by then I'd mostly lost interest in the film, so I can't say how well it worked in context. This one I'd probably need to re-watch to give it a fair assessment.

Crack-Up (Irving Reis, 1946) - This one started up well enough and had an interesting twist later, but somewhere along the way I feel like it lost its footing a bit. The main character retracing his actions on the train made for a pretty compelling mystery, but lost a bit of momentum after that and the protagonist wasn't interesting enough to hold it up.

Gilda (Charles Vidor, 1946) - The solid direction here really stood out in this weeks lineup. All the scenes with the three main characters were endlessly absorbing, and the glances, hints at a deeper past, and repeatedly showing side characters built up lots of tension and expectations about future events in the film. The fact the backstory is never explained probably helped the narrative momentum a lot and wasn't essential, but being my first time watching the film I did feel a bit jarred initially in the change between Gilda and Ferrel's relationship. Otherwise, still really well put together especially giving the audience more information than the characters before the last section of film to raise the tension. Not exactly sure how I feel about the happy ending, I certainly would've wanted it to turn out well based on the beginning of the character relationships, but the cruelty between them just while earlier took away from that a bit.

The Big Sleep (Howard Hawks, 1946) - I actually watched this for the first time fairly recently as part of one my unsuccessful attempts to start getting ready for this list, before I found out about Summer of Darkness. This film is a lot of fun, but it stood out much more as an oddity viewing it in context with other films of the period. The construction is really strange, and a lot of the momentum of the film is carried by Bogart's performance and the several strange string of flirting scenes that happen in the beginning before the Bacall relationship really gets developing. There's definitely a lot of good craft here and the film is endlessly quotable, but I'm curious to watch the longer cut sometime and perhaps read the original source book.

The Killers (Robert Siodmak, 1946) - Really well made, really great flashback structure, love the way the end scene kind of trivializes everything that happened before.

Nobody lives forever (Jean Negulesco, 1946) - This is about a swindler who went to WWII and went straight to his old ways upon his return. Trying to a con a nice girl out of her millions, he falls in love and wants to go straight. Pretty simple set up, that probably screams for a tragic or at least bittersweet ending, but they go for the idealized happy ending anyway. What keeps it together is that the tension is quite nicely developed and when the character decides he wants to go straight and get married (and get rich anyways), the film puts enough obstacles in his way and takes the time to develop them that it doesn't feel too cheap or unearned. Maybe not as memorable as a lot of other noir films, but I think this was pretty well constructed and overall I enjoyed watching it.

Nocturne (Edwin L. Marin, 1946) - Ugh, another George Raft noir with the same director at the helm. Like with Johnny Angel this movie has some nice scenes in it and seems to be trying to do something, but there's just absolutely no plot momentum here.

Crossfire (Edward Dmytyk, 1947) - There was a lot of good stuff in this movie overall. I think once Robert Ryan gets outed as an anti-Semite, even though there's some good tension, it kind of loses its connection with the first half of the film. I thought Gloria Grahame as Ginny Tremaine and Paul Kelly as Mr. Tremaine were the more interesting parts of the movie, but alas, the whole movie isn't about them.

Cinematography by John Alton

Hollow Triumph (Steve Sekely, 1948) - Great looking cinematography, and really wickedly fun plot filled with impossible coincidences and delicious irony. By the end I felt like I really wanted this to be a masterpiece, but I just wasn't that involved with the main character of the film, so the ending didn't have quite as much force as I felt it could've achieved.

Mystery Street (John Sturges, 1950)- Eddie Muller introduced this as more of a police procedural with John Alton's lighting than a film noir. Yup.

Border incident (Anthony Mann, 1949) - Lots of really great tension built up here, and was not at all expecting how dark it was going to get at certain points. Pretty sturdy film.

The People Against O'Hara (John Sturges, 1951) - This starts out much more as a courtroom drama where Spencer Tracy is defending an innocent man for murder but his old age and personal issues are interfering with his ability to put up a good defense. It doesn't really show its noir roots til the very end, but its a really well done and fitting way to close up the film. Great seeing Alton's cinematography on a bigger budget film too.

Neo Noir

Get Carter (Mike Hodges, 1971) - unviewed

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#589 Post by domino harvey » Fri Jun 26, 2015 4:05 pm

Blood and Wine (Bob Rafelson 1997) Modestly engaging modern noir with Jack Nicholson's lumpy wine dealer unwisely attaching himself to unstable thief Michael Caine (who steals the movie as well) in their admirably stupid theft of a million-dollar necklace from one of Nicholson's clients. The film is too busy with characters that only complicate the narrative without adding much in the long-run (see: every scene with Jennifer Lopez' character) and anytime Caine's not on-screen the film suffers, but overall this was a decent enough way to pass a hundred minutes.

Cover Up (Alfred E Green 1949) Another Christmas-set noir? I'm eagerly waiting a future Christmas day some TCM programmer decides to lose their job and schedules this and I, the Jury, Lady in the Lake, and Blast of Silence for a feel bad holiday block. This tale of a tenacious insurance claim investigator who stumbles onto a town full of people insisting an obvious murder was in fact a suicide is thinly stretched, and no matter how many excuses the movie makes for its protagonist, his quest to prove that the insurance company would go out of their way to pay double for this being a murder is too far beyond belief. And then there's the ending reveal, which is either a cheap shot or kind of brilliant in terms of how it undermines the Code while still technically following it. The only saving grace here is William Bendix as a laconic police chief who doesn't mind looking guilty because he's two steps ahead of everyone else the entire time regardless.

Cry of the City (Robert Siodmak 1948) After putting this off over the years in wait for the promised Criterion release that now seems forever MIA, my initial response to this film was disappointment. It starts undramatically in a hospital ward and stays there for the first twenty minutes. The film seems to be missing a first act and everything is unnecessarily stage-bound. But then the film expands and grows stranger, amorphous in shape and trajectory. Bravura sequences start to stack up, built on peculiar characterizations and outlandish situations: A prison break that stops and starts with frustration; a gunshot treatment involving a back and forth between a parked car and a bar (featuring a young Shelley Winters as Richard Conte's backup moll); and in the film's best sequence, an imposing massage therapist played with great gusto by Hope Emerson both comforts and intimidates Conte's injured criminal. The film is ocassionally too moralistic courtesy of detective Victor Mature's incessant sermonizing, but also dark and weird and outlandish and often unpredictable in its journey through the dark city. So, get off your duff, Criterion!

Ivy (Sam Wood 1947) Joan Fontaine never looked lovelier than she does in this period noir, and so it's only fitting that the central plot here concerns several men resigning themselves to their own doom in exchange for even a glimmer of her affection. Fontaine's bald social climbing and furtive looks in the first act are the highlight of the film, and the histrionics of her treachery in the second are well-overplayed by Wood (here in the twilight of his career), but the movie sadly falls apart in the third act as guilt and paranoia eat Fontaine alive, slowly, and with dirge-y musical accompaniment. It's in good company, as a lot of noirs fall apart in their third acts. I still recommend the film if you can find it, but be aware that it turns into a procedural after hinting at being something more, and the film mistakenly wants to punish Fontaine via the laborious investigation subplot far more than the audience does.

Married Life (Ira Sachs 2008) Handsome adaptation of a pulp novel concerning a meek married man who can't bear to burden his wife with the ache of leaving her for his mistress, so he reasons poisoning her is the more humane act for all involved. Complications ensue. The film is classic noir set up and yet, oddly, director Ira Sachs portrays everything through a glossy sheen of melodrama more befitting a Sirk tribute than a Siodmak. I don't think this is necessarily a problem out of hand, as noirs were considered and labeled "crime melodramas" during their initial run, but Sachs makes the mistake of caring about his characters and as a result he refuses to punish them properly. Chris Cooper and Rachel McAdams are fine as the husband and mistress, though Patricia Clarkson is miscast as the devoted wife. It's Pierce Brosnan who really shines here, though, playing the intermediary figure who withholds key information and takes one look at McAdams' bottle blonde and decides she shouldn't be wasted on his sad sack pal. Brosnan is fun as far as the film lets him be a genial dick, but as mentioned, the last ten minutes of this movie are a colossal miscalculation. The Blu-ray helpfully showcases three alternate endings (though all are variations on the same idea), and while the alternate gets closer to the fatalistic noir ending this material demands, none work.

Curious, I learned an episode of the Alfred Hitchcock Hour had adapted the same source novel in 1962 as "the Tender Poisoner," with Dan Dailey and Jan Sterling as the husband and wife. Would a more outwardly "noir" take on the material help? While watching the fairly mediocre teleplay I thought not so much… until the conclusion, when the TV show delivered exactly the right ending to the whole affair, set up beautifully from all the component parts already present in both adaptations. It's such a natural and satisfying conclusion to the action that of course it features one of Hitchcock as host's great mea culpas at the end, "I love that ending. Of course, I must tell you that it didn't actually happen like that…" so as to excuse the perfectly cruel and just end (as was the norm on the series).

the Mask of Dimitrios (Jean Negulesco 1944) An interesting example of how films that build up a largely unseen character as being particularly brilliant or intimidating or whatever can shoot themselves in the foot if what they deliver fails to meet the hype. Here, I'm afraid, everything works except the flashback "villainy," all of which is barely nefarious. Peter Lorre plays a mystery writer who takes great interest in a corpse that washes ashore and his curiosity leads him on a journey through Europe on the hunt for clues and answers, all of which seem to only be meted out in terse half-explanations. There's a lot of fun in the passages where Lorre and the audience has no idea what's happening, but once the alleged dastardly acts of the titular figure are unmasked, they are underwhelming at best. Oh no, he stole a thousand francs from a stripper. Oh heavens, he conned a government employee into stealing a map. What a devil!!! Sydney Greenstreet is great fun, as he often is, as a blackmailer who is too gleefully cocksure to ever live to see his machinations pay off, and the scenes with Lorre and Greenstreet are almost enough to recommend the film. But ultimately this one just doesn't quite pull it off.

the Mob (Robert Parrish 1951) Fun noir about undercover cop Broderick Crawford infiltrating a crooked union and the gangsters who run it. The film is at its most entertaining when Crawford is given license to act like a complete jerk so as to attract the attention of the heavies. Ignoring all manners and decorum, Crawford's boorish antics are a hoot and I regretted that we soon had to have him uphold the law rather than continue being a dick to even those he befriends. There's some nice crackling dialogue here and there and the film boasts an interesting finale involving some antiquated period tracing techniques that are of course quickly circumvented by external forces.

Nocturne (Edwin L Marin 1946) Wonderfully snappy little bit of nothing, with George Raft chasing down a series of "Dolores" who may have killed a promiscuous musician. The movie tries a little too hard with its hardboiled dialog, but it's all in good fun. YnEoS, if you disliked this and Johnny Angel, I shudder to think of how you'd respond to actual Raft dreck like A Bullet for Joey!

the Yards (James Gray 2000) Methodically-paced study in losing, as characters pitching out of their weight class continually find the world striking back. This is another of Gray's wonderful film studies of New York, and the movie has a graceful sadness in how it relays its story in simple, bare terms. Be aware that the American Blu-ray releases are cropped from 'Scope to 1.78, but the French/German StudioCanal Blu-ray has removable subs and is in the proper aspect ratio for both cuts of the film.

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#590 Post by YnEoS » Fri Jun 26, 2015 7:54 pm

domino harvey wrote:Nocturne (Edwin L Marin 1946) Wonderfully snappy little bit of nothing, with George Raft chasing down a series of "Dolores" who may have killed a promiscuous musician. The movie tries a little too hard with its hardboiled dialog, but it's all in good fun. YnEoS, if you disliked this and Johnny Angel, I shudder to think of how you'd respond to actual Raft dreck like A Bullet for Joey!
Don't tempt me!

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#591 Post by domino harvey » Sun Jun 28, 2015 11:36 am

Christmas Holiday (Robert Siodmak 1944) This mishmash could qualify for at least four of our genre lists-- is it a musical? A war film? A religious film? A noir? The answer does not matter, as it is not good enough to merit inclusion on any list in any category. Deanna Durbin, frowsy as ever, tries to go against type as the self-prostituting lounge singer punishing herself to answer for her jailbird husband's crimes. Gene Kelly in an early non-musical role as her convict spouse is as hammy as ever, and everyone else in the film fails to register at all. The plot unfolds in weirdly organized non-chronological flashbacks, unnecessarily so, with perhaps the idea being that by throwing so many wrenches into a straight-forward telling the audience wouldn't notice that they don't care. Not quite.

City Across the River (Maxwell Shane 1949) Dead End Boys-esque social problem pic with a poor Brooklyn youth spiraling out into a life of crime-- or, more correctly, a life of being present while crime occurs. The film opens with some rare second person narration ("You live in Brooklyn"-- more chilling then than now) and we follow the youth as he acts surly and makes mistakes. The film is filled with colorful teen toughs, including Tony Curtis and Richard Jaeckel in early roles, and I was more entertained than I expected, probably because the film does go to some lengths to paint our protagonist as a dick and then still ask us to care about him as a human being stuck in a bad situation. Pretty good as far as these kind of cheapo kiddie gang pics go.

Conflict (Curtis Bernhardt 1945) Humphrey Bogart, sick of being henpecked by his wife about his infatuation with her sister, kills her while providing himself with a clever alibi. However, it appears that his wife may not have died, as evidence of his crime begins to haunt his day to day life. This is a weird film and the explanation for what's happening is ludicrous, but I liked a lot of the early passages where Bogart is berated by his shrewish wife who will never grant him a divorce, and Bogart's assumption that the object of his affection must love him back is a nice and cruel touch. But ultimately it's a bit too silly to withstand even the slightest examination.

Fallen Angels: the Frightening Frammis (Tom Cruise 1993) Tom Cruise made his (thankfully) only foray behind the camera with this Jim Thompson adaptation. Cruise has no idea what he's doing and so the actors are all left to their own devices, which means they all go big. The result is noise, constant and unwavering. A horrendous mess. I pray none of the remaining Fallen Angels episodes ever reach this entry's lows.

Fallen Angels: Murder Obliquely (Alfonso Cuaron 1993) Laura Dern provides a welcome female narrator in this Cornell Woolrich adaptation, single-mindedly pursuing her male target regardless of whether or why he's interested. Lensed by Emmanuel Lubezki, Cuaron gets how tone worked in these kind of pieces, and doesn't try to be clever or superior and as a result delivers something proudly functional in the tradition it's aping. Recommended.

Fallen Angels: Since I Don't Have You (Jonathan Kaplan 1993) Annoying take on a James Ellroy short story with the author's usual mix of fictional and real-life characters, as Gary Busey acts as errand boy for MIckey Cohen and Howard Hughes sent by both to deliver the same girl. Too crowded and yet no one included in this full house of gunsels and ingenues is of much interest as presented.

I Died a Thousand Times (Stuart Heisler 1955) Color Cinemascope remake of High Sierra, ie something literally no one asked for. Not that anything really works in this overlong mess, but Jack Palance is sorely miscast in the Bogart role here. Palance is unparalleled at inhabiting roles of imposition and menace, lending a lean physical threat to his mere presence. But he lacks Bogart's ability and willingness to appear pathetic (as evidenced not just in High Sierra but also in this round's Conflict), and so the whole doomed infatuation with the crippled girl plays out inertly as Palance just stands there as his crush lobs dismissals across the plate.

I Walk Alone (Byron Haskin 1948) Burt Lancaster gets out of prison after taking a murder rap for his bootlegging buddy Kirk Douglas, but once he's sprung he learns his old pal has stiffed him on a promised investment in his now successful nightclub. Lancaster is great in another early noir role as the unsympathetic protagonist, who's short-tempered and hot-headed (even for Lancaster!) and sorely one step behind the simple economics of the situation he's trying to muscle himself into. The film's best scene finds Lancaster storming into the nightclub with a gang of hired guns to force Douglas into signing over half of the operation, only to have accountant Wendell Corey slowly explain the convoluted strands of multiple incorporated holdings that actually stake the business. It's a bizarre and wonderfully bitter scene and it's worth watching for on its own. But the film as a whole is good entertainment, if a bit hackneyed as it rounds the corner in the last act. Lizabeth Scott is also on hand to quickly fall in love with Lancaster over the course of the least-romantic dinner ever filmed.

Night Has a Thousand Eyes (John Farrow 1948) Melancholy borderline-horror film concerning phony vaudeville psychic Edward G Robinson who miraculously develops the skills he'd long been faking, only to learn that seeing the future brings with it a morose responsibility for the ills it delivers. The second half of the film, with skeptical police detective William Damarest doing his best to stay doubtful as Robinson attempts to save the life of his ex-fiancee's daughter via a series of random signals that naturally begin to transpire, is predictable but also infused with a sad inevitable drive forward, ending with one of the more touchingly downbeat endings I've seen from this genre. Recommended.

Nightmare (Maxwell Shane 1956) Silly Cornell Woolrich adaptation concerning a man who dreams a murder he may or may not have committed. The man's skeptical police detective brother in law Edward G Robinson is pretty sure the guy's lying about the dream and just isn''t man enough to admit what he'd done, and the rest is contrivance after contrivance. This is filmed like your garden variety TV playhouse and is something of a chore to sit through, even after the absurd revelation explaining the situation comes to light.

They Won't Believe Me (Irving Pichel 1947) Philanderer Robert Young cheats on his rich wife with both Jane Greer and Susan Hayward and then, through a series of unfortunate events, finds himself misidentifying a dead body of one of his mistresses as his wife, only to come across his wife's actual corpse shortly thereafter. I know this is a genre built on contrived plot machinations, but this was all too much, especially when the unlikely and hilariously misguided ending occurs. Some interesting notions of what a court case looks like too! The version I watched runs about eleven minutes longer than the American re-cut version that airs on TCM, but I don't think the basic material would work regardless of edits. That said, I was intrigued by one of the alcoholic drinks Young and Greer share, a Saturday Special. Nothing will ever replace Polynesian Pearl Divers in my heart as the greatest beverage found in a noir, but these at least capture my imagination, as I have no clue what the hell is going on:

Image

Is the drink served in an upturned can of Crisco? A literally frosted mug? The unanswered question of this house specialty proved far more captivating than any other mysteries found elsewhere in the film!

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#592 Post by YnEoS » Tue Jun 30, 2015 12:05 am

TCM Summer of Darkness Week 4

I guess for some reason I felt this was a pretty strong lineup despite a number of weaker films in the mix. Maybe that was cause there were quite a few excellent films this week, most of them with Robert Ryan playing the lead.

1946-1949

The Postman Always Rings Twice (Tay Garnett, 1946) - I think the plot here worked better for me than the similar one in Double Indemnity, a movie I love for the characters and dialog, but about which I have my usual hangups of noir plotting. This one I had no doubt how it was going to end up, but it seemed to keep things shifting around enough that it never really bothered me. Lots of really great direction here to, especially some of the business in be beginning with the hamburger and burning the man wanted sign.

They Won't Believe Me (Irving Pichel, 1947) - Domino already highlighted most of the key points with this. Aside from the surreal drink placement in the beginning the main character here isn't really likable nor enjoyably despicable enough for me to worry about him and once one of the dumber noir plotlines rears its head there's just not much left here until...
SpoilerShow
Not only does he suddenly try to jump out the window seconds before hearing the verdict and after spending the last hour or so sitting the courtroom calmly explaining what happened. But apparently the standard procedure for stopping someone from jumping out the window to their death is to just shoot them. I guess maybe you don't want them falling on someone, but sheesh make some attempt to get their leg or arm maybe.
The Woman On The Beach (Jean Renoir, 1947) - Another example of me going in completely blind to any sort of studio tampering and just absolutely loving a film. Perhaps it lost me a bit towards the end, possibly just because I'm not sure what could've appropriately paid off my expectations after all that wonderful atmosphere and tension. I'm still not completely clear on what was changed, so maybe that would explain how it would've been even greater, but overall I was fine with what was here.

Lady in the Lake (Robert Montgomery, 1947) - I feel like with these POV style noirs I'm losing a lot more than I gain. I think the idea of a camera following a character's POV sounds more appealing than it is in practice, since there's quite a lot difference between being somewhere and being at someone else's eye level while listening to them talk. Mostly what results is it limits the pacing and choice in camera angle and just feels like the main character is missing. That makes a bit more sense in Dark Passage, but only hurts here. Plus I didn't find the whole mystery or characters here particularly engaging and a lot of the dialog didn't hold up very well. The style did give the movie a kind of cool amusement park ride vibe that I liked, but there wasn't enough to really sustain my interest though film.

Out of the past (Jacques Tourneur, 1947) - An old favorite that continues to hold up, perhaps mostly because I only ever remember the characters and always forget exactly how the intrigue plays out, so its always both very familiar and feels very fresh and new. Does anyone dislike this movie?

Possessed (Curtis Bernhardt, 1947) - Despite the kind of cool opening, I didn't really enjoy Joan Crawford as a more crazy possessive character, and neither of the guys in this film were particularly interesting to watch. The storytelling here seemed alright I just wasn't too keen on the story they were telling.

Act of Violence (Fred Zinnemann, 1948) - Well, this was really excellent. I liked the way they sort of hinted at the conflict between the Van Heflin and Robert Ryan's characters without ever feeling completely comfortable on who's side you should be on. And I thought it did quite a good job of weaving side characters into what was ultimately a fairly straightforward build to final confrontation. There were numerous points where the theme of the movie could've been oversimplified, but I like that they kept walking the line where Van Heflin's character was never completely likable, but still understandable.

The Set-Up (Robert Wise, 1949) - Oh wow, this was just a wonderful thing. Really great camerawork right off the bat and I love the one night one setting restriction so much. Really did a great job of going through the night step by step, taking its time and not rushing through things, but keeping the momentum going with a lot of interest in the details. Stuff like making such memorable audience characters, makes it really easy to keep following the story despite the more deliberate and methodical pacing.

Set in Europe/Nazis

The Mask of Dimitrios (Jean Negulesco, 1944) - I was really excited for Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, and Zachary Scott to take on the lead roles in this, but the end result didn't live up to my anticipation. The plot was interesting enough, and I enjoyed Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet's half of the narrative. Maybe I'm just spoiled by The Maltese Falcon but I expected better dialog, or maybe it just helps to have Bogart and Elisha Cook Jr around. This is my first time seeing Zachary Scott in a role where he wasn't seducing someone's teenage daughter or little sister, and he was not as fun to watch. I thought it was a fairly likable film though.

Berlin Express (Jacques Tourneur, 1948) - This was pretty enjoyable story with a few bumps along the way. The main thing it seemed to having to stand out was being filmed abroad with characters of various nationalities speaking different languages. But the banter about the characteristics of different nations and how were they supposed to cooperate usually just slowed things down a bit. The end reveal shot is really fantastic, though they kind of kill the effect by overly hinting and setting it up it right before. Still it was fairly unique film and very likable.

The Stranger (Orson Welles, 1946) - I really liked this when I first watched it years ago, this time it didn't hold up quite as well. When a film like this lays its cards on the table so early on its got to be pretty good at building tension and presenting an enjoyably dastardly character on screen. This one kind of does, but a lot of scenes didn't feel like that had enough momentum given how much information we already know in advance.

The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1949) - unviewed

Neo Noir

Point Blank (John Boorman, 1967) - unviewed

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#593 Post by domino harvey » Tue Jun 30, 2015 12:42 am

Lots of greats this round, I agree (I've seen all but Berlin Express)

The Postman Always Rings Twice is the be all end all of the "Lovers scheme to off a husband" noirs, and even with the changes from the novel it just gets better with every rewatch. I think the same is true of the Set Up, which I only thought was okay initially but after teaching it a few times I've really grown to appreciate it-- I especially love that the villain is named "Little Boy," because the more silly a gangster's name is, the more serious a threat you know that guy is going to be to be able to maintain his cred! Lady in the Lake is the inverse of this, where the more I see it, the less I like it, though I will still sort of defend it if prompted. Fun fact: the blonde secretary Montgomery leers at near the beginning of the film is Lila Leeds, the girl Robert Mitchum got caught smoking dope with:

Image

Mitchum had good taste! She even made a film exploiting her arrest (after Mitchum's continued popularity showed the public was willing to follow him post-prison) with one of my favorite titles ever: She Shoulda Said No!

Out of the Past is pretty much the one stop shop of a film you can show someone to explain what "film noir" is and why it's so great, and while I'm sure someone read your cue and just can't wait to chime in that we're all sheeple, I think it's a film like North by Northwest, where even if it isn't true that everyone likes it, I don't want the illusion shattered! And yes, the Woman on the Beach is great-- a simple truth of classic era Hollywood is that studio meddling saved far more films than it ruined, and as is this is a wonderful little number. It made my list last time and while I've already dropped it from my preliminary reculling for the second round, I still can second a recommendation.

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#594 Post by A » Tue Jun 30, 2015 9:45 pm

Have read the first post and browsed a bit through the thread but didn't find what I was looking for, so I'll just ask: Is there an official cut-off date for this project regarding noir films from early decades of cinema (like silent noir and stuff)? I'm just asking, cause something like Fritz Lang's YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE (1937) is for me as (typically) noir as a film can get, but I guess it isn't widely considered noir because of the 'period' restrictions some like to put on this genre (like "only US stuff from 1940 to 1955, or stuff of that kind).

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#595 Post by david hare » Tue Jun 30, 2015 10:22 pm

Surprised, in fact amazed to see how low (the other) DH rates Christmas Holiday.

I would counter that all those narrative background elements, especially the musical numbers are both germane to wartime and intrinsically Siodmakian. And I well imagine someone like Bunuel cackling with laughter at the sheer blasphemous audacity of Durbin's big Midnight Mass Breakdown scene in the Cathedral for which Siodmak cranes up the mise en scene to a god's eye overhead view at the climax of the Kyrie Eleison. I can imagine no more perilously close a moment to blasphemy in any other conventional Hollywood movie. And given even wartime Code super uptightness about homosexuality (cant encourage the boys in the forces) the job he does with Kelly on both the queer and the oedipal psycho text from Maugham's novel is deftly handled, and indeed played by Kelly who surely shows his nasty side in this, not just the predominant egoism of his musical persona. He doesn't get this dark again until It's always Fair Weather.

As I consider Siodmak perhaps the outright and definitive master of Noir as a near-genre I would personally rate this amongst his four best, in no order: Criss Cross, Phantom Lady and Uncle Harry, and I rate it higher than The Killers (a Hellinger dominated production but flawless on its own production terms) or Spiral Staircase. I would have though it there's one "sloppy" Siodmak Noir/sub Noir it's probably Thelma Jordan.

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#596 Post by domino harvey » Tue Jun 30, 2015 10:37 pm

A, there is no cut-off on the other side of 1970, so any "early" films you feel qualify as noir are eligible for the list.

DH to DH: I completely forgot the File on Thelma Jordan even was a Siodmak pic! It's def also at the bottom of my own Siodmak noir consideration, so on that we can at least agree

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#597 Post by domino harvey » Wed Jul 01, 2015 9:38 am

A Woman's Vengeance (Zoltan Korda 1948) Charles Boyer is married to a sickly woman who is staying alive just to spite him (her words), and so it doesn't look great for him when she finally dies under mysterious circumstances and he immediately marries eighteen-year-old Ann Blyth, much to the chagrin of Jessica Tandy, who has a mad crush on Boyer and went through the trouble of murdering his wife so they could be together. An overwrought and excessively talky melodrama adapted by Aldous Huxley from his own short story, this nevertheless has some things going for it despite its obvious self-imposed seriousness, namely Russell Metty's gorgeous use of shadows and darkness. Tandy's good here too, though the script invariably has her prattling on incessantly like everyone else in the film.

the Big Frame AKA the Lost Hours (David MacDonald 1954) Brit noir with American loan-out Mark Stevens finding himself drugged and framed for the murder of a man he publicly fought with the night before. Standard issue paint by the numbers noir, with a twist so obvious that if you were surprised, I congratulate you on seeing your first film (and console you that it's this). That said, this was painless enough as far as meek Brit noirs go.

Blackout AKA Murder by Proxy (Terence Fisher 1954) Boozed out schlub is approached in a bar by a beautiful blonde who offers to pay him 500 pounds to marry her. The man wakes up the next morning in a strange apartment and learns that the girl's dad has been murdered and the girl missing. An enjoyably outlandish set-up and the follow-through mostly works. Like a lot of these Brit noirs with contracted out American actors in the lead, it can't help but feel like a pale imitation of the American antecedents, but this is on the higher end of the trend.

the Bribe (Robert Z Leonard 1949) Robert Zzzzzzzzzzzz Leonard does his namesake proud with this tedious island noir. The finale involving a shootout in the midst of active fireworks is nicely done, but otherwise this is laborious stuff that I could barely be compelled to watch.

Convicted (Henry Levin 1950) Here it is, the least likely prison movie ever made. Once Glenn Ford's prisoner (who's in for murder) gets to escort the warden's daughter out in civilian clothes as a chauffeur on a regular basis, I gave up trying to work against the film's hilarious ideas of the big house and just let the silly details wash over me. Millard Mitchell is enjoyable, as he often is, as a fellow inmate with a grudge who almost as inexplicably was supposedly a superior manservant on the outside. This movie's kind of incredible-- just not the way one usually uses that word.

Cornered (Edward Dmytryk 1945) Well-regarded by some, this return pairing of Dick Powell and Edward Dmytryk left me even colder than the overrated Murder, My Sweet. Powell does a poor job of presenting conflicting emotions as the avenging protagonist who is tough but also weepy and morose. I usually like Powell, but he's a mess here. And he's in good company, as this is another foreign intrigue noir that isn't nearly as interesting as it wishes. Walter Slezak provides some mild diversion as a duplicitous travel guide, but otherwise I just counted down to the ending here.

Fallen Angels: Dead End for Delia (Phil Joanou 1993) Gary Oldman unreined never turns out well, as clearly evidenced by this godawful entry in what is already a TV series which, unlike the noir films and literature it apes, yields few positive returns on the whole. Oldman's cop goes searching for answers on who killed his wife, even though it's obvious who did it almost immediately. Total lack of control over the actors and material leads this down the same path as Cruise's bottom of the barrel entry, though it thankfully isn't quite as bad as that one.

Fallen Angels: I'll Be Waiting (Tom Hanks 1993) Director Tom Hanks (who also shows up late in the episode unbilled) takes the Raymond Chandler material seriously, but a bit too seriously. Overlong when it should be snappy and rushed when it should be more methodical, this tale of house dick Bruno Kirby going about an eventful night spent pining after Marg Helgenberger and killing or arranging the deaths of several warring gangsters is never as engaging as it should be, probably because Hanks is too afraid of the material to be anything but reverential in a way that lends far too much of a morose tone on what should be light and pulpy.

Framed (Richard Wallace 1947) Spending far too much time on the plotting murderers and their bland motivations for their treachery, this minor work suffers from ironic ADD, as it is too slow yet changes direction every five minutes. From the peculiar opening sequence with Glenn Ford Wages of Fear-ing it through a small town before transitioning at some point into an assaying sideplot out of countless Westerns(!), this movie throws a lot at the wall, but precious little sticks.

the Long Wait (Victor Saville 1954) Non-Mike Hammer Mickey Spillane adaptation with Anthony Quinn as a lumbering amnesiac who is tricked into returning into his hometown where he is under suspicion of theft and murder. Charles Coburn is also briefly on hand as the friendly neighborhood banker-- Charles Coburn, now there's an affable fellow who just screams "Mickey Spillane." Like the Hammer films, women fawn over Quinn to an absurd degree, to the extent that it's second-hand embarrassing watching all the male ego stroking. Has there ever been a more squirm inducing scene to that effect than the one in this film in which the heavy rounds up all of the protagonist's love interests and collectively beats the shit out of them in an effort to get them to betray their man? This is a cheaply made and produced film, but its shoddiness works in its favor during the only sequence of interest: on a spartan monochrome set, one of Quinn's female fans is made to crawl slowly across the room to free a constrained Quinn while gunmen laugh at her struggle and throw furniture at her from above. It's a disgusting scene, one filmed with a disturbing sexual glee in the degradation, but it's also memorably cracked and inventive in its delivery. A good example of how even a mediocre B-noir can offer small pleasures (if that's the right word for it).

the Sleeping City (George Sherman 1950) A white-smocked Richard Conte opens the film by addressing the audience directly and explaining that while this story is filmed and takes place at Bellevue Hospital, it didn't really happen. Pshew, I can only imagine the panic which would set in if future patients thought they might look up from the surgical table as they're going under and see Conte looming over them! This is a slow-moving, Naked City-esque tale of undercover cop Conte posing as a doctor in order to learn who killed one of the hospital's residents. The eventual answer involves narcotics (or "the white stuff" as it's only ever referred to in the film) and I liked the wonderful noir convention of revealing that the only interesting and likable characters in the film are the villains. I must admit this eventually wore down my defenses and I found myself kinda enjoying its meager pleasures (I think we all needed at some point in our lives to see Richard Conte play with a stuffed giraffe, we just didn't know it), though not enough to fully recommend.

the Two Mrs Carrolls (Peter Godfrey 1947) A film so bad that Warners sat on it for years waiting for Bogart to be popular enough for it to not matter to audiences. Bogart and Barbara Stanwyck are the unlikely pairing at the center of this ripoff of Suspicion and Gaslight, with Bogart's worst performance (I haven't seen them all but there's no possible way he was ever worse than this) and one of the worst child performances ever captured. Lots of milestones here, none of them positive.

the Undercover Man (Joseph H Lewis 1949) Not much "undercover" work afoot here in this tale of treasury agent Glenn Ford trying to nab a murderous mobster for tax evasion. Apparently Ford didn't realize the US nabbed Al Capone for tax evasion in lieu of his other crimes, not preferentially! This is a passable yarn, though not especially noirish to my eyes. With every film I see from Lewis, the more convinced I am that Gun Crazy was a lucky fluke.

+++++

I'm in the middle of reading Silver and Usini's first Film Noir Reader, and so far the essays are uneven (which is the nature of a "reader" by design) but mostly rewarding. Paul Schrader's essay, "Notes on Film Noir," is my favorite so far, even though I disagree with his basic thesis that noir isn't a genre (though he inadvertently still makes a strong case for it being so with his essay). I think James Ellroy already perfectly sized up the genre with his typically terse summation that the message of all film noir is "You're fucked," but I was struck by Schrader's take on the subject:
Paul Schrader wrote:Durgnat, however, does not touch upon what is perhaps the over-riding noir theme: a passion for the past and present, but also a fear of the future. The noir hero dreads to look ahead, but instead tries to survive by the day, and if unsuccessful at that, he retreats to the past. Thus film noir's techniques emphasize loss, nostalgia, lack of clear priorities, insecurity, then submerge these self-doubts in mannerism and style. In such a world style becomes paramount; it is all that separates one from meaninglessness.

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#598 Post by domino harvey » Sat Jul 04, 2015 1:12 pm

Fallen Angels: Fly Paper (Tim Hunter 1995) Hammett's the Continental Op, here played by Christopher Lloyd, is on the case in yet another disappointing entry in a series with limitless promise and limited success. While not very good, it at least isn't terrible, and for this show that's a great compliment.

Odds Against Tomorrow (Robert Wise 1959) Hollywood's turn towards producing "Adult" films in the late 50s/early 60s in response to dwindling audiences and the rise of TV teleplays gave way to a string of humorless, self-important movies that beat down the viewer with joyless despair and negativity. It's little surprise that the last recognizable wave of Hollywood trends before the total demise of the classic era in the 60s was lightweight and frothy sex comedies and other fluff, because something needed to take the taste of these kind of movies out of our collective mouth. I know this racial allegory of a small, doomed holdup has its fans, but I found it nearly unwatchable in its attempts to be Important and Serious. I like Robert Ryan and Ed Begley, but the former tries too hard here to be a cad, and the latter can't save the film with his underwritten intermediary character. Written as a showcase for Harry Belafonte, he leaves almost no impression other than, as in Island in the Sun, having little screen presence. The finale, with its Stanley Kramer-esque button, is a real howler too.

Scene of the Crime (Roy Rowland 1949) Better in just about every way than I expected, this isn't just a rote police procedural but a precursor to the great dialog and character-driven television series like Homicide, as detective Van Johnson maneuvers the criminal world, the police world, and the domestic world, all while encountering entertaining character actors making the most of their meager screentime. Even if it all falls apart a bit in the last couple minutes, the script is generally wonderful, with lots of memorable lines and twists.

the Sound of Fury AKA Try and Get Me (Cy Endfield 1950) Rough and dirty little noir about a getaway driver who finds himself latched to Lloyd Bridges' intoxicating psychopath. Bridges is a veteran of making the most out of low budget flicks and he steals the movie every time he's on screen. Unfortunately, he's not our protagonist, Frank Lovejoy's conflicted family man turned criminal accessory is. For about an hour the film works, with its canted angles and slapdash construction. But a series of uninvolving asides with a newspaperman and a visiting philosopher soon move from distracting b-story to the main focus, as the film "ends" about an hour in and then turns into its namesake, giving us a poor imitation of Fritz Lang's Fury that derails all the good done by the first two acts. Like Ride the Pink Horse, this film's unavailability has overinflated its reputation, but like Montgomery's film, there's still a lot to admire here. Just don't go expecting the promised classic that doesn't get delivered.

Strange Triangle (Ray McCarey 1946) Preston Foster gets a rare sympathetic central role in this minor but fun cheapie about the conniving wife of a bank manager who plays her husband for a sucker for the big payoff. The kind of pleasant enough programmer one is always happy to find in the depths of noir, not flashy or particularly memorable but a worthy return on 64 minutes' investment.

Street of Chance (Jack Hively 1942) Early entry in the classic noir trope of amnesia, Burgess Meredith crashes out of a construction site and finds himself awakened to a new double life, one in which he's accused of murder (and has himself a swell dame like Claire Trevor). This is an entertaining if familiar flick, with some nice touches along the way (I especially liked the clever reveal of the identity of Meredith's pursuers early in the film), and while eventually the solution to the central mystery becomes a bit obvious, it's a nice ride anyhow.

This World, Then the Fireworks (Michael Oblowitz 1997) The best adaptation of pulp literature I've ever seen, this kinetic, gloriously tasteless piece of trash refuses to indulge in any aspect of its Jim Thompson source material that isn't lurid and despicable. I've never seen a film so brazenly capture all of the wild, morally suspect gaudiness of pulp literature without making apologies or criticisms. The film's great achievement here is to be presentational, give the audience exactly what a reader of these cheap and tawdry books would receive without dialing down any of its absurd content. As a result, this tale of incestuous twin siblings Billy Zane and Gina Gershon and their assorted sexual and criminal activities is relentless (and honestly, by the end, exhausting). I'm not sure I need to see another pulp adaptation made in this same breathless style, but I'm glad this one exists.

the Threat (Felix E Feist 1949) A welcome showcase for character actor Charles McGraw as an escaped murderer who pledged to break out of prison and kill the DA and the police detective who sent him up, and in the snappy first couple minutes of the film seems in prime position to do just that. McGraw is pleasingly vicious and despicable in the Devil Thumbs a Ride mode, and like that film much of this one is spent with the audience half-delighting in the villain's debauchery. It's a shame McGraw's criminal proved far dumber than Tierney in Devil, though, because many of the complications here are sillier than they needed to be.

the Turning Point (William Dieterle 1952) Strong organized crime drama with crusading Edmond O'Brien going after a local hood network led by Ed Begley despite the skeptical input of his childhood pal and current reporter William Holden. The various complications and double-crosses the syndicate takes to protect its existence are great fun to watch unfold, and this is one of the few movies that gives an audience a courtroom scene they wish was longer! Unfortunately there's also a distracting sideplot involving Holden stealing O'Brien's girl Alexis Smith despite zero evidence of chemistry between the two. I'm starting to think Holden had a clause in his contract that required this kind of plot twist in his films, because it sure does happen a lot in his early 50s output!

the Underworld Story (Cy Endfield 1950) Far more successful than Endfield's other, more-lauded noir from this year, this newspaper tale (the title's a bit of a stretch) gives a plum leading role to Dan Duryea and goes out of its way to make him despicable at all turns, even when (and sometimes especially when) he's doing the right thing! Exploiting liberal desires to further civil rights among its many negative tricks, the film is mean-spirited and vicious, and to its credit it never backs down from its depiction of Duryea-- even as he turns the corner he remains a total dick in the best way. But Duryea, unbelievably, has the movie snatched from him by Howard Da Silva as a genial mob boss who finds himself pulled into several different warring factions with perverse bemusement at the situation. Da Silva really gives us one of the great mob boss characters in all of noir here, and it's a shame he was soon blacklisted afterwards.

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#599 Post by YnEoS » Sun Jul 05, 2015 3:56 pm

TCM Summer of Darkness Week 5

This was a pretty strong week with a nice mix of new discoveries and old favorites. The labeling system this week might be a little wonkie, because in theory Eddie Muller introduced 4 films tied together by a single theme, but sometimes these themes only apply only to certain films, and he changes themes part way through, so whatever here it is.

1948-1949

Johnny Belinda (Jean Negulesco, 1948) - Really glad this was shown, cause it’s a great film, though this might be stretching the noir definition a bit far. But it was nice to see Jean Negulesco, who’s been a pretty competent director of some solid noir entertainment bring those skills to some different material.

Key Largo (John Huston, 1948) – Being trapped inside during a storm makes for such a great atmosphere, and what great characters and situations to put into that environment.

Lady from Shanghai (Orson Welles, 1948) – This is an old favorite that I haven’t seen in quite a while and I’m quite happy with how well it held up. Of course it’s the things like the aquarium and final mirror maze scene that get burned into one’s long term memory. But I really loved how well the surreal feeling of the story carries through scene by scene and how even the normal scenes were well directed. For instance, the trial scene is absolutely hilarious, lots of great comedic touches.

The Bribe (Robert Z. Leonard, 1949) – I haven’t seen any other Robert Z. Leonard films to appreciate why he’s considered a generic director, and why this is considered his one standout work. There’s a lot of interesting things in here, a good supporting cast, an ambitious shot with an optical printer that doesn't quite sell, and a really cool finale. But I didn’t think everything worked together too well here. The usual jealous husband buddies up with competition as a defense mechanism wasn’t as well exploited as other films have done. Robert Taylor wasn’t nearly as good here as he was in Johnny Eager, and I had zero interest in his investigation. Still there's things here worth seeing.

Scene of the Crime (Roy Rowland, 1949) – I didn't completely engage with the plot in this one. But there was some really good character interaction between the detective, his wife, and the woman he’s using to get information for the investigation. Memorable and enjoyable but not a masterpiece for me. Anyone playing can fill a space their giant noir drink/desert bingo card though.

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They Live By Night (Nicholas Ray, 1949) – This is pretty much a lock for my number one slot. I’ve watched it several times and wrote a 20 page paper on it for a studio cinematography class back in film school. While I’m still fairly new to the genre and my tastes and opinions haven’t settled yet, its hard to imagine another film making a strong enough initial impression to completely displace my feelings for this film that I’ve watched, re-watched, picked various scenes apart of, and re-watched some more only to have my appreciation of it grow stronger and stronger.

Similar to how in In A Lonely Place, Nicholas Ray devotes much more attention to the character relationships than to the criminal investigation, here he’s much more concerned with with the young couple trying to make their way in the world and their clumsy grasps at adulthood than any of the heists.

The opening getaway is shot very simply and worked through very quickly. But then Nicholas Ray blocks and shoots the hell out of the characters back in the hideout, the plotting of the next scheme, introducing the romantic relationship, and establishing the role of how the media reports the robberies which will is a nice re-occurring detail. The characters are constantly moving around through the scene and placed various height levels, Standing, leaning forward on the table, sitting at the table, lying on the bed, and kneeling on the ground. The decisions about the various character business are also consistent with the rest of the story, with Bowie and Keechie handling the day to day chores while the adults are talking money and plotting crime. This allows for a wide variety of interesting compositions with the only close-ups of the scene being when it’s revealed that Bowie has killed a man, with Keechie’s reaction to the information and Bowie noticing how her view of him changes.

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Then we’re introduced to the character Mattie who only has a few scenes in this film but steals every one of them. She’s great in that she’s a bit of a warning for Keechie’s possible fate. There’s a bitter self-awareness to her character where she hates her situation and wishes she lived a different life but remains committed to T-dub’s brother presumably because she’s already built too much emotional attachment to break away even if she’s aware it’s the more rational choice. I may be overreaching a bit in my analysis but there's also two lovely shots here that in isolation foreshadow our younger characters being trapped by the actions of their elders.

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In the preparation for and execution of the films only on-screen heist scene, each moment is written and directed to stay focused on Bowie and Keechie’s future. When Bowie scouts out the bank, he does so by asking a jeweler for change for a watch for Keechie, the jeweler jokes that maybe he’ll be back for a wedding ring. Then when planning out the heist, Mattie comes back in and the scene revolves around her bitterness at being involved in a robbery to help her husband. She calls Bowie jailbait emphasizing that he’ll just put Keechie into the situation that she’s in now. During the actual robbery the tension is built by having the jeweler try to strike up a conversation with a Bowie, which is the start of his criminal actions preventing him from maintaining normal adult relationships.

After the heist the main focus of the film is Bowie and Keechie trying to make it on their own away from all the adults that have influenced them up to this point. Everything is directed to emphasize how completely fragile and ephemeral their happiness is. Bowie makes an awkward attempt at comforting a crying child on the bus, and when they decide to get a $20 marriage, they walk fearfully down the street as the crass neon sign beams overhead. They’re trying as hard as they can to act as adults and move towards a stable family life, but everything rings slightly false, they’re going through the motions but they’re completely lost.

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In this section they also meet a number of new adults that continue to elaborate on the films themes. We first meet the preacher who's first role isn't developed until later and when they rent a place to stay at, the landlord is a father. He's raising his kid the normal way, teaching him his trade so he can one day take over “Learn that Alvin, just married people like to be alone” “well I should think so”.

But then eventually Chicamaw and T-Dub come back into their life, and we learn that Bowie and Keechie have actually been managing their money better than any of the adults who raised them. It’s not so much they were raised to repeat the mistakes of their elders, but that they make a good effort to break away from the cycle, but the people they’re connected to and the way society is set up make this a doomed endeavor.

In most these kind of movies the characters always need to pull off one last heist that inevitably causes their downfall. But here Bowie doesn’t even want to do the heist and is only forced to because his partners haven't managed their money as well. By this point in the film, the heist isn’t even show and we learn about the deaths of Chicamaw and T-Dub offhandedly over the radio rather than directly witnessing it. This could be out of budgetary necessity, but the films strengths for me is how much more it emphasizes the relationships over the heists.

When Bowie comes back to the preacher to help him escape to Mexico it’s the first honest interaction he’s ever had with another adult. The preacher like Bowie, is someone who’s fallen into a profession that he doesn’t like out of necessity, but still holds out the slightest hope of having a positive impact on the world and all he can say to him is “In a way I’m a thief just the same as you are, but I won’t sell you hope, when there ain’t any.”

In the end of the film, the police make a deal with Mattie to get Bowie, who’s been labeled by the media as the leader of the gang due to his age and the nice ring of "Bowie the Kid". The police are convinced that he’ll be doomed to continue committing crimes over and over again, despite everything in the film showing him as the most responsible in the group. There’s not even a feign to try to capture him quietly or offer him the opportunity to reform, everyone and every aspect in society has been working against them the whole time.


The Threat (Felix E. Feist, 1949) – This film didn’t particularly stand out to me too much as being anything too special, but there was some tension between the gang leader and his followers and the police hostage. Pretty strong direction here.

White Heat (Raoul Walsh, 1949) – I wasn’t really a big fan of this the first time I saw it many years back and all I really remembered was that there was a big crime boss with mother issues that I didn’t find particularly interesting. Seemed to me like a pre-cursor to all the psychological look into serial killer’s mind kind of movies, which I’ve never been much interested in. Re-watching it now, I was glad to find that there’s quite a bit more to the movie than that. This is a really rich and well constructed film and I can see why it has the reputation it has.

Miscellaneous, Children in Danger, and/or Repressed Memories

The Big Clock (John Farrow, 1948) – Really interesting concept for a movie with a unique setting and great cast of actors. I thought I was going to die of a heart attack watching this except…

The Window (Ted Tetzlaff, 1949) – I’m pretty sure Eddie Muller is out to kill me because there’s no other rational explanation why any human being would program this right after The Big Clock. This is a tiny little masterpiece here, what wonderful pacing and clearly the cinematographer of Notorious had learned a thing or two from Hitchcock and decided to one-up him blowing up a kid with a bomb.

Shadow on the Wall (Patrick Jackson, 1950) – This was a really interesting film, though it suffered a bit having to follow up The Window. The pacing was a bit slower here but still a nice tense noir. Kind of a funny juxtaposition that in The Window no adult will believe anything the kid says, and here the adults go to great lengths to make this little girl feel comfortable talking about the murder she witnessed. I was a bit nervous about how well Zachary Scott would do playing a likable character, but he’s charming as hell and does a great job playing a Dad here. Haven’t seen any other Ann Sothern films to appreciate this departure from her usual persona, but I enjoyed her performance.

High Wall (Curtis Bernhardt, 1948) – This seemed like there were some interesting things here, but I just found it very difficult to stay interested in the whole repressed memory plot line so I didn’t get much out of the film.

Neo Noir

The Long Goodbye (Robert Altman, 1973) - unviewed

Marlow (Paul Bogart, 1969) - unviewed

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#600 Post by domino harvey » Sun Jul 05, 2015 4:38 pm

Interesting thoughts as usual on a rather eclectic lineup (I've seen all but Shadow on the Wall and Marlowe)

Jean Negulesco is a great director in general (even if he did get sidetracked once Cinemscope came into the picture as Fox's go-to guy for middlebrow 'Scope pix) and Johnny Belinda's a great film with some of our the best character actors of the era, but I too can't quite call it a noir. Key Largo has Robinson's best performance by a country mile. Robinson is so prone to phoning in his perfs and it not mattering since he has such a strong screen presence, but here he really shows he can act, and if there was any justice he'd have gotten the Oscar attention for the film over Claire Trevor (who was an unusually popular starlet for Oscar voters despite the kind of vehicles she found herself in).

Re: the Noir Drinking Game-- I'm ashamed I didn't think to screencap that scene (of the crime)! I don't believe they named either concoction but I'm pretty sure Van Johnson is enjoying a Punch Romaine and I assumed Gloria DeHaven was just drinking brandy straight over shaved ice but now I'm second guessing myself.

Great write-up on They Live By Night. While I don't share your enthusiasm (or the Young Turks'), I still think it's a fine film, though I much prefer Lang's You Only Live Once or Gun Crazy for this kind of storyline. The Window is up there with the Strange Love of Martha Ivers and Riffraff for me as the best films I've seen in this genre since submitting my previous list, so I'm glad you enjoyed it as well. I suspect it will fare much better this time as last round it was only available in one of those ropey RKO Edition Montparnasse DVDs from France.

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