Showing posts with label 1940's. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1940's. Show all posts

Friday, December 6, 2019

Noir-ish Watch: The Mask of Dimitrios (1944)


Watched:  12/06/2019
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's

Look, if a movie has Sydney Greenstreet in it, I'm watching it.  And I've never been disappointed.

Of course, this movie *also* features Peter Lorre, so, that's two great performers of the era.  Add in Zachary Scott in his screen debut, and I was positively jazzed to watch The Mask of Dimitrios (1944), a movie I'd oft-head referenced, but never seen.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Noir Watch: Force of Evil (1948)


Watched:  11/12/2019
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1940's


I recalled liking Force of Evil (1948) the last time I watched in 2011, and it's hilarious to read my write-up from what I'd argue was pretty early in my dive into noir (were we ever so young, Leaguers?).  Apparently this was also my first John Garfield movie, and it's a heck of an introduction to the guy, but I knew Marie Windsor and was thrilled to see her appear (as one should always be excited to see Windsor).

But, dang, was I happy to see I was appreciative of the film back then, because rewatching it now, I was stunned by what a remarkable film this is, was and shall be, and am shocked - watching it now - that it doesn't have a deeper fanbase.  Hell, you can't buy this on BluRay in Region 1, as near as I can tell.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Bette Noir Watch: The Letter (1940)



Watched:  10/01/2019
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's

I am well aware of the hurricane force that is Bette Davis, but for whatever reason, I don't wind up taking enough advantage of her expansive filmography.  Sometimes I feel genuine guilt in regards to this deficiency, and - as this Davis-induced-remorse had occurred once again recently - I decided to remedy the issue by force-marching Jamie through a 90 minute movie that, frankly, I knew nothing about.

A prestige picture of sorts from pre-war Warner Bros., The Letter (1940) makes not just for an interesting time capsule, but a fascinating melodrama and noir, punctuated by Davis' terrific performance.  With a script based upon a 1927 play (and previously made into a movie during the silent era), the material of the film is well honed, a tight, taught narrative with a number of fascinating characters and smart dialog.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Noir Watch: Nocturne (1946)


Watched:  09/30/2019
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's

Look.  They can't all be winners.  And, frankly, whatever draw George Raft had at one point as a huge movie star, I just... do not get.

The pieces are there for a solid noir film, but every scene feels like it's the second take after maybe three run-throughs.  Raft is wooden in the best of circumstances, but he sort of sets the tone for everyone else, bringing down the energy around near everyone but Queenie Smith, whom Raft seems to just sit back and enjoy during their shared scenes.

The movie follows the investigation of the suicide of a well-known song composer who also happens to go through women like they're on a conveyor belt coming to his door, not bothering to learn their names and calling them all "Dolores" (which never gets resolution or meaning in the film).  Raft plays the milk-drinking cop who becomes obsessed with the idea the guy was plugged.  Lynn Bari plays the dame who maybe did it.  Who, for reasons that are not at all clear, Raft decides he's fallen for.

The titular "Nocturne" is a song written by the composer, left unfinished when he died.

That's it.  That's the movie.  Raft running around questioning people, fighting improbably with his own bosses, and having his mom do all the real detective work.

Sure, the movie looks good - RKO knew who to put behind the camera (Harry J. Wild was no slouch in my book), and there's a good idea in there somewhere about a good cop who doesn't think a suicide is just that and wants to investigate it for murder.  But at the end of the day, we don't know much about the victim, we know less about the cop's dogged motivation, and the movie tips its hand as to what's happening at the 30 minute mark.  Honestly - that's just strange.

I really, really did not like this movie, so I think I will stop writing about it now.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Noir Watch: The Big Clock



Watched:  09/15/2019
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  Third
Decade:  1940's

I... I may now be a fan of Ray Milland.  I used to not think of him one way or another, but after The Long Weekend and a re-watch of The Big Clock (1948), and thinking back on some of this other films like Dial M for Murder, Alias Nick Beal...  he's not quite Cary Grant or James Stewart to me yet, but I may actually seek out more of his work just to see what he does.

I read the novel of The Big Clock maybe two decades ago, and my memory of the book is that it was, as the kids say, a real page turner.  One of those books you keep picking up to see where it's headed.  Shortly after, I found the movie and give it a viewing, and while they're substantially different, also a good watch.  A few years ago, I watched it again and liked it significantly more than even the first time - and on this viewing, I am pretty sure I was correct to like it all the more.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Western Watch: The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)



Watched:  08/11/2019
Format:  TCM on DVR from a looooong time ago
Viewing:  first
Decade:  1940's

Well.  Between this and The Lost Weekend, I picked quite the double-bill for the weekend.

I mean, I knew.  I'd rented this movie twice in college but when I'd think about what it was about, I'd never hit "play" on the ol' VCR.  And I'd recorded it a half-dozen times on the DVR and never watched it.  But this time I did.

The Ox-Bow Incident (1942) is about a small town in the old west who finds out that a local rancher has been killed, and so they pull together a posse to go track down the killers.  It's a mish-mash of local color and yahoos, rationalizing why they don't need to follow the rules, exactly, and supported by the ineptitude and slack nature of some local authority.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Wilder Watch: The Lost Weekend (1945)



The Lost Weekend (1945) is one of those movies that you always know you should watch, but when you know what it's about, it's sort of hard to get fired up to put on.  But with Billy Wilder behind the camera and with a "co-written by" credit, it did nudge me toward "okay...", and knowing it featured Ray Milland, whom I like well enough, and Howard Da Silva, whom I really like, it put it in the "yeah, I need to see that" direction.

But in the past month two things happened.  (1) I read that Wilder wrote the movie after working with Raymond Chandler to write Double Indemnity.  Chandler certainly suffered from alcohol addiction and, as it will, the addiction impacted his professional and personal life.  I'm unclear on whether Chandler was dry during Double Indemnity, but I'm also sure working with Wilder would drive him to drink.  While the two never got along, it's noteworthy that whatever he saw and respected in Chandler was mixed up with how he saw his alcoholism.  (2) Our own JimD referenced the movie and asked me when the last time was that I'd seen it, which was "never".  Mid-tweet response I decided to watch the movie this weekend.

Myrna Watch: The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947)



Watched:  08/11/2019
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1940's

I guess it's considered punching down to make fun of high-school kids, especially girls (and right now, I can feel some of you out there tensing your fingers to respond why in the comments), but, I mean, c'mon.  The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947) is a sorta-screwball comedy that hinges entirely on a particular flavor of high schooler who decides they're more sophisticated and mature than all of their classmates, and entangles a swinging post-war playboy-type.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Noir Watch: Thieves' Highway (1949)

this quote is exactly what Jamie said to me when we met


Watched:  08/04/2019
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's

There's a surprising number of movies about or including the work of "trucking" in this category we call "noir".  I suppose it makes sense given the world of people operating mostly alone, moving from place to place by day and night.  Add in the shadiness of transportation companies and both the folks sending and receiving goods, and it's fertile soil for drama.  And it's not like people like myself who've never ridden in a truck are oblivious to truckstop shenanigans. 

But who would have thought moving produce would lead to excellent noir drama?  But, at it's core, Thieves' Highway (1949), which is 100% about moving produce, contains a lot of what I think of when I ponder what comprises the "noir movement".  Characters in over their head pursuing goals due to hubris or lust (this one has both), a disaffection with the status quo and everyman status, a woman on the make pulling the wool over some schmuck's eyes...  it's all there.  Plus a heavy played by Lee J. Cobb and a morally gray protagonist played by Richard Conte.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Noir Watch: Nobody Lives Forever (1946)


Watched:  06/28/2019
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's

A bit of lighter, post-war crime drama. 

Garfield plays a former con-man coming back to New York to reclaim the girl he left when he enlisted, and the wad of money he left in her hands.  She's thrown in with a club-owner and spent the money, and so he heads out to LA to reconnect with an old friend.

Running into some pre-war fellow goons, he's turned onto a scheme to rip-off a wealthy widow, who turns out to be less tired old lady and instead the lovely Geraldine Fitzgerald.  Trouble ensues.

The movie is so light in places and features so many comedic bits, it barely feels like noir - but structurally, it fits the bill.  Nothing ground-breaking here, but Garfield shows his chops as a strong leading man, and we get some great character actor performances and Fitzgerald demonstrates why she flirted with major stardom.

WWII Watch: Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)



Watched:  06/25/2019
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's

A fascinating oddball of a movie - part epic, part recreation, part disaster film, part meditation on the futility of war, Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) is an all-star retelling the of the real life events leading up to, and a recreation of, the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Originally this was supposed to be two separate movies, one Japanese and one American.  And it almost is - the Japanese parts were directed by Japanese directors (Kurosawa was notoriously fired off the film!), and the American parts: an American director.  I can only wonder how that would have worked in practice, perhaps better.  Both sections reflect the mistakes made along the way - failure of diplomacy, duplicitous use of diplomatic formalities, bureaucratic loggerheads, etc...  Each section reflects back the stance of the home country on what happened at Pearl Harbor in tone and approach, which can make for something of a split-personality to the film that doesn't always work, but probably informs the viewer in 2019 what was felt a generation after the war.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Seafaring Watch: The Sea Wolf (1941)


Watched:  06/21/2019
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's

For some reason folks try to file this movie under "noir", and... maybe...?  But I'm going to just go ahead and say "drama".  I'm not willing to do mental the work to turn a Jack London story on a boat into a noir.

I actually broke one of my own rules and purchased this BluRay a couple of months ago having had never seen the movie.  Honestly, I looked at the starring names, looked at the source material and the name of the director and figured "I've spent money on far worse films".

A wildly timely movie - perhaps depressingly so - as the original story by novelist Jack London was adapted to reflect the times.  A man on the run played by John Garfield joins up with a ship (agreeing after almost getting shanghied).  Meanwhile, an escaped convict (Lupino) is hiding on a ferry to San Francisco when it's struck by a steamship.  She and a writer (Knox) are rescued by the crew of The Ghost, but with no intention of setting them back to land.  The Ghost is a 1900-era pirate ship, and those aboard are a crew of the worst of society, who hate themselves almost as much as they hate each other (and assume the worst in everyone).

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Noir Watch: Nora Prentiss (1947)


watched:  06/15/2019
format:  Noir Alley on TCM
viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's

Eddie Muller intro'd this movie by discussing how this film was marketed and considered "a woman's picture", and from what I've gathered about Women's Pictures of the mid-20th Century, I can see why that label got dropped on it.  But had he not mentioned this in the opening, I'd have seen this as soft-boiled noir and maybe mentioned women's films in passing.  Bear in mind, one of my favorite movies if Mildred Pierce, which one can see as equal parts Women's Picture and Film Noir, so that's not taking a particular stance, it just changes the formula a bit.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Noir Watch: Dead Reckoning (1947)


Watched:  06/06/2019
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's

I know it seems like I heap praise on every single noir that comes along, but I'm usually trying to find some good in the film or a reason it was included in Eddie Muller's Noir Alley line-up.

Muller himself warned us up front that Dead Reckoning (1947) wasn't going to shake the Earth, and in practice - the movie has a wide variety of components that, if I were to tell you "it stars so-and-so, it has this and that plot element, it has a unique location" you'd be nodding and getting noir-jazzed for the movie.  But, in execution...  the movie just feels like a lesser picture almost immediately, and it just never manages to catch fire.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Noir Watch: Key Largo (1948)


Watched:  05/31/2019
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1940's

The notion of a bunch of folks hanging out in a hotel in the Florida Keys probably doesn't ring very "noir" to folks who start and stop their definition of noir with Jane Greer in large hats, but there's a sub-genre of noir that's "people in remote locations trapped in a building/ held hostage by gangster while some sort of event occurs outside".  In this case, the gangster is Edward G. Robinson and the event is a hurricane.

I recalled loving Key Largo (1948) when I watched it a few years back, and I believe it made top marks in my end of the year Krypto Awards as the movie I most enjoyed watching at home.

Y'all...  this movie held up just fine.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Noir Watch: White Heat (1949)



Watched:  05/22/2019
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM
Viewing:  Second (third?)
Decade:  1940's

Cagney made it big in films of the 1930's with breakout roles like The Public Enemy and Angels with Dirty Faces.  During the war, he had a massive hit with Yankee Doodle Dandy, but by 1949, he was back in tough-guy mode when he was brought on to play Cody Jarrett in White Heat, maybe one of the most famous outlaw films in American cinema.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Noir City Austin - Day 1 - "Trapped" (1949) and "The Turning Point" (1952)




Viewed:  05/17/2019
Format:  Noir City Austin at Alamo Ritz
Viewing:  First for both
Decade:  1940's/ 1950's

Eddie Muller is back in Bat City for Noir City Austin, our annual showing of films I'd never find on my own, and always can't believe the gold Muller is able to surface.   Muller isn't just host of TCM's Noir Alley weekly dose of crime, implied sex and moral gray areas - he's also head of the Film Noir Foundation.  Proceeds from the festival and merch sales go back to the FNF, who, in turn use the money to rescue films from obscurity and eventual loss.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Noir Watch: Nightmare Alley (1947)


Watched:  05/12/2019
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1940's

I remember reading that film-reviewer Pauline Kael made it a rule to only ever watch a film once - maybe a practicality of her business, maybe a personal quirk (as in all things, it's only mostly true).  I think about this a lot, because - as anyone who has followed the blog or PodCast knows - I find returning to movies fascinating, both to see what my now-brain thinks of a movie versus what I thought of it then, and because of how those differences reflect on your own experience, making films something all the more personal.

I saw Nightmare Alley (1947) about four years ago, and I remembered thinking it was good - but not really clicking to it in particular.  But on this viewing, despite the fact I remembered the film fairly well, it just reached out and hit me over the head.  This is a brilliant, wonderfully crafted movie, tackling deeply sensitive material and plowing right through, and getting away with it like the low-level conman who inserts himself with the right clothes and patter - the movie sure looks like a morality tale and crime movie, while questioning the nature of anyone selling you salvation, spiritual insight or deep insight into your own psyche. 

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Noir Watch: Border Incident (1949)


Watched:  04/08/2019
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's

...so...

We've essentially not only just *not* made any progress on how we deal with our border with our Southern neighbor since the release of this film in 1949, but we're now actively and intentionally worse about how all of this works.

Border Incident (1949) follows law enforcement working together from both the Mexican and American governments, seeking not to punish the braceros crossing illegally so much as to stop the exploitation and criminal behavior of the coyotes, who use the undocumented status of their victims to exploit them for terribly low wages, awful living conditions and potentially violent treatment.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Noir-ish Watch: High Sierra (1941)



Watched:  03/21/2019
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  at least fourth
Decade:  1940's

I've surely written this movie up before, but it's a great heist flick.  Maybe not Ashpalt Jungle good, but one for the pantheon.  And, it was a breakout movie for Bogart, hot on the heels of Petrified Forest.  And, of course, it broke Ida Lupino, which is a boon to us all.