Showing posts with label noir. Show all posts
Showing posts with label noir. Show all posts

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.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Noir Watch: The Harder They Fall (1956)



Watched:  10/20/2019
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's

Noir Alley host Eddie Muller knows a thing or three about boxing.  His father (the senior Eddie Muller) was a longtime sports writer for the Examiner, and a prominent boxing reporter.  As he said in talking about this movie - there are movies about boxers and which occur around boxing (Wise's The Set-Up is straight up a great film), but The Harder They Fall (1956) is *about* boxing.  And, hey, bonus, it's a really good movie.

The movie features a dynamite cast of actors pulling from old school and modern traditions, as well as former boxers and players from the boxing world all working from a tight script and with a terrific crew behind the camera.

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.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Hitch Watch: The Wrong Man (1956)



Watched:  08/21/2019
Format: TCM on DVR
Viewing: First
Decade:  1950's

I had no idea what this movie was about prior to giving it a watch, so real quick:

Directed by none other than Alfred Hitchcock, this is based on a true story (apparently?) of a musician who goes to his insurance company to see if he can take out on a loan his wife's life insurance for some dental work, only to be identified by the clerks as the man who committed two robberies of the company in the prior 9 months or so.  The police pick him up, assuring him that if he didn't do it, there's nothing to worry about, but in a line-up, he's identified by multiple witnesses (the robber also hit a few stores) and even his handwriting sample seems to match.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Chandler Watch: Marlowe (1969)



Watched: 08/14/2019
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1960's

People take a lot of liberties when adapting Raymond Chandler novels to screen.  It's not a huge surprise.  After all, Chandler's books are winding, complicated, and don't exactly make it easy to translate Marlowe's inner-monologue or exposition in a way that's easy to cram into 90 - 120 minutes and keep the audience with you.  To this day, people complain The Big Sleep is "too complicated".

It's been a while since I read The Little Sister, I think the fifth Marlowe novel and the work upon which the studio based Marlowe (1969).   Between reading several Chandler novels in a row at that time and years inbetween, not every detail of the plot had stuck with me, but impressions of various characters remained, and as the movie unspooled, it did provide me with a roadmap and certain expectations for the film that gave me a leg up vis-a-vis following the plot and keeping up.  A glance at some contemporary reviews suggest that even Ebert and Siskel found it a bit muddled.

Still, the story sticks surprisingly close to the novel, updating some factors for 1969 that would have looked very different in the original setting of 1949.  And, I'll argue, while people feel like they've got a grip on Chandler by way of reputation, in practice his novels tend to feel like a morass of detail until the denouement.  That's part of the fun (and Hammett did same in books like The Thin Man).

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.

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.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Noir Watch: In a Lonely Place (1950)



Watched:  08/02/2019
Format:  Criterion BluRay
Viewing:  Second or third
Decade:  1950's

Nicholas Ray has an earned reputation as a director, if, for no other pop cultural reason than Rebel Without a Cause and - for noiristas - They Live By Night.  I hadn't realized, til watching the extras on this Crtierion disk, how much Ray's work helped spawn the thinking in Europe that led to auteur theory of film.  It's not a theory I necessarily subscribe to anymore, but like anything - some directors are better in general, are more attuned to their work and/ or manage to find work that better suits their sensibilities than other directors.  I do get excited when the names like Fritz Lang, Edward Dmytryk, Robert Wise and Jules Dassin (and many, many others) cross the screen.*

And, in some productions, those reputations as the driving force behind the movie makes sense.  There's no doubt whose movie you're watching when you're watching a Tarantino movie or a lot of Spike Lee's features, especially when they wrote the thing to begin with.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Noir Watch: While the City Sleeps (1956)



Watched:  07/30/2019
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1950's

I'm always going to support a movie that features Ida Lupino slinging back drinks, dropping snappy dialog and not exactly being coy about her interests.  She's, however, just one of many name talents in While the City Sleeps (1956), an ensemble drama about the women and men at work in a major metropolitan newspaper.  Directed by Fritz Lang, this one features:  Dana Andrews, Vincent Price, Rhonda Fleming, George Sanders, Thomas Mitchell, John Drew Barrymore, Sally Forrest and more, all bringing their A-game and making for a fun, unsentimental look at how the sausage is made in the big news game.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Noir Watch: The Tattooed Stranger (1950)



Watched:  07/18/2019
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's

So....  I don't know that I'd want to actually recommend The Tattooed Stranger (1950) to anyone.  It's far more of a curiosity of production than it is a watchable or good movie, and in the right, riff-able hands, could be wildly entertaining.  Pre-film, Muller explained that it had been a producer of RKO's Pathe office, who wanted to try their hand at cheap narrative films, exploiting their guerrilla film making know-how from decades of documentary films  and using the wealth of actors in NYC.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

3D Noir Watch!: Inferno (1953)

absolutely no one swings into action on top of a couple having a cuddle in the course of this movie

Watched:  07/11/2019
Format:  Alamo South Lamar
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's

Well, somehow Wednesday became my Robert Ryan double-bill day.  SimonUK and I headed over to the local cinema to take in this novelty 1953 film.  Ostensibly noir, this movie is both in technicolor (not a disqualifier) and in 3D (a curiosity for noir, to say the least).  It also takes place in the desert and is 65% a tale of survival in extreme conditions, and - while I get why it gets lumped in with noir, I'm a bit on the fence. 

If the movie borrows from noir, it's trying to borrow from the best - in some ways asking "yes, but what if the husband in Double Indemnity had lived?" and pairing it with a survival tale in which the husband is not on an urban railroad track but thrown from a horse in the Mojave Desert. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Noir/ Lupino Watch: On Dangerous Ground (1951)


Watched:  07/10/2019
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950s

If I were to buy this movie on Bluray (and it's Lupino, so don't count me out), I would wish it had Eddie Muller's conversations which bookended the showing on Noir Alley.  Muller says he's doing "barroom, not classroom", but I'll argue that by showing a wide variety of films on Noir Alley and talking about why we should pay attention, discussing what happened during production, etc... and not just lauding whatever it is we're about to see, Noir Alley is one of the best movie-watching experiences and educations you can hope for.  And, yeah, he makes it all as casual as a talk over cocktails. 

On Dangerous Ground (1951) is directed by Nicholas Ray and stars two of my favorite denizens of Noir Alley, Ida Lupino* and Robert Ryan (here wearing a coat and hat and a tough cops face in a way I wish with all my heart I could pull off).  I'd meant to watch it some time ago, and I can't recall why it fell off the list - but now was the time!  Muller certainly discussed details of the film and production, but his real focus was on the Bernard Herrmann score.  And it is very, very much a Bernard Herrmann score, which is almost off to see against an RKO b&w cop picture. 

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Signal Watch Reads: "The Long Goodbye" (1953) and "Playback" (1958)



At long last, I read both The Long Goodbye (1953) and Playback (1958), the last of Raymond Chandler's novels centered upon detective Philip Marlowe.

You'll note a lengthy dry spell between books here, and there's a precipitous drop-off between the two in depth and strength.  It's curious as The Long Goodbye feels less like a detective novel and more like an author wrestling with himself, working through the point in his life where he'd enjoyed success and some fame and found neither amounted to much as he was still living with himself as an alcoholic, a writer of genre fiction, and now a widower.*

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Noir Watch: Woman on the Run (1950)



Watched:  06/30/2019
Format:  BluRay
Viewing: First
Decade:  1950's

First - this poster is doing Ann Sheridan no favors.  She's a gorgeous woman, and here she looks like a wax museum figurine that's been set too close to a lamp.  Second - like many-a-noir, this title isn't actually accurate.  The movie is about a woman seeking out her husband, who is a dude "on the run".  Unless this is when I find out "on the run" in this era meant "she's just moving about quickly", which I don't think it did.



Saturday, June 29, 2019

Noir Watch: The Shadow on the Wall (1950)


Watched:  06/27/2019
Format:  Noir Alley TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's

The core idea of this movie is so... evil... I almost think it'd make for a swell comedy. 

Ann Sothern - a sort of "America's sweetheart" of the era - plays a woman who murders her own sister but can pin it on her brother-in-law.  BUT!  Her niece saw the whole thing, so she won't go to the gas chamber, she's in a race to kill the little girl before Nancy Davis (read: Nancy Reagan) helps the the little girl recover her memory.

I mean, you can imagine the Looney Tunes quality of repeated murder set-up after murder set-up to kill a bright-eyed little girl who is working through her cloudy memories by playing dolls with Nancy Reagan. 

This movie plays it straight, is a lesser entry in everyone's resume but that of child actor Gigi Perreau (still living, people!), and is good enough as yet another entry in the "psychology is a an alchemical force toward unlocking the mind" films of the era.  It does co-star a pre-Ronald-betrothed Nancy Davis, who is better than I figured she'd be, but still very much Nancy Reagan.*  It does not feature nearly enough Zachary Scott, whom I always like. 

My favorite scene is one where Sothern poisoned the little girl's chocolate milk and it seems like anything can happen in this particular set-up, shot from the kids' eye level as her friend wanders in to see why she isn't drinking her milk.  Just great stuff. 


*I'm sorry - the lady just seemed like a scold all the time when I was a kid, and she feels that way here, too

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.

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.