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

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Noir Watch: The Secret Fury (1950)

Watched:  09/05/2023
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  First
Director:  Mel Ferrer

What a weird, weird movie.  

And not *good* weird.  

The movie features the great Claudette Colbert and Signal Watch fave Robert Ryan, but the story itself is a mess, leaning almost to camp.  

Part crime drama, all melodrama, The Secret Fury (1950) follows a society woman (Colbert) moments from saying I do to her beau (Ryan) when someone DOES say "I object", claiming Colbert is already married.  To her knowledge, Colbert has never been married, but when multiple witnesses claim she was married - and not that long ago - she now believes she may have gone mad, losing time.

The very premise, however, makes no sense and is based on the notion that people really get married after knowing each other for about 8 hours, which was quite the Hollywood trope for the first 70 years or so.  And it also assumes Colbert wouldn't see whomever murdered someone right before her eyes.  And that Ryan's character would make a completely unbuyable decision to leave Colbert alone with a strange man claiming to be her husband.

Saturday, August 5, 2023

Noir Watch: Shockproof (1949)

Watched:  08/04/2023
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  First
Director:  Douglas Sirk

I was a bit relieved to hear Noir Alley host Eddie Muller mention Tomorrow is Another Day, a movie I'd previously seen, because it turns out that movie just decided to borrow the third act of this movie to wrap up their film.  And that's not the only similarity.  Women change hair color, folks are on the run for reasons that are maybe not entirely their fault.  And neither has a satisfactory conclusion.

But, of course, I was well into the film before the thought of similarities crossed my mind, because there is quite a bit different.  

Cornel Wilde plays a probation officer who is put in charge of a woman just released for a murder charge.  It's widely believe she took the murder rap to cover for a fella who has lived as a smooth gambler and shady guy.  Don't you know it, she's a dish, a bit hardboiled, and morally ambiguous.  

Wilde puts her up in his own home to keep her away from the guy, and begins to fall for her.  And, as luck would have it, she realizes she's falling for him.  Though it's against her parole, the two marry.  But that shady guy is about to call the cops and tell them what his ex is up to when she appears, they struggle and a gun goes off.  

Soon, she and Wilde are on the lam as he refuses to give her up and let her go back to prison.  It's a hell of a decision and what takes the film in an exciting direction.

Like a lot of these films, before they figured out they needed to bring them in for a smoother landing to appease the Breen Office, this one clearly was headed in a darker direction.  Prior to studio interference, this was headed for a Gun Crazy ending that feels the inevitable from the mounting tensions of the film. But studio chiefs demand a happy ending for their star players, and it veers into some law-and-order friendly nonsense.   The ending is both too clever for its own good and utterly unsatisfactory.

All in all, it's an entertaining and tense film, it just pivots way too hard in the last ten minutes into a different, cheesier film from Sam Fuller's intended story.  But I think Patricia Knight is a compelling co-lead, and seeing Wilde's descent is good stuff.

This is a Douglas Sirk film, but it's not what I tend to think of as Sirk.  The gorgeous palette is instead lovely black and white, and it's not a female-driven melodrama.  This is pretty well in the wheel house of what would come to be known as noir, with desperate runs for the border, guys making insane decisions for a woman, and misfired guns.  It's very well directed and never feels like less than an A picture, if not a big budget one.  It's ten years after he fled from Germany, and a few films into his American career, but six years prior to All That Heaven Allows.  

I mean, she just looks like noir

I haven't seen all that many Cornel Wilde films, but I like him.  He seems to be doing more than indicating and I buy him in every scene.  His then-wife Patricia Knight is also, honestly, pretty solid in this film, at least as much so as actors who had lengthy careers.  I'm assuming she had some baggage or was an issue in some way I don't know about, because she's great on camera/ gorgeous.  But, she was in like 10 things and then disappeared shortly after splitting from Wilde.*

It's hard to say which I like batter between this and Tomorrow is Another Day.  I guess it's even-steven for me.  Just two takes on same in their own way.  And both would have been better if they'd not let everyone off the hook in the final reel.

*Wilde had tried to leverage his stardom to get Knight into movies before their divorce, to no avail, so we have to assume there was something else at play, not that he got her blackballed

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Noir Watch: Impact (1949)

Watched:  07/17/2023
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  First
Director:  Arthur Lubin

Over at Noir Alley on TCM, Eddie Muller does not guarantee that the movies are actually great.  He's providing a wide swath of the material that was offered up as what would retroactively be dubbed "noir", providing a survey of the movement's variety of offerings, the people behind those films and the forces that created the movies.  Crime stories and melodramas, mobsters, detectives, femme fatales, virtuous ladies, and well, well beyond.

Impact (1949) is a femme fatale story of *attempted* murder that has some interesting stuff bookending the film and a lot of tedious stuff in the middle, the portion of which is saved mostly by the existence of Ella Raines as human and co-star.  

I confess - I am not a Brian Donlevy guy.  He doesn't do anything *wrong*, he's in plenty of stuff I've watched and enjoyed, but he's just not someone I'd personally place as a lead in this film.  But this is an indie picture and Donlevy was a get as a former leading man of a decade prior, so I understand why they jumped at the chance to put a 49-year-old dude in the role, even if it feels like the women in the film would more likely see him as a fun uncle.

Donlevy is married to Helen Walker, who seems sweet and great and is completely two-timing him with another fella.  Posing as a long-lost-cousin of Walker, the fella hitches a ride with Donlevy where he attempts to bump him off with a crowbar to the noggin and rolling him down a hill.  In his haste to get away from the scene, he drives directly into a gas truck in the finest use of miniatures you'll see in many-a-noir.  

Donlevy recovers, winds up in Larkspur, BFE, and sulks before finding a job and life with Ella Raines.  As one does.  

Because his car done blowed up, folks think he's dead, and he's pondering let it seem that way, even as cops begin to put the pieces together and figure out what his wife was up to.  She's about to go to trial and maybe get the chair when Ella Raines convinces Donlevy to go back and get real justice.

The cops decide they were wrong and Donlevy's absence means he was trying to get his wife killed and he must have murdered the boyfriend despite any real evidence, and.... it's mildly exhausting.  And makes Ella Raines look like a jerk for putting her dude in this spot.

I dunno.  The movie is... fine?  It's not the best thing you'll see, and you can see what an indie picture could pull off in 1949.  It's not nothing.  I just suspect this thing needed some polish in the script room or in editing.  I won't think about it much after this post.  

It is definitely noir, I'll give it that.  It's got femme fatales and virtuous, wholesome women offering something else.  It's got twitchy guys and murder and bad luck.  The most novel aspect was the twist to Donlevy being held for murder, but that never feels like it'll stick.  But we do get Anna May Wong!

I just didn't love it, and that's ok.  You be you, movie. 

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Noir Watch: Deep Valley (1997)

Watch:  07/04/2023
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  First
Director:  Jean Negulesco

This one felt like it had pieces of noir mixed in with American Gothic melodrama more than what you think of when you start searching the shelves for a noir.  And that's fine.  It's not like people in 1947 were setting out to make "noir".  

As a movie featuring Ida Lupino, I was pre-inclined to give it a shot.  And she's great!  Maybe not as good as in other things, but she and Fay Bainter - who plays her mother - are both terrific in this movie.  

But I'm not sure the movie quite sticks the landing, and it's probably 15 minutes too long at an hour and 44 minutes.  It also really does echo High Sierra, which Lupino had starred in back in 1941, and it almost feels like she should have played the young naive woman of this film in 1941 and the more mature woman of High Sierra in '47.  But that's not how it worked out, and I don't have a time machine to tell them what to do.

Lupino plays a 22 year old (she's 28ish here) who has been the middle-man for her parents who have been at a stalemate for years since her father struck her mother.  Now, the two don't talk as their once grand house falls apart around them.  The mother hasn't left her room in *years* (don't ask me the logistics) having Lupino wait on her hand and foot, and the father lives downstairs and tends to the farm.  Sort of.  The entire house is falling apart and Lupino is a nervous mess, complete with a crippling stutter.

Meanwhile, a highway (the PCH, maybe?) is coming along the other side of the hill where she lives in a Deep Valley.  The road is being built with prison labor*, and each day Lupino sneaks off to watch shirtless men labor in the sun.  No, really.  It's incredibly horny.  

Anyway, she has a favorite in  Dane Clark.  One day the crew comes to the farmhouse to fill up some water buckets and while there, Clark gets in an altercation with a guard and gets sent to a shed awaiting a return to San Quentin.  A landslide occurs, and Clark escapes in the chaos. Meanwhile, Lupino sees the walls closing in on her (relating to the prisoners) and makes good her own escape into the woods.  

The pair come across each other and fall in love/ make it off camera.  

Turns our Clark has a bit of a temper, and is known to basically go into rages and deck people, which is how he ended up in jail.  But he's convinced the love of a good Lupino will fix all this.  

Lupino runs home to grab some supplies so the two can make good their escape, but first realizes in her absence, her parents figured their shit out, and also she's somewhat trapped by the posse using her house and not wanting to draw suspicion.

The movie walks some fine lines.  Clearly Lupino's naive virgin has never really known a man before and is throwing herself at the first guy to really take her fancy.  Similarly, Clark is putting way too much on Lupino as an angel who will save him from himself.  And the movie never really does anything to de-romanticize all of that.  Or address that Clark "doesn't mean it", but he sure has homicidal impulses and if Lupino were to leave with him, sure seems like she'd be dead within a year.

I *do* think the movie wants to say something about this, but it's left to a brief bit of dialog from her mother to put the seed of doubt in the audience's mind.  And I'm not sure the movie (and 1947) is aware of what it's setting up.  But like many movies of young couples caught in an impossible situation (see: They Live By Night), it's all Romeo and Juliet star-crossed romance.  People are gonna wind up dead before things are over.

According to show-notes presented by Eddie Muller, this could have been a John Garfield movie, and we might have had a marginally different picture if that had occurred.  We have to buy a lot in a short amount of time, and the movie doesn't always sell it.  I don't know how that looks with Garfield.

But, also, the movie wants us to believe Lupino doesn't look great in a blouse and jeans and that makes the movie a liar.

Still, it's an interesting movie if not a great one.  Not all of these are grand slams.  

*no, this is never addressed

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

PodCast 246: "Out Of Sight" (1998) - A Social Bobcat / Neo-Noir Episode w/ Ryan

Watched:  06/16/2023
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  Third?  Fourth?
Director:  Soderbergh

The Social Bobcat is back to dig deep into this 1990's classic of cool. Join us as we take a look at what forces were at play in the 1990's, what works in this movie that makes it okay to be cool, and that putting Clooney and JLo in your movie is not a bad idea.



Fight the Power, Pt. 1 - The Isley Bros. 
Foley, Pt. 2 - David Holmes, Out of Sight OST 

Noir and Neo-Noir Playlist

Thursday, June 8, 2023

PodCast 244: "The Big Lebowski" (1998) - A Coen Bros Rewatch w/ Stuart and Ryan

Watched:  05/28/2023
Format:  BluRay
Viewing: Unknown
Decade:  1990's
Director:  Coen Bros.

Stuart and Ryan try to keep their minds limber to keep up with all the moving pieces and new things that have come to light. We're rewatching a cult favorite and maybe the Coen Bros. best remembered film? Anyway, we don't roll on shabbos, but we do podcast. So, join us for a convo on a fan favorite!



Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) - Kenny Rogers & The First Edition 
Dead Flowers - Townes Van Zandt 

Coen Bros. Films

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Noir Watch: Dial 1119 (1950)

Watched:  05/24/2023
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  First
Director:  Gerald Mayer

I went into this film with low expectations and finished it absolutely knocked over by the script, direction and actors - not to mention the camera work, attention to costume, etc...  It's a dynamite package of a movie, and one I'd recommend for folks thinking of character detail done economically.

The movie takes place in near real-time as an escaped psychiatric patient steals a gun on a charter bus and then winds up taking a bar and its patrons hostage while things escalate outside.  It's part of the noir subgenre of hostage-dramas that probably started before The Petrified Forest, but found footing there and worked it's way into a thousand scenarios (check our Key Largo if you haven't prior).  

The cast is mostly folks who were not mainstream stars in 1950, though some became household names.  In it's way, it's an ensemble picture, and feels influenced by theater of the first half of the 20th century, not least of which is the Pulitzer prize winning Time of Your Life.  Only interrupted by a psychotic gunman.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Noir Watch: The File on Thelma Jordan (1950)

Watched:  05/15/2023
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  First
Director:  Robert Siodmak

What's not to like?  A Hal B. Wallis production, directed by Robert Siodmak, shot by George Barnes and starring Stanwyck.  No notes.  Well done.

The movie was written by a pair of women, one on story (Marty Holland) and one on script (Ketti Frings), who understand the assignment and put together characters in trouble before the action even starts.  

Wendell Corey plays an Assistant DA, an up-and-comer, whose wife has slotted him as caretaker and figurehead but who has made him a stranger in his own home by refusing to hear him on anything, but in the sweetest and dimmest way, all wrapped up with good intentions.   Meanwhile, Stanwyck - at the end of her rope - has moved in with her elderly aunt as a companion.  The two meet under boozy circumstances, and soon strike up an affair.


Saturday, May 6, 2023

Neo-Noir Watch: The Last Seduction (1994)

Watched:  05/06/2023
Format:  Criterion
Viewing:  First
Director:  John Dahl

Well, at long last I got around to The Last Seduction (1994).  

I can see how well-meaning dopes would have cast Fiorentino in Jade on the heels of this movie, possibly trying to borrow some of the heat she brings to this film, but the two movies are worlds apart, and one is a 90's indie darling playing to a punchline, and the other is a shiny studio movie that feels like a hastily jotted-off airport-book thriller.  

The Last Seduction reads more like a Goodis novel or Jim Thompson book, with low-level crooks twisting and turning over each other and innocence is a commodity of dubious value.  Fiorentino plays a con who encourages her husband (Bill Pullman) to take part in a risky drug deal, earning a huge amount of cash.  After a bitter argument in which Pullman slaps Fiorentino, when he goes to shower, she takes the money and runs.  

Headed for Chicago, Fiorentino stops off in a small town in upstate New York, where her attorney advises her to lay-low while she runs a divorce through.  She picks up Peter Berg in a bar (who believes he's picking her up).  Berg has recently returned from Buffalo, where things didn't work out.  He's a bit bummed as he thought he was the guy who was going to get out of this one-horse town.  Now he's met someone from NYC who seems like his ticket out.

Fiorentino schemes.  A lot.  

Friday, May 5, 2023

Wrong Franchise Watch: The Fast and the Furious (1954)

Well, I finally watched a Fast and the Furious movie, but I watched the one from before F&F was cool, and absolutely not about fambily.

This movie is a Corman-produced thing about the working-est actor in Hollywood who you recognize but don't know his name (John Ireland) as a crook on the run who hijacks a very cool car that is owned and operated by the-always-a-good-idea Dorothy Malone.  He's trying to get across the border to Mexico, and a race that takes people across the border is his ticket out.

For a 1950's Corman movie, it holds together really well and when it is talky, it's all right, because Malone and Ireland are legit actors.  And Ireland was one of the directors, which is interesting (to me).  Only one of two directorial efforts.

Anyway, I watched this three months ago and forgot to mention it, so here we are.

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

PodCast 241: "Jade" (1995) a Neo-Noir-Thriller-of-Doom w/ Jamie and Ryan

Watched:  04/28/2023
Format:  Criterion Channel
Viewing: First
Decade:  1990's
Director:  William Friedkin

Jamie and Ryan sleuth their way through a mid-90's erotic thriller and are trying to solve the mystery of what happened to both the thrills or eroticism promised. We piece together the clues and, much like the detective of this movie, just sort of aimlessly wander around trying to figure out why we're supposed to care.



Main Title - James Horner, Jade OST
End Title - James Horner, Jade OST 


Sunday, April 2, 2023

Noir Watch: Leave Her to Heaven (1945)

Watched:  04/01/2023
Format:  Criterion Disc
Viewing:  First
Director:  John M. Stahl

It's funny how certain films experience a bit of trendiness within the classic film community or film noir world.  But, here's the thing, rarely is the surge of enthusiasm unearned.  

Leave Her to Heaven (1945) was buzzy a year or so ago.  I tried to watch it on the Criterion Channel but occasionally Criterion blips when I try to watch it, and I was literally watching it the day before it left and gave up.  So I took a gamble and with the recent Criterion sale picked up the BluRay.  And I am not disappointed.  Appropriate buzzing, classic film nerds.

I have zero problem with a good, dark melodrama that bleeds into early noir, and, boy howdy, is this that.  Heck, I just like a good melodrama these days.*

The movie is about a woman (Gene Tierney) who, while going to spread her father's ashes with her mother and adopted sister (Jeanne Crain), meets an author (Cornel Wilde).  All are from Boston and find they enjoy one another's company and Wilde and Tierney fall for each other even though she's engaged to a politician (Vincent Price!) - which she breaks off long distance.  

Thursday, March 16, 2023

PodCast 237: "Drive" (2011) - A Neo-Noir PodCast w/ SGHarms and Ryan

Watched:  03/01/2023
Format:  BluRay
Viewing: Third
Decade:  2010's
Director:  Nicolas Winding Refn

Steven and Ryan will give you an hour and twenty-two minutes. For that time, you're theirs as they talk a fairly divisive bit of neo-noir from a curious inflection point in cinema. Join us as we put the pedal to the metal and get under the hood of a cult favorite that dares to ask if you can really hammer home an idea, and is Albert Brooks just a cut up?



Nightcall - Kavinsky
A Real Hero - College w/ Electric Youth

Noir at The Signal Watch PodCast

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Noir Watch: The Killers (1946)

Watched:  03/10/2023
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Fourth?
Director:  Robert Siodmak

Way back sometime in high school I read the short story The Killers by Hemingway, and like most 17 year olds reading Hemingway, it hit me over the head like a sledgehammer.*  It's a taught bit about the nature of the inevitable - by those who dole it out, those on the receiving end, and those caught up in its wake.  

About twenty years after publication of Hemingway's story, it was adapted into a film starring a fresh-faced actor by the name of Burt Lancaster.  Lancaster hadn't really acted before, but he walked into movies with a natural talent, charisma and muscley torso that kept him working long enough that I knew him as one of the retirement age gangsters in Tough Guys released 4 decades later.   

The movie also introduced Ava Gardner to mass audiences, and broke her as a major star for decades to come.  Bonus: If you need to get an idea of what to put next to "femme fatale" in the dictionary, Gardner's Kitty Collins is a phenomenal example (then put Jane Greer next to her).  

But the movie opens on an empty small-town street with two men in the forms of William Conrad and Charles McGraw entering a cafe and - for the next ten minutes the movie mostly re-creates the scene from the short story, nearly word-for-word, minus some racial slurs and some logistical stuff.  And, if you were a 17-year-old once who read Hemingway, its wild to see Nick Adams as a minor supporting character in a movie.

It's a hell of a scene.  Taught stuff that movies have been trying to recreate now for almost 80 years - almost 100 if you count back to the release of the short story.

The rest of the film has the tough chore of going back and starting at the beginning and working its way back to the opening sequence.  Eventually, it earns the sequence, but the tone never quite matches the first ten minute again.  Using the flashback-via-investigator framing made famous by Citizen Kane (released 5 years earlier) the movie relies on Edmond O'Brien to play an insurance investigator trying to find out why a man set up a woman he met once as his life-insurance beneficiary.  But I'll be dipped if I can say what he's actually investigating and why.  It seems like he answers work-related questions by the film's halfway point.  I don't know if he was looking to deny the payout or recover the money the Swede took.

What the film does do is create a good detective story infused with what would become hallmarks of noir.  Femme fatales.  Flashbacks.  Disposable hoods.  Character actors being characters.  A scramble for money.  Low-level gang bosses with more hair tonic than brains.  And all the secrets to come spilling out in the final reel as no one escapes their fate.  The only thing it's missing is Elisha Cook Jr. 

Anyway, I very much enjoyed a rewatch.  It's a kick of a movie.

*my understanding from social media is that Hemingway is no longer fashionable with the kids because (gestures at everything about Hemingway).  

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Watch Party Watch: Strangers on a Train (1951)

this tagline is wildly misleading

Watched:  03/03/2023
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  Second
Director:  Hitchcock

Well, that was certainly a good way to get to watch a second Ruth Roman movie in a week.  

I'd been mentally abusing the watch party participants recently via my choice of movies, so it seemed like time to watch an actually good movie with the team.  And my memory of Strangers on a Train (1951) was that it was a strong film, but I couldn't remember anything after the initial train sequence but a sense of how utterly @#$%ed the guy was who was not Farley Granger (Robert Walker*).  

Hitch is the most discussed director in Western cinema, and this movie gets no small amount of ink, so I don't feel terribly compelled to weigh in.  But I will say:

  1. this movie and Shadow of a Doubt certainly share a lot in common, and I'd want to dig more into that, and how he gets from here to Psycho by 1960
  2. The cops are directly responsible for manslaughter as well as considerable chaos and danger to the public through ineptitude in the final scenes
  3. Farley Granger's character never really has a compelling reason to not tell the cops what is happening, all things considered
  4. Robert Walker is phenomenal
  5. No one much mentions the dead ex-wife other than as a plot point.  Granger doesn't head home to the funeral, he doesn't mourn her in any way.  That's maybe the most suspicious bit of all, really.  
  6. I appreciate that Ruth Roman's character is given reason to believe Granger but wasn't entirely unsure he didn't kill his wife.  
  7. Pat Hitchcock co-stars in the film, and she's actually really good.  If your career is going to be the product of nepotism, might as well shoot for the moon
Anyway, this is what thrillers are for.  If you've never seen it, recommended.

*Walker passed shortly after the making of the film, while working on a new film. His biography on imdb is grimly fascinating

Friday, March 3, 2023

Noir Watch: Hunt the Man Down (1950)

Watched:  03/02/2023
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  First
Director:  George Archainbaud

For good or ill, there's more movie packed into the 70 minutes of Hunt the Man Down (1950) than in your average 3-hour Oscar Bait prestige film.  And, I'll argue, this movie is actually entertaining while carrying a message about how things *should* work that seems wildly progressive and cutting edge against decades of cynicism and trying to feel wise by having the lowest of expectations of humanity.

The set up is less than simple.  A guy tries to stick up a bar at closing, and the dishwasher stops him and saves the day.  The press puts the hero's picture in the paper (against his will), and it turns out he's a guy who was about to be convicted of murder 12 years prior, but he escaped his guard and fled the day before he was sentenced.  The cops pick him up and he's set to be retried using the original testimony of the witnesses.

Hearing the story of what transpired the night in question, the public defender (Gig Young) has to go back and find the original witnesses with the assistance of his father, a former cop who is reluctant to help spring a guy.  

And, hoo boy, has history happened in the past dozen years.  Alcoholism, madness, suspicious coupling, war heroes, puppetry, mysterious deaths and murder.  It's just slapping the noir-centric fates button for the witnesses as Gig Young locates each one and determines how their futures hinged on that night.

But what's remarkable is the unshakeable belief the movie has in every man's right to a day in court with vigorous defense.  Gig Young isn't even sure his guy didn't do it - but he's going to make sure he does the leg work that didn't happen in the years prior.  It's positively wild to see a movie that's not about people with crafty defense lawyers who can bamboozle a juror's box full of rubes and get their guy off and the poor prosecutor who must see justice done.  There's a real everyman quality to both Young and his client (and especially Young's dad) that appeals to what everyone should expect, and a recognition that not everyone who winds up behind bars is actually guilty.  There's a reason we have a system that's supposed to give you a shot.  And even if that system does fail, maybe it's because we bring a lot of baggage in with us as jurors - including the media we watch.

This movie is no 12 Angry Men, but I was shocked how *good* it was for what it was.  It uses every moment to push the story forward, it contains almost a dozen characters and you know who all of them are and how they function despite minimal screentime, and manages to get it's point across while being way less soap boxy than I got in the paragraph above.  But, hey, that post WWII idealism was not the worst thing in the world.

You can expect a certain level of film - this was the B movie to help fill a double-bill.  Not everyone here is star material, but it's not distracting.  And we do get Cleo Moore as a brunette, which is not a complaint.

There are plot holes.  Why would you stay in the same town where you could run into any number of people who could recognize you?  Why - when you were in the paper - wouldn't you sprint out of town? But.

Anyway - worth a watch some time.

If I have a beef - it's that:  despite the title, no man is hunted down.  The defendant is found by accident.  The witnesses just turn up one by one.  Like, I get that maybe it's about not treating defendants as prey, but.  Sometimes it feels like they just slap a name on these movies.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Noir Watch: Lightning Strikes Twice (1951)

Watched:  02/23/2023
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  First
Director:  King Vidor

The thing that might leap out at you watching Lightning Strikes Twice (1951) is that the film was written by a woman, based on a novel by a woman.  So while it's absolutely a grimy, desert noir, it's also not focused on a Dana Andrews floating into town and getting in over his head - it's Ruth Roman.  And the male characters of the film are certainly important, but they're not the show that you're here to see.*  This movie has terrific - I mean great - female characters who don't feel like they got knocked out of the "mother", "housewife", "nightclub girl" mold you may realize you've gotten too used to.

Friday, February 17, 2023

Noir Watch: Kiss The Blood Off My Hands (1948)

Watched:  02/15/2023
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  First
Director:  Norman Foster

Boy, they really used to know how to name a movie, didn't they?  

Kiss the Blood Off My Hands (1948) is post-war noir, filmed in Hollywood doing it's darndest to look like post-War London, and populated by British ex-pats and Burt Lancaster.  You get Joan Fontaine!  How can that be wrong?

This film is the darkest of noir, and an interesting example of the movement.  Normally I think of noir as including either a person who is in a morally corrupt world because of their choice of job as a detective, but much more often as a person who is corrupted by a compulsion (here's where you get your femme fatales leading morally shaky fellows astray) and their world turns upside down.  But this movie has a flawed protagonist who is also the victim of what we'd now call PTSD - a veteran of the war who saw no point in going back to the U.S. and is adrift in London.  

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Period Noir Watch: Hangover Square (1945)

Watched:  02/08/2023
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  First
Director:  John Brahm

Really dug this film.  What could have been a hokey set-up is carried off without a hitch, all pistons firing on this one.  From performances of a great cast, to a score that's woven in and far more than incidental, there's astounding camera work and lighting, amazing sets, etc...  and a story that has nuance, but a clear through-line.

Honestly, I prioritized the film because it starred Linda Darnell and Laird Cregar, who I appreciate for every different reasons.  But even with the strong assemblage of parts, the film felt like it 

Laird Cregar and Linda Darnell get cozy in a cab

The basic story is: 

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Amazon Watch Party Watch: Gorilla at Large (1954)

Watched:  02/03/2023
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Director:  Harmon Jones

So, to my complete surprise, I liked this movie semi-unironically.  

I found it weird that this movie starred fairly big names for the time.  Not huge stars, but knowable names and more than one of them.  It has Raymond Burr, Lee J. Cobb, a young Lee Marvin, Cameron Mitchell (before he spiraled into camp), and Anne Bancroft here to remind you she is, indeed, a very good idea.  I was not familiar with Charlotte Austin, who plays the virginal character, but who could scream like crazy and had great hair (and was in another gorilla movie in 1958 called The Bride and the Beast, penned by Ed Wood Jr.).

At around the 70% mark of the movie, I think it was Jenifer who pointed out "this is gorilla noir", and she was not wrong.  This is absolutely murder mystery noir, set against the backdrop of a carnival, with a gorilla as a character, and plenty of intrigue to go around.  The movie is knowing enough that it constantly plays with expectations, and I had no idea how this thing would wrap up until the end.  

It's also, visually, very interesting.  Shot at Nu Pike Amusement Park in Long Beach.  I thought it was the same location as Woman on the Run/ Gun Crazy and others, and was very wrong.  My takeaway is that California had some great amusement options in the 20th century.  (The Burglar was filmed in New Jersey, so I was way off there.)  But as something shot originally for 3D presentation, and in bright technicolor, it's a fascinating bit of visual cotton candy, including a dynamic scene with a mirror maze (that I'm not clear on how it was shot without showing the crew standing behind the camera, tbh).

It's not challenging the AFI Top 100 as an underserved, underseen classic, but it's *interesting*.  Including the bizarre decisions that led to the finale.