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

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Noir Watch: Brick (2005)


Watched:  04/24/2018
Format:  DVD
Viewing:  third
Decade:  2000's

There's probably plenty to say about this movie, but I'm saving it for a podcast.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Friday, March 2, 2018

Second Maigret Post Up at Texas Public Radio



Watched:  02/24/2017
Format:  Kino-Lorber BluRay
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's

I watched not one, but TWO Maigret mystery movies.  And, shockingly, wrote them both up.

Here's my post over at Texas Public Radio.


Friday, February 23, 2018

French Detective Watch: Maigret Sets a Trap (1958)


Watched:  02/17/2018
Format:  Kino-Lorber BluRay
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's

I am reviewing a pair of excellent films for Texas Public Radio, based on a series of novels by a Belgian writing about a French Detective. 

Here is the review for the first movie.  Thanks to TPR for the opportunity!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Noir Watch: Night and the City (1950)


Watched:  02/16/2018
Format:  TCM Noir Alley DVR (from November.  Yeesh.)
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's

At this age, it's not often you wrap up a movie and are pretty sure you've just seen one of the best movies of its genre.  But there you have it.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Friday, February 9, 2018

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Peggy Cummins Has Merged With The Infinite



I was unable to confirm yesterday when I saw the news, but now The Hollywood Reporter has it that actor Peggy Cummins has passed.

Cummins is in at least two fantastic movies, Curse of the Demon (1957) and, of course, one of my hands-down favorite films, Gun Crazy (1950).

You can read the linked article to get a notion of Cummins' career, which was fairly brief despite her obvious talents.  Not everyone stays in pictures, or even in Hollywood.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Remembering Audrey Totter on her 100th Birthday



Several years ago I was out visiting San Francisco and JeniferS showed me a noir she knew I'd never seen, starring Richard Basehart, Cyd Charise and an actor she adored but with whom I was unfamiliar, Audrey Totter.  The movie was Tension, and it was all kinds of terrific.  But, yes, Jenifer was right, Audrey Totter was absolutely phenomenal in that movie, stealing focus in every scene.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

It's Just not Christmas Until Audrey Totter is Looking Right Into the Lens

Through not-so-mysterious means, the 1947 film Lady in the Lake has become a perennial holiday favorite for me.  Philip Marlowe detecting, Christmas time and Audrey Totter sorta looking you in the face.


This is the movie directed by (and kinda starring) Robert Montgomery as Marlowe and shot almost entirely from his POV.  Pretty amazing work for the era and size of cameras in 1947.  The book is darker and more grisly than the movie, and not set at Christmas, if memory serves.  The plot is complicated by the fact the movie never visits the key location from the book, keeping everything in the city and refusing much in the way of exterior shooting.

But, hey, Audrey Totter is terrific.  And they actually make Christmas kind of key to the adaptation, so that's fun.



Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Happy Birthday to Ms. Gloria Grahame


You probably know Gloria Grahame for her small but pivotal part in It's a Wonderful Life as Violet, the attractive blonde in Bedford Falls who fails to land Jimmy Stewart and is a headcase in the Pottersville segment of the movie.

But Grahame's career included a lot of noir, some musicals (she's in Oklahoma! as Ado Annie), and a life off-screen that was dramatic, to say the least.  If you follow older films and want to see some top notch noir, I recommend (very highly):


  • Crossfire
  • The Big Heat
  • In a Lonely Place
  • Human Desire


But this list is not even close to comprehensive when it comes to her body of work.

Like a lot of women of her generation in Hollywood, her rise was incredibly fast and her path out of Hollywood was rocky, to say the least.  Curiously, Annette Benning is playing Grahame in an upcoming movie that covers the final years of Grahame's life, from what I can tell.  Looks promising, as far as these movies go.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Sci-Fi Watch: Blade Runner 2049 (2017)



Prior Blade Runner posts:
January 9, 2016 - film watch
September 16, 2016 - novel
January 6, 2008 - DITMTLOD



SOME SPOILERS BELOW:

Like a lot of people of my generation, Blade Runner is one of my favorite films.  To expect objectivity regarding the film at this point is a difficult request as I cannot separate the film's actual merits from the impact it had upon me when I first watched the film circa 1988 and deepening appreciation over time.

In a recent comment, Fantomenos asked what the last band was that I related to on a deeply personal level, where I felt they were speaking straight to me (I dodged the question), and I think movies operate much the same way.  I will simply never feel quite the same way about a movie now as I did in high school.  Whatever openness I had to experience during that period of development is a maze of decades of other movies, cynicism and life experience. 

At this point, I've watched Blade Runner dozens of times.  I know the beats, the characters, the dialog.  And so do you, most likely.  I can talk about things explicit and implicit to the film's story, talk about the production of the movie and tell you about seeing a Spinner and Rachael's dress in Seattle.  I'm aware it's likely part of how I became interested in cinema noir, film design, and remains the high water mark for movies about AI, in my opinion.

If Star Wars had created a totally immersive universe through design, sound, music, character and themes - a fairy tale universe in which I would have been happy to jump into, Blade Runner provided a similar experience with a dystopia in which everything seemed to fall out of the current culture, in which I could draw a line from our current lives to how we might reach this world of constant rain, stratified social classes, surreal landscapes of mega-structures and ubiquitous advertising (some of it beautiful). And, no, despite the Rachaels, I would not want to live in the world of Blade Runner.  The world of this movie is the world of the end of humanity.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Noir Watch: The Blue Gardenia (1953)



I'm not entirely certain what to make of The Blue Gardenia (1953), and possibly talking about it right after watching it is a mistake.  It was this week's pick on TCM's "Noir Alley", introduced by the great Eddie Muller.

My current take on the film is that I like a huge amount of the pieces that made up the movie, but wasn't a raging fan of the movie itself.  I mean, it stars Richard Conte, Raymond Burr and Anne Baxter (who does some kind of edgy stuff for 1953 - but that's noir all over).  It's got a scenario as treacherous as many or most in noir, pulling the world down a normal person's ears because she made a bad decision or two.  And it's one of the more straightforward "no means no" messages you're going to see in a movie, but baked into the social standards of the era - which makes it all the more challenging.

And did I mention Fritz Lang is the director?  And Nicholas Musuraca (Out of the Past) was DP?

AND it had George Reeves in a supporting role as a wiseguy of a cop?

Yeah, I don't quite get why the movie felt a little flat.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Noir Watch: Tension (1949)



This is likely the fourth time I've watched Tension, the 1949 pulp-tastic noir I was first introduced to by JSwift during a trip to SF a few years back.  It aired this last Sunday during Turner Classic Movies' new segment, Noir Alley, hosted by Eddie Muller.*

Muller does what he does so well - introduce the movie, give some history and context and talk about the players in unpolished terms.  This screening included an appreciation of co-star Audrey Totter, whom we at The Signal Watch think is absolutely tops, and a closer discussing the complicated life of director John Berry.

In addition to Totter, the movie also stars Richard Basehart, William Conrad, Lloyd Gough, Barry Sullivan - and, oddly, Cyd Charisse in a role where there is not a single step of dance.  I mean, she's terrific - she's got some straight acting ability, but it's an odd fit for someone who appeared in roles with not a single line but a lot of dancing.  That's sort of her deal.

It's a bit of a small-scale production, a tight cast working with a rat-a-tat script by Alan Rivkin, and good, twisty fun with some severely dated bits that don't seem aware they've inverted the Superman paradigm.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Noir Watch: They Live By Night (1948)



I remember trying to watch They Live By Night (1948) a decade or more ago when I was still narrowly defining "noir" as folks in hats in urban settings with tough-talking dames.  Truthfully, I didn't get it.  I made it about 40 minutes in and then threw in the towel.

But along the way, I've heard They Live By Night referred to so often, I began to feel downright guilty I'd never finished the movie.  Maybe it's been in context of the career of Nicholas Ray, or a post WWII film that was reflective of the Depression-era storytelling that was still happening in the first years after the war.   It's never given a top-billing-of-noir placement, but when writers who know noir start talking, eventually this movie gets a mention.  And, as it turns out, deservedly so.

Three convicts escape from prison and hole up with the brother of one of the convicts.  The youngest convict, Bowie - in for killing a man - seems to just want to get away, even as his colleagues want him as the third man necessary for committing bank heists.  Bowie meets Keetchie, the daughter of the guy they're hiding out with, and they begin to fall for one another.

After the three convicts pull another heist, Bowie and Keetchie go on the lam together, splitting off for the other two.  And, of course, things get complicated as the two bounce across the middle of America trying to keep ahead of both criminals and the law.

In many ways, They Live By Night is ground zero for the films that would come after it.  Bonnie and Clyde.  Badlands.   Hell, even Gun Crazy is a funhouse mirror version of this movie in which morals are turned upside down.   

Farley Granger who plays Bowie would also appear most famously in Hitchcock's Rope and Strangers on a Train.  And you can see why Ray wanted him in the film.  He's got a certain innocence and you can believe he really does want to do what's right if he had the slightest clue what that looked like.  And, just as much, you can believe that Keetchie is the best thing that ever happened to him - maybe the only good thing.  Keetchie is played by Cathy O'Donnell, who had previously appeared in The Best Years of Our Lives (an amazing post-war film), and would later appear in Ben-Hur.

Because the story has been copied over and over in many forms since, there's something weirdly modern but all-too-familiar about the movie.  It's noir, so one can expect that things won't end well for the players involved, who can't make the right moves at the right times as forces bigger than them work against them.

Even the roadside wedding chapel bit reappears in a number of noir films - a sign of hope and purity made a little cheap and tawdry, something compromised about what's supposed to be a grand occasion.

Visually, the film has a few components that make it stand out, not the least of which is helicopter-mounted camera shots already in 1948, following cars blasting through prairies and dirt roads of rural America.

They Live By Night is a movie well worth checking out and I much more get how it fits in with the genre, especially in the non-urban branch of the genre, the hidden back alleys just off Main Street USA.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Noir/ Crawford Watch: Sudden Fear (1952)



We're watching the new FX series, Feud: Bette and Joan (highly recommended), and it reminded me I'd been meaning to watch Sudden Fear (1952), a noirish potboiler starring Ms. Crawford, Jack Palance and Gloria Grahame.

Just the casting alone was enough to raise an eyebrow.  Of course I've seen a number of Grahame's pictures, a handful of Crawford's, but when it comes to Jack Palance, I've seen Batman, Shane and, sigh, his pair of 80's City Slickers comedies.*  And to see him in a movie where he has to act like a basically normal, functioning human was almost bizarre.  Because by the time I was a kid, even in real life Jack Palance was acting like a cartoon weirdo.

It's a strong, taught thriller with some great cinematography, tremendous use of sound and Crawford putting it all out there as she does a large amount of her acting completely alone.