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

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Noir Watch: The Lady From Shanghai (1947)



Watched:  06/29/2020
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM
Viewing:  third
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Orson Welles

The backstory to the making of The Lady From Shanghai (1947) is famous, gossipy Hollywood lore.  Hayworth starred alongside soon-to-be-ex husband and director, Orson Welles, transformed from the red-coiffed icon of Gilda into a platinum blonde and a femme fatale.

A bit like The Big Sleep, a lot of people talk about how this movie is confusing, but I didn't find it particularly so.  While I cop to the fact that The Lady from Shanghai isn't a pat story and that the plot wanders - it all holds together within each character's motivation, and I don't really get the complaints.  From Muller's shownotes, I'll give the credit for cohesive storytelling not to Welles, but to his editor Viola Lawrence, who took Welles' loose footage and worked with him to get it into some sort of story, and got it cut to a standard-length picture when Welles left the movie.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Noir Watch: Underworld USA (1961)



Watched:  06/26/2020
Format:  Noir Alley on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1960's
Director:  Samuel Fuller

One of the things I enjoy about watching noir and older films is figuring out how great some directors really were.  I still haven't watched enough Samuel Fuller, but I have yet to see a Fuller movie that didn't hit me over the head like a 2x4, and Underworld U.S.A. (1961) is no exception.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Noir Watch: Backtrack (1990) and Murder by Contract (1958) w/ JAL & Ryan


Watched:  06/11/2020 (Backtrack) & 06/16/2020 (Contract)
Format:  Amazon Streaming and TCM Noir Alley
Viewing:  First / Second
Decade:  1990's/ 1950's
Director:  Dennis Hopper/ Irving Lerner

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We're back with more noir - neo and otherwise! It's two movies about weirdo hitmen filmed 30 years apart. One is from the go-go 90's and has a lot of surprises, and the other is a cult classic of noir, about a man who just wants enough money to get that house he's had his eye on. Both have casts worth discussing and off-kilter approaches to their form. Join JAL and Ryan as we make our way through two features that don't get that many mentions.





Music:
The Executioner Theme - Perry Botkin, Murder By Contract score


Noir Playlist:

Friday, June 12, 2020

Noir Watch: The Woman in the Window (1944)



Watched:  06/10/2020
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Fritz Lang

This film has a tremendous premise, a terrific cast, and is absolutely knee-capped by the Hayes Code in the final minutes.  I wouldn't say it's not worth watching, but if you're squinting at the movie and aware of the rules of the road for a movie made in 1944, and wondering "holy heck, how is *this* going to resolve?" - you may be on to something.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Noir Watch: Cornered (1945)



Watched:  06/04/2020
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on BluRay
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Edward Dmytryk

There's a lot to like in Cornered (1945), categorized here as Film Noir, but it's early in the movement and won't fit some people's ideas of the category.  Still, a man driven half-mad by obsession ignores common sense in pursuit of his goals, his weaknesses clobber him repeatedly and near fatally, and there are possibly scheming women, even as he sets about solving a mystery.  He's not a professional detective, but former Canadian RAF pilot Gerard (a not Canadian-polite Dick Powell) is recovering at the end of the war and learns that the French girl he met and married while hiding out in a village after being downed, was rounded up and killed by a Nazi collaborator.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Forgot to Mention It Watch: Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982)



Watched:  05/something/2020
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Carl Reiner

I watched this weeks ago and a stray comment from Jenifer reminded me I for to post about it, but I did watch it. 

Now I'm too tired to write about it. 

Monday, May 25, 2020

Noir Watch: The Crimson Kimono (1959)



Watched:  05/24/2020
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Samuel Fuller

One of the deep dives I'm likely to do in the next couple of years is dive into the filmography of director Samuel Fuller.  I've never seen a Fuller film I didn't like *a lot*.  Pickup on South Street, Shock Corridor, The Naked Kiss...  all solid films.  A while back The Crimson Kimono (1959) played the Austin Noir City film festival, but I wasn't able to stay for the movie, and now I'm very mad at myself for not sticking around for the movie (I think Paul saw it). 

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Noir Watch: Mildred Pierce (1945)



Watched:  05/16/2020
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1940's
Director: Michael Curtiz


It's pointless for a schlub blogger like me to get into writing much about Mildred Pierce (1945) - it's one of the best known and most written about movies out there, still a favorite among even the most casual of classic film fans.  Anyway, there's no shortage of critical analysis out there about the film. 

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Noir Watch: Fallen Angel (1945)



Watched:  05/08/2020
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Otto Preminger

This movie sort of felt like it was all over the place, or like parts of a few movies crammed together and held together by the twin powers of Dana Andrews and Linda Darnell.  Which is a shame, because Alice Faye, with whom I am not familiar, is good in this movie as well, but her plotline feels like it's sliced and diced til it leaves what looks like an interesting role as a sort of bystander on the sideline of her own story. 

Is it a Nightmare Alley look at carnival people and illusion?  Is it a Postman Always Rings Twice story of a girl stuck in a rut of her own making and wanting out, making a sap of a guy to do so?  It is a small town drama about spinsters and a travelling huckster?  It's got all of these elements, and you can see the lines where the stories are fused, but it does stick together.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Noir Watch: Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956)



Watched:  05/01/2020
Format:  Noir Ally on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Fritz Lang

This one hadn't really been on my radar, but with Fritz Lang directing - his final American film, no less - and starring Dana Andrews, and both coming off the heels of a movie I thoroughly enjoy, While the City Sleeps, I saw no reason not to give it a spin.  In some ways, and from an elevator pitch angle, the plotting is very similar to 1963's Samuel Fuller directed Shock Corridor, but Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956) is a different type of movie, even if the two films definitely share significant DNA.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Noir Watch: Night and the City (1950)



Watched:  04/30/2020
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  2nd or 3rd
Decade:  1950
Director:  Jules Dassin

I've seen this movie before, and, if someone asked me what I think makes for a pure distillation of one of my definitions of "film noir", ie:  a character who is deeply in over their head because of a character flaw - you have Double Indemnity and you have Night and the City (1950).  And it's possible Night and the City is the even purer dose of the idea - because unlike Double Indemnity, there's no sex tangled up in the question - this is just a broken guy who, as Gene Tierney's character Mary says "You could have been anything. Anything. You had brains... ambition. You worked harder than any 10 men. But the wrong things. Always the wrong things..."

The only mistress in this movie, which absolutely does have the "good girl" in the form of Tierney waiting on our protagonist, is his own sense of destiny and overconfidence in his ability to play the grift. 

But, man, fate is a bitch.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

PODCAST: "The Killing" (1956) and "Asphalt Jungle" (1950) - Noir Watch! w/ JAL and Ryan



Watched:  04/03/2020 (Killing)/ 04/06/2020 (Asphalt)
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1950's
Directors:  Stanley Kubrick/ John Huston

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JAL and Ryan watch two noir classics. Both heists. Both starring Sterling Hayden. One directed by a young Stanley Kubrick, the other by John Huston. We dive into what makes them work, some terrific performances and which director was in his prime and which was sorting things out. It's a journey into movies that set the stage for every heist movie to come after.





Music:
Noir Watch Theme - The Unsuspected Main Theme - Franz Waxman
The Killing, Main and End Theme - Gerald Fried
The Asphalt Jungle Theme - Miklos Rosza


Noir Watch Playlist:


Sunday, April 19, 2020

Russell/ Noir Watch: The Las Vegas Story (1952)



Watched:  04/18/2020
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director: Robert Stevenson

Pivoting from the exotic locale of Macao to the oasis in the desert that is Las Vegas, Nevada, Jane Russell drops Mitchum and picks up Victor Mature, Vincent Price and "the guy who will be a bad guy", Brad Dexter.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Noir/ Russell Watch: Macao (1952)


Watched:  04/15/2020
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director: Josef von Sternberg/ Nicholas Ray


I've been trying to track this movie down for years.  Fortunately, this month on TCM, Jane Russell is Star of the Month on TCM.  And, in any circumstance, Jane Russell is just an excellent idea.

This one has not just Russell as a lounge singer, she co-stars with Robert Mitchum, with whom she was apparently pretty good pals.  It also has Thomas Gomez and Gloria Grahame in an oddly small role for her chops (this is five years after Crossfire and the same year she got an Oscar nom for The Bad and the Beautiful).   Throw in William Bendix (as one always should) and Brad Dexter, and you've got an interesting cast.  Not to mention the large cast of Asian and Asian-American extras and supporting roles.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Noir Watch: I Wake Up Screaming (1941)



Watched:  04/05/2020
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on BluRay
Viewing:  3rd or 4th
Decade:  1940's
Director: H. Bruce Humberstone

I'd already seen this, so I wasn't going to watch it, but I've been on a Victor Mature kick lately, and Laird Cregar is so damn good in this movie I wanted to at least watch his scenes.  I also hadn't really contextualized I Wake Up Screaming (1941) in the timeline of the noir movement, and it's crazy to see a movie that so thoroughly *already* has down the noir style visually when the form was just getting started. 

Victor Mature is a little cagey

Friday, March 27, 2020

Noir Watch: Ride the Pink Horse (1947)


Watched:  03/25/2020
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's

I've been meaning to read some Dorothy B. Hughes, and now I'm deadly curious.  She wrote the novel this movie - a gritty, all-in-one-night (well, two nights) - is based on, and it sounds like the book is even meaner.

But you kind of have to know that anything that's called "Ride the Pink Horse" is either a children's book, porn or something rough and tumble enough that it can have a goofy name and walk away with it.  Sort of the "Boy Named 'Sue"" effect.  I won't pretend Ride the Pink Horse (1947) is a great film, but it's different and interesting enough that I can see why it's got it's own reputation among noiristas and landed a Criterion edition release.

Friday, March 20, 2020

PODCAST: "Gemini" (2018) - Noir Watch w/ JAL & Ryan



Watched:  03/07/2020
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's


It's a neo-noir! Join JAL and Ryan as we delve into a modern mystery thriller full of twists and turns in the world of Hollywood-pointed Los Angeles! There's murder, suspects and a personal assistant on the run, languidly pursued by no less than John Cho! Join us as we talk the world and rules of noir and doing it without pointing out that you're doing noir!




Music: 
Gemini - Keegan DeWitt, Gemini OST

Noir Watch Playlist:

Thursday, February 27, 2020

PODCAST! "Laura" (1944) - Noir Watch w/ JAL & Ryan


Watched:  02/22/2020
Format:  DVD
Viewing:  5th or 6th
Decade:  1940's


We welcome all-new co-contributor and longtime pal JAL to the PodCast for a new series: Noir Watch! We're kicking it off with a dreamy murder mystery, Laura (1944) - a whodunnit about a detective who falls for a painting, a venom tongued columnist and Vincent Price in his pre-Master of Horror Days. And, of course, the lovely Gene Tierney.




Music:
Laura - Dan Raskin, Laura OST

Noir Watch Playlist:





Show notes:

Whiskey:  Bonesnapper Rye

Some films mentioned:
His Kind of Woman starring Vincent Price, Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell
Kiss of Death starring Richard Widmark and Victor Mature

Laura as cover song
by Sinatra
by Charlie Parker
by Ella Fitzgerald

Laura portrait








Thursday, February 20, 2020

Noir Watch: Kiss of Death (1947)



Watched:  02/20/2020
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  3rd?
Decade:  1940's

Kiss of Death (1947) was one of the first "noir" films I watched years back when I was trying to sort out "what... is noir?".   It took a second viewing a couple of years later for me to get how it fit into the category, but I do feel it is a good example of a certain kind of noir.  More importantly, it's got a great set-up that plays into a tight, engaging story, and has three fantastic performances.  And Brian Donlevy.

I kid.  Brian Donlevy is fine, but this film is famous for a ground-breaking psychotic performance by Richard Widmark as mad-dog criminal, Tommy Udo.  Flat out, that's probably what the movie is best known for - and there's no question, it's the Joe Pesci-before-Joe Pesci performance of it's day.  Maybe even the Heath Ledger-Joker performance of its day?  He's a lit stick of sociopathic dynamite who thinks nothing of killing someone's kids just to make a point, and he'd have a good laugh about it.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Noir Watch: The Woman on the Beach (1947)


Watched:  02/07/2020
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's

This film lands somewhere just on the other side of what could have been an interesting one-set play, but requires film as the medium to tell the story Jean Renoir had in mind, and we'd lose some key scenes and beautiful visuals.

Muller's intro and outro on Noir City are more than what most of the hosts on TCM provide - there's lots of contextualizing, from historical notes to researched portions that shed light on aspects of the film you might not have picked up on as a modern viewer or not knowing what was happening with the creators of the film either professionally or personally.  And the outros usually leave you with something similar, but best saved for after you've already seen the movie.  And this movie had plenty of curious stuff surrounding it, not the least of which was that I never knew famed French director Jean Renoir (Rules of the Game) was the son of the famed painter, Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

Fleeing the Germans, Renoir came to the states and made the least memorable films of his career.  There's a long and painful story behind the making and release of The Woman on the Beach (1947), but the end result was a deeply shortened final film following reshoots and months and months in the edit room.

I don't actually doubt that the film counts as noir, but it's a noir living inside a melodrama.  The stakes are almost entirely personal, and no crimes, exactly fit into the picture.

Coast Guardsman "Scott" (played by Robert Ryan) is recovering from a ship going down under him and suffering from what we'd now call PTSD.  He's found a nice girl (Nan Leslie) in the coastal town where he's recuperating, and would marry her, but they have a schedule they're sticking to.  He keeps seeing a woman on the beach (natch) collecting firewood and hanging around, and eventually finds she (Joan Bennett) is married to a well known painter who has gone blind (Charles Bickford).  The robust and younger figure Scott (Ryan) cuts is appealing, and Peggy and Scott feel a mutual attraction.  The artist, Tod, is no charmer but Peggy doesn't feel she can leave him as she's responsible for him losing his eyesight.  Apparently they used to have bursts of boozing and passion, both angry and sexual (and at the same time, I'd gather).

Scott doesn't believe Tod is blind and believes he has to rescue Peggy (Bennett), becoming an obsession - but it becomes clear that Scott isn't the first gentleman Peggy has lured in.

The movie begins with some fascinating and oddball visuals of Ryan drowning, super imposed underwater in a series of effects shots - visual representations of his PTSD-fueled dreams.  But the cinematography captures the world of the film as a desolate beachfront, sand and scrub against weather, water and sun.  And plenty of "shot on location" footage brings the movie to life - including a scene in which Scott tests whether Tod is actually blind, clearing the question for both audience and himself.

The movie isn't color by numbers, and doesn't resolve its conflicts in ways that I realize maybe I'd come to expect from the movies appearing on Noir Alley, but it does have tight ending that I still didn't really see coming til it occurred.

Robert Ryan and Joan Bennett (and some beach)

Brief at 75 minutes, it's worth a spin.  Joan Bennett is pretty great (they suggest she's aging in the film, but looks younger than her mid-30's, so.... good genes, there, Joan), as is all the cast.  Maybe the weirdest to see in the film is a pre-Beverly Hillbillies Irene Ryan, playing a colorful but not over-the-top local woman and friend to Ryan's fiancee.

According to Muller, the movie was far longer in its original cut and tested badly - which would be obvious, this isn't a movie for teens and kids and the usual folks who show up for "movie" because it's free.  Although made inside the studio system, The Woman on the Beach reads more like an arthouse film, and it's kind of amazing it hasn't been remade in the years since in exactly that context.  The sort of confused love triangles are more reminiscent of The Piano than anything I can readily think of - especially those 90's and 00's potboilers about infidelity.