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

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Noir Watch: The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry (1945)



Watched:  01/15/2020
Format:  TCM on DVR (Noir Alley)
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Robert Siodmak

I'd been wanting to see this one for a while, so I'm glad it came on Noir Alley.  Directed by Robert Siodmak (one of those names that means this should be, minimum, pretty good), starring George Sanders, Ella Raines and Geraldine Fitzgerald and - a more recent interest - produced by Joan Harrison - it had a lot of elements that made it worth at least a look.

The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry (1945) centers on a man aging into permanent bachelorhood as he pays the way for and cares for his two sisters - one a widow and the other an invalid.  The family fortune disappeared in the Depression, leaving the siblings scraping by in the rambling house that is a reminder of better times.  "Uncle Harry" (Sanders) meets a co-worker in from New York (Ella Raines) and the two spark an interest.  

However, one of the sisters isn't quite ready to let Harry go.  And things get weird.

The movie was made at the tail end of WWII (released pretty much the weekend after VJ Day), so it's got some similarities to other WWII-era films in that the cast is female-centric and the dashing male lead is George Sanders.  It takes place in limited spaces (based on a play, so there's that) and overall feels initimate and somewhat scaled down.

It's as easy to call this a melodrama as a noir, but I can see why Joan Harrison would have been interested in the script.  The characters are interesting and imperfect - no one (not even Raines) is a saint, and there's some genuine weirdness going on that goes beyond just sisterly affection.*  But, at the same time, Raines' character feels shockingly direct regarding her interest in Harry - she's no coy young lady, even when asked specifically to play that role.

As I thought - direction and performances were terrific, Sanders is in great form, and Geraldine Fitzgerald is note perfect.  But despite the actual warning not to spoil the ending they literally tag onto the end of the movie, I'll say:  the studio enforced ending that led to Harrison's parting with Universal and Siodmak shooting the bird at the studio is... awful.  The movie builds and builds to something absolutely mind-scrambling, and then... we get this cheesy ending.  But, you know, when they were wrapping this thing up, we were still fighting in Japan.  I get that maybe they wanted something that wasn't so depressing.

So, it makes it hard to actually recommend the movie.  It's a solid film right until, literally, the last minute, and then everything falls apart.  Did not like.

During the intro and outro, Eddie was joined by scholar Christina Lane - who has too many credentials for me to get into here - but she's an accomplished film academic.  I just picked up Lane's book on Joan Harrison and plan to crack it this weekend.  So - while I've seen a lot of Harrison's movies over the years, I'm looking forward to reading about the actual woman who made them happen (I also recently picked up Phantom Lady on BluRay and keep intending to show it to Jamie, and then I forget).


*that lady in the negligee is not the romantic subject of the film

Monday, January 4, 2021

Noir Watch: The Killer is Loose (1956)



Watched:  01/04/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Budd Boetticher 

We did this as a watch party.  

I already wrote this up a while back, and literally have nothing to add.  

It was super fun to watch with the watch party, but... nope.  No new insights or observations.


Friday, January 1, 2021

Christmas Noir Watch: Cover-Up (1949)




Watched:  12/23/2020
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Alfred E. Green

An insurance detective comes to a small town to look into the apparent suicide of a wealthy man with a considerable settlement coming to the benficiaries.  Arriving in town, he finds everyone hated the guy, it sure looks like murder, and everyone - including the foxy young lady he met on the bus on the way in, are in on a cover-up.  Thus, the name of the movie.

Stars William Bendix and Dennis O'Keefe.

The ending is weird and super chipper.  

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Watch Party Watch: Guest in the House (1944)




Watched:  12/29/2020
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  this one is confusing, but it's listed as follows on IMDB -  John BrahmJohn Cromwell...(uncredited) André De Toth...(uncredited) Lewis Milestone...(uncredited)

A dopey young doctor has fallen for his patient - a mental patient with a phobia of birds and a love of stirring shit (Anne Baxter).  Reasonably, he takes her to meet his idiotic family (minus one key player).  Unreasonably, he just f'ing leaves her with his idiotic family who just met her.  She gaslights the living shit out of everyone, including an 8 year old girl.

This movie features:
  • 3 great 1940's hairstyles on lovely women
  • 1 coocoo bananas psycho
  • Multiple dum-dums who clearly never met a Mean Girl
  • 1 Margaret Hamilton reminding you why it was hard for her to find work after Wizard of Oz seared her into your mind as a broom-riding funster
  • 1 wife who is wildly tolerant of 1 husband who is clearly banging his model no matter what the script tries to tell us
  • 1 man who has all the appeal of a soaked Ralph Bellamy that is, because filmed during wartime, the only man around sold to us as a real dream boat
  • 1 bird pining for the fjords
It is not a BAD movie, but it is also not hard to imagine how this movie could be better.  Also - how this sort of movie became a Lifetime movie, which would be called "Psycho Sister-In-Law".

However, this movie ALSO was released under the name "Satan in Skirts", which...  *chef's kiss*.



Monday, December 21, 2020

PODCAST: "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" (2005) - a Xmas Genre Xrossover w/ Jamie and Ryan




Watched:  11/28/2020
Format:  DVD
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2000's
Director:  Shane Black


Jamie and Ryan talk the 2005 neo-noir by Shane Black and starring RDJ jr. and Val Kilmer. We hadn't seen it and were heartily surprised by the film - a noir murder mystery sort of thing with a lot of classic detective pulpy roots as both text and plot. 
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Intro and Titles - John Ottman

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Noir Watch: Tomorrow is Another Day (1951)




Watched:  12/13/2020
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Felix E. Feist

I watched this film once before and did a brief write-up, so I won't belabor the points there.  Instead, I'll dwell on how there's always multiple reasons to watch a movie, starting with "is it any good?" and "was the story worth it?"  And, yes, and yes.  

Watching Tomorrow is Another Day (1951) again, I found  it seems to intersect at a lot of places in cinema and cinema history.  It's not breaking ground, but it does feel like 1951 is a particular time and place in what we're talking about, and the aesthetics of how that story is done.  And - it's helped along by the plot element of the basic set-up.

Steve Cochrane - who is becoming a personal fave - has just been released from prison after killing someone when he was still a teenager.  Now in his early 30's, he doesn't really know anything about post-Depression America.  Or how to function as an adult in society.  He's basically a 15 year old kid in a grown-up's body wandering the streets of post-War America with no context for anything from a 1950's era car with power windows to how to get a job.

One of the curious aspects of watching movies from the 1920's - 1960's is getting used to the wardrobes, ideas and fashions of each era - and getting your head around what the 50's looked like compared to the 1930's, and that can all bleed together in hats and suits in black and white.  But here it's a plot point to know the hat of 1951 is not the hat of 1935, and the cut of the suit is different (those of us who grew up in the 80's know our 1990's suit from our 2020 suit).  

For us sitting in 2020, who are staring at the taxi dancer sequence with wonder - this movie may have the most straight-forward presentation of what was going on in these places that doesn't assume a lot of audience knowledge (as Cochrane's character tries to sort it out).  

But the film also sits on the edge of the 1940's.  The urban portions, where Cochrane heads to NYC, feel like any movie from 1944-1950 (and miles away from the NYC of Sweet Smell of Success in 1957).  It's still dime-a-dance girls and tenement apartments.  But the back third of the film where Cochrane and Ruth Roman join seasonal workers picking lettuce - feels almost pre-war.  It's not the picture of post-war prosperity that we tend to think of, but which does show up in films like Border Incident and Thieves' Highway.  The hand-to-mouth existence of anyone wasn't always shown - but here it's a reminder of the struggles of a lot of America that the movies never really sought to show once the war came along.

It's not the way anyone really intended you watch the film, but every once in a while the structure or story of a film of the era can be a window into the period in ways that weren't necessarily intended, but wtill jump out at a modern viewer.  

I did like 95% of the movie again - but, man, that ending.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Noir Christmas Party Watch: Lady in the Lake (1947)

 

Watched:  12/18/2020
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Robert Montgomery

I've written this up plenty.  And podcasted it.  No need to do so again.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Watch Party Watch: "I, The Jury" (1953)




Watched:  12/8/2020
Format: Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Harry Essex

There was a time before Mickey Spillane was a name everyone kind of knew, and before Mike Hammer books had been adapted by major studios.  I, the Jury is one of the first Hammer books, released in 1947.  This poverty row movie adaptation came out in 1953 - and it really isn't like anything else coming out at the time.  

Yeah, the acting in this film wasn't going to threaten the usual Oscar contenders, and at first blush, there's a lot of what you might have seen in a Marlowe mystery - but (a) this case starts personal and finishes even more so for our detective, and (b) this detective is going to punch his way through the mystery.  

Where Marlowe tries to keep his cool, often over the top of rage whichs pills over, Hammer starts at a ten and goes up from there.  When your mystery starts with a dead best friend and you're on the trail through a bunch of weirdos - any of whom could have done it - I guess I can see how you'd be testy.  

Star Biff Elliot who plays Hammer is a curious choice.  He's not the stringest actor and his decision to go "angry" in every scene means that there's nowhere to go, really.  He blasts into the frame the first time we see him, and barges into every room thereafter  - so we don't ever really see him in any other state.  And anger is an easy go-to for actors, but it's hard to maintain.

The rest of the cast is actually pretty solid.  Peggie Castle as a love interest/ psychologist and Margaret Sheridan as Velda are both pretty great.  And Frances Osborne - who I'd only seen elsewhere in Murder By Contract - was very good as the mourning girlfriend of the murder victim.  

I discussed Spillane's semi-controversial place in crime-fiction, and this movie doesn't do much to dismiss the notion.  It's got as gritty a crime and violence angle, adjacent to overt sexuality as anything I can think of from this era - but still coded deeply enough that it was going to fly past the censors.  But, man, that ending is something else for the era.

The film was shot by John Alton, who always makes any picture look far better than it has a right to look - and I'd argue this movie had a huge impact on Frank Miller and his Sin City look and feel, from the deep shadow and windy mystery to the cinch in Hammer's raincoat.  

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Noir (on Ice!) Watch: Suspense (1946)




Watched:  12/7/2020
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Frank Tuttle

Jamie is not averse to noir, but I watch most of these by myself.  However, when I pitched her "it's a noir with figure skating as a key component", she was in.  She loves her some figure skating.

This is the third Belita-starring film shown on TCM's Noir Alley - and I'd guess the last.  She just didn't make many movies, let alone moody crime films.  I totally get why Eddie seems to have a soft spot for her - she's not exactly a powerhouse actress, but she does have a certain charm stemming from her own surprise at being in movies.

I'm mostly familiar with the King Brothers - producers on this one - from their movie Gun Crazy, part of my personal canon.   This was a follow up, and Monogram (who I mostly think of as having sets that look like high school play sets) upped the budget and talent.  Barry Sullivan stars as a hoodlum who lucks his way into a low level job at an ice-capades-type-show, and then parlays that into swiftly moving up the ranks as an ideas man - so they keep the ice show fresh and bring people back.

I mean - his big idea is a sort of oval full of swords that any film masters' student would have a field day figuring the Freudian messaging of, and doesn't seem like something any insurance company would okay - but whatevs.  Because Belita actually DOES the jump between the swords.  

Anyway, she's the wife of the older, mustachioed boss, and of course she feels an attraction to Barry Sullivan (because the script says to - he's not exactly Mitchum).  

Death, gunplay, avalanches, a cute dog and more figure skting figure in.  Plus, a scheming ex girlfriend and Eugene Pallette, the best Grumpy Gus in movies.  

It wasn't anything earth shattering, but I was pretty okay with it.  It can be hard to find a noir that Jamie wants to sit through, and I did it!  She was A-OK with this one.  But I don't think it will be easy finding more with ice skating.


Sunday, December 6, 2020

Noir Watch: Kiss Me Deadly (1955)




Watched:  12/6/2020
Format:  TCM on Noir Alley
Viewing:  third?
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Robert Aldrich

Mickey Spillane is a weird sell in crime and noir circles.  I've never read any of his books (I'm fixing that ASAP), but the general idea is that his detective novels featuring Mike Hammer are (more) sexist (than other noir) and sadistic.  That's spilled over to the Mike Hammer films and other media, most of which I haven't seen or paid much attention to - but Kiss Me Deadly (1955) is a @#$%ing crazy movie, and you should check it out sometime.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Noir Watch: Fear (1946)




Watched:  11/28/2020
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Alfred Zeisler

An adaptation of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, which I have never read (and I suspect few of you have, either) - and boiled down to a tight 65 minute crime thriller, Fear (1946) is a low-budget predecessor to a movie plot you've seen a dozen times over.  

Basically - upstanding guy commits crime, no one suspects him, and then a cop starts trailing him.  Meanwhile he meets a comely young lass.  

It's not actually that baaaaad.  It's just totally hamstrung by the cardboard sets and that they obviously had about 3 set-ups per scene per set.  If that.  Honestly, the acting is fine.  And the movie is short enough that you're in and out before you even get a chance to start pondering the movie's issues too much.

Anyway - not exactly something I'd recommend.  It feels more like a jot of an idea than an actual film.  But I've seen way worse, and the set-up kept me curious how they'd shake it out.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Spooky Noir Watch: The Seventh Victim (1943)




Watched:  11/18/2020
Format:  Noir Alley on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:   Mark Robson


A Val Lewton horror film - that means a lot of atmosphere, mystery, wild plotting and not a lot of blood or outright frights - The Seventh Victim (1943) is a study in building a sense of dread and doom.  It's a strange, strange film, following one lead character for much of the film before putting her in a corner and finding other characters more interesting to watch.  

The film marks the movie debut of Kim Hunter*, who plays a private school girl who learns her bills aren't being paid by her sister - and her sister seems to have disappeared.  She hits the big city and learns her sister has sold the cosmetics company she owned, her shrink hasn't seen her in a bit, and she was romantically hooked up with Ward Cleaver (see a young Hugh Beaumont as a sort of romantic character!).  

Seems her sister fell in with a bunch of devil worshippers, and that's no gone great.  In fact, when paired with a private eye who decides to do the work pro bono, he gets bumped off.  At some point, we find the sister, and she's on a path that none of the men around her quite understand as they try to save her.  

But, I'm selling the film short.  Being a Lewton produced film, it's all about ideas and what you can't see in the shadows.  There's a Lynchian dream-like quality to portions, and the horror of what you realize must be happening (from people getting away with murder right in front of you) to rooms full of people trying to talk you into suicide that's far weirder than any makeup or jump scares.  Really, the closest thing I can think of in a "we're gonna watch someone end badly" closest to this film was Fire Walk With Me.  

Included as a Noir Alley entry - it works.  The film's aesthetics rely on expressionism, deep shadow, etc...  There's certainly a doomed quality and an underworld scratching at the edges of polite society.  In this case, an underworld that's what polite society does after 8:00 PM.  



*Kim Hunter is much beloved at The Signal Watch as the actor who (a) appeared as Zira in some Planet of the Apes films, and (b) as Stella Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire.  




Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Noir Watch: Destination Murder (1950)




Watched:  10/21/2020
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Edward L. Cahn

Shown on Noir Alley, Eddie Muller set the stage perfectly - Destination Murder (1950) is not going to fool anyone into thinking they're watching an A picture, but it is a wild ride of a film with a lot of character and more twists than a bag of pretzels.  

Laura Mansfield (Joyce MacKenzie) has come home from college on the east coast when her father opens the door for a seeming delivery man and takes a fatal bullet.  The cops seem to be stumbling, so Laura takes it upon herself to do some snooping.  Unfortunately, all of the delivery drivers in their line-up had alibis, but Laura fakes trust in her most likely suspect, and that opens a door into the underworld of the city, all based around The Vogue nightclub.  

Cast includes most recognizably Stanley Clements as the delivery man and assassin, Albert Dekker as the boss of the nightclub, Hurd Hatfield as the brains and manager of the nightclub, and Myrna Dell as a competing femme fatale.  

For the first thirty minutes, it feels like a standard B-picture, and then the twists start coming hard and fast.  Some are jaw-droppers, some are "say what?" moments, but all of it does fit into the logic of the movie.  And, anchored by the solid delivery by Joyce MacKenzie, it's all a bit crazy but just works.  That said - no one will be in a rush to nominate anyone here for an Oscar.  

Highly recommended in a "well, that was crazy!" kind of way.

Watch Party Watch: Slighty Scarlet (1956)




Watched:  10/20/2020
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Allan Dwan - Director of Photography:  John Alton

This week's Tuesday selection by Jenifer was Slightly Scarlet (1956), an RKO noir picture that seemed to have all the hallmarks of an RKO crime picture, and - starring the late Rhonda Fleming - was released in technicolor.  Jenifer no doubt selected the film because Fleming passed just last week on the 14th, and it seemed like a good way to remember the red-head bombshell, known as "Queen of Technicolor".*

Shot by John Alton, one of the now-most-famous noir DP's, it's wild to see a noir of this period in color, and one that was still being lit like all we were working with was gray tone and black and white.  Even if the story of the film doesn't grab you, it's interesting enough just to see how the rules for how these movies would be shot that had been brewing for a decade works and doesn't work once your subjects are in living color.

The story is James M. Cain, who gave us Mildred Pierce and The Postman Always Rings Twice, so you know it's family melodrama mixed with MURDER.

Fleming plays a career-gal who has just landed the next mayor of her California coastal city (the fictional Bay City) as her beau.  She's picking up her sister from jail, a troubled young woman with a bent psyche.  But along comes John Payne - an educated fellow playing dirty in the rackets and has an eye on the Big Man's chair (Ted De Corsia).  

Payne romances Fleming, the sister - who becomes increasingly unhinged out of her prison environs - decides she wants her some John Payne, and city politics mix with mob corruption.

All in all, a tight noir plot.  Aside from color, the stand-out difference is really Arlene Dahl's portrayal of the troubled sister, who would be winding up in a Mental Health Court these days, and how treatment and support of family (even as Dahl is blaming Fleming for her state) is everything.  It does lean into "there's a specific event that caused this" psychology of the time, at least as far as movies are concerned - and it is lifted wholesale from 1946's The Locket - but it's still an interesting twist to not just write off the sister as twisted or evil.

Also - a harpoon gun is deployed!

I think I did a phenomenal job of not acting like a Tex Avery wolf cartoon when Fleming was on screen - and the movie (in classic RKO noir fashion) - was certainly going for production value.  I can't tell if this was part of the Howard Hughes era of the studio - certainly it has the feel of something he would have had his hands on, from Fleming's wardrobe, to Arlene Dahl's personal line of negligee playing a featured role, and fight scenes that feel a little bone-crunchy.  My suspicion is: yes.  But I'm not sure when Hughes' grip on RKO slipped, and it would have been around this period.  But, man, that poster looks like something Hughes would have insisted on.



*it's hard to say the impact red-heads had on Technicolor and it had on red-heads.  I know Maureen O'Hara was also considered a highlight of Technicolor film.  

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Noir Watch: The Racket (1951)




Watched:  10/13/2020
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  John CromwellMel Ferrer...(uncredited), Tay Garnett...(uncredited), Nicholas Ray...(uncredited)  Sherman Todd...(uncredited)

Part of the "tough, straight-lace cop goes up against the mob" noir genre that crescendos (for me) with The Big Heat, The Racket (1951) sees Robert Ryan cast as a mob boss who came up the ranks thanks to his Capone-like ruthlessness who now realizes that by joining a combination that's moved into town and absorbed him - he's getting sidelined.  And in his business, that can mean a pine box.  Ryan's opposite is Robert Mitchum, a guy who grew up in the same neighborhood as Ryan, but found satisfaction on the side of the angels.  before we see him, we know he's paid the price for not playing patty-cake with the mob -  passed over for promotion despite his success and pushed to yet another district.

There's no small amount of politics, graft and corruption, and Ryan's to-date clean record (bought via a line of pliable judges) is still holding up, but his desire to remain top dog in his town is leading him to recklessness - including deciding to put out a hit on a would-be judicial candidate.  Mitchum takes the indirect route to Ryan, picks up his brother, which brings the brother's songbird ladyfriend into the picture - here played by noir icon Lizabeth Scott.  There's also an amorous reporter who is awkwardly guileless for the profession he's selected, and William Talman plays a cop trying to live up to and follow in Mitchum's footsteps.

Also look for a young, The Killers-era William Conrad playing a role 20 years ahead of its time and "that guy" actor Ray Collins as the scumbag politician.

The film is an RKO picture, and on the tough side.  Even our good-guys play a bit fast and loose with the truth when they know the mob is using the law as a blunt instrument.  People throw punches with minimal provocation.  Even the virginal housewives (Joyce Mackenzie and Virginia Huston) have to deal with death and their foyers exploding.  Cars don't just crash, they flip.  

If you're a Mitchum or Robert Ryan fan (and I am), then that's enough.  RKO spent some money on this one, if not a ton of money, and the performances, dialog and stakes work well enough to gloss over some rockier aspects of the story.  

It's interesting to see Lizabeth Scott cast as more of a free-agent than the love interest of a main character.  Yeah, she's pursued by two characters in the film, but when her character speaks to Ryan and Mitchum, it's not through the filter of a romance - she's just laying down the truth, man.  She's pretty good here, honestly (she's never been my favorite of the noirista favorite dames), but credit where it's due.  I think she's terrific as an end-of-her rope songbird who couldn't believe she'd stumbled into a little luck in romance and possible financial security (those post-Depression notes just don't show up in movies anymore as a motivator, and they should).  

This is an ancestor of tough guy cops and robbers movies that we're still enjoying  - although after Heat, I'm not sure anyone is bothering anymore.  It's got that visceral appeal of an RKO noir, and doesn't put a shiny veneer on anything.  And, honestly, probably hews closer to a version of the truth than we want to think about as more than a fun crime story. It won't make you rethink cinema, and it's not the best even in it's sub-genre, but it's a solid production despite multiple writers and 4 directors (that we know of).

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Noir Watch: Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950)




Watched:  10/08/2020
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Otto Preminger


Before watching, I had a general awareness of Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950), a movie I've seen listed here and there as a noir-buff favorite.  Starring Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney and directed by Otto Preminger, you'd think I'd have prioritized the film.  I did not.  No idea why.  

And, of course, because noir buffs don't tend to oversell movies, the movie does not disappoint.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Noir Watch: They Won't Believe Me (1947)



Watched:  10/02/2020
Format:  TCM Noir Alley
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Irving Pichel

An interesting noir with a series of curious twists and a solid cast.  Presented on TCM's Noir Alley, host Eddie Muller brought in author Christina Lane who recently released a book on the film's producer Joan Harrison, Phantom Lady: Hollywood Producer Joan Harrison, the Forgotten Woman Behind Hitchcock (which would make a welcome Christmas gift for us at Signal Watch HQ).  Harrison is worth discussing for her path into the film business, sensibility she brought to Hitchcock's story-telling, and... frankly, some of the other movies she's produced - including Phantom Lady* and Ride the Pink Horse - are fantastic and owe a lot of their story strength and sensibility to Harrison.

They Won't Believe Me (1947) is framed with a murder trial. Young is the defendant, and he's telling his tale/ spilling his guts from the witness stand, trying to explain what really happened, and which looks, honestly, really, really bad for him.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Noir Watch: Danger Signal (1945)


 

Watched:  09/19/2020
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Robert Florey

Noir Alley is back, and I was delighted to see another movie by Austin hometown-boy-made-good, Zachary Scott.  Danger Signal (1945) is a WWII-era potboiler that's of the noir flavor that has kind of become a thing in Lifetime Channel thrillers.  Scott plays a ne'er-do-well who escapes the murder of a woman for whom he's managed to somehow plant a suicide note.  

He winds up in an idyllic California town where he boards with a middle-aged woman and her stenographer daughter, played by Faye Emerson.  He woos and wins Emerson, who doesn't notice the strapping, handsome, baritone-voiced scientist who keeps bringing her work may have the hots for her.  Instead, she slips for Scott's charm.  That is until her 17 year old sister comes home and Scott pivots his interest to her.  

Emerson has a friend who is a psychologist/ scientist who gets involved (Rosemary DeCamp), and more or less tears Scott apart as the charming sociopath he actually knows he is.  It's kinda cool.  I was kinda there for Dr. Silla.  

ANYWAY, Faye Emerson steals a vial of @#$%ing botulism from her hunky scientist friend and plans to kill Scott because, basically, he's a big shit bag and shouldn't get to keep being a shit bag who will hurt her sister.

It's a weird movie that seems like they just kept forgetting parts of the movie.  Scott has a limp he fakes as a war wound that they just don't mention.  A gun shows up, but is never really used.  And the end is - weird.  Like, totally unsatisfying.  Which Muller discussed in the backmatter of the episode.

Anyway - Zach Scott is terrific, Emerson is pretty good, and I felt like the overall direction by Robert Florey was solid and built tension despite the narrative bumps.  Special note for Mona Freeman who does a remarkable heel-turn in the back third of the film, and a young Dick Erdman playing "Bunkie", who is everyone's personal disappointment.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Noir Watch: The Unfaithful (1947)


 

Watched:  I dunno.  A couple of months ago.
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director: Vincent Sherman

I just totally forgot to write this one up and realized that today whilst thinking about Zachary Scott.  As you do.

The Unfaithful (1947) is essentially a domestic version of The Letter, the extraordinary William Wyler film starring Bette Davis.  This version transplants the action from rubber farms in the Maylay Peninsula to suburban Los Angeles just after WWII and puts Ann Sheridan in the lead.  None of that is a problem, and were The Letter not such a bombshell of a movie, The Unfaithful would shine brighter.  

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Neo-Noir Watch: Nocturnal Animals (2016)



Watched:  08/29/2020
Format:  HBO
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's
Director:  Tom Ford

A lot of the coverage of the release of this film was that it was directed by Tom Ford, a fashion designer - which is an interesting idea.  One would assume a fashion designer has an eye for visuals, lifestyle cues, wardrobe and staging.  And - arguably, Ford delivers on all of these things.

He's cast beautiful people and dressed them well.  He's hired some beautiful people and dressed them down.  And, of course, there's the opening sequence which casts some (let's be honest) not gorgeous people and dressed them not at all.  For Ford - this is a hellish horror, absurd and tasteless, open to interpretation and meaningless, so awful its funny.  And knowingly hard to look at.  And... is, at best, a very small building block of what is arguably his point with the film, and set me to thinking about what and who a Tom Ford is and how that would set them for empathy and sympathy with characters in a story.