Monday, November 30, 2015

2015 Noirvember Cast and Credit Awards

I knew I wanted to call out my favorite highlights from this year's Noirvember viewings, but I didn't want to just do a bunch of lists.  Instead, I have decided to pit them against each other in an imaginary contest, like fantasy football, but with filmmakers instead of player stats, and little gold Noir statuettes instead of money for the prizes.  That's right, the points are just like Who's Line Is It Anyway.  You will notice that I list multiple titles by certain artists.  This is not because they are necessarily uniformly great in all of them, as I may be picking them for one particular film;  I listed multiple titles in these cases only to include all the ones they were in that were part of this year's Noirvember list. The honorable mentions lists afterward vary in length, as I only included the workers that I found especially noteworthy.  The thing I find most fun about this arrangement is that, given the range of years being covered, most of these performances and films would never have competed against one another in a real award contest.  So, anyways, here we go:


My Pick? Jules Dassin for Night and the City.

Honorable Mentions:
Carol Reed - Odd Man Out
Alfred J. Werker - Shock
Ted Tetzlaff - The Window, Riff-Raff
Roy Del Ruth - Red Light
H Bruce Humberstone - I Wake Up Screaming
Robert Rossen - Johnny O'Clock
Henry Hathaway - Fourteen Hours
Fritz Lang - You and Me
Fred Zinneman - Kid Glove Killer
Anthony Mann - Two O'Clock Courage
Rudolph Mate - Union Station, D.O.A.,
William Castle - Undertow, Hollywood Story
Richard Fleischer - The Clay Pigeon
Robert Wise - Mystery in Mexico, House on Telegraph Hill
Joseph L. Mankiewicz - House of Strangers
Gordon Douglas - Between Midnight and Dawn, Walk a Crooked Mile



My Pick? Anthony Veiller for The Killers.

Honorable Mentions:
Robert Rossen -  Johnny O'Clock
Walter Doniger - Rope of Sand
John Paxton - Rope of Sand, Fourteen Hours
Mel Dinelli - The Window
F.L Green/R.C. Sherriff - Odd Man Out
Carl Foreman - The Clay Pigeon
Eugene Ling - Shock, Between Midnight and Dawn
Martin Rackin - Riff-Raff, Race Street
George Bruce - Walk a Crooked Mile
Lawrence Kimble/Jerome Odlum/Dennis O'Keefe/Francis Swann - Cover Up
Philip Yordan  - House of Strangers



My Pick? Robert Krasker for Odd Man Out.

Honorable Mentions:
Ernest Lazslo - D.O.A., Cover Up
Victor Milner - Dark City
William O Steiner/ Robert de Grasse - The Window
Charles Lang - Rope of Sand
Joe MacDonald - Shock, Fourteen Hours
Paul Vogel - Kid Glove Killer
Harry J. Wild - Johnny Angel
Burnett Guffey - Johnny O'clock
George Robinson - Walk a Crooked Mile
Roy Hunt -  Race Street


My Pick? Franz Waxman for sheer volume of consistently outstanding work. 

Honorable Mentions:
Dimitri Tiomkin - D.O.A., Red Light
David Buttolph - Shock
Kurt Weill - You and Me
Leigh Harline - Johnny Angel
George Duning -  Johnny O'Clock
Frank Skinner - Ride the pink horse
William Alwyn - Odd Man Out
Hans Salter - Cover Up, Killer That Stalked New York
Daniele Amfitheatrof - House of Strangers
Alfred Newman - House on Telegraph Hill, Fourteen Hours


My Pick? Richard Widmark for Night and the City.

Honorable Mentions:
George Raft - Red Light, You and Me, Johnny Angel, Race Street
Edmond O'Brien - Between Midnight and Dawn, D.O.A., The Killers,  Two of a Kind
Bobby Driscoll - The Window
James Mason - Odd Man Out
Richard Conte  - House of Strangers, Hollywood Story
Victor Mature - I Wake Up Screaming
Vincent Price - Shock
Dick Powell - Johnny O'Clock
William Holden - Union Station
Scott Brady - Undertow
Van Heflin - Kid Glove Killer
Paul Douglas - Fourteen Hours
Richard Basehart - Fourteen Hours, House on Telegraph Hill


My Pick? Shelley Winters for He Ran All the Way.

Honorable Mentions:
Lizabeth Scott - Dark City
Corinne Calvet - Rope of Sand
Betty Grable - I Wake Up Screaming
Gale Storm - Between Midnight and Dawn
Pamela Britton - D.O.A.
Virginia Mayo - Red Light
Sylvia Sydney - You and Me
Marsha Hunt - Kid Glove Killer
Signe Hasso - Johnny Angel
Lynn Bari - Shock
Kathleen Ryan - Odd Man Out
Louise Albritton -  Walk a Crooked Mile
Marilyn Maxwell- Race Street
Jacqueline White -  Mystery in Mexico
Jane Frazee - Incident
Susan Hayward  - House of Strangers
Valentina Cortese - House on Telegraph Hill


My Pick? Francis L. Sullivan for Night and the City.

Honorable Mention:
Percy Kilbride - Riff-Raff
Herbert Lom - Night and the City
Wallace Ford - He Ran All the Way
William Bendix - Race Street, Cover Up
Ed Begley - Dark City
Barry Fitzgerald - Union Station
Arthur Shield - Red Light
Luther Adler - D.O.A., House of Strangers
Daniel Ferniel - Undertow
Paul Henreid - Rope of Sand
Claude Raines - Rope of Sand
Gene Lockhart - Red Light
Hoagie Carmichael - Johnny Angel
Fred Clark - Ride the Pink Horse, Hollywood Story
Lee J. Cobb - Johnny O'Clock
Robert Newton -  Odd Man Out
Walter Slezak -  Riff-Raff
Art Smith - Ride the Pink Horse, Killer That Stalked New York
Art Baker - Cover Up, Walk a Crooked Mile
Warren Hymer - You and Me



My Pick? Googie Withers for Night and the City.

Honorable Mention:
Margaret Wycherly - Johnny Angel
Viveca Lindfors - Dark City
Jan Sterling - Union Station
Allene Roberts - Union Station
Beverly Garland - D.O.A.
Marya Marco - The Clay Pigeon
Ruth Roman - The Window
Carole Landis - I Wake Up Screaming
Andrea King - Ride the Pink Horse
Doro Merande - Cover Up
Debra Paget  - House of Strangers, Fourteen Hours
Fay Baker - House on Telegraph Hill
Grace Kelly - Fourteen Hours



My Pick? Neville Brand for D.O.A.

Dishonorable Mention:
Paul Stewart - The Window, Appointment with Danger
Jack Lambert - The Killers
Donald Buka - Between Midnight and Dawn
Elisha Cook Jr. - I Wake Up Screaming
Marc Krah -  Riff-Raff
Frank Faylen - Race Street
Ricardo Cortez - Mystery in Mexico
Richard Quine - the clay pigeon
Richard Loo - The clay pigeon


My Pick? McGraw and Conrad for The Killers.

Dishonorable Mention:
Meyer Grace & Robert Osterloh - Incident

Two Special Awards:

Most Annoying Character Award: Joyce Compton for Incident
Runner Up: Ann E. Todd for Cover Up

Most Stentorian Narrator Award: Reed Hadley for practically every docu-noir ever

And now for the main event!


My Pick? Night and the City and The Killers in a tie.

So... how does your ballot compare to mine?

Fourteen Hours (1951)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0043560/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

**** out of 5

"If he wants to jump, let him- he's better off.  Everybody's better off."

Henry Hathaway's suspenseful edge-of-the-window drama is as much a predictor of things to come as it is a noir in any real sense.  With the suicidal young man at it center, it points ahead to social dramas about troubled youth-- films like Rebel Without a Cause, The Wild One, East of Eden, and West Side Story.  But its multiple subplots involving the various players in the drama, and the intercutting with various onlookers and their individual troubles and responses to the drama unfolding far above them also foreshadows the ensemble disaster films like Airport, High and the Mighty, Towering Inferno, and Poseidon Adventure.

There are many notable faces in those crowds below:
Youthful Jeffrey Hunter makes an early impression as a nice guy who tries to pick up a girl in the crowd who catches his eye, pretty young Debra Paget.  A crowd of cab drivers trapped in the traffic snarl, who have a pool going on what time Basehart will jump, include among their number the future famous faces of Ossie Davis and Harvey Lembeck. Grace Kelly makes an indelible impression in her first film role as a woman headed for divorce, who is distracted from the settlement discussions by the drama unfolding in the building across the street. Even future film maverick John Cassavetes has an uncredited bit part in the film.

But the film ultimately belongs to the two people out on the ledge: Paul Douglas and Richard Basehart.  Basehart is magnetic in his embodiment of the terrified and suicidal young man who has edged out onto the balcony of a hotel but can't decide if he wants to jump or not.  Paul Douglas is the street cop who first calls in the incident, and whose honesty and kindness makes him the only person Basehart's character feels safe talking to.  A whole line of family and psychiatric experts (and even, briefly, a crazed evangelist!) try to talk him down, but he refuses to listen to any of them except this simple, unpretentious beat officer.

A crowd full of various and conflicting interests floods the hotel room behind the window where Basehart and Douglas are precariously perched.  Frank Faylen is the bellhop who first discovers that Basehart has gone out on the ledge.  Agnes Moorehead and Robert Keith are Basehart's self-interested and disfunctional parents, called upon to help talk him out of the suicide to which they bear much of the responsibility for driving him. Howard Da Silva is the frustrated police chief, who adds needed notes of humor to the otherwise tense drama. We also have Martin Gabel as Doctor Strauss, who functions largely as a dispenser of exposition, to help the characters and us understand the psychology of what's going through Basehart's mind.  And Barbara Bel Geddes is Basehart's angelic ex-fiancee, who makes an impassioned plea for life and love.

The film has strong notes of social satire; in addition to the gambling cabbies, opportunistic wolves, and voyeuristic throngs, we see harsh portraits of the news media scrambling in at every chance, trying to get the perfect shot, the best camera angles, and the first scoop as the story develops, with dramatic radio and television voices announcing colorful play-by-play descriptions of the unfolding drama with a callous lack of empathy for the human story at the film's center.  Are we participating and perpetuating those attitudes by our enjoyment of the film?  We aren't given a clear answer, but when relief finally comes at the story's close, we are promised by the end titles that police today have means of resolving similar conflicts in the future.  It is a promise that somehow rings hollow, but the story we've witnessed continues to resonate today.

The House on Telegraph Hill (1951)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0043660/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1


*** out of 5

With its story of a refugee sneaking into America with stolen documents and identity and marrying into a wealthy family, one could imagine a very different film if this were a movie being made today.
Today, it might be more likely to be a political drama or terrorist thriller. Then, it played out more like a cross between Hitchcock's two films, Suspicion and Rebecca.

In this film, the refugee is played the beautiful Valentina Cortesa, as a Polish refugee, coming to who takes on identity and child of her dead friend to escape from the terrible conditions of her homeland after th desolation wrought by WWII. Her friend, it seems, had sent her infant son ahead of her to "Aunt Sophie," a wealthy American relative who can better protect him from the war, then spent much of the war is the same horrible camp as our protagonist, who tried desperately to keep her alive, but, seeing her gone, took understandable advantage of the opportunity that affords, finally arriving in the states in 1950.

There, she meets  Richard Basehart, a seemingly well-intentioned relative who had taken over custody of the child (Gordon Gebert)  after the death of Aunt Sophie.  The two see money in each other's eyes. and quickly marry and together take care of the boy- and the estate of the late Aunt Sophie.  Also in the house is Fay Baker, as Margaret, the housekeeper/nanny, who is unnaturally protective of the mother-role she as played for so long in the absence of the child's real mother.

As life continues, however, signs begin to indicate that there is something terribly wrong in this house.  as the tagline of the trailer states so luridly, "Shame is the mistress of this house, and betrayal is its master."  At first Cortesa thinks it is just her own guilty conscience that is causing her terror, keeping her awake at night, and giving her a feeling that the imposing portrait of Aunt Sophie in the dark living room is staring right into her soul, condemning her for pretending to be someone she's not.

But there's more at work here.  The cable sent to inform Cortesa that Aunt Sophie is dead comes 2 days before her death.  The playhouse in the yard is burnt out from an accident no one seems willing to talk about.  As Cortesa begins to investigate these mysterious clues, and ask questions, the danger to her life increases.  Brake lines are cut on her car, leading to a terrifying sequence as she coasts downhill out of control through the steep streets of San Francisco.

She finds the one person she can trust is William Lundigan, whose character was the same Major who she had presented the stolen papers to in order to get to America.  It seems he is also a sort of friend of family, but one who is not all that fond of Basehart, and his quest for wealth.  Her dependence on him adds tension to the final third of the film, as, having discovered the truth about this house, she is unable to escape it, or make contact with Lundigan for help, and must save herself and the child, or die in the attempt.

Despite certain story elements that test the believability of the film, such as the unlikely way in which the child's playhouse is situated halfway out over cliff, more like something from a lemony snicket novel than a realistic drama, the story is ultimately successful in creating an atmosphere of suspense and tension.  Basehart is very good in a difficult role that could easily have been overplayed as an arch villain, but is ultimately relatable in its human ambition while still frightening in the avarice of its greed.  Fay Baker plays her role with a nuanced performances that ranges from domineering to sympathetic, and Valentina Cortesa is excellent at communicating the complex emotions of a person who is simultaneously guilt-ridden, protective, frightened, and ultimately stronger than she realizes.

The climactic scene, involving a deadly glass of orange juice is pulled off with a masterful art and suspense by the case and composed with perfect precision by director Robert Wise for a riveting finale.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Hollywood Story (1951)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0043646/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1


** out of 5

William Castle brings more of his personal flair for the unusual to this film than to the previously discussed film Undertow, but it is also less noir in its overall mood than that film.  The script by Fredrick Kohner, who would go on to be perhaps best known for the Gidget series, and Fredrick Brady, who would go on to working mostly in television.  This film in many ways is a fair reflection of those later reputations - mostly light entertainment that has humor and not a great deal of depth to its drama.  I suppose it's to some degree to be expected from a story that has Mr Magoo as its narrator.

Despite the claims in the opening titles that any similarities to actual persons, etc, etc, the story is that this is inspired partly by the real-life tale of the mysterious death of Willaim Desmond Taylor, as well as having allegedly intentional similarities between the Richard Conte character and Orson Welles in their corresponding fictional and actual attempts as broadway producers to come to Hollywood and make a film based on real-life figures.

Richard Conte plays a stage producer who has come to Hollywood to make a film, and decides after a tour of the studio that seems as much for our benefit as for his, to make his story about the death of a silent movie producer/director who was killed on that lot many years previously, but whose murder was never found. Supporting Conte is an able and varied cast of characters.

Julia Adams plays the daughter of the woman in the cold case being investigated by Conte, and she spends a lot of time protecting characters she fears are being wrongly suspected or harmed by his digging up of the past for his film.  Henry Hull has an interesting part as Vincent St. Clair an old-time screenwriter with connections to the murder. who Conte digs up to craft his script for him. Fred Clark,  having just played a film producer the previous year in the great hollywood noir Sunset Boulevard, plays another one here, in a part that ranges from comedy to drama in equal measure.  Jim Backus, as alluded to earlier, is the narrator, telling the story from his character's perspective as Conte's old friend and Agent, bringing healthy doses of humor to his scenes, with dryly delivered lines like "Who would want to kill and agent?"

I made a joke on Twitter while watching this, basically saying I thought based on the opening sequence that the film could alternatively have been titled "Shoot the Player Piano," but as I got farther in I found that actually that player piano becomes an important plot point and clue that helps lead to the killer, so actually that joke title would have been quite a propos, though anachronistic since Shoot the Piano Player didn't come out until about 9 years later.

Much of the film feels crafted to appeal to the fans who wanted to get a peek at behind the scenes of old Hollywood, as well as giving them a nostalgic thrill with the silent movie history elements of the story.  Not only is there the studio tour previously mentioned, but we also get a glimpse of Julia Adams playing her character's mother in a scene where Conte is screening some old silent films.  Additionally, we have what is essentially a detour to include cameos by several old silent film performers, including Helen Gibson, Francis X Bushman, Betty Blyth, and  William Farnum. We also have a scene where Joel McCrea has a cameo as himself, shooting a scene with one of the characters who is a suspect in the murder.

The story never really build in tension to a point where the characters ever truly feel endangered, but while it is moderate in its dramatic aspects, it is a light and entertaining movie that is a pleasant enough way to pass an hour and a half.

Appointment With Danger (1951)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0043292/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1


*** out of 5

"Go swallow a germ."

directed by Lewis Allen, this story takes the odd choice of US Post Office Postal Inspector as its hero.  Alan Ladd is the star as a man who admits he's not as good at being human or compassionate as he is at being a good cop.  Phyllis Calvert is a nun who teaches him how to be.  She is the one witness who can possibly identify the assailants who killed a postal inspector whose death Ladd is investigating.

The thugs in question are none other than everyone's favorite dragnet duo, Jack Webb and Henry Morgan, as  Joe Regas and George Soderquist respectively.  Webb is his usual edgy, lowlife mug, and Morgan give another of his quirky performances as a thug with a stammering problem and an instinct to help nuns with stuck umbrellas, even when he's in the middle of disposing of a body.

These two thugs are in the employ of a gang leader named Earl Boettiger (Paul Stewart), who is planning a big mail heist.  Jan Sterling is his quirky, music-mad moll, whose unique philosophical attitude toward life takes a change after the murder that makes an interest twist in the plot.

The story initially moves a little slowly while it shows a lot of the investigative legwork, but crescendos into high suspense by the climax. Ladd's efforts to get to the gang from the inside put him at risk of losing his own life trying to get the evidence he needs to put them away.

The story also features one of the more unusual murder weapons in film history-  a bronzed baby bootie, in a scene that has to be seen to be believed.  Another interesting side note is that Harry Antrim, who plays the local postmaster (and is best known as Mr. Macy from Miracle on 34th Street) , is doing so not first time - he also played a postmaster in 1936's Postal Inspector.  




Friday, November 27, 2015

He Ran All the Way (1951)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0043625/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1


***** out of 5

It seemed oddly fitting that on Black Friday I got around to taking in this 1951 film, written by, directed by, and starring blacklisted artists.  Scripted by uncredited Dalton Trumbo and Hugo Butler, and directed by John Berry(who would go into voluntary exile to France to escape the McCarthy era) this story is about as lean and mean as you are likely to find in a noir film of this era.

Add to those names the contributions of Franz Waxman's always-excellent noir score and the cinematographic genius of James Wong Howe, and you've got a recipe for greatness.  Topping it all off  is a top-notch cast that is headlined by John Garfield in his last screen role before his early death from heart trouble (and blacklist troubles) at 39.

Garfield here plays Nick Robey, a no-good, shiftless guy who lives in filthy squalor with a mother(Gladys George) who is as loving and motherly as a crocodile.  Their opening exchange is classic biting Trumbo dialogue.  the sample below is the more friendly of their words to one another:

Mrs. Robey: "If you were a man, you'd be out looking for a job."
Nick Robey: "If you were a man, I'd kick your teeth in."

He teams up with fellow lowlife Al Molin (Norman Lloyd, who still works in Hollywood today, most recently appearing in a bit part in Trainwreck earlier this year), and pull a poorly planned payroll heist, in which his dreams of running and having to shoot a man prove prescient.

Al is hit in a shootout, and Nick ducks into a public pool to hide, where he meets a somewhat naive blonde named Peggy Dobbs (Shelley Winters).  He tags along with her to her home, and ends up having to hole up there, keeping her family under his control at gunpoint.  This is where the bulk of the drama unfolds.  They go about their daily routine, but always with the threat of the frightened but dangerous gunman in their midst.

In varying degrees we see Stockholm syndrome occurring in each of the characters; Winters and Garfield begin to feel an attraction they don't know quite what to do with, and the tension between their feelings and their individual needs to survive form the central conflict of the story.

Wallace Ford is stirring in the role of the family's father figure, Fred Dobbs, a man who is initially unsure of himself in how to respond to this threat that has entered his home, but who ultimately finds the courage to face down the intruder. We see him fighting for the survival of his family, at times literally, at other times ethically, but always in a way that is human and relatable.  Selena Royle is also very good as his wife, showing bravery in the most challenging kind of situation a mother can face.  Bobby Hyatt completes the family unit as kid brother Tommy Dobbs, in an excellent junior performance that is genuine in its depiction of a child's conflicted emotional response to a situation he is unsure how to face - at times brave, terrified, and inquisitive.

The final confrontation is complex in its emotional and symbolic depth. The face-off between Ford, Garfield, and Winters is gripping and tragic for all three characters. Ford finally has had enough of cowering, and boldly takes his stand. Winters, too, must make a choice between her painful attachment to this killer and the true love of the family he threatens to destroy. And Garfield is heartbreaking in his inability to trust or love. We realize in these last moments that he never learned how, because his mother was never able to show him.  It is not the bravery of Ford or Winters that stops him, it is his own weakness that sends him crawling right back to die in the gutter he came from, just inches out of reach of the one chance he had at life and love.

Between Midnight and Dawn (1950)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0042242/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1


*** out of 5

"You listen to me, Garris- you stick this in the back of your filthy brain and keep it there! We're gonna keep minding your business 'til you and your gorillas are tucked away in cages where you belong!"

This film plays out mostly as a Buddy Cop story spiced with grim noir action. The story follows two different threads, and the ways they intersect:  Mark Stevens and Edmond O'Brien play police partners and ex GI pals working together to  bring down a local crime boss, played by Donald Buka.
In their off hours, they team up to work their way into the affections of Gale Storm, who plays the girl on the radio dispatch.  They have a bet going as to whether her pretty voice matches her appearance, and when it turns out that it does, they convince her to go out on the town with them, which she does, but only once.  She has reservations about getting involved with a policeman, after seeing how the loss of her police officer father has affected her mother, who is played with a great blend of deep emotion and a mischievous side that works to see that her daughter gives the boys a fair chance.

Meanwhile. when the hunt for evidence that can convict Donald Buka's gangster character Ritchie Garris is successful, Stevens and O'Brien are the ones who get to haul him in.  All seems well, until he escapes, and turns out to be just crazy enough that, instead of lamming his way to safety, he goes on a hunt of his own to kill the guys who put him away.

And that's when things switch from cop comedy to genuinely dark noir.  When Buka manages shoot Stevens's character, O'Brien in turn becomes vengeful and even malicious in his attempts to find Buka, even at the cost of his own honor as an officer of the law if necessary.  After witnessing one particularly vicious assault, Gale Storm reproaching him mournfully with a speech that seems remarkably relevant today as it was to the story here. "A  brutal policeman is a terrible thing. He has too much power; too many chances of taking his vicousness out on helpless people."

However, the most shocking moment comes near the climax, when Garris, pinned down in an apartment building, uses a child as a hostage to bargain for his escape, dangling her from a high window where he gets cornered, and shouting at the police below to back off or he'll drop her.

At the start it feels a bit like two different movies playing simultaneously, but they eventually mesh and merge into one pretty good final product, with a lot of great performances and a satisfying resolution that ties everything up in a dramatic and compelling way. Especially interesting is the character arc given to Gale Robbins, who plays a singer and sometime moll to Buka's character, who puts up with the racketeering, but finds she just can't stomach the brute after she sees just how cruel and selfish he really is.



Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Killer That Stalked New York (1950)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0042643/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1


*** out of 5

"You're not going anywhere, Matt. You're not going anywhere again."

Coming only a few months after Elia Kazan's Panic in the Streets, this film is less well constructed and more high-flown in its moments of pro-vaccine propaganda, but together they show just how long the anti-vax crazies have been around and in need of rebuke by basic medical science.

Evelyn Keyes is astonishingly good here, playing the titular character as a nightclub singer (as if there's any other profession for a working girl in film noir!) who comes into the country from Cuba, smuggling diamonds - and smallpox.

Charles Korvin is her husband, Matt, who planned her diamond scheme, but coldly betrays her confidence in her absence, wooing her younger sister, Francis (Lola Albright) and taking advantage of her sickness to claim the diamonds for himself.

Whit Bissell is her brother Sid, who runs a "flop house." He gives her a place to hide while the law hunts for her.  Investigators from both Customs and Department of Health desperately nose out her trail, both unaware they are seeking the same person.

Notable secondary performers include Jim Backus, uncredited as a club owner who steals a kiss full of germs from Evelyn before being slapped sensible by her, and Art Smith (so good as the Federal man in Ride the Pink Horse) is the diamond dealer who acts as the fence, but finds a conflict of interest can be deadly. William Bishop is the doctor who initially treats Keye's illness, unaware of the true severity of her disease. Dorothy Malone is also here, though underutilized as Bishop's nurse.
Connie Gilchrist also shows up as an intrusive, talkative apartment superintendent where Matt and Evelyn live.

Late in the film there is a death of a child that seems unnecessary to include (unless as a harsh warning to parents to get their kids inoculated). It is dramatic in itself, but it certainly adds nothing to the story as a contribution to the dramatic escalation of the plot, but feels more as like a detour in the story.

The most genuinely shocking part of the film is just how unglamorous Keyes is willing to become in her depiction of the growing illness of her character, going beyond a merely make-up-free face to an increasingly haggard, ghostly appearance, combined with a deadly intensity that is all the more startling when juxtaposed with the terror displayed by Charles Korvin's character when they finally meet again at the climax of the story.  She, though dying, is driven - while he, though healthy and inoculated, becomes frightened, squawking like the chicken he is when faced with the woman he betrayed.

Dark City (1950)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0042379/?ref_=fn_al_tt_2


**** out of 5

"Danny, you can't live without getting involved."
"I can try, can't I?"

Despite two previous film appearances, Charlton Heston here receives his "Introducing" credits for his starring role in this film, and he is delivers an impressive performance as Danny Haley, the jaded owner of an illegal gambling establishment.

With William Dieterle directing, Victor Milner as the cinematographer, and music by Franz Waxman, he has solid support behind the camera for this breakout lead role (his previous appearance had been as Antony in Julius Caesar, which came out only a month earlier the same year).  The rest of the onscreen performers are all solid noir stars in their own right, and ably fill out the cast.

Lizbeth Scott, who plays a singer in a nearby club, wants to be Heston's girl, but he always becomes distant and cold whenever she tries gets too close.

The film opens with a raid on Heston's establishment, leaving him and his cohorts with whatever cash they have on hand, and desperate to find a way to rebuild what they've lost.  The three main men who stick with Heston are played by Ed Begley, Jack Webb and Harry Morgan.  Dun da dun dun!

Jack Webb is "Augie," (not to be confused with Augie Doggie) who is a practical joker with a mean streak, but sharp (and crooked) at cards.Ed Begley is the other card expert in the group, but gets a bit dyspeptic when troubles run high. as they quickly do in this film.  Harry Morgan  rounds out the trio as "Soldier," a good-natured ex-pug (but don't ever call him punchy to his face) who is a bit slow and innocent and good hearted unless provoked.

They quickly find a likely source of funds in Don Defore an ex-G.I. who's come to town with a $5,000 cashier's check that is supposed to be for the little league team back home.  When they con him out of the money in a card game, he goes back to his hotel room where he commits suicide out of shame.

Dean Jagger, a likable but persistent police investigator who had previously hounded Heston and his men as head of the vice squad soon reappears as a representative of the homicide squad, and informs the cons that someone is out to get them.

That someone is played mostly off-screen or as a shadow or a menacing hand by Mike Mazurki, who depicts the brother of Defore's character - psychopathic man who seems their con game as a murder, and hunts them down one at a time to exact his revenge.  His unseen but everpresent menace is highly effective as a means of building sense of dread, much like the hidden shark in Jaws.

Viveca Lindfors is Defore's widow, who holds the key to finding Mazurki before he can strike, but who, out of fear and distrust is reluctant to share what she knows.  Heston must use false pretenses to get close to her, but in so doing, increases the risks for everyone.

Their growing closeness is a danger that they can't escape, but it also is a key to unlocking his willingness to become human again.  Note the change that comes in the planetarium scene:

Linfors: "Sometimes I guess the stars are the only things that never change; that's probably only because we can't reach them."
Heston: "Sometimes I think maybe we can."

Incidentally, this scene made me wonder how many other films used Planetariums as a setting- I thought immediately of Rebel Without a Cause and K-Pax, and after a brief search found this nice list online: http://www.ips-planetarium.org/?movies

Dieterle masterfully ties together all these story threads into a rich tapestry that is full of mood and shadow, but also finds the light in the darkness of noir. The climax of the manhunt is explosive and tense, and the resolution of the romantic triangle is satisfactory and convincing, a masterful noir all around.

Union Station (1950)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0043090/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1


*** out of 5

This Rudolph Mate-directed film has more of investigative procedural than noir about it, but even then there are many aspects of the plot that stretch credibility for that type of story.  Nancy Olsen witnesses some suspicious behavior on her train ride into town, and takes her concerns to William Holden, the head of the train station police/security team.  He's a sharp guy who doesn't miss a trick, and he quickly uncovers a link between Olsen's observations and a kidnapping/ransom plot involving a blind heiress (Allene Roberts).   Working in coordination with a cynical police inspector (Barry Fitzgerald), he must track down the suspects to find the girl before the ransom can be transacted and the girl killed by the kidnappers, who are led by a shifty Lyle Bettger, who shows more concern for the life of ease he can buy with the $100,000 ransom than he does for his cohorts or his moll, Jan Sterling.
For some inexplicable reason, Olsen goes along with Holden every step of the way, long after she is of any practical value to the investigation.  There is a loosely assembled romance tacked onto the plot between them, but the film works best when it focuses on the dramatic investigation, and the frequently frustrated efforts that go into rescuing Roberts.  There is also some tension wrung out of the girl's attempt to escape from the tunnels where she's been kept while the ransom is being gathered.  Also watch for an interesting chase scene in a cattle shoot, that ends with a grim death by stampede.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

D.O.A. (1950)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0042369/?ref_=nv_sr_4


*** out of 5

"I don't think you fully understand, Bigelow. You've been murdered!"

I stated at the beginning of the month that my plan for Noirvember was to watch chronologically a series of film noir films that were entirely new to me.  This one is a cheat, but I wanted to include it in my schedule this year because it's been many years since I saw it last, and having recently purchased it on DVD, I wanted to see it again.  So sue me.  It's a personal and sentimental favorite, for the reason that it was one of my first introductions into the world of noir.  Seeing it again so many years later it has been an interesting experience.

This is, bluntly, a bizarre oddity.

The story itself makes little logical sense, but to try to apply logic is to miss the point.  D.O.A. is an exercise in nightmare storytelling and dream logic. This is a world where seemingly everyone is against one man, with little apparent reason, and even less explanation.

Rudolph Mate, like Ted Tetzlaff, is a cinematographer-cum-director.  His work here is wild, and you can sense that cinematographer's eye at work in the moody lighting, startling close-ups, and evocative use of angles to establish emotional effects.  Things like use of a superimposed whirlpool shot during a crossfaded transition to take us into the flashback show the direction of someone with a eye for visual storytelling. It is also edited lean and mean- with not a frame of spare footage, and time compressed and improbably condensed.  Watch the aggressive use of cuts to give a sense of manic energy to the scenes in the nightclub where the main character gets poisoned.

Dimitri Tiompkin's score is also a strange brew- from the punchy opening sequence, to Inner Sanctum-esque organ stings to evocative violins.  The nonsensically weird slide-whistle sound effects, which are thrown into the soundtrack as O'Brien's character does some girl-watching in hotel where a raucus party is going on, seem cartoonish and out-of-place, but if we think of this as someone's nightmare, they make perfect sense-  in a dream or a nightmare, absurdity is commonplace and even logical.  That seemingly logical reality in a dream is part of what makes them so frightening.

Similarly terrifying is the sequence after he discovered he's been lethally poisoned.  He wanders the streets aimlessly, like James Mason in Odd Man Out, watching  the dance of life go on without him- a child playing with a ball, a young couple embracing on the street in from on him.

In many ways, this plays like a pastiche of the great noir moments, all bundled together in one monstrous nightmare.  Other, more "realist" noirs seem to always have a reason for their hero's woes, but here, it all comes down to an insane misunderstanding, a whim of fate- the sort of thing that we begin to see more and more of as the noir cycle continues.

I'm not even going to attempt to explain the plot, or all the characters' relationships to one another.  As I say, this is a dream world, where everything connects, and none of it makes any sense.   Take for example the relationship between O'Brien's character, Bigelow, and his faithful secretary, Paula (Pamela Britton) When first introduced she comes across as almost needy and controlling - giving a sense that O'Brien is trapped and smothered by her attentions, and needing to get away from her for a while.  Then you see that he is so tethered to her that he can't help calling her daily, even while he's girl-watching on his vacation.  But who is it that he ends up relying on when everyhing goes down the drain?  You guessed it.  as in a dream, she morphs into an idealized companion, the perfect girl he never knew he always loved.

Or watch how quickly O'Brien shifts his characterization from the gentle, soft-spoken and shy businessman to one who is first terrified, filled with despair, then finally so hardboiled by his lack of anything left to lose that he can stare down the barrel of a gun, take repeated hits to his agonized stomach, then turn and punch the man in the face while he's holding the gun and beating him with it.

There are femme fatales everywhere in this dream world, and unreasonable betrayals by friends and strangers alike. There are conniving underworld bosses like Luther Adler's Majak character, and wild-eyed psychpaths like Neville Brand's Chester, a creepy henchman who, like Albert Dekker's character Armitage in the 1950 film Destination Murder (which came out within months of this), speaks of himself in the third person as he takes O'Brien on a ride to try to kill him someplace private.

Finally, in keeping with that dream-world sense the story has so thoroughly established,the ending that finally comes is as sudden and shocking as waking from a nightmare.  His story told, O'Brien drops dead in the police headquarters, and is pronounced dramatically to be "Dead On Arrival."





Night and the City (1950)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0042788/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1



***** out of 5

"Night and the city.  The night is tonight, tomorrow, or any night.  The city is London."

The opening narration sets the tone for everything to follow, but only hints a the depths of richness to follow.  Nobody wins in this city.  and yet for all their cruelty and greed, you find youtself caring for these lowlifes and sorry for them in their inescapable, pathetic misery.

Jules Dassin directed this film, the last one he made for Hollywood before leaving to work in Europe in the wake of the McCarthy era blacklisting period. Despite his inability to exercise editorial control over the final fim because of that blacklisting, he left an indelible image that is one of the absolute best noir masterpieces I've seen yet.

The film has two different scores (and two different edits) - one American version and one English.  I watch the american version, for which Franz Waxman provided a score that is alternately haunting, heartbreaking, pulse-pounding, and electrifying. Jo Eisinger, who previously adapted Gilda for the screen, provides the screenplay here, working from a Gerald Kersh novel. Dassin claimed that he never read it until much later, and was surprised how different they were. Kersh also reportedly hated how his book was handled. Time and the collective response of cinema-goers has shown any criticism on that front to be a moot point.

The story was set and shot in London.  It stars Richard Widmark as Harry Fabian, a small-time grifter - a loser on the make, desperate to "be somebody." He has a long string of failed money making schemes leading up to this point in his life.  Th fatal scheme he seizes on finally involved working every possible angle against a whole spectrum of unsavory character in a bid to become successful as a wrestling promoter.

Gene Tierney plays his loyal girl, Mary Bristol a club singer girl who wants to marry and settle down with him, putting up with all his plotting and planning but begging with him to give them up and earn his way in a more honest, humble, and reliable job.

Hugh Marlowe may make the least dramatic contribution to the story as Adam Dunn, the downstairs nice-guy neighbor who casually plays a rival for Tierney's affections, and functioning conveniently as a plot point as a pivotal moment in the story.

Pulling him in the opposite direction of Tierney is Googie Withers, in a powerful performance as Helen Nosseross, who, with her husband Philip Nosseross, owns the club where Harry and Mary work. nights.  She is a clear Femme Fatale type, eager to leave her husband and be her own woman, by hook or crook.

Francis L Sullivan is also terrific as Philip Nosseross, playing him as scheming, sly, and jealously protective of his wife, as ultimate deperately needy for her. He sees Widmark as a threat, but plays him along in his Promoter scheme, in order to serve his own ends.

Herbert Lom, who is best known for his role as the bumbling police chief in the Pink Panther, here plays a much different role.  He is Kristos, the big man in town, a deadly menace who is territorial of his position a the most powerful fight promoter in town, who is nonetheless also a loving and loyal son to his kindly father, a retired Greco-Roman wrestler who objects to the cheap entertainment-style wrestling he promotes.

Stanislaus Zbuszko is the most astonishing surprise of the film as Gregorius, the great wrestler and father of Kristos and Nicholas, a young wrestler who follows his father's desires to be a "real" wrestler.  His performance is an impressively physical and emotional powerhouse of acting, particularly in the dramatic encounter with The Strangler (Mike Mazurki), a pro wrestling big-shot full of ego and anger.  That scene is, dramatically speaking, the fulcrum on which the entire story pivots from a good noir to an all-time great. The way each of the character respond to it makes the full consequences of Harry's scheming come into clear focus, and the stakes of the story raised to a visceral, palpable, tangible a matter of life-and-death.

I'm tempted to name 1950 the year of the dead hero. In this year, we have D.O.A., Sunset Boulevard, Panic in the Streets, and Night and the City.  DOA is narrated by a man who is dying of poisoning.  Sunset Bouelevard opens famously with the narrative voice of a man whose corpese we see floatin in the water.  Panic in the Streets follows Jack Palance fleeing police with a deady disease coursing through his veins. Can Night and the City be included in that company?  Maybe it;s a stretch, since Widmark doesn't really get killed until the climax, but on a symbolic level, he's been dead from the beginning, only he foesn't know it until it's too late.

The film starts and ends with Widmark on the run, scrambling across London on foot, dodging people he owes money or who otherwise want him dead. "All my life I've been running," he realizes in a late moment of reflection in the film. Hiding on a little boat by the warf with an old lady named Anne, Widmark finds his one moment of rest in the film. He reflects on a life of wasted time and effort spent chasing the wrong things, and blindly abusing the one person who loved him. Even his one selfless act is still just another final harebrained scheme, one that involves giving up his own life to get a bit of money for Mary.

Undertow (1949)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0042007/?ref_=fn_al_tt_7


** out of 5

"Big Jim used to call me his watchdog.  They got him when I wasn't here, but I'll get that guy someday.  I'll get him."

William Castle directs this decent B-noir that stars Scott Brady, the younger, slightly less cold-edged brother of noir great Lawrence Tierney.  Brady plays a former gambler and soldier who's planning to go straight with a legitimate business of his own, but who get caught up in an underworld plot he can't seem to escape.  John Russell plays his casino-running old friend, and Dorothy Hart is the fiancee of Brady's character.  When Brady comes into Chicago to pay his friend a visit a murder is committed, and he is made to look like the perpetrator.
The victim is "Big Jim," father of Dorthy Hart's character, and a major figure in local circles.  Brady flees for his life, aided by a girl he met on the plane to Chicago from Reno, played by Peggy Dow.  He searches for others who can help clear him, including a cop who he grew up with, played by Bruce Bennett.
The drama that follows is entertaining, though slight. The filmmaking for the most part lacks the intensity and emotional connection that the best noirs acheive.  It does offer some moments of memorable situation, but the characters rarely rise above being simple 1-dimensional "types."
There is a dark moment when Brady realized that those closest to him are responsible for his betrayal, but the filmmakers fail to take advantage of the full dramatic possibilities of the situations they have set up in the plot.
One other memorable aspect of the story is "Gene," a big black man (Daniel Ferniel) who worked for Big Jim in his garage.  He is an interesting blend of dogged loyalty, innocence, and dangerous violence. He poses a deadly threat for whoever is responsible for Big Jim's death, but his reasons are completely relateable, and ultimately his character is a sympathetic one.  He is like a lumbering angel of death, vowing to kill the one responsible for Jim's murder, which, in the final moments of blended pathos and suspense, he does with great feeling and drama.





Rope of Sand (1949)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0041822/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1



*** out of 5

"the pain won't go away until I get what I already paid for!"

IMDB's brief summary is pretty accurate: "A man[Burt Lancaster] abused by a sadistic mining company cop [Paul Henreid] before he could tell where on their desert property he'd found diamonds decides to steal them instead."

The plot is essentially that, but where the filmmakers go with that plot is interesting and engaging.  Add to that plot a cast of colorful characters that includes Claude Raines, Peter Lorre, Sam Jaffe, and Mike Mazurki, and the results should be pretty entertaining, right?  

In some ways, it feels like an attempt to recapture the magic of Casablanca.  We have the African setting, three of the key players from that film, and a complicated romance between Burt Lancaster and Corinne Calvet as a substitute for Bogie and Ingrid.  Call it Casablanca lite if you like, But it is really its own creature.  The relationships and characters are too different for a direct comparison. 

The love triangle of Casablanca, for example, is only dimly reflected here.  Claude Raines is the conniving, casually larcenous man who hires Calvet to try to play Henreid against Lancaster to help Raines get the diamonds all to himself.  While Henreid does express desire for Calvet, he is spurned for his sadism and cruelty, and never seriously considered a likely object of her affections, but merely a trap for her to try to escape with Lancaster's help. Some reviewers have complained that Calvet "is no Ingrid Bergman," but she is a very good Corinne Calvet, and seeing what she does so well in this film, one wonders why anybody would want her to be someone other than who she is. Not only is she a stunningly beautiful figure (strikingly appareled by the incomparable Edith Head), she is an effective and moving actress in a difficult role as a hired femme fatale with a complicated past who, falling for the man she is supposed to be betraying, ultimately becomes a part of his and her own redemption.

Paul Henreid plays a socially ambitious man, Commandant Vogel, who is also complexly nuanced- is sadistic, but with a near-fetishistic attraction for works of art- paintings, pottery, diamonds, and women, none of which his more brutal attributes will allow him to keep.  His relations with all the other characters is a strained dichotomy: on one hand wanting respect and love, and on the other enjoying the brutal exercise of the power he has fought so hard to obtain.

Peter Lorre is also in the film, as a talkative, philosophizing small-timer of the type that is an odd melding of his role in Casablanca with that of Sidney Greenstreet in Maltese Falcon.  Unfortunately he is given far too little to do, and the character has minimal reason for existing in the story, as a mere plot device for helping accomplish Lancaster's goals.

As I began watching this Southern Africa-based film noir, I couldn't help but ponder the historical-political state of the place where it was set, as it might relate to the story.  Where the action takes place is not specifically explained in great detail, but various clues are present that can give a general sense of the locale.  The [fictionalized?] location of most of the action is a small desert town called Diamontstad, which, with its Germanic-sounding name, combined with references in the dialogue to Cape Town, and the points at which the border with Angola become important to the plot, all suggest that this takes place in the then-disputed territory of South-West Africa (modern-day Namibia), which was previously under control of Germany before WWII, and over which South Africa was then disputing with UN for control.  

The time when this film came out was 1949, roughly a year after the first steps toward institution of Apartheid policies were being implemented in South Africa.  I knew that much going into the film and wondered what, if any, part that might play in the storytelling.  This film ultimately isn't about that at all, though.  However, there are numerous instances in which it touches on issues of race.  The opening scene depicts a black man being chased through the desert by half-tracks driven by diamond cartel thugs with guns protecting their territory from intruders.  That opening is meant to set up the stakes and the main threat of the film, but it also shows the mindset of the villains toward the native Africans- that they are little better than animals to be hunted down and killed without impunity. Following this up is scene of perhaps a more cruel and bureaucratic abuse:  Paul Henreid is seen shortly afterward, negotiating a labor contract with 3 local chiefs, and laying out conditions of their employment through a translator:
"You sign up for a year. No drinking"
"Wives?"
"Once a month."

Race also plays into the introduction of Burt Lancaster's character. We first see a boat man shouting orders to those unloading his hold, and getting resistance to his demands.  A very human reaction is depicted by Kenny Washington's character, a black laborer who pretends not to understand the man's English as a way of refusing to do what he wants. When he is injured by Henreid shortly after, and defended by Lancaster, he utters a soft "thank you." to him.  "I thought you didn't speak English." Lancaster says in surprise.  Washington replies, "I don't speak English much, to many people." Lancaster and the audience both say, "I see what you mean." 

The film depicts of Washington gratefully responding to Lancaster's act of kindness by going to work for him.  Some modern viewers may consider this as "perpetuating slave-master racial relations," or make some similar academic response.  But within the context of this film, it is a small but sincere effort to change perceptions of race by contrasting the humanity of this  man with the inhuman brutality of Henreid and calculating cruelty of Raines.  That, really is the heart of the film.  Yes, it's an entertaining noir, with riveting moments of drama like the vicious fistfight that takes place during a sandstorm, but it's ultimately most effective as a look at the dark side of what it means to be human- to care about others, and how quickly greed and cruelty can corrupt and destroy that humanity.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Clay Pigeon (1949)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0041252/?ref_=fn_al_tt_5


*** out of 5

This is an early Richard Fleischer film, from a story by Carl Foreman (probably most well known today for High Noon), and it has everything you could ask for in a film noir- A coma, amnesia, WWII veterans, conspiratorial underworld organizations, and a police manhunt for the wrong man. Plus you get bizarre bonuses like the unlikely choice of a gang leader who is also a former Japanese prison guard (Richard Loo).

Still, the racial portrait painted in this film is actually a fairly nuanced one. Balancing the brutal portrayal of the Japanese prison guard, nicknamed "The Weasel," we have a brief nod to the valor of Japanese Americans who fought and died in the war. (though no mention of internment, if that's what you're looking for).

Bill Williams stars as the veteran in question, freshly awakened from a coma, with partial amnesia, and a looming courtmarshal for crimes he doesn't remember.  Barbara Hale is the wife of his fellow prison-camp inmate and pal who he is accused of betraying.
Richard Quine is the third piece in two triangles- He is the third musketeer of the prisoners, and the third major player in the film's plot.  Is he just a friend eager to help Williams acquit himself and find the real villains? Or does is he carefully maneuvering to hide ulterior motives?

Not everything makes sense here, but things move along pretty briskly, and there are a number of interesting twists in the plot that help to maintain the audience's sense of unease and concern for the hero and his friends.  Fleischer's best work is ahead of him, but he is well in command of his medium already here.

The Window (1949)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0042046/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1



*** out of 5

"You gotta believe me!  Somebody's gotta believe me!"

Let's play a round of Zero Degrees to Alfred Hitchcock!

This film is directed by Ted Tetzlaff, the cinematographer for Hitchcock's masterpiece Notorious.
The screenplay was by Mel Dinelli (who did a handful of notable noir films [Spiral Staircase, Beware My Lovely, Cause for Alarm, Jeopardy], but mostly wrote for television, including 1 episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents).  It was based on The Boy Who Cried Murder, a short story by Cornell Woolrich, who also wrote the story that inspired Hitchcock's masterful Rear Window(note the thematic similarites in title and theme). Roy Webb, who composed the score, also worked on Notorious.

And how does all this Hitchcocky influence affect the final results? Pretty well. Hitchcock famously remarked that he destroyed the tension by making the mistake of letting the bomb go off in Sabotage, killing the boy who carried it. Spoiler- the boy doesn't blow up here, and the tension is mighty palpable.

Bobby Driscoll, a major child star on loan from the Disney studios, is the star of this tale-  a little boy who likes to make up stories to spice up his pretty drab daily life. The opening scenes effectively present a potent juxtaposition between the boy's vividly imaginative fantasies and the real world of rotten, crumbling condemned city buildings among which he and his friends play and live.

Late on night, Driscoll goes out on the fire escape to sleep where it is cooler, and witnesses his upstaur neighbors (Paul Stewart and Ruth Roman) kill a man in their apartment. Their motives are never explained, a good example of how well the film depicts the story largely from a child's perspective.

Barbara Hale and Arthur Kennedy are his beleaguered but well-meaning parents, who, like the people in the Aesop's fable of the Boy Who Cried Wolf, refuse to accept that his tale of murder is anything more than a nightmare or another of his wild stories.  He persists at attempting to persuade them he is telling the truth, but only get himself into trouble, shut in his room and otherwise punished and pushed aside.

The moment when his parents leave him home alone in the apartment with the killers plotting to come and silence him may be one of the scariest in noir. Like all the great antiheroes (we can call him that since his previous tales are partly to blame for his current position), he is left to face the world and fate alone.  The way he manages to excape shows the kind of toughness that only the strongest of the great noir characters exhibit, yet in the end it is clear he is still really just a frightened child trying to survive evils he is not meant to know, making the crescendo of tension all the more dramatic, and its climax so shocking.

Watch for repeated window imagery:
1) The introductory shot of the child is looking through an open window, down at his friends below, a perfect symbol of isolation.
2) When he is sent to his room for telling stories-  the bars of the fire escape communicate that he is trapped in this situation
3) the murder scene is viewed through a window, from the outside looking in.
4) When Driscoll's cries for help are finally heard after the climax is over, as lights come on and neighbors are seen looking out the windows with concern, before calling rescue squads in the end the danger Driscoll faces.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Picking up the Themes in Noir Titles

Looking down lists of film Noir titles, you can't help noticing certain repeated themes,

I thought I'd  organize a list that put some of them together under common attributes. I know there are a ton that I've missed, so please feel free to add to this listing in the comments, with titles I've overlooked, & I'll insert them into the post!


Kisses/Acts of Love Blended with violence:

Kiss of Death
A Kiss Before Dying
Kiss me Deadly
The Naked Kiss
Kiss the Blood Off My Hands
Kid Glove Killer
Strange Love of Martha Ivers
Murder My Sweet
Touch of Evil
Bond of Fear
Other Love
The Deadly Game


Houses/Buildings
House of Strangers
House by the River
House on Telegraph Hill
House on 92nd Street
The House on Carroll Street
House of Bamboo
The Red House
5 Against the House
Road House
House Across the Street
Home to Danger
Shack Out on 101
Stranger on the Third Floor
Behind Locked Doors
Secret Beyond the Door
Knock on Any Door
The Shadow on the Window
Shadow on the Wall
Woman in the Window
The Window
High Wall
The Glass Wall
The Walls Came Tumbling Down
The Spiral Staircase
The Glass Key
Union Station
Grand Central Murder
Riot in cell Block 11
Women's Prison
Big House, U.S.A.
Crashout
Escape From San Quentin


Phone Numbers
Call Northside 777
Southside 1-1000
99 River Street
Dial 1119
Dial M for Murder
Call it Murder
Sorry, Wrong Number
Phone Call From a Stranger


Streets

13 Rue Madeleine
Scarlet Street
The House on 92nd Street
23 Paces to Baker Street
99 River Street
Race Street
Street With No Name
Mystery Steet
Side Street
Terror Street
Panic in the Streets
Crime in the Streets
Stakeout on Dope Street
The House on Carroll Street
House Across the Street
Sunset Boulevard
Mulholland Drive
Madison Avenue
Just off Broadway
Nightmare Alley
the Naked Road
Plunder Road
Road House
Roadblock
Shack Out on 101
They Drive by Night
Drive a Crooked Road
Walk a crooked Mile
The Crooked Way
Walk East on Beacon
The Fiend Who Walked West
Walk Softly, Stranger
I Walk Alone
He Walked By Night
Detour
U-Turn
Breakdown
The Hitchhiker
Where the Sidewalk Ends
The Asphalt Jungle
Girl on the Bridge
Across the Bridge
The Last Mile
Hot Cars
The Woman on Pier 13
Pier 23


Cities/Locations
City of Fear
Dark City
Night and the City
While the City Sleeps
City That Never Sleeps
The City Without Men
Cry of the City
The Captive City
Roaring City
Whispering City
Atomic City
Casablanca
The Man From Cairo
Passage to Marseille
Hollywood Story
The Phenix City Story
The Las Vegas Story
The Miami Story
The Houston Story
Shanghai Story
The Tijuana Story
Portland Expose
Chicago Deadline
Chicago Confidential
Kansas City Confidential
New York Confidential
The Killer That Stalked New York
Two Men in Manhattan
The Case Against Brooklyn
Niagara
Berlin Express
Tokyo Joe
Key Largo
Malaya
Macao
Affair in Trinidad
The Kremlin Letter
Chinatown
Brighton Rock
49th Parallel
Lure of the Wilderness
World For Ransom
The Man on the Eiffel Tower
In a Lonely Place
Mexican Manhunt
Mystery in Mexico


Crime
Crime Wave
Scene of the Crime
Crime in the Streets
Crime and Punishment
Appointment with Crime
Illegal
Homicide
The Killing
Born to Kill
Shoot to Kill
Paid to Kill
The Name of the Game is Kill
Killing of a Chinese Bookie
Appointment with Murder
Murder by Contract
Murder My Sweet
Murder is My Beat
A Blueprint for Murder
Anatomy of a Murder
Witness to Murder
Destination Murder
Grand Central Murder
Rx Murder
Murder Can Be Deadly
Please Murder Me
Murder, Inc.
Shield for Murder
Arson, Inc.
Act of Violence
Violent Saturday
The Big Steal
Plunder Road
Armored Car Robbery
The Conspirators
The Racket
The Mob
The Big Operator
Hoodlum Empire
The Lineup
The Underworld Story
Vice Raid
Crashout
Escape From San Quentin


Criminals
Criminal Lawyer
The Prowler
The Burgler
The Strangler
The Assasin
The Sniper
The Slasher
The Killer That Stalked New York
Kid Glove Killer
The Killers
The Killer is Loose
The Hoodlum
The Bigamist
Loan shark
Killing of a Chinese Bookie


Guns/Weapons
This Gun For Hire
Gun Crazy
My Gun is Quick
Point Blank
A Bullet for Joey
Backfire
Crossfire
Shoot to Kill
The Sniper
The Big Knife
The Weapon


Time
Out of the Past
The Big Clock
Two O'Clock Courage
Split Second
The Reckless Moment
Appointment with Crime
Appointment With Danger
Appointment with Murder
Fourteen Hours
Too Late For Tears
The Dark Hour
The Desperate Hours
Hell's Five Hoirs
The October Man


Margins/Deadlines
Below the Deadline
Deadline at Dawn
Chicago Deadline
The Narrow Margin
Deadline USA
Edge of Doom
Edge of Darkness


Personal Possessives
Murder My Sweet
Kiss the Blood Off My Hands
Farewell My Lovely
Sleep, My Love
My Son John
Murder is My Beat
My Gun is Quick
My Name is Julia Ross
His Kind of Woman
No Man of Her Own


Light and Dark
The Dark Corner
Man in the Dark
Dark Passage
The Dark Mirror
The Dark Hour
So Dark the Night
They Met in the Dark
Dark Waters
Spin a Dark Web
Pit of Darkness
Blackout
The Long Night
They Live By Night
Night and the City
Somewhere in the Night
All Through the Night
Clash By Night
Twilight Women
Night Must Fall
Nightfall
Night People
Fear in the Night
He Walked By Night
The Night Holds Terror
Sunset Boulevard
Between Midnight and Dawn
Deadline at Dawn
Tomorrow is Another Day
Nocturne
Escape in the Fog
Shadow Man
The Shadow on the Window
Shadow on the Wall
Moontide
Moonrise
Gaslight
Inferno


Colors
Black Angel
Black Widow
Black Narcissus
Portrait in Black
The Black Book
Blackout
The Black Glove
The Green Glove
Green For Danger
Slightly Scarlet
Scarlet Street
The Red House
Red Light
The Red Menace
The Blue Dahlia
The Blue Gardenia
Pete Kelly's Blues
Devil in a Blue Dress
Ride the Pink Horse
Blonde Ice
Bad Blonde
Flaxy Martin
Golden Salamander


Good And Evil
Bad For Each Other
Born to Be Bad
The Bad and the Beautiful
Bad Blonde
Force of Evil
Touch of Evil
Diabolique
Notorious
Ruthless
Johnny Angel
Fallen Angel
Black Angel
Angel Face
Beat the Devil
Devil in a Blue Dress
Private Hell 36
Hell Bound
Hell's Five Hours
Hell's Half Acre
Inferno
Damned
Leave Her To Heaven
Body and Soul
Actors and sin
The Seventh Commandment
The Unholy Four
The Tall Lie


Crooked
The Crooked Web
Drive a Crooked Road
Walk a crooked Mile
The Crooked Way


Life and Death
You Only Live Once
Nobody Lives Forever
Where Danger Lives
They Live By Night
Easy Living
Something to Live For
Condemned to Live
A Race for Life
A Life at Stake
Hangmen Also Die
Kiss of Death
a Kiss Before Dying
Death in Small Doses
Death of a Scoundrel
I Died a Thousand Times
Dead Reckoning
D.O.A.
The Big Sleep
The Glass Tomb



Nudity/Trasparency
Over-Exposed
The Glass Wall
The Glass Tomb
The Naked Kiss
the Naked Road
The Naked Alibi
The Shadow on the Window
Woman in the Window
The Window


Confessions and Secrets
One Girl's Confession
Confessions of a Nazi Spy
I Confess
Secret Beyond the Door
A Woman's Secret
Open Secret
Hidden Fear
Shield For Murder
Foreign Intrigue
Whispering City
Kansas City Confidential
New York Confidential
High School Confidential
Chicago Confidential
Portland Expose
No Questions Asked


Fear
Ministry of Fear
The Wages of Fear
Sudden Fear
Hidden Fear
The Fearmakers
Cape Fear
Storm Fear
Fear in the Night
Stark Fear
Bond of Fear
Fear No More
Reign of Terror
Experiment in Terror
Study in Terror
Panic in the Streets
Terror Street
The Night Holds Terror
I Wake up Screaming
Shock
Tension
Two O'Clock Courage
The Defiant Ones
Crack-up
The Breaking Point


Danger
Background to Danger
Appointment With Danger
Cry Danger
Where Danger Lives
Green For Danger
Home to Danger
Danger Zone
Wings of Danger
A Dangerous Profession
Dangerous Crossing
on Dangerous Ground
Experiment Perilous
The Red Menace
Storm Warning
Kiss Me Deadly
Murder Can Be Deadly
The Deadly Game


The Clutches of Fate
Spellbound
Snowbound
Cornered
Caught
Captive City
Trapped
Man-Trap
The Trap
Lure of the Wilderness
Man Bait
Pit of Darkness
Convicted
Tight Spot
Pressure Point
No Way Out
Damned
Caged
Pitfall
Undertow
Whirlpool
Quicksand
Snowbound
Bond of Fear
Hell Bound
Raw Deal
Hi-jacked
Loophole
Escape in the Fog
Desperate
Pursued
Backlash
Recoil
Track the Man Down
Mexican Manhunt
Woman on the Run
The Big Chase
the Hunted
The Girl Hunters



Mistaken Guilt/Identity
Above Suspicion
The Unsuspected
Betrayed
Decoy
Strange Impersonation
Stolen Face
The Verdict
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
They Made me a Fugitive
The Fugitive
The Wrong Man
Fall Guy
Fallguy
Framed
The Scapegoat
Railroaded
The Marked One
Cover-Up
The Set-Up
Fingerprints Don't Lie
Circumstantial Evidence
Pushover


Occupations
A Dangerous Profession
Tough Assignment
Night Editor
The Bodyguard
The Enforcer
The Postman Always Rings Twice
T-Men
FBI Girl
The Bunco Squad
Counterspy
Counterspy Meets Scotland Yard
Scotland Yard Inpector
Radar Secret Service
Motor Patrol
Western Pacific Agent
The Undercover Man
Detective Story
Mary Ryan, Detective
Gumshoe
Hangmen Also Die
Mr District Attorney
Criminal Lawyer
The Case of the Baby-Sitter
Actors and Sin
Paid to Kill


Money/Desired Objects/MacGuffins
Contraband
Maltese Falcon
Mask of Dimitrios
The Locket
The Brasher Doubloon
The Bribe
The Wages of Fear
I'll Get You
Treasure of Monte Cristo
The Golden Salamander


Character Names
Gilda
Miss Sadie Thompson
Rebecca
Laura
Vicki
Daisy Kenyon
All About Eve
The Two Mrs. Carrolls
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers
The File on Thelma Jordan
My Name is Julia Ross
Mary Ryan, Detective
Captain Carey, USA
Dillinger
David Harding
Johnny Eager
Johnny O'Clock
Johnny Angel
Johnny Allegro
My Son John
A Bullet For Joey
Tokyo Joe
Mr Arkadin
Rififi
Marlowe
Two Jakes
Pete Kelly's Blues
Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond
Flaxy Martin
The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry
The Great Flamarion
Amazing Mr. X
Meet Mr. Callaghan
Bobby Ware is Missing


Crying
I Wake Up Screaming
Cry Danger
Cry Vengeance
Cry of the City
Too Late For Tears



Temperature
The Big Heat
Heat Wave
Blonde Ice


Strangers
House of Strangers
Strangers in the Night
Stranger on the Third Floor
The Stranger
Walk Softly, Stranger
Stranger on the Prowl
Phone Call From a Stranger
Don't Gamble With Strangers
Three Strangers
The Strange One
The Strange Woman
Strange Impersonation
Odd Man Out
The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry


Men and Women
The Man Who Knew Too Much
Odd Man Out
The Third Man
Man in the Dark
The Man I Love
The Man With a Cloak
Man in the Attic
Track the Man Down
The Man From Cairo
Shadow Man
The Man on th Eiffel Tower
Manhunt
Man-Trap
Man Bait
Limping Man
No Man of Her Own
The 49th Man
Two Men in Manhattan
The City Without Men
The October Man
T-Men
No Man's Woman
His Kind of Woman
Woman in the Window
The Strange Woman
The Second Woman
Woman on Pier 13
Twilight Women
Phantom Lady
Lady in the Lake
Lady From Shanghai
Lady Gangster
The Lady Gambles
The Gambler and the Lady
A Lady Without a Passport
The Lady in Question
Dishonoured Lady
Forever Female
The Girl Hunters
Girl on the Run
The Girl on the Bridge
FBI Girl


Cards/Gambling
Two of a Kind
Ace in the Hole
5 Against the House
Four Deuces
The Lady Gambles
The Gambler and the Lady
Don't Gamble With Strangers
Raw Deal
Odds Against Tomorrow
The Big Combo
 Killing of a Chinese Bookie


Big Things
Big House, U.S.A.
The Big Steal
The Big Operator
The Big Knife
The Big Clock
The Big Sleep
The Big Chase
The Big Heat
The Big Combo