It’s interesting that King Creole is rarely brought up when discussing either the films of director Michael Curtiz or those of its inimitable star. It is fair to argue that the picture does not break the mold of crime dramas, yet at the same time its production, script and acting are quite accomplished by and large, with special emphasis going towards the overall look. It’s a beautiful film to admire, and has a rich story to share as well. What’s more, it is a rare cinematic trip to New Orleans.
For Friday Noir #150, in addition to a well deserved pat on the back, the column will take a look at some of the posters of the classic noir period. Loving movie posters is a curious passion. Today, the one-sheet theatrical poster that hangs in a theatre lobby or is plastered in subway stations or …
Lady Gangster is now practically long forgotten in the annals of film history, kept afloat by its existence in the public domain, hence readily available for any and all that wish to take a chance on it online. Frankly, there isn’t a bevy of ingredients operating in its favour, but the few that do truthfully make the film worthwhile, chief among the presence of leading lady Faye Emerson. In light of the burgeoning era of strong female leads, anyone interested in seeing what a movie from 1940s with an equivalent role is like would do well to check out Lady Gangster.
The funny thing about watching older films is how the credits fade slowly in and out during the opening minutes when swelling music plays. The final credit, as is always the case, is awarded to the picture’s director. In the case of Behind Green Lights, the first fraction of a second proves misleading when viewers start to make out the given name Otto as it slowly fades in. The first immediate auteur that comes to mind for anybody knowledgeable of old school Hollywood is Otto Preminger.
Director Wise was, in many ways, the Steven Soderbergh of his day. He could navigate virtually any film genre and produce a terrific final movie, one that understands the nooks and crannies of said genre’s tropes whilst clearly putting incredibly artistic stamps on them. Drama, crime thriller, sport (as in the case of the present film), science fiction, action, he could do it all, and do it with panache, deft and sensitivity.
Stories told via framing devices are a tricky proposition, highly dependent on the nature of the framing device employed. One that strongly suggests or outright reveals the plot’s outcome runs the risk of nullifying whatever dramatic tension the rest of the film attempts to build up. Lady in the Death House commits the cardinal sin of making it quite clear, albeit not explicit, that Charles Finch’s tale ends on a positive note, thus robbing the picture of a lot of its potential richness.
Behind Locked Doors, directed by Budd Boetticher, is, for all intents and purposes, a precursor to a much more widely known film from 1963, Sam Fuller’s Shock Corridor. Working on the same principle of a protagonist (in Fuller’s film the hero is the journalist rather than a private eye) that has himself admitted into the loony bin, Fuller’s motion picture has a very apt title given how the viewing experience is quite shocking at times.
Seasoned film noir viewers who take a chance on Robert Montgomery’s Ride the Pink Horse for the very first time are in for a unique experience. The director and fellow screenwriters Ben Hecht and Charles Lederer confidently borrow from several noir tropes, only to shed different light onto them, their efforts producing a movie that feels familiar yet fresh all the same. The basic plot is one seen many a time in motion pictures of the era, particularly in the aftermath of the Second World War when many such leading men suffered from a post-war cultural malaise.
Batman is one of the most iconic comic book superheroes of all time and has been amongst the pop culture zeitgeist for, at most, three quarters of a century, being adapted into all kinds of media from novels to video games and of course, to film and television. Strangely enough, as popular as the hero has been throughout the decades, the character has had very little time on the live action small screen. Even now, in this newest retelling of his origin story, Batman himself is not expected to make a full costumed appearance. Instead we are introduced to all the tangential characters that surround the Batman mythology and formulate Batman’s allies and foes.
D.O.A. Written by Russell Rouse, Clarence Greene Directed by Rudolph Maté U.S.A., 1950 In a terrifically dramatic opening, D.O.A. begins with a series of smooth tracking from behind one man as he walks the corridors of police headquarters whilst the credits appear in the forefront. When the man’s face is revealed, the viewer learns that …
There is a visible craftsmanship to Phantom Lady that helps it reach the upper echelon of movie magic. It is a slick, well produced bit of entertainment that takes bold chances with its plotting. Characters are introduced at inopportune moments in the film yet it actually benefits from those decisions. Having a rare female protagonist who only pretends to be a femme fatale is equally pertinent, landing Phantom Lady in a small club of films that took that chance during in the period.
Pursued Written by Niven Busch Directed Raoul Walsh USA, 1947 In a small, dilapidated home in the middle of the New Mexico desert, the beautiful but worried Thor Callum (Theresa Wright) arrives to convene with her on-the-run lover Jeb Rand (Robert Mitchum). From whom or what he is fleeing is unclear at first, but he …
Small warts aside, Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye is a well put together drama that invites viewers to observe how one very intelligent and confident man works his way around the law to get ahead in life. Although some of his calculated risks are a little far fetched, it remains compelling to follow Ralph Cotton through his episodic adventure. It works like a thinking man’s White Heat.
A Perfect Murder is anything but. Far from a complete misfire, Andrew Davis starts things off very nicely and definitely manages to cover some of the cracks in the armor with some slick direction and an impressive cast, but the script is woefully uneven, even unsure of itself at times. It makes for a decent thriller but all three leads have been in far better movies than this.
The Amazing Mr. X is a potluck of genres and styles that come together under Bernard Vorhaus’ direction to produce a surprisingly entertaining experience. The film is more of a lark than a deadly serious drama but still has a beating heart to anchor the experience. For anyone who enjoys ghost tales, magic and noir, Vorhaus’s picture offers a uniquely interesting blend of all three.
Is the film this bizarre because of what Columbia did after the original shoot or did they in fact make an utter mess somewhat comprehensible? A fascinating debate to be sure, sadly one for which the answer may be lost in the sands of time. That said, at least for the experience, The Lady from Shanghai is a must see.
The Big Heat features one of the more mature stories to be found in noir. It deals with some extremely heavy material, some of which would understandably encourage its characters to give in to testosterone and rage, yet preserves an impressive air of level-headedness.
Rififi Written by Auguste le Breton, Jules Dassin and René Weeler Directed by Jules Dassin France, 1955 Having recently concluded a prison sentence, Tony ‘le Stéphanois’ (Jean Servais), former thief, is now a poor man, reduced to late night gambling to earn paltry pocket change. His two closest friends and former colleagues, Jo ‘le Suédois’ …
Shed No Tears is bereft of any singular identity when contrasted against other thriller of the period. It is not a comedy but nor does it always dedicate itself to absolute seriousness.
The Blue Dahlia Written by Raymond Chandler Directed by George Marshall USA, 1946 Three wartime veterans who served in the Navy return home to Los Angeles. They are Johnny Morrison (Alan Ladd) and his two faithful companions, Buzz (William Bendix) and George (Hugh Beaumont). After an early tussle at a diner in which Buzz shows …
Robert Wise is up to his usual tricks with his 1947 character study Born to Kill. Wise was an incredibly skilled director whose creative talent could be applied to almost any genre. Some of his best efforts in fact were noirs, The Set-Up from 1949 arguably topping that list.
Perception plays a spectacularly large role in how people behave and process information. Everything one does or chooses to do is at least partly a function of one’s perceived reality. Sometimes one believes to be doing the right thing whereas in reality they are doing the wrong thing and vice versa.
Balancing plot and character must be a complex feat to pull off. It seems that, on a weekly basis, especially with the plethora of blogs and websites dedicated to film reviews, articles and podcasts discount various movies for their lack of character development, presenting overly convoluted plots and many similar faux pas. Carrying the precarious pressures of both screenwriting and directing can easily make the exercise of filmmaking all the more demanding, save perhaps for the few masters of both art forms (even then they would surely confess to experiencing some troubled waters). Robert Rossen, who would go on to direct All The King’s Men to Oscar victory in 1949, worked on a much smaller scale for 1947’s Johnny O’Clock.