film noir

Friday Noir #152: ‘King Creole’

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.

‘Friday Noir #147: ‘Lady Gangster’ is mostly slight, but has an excellent leading lady

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.

Friday Noir #145: ‘Behind Green Lights’ goes the route of comedy with mixed results

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.

‘The Set-Up’ stands tall in both Robert Ryan’s and Robert Wise’s oeuvres

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.

‘Lady in the Death House’ isn’t terrible, but doesn’t earn a ‘get out of jail’ card

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’ is serviceable, but fails to unlock its full potential

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.

‘Ride the Pink Horse’ rides hard and strong with its unique interpretation of film noir

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.

Gotham, Ep. 1.01, “Pilot” gives Gordon the spotlight

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.

‘Phantom Lady’ sells itself on incredible craftsmanship and an impressive female lead

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.

‘Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye’ has a cunning, scheming Cagney rip institutions and lives apart

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 well directed, but suffers from an uneven script

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’ has a great story and some unexpectedly terrific special effects

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.

‘The Lady from Shanghai’ is the noir version of an Orson Welles fun house

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.

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