10. Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948) Directed by: Max …
Dark Passage’s title works as an unnervingly apt description of the trials and tribulations its protagonist must fight through in the hope of righting the wrongs done to him. Starting from the ground up, his psychological, mental and even physical stamina are equally tested as the police, a fiery and scornful old flame, and a nosy blackmailer keep mounting the pressure on Vincent’s shoulders.
Key Largo is both pulpy and thought provoking. The obvious allusions to sexual and physical abuse, the overt racism demonstrated towards Native Americans (one of the odder inclusions to the story), the misogyny, all of these are balanced out by an intelligently woven battle between two wildly different personalities. True enough, Maltese Falcon and Asphalt Jungle have a greater sense of style about them and in that sense Key Largo might be considered a ‘lesser’ film, but lesser John Huston is plenty better than most other films in any event.
Ocean’s Twelve has a reputation that will always precede it; some have called it an anti-sequel, and publications like Entertainment Weekly have dubbed it one of the worst sequels of all time. Though both reactions are, perhaps, understandable, neither is remotely accurate. Ocean’s Twelve is an inherently self-aware sequel, possibly the most self-aware follow-up in modern history. What Steven Soderbergh, screenwriter George Nolfi (whose original script, Honor Among Thieves, was completely unrelated to Ocean’s Eleven and was sold initially before that remake had been released), and the slightly larger-than-before ensemble cast did was make a sequel to a critically and commercially lauded caper film that was wholly cognizant of the fact that it was a sequel to a critically and commercially lauded caper film. Ocean’s Twelve toys with audience expectations, because to cave into them would’ve promised something potentially more disturbing and commonplace than what many perceived to be an ambitious creative flop: something boring.
Last week’s column entry, White Heat, was a film directed by Raoul Walsh which exemplified some of the very best assets of both the gangster and noir genres within the same picture. Given that the latter evolved, in part, out of the former, it only seemed natural that by the end of the 1940s, when the gangster pictures were less prominent at the theatre and noir was picking up considerable steam, the two would coalesce seamlessly.
Fictional private detective icon Philip Marlowe, a creation from the mind of famed author Raymond Chandler, was one such character who always succeeded in putting millions of puzzle pieces together. 1944 saw the release of a great film adaptation of a Marlowe story, Murder, My Sweet, with Dick Powell playing the aforementioned private dick. 1946 was the year a Philip Marlowe adventure with a lot more star power behind it was bought to the silver screen, The Big Sleep, directed by legend Howard Hawks and starring none other than Humphrey Bogart.