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JUNE 19 TCM FILM NOIR DISCUSSIONS FOR #NOIRSUMMER FOR ALL 13 FILMS


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#41 Jeanne Marie

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Posted 25 June 2015 - 12:08 AM

Hollow Triumph: loved it! Never saw the twist coming, though it was obvious something was going to go awry with the scar on the wrong side of his face! Bartok seemed so uptight, it must've seemed inconceivable to Muller that, in his own way, Bartok would be in trouble every bit as deep as what he was running from! The end scene with people walking past Muller's body was quite shocking too. 

 

Crossfire: Not, I think a particularly Noirish film with the exception of some of the cinematography but a very important film though for it's subject of the insidious nature of race hate. I thought it has a particular resonance today too in light of the recent events down in Charleston. Some superb acting too from Robert Ryan, who really owned that role as the racist killer and Robert Young as the weary detective: Mitchum, though, I thought was a little underused, which was a shame. 

 

I completely agree with all your points on Crossfire. I kept thinking of the Charleston gunman as Robert Young was explaining how hate takes root and explodes into death. It just made me sad. But I also thought it was interesting that he only talked about prejudice based on religion. Not on race.

 

And yes, we needed far more Mitchum than we got. His role was odd. I kept expecting his character to grow in importance as the investigation progressed, but he never really did.

 

And I love seeing Gloria Grahame in anything. I've only seen her do bad girl roles, so I don't know if she ever had a chance to branch out, but she does bad girl great.


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#42 Kinokima

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Posted 24 June 2015 - 06:22 PM

Of the John Alton films that aired Friday I didn't really care for Hollow Triumph but I highly enjoyed both Mystery Street & Border incident.

I do agree with the previous posters that at times the Mexicans were a bit stereotypical in Border Incident but Ricardo Montalban's police character was portrayed really well (he was excellent in both Friday movies and was a bit of a revelation for me who only saw him in Star Trek before). What impressed me is the Mexican police officer survived over his Caucasian "partner". Even today the opposite usually happens when minorities are given roles in Hollywood films. So to see that in a 1940's film really impressed me.

And wow what a death scene. That is something I am not going to forget anytime soon.
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#43 rrrick

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Posted 24 June 2015 - 08:57 AM

BORDER INCIDENT.

 

A couple of things...

 

The stern voice-over commentary bookending the film. It was obviously intended to increase the realistic documentary feel the film was going for. I wonder how this was perceived by audiences at the time. Compared to the film itself it now comes across as pretty archaic and unconvincing. What if the commentary had not been latched on? I think I might actually have preferred that.

 

It's surreal to see a film from 1949 deal with issues that seem to be troubling the U.S. and Mexico to this very day. For the record, I am in Europe, so I have no first hand experience, but it seems to me that a movie like this has an urgency and relevance that resonates even today. 

 

While the social and educational motivations are clear and commendable, I couldn't escape the feeling that its portrayal of Mexicans overall was rather stereotypical, both on the good and the bad side.... Not sure what to make of that exactly.

 

Same as with MYSTERY STREET I would not consider this a 'typical' Noir, rather a (procedural) film that uses Noir elements to enhance story, tension, themes and audience involvement.

 

But when it does, cinematographer John Alton really delivers. I really liked how the geometry of the opening was repeated several times in the film, particularly during the harrowing and utterly thrilling scene with officer Bearnes vs. the tractor. Him clawing his way through the plough lines in the field was an interesting play on the Mexican laborers seen in the introduction.


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#44 morrison94114

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Posted 23 June 2015 - 11:20 PM

I'd never seen or even heard of Border Incident before, but I'm really glad I watched it. For one thing, it placed noir in the unexpected context of a social issue film. The clip from this film shown in the Daily Dose focused on the documentarian, realistic tone, but after this initial framing device the film visually becomes more formalistic and thematically becomes less concerned with the plight of the farm workers than with the corruption of the bosses hiring the braseros.

 

If you watched this film, I'm sure you will agree that George Murphy's death scene was harrowing and tension filled. The scene was beautifully shot, but the way the content of this scene was handled underscores one thing that I would include in my working definition of film noir. I guess I would call it a nihilistic world view. As the menacing plow gets closer and closer to Murphy I kept expecting that somehow Ricardo Montalban would dash across the field and manage to pull Murphy to safety at the last possible minute. That didn't happen, but that is what almost certainly would have happened in a mainstream film (by that I mean a non-noir film). In the world of this film, the good guys don't win every battle, even if their names are above the title. I felt a little cheated that after this great scene and the showdown that soon follows that the film then returns to the documentary tone for the final minutes of the film to reassure us that all the wrongs have been righted, justice has prevailed, and Mexican farmworkers and American farm owners live happily ever after.


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#45 donleonard

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Posted 23 June 2015 - 09:51 PM

I loved "Mystery Street" last Friday evening with Ricardo Montalban but I must agree that it seems as much a police procedure film as a film noir. Indeed, it reminded me of the television show "Quincy, M.E." although I believe the display of forensic science in "Mystery Street" was almost as scientific and technical as anything on "Quincy" televised 30 years later. Nonetheless, many film noir elements are present: a seemingly doomed man, a woman temptress in a bar, a dead body and then another murder, selfish motives and protective motives revealed, as well as the gritty urban streets of Boston. I probably missed a few others. What is definitely not a usual part of film noir are the hallowed halls of Harvard and pipe-smoking.professors. A good film that clears a man in the nick of time.

#46 Egythea_A

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Posted 23 June 2015 - 06:18 PM

 

  A morning cup of coffee is a perfect time for a mid-movie peek in at TCM.  Father of the Bride.  Not a favorite type of movie for me, but then it does have young Elizabeth Taylor.  
 
  Then it happended.  In the middle of this light-hearted, very dated movie pops a noir sequence that stands up today as an expression of one man's tension in a major life changing situation.  In hindsight, I have always counted noir films among my favorites for both story and visuals.  Long ago AMC's Darkness Before Dawn helped me understand these favorites were part of a bigger grouping of movies that stood out in many ways from that which had come before.  After many years and many noir films, Prof. Edward and the contributors to these forums are helping me to better understand these movies and 'how they work' while providing a vocabulary for me to organize and express my thoughts.  I love it.    
 

 

 

Thanks for sharing that! Like the "what-if" sequence in MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET where the filmmakers also used noir techniques when they had to do an especially bleak sequence in a lighter movie.

 

Watched the clip, and it's indeed such a good visualization of a nightmare, complete with giant taunting faces and a rubbery floor that traps the dreamer in place! And the dark mood continues after Tracy awakes and stumbles through the shadowy, completely silent house, till he finds his daughter sitting in the brightly-lit kitchen. And then, as every model Dad should, he tells her there's nothing to fear! But at the very end, Tracy inserts a tiny little double-take in there, right after Taylor says, "Nothing ever fazes you, does it?". Great acting! :)

Keep enjoying the class and the movies!


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#47 morrison94114

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Posted 23 June 2015 - 05:35 PM

I was amused by the opening of Crack-Up. In his lecture at the museum at the beginning of the film, the art critic played by Pat O'Brien derides a surrealist painting. I would expect that sort of mockery from someone unfamiliar with art trends, but by 1946 surrealism wasn't a new style. I'm sure some member of the general public would have made fun of the painting, but I was surprised that a critic affiliated with a museum would be so disdainful. But maybe his point of view is just written into the script to add irony, because almost immediately after his lecture O'Brien enters a surreal world of hallucinations and nightmares.



#48 Thefilmduke444

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Posted 23 June 2015 - 04:31 PM

Last friday's line up of films was quite superb. The Killers directed by Robert Siodmak was an exemplary piece of noir with the classic dialogue, the shifts between cinematic realism and formalism, the lighting of the scenes to create the perfect noir environment, the use of mise en scene, the plot of the film and the very fact that it was based on a crime short story made this film amazing. Two other films that featured the classic and timeless work of John Alton were The Scar and Mystery Street which featured the perfect lighting for the scenes in the films. The Scar also featured a great performance by Paul Henreid as the villain and once again showed that the protagonist is not safe in the world of film noir, contrary to many Hollywood films. I also know that Eddie Muller did specify that he believed Mystery Street to be a "procedural" film as opposed to a straight up film noir. In some ways I do agree with this as in terms of how the plot and film moved along with certain, more technical details being employed which noir generally does not bother with as opposed to other crime dramas and police films,  however I would say that this film does carry the noir weight behind it with the lighting by John Alton, the types of characters in the film and certain sequences that add a very cool sense of mystery that generally only appears in noir films of the time which set it apart. Anothewr great film was Get Carter which in a way can be described as neo-noir as it carries many of the tones of noir with a sultry sense of suave and coolness which the characters possess, the misogynistic actions employed by Michael Caine, the way that the environment of the night and shadows of darkness are used in certain sequences just like a noir and the very fact that the protagonist could not not ultimately escape a fatal end. This makers of the film wanted to depict a grim reality with more realistic output and relied on documentary backgrounds to do so just like how certain films noir use documtary realism in them. I also understand that Mike Hodges was also influenced by Raymond Chandler and films noir such as Kiss Me Deadly, plus the film was also based upon a crime novel leading this to be an excellent choice of films to showcase the influence of noir and everything we have learned or already known.


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#49 BPFay

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Posted 23 June 2015 - 12:36 PM

  A morning cup of coffee is a perfect time for a mid-movie peek in at TCM.  Father of the Bride.  Not a favorite type of movie for me, but then it does have young Elizabeth Taylor.  
 
  Then it happended.  In the middle of this light-hearted, very dated movie pops a noir sequence that stands up today as an expression of one man's tension in a major life changing situation.  In hindsight, I have always counted noir films among my favorites for both story and visuals.  Long ago AMC's Darkness Before Dawn helped me understand these favorites were part of a bigger grouping of movies that stood out in many ways from that which had come before.  After many years and many noir films, Prof. Edward and the contributors to these forums are helping me to better understand these movies and 'how they work' while providing a vocabulary for me to organize and express my thoughts.  I love it.    
 

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#50 Janeko

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Posted 23 June 2015 - 12:09 PM

No way out ... having gone in this far, we begin to notice that film noir has pulled the perfect heist on us and we have to surrender huge chunks of our time to it.

 

We can sleep when we're dead :)

I so agree with this.  I, too, thought it would take me 4 to 6 hourse a week to do the course requirements and I am actually spending way more hours than that.  I love the course and am learning so much!!  But I realize now that if I were still working at my former job with it's 10-11 hour days  and then tending to my home responsibilities,  I don't know if I could keep up with course requirements.  I am so grateful that I'm now retired and can devote all of this time to the course.  To everyone out there who is struggling with the time issue, hang in there!  It's so worth it.


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#51 dwallace

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Posted 23 June 2015 - 10:05 AM

I found myself enjoying Nobody Lives Forever, and found it interesting from the preview reading that the only reason John Garfield did it was to work with Geraldine Fitzgerald.  It begins with the over voice narration and the skyline of New York, and then you see Nick with the "Big Red 1" on his uniform.  The constant rubbing of his hand that had been wounded whenever Nick was having second thoughts, then the scenery of the beach and San Juan Capistrano, but also of the gritty inner city.

 

It was ironic that when we first see Kitty in The Killers, she states how she "...hates brutality....never see a man I cared for...hurt."  Obviously she never cared for the Swede, it was all Colfax.

 

Crossfire  was noir to me, and you have Robert Ryan, Robert Mitchum and Robert Young, and Gloria Grahame.  The darkness of where Ryan hides, when they come to see Floyd and the shadow of the light cord.  How black the night is.  And for most how they want what they can't have.

 

Mystery Street the offices are dark, shadowy places, when they leave the "Grass Skirt" it is a very black night.  And Mrs. Smerrling's room (Elsa Lancaster) and hall is very dark.  Did they ever discover the phone number and the love circle around it?  You have the shadow of the gun in the baggage car.  It all works as noir and the subject matter-a "B" girl, pregnant besides.



#52 dwallace

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Posted 23 June 2015 - 09:35 AM

Listening to this week's lecture, and having recently watched The Killers again, I was thrilled to see the intersection of one of my favorite films with one of my favorite paintings (Nighthawks by Edward Hopper).

 

I love the diner scene in The Killers, from the initial tracking shot to the stark difference in lighting to the shot from within the diner of William Conrad still exercising his threat by simply glancing over his shoulder from a block away. And while I always made the connection myself, I never realized that the connection was overt and purposeful until today! I look forward to read more about how the work of Edward Hopper influenced many directors and cinematographers and vice versa.

 

I have a framed treasure in my office containing two equal sized prints, one above the other: Nighthawks and the clever takeoff Boulevard of Broken Dreams (see below). As much as it is a parody of Hopper's original work - and lord knows there are tons, from Simpsons to Star Wars - I feel this one retains the feeling of lonely isolation that the subjects experience (despite Elvis' smirk). Especially in modern times, fame is attained at a cost of human dignity and privacy. Of course, Heinwein (the artist) was paying sad tribute to the death of four beloved celebrities, so my impression was really a step short. :)

 

I've often wondered if and how  famous people would ever know whether a new acquaintance was genuine or just someone attracted to their celebrity. I've read that many famous people who appear carefree are privately lonely and isolated souls who often turn to something else for the esteem their primary art once gave them unconditionally. I have had that feeling of lonely isolation myself, and if you have as well, you know that it can be soul-wrenching. Maybe I'm being more fatalistic than Hopper, but I think he nailed that loneliness.

 

640px-Nighthawks_by_Edward_Hopper_1942.j

 

ksAGO.St.117.jpeg

Not only did he come through there but also in The Big Sleep, especially with the bulb on them, Nobody Lives Forever ("I don't like the word Java"); Hollow Triumph (The Scar); The People Against O'Hara all had a diner some just in passing, but the Hopper look was there.


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#53 dwallace

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Posted 23 June 2015 - 09:17 AM

“The Scar” ~ What’s with this?  I’m rooting at times for the villain?  John Muller is a first-class evil creep.  The problem is Paul Heinreid has such a fine face and elegant manner it is hard to dislike him.  There is another VERY telling factor here.  I cannot EVER remember a villain like the one Heinreid plays in “The Scar” being filmed so conspicuously at times with a “soft” focus!!  A villain in “soft” focus?   What gives?  I am really perplexed.  It seems to go against the rules of moviedom.  Altogether, this is a really good story.  I enjoyed Eduard Franz as Muller’s brother, and Joan Bennett gets just the right edge on her character.  And Bennett DOES look lovely through the cheesecloth. 

 

“The Killers” ~ “The double cross to end all double crosses.” Visually this is a marvelous film noir.  The music is wonderful, too.  I love how Miklos Rozsa makes use of leitmotivs for the characters.  I also love the green handkerchief, which Burt Lancaster carries next to his breast.  It reminds me of the flower Don Jose in the opera “Carmen” carries next to his breast.  Kitty Connelly and Carmen ~ two faithless femme fatales that bring ruin to the otherwise good men who love them.  There are many other fine details in the movie, i.e, the drawing of the big dipper on the jail cell of the “Swede” and his star-gazing cellmate, Charleston; and the band aid behind the ear of Reardon from his beat-up from “Dum-Dum.” Personally, I smiled when I saw the upholstered interior of Big Jim’s car.  I remember my Grandfather’s big Chrysler had upholstery like that. 

 

I did like "The Killers," and I think I may be able to appreciate it even more upon another viewing.  But I don’t think it’s a great movie like “The Letter,” which, as I have said before, I think is perfection.   That leads us to the question of what makes a great movie?  It’s a subjective judgment to be sure, but I think it is the quest for that answer that keeps us movie-going. :wub: 

Don't forget this was produced by Heinreid.  He was moving from actor to director/producer.  He was able to experiement with the soft focus like that, because he kept it in the "B" studio instead of allowing the big studios to take it.



#54 dwallace

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Posted 23 June 2015 - 09:09 AM

I agree Crack-up moved slow. But the cinematography is beautiful in places. The scenes at the railroad station, shipyard, and city skyline we're almost like black and white still photography.

Did anyone else think that the scenes on the train were reminiscent of the old Twilight Zone episode "A Stop at Willoughby"? I wonder if this movie inspired anything about that episode. kymzg on Twitter

I really liked how black things were on the train, in the ship and the doctor's house.  The scene of the train light coming at him was really good.



#55 Sir David

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Posted 22 June 2015 - 05:12 PM

Mystery Street

 

I was surprised that Eddie Muller said that he thought that this film was more a police procedural than a Noir: I thought it was Noir through and through, focusing as it did on such taboo subjects as adultery, un-wed mothers and blackmail, let alone it's mainly nocturnal setting! It even had a femme fatale, although she did rather over-estimate her power over her mark and paid the ultimate price (actually the same could be said for the landlady too, now that I think of it).

 

One other thing I noticed was the guy with the tattoos, which I'm sure in it's own way was somewhat of a taboo when this film was made...especially as the camera seemed to linger a good while over the tattoo of the naked lady! Classic old-style American tattoo that. 

 

Unlike many of the movies I've seen, this seemed to have it's feel firmly planted in the Realist film movement with many of the procedural aspects being put over in an almost documentary way. Saying that though, many of the house interior shots (especially the dark, gloomy rooms of the horrible landlady) were about as opposite as you could get from the realist scenes in Harvard. 

 

Excellent movie, glad I got to discover it on this course. 


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#56 Marianne

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Posted 22 June 2015 - 12:01 PM

Mystery Street (1950):

 

I absolutely loved Mystery Street. From the on-location shooting in Massachusetts (not a single trace of an L.A. backlot) to Morales' grunt work to the well-crafted story with a few good twists to the great female major and supporting characters (Elsa Lanchester, Sally Forrest, Betsy Blair, and Jan Sterling). [Note: Shame John Sturges’ and John Alton’s The People Against O’Hara wasn’t as good].

 

Noir Elements: Opening of night murder, taboo elements (touches briefly on racial issues, infidelity, illegitimate children), documentary realism (complete on-location shooting, "Thank you Harvard," use of medical science), Alton's cinematography, law enforcing protagonist, and a plot revolving around one man's impulsive decision to get involved with a manipulative dame and his desperate choices in protecting himself, only to condemn himself to capture and doom.

 

Basic Plot: When skeletal remains are found in the dunes of Cape Cod, a detective, teaming up with a Harvard bones specialist, use medical science and unrelenting police grunt work to identify the victim and catch the killer amidst this web of deception, blackmail, and the pleas of a man claiming innocence.

 

. . . [Note: Apparently, Massachusetts has a sizeable Portuguese population, who knew]. . . .

 

All the posts about Mystery Street make me want to see this movie even more (I haven't seen it yet), but I did want to comment on the Portuguese population in Massuachustts. The South Coast, which includes both Massachusetts and Rhode Island, does indeed have a large concentration of people of Portuguese descent. Many settled along the coast to work in the fishing industry, whose origins go back to colonial times, I do believe. The New Bedford Whaling Museum in New Bedford, Massachusetts, often celebrates the contributions of the Portuguese to the area. New Bedford is also the site where Moby Dick begins . . . but now I truly digress!



#57 dwallace

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Posted 22 June 2015 - 11:31 AM

What I found interesting, as Francis says to George Rafts character, I have to go "emote".  The most Charles McGraw has "emoted" the number of times we have seen him so far, was in Border Incident.  Though George Murphy really was able to "emote" in that death scene.



#58 Marianne

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Posted 22 June 2015 - 11:14 AM

Yeah, I see he studies Bartok's case files, but he doesn't even bother to find out if Bartok is seeing anyone, or what his actual behaviors are. And actually Muller's psychiatric expertise comes from earlier than that. The warden, just before he releases Muller from prison, goes over Muller's accomplishments, and one of them is that he studied psychiatry in college. I think the film is spectacularly well shot and edited. A lot of sequences really amazed me. I just didn't care for the plot, which seemed thin and at times ridiculous. A lot of noirs have ridiculous plots, but can still get by on style and tone. John Alton and Steve Sekely did a lot to elevate this film, but they couldn't quite salvage it for me.

True enough about the plot in Hollow Triumph, but I often wonder, as I do when watching almost all films noir, about the psychological motivations of their characters. The "bad" ones seem to accept that they're bad and act accordingly. They also seem to assume that everyone else is good and wouldn't do anything bad. They then act on these assumptions that may or may not work. Of course, in film noir, these assumptions almost never work! Which is great for the plot.



#59 The Working Dead

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Posted 22 June 2015 - 10:32 AM

Muller doesn't research Dr. Bartok specifially, but he does a lot of research on psychiatry and on Bartok's patients. All those shots of the covers of psychiatry and psychology texts, for example, are a way to show us that he's reading and learning about Bartok's current practice. And he steals Bartok's files so he can study his patients. I've seen Hollow Triumph only once, but I have a feeling that every detail in this film (probably in every film noir) counts for something in the plot and in the characterizations.

 

Yeah, I see he studies Bartok's case files, but he doesn't even bother to find out if Bartok is seeing anyone, or what his actual behaviors are. And actually Muller's psychiatric expertise comes from earlier than that. The warden, just before he releases Muller from prison, goes over Muller's accomplishments, and one of them is that he studied psychiatry in college. I think the film is spectacularly well shot and edited. A lot of sequences really amazed me. I just didn't care for the plot, which seemed thin and at times ridiculous. A lot of noirs have ridiculous plots, but can still get by on style and tone. John Alton and Steve Sekely did a lot to elevate this film, but they couldn't quite salvage it for me.


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#60 Marianne

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Posted 22 June 2015 - 09:21 AM

Hollow Triumph (The Scar)

 

This movie is grim from the start. I felt enclosed and claustrophobic, from the tight prison sets to the dark rooms where Johnny started his post-prison career.

 

The use of light accentuates the action. Some examples: The lights going on outside the casino heist lead to the uncovering of Johnny’s identity and set the rest of film’s plot in motion. The lights in Johnny’s brother’s room suddenly make Johnny afraid of being discovered when his brother tells him Marcy is dead, and Johnny turns them off. The headlights of the car follow Johnny/Dr. Bartok in the taxi when he’s going to meet Evelyn at the pier, and we think we know whose car it is.

 

What an ending. Evelyn leaves on the boat for Honolulu not knowing that Johnny wants to go with her, but he’s been intercepted because Dr. Bartok has a $90,000 gambling debt with a casino that he frequents. The thugs from the casino shoot Johnny and he dies on the dock, with passengers passing him by and ignoring him.

 

I put Henreid’s performance and the story in Hollow Triumph on the same level as Tyrone Powers’s performance and the story in Nightmare Alley. Both were dark, grim, and absorbing: It’s hard to forget either one of them.





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