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Everything posted by riffraf

  1. The opening scene of Elevator To The Gallows (1957) cuts back and forth in close-up shots of Florence (Jeanne Moreau) and Julien (Maruice Ronet) involved in a serious phone conversation. The mood seems to be tense as the couple proclaim their love for one another and for the first 43 seconds the only sound we hear is the desperation in their voices until the lone shrill sound of Miles Davis' trumpet begins to underscore their solitary existence and longing to be together. Davis' haunting score continues as the camera moves from a medium shot of Julien on the phone and as film credits roll, the camera zooms back until the frame is a long shot revealing an office building dwarfing Julien in a maze of windows and intersecting vertical and horizontal lines. It appears clear that Florence is the one in control as she pushes Julien's emotional buttons and pulls the strings to get whatever it is she wants. Even though the couple is exchanging words of love, the music score is telling us something different. It's sad, it's lonely and empty, lacking the more emotional, upbeat tempo you would expect to accompany a pair of lovers exchanging affections and words of devotion. Miles Davis' score definitely enhances Louis Malle's visuals and we know something is very wrong, very dark and something very noir is about to unfold on the screen. Side notes: I have not seen this film but from the clip I'm seeing Jeanne Moreau as a French version of Lizabeth Scott, meaning I can see her acting range go from sweet and vulnerable to wicked and hardcore in a New York second (whatever that is). And is it just a coincidence the title is so similar to Build My Gallows High which Out of the Past (1947) was based on? One more note. France used the guillotine for capital punishment right up to 1977. So shouldn't the title have been "Elevator To The Guillotine"?
  2. Absolutely dead on! I had the privilege of meeting Janet Leigh at a book signing and specifically asked her about her scene, after being murdered, that fabulous close-up shot of the shower drain slowly dissolving to an extreme close-up of her pupil and then a painfully slow zoom back (and rotating from vertical to horizontal view) of her lifeless body on the bathroom floor and with the constant sound of running water. I thought they must have used a still picture of Janet Leigh's face and zoomed off of that. She assured me, as difficult as it was lying on that floor, half naked and holding her eyes wide open and face frozen till the shot was complete. Being the professional she was, she never blinked! What a woman! https://youtu.be/0WtDmbr9xyY
  3. Agreed. If we didn't have "1918" plastered across the screen and followed up with a 1918 calendar close-up we wouldn't know what our time frame was. Hopefully (I haven't seen this one) it will become meaningful later on in the film. And if Robert Ryan is an "everyman" then Anthony Perkins is probably my next door neighbor!
  4. Good points! I had to watch the scene again and I'm pretty sure after getting his coat from a closet he moved into another room, but you're right about the corpse that blinks. And despite what Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone) tried to teach us about "suspension of disbelief", that was a bit of a scene and/or suspense "killer". Even in a masterpiece like John Ford's The Searchers (1956) which I can & have watched countless times, it still irks me when John Wayne, Ward Bond and the rangers are standing over the grave of a half berried Indian and you clearly see his stomach rise and fall, which a corpse shouldn't do. Love that movie but my "suspension" is truly tested.
  5. From this scene in Beware, My Lovely a few of the noir elements we experience are the deep focus shots where Howard Wilton (Robert Ryan) is on the outside of the house and we clearly see a calendar and "to do list" framed within the shot as he cleans the window screen. The music that heightens the tension upon Howard's "discovery" of the body. Up until this point in the clip all the scenes were well balanced and level compositions. Once Howard takes flight we get angled shots of him running away from the scene down an alley, entering the railroad yard, inter cut with medium close-up of his panic stricken face, high angled shots from above minimizing him within a industrial landscape and finally an extreme long shot dwarfing him in a frame of vertical rail lines and freight cars. When he makes it to a moving freight (another angled shot) he disappears into a cloud of steam and into an open boxcar, followed with some well done multiple film dissolves (close-up of Howard's face, close up moving train wheel and long shot of an oncoming train image) all accompanied by a fast paced music score. Not having seen this particular film before I am guessing that the "Keep the Pot Boiling From The Kindness Of Your Heart" sign expressing "goodness & Christmas cheer" is setting us up to experience the complete opposite, or downside of such an ideal. Possibly to start the audience off relating to being in an "every town USA" where good-hearted people are doing good- hearted things. It's Mayberry! What a wonderful environment to live in, if you don't hire a psychopath to do your yard work! But maybe he's innocent, I'm just spit-balling here!
  6. True of all genres and cinematic styles will sprout with innovation, experimentation, reach a popular "formula", become overdone and then die out or eventually lose its audience. The good news is it's only a temporary death until a new crop of film makers come up with a fresh approach and style. As you mentioned the Westerns. Popular as silent movies, eventually better with sound, run their course, end up quarantined to television. Widescreen & color (and John Ford) to the rescue. Plays out in the late 50s. It takes the Italians (Sergio Leone & Clint Eastwood) to re-invent the Western in the 60s. That plays out, runs it's course & plays dead until appropriately enough Clint Eastwood re-invents the Western with The Unforgiven. We haven't seen the last of film noir, it will just be re-invented and so on. There is still hope!
  7. I agree that for the most part the dialog is appropriate for the scene we viewed. Except for the "iconographic depiction of women" listed by Foster Hirsch in his excerpt from The Dark Side of the Screen, I believe he was mostly pointing out Marie Windsor's dialog as sounding like a parody which would be in a scene/scenes most of us have yet to see.
  8. So true, a solid actor, even in much smaller roles such as the state police captain going after Tony Curtis & Sidney Poitier in The Defiant Ones (1958) he made his presence as a no-nonsense kind of guy known in every scene. And for an actor known mainly for his noirish type characters, he pulls off a role as a warrior in a sword & sandal flick just as well...Spartacus (1960). What a character!
  9. I agree Charles McGraw is an amazing, solid character actor (and so underrated) in spite of such a long list filmography. His small part but strong performance as the fishing boat captain in The Birds (1963) helped make the drama of "bird attacks" more believable. It's also interesting that in the short-lived TV series Casablanca (1955) he played Humphrey Bogart's role as Rick.
  10. I caught Gene Hackman's Narrow Margin (1990) version a few weeks ago, so I would be interested in hearing your views in comparison to The Narrow Margin (1952) edition! Enjoy!!!
  11. And the "man in black" underscored that desperation of noir characters and the train itself as a metaphor both moving and confining at the same time when he sang: I bet there's rich folks eatin' in a fancy dinning car. They're probably drinkin' coffee And smokin' big cigars Well I know I had it comin' I know I can't be free But those people keep a-movin' and that's what tortures me"
  12. I too love this film & it was great to see Charles McGraw in a leading role. I agree with you on the conventions of noir after the 50s and as much as I love the work of Gene Hackman, his remake Narrow Margin (1990) just lacked the punch and intensity of the original!
  13. In this opening scene from The Narrow Margin we just might be witnessing a parody of noir conventions with the two detectives and their individual attitudes about their assignment. First up Detective Sergeant Gus Forbes (Don Beddoe) seems to be more laid back (laughs, jokes) and following routine with in an easy going manner whereas Detective Sergeant Walter Brown (Charles McGraw) is more serious, under pressure/time restraint (telling the cabie to take short-cuts), bitter concerning the witness they're to protect (she's cheap, flashy, strictly poison under the gravy), a hard-boiled man and not a happy cop. In contrast, Gus (aka "boyscout") is telling Walter to "relax, we'll make it ok!", making comments about changing brands of cigars, wondering what the dame will look like and maybe feeling that old age is changing his attitude. It's possible Charles McGraw represents the classic style of noir with his hard-nosed, strictly business, play-it-by-the-book detective, referring to the "dish" as the 60¢ special. Don Beddoe's character emphasizing or hinting of a new attitude towards the old style film making, "I'm thinking of changing brands, something with a self-starter on it." Noir has run it's course, it's time to rethink the formula. When asked "What kind of a dame marries a hood?" His response is, "All kinds." as his smile and demeanor changes to a somber, dismal mood. Meaning these days there is no specific type of woman in these films. A "femme fatale" of classic noir with very distinct characteristics, could be any kind of woman now. There are no boundaries, old stereotypes no longer fit. Could be The Narrow Margin was "the writing on the wall" for the way classic noir films were put together (dated slang dialogue, voice over & other tools for noir). Unbeknownst to Orson Welles (the master) who would make one last stand in the world of noir with Touch of Evil adding his own commentary within the film about the film, film style and the changing studio system. We are now leaving Iverstown...you know the drill and the line.
  14. Agreed this has been an amazingly fun, thought provoking class & I am also feeling a Noir angst that it's coming to an end!
  15. I too thought the background music was "borrowed"... "heisted" from Dragnet. Since Dragnet was a popular police/crime drama as a radio series back in 1949, then maybe we need to acknowledge the radio dramas as having a strong influence on the noir style of movie making!
  16. As listed in the opening titles of Kansas City Confidential the purpose of this film is to expose the operations of a man who conceived and executed a "perfect crime" of which the details are not available anywhere else (except in this movie). The audience is primed to closely watch how this precision heist is planned down to the minute, exact locations where all the participants will be and the paths they will take as well as where and when vehicles will be located. Thus timing is the key to this plan which is worked out in great detail using blue-print styled details of the streets, the buildings and time logs of where and when the armored car, delivery truck and squad car all arrive and depart. The scene is shot mostly as a point-of-view from the plans' mastermind as a "dry run" of the crime scene as it would play out before us. Film noir elements include a documentary style shooting order, streets framed in diagonal as opposed to horizontal lines and a tension building music score emphasizing the serious nature of what is happening on the screen. By using a heist for the subject and in particular the planning stage of such a crime this gives us an insight to the criminal mind with the work and details behind the actual execution of the crime rather than the action itself. When we hear or read of a failed robbery, this type of film would answer the question, "What were they thinking?" Kansas City Confidential will tell you! On paper it looked pretty good! ...don't try this at home!
  17. Great point! Likewise compare the similarities of Ernie and Pauline from 99 River Street to that of Fred and Marie Derry (Dana Andrews & Virginia Mayo) The Best Years of Our Lives, there seems to be a pattern here! Soldiers beware! Rosie the riveter has fangs!
  18. I believe Kitty Collins (Ava Gardner) from The Killers would fit in with Pauline and Jane and their noir shaded ambition, modus operandi as well!
  19. It seems clear that director Phil Karlson in 99 River Street, wanted to emphasize the superior images and effects as viewed on the big screen (in a theater near you) with its larger than life aspects of the boxing match with in-your-face close ups, fighters dripping blood and perspiration while accompanied by the harsh sound effects of gloved fists battering bodies with exasperating moans and grunts interplayed with shots from the boxer’s POV. Compared to the same match on the small screen of the television (in your very own home) where the images are restricted to views from the spectators point-of-view and the sounds limited to the sports announcer’s play by play…blow by blow. And weren’t they lucky the television had as good a reception as it did! On the social commentary we have an unhappy, disillusioned couple like some many in noir’s post-war period. Ernie (John Payne) could have been a contender yet he still has plans to make good. Pauline (Peggie Castle) could have been a star and had a better life if only she hadn’t married Ernie. In spite of Ernie’s optimistic idea of buying a gas station, this couple is on the skids and desperate to break out of their situation. The motives and opportunities are ripe for them to hop on a one way train to Noir City and play out their doom. Or not.
  20. In terms of acting and staging at first the meeting between Sam Masterson (Van Heflin) and Walter O’Neil (Kirk Douglas) there seems to be a genuine reunion of a friendship of eighteen years ago but very quickly becomes a chess game of power plays about dominance and veiled threats. Sam reveals his somewhat shady character by requesting, practically demanding that Walter, the D.A., help a friend get out of jail (possible blackmail). Walter quickly appears to be agitated by his former friend and totally put off when pressured to do an underhanded act and even more irritated with the interaction between Sam and Walter’s wife. The situation becomes more entangled when this trio’s actions reveal that they are all less than above board characters indicating corruption when Walter says it is a sure thing regarding his re-election. It is hinted about Sam and Martha Ivers (Barbara Stanwyck) had had a more intimate relationship earlier in their lives, much to Walter’s disdain (power play, jealously). Such a mish mash of emotions hidden and revealed are brilliantly played out between Heflin, Douglas and Stanwyck leaving the audience with an abundance of possible plot lines to follow and all dark and dreary. Within this short scene we have a boiling pot of shady characters, corruption, threats, jealousy, questionable loyalties and we haven’t even met Lizabeth Scott’s character yet! Can’t wait to see how this bumpy ride plays out!
  21. Once again opening on a dark deserted highway (maybe the Hollywood Hills) a car mysteriously pulls off to the side of the road and the driver, a stranger, checking his watch and is obviously on a schedule. Enter a second car traveling up the road with a normal, married, bickering couple, when they are mistaken for “the contact vehicle” to receive a bag containing a large sum of cash. This was more of an opening with a calm early evening drive and maybe with a little mystery thrown in. Unlike Kiss Me Deadly or The Hitch-Hiker, Too Late For Tears starts off without the desperation and fear factor at least in the beginning. Eventually Jane Palmer (Lizabeth Scott) sets in motion a dark fate with her reckless attitude first by nearly wrecking their car trying to force her husband to turn the vehicle around which inadvertently signals a stranger to drop a stash of cash in their backseat and secondly for her decision to go for the instant material gain and escape from the domestic doldrums and status quo in spite of the obvious consequences which could cost them their lives. Possibly a popular post-war theme due to everyday people breaking out of their routine existence, money for nothing, potential to gain power and influence, instant wealth and popularity. Themes just as popular today with reality TV shows and contests, the lottery, who doesn’t want to experience wealth and supposedly a better life-style? Isn’t a better life what both Farley Granger and Robert Walker’s characters were looking for in Strangers On A Train? It’s just a matter of how far are you willing to go to achieve your goals. From this opening scene in Too Late For Tears, Lizabeth Scott is in the fast lane to oblivion! Fasten your seatbelts (again)!
  22. The opening scenes from Strangers On A Train is accompanied by a rousing score by Dimitri Tiomkin which becomes almost whimsical during the low level shot of Bruno Antony’s (Robert Walker) two tone shoes in contrast to Guy Haines’s (Farley Granger) more standard foot ware. There is a sense of everyday normalcy in the activities of leaving a cab and heading for a train as compared to the more ominous, somewhat desperate activities in the opening of both Kiss Me Deadly and The Hitch-Hiker, where a panic stricken Cloris Leachman leads the viewer down a dark desolate highway and William Talman a lone stranger also on the side of a darkened highway flags down an unsuspecting passerby. It’s a standard technique of Alfred Hitchcock to create a rhythm of a tranquil environment populated with normal everyday characters. This is Hitchcock’s way of putting the viewer into a relationship with an “everyman” story. The purpose in shooting the low level shots of shoes moving towards the train are filmed diametrically opposed, one pair moving from left to right and the other from right to left metaphorically leading to a collision of personalities, morals and existence. I would agree that Hitchcock is a special case for noir discussion in the very way he avoids the typical noir tools of darkness, dread and outright evil by illustrating how any innocent (everyman) can be drawn into the same world of desperation and contact with evil doers even in broad daylight and without any of his/her own doing. Much like Edmond O’Brien’s character in D.O.A. who is totally innocent but still functioning in the darkness of noir story. Hitchcock disarms his audiences placing them and his characters in normal surroundings and only through twists and turns in the story do his characters fall into the nastiness of films noir. He is a special case in his style of cinematic storytelling and it may not be film noir but if it is, Hitchcock enters through the back door! And he does not knock!!!
  23. Also, I wanted to go on record as saying that I have tried to put a photograph of myself on my profile, etc. but it hasn't happened...can't get it to download, upload, or whatever load. It just won't load!!! DIANE DYAN BIGGS Uploading a picture from your computer to use as your avatar is not working at the moment. Please upload to one of the many image hosting sites (many of which are free), and use the URL to get your chosen picture in here.

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