Sir David

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Everything posted by Sir David

  1. As an exiled Brit, I'm ashamed to say I really can't think of much in the way of British Noir. Thinking hard I guess I could include The Thin Man and Ministry of Fear (albeit with American links) and also Get Carter as a neo-noir, but after that I'm stuck. Would anyone care to enlighten me with some recommendations?
  2. I think part of the appeal of Noir is the theme of the average Joe getting in above his head, making decisions that will change his life forever and often not in a positive way. For me the major problem with Rooney is that he's simply not "average": when he snarls at a bad guy, I can only imagine their reaction to be a laugh followed by something swift and violent, we simply cannot take Rooney seriously as a Noir protagonist.
  3. Caged I have to say that I enjoyed this more than the testosterone-fuelled man-movie "Brute Force". It was more nuanced in it's portrayal, more balanced. To me it was more Noir too - we follow the lead from a scared, new-fish, innocent girl, through a huge change to the hardened and cynical woman who leaves the prison a scant 15 months later: in true Noir style she pays for her mistake in the past, not with death but with an obvious descent from good to bad, and the prospect of ending up like the old lifer who tried to turn her away from her path into crime. Eleanor Parker was excellent too in portraying this change. You physically see her getting stronger and more hard-boiled as the film progresses, her voice altering to match that change. My favorite part: the very end. Almost wordless, she exits the prison - and movie - to her life of vice: sleazy music breaks in and she flicks away her cigarette in a tough-guy manner before climbing into a car with 4 strange men and off to her new life. Excellent film.
  4. The Gangster So stagey and hammy! A pretty dreadful B-movie, imho. Nothing really happens...slowly. And then the protagonist dies. Still, it really looked great and hit so many Noir buttons with it's visuals. I just wish I'd watched the thing with the sound off! It had a great (if largely wasted) cast too, which came as a surprise. But the male lead was about as exciting to watch and expressive as a cigar-store Indian, and the female lead (Belinda, Melita, Viagra, Ryvita?), although she had scene-stealing pins, was pretty uninspiring otherwise. Best thing about it? Shabunka's pre-death monologue as the rain lashed him was excellent, though even then they ruined it slightly by the hail of bullets that killed him seeming to having less effect on him than the wind until he fell face forward into the gutter!
  5. The Strip Oh, my! Never wanted to watch this in the first place but for the sake of watching all the movies on the course (I'm up to 95) I fixed myself a stiff drink, gritted my teeth, and hit the play button. Mickey Rooney: no no no. How are we supposed to take him seriously as a Noir protagonist at 5'2"? I don't want to be height-ist here, but... Musical Numbers without a real link to the plot: too many, too samey! I mean, the film was short enough (apologies for the pun) without 10-20 minutes of it being musical numbers! Paper thin plot: definitely. Femme fatale: more femme yawn. Seriously, he fell for her why? And all the while passing up a more than passable hat-check girl who (for some inexplicable reason) is crazy for him. Ach, I've run out of energy for this one. Summary: meh!
  6. The People Against O'Hara Catching up with films I missed but have on DVR, I finally came around to watching this. It was okay, I guess...I can see why Eddie Muller concentrated so on the visual aspect of the film, because certainly the plot itself was a little creaky. Would any real life attorney throw so much away on sheer blind belief in O'Hara, when so much evidence (soooo much evidence) pointed to the accused's guilt, and even the dumb lummox himself would not do anything to help his own case? Sad to say they telegraphed Spencer Tracy's demise in the movie with his late phone call to his daughter, but - in true Noir style - I suppose he had to die because he made that one bad decision (trying to buy the evidence of the witness), and that's just not something that escaped unpunished in Noir's early years! It was good to see (and a little unexpected) a female cop offering to help out at the end, and especially as someone on the operational end of a weapon, it's a shame though they didn't make it a little more revolutionary and letting her save the day. Instead we only got: "oh, there's a dame coming this way" and then it all kicking off with her as a bystander.
  7. Berlin Express A Realist movie, and - for me - a very important movie. I've seen many photos of post-war ruination but seeing it in a movie setting really brought home just how devastating it must've been to have had to live in such a setting after the war. How did the people cope? How did they live? How difficult it must've been to have rebuilt...I don't even know if I would have know how or where to begin. I wonder too if the struggle to survive (and the personal selfishness - in the form of basic survival) it must have engendered sowed the seeds of the future decline of so many of the standards people held dear before the war leading us to the selfishness we see all around us today? The plot was, in my opinion, not really all that important in terms of everything else, but it was an enjoyable movie. Robert Ryan I liked, though this could be more because he carried my surname in the movie, than anything else! I liked Eddie Muller's comments about the filming of Merle Oberon by her husband...I agree, he did manage to make her look average in pretty well every scene! The backdrop was the real star though (even though in a tragic way). I wonder what the actors thought as they performed against such a depressing "real" background?
  8. Tomorrow is Another Day Finally got around this movie... seems such a long time since the early days of the course: that's an awful lot of dames, dubious decisions, double-dealing, death and despair! This one didn't have much in the way of death, but the one it did have was crucial in that it caused our protagonists to exercise some of those wonderful dubious decision making skills we've so grown to love! They run because they thought they'd killed a cop - well, they did but for some highly improbable reason he makes a death-bed confession that it was in self-defense. Right. Like that would ever happen! Anyway, apart from the wishy-washy tacked-on happy ending (I agree with Eddie Muller that it would have been far more Noir to end with Cay killing Bill only to find they'd been exonerated afterwards!), I found it fascinating in many ways: the stowing away on the car carrier, the back-breaking work in the lettuce fields, the fashion (what I would have thought of as late 50s denim fashion in 1951, who knew?). I love what I'm learning about society in the late 40s and early 50s. A good movie. It wasn't fantastic, but it was a strong Noir B feature with good performances from the stars.
  9. I like your summary here, but would disagree about one thing. You say the only psychopath is Munsey, I would argue that - to some extent - Burt Lancaster's character, Joe Collins actions show him to be equally psychotic. He's in some way like a mirror image to Munsey and they hate each other with such passion because they recognize (and hate) the same traits in the other that is also inside them. Collins' violence isn't expressed as overtly, but think about it: the prisoners seem as awed by Collins as they are cowed by Munsey - prisons run on simple fear and the survival of the fittest and Collins is top-dog on the inside - Collins has as much power over the prisoners as Munsey, possibly more if you look at the elaborate plan they carry out on his behalf to kill the first stool pigeon (no mere shiv in the shower here!), and look at the heartless and callous manner he uses the second stool pigeon as a human shield in face of the machine gun. In fact, he knows exactly what he's doing in his manically driven scheme to get his hands on Munsey - I wonder if he really does want to escape - and must know that he's sending many of his fellows to the grave to ensure he's successful. None of which means, of course, that Munsey wasn't a fascist monster, but I think the film was more nuanced than simple good vs bad; not everything is black and white and here particularly it seemed more grey vs greyer.
  10. Side Street I almost didn't watch this one: I'm not a fan of Farley Granger or Cathy O'Donnell (especially) but I'm actually quite glad I did as it turned out to be a fairly enjoyable B-movie. If I'd known too that Jean Hagen and Charles McGraw were in it I would've watched it far sooner, it's just a shame they had such small parts! The film included some wonderful visuals of New York during the big car chase at the end of the movie: notably the bar-like shadows cast between the canyons of the downtown skyscrapers. It was actually fascinating to see the city in the 1950s like that, I've always been interested in the history and changing vistas of cities. I noticed too that the film climaxed outside the Stock Exchange, which was a neat bit of symmetry, closing the loop opened at the start of the film with a Wall Street broker taking money out of a bank.
  11. Kiss Me Deadly It's amazing how quickly how society in the 50s changed: this film, made in 1955 is just so different in style and attitude to the Noirs of the late 40s and even the beginning of the 50s. Where did all the hats go? Gone too is the glamour of the female of the species, along with the nobility and decency of, well, pretty well everyone: everyone just seems to want more and everyone has a price. I have to say I don't like it as much. Mind you, there is a happy ending (I suppose), but I think - like many people - that the truncated ending with the ambiguity over whether Hammer and Velda survive would have been better. The scene at the end with the femme fatale meeting her doom is so similar to that of Raiders of the Lost Ark that I have to think that it was in some way deliberate by Speilberg in the latter film: it's as if he's using the image as a comment on the dangers of tampering with the unknown, certainly this film in 1955 shows a lot of the bad science of films of the day where radiation was seen almost like magic. Wait, is that a giant mutant crab I see coming from the ashes of the beach-house?
  12. I thought this was an excellent movie: Jake Gyllenhaal was tremendous as the haunted-looking and incredibly creepy "hero", prepared to do anything to progress in his chosen sphere. It was an incredibly dark movie, with the vast majority of it taking place at night (did we see the daylight at all, I don't remember?) and no doubting it's Noir credentials here. But, unlike the Noirs from the classic period, Karma isn't lurking around the corner waiting for him: he doesn't pay for his sins and in fact prospers from his deviousness. No-one else may come out of this movie in any way happy but the protagonist, he's sitting pretty!
  13. Act of Violence I think I must be all Noired out after watching this, my 86th film from the schedule, because I simply couldn't care less about the two protagonists. Van Heflin deserved his Noir-come-uppance for being a stool-pigeon, of course, but they never made Ryan at all sympathetic enough for us to really care that he was a good guy hell-bent on revenge, he was simply there. It's as if they expected the limp alone to make us think he was threatening but at the same time deserving of getting revenge for it and his happy ending. Personally, I think it would have been a far better film had Van Helfin continued to lie and deny and portray himself as the victim until the very end. Still, it is what it is, and there were some great noir visuals if nothing else and I thought Mary Astor as the worn-out hustler was excellent: I wish she'd had a more prominent role.
  14. I do find I prefer the RKO Noir output but, yes, this one was a real dud! It seemed to me they couldn't work out whether to make a drama, a musical or a comedy and ended up with none of them.
  15. Really? I'm going to have to get that book as I really need to know how they class Party Girl as Noir! (Perhaps too, it might shed some light on the awful "A Woman's Secret", which I had the misfortune of watching today.) All I can say is that they can't be too sure themselves if they feel the need to spend so much time on it! I missed The Damned Don't Cry, sadly. Was it on TCM? Shame, I feel I've seen too many happy endings recently, I need some Noir despair!
  16. A Woman's Secret Or, much ado about nothing! What a dreadful movie. The only mysteries here for me were: 1. How did I remain awake? 2. Who gave the green light on the whole mess in the first place? Wikipedia states that Howard Hughes held up the release "for no apparent reason". I disagree. I think the very apparent reason is that he had actually watched the thing! 3. Why is it on a list of Noirs? The only good thing about it was...no...there was nothing. I can only think someone carried out a heist on this whole course and smuggled this movie into the line-up.
  17. Red Light A bit of an odd one this: the movie is about as Noir as you can get throughout (complete with Raymond Burr as the glowering bad-guy!), but as the film progresses there's this odd religious thing going on, complete with mysterious sound effects, actors looking off into a vague middle-distance all the while with a mystical wind ruffling them, and wait...is that "Ave Maria" in the background? Even the McGuffin of the film is a Gideon Bible!! I liked the film overall, but...oh dear...George Raft. I simply fail to see how or why he was such a big deal back in the day. Every single time I see him he has that same sculpted-marble expression on his face, no matter what is supposed to have happened in his life. The way the upper half of his face doesn't seem to ever move, it's like he's a very early proponent of Botox in a time when they weren't really sure of the correct dosage!! He was terrible, imho, but Raymond Burr was - as usual - terrific as the bad guy, though he seemed to be a little bit too much of a heavy (pardon the pun) to be a convincing embezzling book-keeper. If anyone has been my highlight "find" in this course it's been him. I think, like most people, I only knew him as Perry Mason and Ironside so to see him as the big bad in so many Noir movies has been a revelation. Oh, and finally, I almost squealed when I saw Fred Mertz (William Frawley) as a seedy hotel manager, I have to say he seemed quite at home!
  18. Brute Force Well, I've been bemoaning the selection of many of the so-called Noirs on the Summer of Darkness schedule but with this film, I got one with a vengeance! A brutal and nasty little film with nary a sympathetic character to be found, tough and uncompromising with no-one coming out of it well. It was interesting to see the almost complete lack of differentiation here between the "good" prison staff and the "bad" inmates. The weaselly warden, doing anything to keep his job, the brutal fascist guard captain and his compliant staff: all of them to a large degree shown as only nominally free, almost as much prisoners of the system as the inmates, as if the brutal were deliberately set to rule the brutal. Although we were supposed to be sympathetic to the prisoners as people who had complex lives outside of their lives inside (witness the use of the flashbacks linked by their love for women symbolized by the girl's picture on the wall), Joe Collins, played by Burt Lancaster, was a strange exception in a way. We see him in a flashback being tender and declaring his love to a girl in a wheelchair but apart from that moment he remains a bit of a mystery: we don't find out what he's inside for, or why everyone seems to hold him to a very high degree of regard - on both sides of the fence - but it's noticeable that, in his own way, he's every bit as brutal as Captain Munsey, after all, the two informers who cross him both meet very sticky ends, even if on neither instance does he actually carry out the killing. I'm sure that the audience of the day would have been shocked by what they saw on the screen, and it may have been a game-changer for a lot of people in terms of how they start to regard figures of authority, but I also wonder if anyone would have come out of the theater having really enjoyed the movie too? I'm not sure I did.
  19. No, I do understand the importance of music and dance in those days, I just don't think that - in this particular film - that the scenes portrayed reflected it's supposed 1930s setting...to me it felt more akin to some of those 1960's westerns where the female characters have obviously 60's hairdos and make-up!
  20. Then I have to align myself firmly along with the narrower definition of the term "Noir" camp. I just don't see the themes here being really any different to earlier gangster movies such as Scarface. To me it was simply a film 20 years past it's time and harkened much more back to those older films than anything else we really saw in the line-up.
  21. Party Girl Although the course is over, I'm still working my way through all the films I have on DVR and Party Girl is my 81st movie of the Summer of Darkness schedule and I have to say... I have obviously learned absolutely nothing, as I cannot see one single thing about this movie that tells me it should be considered a Noir!! I mean, it was an okay film but it was more a creaky old gangster movie than anything else with a couple of slots put in for Cyd Cahrise's "dancing", which brings me on to another point: there was nothing at all 1930s about that music or dancing, or costumes and it made me wonder why they even bothered. Why not just make it set in the 50s? After all, the only thing that really said this was the 30s were Powell's pencil 'tache, some old cars and a few iffy gangster suits!! As to "Noir", who knows?
  22. The Asphalt Jungle A very powerful movie, I tend to prefer this to the other two (perhaps more famous) John Huston movies featured in the course: Key Largo and The Maltese Falcon. It's more of a Realist movie, more natural and definitely invests more in the characters as real people rather than the slightly stereotypical characters of the other two movies. (Such a shame though that Sterling Hayden is such a wooden actor!) It was unusual in it's day that it was fairly sympathetic in it's portrayal of the criminals at the heart of the story. Also that there wasn't a lot of difference between them and some of the police (witness Lt. Ditrich trying to brow-beat a witness at the line-up and then beating a confession out of the bookie, Cobby) and also the lawyer who stands the gang the money for the heist. One thing I noticed was that, although there is no femme fatale, a lot of the character's problems are as a direct result of their relationships with women. The lawyer, Emerich, is broke and we are given to understand that this is in large because of the expense of keeping his mistress in luxury. "Doc", who otherwise is clear thinking and determined in his actions, is eventually undone by his lust for young girls...if only he hadn't spent that last three minutes watching a teenage girl dance he would have been free! Dix is seemingly the only person who isn't concerned about the female of the species - though he does have Doll in his life who obviously loves him - but he is a "hooligan" and, as we're told, they have all have screws loose!!
  23. See...that's my point: there is no "why"! Anna was supposed to hold the money as Slim and Steve didn't trust each other (though why either would have trusted her, that's another big question!), but Steve messed up the heist - so no money there - and therefore there'd be absolutely no reason at all for Slim to give her anything when there was nothing to split with him! Well, it's Noir anyhow and they all got their just deserts in the end!
  24. The Wrong Man What a strange film...I've never seen this movie before and it somehow just doesn't seem like a Hitchcock. It was more like a prototype episode of Law and Order than something from the director of so many wonderful movies. To me, it seemed curiously one-speed throughout, almost as if the gear was stuck on "sad": Henry Fonda seemed sad, his career was sad, his wife was sad, the crime was slight - and sad - and even the ending was sad (despite the card telling us that two years later all was peachy!). As a documentary style recreation of actual events, it was interesting to watch the legal process progress unsatisfactorily through it's paces and we can all be thankful that things have changed since the 1950s to protect our rights, but I cannot say I actually enjoyed the movie much. I suppose the message of the movie was that we are all just one short step away from being dumped on by fickle fate, but the fact that it was only a happy accident that Fonda got cleared in the end after the mistrial certainly didn't serve to give anyone much confidence in the Justice System!
  25. Ha, you're clutching at straws now! Let's all just leave it as a mysteriously humongous glaring hole in the plot and enjoy the movie!

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