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Film noir runneth over on the schedule lately

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This fun thread, which was so active for so many months, is languishing,

 

Thought I'd try and liven it up a bit with a couple of comments. First, don't forget, folks, to watch or record *Quicksand*, tonight ( Thursday Dec. 9 ) at 6:30. Starring Mickey Rooney as a garage mechanic (or "grease monkey" as they were known then), it's an exciting ride down the noir vortex of greed, lust, and crime. Well, that makes it sound pretty heavy duty, and Mickey's greed, lust, and crime sins are pretty innocuous in comparison with many noirs. But that doesn't matter: it's a fun little film, with good scenes featuring car mechanic shops, diners, carnivals, and mean streets. Good stuff.

 

Also, I've watched a few more films from my " Noir Volume 5" boxed set. The best two so far both, coincidentally, feature the same actor, Steve Brodie. He's a classic noir victim of circumstances in *Desperate*, and a minor character, a petty crook, in *Armoured Car Robbery*. Both of these films are quite good. I love William Talman's extremely mean criminal mastermind character in *Armoured Car Robbery.*

 

Any comments?

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I just haven't seen too many noirs lately. Quicksand is a nifty little the dominoes

are all falling bad movie, and you're right that Mickey is not really mean, just sort of

a victim of fate-time and time again. In this one, as seems to happen in so many

of them, he's got a pretty and sweet girl who he leaves for someone else, who isn't

so sweet. Of course if they didn't do this, the movie would be a lot shorter. Speaking

of which, I can't help noticing how short Mickey seems in some scenes. Makes him

look like he's staying out past his curfew, but that doesn't really detract from the

film itself.

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Miss Wonderly, thanks for reviving this thread. There have been some great noirs on in the last month or so: Robert Hamer's THE LONG MEMORY, a great Brit noir with John Mills, with much location shooting; Joseph Losey's THE CRIMINAL, with a terrific performance by Stanley Baker and cinematography by Robert Krasker of THE THIRD MAN fame; and Anatole Litvak's THE LONG NIGHT, a remake of the Marcel Carne/Jacques Prevert film LE JOUR SE LEVE, but perfectly transposed to American settings with one of Henry Fonda's finest performances and great camerawork from Sol Polito. All three of these films looked ravishing, and the acting and directing did not let the cinematographers down.

 

I'd never even heard of THE LONG MEMORY or THE LONG NIGHT, and vaguely gathered that THE CRIMINAL was one of Losey's lesser efforts. What other gems are out there?

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Oh yes, QUICKSAND is just about to start!!! I love it, it's a great noir through most of it's run time, I'd say! The Mick is great in this role, Jeanne Cagney is a decent femme fatale, and Peter Lorre--well, wow, he's Peter Lorre!!!

 

I also dug another "lite noir" earlier today, KILLER MCCOY, I thought that had some decent elements of noir and crime in some unique ways.

 

Miss Wonderly, I'm glad you're digging those flix on Vol 5! I have yet to get that one but it's on my list for sure, soon I hope! Those flix with Steve Brodie are very good B noirs, particularly a scene between he and Raymond Burr in DESPERATE, man to me that is one of the best scenes in all of noir, the one in the kitchen! Seems like most of those supposed forces of law from the "Perry Mason" TV show sure made for some mean and bad dudes in some great noir flix through the 40's and early 50's! Raymond Burr often turns up as a bad dude, but William Talman had them all beat! As you say, he's one bad dude in ARMORED CAR ROBBERY, and check him out in 2 other flix, I MARRIED A COMMUNIST (aka THE WOMAN ON PIER 13) and THE HITCH-HIKER. That dude was as mean and nasty as they come!

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kingrat, I call myself a hard core film fan, and yet the only movie I can think of offhand that I've seen by Joseph Losey is *The Servant* , (1963), starring Dirk Bogarde and James Fox. It's an extremely interesting exercise in -what? Role reversal, psychological manipulation, the craving for power.

I really like it, (depressing though it is); I don't consider it to be a noir ( I know you weren't saying that), although there are definitely some of the psychological elements of noir in it . And it's certainly dark enough to be a quasi, honourary noir. (Can we have such a thing? Maybe someone should write a book about such hard to pin down films, entitled, Quasi, Honourary Noirs. I bet we could all think of a few films to contribute.)

I've never seen T*he Criminal*.I looked it up, and it does sound as though it would be a good British film noir ( as opposed to a "Quasi, Honourary Noir"). Thre are actually quite a few good British films that you could call "Noir" (aside, of course, from the legendary *Night and the City*.) Has anyone seen *Clouded Yellow* ? Or *The League of Gentlemen* ? Pretty darned good.

 

finance, "Armoured Car Robbery" is actually spelt without the "u". But I just have to put the "u" in. ("It's not me, it's "u".)

 

mark, I have seen *The Hitchhiker*, it's on one of those ultra cheapo boxed sets I picked up for a song ( they gave it to me to make me stop singing ). But because it's so cheap, the flicks on it haven't been cleaned up, so both sound and image are fairly fuzzy. The lovely and talented Ida Lupino directed it, as I'm sure you know. I'll have to watch it again, I'm afraid I dozed through a lot of it the first time I watched it (not the fault of *The Hitchhiker*, I hasten to add. It's not Ida, it's me. )

 

My only complaint about my Noir Volume 5 set is, as I've mentioned before, the absence of commentary on any of the films. Sometimes these can be quite fun, or enlightening, or both. Wonder why they left them off this time?

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Miss Wonderly, I am with you on that about the lack of commentaries on Vol 5! In fact, I'll admit it's the only reason I haven't snatched it up just yet. I've seen all the films on it before, with the exception of BACKFIRE, so I don't have a lot of urgency to get it just yet. If there were commentaries though I'd be so curious to hear them that I'd have broken down long before now! I don't know why they don't have them, they can't be *that* expensive can they? And I feel they'd be an attraction. Oh well!

 

As it is though it's a nice collection of mostly lesser-known noir films. I'd love to see the series continue with or without the commentaries, instead of the DVD-R stuff in the Archives. I'd at least like to see pressed discs and in these nicely priced collections.

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Oh and about THE HITCH-HIKER, really have to give that another go! It's on a box set at Amazon (one that is also in my queue) put out by Kino, that also has SCARLET STREET, STRANGE IMPERSONATION, THEY MADE ME A FUGITIVE and CONTRABAND, all for pretty much a song! Well, the price ranges from mid-20's through mid-40's US. And according to the review, the prints are cleaned up nicely.

 

Talman is eerily sadistic in that one, and well, I just totally dig pretty much anything that Frank Bigelow...errr, Edmond O'Brien and Frank Lovejoy are in! Ida Lupino did an outstanding job directing that film--the intense claustrophobia of the desert and these 3 dudes in that car...man!

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I will indeed give *The Hitchhiker* another shot. It must be an age thing, I find if it's after 11 pm, I will often -completely involuntarily and even unknowingly - fall asleep while watching anything. It's not a reflection on the movie, it's a reflection of my incapacity to stay awake at night anymore. Ah, the days when I could take in a double feature and still be fully alert.

 

I agree, the cast has everything going for it. Edmund O'Brien, oh yeah, fine actor.

 

The boxed set I have with The Hitchhiker on it is not the one of which you speak - yours' sounds a lot better. Mine was , as I said, one of those cheapo quickie jobs (sounds like a heist in a film noir.)

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Hey, I just turned on the set to while away a few minutes, and *Mystery Street* was on ! If I'd known in advance that TCM was airing this today, I'd have posted a heads up about it here. I love it- it's a great little noir.Detective Ricardo Montalban looking askance at racist rich men, Elsa Lanchester being even dottier than usual, the "procedural" format which includes bizarre skeleton faces on slides, trashy but pretty Jan Sterling tripping down the boarding house stairs in mules and a fluffy dressing gown to take a phone call, the battle in the train yard, the bird in the cage with the secret - great stuff !

 

Anybody else seen this?

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It's one of my faves, for sure! I've seen it years ago on TCM (wasn't able to catch it this time), and have it on one of the Film Noir sets, so I'm grooving any time to it! Dig it!

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Glad you like it, mark, I think it's a very unusual and under-rated noir.

 

Hey, has anyone heard about this book that apparently came out last fall? It's called The Best American Noir of the Century, edited by Otto Penzler and James Ellroy (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).It's not about film, though, it's an anthology of noir literature, including stories by James Ellroy (said editor), James Crumley, James Cain, Cornell Woolrich, and even Joyce Carol Oates, to name a few. I haven't seen it myself yet, but I read an article about it, and wondered if any of you film noir fans also enjoy reading the literature upon which many of the films are based. (redriver? for instance? ) I thought it sounded kind of interesting.

 

I've gone crazy with posting links lately. Here's another, a review of the above:

 

http://lynne-booknotes.blogspot.com/2010/10/review-best-american-noir-of-century.html

 

Edited by: misswonderly on Jan 12, 2011 2:06 PM

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Since many of the items which classify a film as film noir are related to the appearance of the film (shadows, lighting, dark streets, rain, etc.), what classifies a novel as noir literature? The definition would almost have to contain fewer elements.

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I agree, and I'm fairly sure the term noir was originally conceived to refer to films. Although short stories and novels which involved crime, alienation, dangerous women, private detectives, etc, had certainly existed throughout most of the previous century, and many of the movies we think of as film noir were based on some of these literary works, I've never heard of the word being applied to literature before it was applied to film. Labelling noirish literature as "noir" is definitely, I should think, taken from the term film noir. And yes, the visual elements of film noir contribute greatly to the name.

 

Edited by: misswonderly on Jan 12, 2011 5:20 PM

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I saw part of COVER-UP today, a virtually unknown noir (not even listed in Leonard Maltin's guide) starring Dennis O'Keefe and William Bendix. A lot of real good wiseacre verbal interchange.

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On Jan 26th, 1130 PM est, TCM is showing "Phantom Lady" which I don't believe is on very often. Its a rather good noir type film as I remember it.

 

Edited by: mrroberts on Jan 20, 2011 11:22 PM

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I wouldn't say Lucky Jordan stunk up the place, but it rarely got above a routine

gangster flick. Even the semisweet interaction between Ladd and his old rummy

"mother" couldn't save this one. Maybe I missed something, but the Nazis seemed to

show up out of nowhere. The last twenty minutes or so when everyone is getting

together looked like a B movie. I'll stick with This Gun for Hire.

 

Now Phantom Lady was much better. Not a great noir on the level of The Killers

or Double Indemnity, but a good solid number. Interesting plot helped. Things slowed a

bit when Franchot Tone showed up as the killer. His psycho mumbo-jumbo was a little

too familiar, as was his constant Lady Macbeth hand wringing. Yeah buddy, we get it.

You're a nut job who likes to strangle people. Been there, done that. Got a kick out of

ECJ. Even in the guise of a sharp dressing hip jazz cat drummer, Wilmer's still a two time

loser. Of course, in the end, everything turned out for the best. I figured when Curtis left the

office, there would be a feelgood sentimental message to wrap things up. Bingo.

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I really enjoyed *Lucky Jordon* ! I realized in the first five minutes that it was not to be taken seriously on any level, so I just sat back and enjoyed it. I don't care if the Nazis are coming out of the woodwork, even if it's totally illogical. It was funny and entertaining...I did fall for the gin-drinking "mother" sub-plot, also the long final scene(s) in the botanical gardens. Anyway, I was never bored, and sometimes I think that's ultimately the key to whether I like a movie or not.

 

*Phantom Lady* was pretty good, too, although the plot itself didn't make much sense ( the desperate search for the mysterious lady with the hat was not necessary at all, since at least two witnesses agreed that they'd seen Alan Curtis at the estimated time of murder.) But then, we wouldn't have had Ella Raines enticing Elisha Cook Jr. into a frenzy of percussionistic lust.

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I seem to think less of PHANTOM LADY than most of you, mostly because of what I felt was mediocre acting. Siodmak's THE KILLERS, CRISS CROSS, THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE, and THE FILE ON THELMA JORDAN were much better.

 

Edited by: finance on Jan 30, 2011 2:43 PM

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I had no problem with the acting in *Phantom Lady*. Well, maybe Franchot Tone was a little too Lady Macbeth, but that was part of the fun. I certainly enjoyed it more than *The File on Thelma Jordan*, to which I fell asleep the one time I tried to watch it. I think it's Wendell Corey -just not a noir hero kind of guy. Not even Babs Stanwyck, one of my favourite actresses, could keep me interested.

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Yeah, Franchot's portrayal of a crazy guy was a little too too... That was the only part I didn't think was quite up to snuff. The rest of the acting was fine, especially Ella's.

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Well, I'll just give Lucky a gentlemanly C-, and leave it at that.

 

 

The explanation that Tone followed Curtis all around the town so that he would know

which person to bribe seems a little far-fetched, but I suppose it's possible. I found his

nutcase shtick to be more amusing than menacing, a loony toon straight from central casting.

All the hidden hand "soliloquies" and the oh my insane head is splitting (from the Laird

Cregar school of acting) are very burned over territory, as are the over sized grotesque

sculptures and the finale "I'm an ubermensch kind of guy." Because Ella Raines and

Thomas Gomez managed to more than "balance" Tone's character, it's not a big deal.

 

While questions about plot holes and contradictions don't ruin a movie, they make

for a nice little fringe benefit, especially in crime films, things to consider after the movie

is over and an additional reason for watching it again.

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