Dr. Rich Edwards

June 5 TCM Film Noir Discussions for #NoirSummer for All 13 Films

320 posts in this topic

To me, M is a movie that will withstand time -- as with Shakespeare -- a story that can have any backdrop - be set in any time.  The same questions that those in the trial were asking are the same questions that still plague society today - should a murderer be killed?  If imprisoned, will he just get out and commit the same crimes again?  Is there any hope of rehabilitation? 

 

A great way to start the course off - loved the filming

Yes, and can we ever protect all children from all evil? Should we give the law more weapons and more power to "protect" us, in a world where authorities have the same degree of laziness, ineptitude, and corruption as the rest of us? I think Lang was asking those questions in 1931 Germany.

 

It is indeed a universal story. In fact it was remade twice in different settings - Joseph Losey placed in in LA's working class Bunker Hill neighborhood in 1951, and in 1953 there was an astonishingly good Argentinian version titled (somewhat misleadingly) EL VAMPIRO NEGRO with the same story but some interesting new takes on the roles of the various social elements who figure in the story - authorities, parents, underworld.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0202054/

Thanks to the Film Noir Foundation both movies have been brought to select silver screens in the USA and EL VAMPIRO NEGRO has chances of appearing on DVD in the future!

The Losey M is available on moviesunlimited.com in a decent quality DVD.

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The movie insists on Ann's discoveries of her husband's secret life, but, as the movie proceeds, she leaves many hints at what led to their distancing from one another... At various occasions, she explains how she tried to get him to try to make a living out of his painting, to which he responded very negatively. His doubts and self-consciousness certainly made him a difficult person to live with.
I wouldn't say the blame is on either of them, but instead we are led to see how many disputes led to a situation where there was no need for arguments anymore...
 
Edit : Sorry, Working Dead, but it seems I deleted your name as a source when I tried to partially quote your text...

 

 

Well put regarding Eleanor and Frank's marriage in WOMAN ON THE RUN. Some noirs, good as they may be otherwise, raise a wagging finger at wives. They suggest that the blame for drifting apart lies squarely with her for not being attentive enough to hubby's needs and that's why he goes astray.

 

In WOTR Eleanor goes on a twisty and dangerous quest to find back to Frank physically and figuratively. But I like to think the blame for the separation is on both. The movie opens on a couple whose trust and openness are out the window. Their tossed-off remarks about the state of their marriage, starting with Frank's "I'm married - sort of", indicate both have become resigned and complacent about this state of affairs. What happens shocks them out of it and back into each other's arms.

 

A rare thing - a quick, thrilling noir with a hefty dash of unsentimental romanticism!

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Just watched M for the first time. I was immensely impressed (and a little surprised) how well it has held up in 84 years. A film of such resonance with out current fears and beliefs and asking such important questions: is the law too lax, is vigilantism right in any circumstances, do people cry insanity too easily - and what is insanity anyway? In many ways it seemed so much more modern than many of the films produced in the following years. 

 

The lighting and mood were obviously an influence on the Noir movement (if that's what it was) in the use of shade and the grimy reality of the subject matter and it was fascinating to see how some of the scenes were set up. Also, the acceptance that criminals aren't just 2-D characters; they have a complex emotional life too. 

 

Obviously you can read things into movies with the benefit of hind-sight but I also wondered about the this film and the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany in the next few years: the Safe-cracker was almost an archetypical Gestapo character and the view of the mob obviously became the view of the Party in the years to come, especially when you look at their treatment of the mentally ill. 

 

 

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My DVR is overheating from all the rewinding and replaying of scenes in Stranger on the Third Floor. I noticed more film noir elements per minute of film there than anything else Ive seen in years. I'd like to share a couple of gems that I missed the first time through. (no spoilers ahead)

     In the dream sequence, look for the prosecutor to give the hitler salute twice. There could have been no more evil thing for the symbol of the state's power and vengeance to do than to invoke the man who at the time the scenes were being filmed, was setting fire to Europe.  This is a potent connection to (then) current events that send the same message of doom and destruction to us some 76 years later.

     Peter Lorre's character wears a scarf. When the protagonist chases Lorre, he stops to put a hand towel around his own neck (he's on his way to the washroom and brings his towel I guess).  This is a wonderful link between the two characters. It speaks to a paranoid sequence that just precedes the chase. and in addition, the murders involve cutting of throats. Is that a spoiler? Sorry.

    

     

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My DVR is overheating from all the rewinding and replaying of scenes in Stranger on the Third Floor. I noticed more film noir elements per minute of film there than anything else Ive seen in years. I'd like to share a couple of gems that I missed the first time through. (no spoilers ahead)

In the dream sequence, look for the prosecutor to give the hitler salute twice. There could have been no more evil thing for the symbol of the state's power and vengeance to do than to invoke the man who at the time the scenes were being filmed, was setting fire to Europe. This is a potent connection to (then) current events that send the same message of doom and destruction to us some 76 years later.

Peter Lorre's character wears a scarf. When the protagonist chases Lorre, he stops to put a hand towel around his own neck (he's on his way to the washroom and brings his towel I guess). This is a wonderful link between the two characters. It speaks to a paranoid sequence that just precedes the chase. and in addition, the murders involve cutting of throats. Is that a spoiler? Sorry.

That whole scene is clearly in reference to the

Nuremburg Rally speech,with how it's lit and all that,with the columns of light.

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That whole scene is clearly in reference to the

Nuremburg Rally speech,with how it's lit and all that,with the columns of light.

Good call ! What do you make of the satanic "judge" lowering his gavel on the head of the prosecutor? I couldn't quite read that one 

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The more I think about Woman on the Run, the more I appreciate it -- I really have to see it again. The ending, with the ride on the roller coaster, is fun to watch and really adds to the tension. I did have some questions about this film (Why didn't anyone recognize a famous gangster posing as a journalist? Didn't Frank wonder, even for a moment, that his wife was in on the gangster's plot?), but like I said, I'll have to see it again and follow the plot more closely. I think it's a great movie.

 

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed "Woman on the Run." The dry sense of humor ("I had $5,000 and he had $2,000 in talent, so we got married."), plot twist and fantastic ending in the amusement park lifted the film beyond the familiar "guy witnesses a murder and goes on the run" theme. I enjoyed that the main character was actually the guy's wife (wonderfully played by Ann Sheridan), who goes on quite a journey of the heart throughout the movie. The plot twist changed the tone of the film, making it much more intense by giving us information she didn't have. That roller coaster scene with the helpless character caught on the ride was all darkness, shadows.and strange angles -vintage noir. I would recommend this film and watch it again.

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I just watched La Bete Humane for the first time. Talk about the definition of a femme fatale! "The road we're on is a dead end. We have no future." It is said so matter-of-factl , as if it's just supposed to be accepted. This line, for me, is one of the main definitions of noir. As someone else stated, I found the score distracting; it seemed that sometimes the music simply didn't match the action.

 

Did anyone else think of a Shakespearean chorus during the song sung after Severine's murder?

 

I love the fact that the audience stays involved with the film until the very last minute, a feeling I also got from watching The Letter over the weekend. I found myself looking at the time left, trying to guess the resolution.

 

Off to BogartLand for High Sierra and The Maltese Falcon. I have seen both of these before but look forward to seeing them with these fresh eyes.

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Good call ! What do you make of the satanic "judge" lowering his gavel on the head of the prosecutor? I couldn't quite read that one

I would say,just the disregard for the system of justice. The judge being the tyrant,or countries oppresive nature. You could even say that trial,is in referance to Germany's "People's Court"...where it was nothing but a dog and pony show,to oust whoever disagreed with The Third Reich.

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I just finished re-watching The Maltese Falcon and can see why many name it as the first film noir. Above all things, it is an extremely experimental film.  Since the genre was still developing in 1941, the elements of noir were not yet set in motion.  This, to me, is why John Huston uses such a variety in his execution.  

 

For example, Huston's use of daylight vs. nighttime seems very evocative of the genre itself, whereas Brigid O'Shaughnessy doesn't quite fit with the image of a femme fatale.  Instead, the female protagonist contains many elements of what would later be known as a femme fatale, but with other particular characteristics.  

 

This experimentation makes The Maltese Falcon all the more enjoyable to watch.  Since it only began the genre and didn't quite have an established set of guidelines yet, it's good to see an early example that bridges the gap between the strict film noir style and the other experimental elements.

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I was surprised at how much I enjoyed "Woman on the Run." The dry sense of humor ("I had $5,000 and he had $2,000 in talent, so we got married."), plot twist and fantastic ending in the amusement park lifted the film beyond the familiar "guy witnesses a murder and goes on the run" theme. I enjoyed that the main character was actually the guy's wife (wonderfully played by Ann Sheridan), who goes on quite a journey of the heart throughout the movie. The plot twist changed the tone of the film, making it much more intense by giving us information she didn't have. That roller coaster scene with the helpless character caught on the ride was all darkness, shadows.and strange angles -vintage noir. I would recommend this film and watch it again.

what struck me on that one was that she was leading the murder right to her husband....the audience knew at the point where the little dancer girl mentioned the picture looking like the reporter guy..I swear my eyes were as big as dinner plates from that point onward. And when he actually goes to meet the killer I'm screaming at the tv "NOOO DON'T" as if the little people in there are listening XD so I guess you could say I got a little sucked into it :P

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I've got two more left to watch but I actually found myself making notes on the movies so I could remember the things that I found striking. I'm not going to go into all of it but I was thinking a little about one of the questions from today's daily darkness and I think it really fits something that I was picking up on in several of them. The idea of a noir film not being about the narrative as much as the characters themselves. 3 films jumped out at me as very fitting of that idea. 

1. The Letter: Herbert Marshall is absolutely the thing that stood out to me from this one. You can see his perfect world crack and crumble, and the effects it has on him psychologically are evident so clearly in the way he changes. My heart kinda breaks for him...not because  of anything more than the fact that he seems to be the one truly decent person in the entire film. And he makes you want to care, which is more a statement to the actor than anything else I'm sure. 

2. Stranger on the third floor: Peter Lorre is the reason to watch that movie, flat out. His character doesn't really get a lot of explication but it's gripping and profoundly real. I don't know if anyone else could do crazy in the same way, frightening but not in a universal horror monster way, but more in a maybe that guy behind you in the grocery store who is giving you the creeps has a basement full of body parts kinda way. 

3. Born to Kill: I think this one is the gem in terms of character driven stories. There is a deeply disturbing feeling to the entire piece. In the character of Sam we have someone who is rotten, born evil pure and simple. He is a sociopath, he feels nothing for the people he hurts, including his best friend and thinks absolutely nothing of murder. But he's not the worst one. Helen is. Cold blooded, ruthless, gold digger type. And she's willing to have her own way whatever the cost, destroy anyone who gets in her way. It's established early on when someone she knows and appears to like is murdered and she doesn't bother reporting it to the police, not out of fear but because it's a bother and she doesn't wish to be bothered. That's cold blooded. 

 

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Would it help if we group-create a "don't miss" list every Friday for the benefit of those that can stream over the next week from tcm.com?  (That cuts me out.  Thanks again, Time Warner.)

For June 5, I nominate:

1. "M": Often technically crude by the standards of the 40's, this has a career performance from Peter Lorre and builds to a great, unusual trial scene.

2. "High Sierra":  (I have to warn you that this has a minor stereotype African American character that has made audiences squirm every time I've seen it, since the 80's).  Bogart is solid as usual and Ida Lupino is terrific.  Script by John Huston and W.R. Burnett, directed by Raoul Walsh.

3. "The Maltese Falcon": I think this was the first movie with the great Warner Brothers cast of Bogart, Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet. Same cast (with the addition of Claude Rains) was used in "Casablanca" and the lesser "Passage to Marseille."

4. "L.A. Confidential": Along with "Chinatown" the best, post-1970 revival of the hard-boiled detective noir style.

Please add more.

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M:  Shadow Play.

We are horrified by M but forced to identify with him because he is our shadow--our Id.

Like the children in the opening, M makes a game of death. Elsa's mother at the end admonishes us to "take better care of our children" presumably because of people like M but implicitly because they may become like him due to parents who pragmatically aren't concerned as long as they're singing or whistling. 

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LA BETE HUMAINE: La Petite Mort.

Like M, the anti-hero cannot control his impulses. 

But it seems all the characters are slave to their impulses which makes us question our own self-control.

Sex and violence are depicted as two effects of the same impulse which is the Freudian death wish (as suggested by Lantier's suicide).

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Detour was an odd film. Unlike most films noir, the main protagonist didn't seem to have any initial character flaws (unless you count his knack for having incredibly bad judgment). But bad luck, and a continuous stream of really poor decisions, doom him anyway. Sometimes you just can't catch a break.

 

Obviously filmed on an extremely low budget, and with B actors rather than big name stars, but a well-written story and great cinematic storytelling make this film. It was very reminiscent of episodes of the later TV series, The Twilight Zone (which itself leaned heavily on film noir tropes, putting a sci-fi spin on them). Every decision Al makes ends up having an unforeseen and grim consequence, and setting up the next domino of doom. From the moment he sticks out his thumb, his fate is sealed, he just doesn't know it.

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THE LETTER: Lunatic Fringe.

A full moon and a murder opens and closes the film. This shows the moon's profound effect on Leslie and suggests that the Crosbies may have had to move many times before landing in Singapore.

Her incessant lacework suggests she's compulsive, unsatisfied by her husband and serves as a metaphor for the tangled web she weaves. She beats the murder rap by using deception but when she's forced to admit the truth of her uncontrolled passion, she accepts the ultimate judgement.

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My grandfather used to have this saying, "You can't get there from here." Which I thought was most apt for this film. It seems the closer he gets to his girlfriend Sue, the farther away he really is. He even mentions it himself at one point in the film.

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STRANGER ON THE THIRD FLOOR: "Every Intelligent Man's Heart."  

Breezy 6-reeler psychological thriller that could be a sequel to M.  In an expressionistic dream sequence we hear his inner monologue and question his sanity and innocence. But we find he is only guilty of thoughts of homicide so he is only tried and convicted in his mind.

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Detour reminds me of many of Cornell Woolrich's stories, things go incredibly wrong for innocent folks, then snowball from there.

 

Agree on The Twilight Zone it was a sort of catchall for various genre type stories often told in a Noir-ish way.

 

Also a lot of Noir actually migrated to TV in the 50's in  the form of Crime shows(Mike Hammer, Peter Gun, The Naked City)  some episodes are quite noir-ish.

 

It also is interesting to see that the migration of the Crime Genre to TV correlated to the decline of Crime Genre films produced.

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SPOILER ALERT, I ASSUME YOU HAVE SEEN THE MOVIE BY NOW

 

So I like where you guys are going here, and on one level Detour works as the ultimate string of bad luck.  There is definitely a Twilight Zone vibe going on.

 

But on another level, I watch Detour with Al as an unreliable narrator.  Remember the whole thing is told as a flashback while he sits in the diner.  So imagine you are sitting in the diner hearing this story.  What is your reaction?  For me it is, "yeah, right."  The guy just happened to hit his head on a rock when you opened the car door.  And the phone cord just happened to be wrapped around her neck when you pulled on it from behind a closed door.

 

I think the whole tale is Al trying to concoct a story for the cops.  So he is trying it out on us, and we ain't buying it.  And Al knows it, because he can't make himself believe it either.

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I just finished re-watching The Maltese Falcon and can see why many name it as the first film noir. Above all things, it is an extremely experimental film.  Since the genre was still developing in 1941, the elements of noir were not yet set in motion.  This, to me, is why John Huston uses such a variety in his execution.  

 

For example, Huston's use of daylight vs. nighttime seems very evocative of the genre itself, whereas Brigid O'Shaughnessy doesn't quite fit with the image of a femme fatale.  Instead, the female protagonist contains many elements of what would later be known as a femme fatale, but with other particular characteristics.  

 

This experimentation makes The Maltese Falcon all the more enjoyable to watch.  Since it only began the genre and didn't quite have an established set of guidelines yet, it's good to see an early example that bridges the gap between the strict film noir style and the other experimental elements.

Brigid goes back and forth and it's hard to tell what she's really thinking. Huston's use of her as a muse is thoughtful.

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That's the one thing about So Cal,that nerves me.

It eats itself,in it's constant,and futile attempt to find an identity. I go there a lot,to location search for all the old Hollywood stuff,and it kills me when I find something has been turned into nothing more than a dumb bank,or some corner street mini mall. At least the cemeteries (yes I gravehunt) are still a place I can find what I'm looking for.

 

I was also struck by the location elements in Dark Passage. Having lived in the Bay area recently, the city is rapidly "cleaning up" the grit and atmosphere; the SF depicted here is almost gone. I loved the insistent foghorn, the never-ending Escher-esque stairs to everywhere and nowhere, the tricksy jungle Bogie has to navigate. 

 

And I've had the same experiences in LA. It's a shame about Bunker Hill but many of the buildings from, say, Harold Lloyd's classics are still standing and recognizable. 

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I was also struck by the location elements in Dark Passage. Having lived in the Bay area recently, the city is rapidly "cleaning up" the grit and atmosphere; the SF depicted here is almost gone. I loved the insistent foghorn, the never-ending Escher-esque stairs to everywhere and nowhere, the tricksy jungle Bogie has to navigate. 

 

And I've had the same experiences in LA. It's a shame about Bunker Hill but many of the buildings from, say, Harold Lloyd's classics are still standing and recognizable. 

 

Related to the many post about L.A. and historical buildings;  to me a key issue is the lack of professionalism from L.A. Preservation Society.    e.g. they try to impose very restrictive building codes on buildings after they have been purchased by a developer after the fact.     Instead they need to clearly 'tag' each building they feel must be preserved, clearly spelling out the restrictions, so that developers clearly know the rules of the road if they purchase said building.    Of course the city doesn't wish to do that since this reduces the market value of a historical building.  If no developer buys the building the building just deteriorates.  L.A. is way too broke to purchase buildings using taxpayer funds,  retrofit them and use them as government buildings.

 

The city needs to find the right balance by making historical building attractive to developers with building code restrictions that prevent a developer from tearing the structure down but allowing a renovation that will result in a building that can be leased for use at an ultimate profit.

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