Dr. Rich Edwards

June 12 TCM Film Noir Discussions for #NoirSummer for all 14 Films

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Hi #NoirSummer Students:


 


This is the main, pinned topic for all discussions related to the 14 films being aired on TCM on June 12, 2015. Please use this topic to discuss the following films so that all of our thoughts are in one place:


 


Films Noir Made During World War II:


1. The Glass Key


2. Laura


3. Ministry of Fear


4. Murder, My Sweet


 


Films Noir from 1945: A Year of Transition:


5. Danger Signal


6. Detour


7. Mildred Pierce


8. Deadline at Dawn


9. Johnny Angel


 


Prime Time Noir Hosted By Eddie Muller: The King Brothers


10. The Gangster


11. Gun Crazy


12. Tomorrow is Another Day


13. Nightmare Alley


 


Neo-Noir


14. Night Moves 


 


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In Ministry of Fear Ray Milland says he was sent to the asylum because of what happened with his wife but he wasn't insane. But then when he's released it's as if he has gone insane. Great nior.

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I've never seen Danger Signal, looking forward to at least hearing it while I work from home today. Having had the pleasure of meeting Peggy Cummins I cannot oversell Gun Crazy. If you have not had the chance to see this movie before, stop what you are doing and watch it.

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We watched Detour the other night. Very low budget, I think, and pretty hard to swallow in places. Lots of noir elements, mostly impending doom, bad choices, and a truly crazy dame. My favorite part was her makeover from grimy hitchhiker to cocktail party girl. She barely looked like the same person.

 

I'd never seen this movie before, so when she accepts the ride and takes that looooong walk over to the car, I didn't know what to make of that. I should go back and watch that again. Not the whole movie. I'd rather spend the time on a better movie, but that walk, now that I think back on it, had a lot more to it than I got out of it the first time around. 

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And talk about your crazy dames, Gun Crazy! Holy Schnieky! (I quote glynnda. Glynnda, how is that pronounced?) I really like Gun Crazy, though I have to get past wanting to take that guy by the shoulders and shake some sense into him. She's nuts, but he seems like he has more sense than that.

 

SPOILERS: The argument at his hearing was that he does have sense, so he shouldn't go to juvey, but turns out he doesn't.

 

The long POV shot from the back seat of the escape car: that looks really modern. It's not an old-timey try at arty camera work with outmoded equipment, it would be arresting in any movie any time. One of the many really good things about this movie. 

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I've never seen Danger Signal, looking forward to at least hearing it while I work from home today. Having had the pleasure of meeting Peggy Cummins I cannot oversell Gun Crazy. If you have not had the chance to see this movie before, stop what you are doing and watch it.

 

Thanks for posting that. It made me go to YouTube and watch an interview with Peggy Cummins. I didn't know she's English. Ok--I gotta watch Gun Crazy again, cover-to-cover. 

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And talk about your crazy dames, Gun Crazy! Holy Schnieky! (I quote glynnda. Glynnda, how is that pronounced?) I really like Gun Crazy, though I have to get past wanting to take that guy by the shoulders and shake some sense into him. She's nuts, but he seems like he has more sense than that.

 

SPOILERS: The argument at his hearing was that he does have sense, so he shouldn't go to juvey, but turns out he doesn't.

 

The long POV shot from the back seat of the escape car: that looks really modern. It's not an old-timey try at arty camera work with outmoded equipment, it would be arresting in any movie any time. One of the many really good things about this movie. 

 

He had sense but it went out the window once he meet his femme fatale.    This is a core noir theme.

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Danger Signal is on now.   A good precurser to Mildred Pierce... Classic weasel Zachrey Scott

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Danger Signal is on now.   A good precurser to Mildred Pierce... Classic weasel Zachrey Scott

 

He was a native of Austin, TX. We have a theater here named after him. 

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Watched The Glass Key and Laura.  Watching Lang's Ministry of Fear now.  I have to say, I like the visuals so much more.  Both Key and Laura had some of the visuals that helps to define noir, but Ministry of Fear just looks...different.  I liken it to how Citizen Kane looked different from other contemporary films of the time.

 

In Key and Laura, I found the cinematography to be adept and skillful, but the lighting to be less exaggerated and the camera work to be less varied...a lot of MS or LS.  Lang parses up his space in more discreet chunks, more variation from LS to CU.  The tonal range is also richer than the first two movies.  I attribute this to masterful lighting and risk-taking in how to frame and shoot the different scenes.  THis may be because Lang has a deeper background in German Expressionism.

 

The look of Ministry of Fear is what I think of when I think of noir, much more baroque in its lighting and compositional style.

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The music is ominous in stretches.  The title is foreboding.  Emerson and Scott's fast upward and downward glances are jarring.  The shadows and shots appear on point for classic noir.  Yet, there is a subtlety, even stagnancy, in the approach.  I am not getting any of the strong overbearing sentiments or premonitions that I desperately crave and that typically accompany my experiences of film noir.  Maybe, the less than grandiose cast is responsible, although I must admit Zachary Scott always has an air of a contemptible rogue and is excellent as a kind of quasi-villain (ex. Mildred Pierce).  His performance is good but he lacks the support of his fellow actors.  Perhaps, it is the setting (from home to work to home again).  It could even be the characters themselves: a stenographer, a writer, and a kid sister.  The heavy-handed noir qualities gradually surface to drive the story forward and darken the mood...but, with its lack of suspense and surprise, even the stolen laboratory vial and the fatal foot chase come too late to save the film for me.  "In order to be happy you have to be a little ruthless," Scott's character remarks. If only there had been a bit more ruthlessness throughout the story!




 

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THE GLASS KEY

 

This is the second movie from 1942 pairing Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake. The first one was THIS GUN FOR HIRE (see it if you can) directed by Frank Tuttle, who was also the director of 1935's THE GLASS KEY, starring George Raft and Claire Dodd, of which this 1942 version is a remake, directed by Stuart Heisler. 

 

Confusing? That's ok, because so is the plot for THE GLASS KEY, with protagonists and antagonists seemingly changing sides and allegiances, but then maybe not. And are all the good guys really good, and are all the bad girls really bad? 

 

It doesn't really matter, as long as you keep your eye on Alan Ladd, who basically carries this movie with a cool, suave attitude, not taking crap from anyone, not even Veronica Lake  - 'You think I'm too good for you? Well, so do I'. 

 

This is just one of the many snappy bits of dialogue thrown around, mostly courtesy of Dashiell Hammett, on whose novel the film is based. 

 

Ladd is the lead for sure, but also keep an eye on William Bendix as a brutal henchman, although one with a possible twist. His fascination for Ladd's character is quite... intense. 

Bendix thuggish charisma is used to perfection by cinematographer Theodor Sparkul in a scene later in the film where Ladd and Bendix have a final confrontation. The scene takes place in a seedy bar, and it the most obvious noirish scene in terms of staging, lighting and camera angles. 

 

Besides a few other scenes - notice the shadows of the window framing on Madvig (Brian Donlevy)'s body when he is in custody the first time - the film is shot pretty standard and doesn't really differ much from 30s crime films. 

 

I also wonder about the ending, which seems to be tacked on and sort of contradicts Ladd's established character. But there's probably the Production Code for you. 

 

Just for perspective: Veronica Lake was 19 years old when this film was released. 

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“Ministry of Fear” ~ NOIR sure does at times rhyme with BIZARRE.  I know three things from this movie: (1) there was a cake; (2) there were Nazis in London; and (3) Ray Milland was lovely. 

 

“Murder, My Sweet” ~ A good girl, a bad girl, snappy dialogue, a few murders, and a happy ending.  Who could ask for anything more? 

 

“Laura” ~ Theoretically, there is a happy ending here, too.  But somehow the death of Lydecker diminishes the “happy” ending.  We become so involved with Lydecter that his death leaves us with conflicted feelings.  I have mentioned previously that I always think, as I am watching "Laura," how beautiful all the "things" in the movie would look in COLOR.  The work is so strong that I do not believe colorizing the movie would destroy it in any way.   

 

“Detour” ~ “…change for a dime” gave me a chuckle, also “piece of paper crawling with germs.”  Not a bad little movie.  I loved the music, especially the Chopin, which was very appropriate.  I was also delighted with the one fantasy scene of Susan singing in a besparkled gown, which was filmed at an angle, with the instruments in silhouette.  That is the kind of aesthetic cinematography you would not expect in a “cheapie.”  I also loved the two twists of plot ~ first Vera and then her death.  I wish the film had been able to end with Roberts walking off into the distance and not getting into the Highway Patrol car, but I surmise that at the time the Production Administration Office would not allow crime to go without punishment (the same problem as with the ending of “The Letter.”)  However, the ending of “The Letter” was still very plausible and excellently done, so as not to disfigure the film.  I think the one major disfiguring feature of “Detour” was the acting of Ann Savage as Vera, which was just a little over the top; but then the whole character of Vera was over the top.  Nevertheless, I really enjoyed this movie.  Its inclusion in the pantheon of Film Noir can be well understood.  

 

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I can't wait to get home from work this evening and check out the DVR.  Only 4 of the films aren't in my personal collection (Danger Signal, Johnny Angel and The Gangster) so looking forward to seeing those.

 

As great as Gun Crazy, Murder My Sweet, Detour and Nightmare Ally are, today's highlight for me is The Glass Key.  All four of the films I mentioned before are far and away better examples of noir; in fact, they're quintessential to the cycle.  However, Veronica Lake is partially responsible for my love of noir and classic films as a whole, so I am decidedly bias with her films.

 

 

 

 

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I love Alan Ladd!  However, catching the last hour of The Glass Key, I felt as if Ladd lacked the authoritative, larger-than-life "criminal" persona exhibited in other crime dramas/films noir such as The Blue Dahlia (1946).  I wanted Beaumont’s personality to be rough-and-tough but Ladd seems a trifle bit too small both in stature and in character.  Perhaps, he was stronger and more ruthless in the earlier portions of the film...I will have to make time for the whole movie!  The pairing of Ladd and Lake is nonetheless dynamic and well worth watching! 

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Very much enjoyed Detour, surely about as indisputably Noir as you can get: voiceover, flashback, femme (very much) fatale, innocent man led ever further astray, unreliable narrator, lighting...and it goes on. 

 

Ann Savage as Vera was wonderful: she was completely and irredeemably horrible throughout and I loved her for that!! Al Roberts though...what a sap! Am I alone in thinking he got exactly what he had coming to him? He was a weak man, bitter but with an odd sense that the world somehow owed him  (the scene where he was justifying his actions in robbing the dead Haskill and stealing his clothes was particularly telling) and also easily led and pushed around, especially by women (note that he really didn't do much but sulk when Susan left him for California at the start). 

 

The other thing that struck me: could we trust his narrative? He told us no-one would believe him that the deaths were accidental and in fact you have to think that could be true, we do only have his word for his innocence after all! 

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Comparing Lang in M to Ministry of Fear, I see the same type of style in his approach to lighting and mise-en-scene.  It is amazing how he can work with the cameraman to get rich, dark blacks without making the scene underexposed.  The entire effect makes the photography look more "silky" in a way.

 

What is different about Ministry is that it has a shot structure and editing pattern that is much more economical than M.  The odd angles are there and the camera isolates the characters well.  There is great use of positive and negative space for structure and lines or starkness, respectively.  But I didn't get a sense of scenes that dragged on like M.  While I like M, I can definitely see a development and maturation of style in Lang's work between the two.  I will liken his evolution to neo-noir director I mentioned in another thread: Michael Mann.  Compare Mann's Manhunter to Collateral.  Manhunter, while very good, is not as refined as Collateral.  I see the same type of refinement in Ministry.

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I was watching Mildred Pierce for a while with the sound off. (I've seen the movie Too many times to count.) and it hit me; the sets in noir movies really are often so ordinary in stark contrast to the film style, the lighting, the camera angles and to the behavior of some of the characters.

As to Vita. Vita wears normal clothing. She walks through a normal world but she is so twisted.

I love the noir bad girl who looks like a good girl. It's all about inner darkness. Noir of the soul.

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In making my own list for what is film noir it seems to me there are several different types of story lines. The ones so far today represent 3 of these. It also seems that the cinematography and dialog reflect these storylines.

 

The thriller~ Ministry of Fear that I mentioned in an earlier post.

 

The detective crime drama- The Glass Key and Murder my Sweet ~Both had lots of snappy comebacks and for its time tough dialogue. I especially liked Dick Powell's cocky wisecracks. In Murder my Sweet Powell's character is accused of a murder and having a necklace that he does not have . This turmoil is reinforced in a very weird drug-induced dream scene. (German expressionism here?)

 

The "Even a nice guy can't catch a break or can be lead astray" Detour ~ This fatalistic plotline is reflected in much of movie being very dark. Although it seems like the movie needs to be remastered so that might be it.

 

The woman's noir~ Mildred Pierce and Danger Signal ~ Here women look for love in the wrong places. In both these cases the ever so weaselly Zachary Scott is the object of their affection ( love to hate him in these roles). Or the women are trying to do right by their family. These films seem to be filled with sunlight. Perhaps because throughout the film these woman's seem more optimistic until they realize doom is inevitable because, after all, it is a film noir.

 

not all these types of films might have this type of cinematography but I noticed it in these.

 

I'm sure this is over simplification of plots and there are other plot lines, but I'm just trying to draw things into general ideas. Is this too much overthinking categories?

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Three sets of thunderstorms (so far) today...what angry gods are screwing with my satellite reception on DVR Friday? A sucker can't catch an even break. Thankfully the ones that got scrambled are ones I own on DVD.

 

Hoping the weather holds off for the post-8pm session. Looking forward to the Muller intros and seeing The Gangster, which is a new one for me, as well as Gun Crazy, which I have seen 5-6 times before (but I enjoy the revisits almost as much as the first viewing).

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 I wanted Beaumont’s personality to be rough-and-tough but Ladd seems a trifle bit too small both in stature and in character.  

 

And Alan Ladd towered over Veronica Lake! She must have been tiny! I liked him in this movie. He wasn't physically imposing, but he had 30 IQ points on everybody. When he got that weird half-grin going you knew he was biding his time and collecting information. 

 

I really liked The Glass Key. I can't believe I'd never seen it. I had to concentrate to keep the characters straight (I'm looking at you, Mr. Hammett), and then here comes Shloss? Sloss? Who was he? And I missed why Ed and Paul made up after fighting when Paul was in custody. 

 

But Paul sure owed Ed Veronica Lake. 

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Just saw Danger Signal. What a cute ending!

 

SPOILERS: Yeah, the ending was a bit odd, and kind of a cheat, too. Instead of one of the main characters having to take out the trash, here comes a guy you don't care a thing about. And even he avoids the responsibility.

 

I thought Zachary Scott was the only thing that made Danger Signal worth watching. There wasn't really a fem fatale, though the older sister looked like a candidate for a minute there, and I kept thinking the psychiatrist was in cahoots--no evidence for that, I just thought it might twist that way. 

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SPOILERS: Yeah, the ending was a bit odd, and kind of a cheat, too. Instead of one of the main characters having to take out the trash, here comes a guy you don't care a thing about. And even he avoids the responsibility.

 

I thought Zachary Scott was the only thing that made Danger Signal worth watching. There wasn't really a fem fatale, though the older sister looked like a candidate for a minute there, and I kept thinking the psychiatrist was in cahoots--no evidence for that, I just thought it might twist that way. 

I thought the psychiatrist was in on it too, and that they were going to kill the older one and make it look like a suicide. It was a strange ending, when you think about it.

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