Dr. Rich Edwards

JUNE 19 TCM FILM NOIR DISCUSSIONS FOR #NOIRSUMMER FOR ALL 13 FILMS

165 posts in this topic

i 'm like you, i just love this film -elsa lanchester make the best landlady,, vivian's time was short, but she made her part memorable

Mystery Street

 

Is it possible to see a film with intensions of looking for film noir moments and then get caught up with 

the story and forgotten to take notes? It happened to me. In fact, it has happened twice before.

The story here never drags as I was engrossed from the start.

 

I did not need notes to have taken in the cinematography or to have recognized a couple of on-location shots in Boston, although I have never visit there. 

 

Elsa Lanchester's performance was a knockout.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nocturne (1946):

 

Nocturne, defined as a musical composition evocative of the night: what a perfect title for a noir, especially since the opening murder also takes place at night with a dark-haired woman in total shadow, other than her legs of course.

 

...

 

Lastly, they really tried to incorporate music into the film, but little was really done with the Nocturne in the end.

 

Some of the parts I enjoyed included the initial repartee between Joe and Frances, the reveal of Fingers with the slow pan, and any moment Myrna Dell was on screen as Susan Flanders. Also, the lack of fear in showing violence as well as the gruesome deaths (i.e. the buildup to Vincent's murder, Shawn's hanging body, and especially, the brutally beaten Susan) added tension that was greatly needed. Unfortunately though, I don't think the film ever surpasses the tension of the murder and the first moments at the crime scene.

 

Excellent take on this film.

 

I was also struck by how and when music was used in this film. I really did like the climax, when the tune was actually used to reveal the murderer, followed by the slow pan across the upside down chairs that accompanied it. 

 

The use of a score was incidental at best. I think it took at least half an hour before any non-diegetic music was used, but quite a lot was done with foley sound effects. When Joe goes to check out the photographer's (Sean?) studio, and he moves about in the dark, you have the wind, the creaking of the door, and the ticking of the blinds as the only audible sounds. 

I was quite surprised that the discovery of the hanging body was not accompanied by the big dissonant orchestral cue often used in situations like these, but took place in complete silence. 

 

That opening scene was pretty amazing, with the crane camera moving in on the big window, and then into the house. It must have been a composite shot, for the camera to be able to move into the room towards Vincent. Pretty cool. 

 

Some other nice touches.

 

- Following the opening shot, the deep focus shot of the legs up close with Vincent playing the piano.

- The scene on the RKO film set, with Joe arriving at the RKO building.

- My favorite scene of Joe's mom - what a great character - discussing the murder with Mrs. O'Rourke and acting out what could have happened

- The brutal slamming on the floor of Joe by Torp - twice! How the hell did he manage to even get up after that?

- While the dialogue overall wasn't particularly snappy or witty, I loved these two lines:

"Why don't you get on your scooter sonny boy and hop, I've got to emote"

"One more crack like that, and I'll wrap the piano around your neck"

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Listening to this week's lecture, and having recently watched The Killers again, I was thrilled to see the intersection of one of my favorite films with one of my favorite paintings (Nighthawks by Edward Hopper).

 

I love the diner scene in The Killers, from the initial tracking shot to the stark difference in lighting to the shot from within the diner of William Conrad still exercising his threat by simply glancing over his shoulder from a block away. And while I always made the connection myself, I never realized that the connection was overt and purposeful until today! I look forward to read more about how the work of Edward Hopper influenced many directors and cinematographers and vice versa.

 

I have a framed treasure in my office containing two equal sized prints, one above the other: Nighthawks and the clever takeoff Boulevard of Broken Dreams (see below). As much as it is a parody of Hopper's original work - and lord knows there are tons, from Simpsons to Star Wars - I feel this one retains the feeling of lonely isolation that the subjects experience (despite Elvis' smirk). Especially in modern times, fame is attained at a cost of human dignity and privacy. Of course, Heinwein (the artist) was paying sad tribute to the death of four beloved celebrities, so my impression was really a step short. :)

 

I've often wondered if and how  famous people would ever know whether a new acquaintance was genuine or just someone attracted to their celebrity. I've read that many famous people who appear carefree are privately lonely and isolated souls who often turn to something else for the esteem their primary art once gave them unconditionally. I have had that feeling of lonely isolation myself, and if you have as well, you know that it can be soul-wrenching. Maybe I'm being more fatalistic than Hopper, but I think he nailed that loneliness.

 

640px-Nighthawks_by_Edward_Hopper_1942.j

 

ksAGO.St.117.jpeg

It's a triple intersection for me listen to Tom Waits "Nighthawks At The Diner" if you get a chance. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Scar (Hollow Triumph) had the perfect formula of industrious effort, clever cunning, and writhing resistance being trumped in the end by a fate already determined by the character's bad decision(s.) Aristotle called this "bad decision" hamartia - and it's what makes noir tick - no matter how the character struggles and schemes, he's gonna get what's coming to him in the end.

 

I'm sure others noticed that one of the goons chasing Muller/Bartok is none other than Jack Webb - who would soon be on the other side of the law as Detective Joe Friday in Radio Noir and TV Noir settings!

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

MYSTERY STREET

 

- "You're parked in the no-parking"

- "That's the story of my life..."

 

This is an MGM production, but clearly part of the new wave overseen by Dore Schary, who had a different approach to films and entertainment than Louis B. Mayer, at that time still the boss (a year later Schary would replace him).

 

Overall this film fits neatly in the realistic, documentary style mentioned in the lecture. Focus is on procedures, analysis, and a thorough investigation of the crime. It's mostly straightforward with only the first 20 minutes really going into traditional Noir territory - and basically killing it off at that moment too. The film opens with the typical (leggy) introduction of a seemingly typical Femme Fatale, but she doesn't last too long. Like director Sturges wanted to make a point. This is 1950, maybe it's time to move on from the Gilda's....

 

And how about the climax? It does take place at a typical Noir location - a train station. But instead of the shady, smokey and shadowy night, it's broad daylight. Like the professor said, every element seen in a film is intentional. So why did Sturges decide on having this take place during the day, while he easily could have found a way for staging it during the evening or night? Still an impressive shot though....

 

CIBbT9OWIAADPcZ.jpg

 

 

Other observations:

Montalban as a Latino cop. I was curious to see whether this would be addressed in the film, and yes, although minor, it did come up. Without a doubt the hand of Dore Schary, who wanted social issues to be part of cinema.

 

The tattoo of the nude on the guy's forearm in the beginning of the film. How did this get past the Production Code? And why was the scene in this film at all? It served no real purpose. I liked it though....

 

And my favorite scene: Vivian's housemate Jackie (Betsy Blair), a demure, plain-looking girl, taking the gun from Mrs. Smerrling (Elsa 'Bride of Frankenstein' Lanchester) and handling it with total cool and expertise. 'It's a .45"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And how about the climax? It does take place at a typical Noir location - a train station. But instead of the shady, smokey and shadowy night, it's broad daylight. Like the professor said, every element seen in a film is intentional. So why did Sturges decide on having this take place during the day, while he easily could have found a way for staging it during the evening or night?

 

Simple because they weren't making a Film Noir Genre film, it's just a style. If there was a hard and fast genre like say Westerns, it would almost be mandatory to shoot at night.

 

But, saying that, you'll find that a lot of Film Noirs end in either iconic type locations, or bleak industrial locations.

 

The Naked City - The Manhattan Bridge

Down Three Dark Streets - The Hollywood Sign

711 Ocean Drive - Hoover Dam

D.O.A. & I, The Jury - The Bradbury Building

The Unsuspected - Wards Island Dump - Hell Gate Bridge

Roadblock - the concrete trough of the LA River

The Burglar - Atlantic City Amusement Park

The Lineup - San Francisco Freeway

Union Station - Chicago's Freight Subway

Where The Sidewalk Ends & Five Against The House - Parking Garage

Killers Kiss - Mannequin Factory 

Experiment In Terror - Candlestick Park

Side Street - Wall Street lower Manhattan

The City That Never Sleeps - Chicago El

White Heat & Odds Against Tomorrow - Tank Farm

Act Of Violence & Highway 301 - Rail yard -station

Armored Car Robbery - Airport

Blast Of Silence - Jamaica Bay

The Gangster - Coney Island

Niagara - Niagara Falls

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Once again, I've only seen a handful of these films, so I can't talk about all of them.

 

Hollow Triumph is a film that seemed to be missing something for me. Not to get all Gene Shalit up in here, but it felt a bit... ahem... hollow. Maybe it was because I couldn't buy into any single character's motivation, or maybe it was because the film kept reminding us of how smart Muller was, but then neglects to show him being smart. His big plan for robbing the casino was to basically just point a gun at the teller, and then wait for his henchman to turn off the lights so no one sees him run away. The plan is foiled immediately because someone just flips the lights back on. He does almost no research on Bartok's life, and after having met the man and seen him in person he puts the scar on the wrong side of his face.
 

John Alton's cinematography, and Steve Sekely's use of montage and elliptical editing really saved this one for me.

 

Crossfire sure has a lot of Roberts in it. I've seen this one before, but rewatched it here. It's very much a message movie, with the message being given directly to us through our audience proxy Leroy. It's also very much an optimistic film, putting it at odds with a lot of film noir. The authority figures are all seen as kind and honest and fair, completely upstanding gentlemen, with the exception of Montgomery, who is seen as an aberration that the others want to root out quickly. The American public, exemplified through Leroy, is seen as a bit naive, a bit too willing to follow the wrong person, but generally with their heart in the right place. When given the choice and opportunity, they'll do the right thing. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Do anyone else notice that in the opening o f Hollow Triumph the title is "Scar?"

That, I believe, was the title for the UK release of the film. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Once again, I've only seen a handful of these films, so I can't talk about all of them.

 

Hollow Triumph is a film that seemed to be missing something for me. Not to get all Gene Shalit up in here, but it felt a bit... ahem... hollow. Maybe it was because I couldn't buy into any single character's motivation, or maybe it was because the film kept reminding us of how smart Muller was, but then neglects to show him being smart. His big plan for robbing the casino was to basically just point a gun at the teller, and then wait for his henchman to turn off the lights so no one sees him run away. The plan is foiled immediately because someone just flips the lights back on. He does almost no research on Bartok's life, and after having met the man and seen him in person he puts the scar on the wrong side of his face.

 

John Alton's cinematography, and Steve Sekely's use of montage and elliptical editing really saved this one for me.

 

Crossfire sure has a lot of Roberts in it. I've seen this one before, but rewatched it here. It's very much a message movie, with the message being given directly to us through our audience proxy Leroy. It's also very much an optimistic film, putting it at odds with a lot of film noir. The authority figures are all seen as kind and honest and fair, completely upstanding gentlemen, with the exception of Montgomery, who is seen as an aberration that the others want to root out quickly. The American public, exemplified through Leroy, is seen as a bit naive, a bit too willing to follow the wrong person, but generally with their heart in the right place. When given the choice and opportunity, they'll do the right thing. 

I like your comparing of Leroy to the average American, I really hadn't thought of it that way: an excellent analogy. I thought Crossfire was a very poignant film in it's message about race-hate, especially relevant today in light of the events in Charleston. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Okay, serious question: why is Get Carter seen as a Noir movie, as opposed to just a typically bleak 70's thriller? I realize of course a film could be both but I'm just a tad confused as to why this particular film is Noir?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Simple because they weren't making a Film Noir Genre film, it's just a style. If there was a hard and fast genre like say Westerns, it would almost be mandatory to shoot at night.

 

 

It's kind of weird if you look at the description on the viewing guide list, where MYSTERY STREET is described as:

 

"Mystery Street was dark, moody, atmospheric and its attention to police procedure and investigative techniques bordered on the lurid"

 

I didn't really think it was that dark and moody. Most of it was shot during the day, on real locations, partly on the open, spacious Harvard University premises. And if anything, it seemed to take the 'lurid' out of the police procedures, with a very clinical professor MacAbee treating the case almost like a college lecture. 

 

And again, from the description:

 

....Schary took the B movie thriller in a new direction with Mystery Street and, in the process, provided an ideal environment for some of the finest contributors to the film noir genre - screenwriters Sydney Boehm (The Undercover Man, 1949) and Richard Brooks (Brute Force, 1947) and cinematographer John Alton (He Walked by Night, 1949).

 

 

I had the feeling that they actually didn't really follow the standard ground style rules for Noir; they were moving on to a more realistic approach, taking crime out of the shadows into broad daylight.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's kind of weird if you look at the description on the viewing guide list, where MYSTERY STREET is described as:

 

"Mystery Street was dark, moody, atmospheric and its attention to police procedure and investigative techniques bordered on the lurid"

 

I didn't really think it was that dark and moody. Most of it was shot during the day, on real locations, partly on the open, spacious Harvard University premises. And if anything, it seemed to take the 'lurid' out of the police procedures, with a very clinical professor MacAbee treating the case almost like a college lecture. 

 

And again, from the description:

 

....Schary took the B movie thriller in a new direction with Mystery Street and, in the process, provided an ideal environment for some of the finest contributors to the film noir genre - screenwriters Sydney Boehm (The Undercover Man, 1949) and Richard Brooks (Brute Force, 1947) and cinematographer John Alton (He Walked by Night, 1949).

 

 

I had the feeling that they actually didn't really follow the standard ground style rules for Noir; they were moving on to a more realistic approach, taking crime out of the shadows into broad daylight.

 

I had the feeling that they actually didn't really follow the standard ground style rules for Noir; they were moving on to a more realistic approach, taking crime out of the shadows into broad daylight.

 

Excellent point.    When you think about it, documentary realism enabled film makers to bring the sordid themes, characters and shadows so prevalent in noir out into the bright light of day.  It also enabled them to make make these themes and character more generic, more familiar.  That entailed cutting them down to size, as it were, making them more homegrown.    Documentary realism doesn't necessarily have to focus on the underbelly of society, the notorious criminals, outcasts and rogues, but rather makes the guy or girl next-door the dangerous one, in settings we not only recognize, but largely call home.    

 

Expressionistic noir immerses us in the darkness, passions and shadows of a world largely alien to our own, however compelling its night creatures and their appetites might be, while Documentary Realism in noir reveals just how alien and dangerous what we thought was the 'known' world really is if you dare peek beneath the surface.    

 

Pick your poison as to which 'reality' is the more disturbing.     

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The People Against O'Hara

 

There is theatre influences throughout this film. In particular the murder scene at the beginning.

 

As the Sweden seaman leaves the diner and stops to light up a cigarette, we see beyond him a brownstone with three windows illuminated in the darkness of night. The door opens, bright white light from within, a man takes three steps down and is shot by a man that followed him out. If we pause right before the shooting it appears as if we were inside the theatre seeing a stage setting. Cinematographer John Alton truly did amazing work in the films I've seen this week: Hollow Triumph (1948), Border Incident (1949), Mystery Street (1950), and The People Against O'Hara (1951). Why did the Academy fail to recognize his achievements in these four films?

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Okay, serious question: why is Get Carter seen as a Noir movie, as opposed to just a typically bleak 70's thriller? I realize of course a film could be both but I'm just a tad confused as to why this particular film is Noir?

The beginning rail shots homages La Bete Humane & Human Desire, and also has some Noir stylistic camera angles, besides the downer plot, and a great ending at slag tram, there is probably more but I'd have to pop it in the player.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I had the feeling that they actually didn't really follow the standard ground style rules for Noir; they were moving on to a more realistic approach, taking crime out of the shadows into broad daylight.

That was my point there wasn't any ground style rules.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Gilda: Film Noir? Yes.

 

The movie takes place in Buenos Aires, Argentina. During the course of the movie, World War II ends and everyone celebrates, but that’s also when Nazis escape to Argentina and other countries in South America. (Perhaps this was already common knowledge for moviegoers in 1946; do an online search for “tungsten in Nazi Germany”!) In Gilda, two Nazis come looking for Ballin and their tungsten patents. Ballin double-crosses them, keeping the patents for himself and killing one of the Nazis in the process. Gilda admits to being afraid of Ballin and even tells Johnny that Ballin is insane.

 

Ballin exuded more hate than either Gilda or Johnny. He tells Gilda: “Hate is a very exciting emotion. Hate is the only thing that has ever warmed me.” Gilda reacts with alarm to this proclamation: We can still assess her reaction, even though she is in shadow and Ballin is in the foreground, taking up about a third of the movie screen.

 

Ballin is a very intimidating figure, and he appears particularly menacing when he waits up one night for Gilda and Johnny to arrive home. He interrogates them, and we can see their fear (especially Gilda’s) in the way both of them react to his questions. Most of the time Ballin stands closer to the camera, almost completely in black silhouette, which focuses our attention on Gilda’s and Johnny’s fear and adds to the tension. It also focuses our attention on the two stars, but it’s Ballin who is again in the foreground.

 

Gilda repeats Ballin’s words to Johnny, but for very different reasons: “Hate is a very exciting emotion. Haven’t you noticed? Very exciting. I hate you, too, Johnny. I hate you so much I think I’m going to die from it.” They’re inching their way to the realization that they still love one another. Johnny won’t come around until Detective Obregon gives him the push he needs at the end, when he tells Johnny that Gilda did none of the things that he suspects she has done.

 

How does Obregon know this? It’s never stated directly, but I think he’s had the principal players at the nightclub tailed all along. Obregon isn’t hanging out at Ballin’s nightclub because he drinks and gambles; he states as much to Johnny, who can’t understand what he’s doing there.

 

Everyone still has to contend with Ballin, who comes back for revenge now that he knows Gilda loves Johnny. His escape plan implied to me that he is practiced at escape: maybe because he escaped from Nazi Germany? Is he a Nazi, too? How else would he have known the two who come to Buenos Aires expecting Ballin to live up to his “gentlemen’s agreement”?

 

Hate, revenge, murder, double-crosses, Nazis in postwar Buenos Aires: Gilda is definitely a film noir that happens to have two distracting, beautiful, talented stars.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Okay, serious question: why is Get Carter seen as a Noir movie, as opposed to just a typically bleak 70's thriller? I realize of course a film could be both but I'm just a tad confused as to why this particular film is Noir?

 

Well, you gotcher detective, although he's a gangster, too, still he's detecting. You've got a plot I couldn't follow, like the Falcon and the Big Sleep, and SPOILERS he's doomed. You have more grime and grit--literal grime and grit--than any 40s noir grimy gritty noir. You've got Carter reading Farewell My Lovely on the train (twice, and not having gotten very far in it by the second scene), which I interpreted as a secret subtle message ;) from the filmmakers about their intent. You've got one fabulously dressed babe and a couple of less well-heeled dames who can dish it out (this and Night Moves are a study in what boobs loooked like pre-silicone).

 

I see it. If Night Moves is noir, Get Carter is too.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nocturne: I really like George Raft in this role. Wooden acting works here! Plus who ever heard of a detective who lives with his mom??

This film has one of the best openings!

I loved that he lived with his mom, too! And that she was a tough cookie.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That was my point there wasn't any ground style rules.

Ok, got it. I'm trying to find more common ground in films for calling them Noir, so I don't think I'd add MYSTERY STREET to a Noir list anytime soon. But it's perfectly arbitrary.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Songs. In Detour the song represents Al's & Sue's happy relationship. When Sue leaves & Al meets the hitchhiker, he remembers the song & looks back on happier days.

In Gilda the song represents Gilda & her past. She is now married to a wealthy man she is not in love with. The song reminds everyone of her past when she was free & uninhabited. The song drives Johnny wild. He tried to protect Gilda from herself while keeping her wild behavior from his boss, her husband.

In The Killers the song sets up the triangle. The Swede's girl looks at him looking at Kitty who is singing. The girlfriend's voiceover tells us that during the song is the moment she lost The Swede. The song moves the story forward into the new relationship & partnerships.

The song in The Big Sleep lets Marlowe know that Vivian is a woman and he is interested

In Mildred Pierce after Veda's fall from grace, she sings in a **** Tonk bar. (In the novel she is a coloratura opera singer). Mildred can't stand seeing her daughter in this place, so she reconciles with her--temporarily

There is no song in Laura--just her theme which plays throughout the film. It is a sweet piece as Shelby says and it represents how all thought of Laura

In Nora Prentiss the doctor becomes attracted to Nora as she sings

In Nocturne the unfinished song is the clue to the murderer.

The songs in these films are a catalyst. They move the action forward while revealing the emotions of the characters.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I really love The Big Sleep, and I found that the fact the plot is convoluted makes it better. Not because it doesn't make sense, I'm sure it does, but the main thing for me is how the story progresess from each individual's agenda. It has that feeling of anything could happen because there are so many people involved that even the ones that aren't involved in the same situation (like the lovers of Carmen or Agnes's secretary) end up involved all the same. It's sort of depending on what Phillip Marlowe finds to determine if something plays a part in the grand scheme of things; on every encounter he gathers all the information he can (and does a lot of acting to do so) no matter if it becomes relevant for what he is investigating.

I really like that characteristic of Marlowe and how Bogart sells it with the 'acting' he does depending on who he's talking to while also being Phillip Marlowe the detective.

 

I've never read Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammet, but thanks to this course I could organize myself to do so while watching movies related to. In addition, the thing I like about The Big Sleep reminds me of Thomas Pynchon. It could be far fetched, but I've been reading some Pynchon in the last months and found that idea of plot that doesn't seem to have a structure (although it does, but it's not the main thing) but still progresess to a end point very similar, with the twist in Pynchon that the characters become paranoid about what is happening while that depends on what are they looking at. Like this movie, it's all really open, not to interpretation, but to what a character knows at a specific moment, or a particular decision and its ramifications that add to a sense of confusion -because you feel that you don't really know what is all about and yet it feels like there's something big (the paranoid's mind working!).

 

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Once again, I've only seen a handful of these films, so I can't talk about all of them.

 

Hollow Triumph is a film that seemed to be missing something for me. Not to get all Gene Shalit up in here, but it felt a bit... ahem... hollow. Maybe it was because I couldn't buy into any single character's motivation, or maybe it was because the film kept reminding us of how smart Muller was, but then neglects to show him being smart. His big plan for robbing the casino was to basically just point a gun at the teller, and then wait for his henchman to turn off the lights so no one sees him run away. The plan is foiled immediately because someone just flips the lights back on. He does almost no research on Bartok's life, and after having met the man and seen him in person he puts the scar on the wrong side of his face.

 

John Alton's cinematography, and Steve Sekely's use of montage and elliptical editing really saved this one for me.

 

Yes, Hollow Triumph has Grand Canyon-size gaps in logic. Enjoyment requires a huge amount of suspension of disbelief and just giving in to its world and characters. The cinematography and editing went a long way in drawing me into that world removed from reality, closer to a horror film or Twilight Zone episode than a plot that could work in the real world. The casino heist had me, too, thinking "Is that all there is to it?" even while being totally entranced by its look and feel!

 

Regarding Muller's wrong placement of the scar based on the reversed photographs - I think the movie is saying how easy it is for people to not recognize alterations, things that are "off", in familar images. Psychological research into image and pattern recognition confirms this. No one who knew the real Bartok - not Muller, not Bartok's wife or lover - noticed it. Til the cleaning lady, the character with the least personal involvement with him, did. That scene had an especially eerie feel to it!

 

This movie really shows why Alton is extraordinary among the many masters of his craft. His rooms are spaces with inner visual logic which he creates by using alot of "source" lighting (ie the light comes from a lamp, window, etc which is visible in the shot) and showing many planes - doors, walls, floors, and especially ceilings - to give it a real sense of 3-dimensional space. The entire depth of the space is used in deep-focus shots. The use of mirrors reinforces the "doubles" theme. Though I was a work and couln't participate live, reading Prof. Edwards' tweets from the TCM airing helped me pin down how the Alton magic works.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Mystery Street (1950):

 

I absolutely loved Mystery Street. From the on-location shooting in Massachusetts (not a single trace of an L.A. backlot) to Morales' grunt work to the well-crafted story with a few good twists to the great female major and supporting characters (Elsa Lanchester, Sally Forrest, Betsy Blair, and Jan Sterling). [Note: Shame John Sturges’ and John Alton’s The People Against O’Hara wasn’t as good].

 

Noir Elements: Opening of night murder, taboo elements (touches briefly on racial issues, infidelity, illegitimate children), documentary realism (complete on-location shooting, "Thank you Harvard," use of medical science), Alton's cinematography, law enforcing protagonist, and a plot revolving around one man's impulsive decision to get involved with a manipulative dame and his desperate choices in protecting himself, only to condemn himself to capture and doom.

 

Basic Plot: When skeletal remains are found in the dunes of Cape Cod, a detective, teaming up with a Harvard bones specialist, use medical science and unrelenting police grunt work to identify the victim and catch the killer amidst this web of deception, blackmail, and the pleas of a man claiming innocence.

 

While I never pictured Ricardo Montalban as a police detective, I'm convinced. He isn't terribly complicated but the conflict between his gut and the current evidence provide a shade of complexity. For once, we have competent cops in a noir, not bumbling, corrupt flatfoots who depend on the work of a private detective, journalist, insurance investigator, or even the accused to find the truth. At first, I wasn't sure if race was going to be an issue but they added a few subtle touches (in the scene in Harkley's office and Morales's own perspective of working in the "Portuguese district”). [Note: Apparently, Massachusetts has a sizeable Portuguese population, who knew].

 

My favorite parts included the touching prison scene between the Shanways, any time Betsy Blair was on screen, the landlord we love to hate (Lanchester), the buildup scene to the murder, and most definitely, the location shooting (with the irreplaceable camera work of John Alton – the moment I saw his mame in the credits, I knew that at least visually, I was taken care of). As they panned across the Cape Cod dunes, navigated the Harvard campus, and walked the marinas and small lakes of coastal Massachusetts, the layer of realism enthralled me as a movie viewer.

 

Not too convoluted, but we like the characters and we care what happens to them, and the attention to technical detail and realism are satisfying to the very end.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For this week's viewing, I continued my effort to watch films I hadn't seen before. I could talk about "Nobody Lives Forever," which had a great title and a great cast, but an almost anti-Noir message (as opposed to the war opening up the dark side of our natures, here it made the bad guy good).

 

But I'd rather talk about "Hollow Triumph." Despite some plot holes you could drive a truck through and the difficulty of seeing Paul Henreid as hard-boiled (if Dick Powell could pull it off...) this had expected fantastic photography by John Alton, but also some interesting directorial choices (such as those quick cut reaction shots of the patrons during the casino robbery intent on the game and not even knowing what was going on). I also liked the denouement, with Muller (interesting Noir name) escaping one gambling debt, as it were, only to be tied up in another. And when you feel sorry for Joan Bennett in a noir film....

 

Maybe not a great film, but a nifty discovery for me.

 

And, yes, Jack Webb!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"Mystery Street", another one I've never seen.  Very good movie.  I have a medical background so I loved all the clinical references.  I love watching things done years ago and the lack of "protection" given to either the "patient" or "clinician". 

 

Perhaps I missed something but I didn't realize the body could decompose down to a few bones, a foot sticking out of the sand so quickly.  The bones of the fetus...which I love the way he "poured" them into Ricardo's hand with such little disregard. 

 

I know it was Hollywood but, "I think she was a toe dancer", geez, what color were her toe shoes?

 

I like the beginnings of forensics, it was a very good movie.

 

Elsa Lancaster, was she out of her mind?  Clearly, she was, stealing the gun out of the drawer.  He went out to be right back and in that time she was able to sit at the desk, find the key, pull out the longest, drawer in the world, sort through numerous files and THEN find the gun.  I was wondering why she didn't stop to sharpen the pencils or empty the garbage pail.  She was a very interesting character, one which Elsa played well.  She was always the oddity, even as "The Bride". 

 

I'm sorry, but, I think she got what she deserved.  She was so nosy, although, she did help to solve the crime and free Marshall Thompson, only to return later in "Daktari".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

New Members:

Register Here

Learn more about the new message boards:

FAQ

Having problems?

Contact Us