Dr. Rich Edwards

Daily Dose of Darkness #14: Warner Bros. Noir (Scene from The Mask of Dimitrios)

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Okay, perhaps I’m flaunting my ignorance but I’m not sure I truly see the “house style” thing. Yes, I see similarities in “Mask of Dimitrios,” “The Maltese Falcon,” “To Have and Have Not,” “They Made Me a Criminal,” “White Heat,” and so on. But the same year that Warner Brothers made “Mask of Dimitrios,” they made “Shine on Harvest Moon,” “Arsenic and Old Lace,” “The Adventures of Mark Twain,” “The Desert Song,” and “Hollywood Canteen.” So perhaps we’re only seeing a studio style in retrospect.

Not trying to pick on Ed here as he make an interesting point. But the idea of a house style didn't mean a studio only worked in specified genres, but that whatever genre the studio did use would be colored by the studio's overall tone.

 

So when Warners did a musical, it was more likely to have the grittier edge of "42nd Street" rather than the frivolity of "Flying Down to Rio." When they made a technicolor swashbuckler, it was more likely to have the social conscience of "The Adventures of Robin Hood" rather than the dance like acrobatics of "The Three Musketeers."

 

It's not that these things were mandated by the studio so much as they grew organically out of the mix of talents that were there, and the types of assignments they most often got.

 

Maybe things were relaxing by the time Ed is mentioning. I mean how gritty can you get with Doris Day in "Shine On Harvest Moon" (though Doris got hard edged in "love Me or Leave Me" - an MGM picture! - does the exception prove the rule?).

 

(And if I've in any way misread the intention of the original poster, my apologies.)

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Lorre walks into the ransacked room with surprise and apprehension, not knowing what has happened. Greenstreet enters with a gun, which would suggest he has the upper hand. But despite the gun he isn't fully in charge. He hasn't found the information he was seeking in Lorre's room, so Lorre has the upper hand in the sense that he knows something that Greenstreet would like to know but does not. The Daily Dose mentions that a hallmark of Warner Bros. films is verbal sparring and that is certainly on display here. I haven't seen this film before, so initially I felt that Lorre's character was in danger, but it soon becomes apparent that he doesn't fear Greenstreet. He mocks Greenstreet's metaphorical language with "What are you talking about?: And instead of cowering in fear as Greenstreet points the gun at him, he says "I'm tired. I go to bed."

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Very different entrances for Lorre and Greenstreet: a somewhat happy-go-lucky, casual, and musing Lorre entering from the left, who turns to surprise when he enters his disheveled room; and a serious, ominous, and deadly Greenstreet entering from the light. I was struck by the lighting and shifting POV. The POV was frequently changing, but frequently the center of the screen featured one of two lamps --with Lorre on the left and Greenstreet on the right.

 

Even though the screenplays were from novels by different authors, the snappy, sparring dialogue showed the Warner Brothers style.

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The entrance made by Lorre is a rather humble one. He speaks to himself out loud. Perhaps this is a sign of relative loneliness. (Greenstreet alludes to the way each character is just fine being alone as he speaks about their conversation on the train as one of "disinterested friendship") Lorre exits the elevator, sort of hunched over, thick with a coat and hat. Speaking of someone who struck him as "utterly unscrupulous" So you get the idea that while he looks strange and meek, his character seems to have a bit of an ego in his intelligence, or likes to convince himself that he is intelligent and unable to be outsmarted.  Technically speaking Lorre's entrance is a medium shot and relatively close when compared to Greenstreet's, and not nearly as "dramatic" in comparison.

 

Greenstreet's entrance is one of a more dramatic staging. Lorre's character acts like a foreground construction set to push the space in the depth of the room. Greenstreet is backlit brightly so that his silhouette appears more menacing or at the least mysterious. The idea of danger has already been established by the disarray of the room, and Lorre's comments, so you kind of wonder what's to happen anyway. 

 

As the dialogue continues, Greenstreet approaches the chair and table (center in the room) Lorre takes tiny steps closer as he converses with Greenstreet, completely dismissing the actual danger of the gun pointed at him. From this clip alone, it isn't evident that Lorre's character should or does know exactly why Greenstreet is there in the room. Or if he was the one who actually did the wild searching. Somehow it becomes implied that there might have been someone besides Greenstreet's character in this room. Maybe it's the comment about how he intended to clean it up. 

 

Either way, Lorre take the coat off, pretends that this is a joke, wants to go to sleep, and lights a cigarette. The camera cuts that go back and forth while the dialogue continue show a strong key light of a lamp behind each character. So Greenstreet becomes the foreground large construction as we look at Lorre in the distance and vice versa. There is large depth of field from a wide angle lens to keep everything in relative focus. 

 

In terms of the verbal banter or sparring, I found it funny that Lorre finally lights the cigarette, and recline on the bed with a smirk on his face as Greenstreet asks him about Dimitrios, because it occurs right after this dramatic, slow, low-angle push shot ending in a close up of Greenstreet. During that shot a tension is supposed to build as Greenstreet explains why he is there. Clearly Lorre's character doesn't intend to divulge any valuable information, and we can see that he is perhaps quite stronger and less meek of a character than we thought. He hasn't been even remotely phased by this invasion. 

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It doesn't get better than these two actors (or this film studio for that matter). Lorre's character enters this picture very casually, and in full light. He has just exited the elevator to go to his room like any other normal day. This is very much in keeping with the realism side of noir. He's even mumbling to himself, something we all do from time to time. When he approaches the door, his back is turned to us and he is darker in shadow (alerting us that something or someone is behind the door).

Unlike Lorre, however, Greenstreet's entrance is quite dramatic. We already know this person shouldn't be in there, so we are anticipating his entrance even more so. Will he run and hide? Will he shoot? He steps from another room into the darkest shadow of all (which is in the doorway), then into the well lit room. This is an example of Formalism in film noir, all crafted and heightened for a dramatic response. Speaking of the lights in this room, wow, they are extravagant, and a very present almost third character; very large, ornate, bright and often centrally placed in the frame. As with the intro. in Laura, this room is filled with highly decorative and fine objects, from the telephone, the bed posts (which often divide these two characters in the frame) to the vases, and the ever gleaming lights, one of which casts an intricate radial light pattern on the wall.
Characteristics of film noir can also be seen in the camera techniques, particularly midway through the clip where they cut to a low shot looking up at Greenstreet. It is so angled, that it looks like he is standing up, rather than sitting, as he is. This makes him look larger than life, powerful, and mysterious. Lorre is still standing at this point, although, again, Greenstreet looks somehow taller than him while sitting down. When Greenstreet says "Dimitrious" as part of their connection, Lorre's character relaxes and he sits down, magnifying even more Greenstreet's larger size. The camera then slowly begins to move in toward his face to where the camera is just about under his chin looking up. Greenstreet's face entirely fills the frame. What a presence. While they are building this character larger and larger and larger, Lorre's goes from relaxing to going limp. Any stress he had has vanished. The clip leaves us with him even lying down on the bed, casually having a smoke...... as casually as he entered.

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Lorre’s entrance is relaxed and casual, while Greenstreet’s arrival is tense and wary.  He appears to have command of the situation, since he’s holding a gun, standing smack in the middle of Lorre’s room.  But the the fruits of his frantic search - the helter-skelter of objects strewn everywhere, indicates he’s not such a cool cucumber after all.  Their conversation may be light and sophisticated, but Greenstreet is rattled.  We notice, too that the lens is masked to create a silhouette, forcing our eyes to focus on the two men and also to highlight the importance of their initial exchange.  Lorre’s relaxed pose on his bed suggests that the power has shifted and that he now has the upper hand. 

This scene is a bit similar to The Maltese Falcon, when Greenstreet was grilling Bogart about “the bird” - and it’s just as enjoyable, too!

 

Lorre exits the elevator saying: “completely immoral, but fascinating.” He has a smile on his face and a look of relaxed interest. I don’t know why he said it, but when he enters his room, he finds Greenstreet searching his room. That’s immoral—but interesting. Although Greenstreet has the gun, Lorre isn’t really afraid. His responses are easy. Lorre asks Greenstreet what he is doing, and Greenstreet is a lost. Lorre knows exactly what he is doing.

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Lorre's entrance is somewhat abrupt, as he fidgets and walks. When Greenstreet enters, he is momentarily in silhouette, giving the viewer a brief feeling of dread. Lorre plays a much different character here than he does in The Maltese Falcon. He is less cowardly, but also less humorous.  Greenstreet’s articulate menace is more in line with his Falcon character.  Toward the end, the director sets up some extreme low angle shots to emphasize the character’s ominous bulk and his threatening power (as did Huston in Falcon).

 

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After reading through I don't want to just rehash what has been mentioned before too much but I see Lorre with a  casual prompt entrance and Greenstreet has a much more cautious and tense entrance into the scene which contrasts each other.

 

This scene I saw lots of jumping back and forth between the characters in the sense that it seemed that we were being given the perspective of each character and seeing almost what they were seeing rather than the total set that would include both people. GS is shown as large and hulking in the one shot that turns into a close up and Lorre is then shown small and hunched. Although as the dialogue continues their positions change slightly and Lorre is no longer fearful or apprehensive as though he seems to think he has the upper hand and can relax in the situation.

 

 

With the Maltese Falcon while it's been a while I seem to remember less camera switching and more wide shots with all the characters in the scene and moving about that way.

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Both Lorre and Greenstreet appear to me to be moving with calm composition. Neither is jumpy or nervous but both are calculating. I see again here that noir camera work and blocking of two enemies circling each other, posturing. Greenstreet sits down as a gesture of power. Lorre leans back on the bench as a bluff of power. The camera provides most of the spatial movement as it cuts back and forth and from high to mid-level angles.

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Lorre enters the scene tired from the days happenings when he finds his room ransacked. Greenstreet enters gat in hand as foreboding music plays. Lorre is startled but not shocked at first and as the scene progresses his amusement shows by smoking and lounging on the bed. Greenstreet is portrayed as the muscle. The camera pans from the bottom to up close when revealing his true nature. 


I always liked black and white lighting. It is more prominent than color and makes noir shading feel a mysterious dark way. The funky lamp shadows are intriguing in this scene.


Comparing  this with The Maltese Falcon obviously both men are in the film. Greenstreet plays the interested party in that movie as well while Lorre is a bumbling fool trying to get answers his way. Their acting styles are somewhat the same, generally when studios make 50 pictures a year actors act and it's  up to directors and producers to edit and make the changes to make the audience feel the differences.


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How wonderful to watch Peter and Sydney act together.  It doesn't matter what the movie, they have such a bond...Peter is quiet, slithery, sliding along the walls, hugging the outskirts of the room and scene while Sydney is there, larger than life (in many respects), right out there chuckling, giggling.  I believe because of his girth, he does so much acting with his eyes.

 

They are wonderful together, always plotting, scheming, "suffering", wonderful combination.

 

Peter acts with his eyes as well and unfortunately, from having watched his animated version in Bugs Bunny cartoons, I can hear him making that laughing sound, almost like he's huffing and puffing.  If you've seen the cartoons, you'll know to what I'm referring.

 

The men enter from opposite sides of the room, obviously, but meet in the middle, with a common bond, as in "The Maltese Falcon". 

 

Great movie.

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Wouldn´t say that Lorres entrance is "dramatic". It si the stae of the room that invites the tension and then Greenstreet makes the dramatic entrance, enhanced both by Lorres mumbling and casual style. Even more heigthened by the framing and lightning, from the shadows to the light, an imposant imposter. The angles of the camera and the positioning of the actors underlines their different roles, maybe not so exclusively noirish but part of it. Same kind of scene/s in Maltese Falcon as I remember it.

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I always thought Peter Lorre was an amazing actor perfectly suited for disturbing characters of dubious morality, since I saw him in Fritz Lang's M. His weird looking and his unmistakable voice are always unsettling, but in this particular scene from Jean Negulesco's The Mask of Dimitrios, his character seems a bit lunatic as he does his entrance talking to himself, and thus giving the viewer access to his stream of thoughts.

 
Maybe because the music foreshadows the dramatic charge of the scene, neither him nor the viewer is easily surprised by the state of disorder in which he finds the room. Peter Lorre continues speaking in his old same voice, as Sydney Greenstreet shadow advances from dark to light, carrying a gun pointed to him: we may know what he says, even what he thinks, but not what he feels (he seems too calm in front of this menace).
 
Also, these male characters are different from the usual hard-boiled detectives such as The Maltese Falcon's Sam Spade: they older, fatter and less attractive than any Bogart or Cagney. Yet, they're tough just like them: during the dialogue, they don't lose their temper, they calculate every word they say, they don't do any false move. They may not know which game the other one is playing, but each one is playing his own game the best he can.
 
Besides the expressionist highlighting, stressing the shadows and the noir ambiance of the room, during the interaction between the two men we have several high and low angle shots that suggest the oscillations of power and the feelings of insecurity or self-confidence they experience. The last shot is symptomatic of this kind of the expressive use of camera movement to show the growth of the influence, of Greenstreet's "shadow of oppression" over Lorre's character, seen through his own eyes.

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he scene contains two dramatic entrances, one for each actor. How is each entrance different? What changes in the scene as they continue to interact after their entrances? 

Peter Lorre enters carefree then someone in his house is revealed.  I like how Peter Lorre changes from what appears innocent and surprised to someone that seems to know much more. He casually lays down on the chair, he doesn't seem afraid at all anymore and maybe he never was.  Sidney Greenstreet's character seems to be straight forward and the pan shot looking up at him seems to tell us he is overpowering but Peter Lorre seems to become more relaxed.   

 What elements of the noir style did you notice in this scene, for example, in terms of camera movement or lighting?

I noted the slow revel, the light then turning to something dark.  The shots back and forth, the actors especially Peter Lorre show a wide range.  Sidney Greenstreet seems very menacing.

Compare this scene in The Mask of Dimitrios with scenes from The Maltese Falcon or Nobody Lives Forever. What are the similarities? What are the differences?

Its been a while since i've seen the maltese falcon and i have not seen nobody lives forever.  So i will say based on this clip and what i remember from Maltese falcon is the chase of someone looking for something or wanting information and having to go to great lengths to find information.  Almost integrating people to figure out the truth.

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The scene contains two dramatic entrances, one for each actor. How is each entrance different? What changes in the scene as they continue to interact after their entrances? 

 

When we first see Lorre he enters very relaxed, contemplating the person he just spoke to. Gleefully observing that the person is completely with scruples. 

 

However when Greenstreet enters the intensity is turned up. Everything becomes serious, and dangerous. We notice that Greenstreet has a gun, we fear the gun, but not so much the tube of toothpaste.

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-- The scene contains two dramatic entrances, one for each actor. How is each entrance different? What changes in the scene as they continue to interact after their entrances?

 

-- What elements of the noir style did you notice in this scene, for example, in terms of camera movement or lighting?

 

Cornelius Leyden (Peter Lorre) exits the elevator on the left side of the frame and is talking softly to himself about his reaction to the previous scene.  The camera tracks Leyden as he crosses the hallway to his hotel door and unlocks it.  This is followed by a match cut of Leyden as the door opens on the interior of the room and he enters on the left side of the frame.  With no cut, the camera pans from a medium shot of Leyden across the ransacked room to an open bathroom door as Mr. Peters (Sydney Greenstreet) is emerging from the bathroom.  The panning shot reveals three light sources in the room: matching lamps against the wall on either side of the four-poster bed and a large lamp on a table beside an oriental screen.  The panning stops when the open door to the bathroom is in full view.  Through the open bathroom door a mirror on the wall briefly reflects a small image of Leyden across the room before the reflection is eclipsed by the dark silhouette of Peters as he enters the hotel room and is lit from the side by the large room lamp.  As Peters strides across the room toward Leyden, he raises his right hand to reveal a pistol trained at Leyden.  While Peters is approaching Leyden, the camera tracks backward until it results in an over-the-shoulder shot of both men, Leyden seen from the back on the left side of the frame and Peters seen from the front at a slight angle on the right.  Perspective renders Leyden as closer and larger on the left side of the frame and Peters as farther away and smaller on the right.  A line from Leyden’s head to that of Peters creates a slight diagonal from upper left to lower right.  When Leyden takes a few steps forward toward Peters, the differential in the two figures comes closer to equal.  From the moment Leyden enters the hotel room until this point we have experienced a long take of about 53 seconds (0:17–1:10).  At the moment when Peters says, “You’re wondering exactly where I stand,” there is a cut to a reverse-angle shot, an over-the-shoulder shot with Leyden seen smaller and from the front on the left side of the frame and Peters seen from behind on the right side.  The diagonal geometry now runs from upper right to lower left.  The two men are still separated by the wall lamp, which is now reflected in a standing mirror inside the hotel room door.  As the reverse-angle shot continues, Leyden takes a few steps toward Peters, and Peters takes a seat at the table with the telephone and samovar.  The diagonal geometry changes accordingly, with Leyden now looking down from the left toward Peters on the right.  The two figures are separated by one of the lamps beside the four-poster bed in the background.

 

Leyden enters the room distracted and talking to himself and taken off guard by the condition of the room and by the unexpected entrance of Peters.  Peters enters the room with gun in hand, ready to extract information from Leyden about Dimitios.  Low-key lighting is used throughout the scene with emphasis on the three light sources in the room and mirrored reflections.  Low-angle camera shots are used extensively in this scene.  As the characters continue to interact in this scene, the air of menace originally created by the weapon and attitude of Peters seems to diminish.  Originally surprised, shocked, and defensive, Leyden gradually becomes more relaxed and interested in hearing what Peters has to say about Dimitrios.  Leyden lights up a cigarette and ends the scene in a reclining position with a somewhat bemused look on his face.

 

-- Compare this scene in The Mask of Dimitrios with scenes from The Maltese Falcon or Nobody Lives Forever. What are the similarities? What are the differences?

 

The first similarity with The Maltese Falcon that jumps out at me is the low-angle close-up of Sidney Greenstreet used repeatedly in the scene where he meets Humphrey Bogart for the first time and states, “I’ll tell you right out.  I’m a man who likes talking to a man who likes to talk.”  (Bogart’s reply:  “Will we talk about the black bird?”)  I think this may be the same sort of close-up described by Place and Peterson in their discussion of the use of wide-angle lenses for distorted close-ups.  In the clip from The Mask of Dimitrios currently under discussion, Greenstreet as Peters is asking Leyden to be frank with him about Dimitrios.  In both cases, Peters is trying to gain information from his interlocutor.  At 2:05 Leyden takes a seat and the camera shifts to an even lower angle on Peters.  Then slowly the camera begins to zoom in on Peters.  As the zoom continues at about 2:14, the camera tilts up further until Peters says, “Now, Mr. Leyden, tell me frankly where you stand.  What – uh, forgive the expression please – is your game?”  What I find different about these two scenes is the lighting.  The Maltese Falcon scene plays during the daytime in a San Francisco hotel room.  The Mask of Dimitrios scene takes place at night in a dark old world hotel room in Sofia and has only the three lamps for illumination whereas there is natural daylight from the windows in the San Francisco room seen behind Greenstreet.

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My goodness! Peter Lorre asserts himself! In The Maltese Falcon it's always a guilty pleasure for me to laugh at Joel Cairo-he's really scary, huh? But in The Mask of Dimitrios he actually confronts Sydney Greenstreet and that's saying a lot, as Greenstreet, as usual, looms up before us.

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Lorre enters by normal means, through a series of two doorways, ultimately unlocking a door and entering uncautiously.  Greenstreet enters surreptitiously from hiding, pointing a gun at a surprised Lorre.  At first, Lorre is bewildered and taken aback but gradually relaxes as if he knows that Greenstreet has no intention of pulling the trigger.  Greenstreet continues to hold the gun as if there's still a glimmer of intent to use the gun if needed.  This raises tension in the scene.

 

The scenes are lighted in the background which creates shadows in the foreground.  The camera angles are low, looking up at the characters, at one point following Greenstreet up his body and to his face as if the viewer is made to lay on the floor and then rise before Greenstreet's face.  The dialogue is snappy and witty, even humorous at times.

 

I've not seen "Nobody Lives Forever" yet, and I'd have to watch "The Maltese Falcon" again to compare and contrast with "The Mask of Dimitrios."

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Hoping For The Best: Noir's Great Unknowns

The more I binge-watch TCM’s Summer of Darkness films, the more I feel the need to acknowledge film noir’s great character actors. This was brought home last weekend when I watched The People vs. O’Hara. There was such an abundance of familiar faces that I wondered what had drawn them to the project—Spencer Tracy’s star power, John Alton’s artistry, or simply a paycheck.  For whatever reason, a partial list of go-to character actors in this film included:

 

 Veterans  J. C. Flippen (doing a horrible Swedish accent): 108 film & TV credits;  Ann Doran: 368 credits;  Frank Sulley: 304 credits;  **** Whiteford: 355 credits;  Regis Toomey: 268 credits;  Ned Glass: 221 credits;  Jack Kruschen:  217 credits; and Louise Lorimer: 120 credits.  The entire cast of credited and uncredited actors in this film numbered 87, including a split-second yet memorable appearance by Charles Bronson.

 

The fact that good character actors rarely break through to the A-list even inspired its own film: the 2012 “That Guy…Who Was in That Thing.” It features a series of contemporary character actors who good naturedly talk about their odd fame-without-the-name. Of course, some character actors are so singular, so memorable, that their names do travel with them. The clip of The Mask of Dimitrios spotlights two all-time best:  Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet. This diabolical duo made nine films together, and as they approach each other from opposite sides of the room in Dimitrios, I can imagine them thinking, “You again?” We’ve seen Lorre’s evolution from monstrous (M, The Man on The Third Floor), to creepily obsequious (The Maltese Falcon), to oddly assertive in Dimitrios. Sporting a distinguished touch of gray, Lorre spoke lines that could easily capture the spirit of film noir itself:

 

“…completely immoral, but fascinating,” and “Are you drunk, sir? Maybe you are mad, sir? In that case, I can only humor you and hope for the best.”

 

Lorre’s bio includes some fascinating facts: He played Raskolnikov in Josef von Sternberg’s 1935 production of Crime and Punishment and was Le Chiffe in a 1954 TV adaptation of Casino Royale.  As to that last credit, Lorre’s brand of eerie/scary would be severely at odds with Mads Mikkelsen’s  sexy/scary turn as the merciless Le Chiffe in the 2006 reprise of Casino Royale.

 

As for Greenstreet--according to IMDb--he didn’t appear in films until he was 62, but his first role made up for lost time: Casablanca. Prior to acting, he had been a failed tea planter in Ceylon, and a bored brew master who took acting lessons on the side. When he proved to have acting chops, he landed—appropriately enough—the role of a murderer in a 1904 stage production of Sherlock Holmes. Greenstreet also appeared in musical comedies and Shakespeare plays until Hollywood turned him into a film noir legend.

 

Lorre and Greenstreet did break out of the pack, but most character actors don’t. So let’s give some love to the B- and C-listers—uncelebrated, unpampered, and largely anonymous. We may not know their names, but you can bet the A-listers did. Without them, films noir and other cinematic genres would be far less interesting worlds. 

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Wait, when is The Mask of Dimitrios playing? OMG! thank goodness it's at night, I won't be playing hooky again ;)

 

I've never seen this movie, but since The Maltese Falcon is one of my favorites and the premise of Dimitirios is basically the same as replayed in this scene, I can't wait!

 

When comparing with The Maltese Falcon, you have the whole Levant, historical mystery, other worldly, forbidden knowledge angle. AND you get Sidney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre facing each other once again, well what more could you ask for?

 

Peter Lorre still comes off as a simpering whiner and Greenstreet still acts like a classic villain with class and smarts. Viewers can deduce these two are going to team up to find whatever it is they are looking for and that partnership is going to be tenuous at best - it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.  

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Sparring match.

 

The Peter Lorre character enters the scene almost whimsically, with his guard down. The Greenstreet character flies in with his guard definitely up . . . and his gun, too.

 

The great scene that it is, the power shifts among the two. Greenstreet eventually sits and Lorre, ironically, towers over him. But Greenstreet still holds the power in the scene -- he's got the gun and the suspicions, Lorre is on edge. It's not until Greenstreet lowers his weapon that Lorre can relax. He not only sits, but then he practically lays back. The power shift as Lorre realizes what this is all about.

 

By the way, love the low angle push-in on Greenstreet. 

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How wonderful to watch Peter and Sydney act together.  It doesn't matter what the movie, they have such a bond...Peter is quiet, slithery, sliding along the walls, hugging the outskirts of the room and scene while Sydney is there, larger than life (in many respects), right out there chuckling, giggling.  I believe because of his girth, he does so much acting with his eyes.

 

They are wonderful together, always plotting, scheming, "suffering", wonderful combination.

 

Peter acts with his eyes as well and unfortunately, from having watched his animated version in Bugs Bunny cartoons, I can hear him making that laughing sound, almost like he's huffing and puffing.  If you've seen the cartoons, you'll know to what I'm referring.

 

The men enter from opposite sides of the room, obviously, but meet in the middle, with a common bond, as in "The Maltese Falcon". 

 

Great movie.

They are great fun to watch as they interact, aren't they?  "Slithery" certainly, when Peter Lorre appears. For me, he also brings to mind "reptilian." I wonder how the poor man felt about the effect he had on fans. I'd like to think he would laugh, but I can't imagine a Lorre laugh without that sneer. And yet...there lurks a kind of vulnerability about him. Nah! What am I saying? He's an actor!!!!

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Sparring match.

 

The Peter Lorre character enters the scene almost whimsically, with his guard down. The Greenstreet character flies in with his guard definitely up . . . and his gun, too.

 

The great scene that it is, the power shifts among the two. Greenstreet eventually sits and Lorre, ironically, towers over him. But Greenstreet still holds the power in the scene -- he's got the gun and the suspicions, Lorre is on edge. It's not until Greenstreet lowers his weapon that Lorre can relax. He not only sits, but then he practically lays back. The power shift as Lorre realizes what this is all about.

 

By the way, love the low angle push-in on Greenstreet. 

 

Re: the "low-level push-in on Greenstreet." Is that the shot when the camera is nearly floor-level and shooting upward toward Greenstreet's...er...largish "bay window"? I laughed when I saw it. Imagine the cinematographer discussing that idea with Greenstreet. The fact that it's in the film shows he was a real trooper. 

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Lorre’s entrance is a common elevator, hallway, key in door movie entrance; see Fred Astaire in Top Hat. Greenstreet’s entrance is a common noir entrance …the sinister man in black who appears in a place other than his own. However, once the scene starts it shifts almost immediately into witty repartee. Compared to Falcon/darkness we have abundant similarities: static camera work, Static choreography of the actors, and way too much dialogue. It sounds like a bad Broadway play. (The actors are good Broadway actors. It’s fun to watch them but you lose track of the urgency.) John Ford would have eliminated almost all of this …see My Darling Clementine.

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I have enjoyed Jean Negulesco's films - particularly his consensus noirs MASK OF DIMITRIOS and NOBODY LIVES FOREVER. I was very surprised to see his film JOHNNY BELINDA included in TCM's Summer of Darkness titles for this Friday. Negulesco directed a couple of other films which are sometimes considered noir: THREE STRANGERS (1946) & DEEP VALLEY (1947). Do others have the same reaction to including JOHNNY BELINDA in a series of noir films.

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