Dr. Rich Edwards

JUNE 26 TCM FILM NOIR DISCUSSIONS FOR #NOIRSUMMER FOR ALL 13 FILMS

163 posts in this topic

The Set-Up (1949):

 

Basic Plot: In a fixed fight against an up-and-coming boxer, a washed up fighter must prove to his enemies, friends, wife, and himself that he has what it takes to go the distance. (NOT TOO COMPLICATED)

 

Noir Elements: Literary precursor (poem), chiaroscuro lighting, urban environment (motels, bars, boxing arenas, alleys), use of jazz, set in seedy underworld of boxing, illegal betting, and bloodthirsty gamblers and spectators, and struggle of one man and his fateful decision (more stylistically noir than content)

 

Note: It might have been interesting to see a film closer to the poem (i.e. black fighter, bigamist).

 

House Style: (RKO) Sophisticated cinematography, northeast setting, deals with fighting in theatrical methods, eclectic (takes noir style and applies to sports films/psychological drama)

 

Performances: There are so many colorful side characters and there are plenty of highlight. George Tobias (also in Nobody Lives Forever) as manager Tiny is slimy and looks like he is eating that cigar; Percy Helton as the troll-like but sympathetic Red; and Wallace Ford as the impaired former fighter rooting for Stoker, Gus. Each of the fighters have their time to shine, spewing their dreams all over the locker room, from Black fighter Luther Hawkins (James Edwards – as a literate Black character) to David Clarke as the deformed, washed-up Gunboat Johnson to young fighter Shanley (Darryl Hickman). Despite their obstacles (i.e. race, age, experience), they all feel they can win, that they're all "one shot away" from fulfilling their big dreams. The cocky Tiger Nelson, as played by Hal Baylor, is also noted.

 

But the performances by Audrey Totter (The Postman Always Rings Twice's Madge Gorland) as Julie and and Robert Ryan as Stoker are the heart of the film. Like in Act of Violence, Ryan says very little but he is full of dreams and fervor, but also displays doubt, childlike optimism, and fear. Julie also has dreams, and says very little, spending most of the film wandering the seedy streets in search of her own future. They love each other but she can't take of the idea of him becoming like Gus or Gunboat (or dead), and he also feels like he is "one shot away" from proving himself worthy and not washed-up. In the end, they "both win" so to speak (he proves himself, she accepts his faults but also gets the chance at a practical life).

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The Set-Up (1949) [CONTINUED] – CINEMATOGRAPHY/LIGHTING

 

I'd like to focus on lighting and staging. The boxing arena really lends itself in particular to use of light and shadows, since it has sparsely lit locker rooms, has events primarily at night, is set a seedier area of town (i.e. bars, nightclubs, arcades, neon paradise), and its stage-like environment (primary light in the center, bathing everything else in shadows). The film also had many jarring images: hearing-impaired man listening to the fight (that he's at) on the radio, the blind man having the fight described to him by his companion, previously squeamish woman looking on in glee (particularly the middle-aged brunette, yeesh), and the fat man always seen at a low-angle who cannot stop eating.

 

There is an excellent use of sound design, musical score and visual metaphor. As the deal for the fight goes down, seedy jazz plays as it also does when Julie walks the streets (and gets hit on), and at the end of the film (substituting the tension and intensity of Little Boy's revenge). But when we first enter Stoker and Julie's home, it's romantic, softer music playing which returns when Stoker is finally ready to go home to Julie, and they embrace. Furthermore, the cries and screams from the audience are Roman Coliseum-like, calling for blood and misery, switching sides when the fights turn. This is supplemented by the building names: Hotel Cozy is where Julie is, where home is for Stoker, and where he constantly looks to for strength. The arena is called Paradise City which is ironic since many men are broken there and the bloodthirsty crowd raves on – two separate worlds. In the end, Stoker and Julie reunite in the middle of these worlds, right under the Dreamland sign, both having found their dreams and futures.

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Act of Violence is a terrific noir.

You're right! I had never seen this before and I was very impressed. In fact I became so caught up in the story and the "feeling" of the beautiful cinematography that I forgot to look for the elements we've been studying. :) This is one I'll definitely need to see again.

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Thank you, Mr. Turner, for working on and cleaning up the film "The Mask of Dimitrios". It was formerly just a hazy, dark, exasperating experience.  Much thanks for your efforts.  :wub:

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Berlin Express is a good-looking, well-shot film in the style of documentary realism (first Hollywood production to film in Germany). It is yet another genre – the espionage thrilller – in which the noir style is adapted.

 

Not much else I can say thanks to the unncessary constant voiceover exposition, ham-fisted commentary, and uninteresting characters which took me out of the film. It's no Third Man.

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Saw "Out of the Past" for the first time and I was very impressed. I loved the dialogue and the noir "feel". This movie demonstrate an effective use of the motifs we've been talking about in class. I especially liked the way that Mitchum's face was lit as he was revealing his story in the car during a nighttime drive. When he starts out his face is only half lit (was that a kick light?). As the story progresses and they flashed back to him his face is lighter until at the end when daylight has come and his story is complete . At that point like the details of his past his face was completely revealed To make the circle complete the story ends, for Mitchum, in a car at night. A great movie

 

Nice observation about the changing lighting on Jeff's face as the flashback unfolds.   It's something of a confessional, and Tournier milks it for all it's worth.   

 

Mitchum's imposing stature and course, hardboiled voice and easy delivery are as perfectly suited to noir as is Greer's beguiling allure. They make a mesmerizing --- and dangerous --- pair, and of course Kathie is one of the quintessential femme fatales in all of noir.    

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The film's today have been incredible (as usual), and many of them I think are severely underrated in the film noir canon. ACT OF VIOLENCE never fails to impress, and I'm still as equally torn between Heflin and Ryan's characters every time I see it. THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS had always stuck out to be as the best Lorre/Greenstreet pairing (without Bogie), and Zachary Scott is just so damn good at being oily in his film debut.

As the renowned bunch, OUT OF THE PAST, THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE, and THE SET-UP need no introduction as classics of the style, and each mark the mountain top of their respective archetypes: PAST being a Vixenville noir, POSTMAN capturing Hate Street at its finest, and SET-UP perfectly reflecting Losers Lane. Excited to see BERLIN EXPRESS for the first time tonight!

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I watched The Lady in the Lake because I knew it was entirely filmed in POV for and was curious as to what that would be like.  I thought  that it took away from the natural flow of the film,  I also really didn't like Robert Montgomery's performance.  He sounded so unnatural when he spoke, like he was really trying to sound tough   It was almost  like he was trying to imitate Humphrey Bogart. I'm not saying that he was, but his lines sounded so forced.  And all of the other performances seemed overdone because of facing the camera in what seemed to be "unnatural" ways.  Oh well, at least I can now say that I watched it!!

 

 

 

  

 

 

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The Set Up was a surprise for me because I don't usually care for films about boxing but I enjoyed this one.  The sets, lighting, camera work, etc., allperfectly  captured the stark, gritty, seamy world in which Stoker was trapped because his whole identity was defined by being a boxer.  The comraderie among a lot of the boxers was poignant.  Yes, it was predictable that he was going to win the match.  But it was ironic that by injuring his hand so that he couldn't fight anymore, Little Boy and his thugs actually gave Stoker and Julie a gift of a new life....

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The Mountain time person who had an evening commitment early watching The Stranger loving the shadows in the movie and enjoying seeing Orson Wells a little older but not Touch of Evil older. Loretta Young looks so young. Enjoy seeing Edward G playing a good guy.

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They Won’t Believe Me (1947):

 

They Won't Believe Me is not a great noir, not stylistically stunning besides a few shots or particularly sharp, but it is entertaining enough.

 

Note: I found similarities with The Postman Always Ring Twice (particularly the swimming scene) and Nora Prentiss.

 

Basic Plot: A golddigging playboy, married to a rich, understanding wife, is indicted for the murder of one of his mistresses, and in his final plea of innocence, relays his unbelievable story of love, lust, mistaken identity, and death to the jury.

 

Noir Elements: Urban setting, homodiegetic narration, self-condemning man falsely accused, moral taboo (infidelity), flashback sequences, on-location shooting, femme fatales (sort of), and shades of chiaroscuro lighting

 

Robert Young and Rita Johnson as Larry and Gretta are both acceptable but Jane Greer is lovely (as usual) and Susan Hayward makes everything she's automatically (although I've never seen The Conqueror). Some of the best lines and touching moments are given to Hayward's Verna.

 

Like many on this message board, one wonders what the uncut version of this film looked like, perhaps I will attempt to seek that out (assuming I can find it).

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Lady in the Lake (1947):

 

I tend to write in essay forms, lots of paragraphs, it's my analytical nature. Each film I've taken to writing long posts on are ones where the film provided plenty of meat or at least plenty of enjoyment. Lady in the Lake is the kind of film that demands analysis for its sheer incompetence, debateable pretentiousness, and annoying nature.

 

Basic Plot: Private Detective Philip Marlowe investigates the disappearance of a crime magazine publisher's unfaithful wife.

 

Noir Elements: Literary precursor, experimental cinematography, private detective antihero, and femme fatale

 

From the first few moments of introduction, when I was still optimistic, I knew one thing: "I'm gonna hate this film, everybody was right." His direct conversation with the audience feels like he prepping for a TV show, "Hitchcock Presents . . . Lady in the Lake." The first person point of view camera decision was so visually repulsive that at many points, I turned away from the TV, preferring to treat this little experimentation like an audiobook. But even as an audiobook . . ..

 

Without a camera's view of our hero, we know nothing about him other than his obnoxious mouth. Marlowe is as blank a slate as the audience watching. It looks like the actors are just talking to the camera and Marlowe is reading his script behind it.  Robert Montgomery and Audrey Totter cannot save this film. Montgomery is no Bogart or Powell (I feel guilty now for questioning Powell, if I had known). Totter is no Bacall, Vickers, Malone, Trevor or Shirley.

 

Why set the film at Christmastime, what's the payoff? Why do everyone's voice sound so nasal? Why is Marlowe's customary distrust of women done so clunkily? Why does the film use a vocal chorus as a score? This is a film without wit, humor, mystery, excitement, or feeling.

If you can avoid it, don't see it. But it could be considered educational, if you want to see how an experimentation in copying other studio's styles and material and an attempt at an gimmick can turn into an experimentation in filmmaking insanity.

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In "The Stranger" I like that way that through many parts of the film Rankin's face is shadowed and Mary's face is light ( innocence and evil). The darkness of the clock tower that he is repairing is, I think, representational of his Nazi past. His "hobby" with clocks and the clock tower itself could be a metaphor for the "Nazi War Machine" he wants to bring back to life. In the end, Rankin (with the help of great acting,lighting, and creative camera angles) looks like the devil creature on the clock and is killed by the angle.

 

In a final note I'm confused, which doesn't take much, and a little embarrassed. On an earlier post I cited this as a MGM because I saw it at a friend's house and his DVD said "MGM film noir collection". I know now it is an International Pictures movie and that library belongs to MGM (according to the film television and video logo museum ). Lesson learned - don't believe or pay too much attention to labels.:)http://www.closinglogos.com/page/International+Pictures+Corporation

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They Won`t Believe Me 1947    The film opens in a courtroom where Robert Young is on trial for the murder of his wife. In film noir style, the next scene switches to flashback and Robert Young`s narration. He is unhappily married  and sitting in a café with his girlfriend Jane Greer. He makes plans to leave his wife. The next step will be for Robert and Jane to take a trip together. Unfortunately his wife finds out,and new plans are made. Robert`s wife has connections in his stock brokerage firm, and she sweetens the pot by getting him a parternership in a LA firm. Robert is a adulterer and greedy. He soon finds a new girlfriend in the firm who helps him out of a jam. Susan Hayward is smart and ambitious. She looks out for herself and has no time to waste. I enjoyed the scenes with Robert and Susan the best. The film than takes a dark turn. Robert Young had recently ended his contract with MGM. he began to freelance, and I think that he was very believable as Larry Ballantine. In this film noir, he showed a dark side that was never visible before. TCM ran this film for 81 minutes. They Won`t Believe Me will be shown again on September 4 with a run time of 95 minutes.I do not know why the shorter version was broadcast on Friday.

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LADY IN THE LAKE

 

The film has already been getting some bad comments in this thread, and I'm inclined to agree. 

The novelty of the PoV perspective wears pretty thin rather quickly. Besides the feeling that it's like you're watching cast interviews/audition calls , it kind of limits the cinematographic possibilities. The protagonist is really never seen in a mood enhancing shot. Focus has to remain on his counterparts.

Ultimately, the entire PoV approach detaches the viewer more than involves him. 

 

HOWEVER, what I really, really liked was the score. A sparse, minimalistic, and very effective and eerie dissonant choral score by David Snell.

 

 

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LADY IN THE LAKE

 

The film has already been getting some bad comments in this thread, and I'm inclined to agree. 

The novelty of the PoV perspective wears pretty thin rather quickly. Besides the feeling that it's like you're watching cast interviews/audition calls , it kind of limits the cinematographic possibilities. The protagonist is really never seen in a mood enhancing shot. Focus has to remain on his counterparts.

Ultimately, the entire PoV approach detaches the viewer more than involves him. 

 

HOWEVER, what I really, really liked was the score. A sparse, minimalistic, and very effective and eerie dissonant choral score by David Snell.

I completely agree with your viewpoint on this film. I couldn't watch the entire movie. I really tried. I am wondering how Lady in the Lake was received by the audiences of the day?

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What a slate of films! Future Fridays will have to work hard to top June 26th.

 

  • Robert Ryan usually doesn't get mentioned in the same breath as Lancaster, Mitchum and Marvin, but I think he's right up there - I can't remember a bad performance in any genre. Fascinating guy in real life as well.
  • I forgot how good Hume Cronyn was in POSTMAN. I think he and Leon Ames being as solid as they were really enhanced the element of danger which helped make Garfield almost sympathetic...up to a point, that is.
  • Props also to the neo-noir POINT BLANK, one of my favorites (which thematically always reminds me of GET CARTER, but with a unique twist).
  • Count me among the ones who grew tired of the novelty used in THE LADY IN THE LAKE. Perhaps had I seen it upon release, the unique perspective would have been more engaging.
  • The one film I had not seen was MASK OF DIMITRIOUS and I can't wait to do so today. The clip and discussion led to a lot of research on all the Lorre/Greenstreet titles...and a couple of purchases as well.

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Trivia time...

 

For those that have seen JOURNEY INTO FEAR and THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS. In both films Colonel Haki is presented as a supporting character. 

In JOURNEY INTO FEAR he's played by Orson Welles (right), in THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS he's played by Kurt Katch (left)....

 

CIhN4ysUcAA9kld.jpg

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What a slate of films! Future Fridays will have to work hard to top June 26th.

 

  • Robert Ryan usually doesn't get mentioned in the same breath as Lancaster, Mitchum and Marvin, but I think he's right up there - I can't remember a bad performance in any genre. Fascinating guy in real life as well.
  • I forgot how good Hume Cronyn was in POSTMAN. I think he and Leon Ames being as solid as they were really enhanced the element of danger which helped make Garfield almost sympathetic...up to a point, that is.
  • Props also to the neo-noir POINT BLANK, one of my favorites (which thematically always reminds me of GET CARTER, but with a unique twist).
  • Count me among the ones who grew tired of the novelty used in THE LADY IN THE LAKE. Perhaps had I seen it upon release, the unique perspective would have been more engaging.
  • The one film I had not seen was MASK OF DIMITRIOUS and I can't wait to do so today. The clip and discussion led to a lot of research on all the Lorre/Greenstreet titles...and a couple of purchases as well.

 

 

 

What a slate of films! Future Fridays will have to work hard to top June 26th.

 

  • Robert Ryan usually doesn't get mentioned in the same breath as Lancaster, Mitchum and Marvin, but I think he's right up there - I can't remember a bad performance in any genre. Fascinating guy in real life as well.
  • I forgot how good Hume Cronyn was in POSTMAN. I think he and Leon Ames being as solid as they were really enhanced the element of danger which helped make Garfield almost sympathetic...up to a point, that is.
  • Props also to the neo-noir POINT BLANK, one of my favorites (which thematically always reminds me of GET CARTER, but with a unique twist).
  • Count me among the ones who grew tired of the novelty used in THE LADY IN THE LAKE. Perhaps had I seen it upon release, the unique perspective would have been more engaging.
  • The one film I had not seen was MASK OF DIMITRIOUS and I can't wait to do so today. The clip and discussion led to a lot of research on all the Lorre/Greenstreet titles...and a couple of purchases as well.

 

 

 

Agree, this Friday's slate of noir's included some gems...The Postman Always Rings Twice, Out of the Past, The Mask of Dimitrios, The Stranger, The Third Man and one of the very best neo-noirs, Point Blank, as well as a few clunkers, like Lady in the Lake and, imo, at least, Berlin Express.   

 

Lady is something of a disaster on numerous levels, and many of them have already been mentioned on these message boards.   Berlin wasn't in that category, but I think it suffers from some of the same inherent flaws.   I thought the VO narration, by an uncredited Paul Stewart, overwhelmed the story itself; and got in the way of the flow of the plot without providing any meaningful insight into the characters.  

 

As we've seen in many of the films already aired/discussed, VO narration in noir can work exceedingly well,  but seems to work best when the VO is voicing observations and revealing the personality, values, and thoughts of one of the characters intrinsic to the story.   Stewart's narration comes across as that of a disembodied and often intrusive tour guide, and his largely pedestrian comments don't crack wise or insightful the way Marlowe's or Jeff Markham's, etc. do.   The introductory VO in The Third Man, by contrast, has no connection to the story, either, but he simply sets things up and then recedes into the story;  never to appear again.   It works much better that way.  

 

And, while this may have been the first film to use authentic war ravaged locations, in Frankfurt and Berlin, as backdrops to the story, they were largely squandered because they remained just that, backdrops, and I never thought they were fully incorporated into the plot to help build mood, atmosphere and develop character the way they were in say The Third Man.   

 

The good thing about the Summer of Darkness is that there are gems on the slate every Friday....so there's always something to look forward to.   Next Friday's no different.   Everyone connected with this programming and this course, etc. have really outdone themselves in bringing noir the recognition it deserves!  

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I just found out that TCM's July special presentation of Double Indemnity will be showing in Albuquerque in a theater near my home.  I haven't seen this movie in a very long time and am so excited that I'll be able to watch it on the "big screen" as it was intended to be seen!!

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I completely agree with your viewpoint on this film. I couldn't watch the entire movie. I really tried. I am wondering how Lady in the Lake was received by the audiences of the day?

I can't really say that I liked the score, either.  All I could think of was the choral score in "Invaders from Mars," so it was actually a distraction for me...

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Act of Violence

 

I loved the opening, with the music, the horns, playing over the MGM/lion trademark opening. I haven’t seen this kind of opening in any other film noir. Then the movie cuts to the beautiful urban cityscape of New York in the background; it was like a painting. The dark night, the rain, the music, a man whose face we don’t see right away, the gun: all are classic film noir. Then the man (we still don’t know it’s Joe Parkson) boards a bus and we travel with him into bright light, daylight, and a small town (Santa Lisa) on Memorial Day, complete with a parade, a marching band, and horns that sound very different from the opener over the MGM/lion trademark. (I’m sure 1940s audiences would have been painfully aware of the significance of Memorial Day.)

 

Frank Enley’s PTSD flashback sequence was filmed perfectly, I thought. He enters a long tunnel, which is lit brightly, oddly enough. Is this because he’s remembering clearly, truthfully? He hears snippets of the conversation from the prison camp in his mind. “You’ll find the tunnel in the north corner.” “Don’t do it, Joe.” By the time he comes to the end of the tunnel, he is distraught and shouting out loud in real time: “Don’t do it, Joe!” He heads to the train tracks and attempts suicide but jumps out of the way in the nick of time.

 

Edith Enley tells her husband that she knows now he has faults and weaknesses. Is learning that Frank is just like any other man another “act of violence”? She describes learning this information as a shock and attributes it to her youth and naïveté. I think this is just one of many acts of violence. Betrayal is another. Frank feels he betrayed his men; he in turn is betrayed by the Nazi officer in the prison camp.

 

At one point, Frank reminded me of the Swede in The Killers. He seems resigned to his fate. But Act of Violence has a twist because Frank returns to meet Joe and then saves him from Johnny’s bullet.

 

The opening, complete with the movie title, and the closing credits were stupendous. The letters were composed of simple, clear, white blocks and lines. They reminded me of a white picket fence, of small-town America and innocence, and how that innocence is tenuous at best.

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I enjoyed 1/2 of The Mask of Dimitrios. I loved all the scenes with Lorre & Greenstreet and it was especially nice to see Lorre as a good guy.

 

However I didn't really care for Scott's portrayal of Dimitrios hence the flashback sequences sort of bored me.

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