Dr. Rich Edwards

JULY 3 TCM FILM NOIR DISCUSSIONS FOR #NOIRSUMMER FOR ALL 14 FILMS

135 posts in this topic

That’s a perfectly valid opinion and there are many people who, although giving credit to Welles for flashes of genius, feel he was not quite the director-God he’s been made out to be. I share that opinion for a number of reasons:

 

Welles had a massive ego as was known to throw blame onto others for his failures and try to take complete credit for successes. Case in point, he tried to ‘buy’ Herman Mankiewicz’s writing credit from him – so that Welles would have sole credit for the Citizen Kane screenplay. At the genius of Citizen Kane is the script. And there is a lot of evidence that Mankiewicz wrote the guts of it. Welles never again wrote an original screenplay to match Citizen Kane. Mainly, he tried adapting other works.

 

I think Welles rode on the coattails of a lot of talented people who made Kane into the amazing picture it is. If you look at all his other attempts, they just don’t come together. Magnificant Ambersons was based on a creaky old novel that would never have been successful, regardless of being left unedited. It was a dreary, boring story.

 

Welles’ excuse was always that Citizen Kane was the last picture he had complete control over. Well, he had a lot of control in Lady from Shanghai and that movie is a mess. A true genius works within the constraints put on his work. Alfred Hitchcock had nothing but roadblocks to deal with, working for David Selznick, and he consistently delivered masterpieces. That’s a genius.

 

I’m sure I’m going to get a lot of flack…

 

No flack frome me. I completely agree. I'm not saying that Welles is horrible. I just don't think he's that great. I, too, recognized this ego, and that's what turns me off. There are some actors even today that are very talented, but there's just something about them I don't like (ex: Russell Crow). 

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The one thing about Welles is that he was willing to try everything that film had to offer. That makes him exciting to me, but it also means that inevitably there will be failures (if you're swinging for the fence you're going to whiff a few). It sounds like there are a lot of people on this forum for whom "The Lady Fron Shanghai" is a failure. I don't think it's a masterpiece, but I still find it fascinating and more interesting than most pictures made around that time.

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The one thing about Welles is that he was willing to try everything that film had to offer. That makes him exciting to me, but it also means that inevitably there will be failures (if you're swinging for the fence you're going to whiff a few). It sounds like there are a lot of people on this forum for whom "The Lady Fron Shanghai" is a failure. I don't think it's a masterpiece, but I still find it fascinating and more interesting than most pictures made around that time.

 

I'd agree with this assessment. Welles was one of the first really striking directors to summon tons of filming techniques and methods together as a way to portray a story, but where it's not just the story being portrayed but you get a strong sense that there is a storyteller and s/he has a vision that is being portrayed. Most hollywood films from this period, the camera tries to be invisible, Welles' movies draw attention to themselves as well as highlighting the stories. That is  I think partly why Orson is often called a magician filmmaker. He was a showman as well as a storyteller. I think, looking at his movies, you can see why another great director Martin Scorsese was so influenced by Welles at his best--great, brilliant storytelling and conveying of moments and emotions but often accomplished with what some would call pretentious camera moves but I think are much more often than not just virtuoso visual imagery. Welles was definitely a filmmaker who made you aware of the camera, and I think you can fairly classify as a formalist. Such a formalist that many were turned off by his great, what I would think is best described as a video essay, "F for Fake" which pushed at and challenged the boundaries of moviegoers' definition of documentaries.

 

I still have to watch Shanghai off my DVR, but I've seen enough of his other work to largely agree with your broad assessment Kirk. Almost no great directors hit it out of the park everytime; every great has some duds or almosts. I do think, however, it's worth mentioning that Welles does not seem to have had the same innate savvyy/gift that Hitchcock and one of Welles' idols John Ford had. Namely, to edit films as he shot them. In other words, he would come in with a particular directoral vision that limited how much a studio could much it up. In some ways, I guess that's to be expected given that narratives in Welles pictures are often quite complex and there's a lot of winks and things going on below the surface. Of course, Hitchock and Ford have some of those things too but their stories were often deceptively simple which limited how ham-handed studio producers could be. Both Hitchcock and Ford were also long-time studio directors and made films in the silent era so they were more experienced with how to shoot their films at the time in ways that would ensure most of their vision reached the screen. Whereas, Orson, though a prodigy, grew up in the theater and in radio and largely owed lots of his cinematic expertise, at least early on, from his weeks studying under the great cinematographer Gregg Toland prior to Citizen Kane.

 

I also think that because Welles is associated with Citizen Kane he's often imputed to have had more to do with production than he probably ever did. I recently watched Journey into Fear (1943) for this series, and though there are some flashes of similiar things to what Welles did in the Stranger and earlier in Citizen Kane, I think critics are greatly exaggerating how he was a ghost director to the movie for large chunks or something. A similar theory commonly pops up with Steven Spielberg and the original Poltergeist, but I think that is more founded for particular scenes and just overall themes than you see with Journey into Fear. 

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The Big Clock

 

I wondered about The Big Clock, if it were really a film noir. For me, Ray Milland’s onscreen presence exudes warmth and joviality, which are not film noir–ish characteristics at all. When I compare him to, let’s say, Dan Duryea, I get two totally different vibes. Even in Ministry of Fear, Milland seemed to be enjoying himself and the mystery immensely. I think he’s a terrific actor, but he doesn’t “menace” me from the screen. He wasn’t supposed to “menace” in either movie, so he was really perfect for both roles in The Big Clock and Ministry of Fear.

 

Elsa Lanchester (as Louise Stroud) is very warm in The Big Clock, too. For example, she doesn’t reveal George Stroud’s identity. She’s very funny, too. For example, her shriek at the end of the movie upon seeing her third (or fourth, or fifth?) husband in the person of the “radio actor” (said with much disdain by Steve Hagan, Janoth’s henchman) was hilarious.

 

But before I was swept away by the humor and good cheer of both George Stroud and Louise Patterson, I did notice the camerawork, especially the opening sequence. After the credits finish rolling, the camera seems to track from the New York cityscape, with dawn breaking, right into the offices of Janoth’s publishing empire, with the workday beginning. This seemed like a new technique to me, probably made easier with new technology after World War II.

 

Janoth’s tumble down the elevator shaft seemed completely realistic to me. Kindler’s (Orson Welle’s) tumble off the church clock tower didn’t look real, even in long shot. We aren’t going to see The Dark Corner for this course, but a character in that movie takes a dive out a window and it’s very artificial looking.

 

I enjoyed The Big Clock, but more for its humor and the actors’ performances than its film noir characteristics.

 

Side Note: I did notice that George Stroud (Ray Milland) was married to Georgette Stroud (Maureen O’Sullivan). Really? She doesn’t even rate her own first name?

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It warrants mention here that Touch of Evil was more Charlton Heston's project than it was Orson's.   Heston INSISTED on Welles directing the film, not just starring in it, and told the producer's he'd walk away from the film if Welles didn't direct.   So casting Montalban, or any other 'authentic' Hispanic actor was never ever in the cards for Touch of Evil.  

 

With all our recent focus on Welles' chosen 'accent' in the role of Black Irish, it's also worthy of note that Charton Heston considered his decision NOT to do a Mexican/Hispanic accent for his Mike Vargas character one of the biggest mistakes of his acting career. (Curiously, the Vargas character was not supposed to be Mexican in the original script.  It was Welles who changed it.)

 

Ultimately, it may have been better that Heston didn't do an accent as it kept his trademark voice that audiences would associate with a heroic, authoritative movie star. You can definitely read Touch of Evil as an indirection commentary on race relations and tensions in the United States in 1958. Interracial romance, police and US government corruption and framing, bigotry, bombings, state sanctioned murder and terror, crossing or blurring racial/ethnic lines, etc. 

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KEY LARGO

 

Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Lionel Barrymore, Edward G. Robinson... Talk about an ensemble of stellar actors. And for those who have seen the previous Noirs in this series, also and particularly Claire Trevor who as far as I'm concerned is fantastic as the down and out alcoholic singer Gaye Dawn.

 

A movie which for approximately 80% of its run time takes places in one room, with at times up to 10 characters in it. It therefore looks more like a theatrical stage play setting. This could have resulted in a pretty static presentation. But it doesn't feel that way, because of the dynamic direction of John Huston, and especially the understated yet very effective camera work of Karl Freund. 

 

Huston has a perfect eye for positioning key and support characters in the room in such a way that they occupy spaces on screen in a meaningful way. Even if they don't do anything, their presence is palbable and either brings balance or distorts it, depending on what the narrative needs at each particular moment. But most of the time the characters move about, like a pefectly choreographed ballet, circling each other or walking from one end to the other, drawing attention to either themselves or other characters in the room.

 

I was actually surprised how restrained Karl Freund's camera work seemed to be. Freund's work on movies like METROPOLIS, THE LAST LAUGH and DRACULA is legendary. In KEY LARGO he seems to hold back on the low and skewed angles, and doesn't even make that much use of shadows and light as someone else might have done given the material. 

But when paying closer attention, it's obvious that like the actors, his camera is also moving around and changing positions constantly. In fact he makes the difference between KEY LARGO being a 'static' play or becoming a movie, in which the viewer is immersed in the tense and lethal conflicts between the characters.

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Key Largo

 

An enjoyable movie. Originally it was a stage play, and this is obvious from the fact that the majority of the action (not that there's much of that, it's a very chatty film!) takes place in only a couple of rooms. And such a great cast - most of the performers speak for themselves but I think a couple of the actors deserved a shout-out: Claire Trevor made a wonderful lush, she was the standout for me, and I loved the oily and creepy Curly, played by Thomas Gomez. Super stuff. 

 

 

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The Long Goodbye

 

I knew it would be a mistake to watch this, I knew I'd hate it. And I did. 

 

Oh, where to start? I know, I know, it's clever, it's Altman, it's an anti-Noir. Whatever. I can't respect a film that completely kicks out the essence of the story it purports to be telling. Here Marlowe is portrayed as a shambling, mumbling man, virtually completely lacking in the sharp one-liners he's famed for. Honestly, I felt it was more Columbo than Marlowe, though Columbo would've been far more entertaining. And I swear myself at times but did Marlowe ever? It was like hearing your mum cuss somehow, just wrong! It seemed just one of those 70s things where they wanted to rebel for the point of rebelling: let's make a Marlowe film and do everything to subvert our idea of the man...he even murders Lennox in cold blood! Did Altman just want to annoy the film audience? 

 

And hippies. I don't like hippies in any movie, let alone gratuitously semi-naked hippies put in the film for no other reason than a bit of cheap titillation for the 70s audience. 

 

Also...that start: ten minutes of watching him mumble and feed the blasted cat. Really? There was more action in the Daily Dose this morning than in this entire film...although I admit that I did find the part when the mob guy deliberately maimed his girlfriend just to make a point very powerful. 

 

A terrible film, in my opinion, one which - apart from the one scene I mentioned - I can't find a single thing to recommend it. Someone on these forums said that the Brasher Dubloon was the worst Marlowe film made: I wonder if they'd seen this, and, if they had, just how bad must that movie be? 

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Key Largo

 

An enjoyable movie. Originally it was a stage play, and this is obvious from the fact that the majority of the action (not that there's much of that, it's a very chatty film!) takes place in only a couple of rooms. And such a great cast - most of the performers speak for themselves but I think a couple of the actors deserved a shout-out: Claire Trevor made a wonderful lush, she was the standout for me, and I loved the oily and creepy Curly, played by Thomas Gomez. Super stuff. 

I Agree with you concerning Thomas Gomez. From the get go, Curly appears menacing in a subtle way.

I thought the marina set was awesome.

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Yes, I know there has always been debate concerning CITIZEN KANE. Orson could write a highly regarded screenplay. TOUCH OF EVIL 1958 is memorable for many reasons, and the three reasons are Orson directed, starred in, and wrote the screenplay. He wore padding to make his heavy frame look more grotesque playing California detective Hank Quinlan. The film was shot in Venice, Ca. and opens with a three minute tracking shot on the Mexican border. A time bomb goes off in a millionaire`s car, and the two occupants are killed. The premise is set, and we watch Hank try to frame a young Mexican for the murder. The film works for me in the storyline, the camera angles by Russell Metty, and for the most part casting. Ricardo Montalbon  would have been the correct choice to play Mike Vargas instead of Charlton Heston. TOUCH OF EVIL along with CITIZEN KANE are inducted in THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS NATIONAL FILM REGISTRY for preservation. Orson was also the recipient of THE AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE award for achievement in film making.

I didn’t mean to slam Orson Welles at all. I have a lot of respect for his efforts and I admire his work in films like Touch of Evil. He had genius for innovation and a strong vision for what he wanted - his work in radio and theatre were particularly groundbreaking. And he had a real presence as an actor.

Again, as far as Touch of Evil, he did not write an original story. It was based on a novel – Badge of Evil.

My point was that I don’t think he was god-like as far as being this genius director-write-producer who was always betrayed by the money men and studios, butchering his masterpieces. I’m guess it’s because I’m old enough to remember him in interviews, always harping on that… what might have been.

It’s funny a lot of the jobs he took as either an actor or director for hire (or both) are what he’s best remembered for now. Jobs he took to finance his own film projects, that overall never really panned out.

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No flack, but it's interesting to think about if and how external factors have an effect on the appreciation of a film, like in this case the supposed character traits of the director who made it.

 

I'm also curious why you think constraints are necessary for true genius. And what kind of constraints would that be?

Not that constraits are necessary for genius, but a true genius will just become more creative to deal with barriers. There are too many specifics on what roadblocks Hitchcock had thrown in his path. Off the top of my head, how about the shower scene in Psycho? It would never have gotten past the censors in colour, and no nudity could be shown. In working around those constrains, Hitchcock come up with a more terrifying scene because of what was implied, rather than being graphic.

 

As general examples, the constraints of censorship (Production Code) in the 40s; or lack of budgets as covered in the whole topic of B movies resulted in some pretty inovative efforts (Gun Crazy or Detour).

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The Big Clock

 

I wondered about The Big Clock, if it were really a film noir. For me, Ray Milland’s onscreen presence exudes warmth and joviality, which are not film noir–ish characteristics at all. When I compare him to, let’s say, Dan Duryea, I get two totally different vibes. Even in Ministry of Fear, Milland seemed to be enjoying himself and the mystery immensely. I think he’s a terrific actor, but he doesn’t “menace” me from the screen. He wasn’t supposed to “menace” in either movie, so he was really perfect for both roles in The Big Clock and Ministry of Fear.

 

Elsa Lanchester (as Louise Stroud) is very warm in The Big Clock, too. For example, she doesn’t reveal George Stroud’s identity. She’s very funny, too. For example, her shriek at the end of the movie upon seeing her third (or fourth, or fifth?) husband in the person of the “radio actor” (said with much disdain by Steve Hagan, Janoth’s henchman) was hilarious.

 

But before I was swept away by the humor and good cheer of both George Stroud and Louise Patterson, I did notice the camerawork, especially the opening sequence. After the credits finish rolling, the camera seems to track from the New York cityscape, with dawn breaking, right into the offices of Janoth’s publishing empire, with the workday beginning. This seemed like a new technique to me, probably made easier with new technology after World War II.

 

I really enjoyed The Big Clock, but, like you, I didn't fell like it was really noir.  To steal Foster Hirsch's term, I felt that it was more noir-stained than actual noir.  It had elements of it, but it was a bit too light-hearted for me to consider it true noir.  You are right in saying that George Stroud seemed to be having too much fun; he wasn't your typical tormented noir hero.  The film was definitely a comment on the corruption of big business, which seems to fit very well into the world of noir, but tonally, it just didn't seem in line with other films noir.

 

On a random note, did they ever explain why Louise Patterson was trying to buy her own painting?  I loved the humor Elsa Lanchester brought to the role, but I was unclear about that point.  I thought perhaps there was a line explaining it that I missed because I was focused on something else.

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I didn’t mean to slam Orson Welles at all. I have a lot of respect for his efforts and I admire his work in films like Touch of Evil. He had genius for innovation and a strong vision for what he wanted - his work in radio and theatre were particularly groundbreaking. And he had a real presence as an actor.

Again, as far as Touch of Evil, he did not write an original story. It was based on a novel – Badge of Evil.

My point was that I don’t think he was god-like as far as being this genius director-write-producer who was always betrayed by the money men and studios, butchering his masterpieces. I’m guess it’s because I’m old enough to remember him in interviews, always harping on that… what might have been.

It’s funny a lot of the jobs he took as either an actor or director for hire (or both) are what he’s best remembered for now. Jobs he took to finance his own film projects, that overall never really panned out.

My feelings were not hurt. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion. Unfortunately my thoughts sometimes get away from my script. You were correct in posting that TOUCH OF EVIL was a adapted screenplay based on a novel. I am glad that TOUCH OF EVIL was shown in May when Orson was the Friday Night Spotlight. He was not a perfect man. THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS was mangled, because Orson left to work on another project in South America. Orson did not edit TOUCH OF EVIL. Virgil Vogel and Aaron Stell were assigned. Edward Muhl, head of production at Universal, scheduled a screening.Orson was not present at the screening. He had taken off for Mexico, because the front office had praised the rushes.Unfortunately the screening did not go well.The front office found problems with the continuity making portions of the film hard to follow.Orson didnot think that the same thing would happen again. Orson made a mistake by not attending the screening. If he had made himself available,there was a chance that Orson could have explained what his completed film meant.If the studio wanted changes or cuts, Orson would be on site to do reshots or rewrite.The studio ignored Orson`s angry memo, and Universal released their revised version of TOUCH OF EVIL.Forty years later we were finally able to see the restored TOUCH OF EVIL. I am grateful to the dedicated filmmakers who worked on the restoration. In my opinion TOUCH OF EVIL is a truly great film noir of the late 1950`s. My son was a dedicated TV MOONLIGHTING fan. Orson Welles last appearance was the beginning narration of THE DREAM SEQUENCE ALWAYS RINGS TWICE. The episode was in black and white during the dream sequence made to honor 1940`s film noir.

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Not that constraits are necessary for genius, but a true genius will just become more creative to deal with barriers. There are too many specifics on what roadblocks Hitchcock had thrown in his path. Off the top of my head, how about the shower scene in Psycho? It would never have gotten past the censors in colour, and no nudity could be shown. In working around those constrains, Hitchcock come up with a more terrifying scene because of what was implied, rather than being graphic.

 

As general examples, the constraints of censorship (Production Code) in the 40s; or lack of budgets as covered in the whole topic of B movies resulted in some pretty inovative efforts (Gun Crazy or Detour).

But the constraints you mention were valid for Welles too. He had to deal with the production code as well, limited budgets, studios meddling, interfering and even cutting up his movies. 

 

I love the PSYCHO shower scene as much as anyone, but I can't relate this to Welles being 'graphic' in his films. By the way, I don't want to make this into a competition between Welles and Hitchcock, or any other director. 

 

As far as I'm concerned both were directors looking to perfect the art of movie making, pushing the envelope, and if not always succeeding, at least helped in taking film to the next level as an art form. 

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THE WINDOW

 

The great thing about a course and series like this is the unexpected hidden gems along the way. Sure I like watching and rewatching the MALTESE FALCONs, OUT OF THE PASTs, and LADY FROM SHANGHAIs, but it's a movie like THE WINDOW which makes it really worthwhile.

 

This is an exceptional movie in every way conceivable. It has a great, thrilling and truly suspenseful story. It has great acting performances, truly stunning and spectacular cinematography, and a wonderful score. But the true brilliance is the underlying psychological themes and how the film succeeds in addressing these. 

 

A murder is committed. There is an unseen witness. The witness is 10-year old Tommy. The killers are his neighbors in the apartment upstairs, just 'regular' people. The problem is nobody believes him. 

 

That irrational fear that most of us probably at one time had as a child - the fear of the darkness upstairs, something evil lurking there - has become reality. In Tommy's case 'the monsters in the dark in the attic' do exist.

 

And the biggest trauma of all. His parents don't believe him, and even worse, they scold and punish him for making things up. His father locks Tommy up in his room, nailing the windows shut to make sure Tommy can't leave the room. Due to circumstances Tommy is then left alone at home, in mortal fear for his upstairs killer neighbors.

 

It all leads to a truly nailbiting and chilling climax....

 

The beauty is this is a story about regular people in just a downtrodden neighborhood in the big city. It's obvious the parents have to work hard to make ends meet and try their best to lead a normal life and raise their boy in the best possible way. The use of real location shooting ads genuine authenticity to the story, making it even more relatable. 

 

In the end we don't know who was murdered, or why he was murdered, and it's not even clear if the killer is even captured or what. But that's not really the point. This is a film about a playful kid and youthful innocence facing the hardest and most traumatic confrontation possible: A dangerous world where anybody can be a murderer and you are completely on your own in having to deal with it.

 

Noir as noir can be.

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THE WINDOW

 

The great thing about a course and series like this is the unexpected hidden gems along the way. Sure I like watching and rewatching the MALTESE FALCONs, OUT OF THE PASTs, and LADY FROM SHANGHAIs, but it's a movie like THE WINDOW which makes it really worthwhile.

 

This is an exceptional movie in every way conceivable. It has a great, thrilling and truly suspenseful story. It has great acting performances, truly stunning and spectacular cinematography, and a wonderful score. But the true brilliance is the underlying psychological themes and how the film succeeds in addressing these. 

 

A murder is committed. There is an unseen witness. The witness is 10-year old Tommy. The killers are his neighbors in the apartment upstairs, just 'regular' people. The problem is nobody believes him. 

 

That irrational fear that most of us probably at one time had as a child - the fear of the darkness upstairs, something evil lurking there - has become reality. In Tommy's case 'the monsters in the dark in the attic' do exist.

 

And the biggest trauma of all. His parents don't believe him, and even worse, they scold and punish him for making things up. His father locks Tommy up in his room, nailing the windows shut to make sure Tommy can't leave the room. Due to circumstances Tommy is then left alone at home, in mortal fear for his upstairs killer neighbors.

 

It all leads to a truly nailbiting and chilling climax....

 

The beauty is this is a story about regular people in just a downtrodden neighborhood in the big city. It's obvious the parents have to work hard to make ends meet and try their best to lead a normal life and raise their boy in the best possible way. The use of real location shooting ads genuine authenticity to the story, making it even more relatable. 

 

In the end we don't know who was murdered, or why he was murdered, and it's not even clear if the killer is even captured or what. But that's not really the point. This is a film about a playful kid and youthful innocence facing the hardest and most traumatic confrontation possible: A dangerous world where anybody can be a murderer and you are completely on your own in having to deal with it.

 

Noir as noir can be.

This film was new to me too, and I'm equally enthusiastic. In a sense Tommy is punished for exercising his imagination. I think the parents' reaction to Tommy's stories fits in perfectly with noir themes brought out in other films such as the aptly titled They Won't Believe Me. This film amps up that sense of anxiety about the evil that lurks outside your window and the lack of help that the authority figures are supposed to provide. Good point that in the end we don't know anything about the reason for the murder or what happens to Mrs. Kellerson. If I have a criticism, it's that the final scene in the car between Tommy and his parents is a little trite and preachy. But given what has come before in the film, the parents' reassurance that everything will be OK doesn't convince me as readily as it seems to convince Tommy.

 

In addition to Bobby Driscoll's excellent performance (poor Bobby), Paul Stewart is wonderful as the creepy would-be child killer.

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JOHNNY BELINDA: Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil.

In a small town outsiders are guilty until proven innocent.

 

KEY LARGO: Yellow Badge Of Courage.

A WW2 vet and self-proclaimed coward shows how he became a hero and lived to tell about it.

 

THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI: Lawyers In Love.

A lawyer, his partner and his wife take great pains with no gains to drive a fool errant to the crazy house.

 

THE BRIBE: "Does anything mean anything."

Deals with some stolen noir surplus scraps.

 

SCENE OF THE CRIME: Training Day. 

Effective police recruitment procedural.

 

THEY LIVE BY NIGHT: Two Wrongs Make Two Left.

Two kids elope without her father's blessing. Cathy O'Donnell is captivating.

 

THE THREAT: Cry Uncle.

A wife goes to great lengths to win an argument with her husband.

 

WHITE HEAT: Mother And Child Reunion.

The colder Cody's mother gets, the more desperate he is for her approval.

 

THE BIG CLOCK: Tic o' Green 

A cog is framed by corporate machinations but the big clock stops because time wounds all heels.

 

THE WINDOW (aka The Boy Who Cried Murder): Home Alone.

A masterclass in suspenseful direction, cinematography and scoring.

 

SHADOW ON THE WALL: The Shadow Knows.

A child suppresses a trauma down to a shadow which is remembered when she sees the shadow again.

But who keeps a bottle of clearly marked poison in their medicine cabinet?

 

HIGH WALL: The Truth Serum Shall Set You Free.

Kenet is legally innocent but can't clear his conscience until he clears his name.

 

THE LONG GOODBYE: "It's okay with me."

Marlowe avenges his frenemy's wife presumably because Marlowe loved her.

 

MARLOWE: Loose Ended Yarn

Like a spit ball there's enough spin to get you to chase it and then makes you want to get another swing at it. Nice homage to Marlene Dietrich.

 

THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS: Don't Look Back In Ivers.

After causing two deaths, love leaves Ivers and then all she can love is power. Sam reminds her of this.

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This film was new to me too, and I'm equally enthusiastic. In a sense Tommy is punished for exercising his imagination. I think the parents' reaction to Tommy's stories fits in perfectly with noir themes brought out in other films such as the aptly titled They Won't Believe Me. This film amps up that sense of anxiety about the evil that lurks outside your window and the lack of help that the authority figures are supposed to provide. Good point that in the end we don't know anything about the reason for the murder or what happens to Mrs. Kellerson. If I have a criticism, it's that the final scene in the car between Tommy and his parents is a little trite and preachy. But given what has come before in the film, the parents' reassurance that everything will be OK doesn't convince me as readily as it seems to convince Tommy.

 

In addition to Bobby Driscoll's excellent performance (poor Bobby), Paul Stewart is wonderful as the creepy would-be child killer.

I agree with the ending being 'Hollywood' all's well that end's well, but at the same time it's kind of a bitter coda to your observation about the boy's imagination being cut off. If I'm not mistaken his final remark is something like: 'I promise I'll never make up stories again'. There's something sad in this...

 

The film really had an impact on me, so two additional observations. 

 

I absolutely loved the opening sequence, in which the audience is set up to believe something that isn't true. But also the opening credits in which Bobby Driscol is introduced 'by courtesey of Walt Disney' - the studio for which he worked. The mentioning of Disney, the king of imagination and fairytales, sort of adds to the thematic layers of the film.

 

And I've been thinking of the neighborhood and especially the house that the family lives in. The fantastic location shots make clear that this is a poor, rundown neighborhood. And it turns out his home - which should be the safest place for anyone - is in fact a condemned building. The parallels are obvious....

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The Window

 

I enjoyed this. A taut little movie, economical in length and script, stripping much of what's unnecessary from the film. But such terrific direction to keep the story and suspense going throughout. The cinematography was completely Noir: night shooting, skewed angles, hard shadows and bars. Superb really, a little gem. 

 

It has to be said too that there was a terrific acting job from Bobby Driscoll, which was made all the more poignant when you learn that the actor himself died later in life from drugs or exposure in a tenement just like this one. 

 

 

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"The Bribe", I believe I've seen it before...very good movie.

 

It reeked of MGM...Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner, Charles Laughton!

 

Charles Laughton was such a great character actor, I know a major one, but his character roles to me are the best.

 

Vincent Price, from the milquetoast in "Laura" to "ever the villain".  He's so good at it.

 

He was great though in "His Kind of Woman" with Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell.

 

This was a dark, skulking, eerie, film noir...I really liked it!

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I really enjoyed The Big Clock, but, like you, I didn't fell like it was really noir.  To steal Foster Hirsch's term, I felt that it was more noir-stained than actual noir.  It had elements of it, but it was a bit too light-hearted for me to consider it true noir.  You are right in saying that George Stroud seemed to be having too much fun; he wasn't your typical tormented noir hero.  The film was definitely a comment on the corruption of big business, which seems to fit very well into the world of noir, but tonally, it just didn't seem in line with other films noir.

 

On a random note, did they ever explain why Louise Patterson was trying to buy her own painting?  I loved the humor Elsa Lanchester brought to the role, but I was unclear about that point.  I thought perhaps there was a line explaining it that I missed because I was focused on something else.

I would have to see the movie again to look for the detail about Louise Patterson's reason for buying her own painting. I know that she was in the store at the beginning of the movie, being out-bid by George Stroud for her own painting. Did she recognize him because he had bought some of her other paintings? It seemed that she protects his identity when the Janoth employees are trying to identify the murderer. One of her paintings is hanging in his office, and I think it was Janoth who noticed it. Maybe she did, too, and decided it was worth protecting a valued customer! Elsa Lanchester was great in her role as Louise Patterson, and she is one of many good reasons to see the movie again.

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I would have to see the movie again to look for the detail about Louise Patterson's reason for buying her own painting. I know that she was in the store at the beginning of the movie, being out-bid by George Stroud for her own painting. Did she recognize him because he had bought some of her other paintings? It seemed that she protects his identity when the Janoth employees are trying to identify the murderer. One of her paintings is hanging in his office, and I think it was Janoth who noticed it. Maybe she did, too, and decided it was worth protecting a valued customer! Elsa Lanchester was great in her role as Louise Patterson, and she is one of many good reasons to see the movie again.

I believe there was a reference that Louise was not well off and was always looking for ways to capitalize on any opportunities as when she negotiated and extra $50 for her sketch and the return of the painting that George purchased in order to keep quiet. Her bidding against herself was her wanting to get more money for the painting. Which begs the question - was the antique collector in on it?

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The Window struck hard at the idea of crushing imagination, using the character of a child to exemplify the expectation of the adage "going along to get along" in the post war years. I found this a fascinating well-done noir, with the sets acting as character to build great tension. Plus, the early example of the latch key kid, many years before the term was coined.

 

The Bribe was a fun exploration of another tumultuous relationship, with the stars of their day in their roles a treat, in shadows and heat and the pain of sore feet.

 

The Clock seemed a stab at class, again, the story of a successful corporate man, who, by virtue of his wealth and prominence is not only literally, but also figuratively, above the law, as he resides in his "ivory tower" designing to manipulate others, to do his bidding. I thought in this movie the clock, itself, acted as the femme fatale; time, the thing we cannot get enough of, or have too much of...the battle of 9-5, and the measuring of our worth based on it, a mistress/mister we can never manage or make happy.

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 At the end of They By Night, the scene in the night club when the female singer was singing to 

Keechie and Bowie she became like a number of a Greek chorus signaling the doom awaiting Bowie.
 

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Johnny Belinda: The most "Noir" sequence in the film, to me, is the one in the barn...she's just there alone on the farm and this drunken man come in...preys on her innocence. An ominous tone is set the moment that man comes in, and the shadows deepen, and then you see only her face, and this look of absolute terror as the shadows swallow the scene completely and it fades to black. It's such a powerful sequence. 

 

Key Largo: You get a nod to the documentary style realism of films like "Border Incident" with the little title card thing at the beginning of the film. I've seen this one several times but what always struck me was that the storm itself seems to become a character in the film. Not just something that happens...but, rather, something that takes on this mythical power. The most dangerous person in the entire film is terrified of the storm...and of the power that it has over him. That says something. It seems remarkable to set a Noir picture in a sunny bright place but the use of the hurricane allows for something bright to take on a dark & dangerous tone. 

 

The Lady from Shanghai: The initial meeting between michael and elsa I thought I noticed something...I could be completely wrong but that first shot there elsa seemed to be in sharp focus while michael was sort of hazy and soft in the frame. I don't know if I imagined it after having seen this a few times and knowing what happened or if that's actually the way it was shot. 

 

The Bribe: I've never seen this before but the cast was fantastic! The narration bothered me though...it was second person...as if the guy was schizophrenic. He kept saying things like "You've gotta remember this" talking about himself and it got really annoying. The final shoot-out with Carwood has this sort of surrealist manic quality. You can't really follow it but I think you aren't supposed to. I really think manic is the right word for it. 

 

Scene of the Crime: The thing that was most memorable in this film was that the opening credits featured a forensic investigation...think vintage CSI montage. It was pretty cool actually

 

They Lived by Night: the visual look of the piece was a sort of gritty realism. This one is very fatalistic...the ending is given away really early on when the "hero" is told that he shouldn't associate with these crooks because it will end badly...but true to the noir form, he knows better and does it anyway leading to his inevitable death. From that point on, no matter how much you want it to be otherwise he is going to die...from the first 10 minutes you know he is going to die...it's as simple as that. 

 

The Threat: this film had the same idea as the one right before as a plot device...escaped prisoners intent upon returning to a life of crime. This one has a strong motivating factor of VENGEANCE. I never understood throughout the entire film why Kluger didn't just kill those people instead of holding them hostage...it seemed an unnecessary risk when his intent all along was to murder them.

 

White Heat: A couple pivotal scenes really hit me on this one...The one where Cody is at the lunch table in jail and he hears his mom is dead, that sort of crying noise he makes is one of the most frightening sounds I've ever heard...and he's smashing down on the plate at the same time...it's a cross between desolation and rage in a way where neither appears to be given the full strength. But the blend between them is horrifying. Then Cody's final sequence...when he is shot and the background music vanishes, so all you hear is the gunshots and that joker-from-batman laughter...it's chilling. Cagney's work in this film is the stuff of nightmares in those two sequences...absolutely terrifying...but it really shows what a fantastic actor he was...that more than 50 years later his performance still has the power to frighten. 

 

The Big Clock: Opens with stream of consciousness narrative style. It slides right into a flashback. And can I just say charles laughton with facial hair is just horrible...I can see why he didn't normally wear it...it looked really bad. The clock is a fascinating set piece both inside and out...it wasn't used as much as I expected it to be though

 

The Window: this one is interesting...in that it doesn't start off interesting...it wasn't until after the murder that it even caught my attention but by the time the killers decide to get rid of the little boy I found I couldn't really look away. 

 

Shadow on the wall: again the thing that caught me on this one is that a person would decide to try and murder a little girl...the same plot device that "the window" used but to a more extreme direction...the aunt tries several time and once nearly succeeds..she's not pulling any punches or really even having any regret. The opening on this one is creepy too...you get this sugary-sweet sitcom music...that is interrupted by a sudden intense strain...then they both blend together in this odd, disconcerting mixture that puts you on edge. 

 

High Wall: I love the use of "narco-synthesis" in this film.It relies on "flashbacks" to pull the truth out into the light. Like "Shadows on the wall" it also uses recovered memories as a plot device. it reminded me a little of two of my favorite screwballs "I love you again" and "love crazy" both william Powell/Myrna loy films. 

 

The Long Goodbye: "Neo-Noir" Based on one of Raymond Chandler's Marlowe books. It's not done as a period piece and I think it looses something bringing it into "modern" times (modern as in 1970s when the film was made)  One element of Noir displayed in this film were the intense shadows when marlowe is talking to the bartender. There are some 'nods' to classic films in this which were very appreciated as well. The dog that runs out in front of Marlowe's car, he yells out the window, and he calls the stray dog the same name as the dog from the thin man movies. There is a cool vintage car in front of the mental hospital place when marlowe goes in. And one of the goons belonging to Augustin mentioned George Raft. 

 

Marlowe: This is in the same vein as "the long goodbye" it is very much a product of the time period when the film was made (1960s) which includes in intensely campy opening...which really doesn't seem to go with the rest of the film which does take a more traditional chandler vibe. There was a very cool clip of Greta Garbo in one sequence. This one did a good job of capturing the quick, sharp dialogue of Chandler though. Two small examples: "That's your exist line Marlowe, follow it out."  & "Tell him you've met the last of a dying dynasty, king of the fools" I think both this one and the long goodbye do a good job at portraying Marlowe as being more honorable than the world intends him to be. "incorruptible" is perhaps too strong but it does fit..he plays by his own rules but always with the end game being doing the right thing regardless of the consequences. 

 

The Strange Loves of Martha Ivers: Incredible cast on this one and I'm a huge stanwyck fan so I couldn't have loved this more. The dialogue on this one was insanely great...I recorded several wonderful lines in my notes: "Your father was a nothing, a mill hand. The best thing he ever did for you was to die" (here we are seeing the moral character of the aunt...and when she beats the kitten it is the ultimate expression of her dark soul. They say that the way people treat animals reflects on their character, so if that is accurate this truly shoes her to be of reprehensible character. When she ends up at the bottom to the staircase there is no missing her) "You mustn't think I'm drunk. I'm not. It's just that I'm sick-inside of me-I'm sick." (Walter right before he falls down the stairs...here you get a full reflection of his heart. He IS sick...but it's not an illness, more of a broken concious..something that his father withered away till he has to drink to fill the hole. He drinks because he's in love with martha and she doesn't love him but he also drinks because inside he IS broken..) "I thought you loved me" (Martha has this devil-whispering-in-his-ear moment with Sam at the top of the stairs right after walter fell where she is trying to manipulate his 'love' for her into homicide. She urges him on the same way Lana Turner did in 'The Postman Always Rings Twice'...but to a stronger degree...she personifies evil in this little scene here. So when he doesn't allow her urging to push him to work against his conscious she tells him in this line that he would've done it if he really loved her. "I feel sorry for you-both of you" (In this sequence Sam is showing them how toxic their relationship really in...but in a way that's non aggressive. he seems intense on distancing himself. In spite of the three of them having a similar childhood...he's the only one that was able to escape from that town...and in so doing, was able to LIVE in a way Walter and Martha never could. They were trapped, first by walter's father and then by their own mutual guilt and self destructive tendencies. When Sam makes what seems like a narrow escape from what quickly becomes  a murder suicide, it becomes clear that he isn't part of that world and that maybe he never was)

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