Dr. Rich Edwards

JULY 10 TCM FILM DISCUSSION FOR #NOIRSUMMER FOR ALL 15 FILMS

91 posts in this topic

Caged

Just finished watching this film. A few minutes into the film, I said to myself, this is the old version of Orange is the New Black, that Netflix TV series. The film had a message, the good warden at a women's prison working to make things better and up against bad politicians that don't want changes. Lots of film noir elements.

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They Live by Night

 

I didn't like this one. Too much melodrama, not enough Noir. 

 

Was this a film marketed as one for the ladies. I wondered? There was far too much lovey-dovey stuff and Farley Granger takes his shirt off not once, but twice! Yeah, there's a bit of tough-guy stuff, some treachery and impending doom, but I found the film dragged horribly in places...Gun Crazy it ain't! 

 

Three things I did notice that I found interesting:

  • The director's use of a helicopter for some aerial shots: apparently the first time one was used to track action shots.
  • Was there a subtle capitalist nod to the virtues of accumulating money in the movie? Keechie (Cathy O'Donnell) is a tom-boy, car fixing, uneducated hillbilly girl but in a matter of days turns into a stylish and glamorous lady virtually unrecognizable from her prior self. All it took was cold hard cash, which in this film seems to be something that buys you almost anything.
  • The pregnant Keechie has a tumble and is shaken and the first thing she does - it's obviously a 40s thing - is to ask for cigarettes! 
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I'm a bit behind on my Noir hw lol the last couple weeks got a little crazy lolol but anyway 

 

Follow Me Quietly: okay so that one scene where the detective dude is going to have a conversation with the dummy...the rain is so important there...the way the filmmakers brought the sound of it into the frame like that...it seemed like a character which was really cool...but when we find out it wasn't the dummy at all, it was the actual killer...that was like crazy awesome, they kept it in shadow the entire time so the audience didn't know until after the detectives had left, but it was so well done. I really liked this one. 

A Woman's Secret: The entire thing is mostly flashbacks...but it's different people's recollections instead of one long continuous narrative...more in the style of citizen kane in the storytelling device. 

Side Street: The intro here had a very realist/documentary flavor...but the most memorable part from a perspective of cinematography had to be the car chase. There is this big city laid out like a little kid's racecar game from the perspective of the camera...and all the streets are completely empty, the overall effect is fantastic. 

Black Hand: Seeing Gene Kelly in a serious role is fantastic enough...add that to a very compelling and complex story and it makes for  great film. I especially loved the use of light in the streets of italy when the old cop is murdered. It isn't that there are these broad sweeping shadows exactly but they always seemed to be just at the edge of the frame...sometimes closer but the feeling I got was that the shadows themselves were surrounding the cop and that it was going to be them and not the goons that got him. 

Armored Car Robbery: The man guy in this one is so cold...it was chilling. and the first half of the film takes place out in the bright sunlight...there isn't a hint of anything sinister lighting wise until they get back to the hideout. It's like the film itself takes on a darker direction from that point forward, as if the change in lighting is its own form of foreshadowing. And death by airplane blades...all I could think of was indiana jones lololol

Caged: I don't know if I said this when we watched the intro bit from the daily doses but it bares repeating...this film was clearly only meant to be seen in theaters. That part with the tiny window begs for a dark room and a huge screen. I felt like it would've been insanely memorable to see that way. There is a real change in Marie after the kitten died...I don't know if that was just something I saw or what...but to me the kitten WAS marie...and when it died...a part of her did too. She'd already lost everything that mattered to her so it was like the last straw, she sort of snapped. That last line from the warden lady "Keep it active-she'll be back" was really telling...it's something the audience can't help but think before then but having it put into words like that was a little frightening. How being in jail made this girl a criminal, she wasn't one before...seeing her change was I guess the point of the film. It was mentioned when we were talking about the studio system that this particular studio was trying to send a message...it's clear that this is what they were doing here. The system was the culprit, not marie. 

D.O.A: This one was an original idea I thought. from the get go "Who was Murdered?" "I was" how often does that bit of dialogue get to be spoken? Frank isn't the world's greatest anything, we are permitted to see character flaws that make him a real person so it matters when he dies...not so much that we get super upset by it or anything because, let's face it, he's been dying the entire time so it's not really a shock...but we also don't get the "he had it coming" reaction either...which is a big reason the story works. I think if he didn't feel human, flawed but basically good then it wouldn't have worked. 

Destination Murder: There is something perfect about stretch's final moment, when he fell against the player piano and it sang out once more, this time for him...it seemed like karma. 

The Tattooed Stranger: The unraveling of the mystery here is shockingly complex...and it was a nice touch for the murder to be following the police...I kinda felt that it was ruined when we actually see the guy and he gets his shoot out...it was so much cooler to see him just as a sinister figure watching them. 

Red Light: My notes on this one kinda struck me as funny..I dunno why I wrote it like this but it says that the bible is a red herring and god is the instrument of justice. 

Kiss Me Deadly: I kinda hated the reverse scroll...but everything else was great lol The vintage answering machine was way cool...I don't think I've ever seen anything like that. One thing bothered me though, apparently we are supposed to see Mike Hammer as an unsympathetic cruel person but I didn't really...he was a good guy I felt...maybe not as noble as marlowe maybe but not a bad guy all things considered. A scene that really hit me was when gabrielle opened that box...all I could think of was melting nazi face from raiders of the lost ark. 

On Dangerous Ground: They said the ending on this one was tacked on...but the sad thing is that was my favorite part of the entire thing. Not because I believed the cop was a bad guy who needed to be saved from the sinful city or any of that rubbish but because the girl is going to need someone now that her brother is gone. Maybe it didn't hit me hard because cops like that are a dime a dozen in modern films...this may have been one of the first times it was done on screen but it felt very current and natural to me. 

The Hitch-Hiker: this one made me think back to what I said about detour. How it was hard for modern people to understand a society where hitch-hiking was culturally acceptable and not dangerous...I kinda felt vindicated by this one...like I could sit there and go "SEE I TOLD YOU IT WAS DANGEROUS" lol this one played against what we think of hitch-hiking today...which may have made it extremely terrifying at the time it was released. The fact that we don't see myers' face until after he takes those two men hostage is telling...like they  couldn't get a warning until it was too late. What makes it more chilling though is that it was loosely based on the life of a real life killer named Billy Cook (one of the things I love about TCM are those little tidbits that make the film so much more appreciated, this certainly was)

The Blue Dahlia: This one was, according to the intro credits, written by Raymond Chandler. I've read several of his works so I took the movie from that perspective...and you can see his quick biting dialogue for sure, which is great. I've heard that there is a connection between the film and the black Dahlia murder...but it's a superficial one...from what I understand this film was being released around the same time that the body was found and some enterprising reporters put two and two together and that's where the name the black dahlia came from. I don't know if it's true or not...but that's what I heard anyway lol. 

Raw Deal: To me Anne became Joe's Jiminy Cricket, she allowed him to see who he was and who he wanted to be, and it wasn't just because he loved her I think, I think she reminded him of a time in his life when he was more than what he was now. 

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The Tattooed Stranger

 

An RKO movie but very different to their usual fare. For a start it's shot almost entirely on location and also in bright sunlight: it's almost anti-noir in that respect. Also, we never ever get to meet the femme fatale (she subsists on marrying and insuring men who are not likely to live that long!) as she's already dead at the start of the film. There are no flashbacks and no voice-overs either. 

 

What we do get is a terrific look at real New York and a police procedural in a highly Realist film: we could have been watching a prototype of a CSI episode for all the documentary style scenes we had. As far as Noir goes I felt it qualifies because it's subject of feminine greed, tattoos and that whole underclass must have seemed quite taboo at the time: Corrigan, one of the cops, even goes as far as saying "you should be ashamed of yourself" to the patron of a tattoo parlor. 

 

I enjoyed it. One question it threw up though is why it was the last film of the lead, John Miles? He lived until 2006 and I cannot find out why his career ended so abruptly in 1950.

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Destination Murder

 

"...and a killer has only one destination. Murder!"

 

Pretty obviously a B-movie! In terms of a visual style I saw no Noir - the lighting was pretty flat and even throughout - so I suppose this film is included more for it's Noir themes than anything else. It had a convoluted plot, a femme fatale, lies, deception and murder and no-one really came out it happy (mainly dead!).

 

I liked the opening seeing the movie within a movie (Corregidor, 1943) that I guess was being screened when this was shot. Also, the scene of the police bugging an office seemed somewhat surprising, I wouldn't have thought that they commonly had that capacity back then! 

 

One thing didn't work for me is that I can't see why the classy Laura would get involved with a two-bit hood like Jackie (also, she was far too old for him!) - but I guess she had to to drive the plot forward. 

 

Music links many of the scenes: The criminals like to kill and beat people to Tchaikowski on the Player Piano and it was a nicely closed loop when Stretch is killed at the end and triggers that same tune. I also very much liked the musical performances of Steve Gibson and the Redcaps in the club. 

 

Anyway, in the end it was an entertaining enough film, I enjoyed it more than I'm sure I expected to! 

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On Dangerous Ground

 

An odd movie this. I felt in all honestly it was two stories linked by Robert Ryan's character and the big downside was that there was no other link between the two at all, which made for an uneven and mildly unsatisfying whole. 

 

The first half concerned Ryan in the city, a cop in a spiral of depression (existential angst?) and brutally taking out his problems - whatever they were - on a succession of hoods, all while searching for a cop killer. Eventually his violence gets too much (even for the LA cops of the day!) and he's sent out into the sticks to help catch a murderer. But that's the end of his city tale and the rest of the film takes place in a snowy rural area, about as far away as possible from the dark urban city he just left. 

 

It's here, in the snowy countryside, where Ryan finds redemption eventually in the arms of Ida Lupino...it's almost as if the director (Nicholas Ray) decided to start off with dark Noir, and take the hero through into the light of the anti-Noir future. 

 

It was odd, but I still liked it in parts. The music, and the way it worked with the movie was terrific, it elevated some of the scenes immensely. 

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Armored Car Robbery

 

I had to see this because of Steve Brodie. He is very believable as the loving husband in Desperate and here as one of the heist gang in Armored Car Robbery. He’s always good at taking a beating: He did it in Desperate at the hands of Walt Radak, and he does it here at the hands of Dave Purvis.

 

For such a short movie, Armored Car Robbery really packs in a good story. It was a combination heist and police procedural, almost like it turned out to be a transition point in film noir. The soundtrack often includes police radio chatter when the police are on the scene or if the scene or sequence is in police headquarters: very effective at creating realism. Another touch of realism came when Benny is shot: His eyes are wide open, as if he’s surprised a guy like Dave Purvis would kill him.

 

Yvonne LeDoux didn’t have much to do, but when she was on screen, there was no doubt about her role as the femme fatale. She’s two-timing Benny, wants to spend the money that Dave Purvis steals from the armored car, and holds her own when Ryan poses as Mapes and wants information on Purvis. She outwits Ryan and leads him directly to Purvis, who takes Ryan at gunpoint. She does have a soft spot: She stops Purvis from shooting Ryan a second time.

 

The only one in the movie who can match Yvonne for having a soft spot is Cordell. He finally concedes that his new partner Ryan knows what he’s doing when he’s shot and still gives up information on LeDoux and Purvis. Doesn’t get more hard-boiled than that.

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Red Light

 

A bit of an odd one this: the movie is about as Noir as you can get throughout (complete with Raymond Burr as the glowering bad-guy!), but as the film progresses there's this odd religious thing going on, complete with mysterious sound effects, actors looking off into a vague middle-distance all the while with a mystical wind ruffling them, and wait...is that "Ave Maria" in the background? Even the McGuffin of the film is a Gideon Bible!! 

 

I liked the film overall, but...oh dear...George Raft. I simply fail to see how or why he was such a big deal back in the day. Every single time I see him he has that same sculpted-marble expression on his face, no matter what is supposed to have happened in his life. The way the upper half of his face doesn't seem to ever move, it's like he's a very early proponent of Botox in a time when they weren't really sure of the correct dosage!! 

 

He was terrible, imho, but Raymond Burr was - as usual - terrific as the bad guy, though he seemed to be a little bit too much of a heavy (pardon the pun) to be a convincing embezzling book-keeper. If anyone has been my highlight "find" in this course it's been him. I think, like most people, I only knew him as Perry Mason and Ironside so to see him as the big bad in so many Noir movies has been a revelation. 

 

Oh, and finally, I almost squealed when I saw Fred Mertz (William Frawley) as a seedy hotel manager, I have to say he seemed quite at home! 

 

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A Woman's Secret

 

Or, much ado about nothing! 

 

What a dreadful movie. The only mysteries here for me were:

 

1. How did I remain awake?

2. Who gave the green light on the whole mess in the first place? Wikipedia states that Howard Hughes held up the release "for no apparent reason". I disagree. I think the very apparent reason is that he had actually watched the thing!

3. Why is it on a list of Noirs? 

 

The only good thing about it was...no...there was nothing. I can only think someone carried out a heist on this whole course and smuggled this movie into the line-up. 

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A Woman's Secret

 

Or, much ado about nothing! 

 

What a dreadful movie. The only mysteries here for me were:

 

1. How did I remain awake?

2. Who gave the green light on the whole mess in the first place? Wikipedia states that Howard Hughes held up the release "for no apparent reason". I disagree. I think the very apparent reason is that he had actually watched the thing!

3. Why is it on a list of Noirs? 

 

The only good thing about it was...no...there was nothing. I can only think someone carried out a heist on this whole course and smuggled this movie into the line-up. 

 

I haven't seen A Woman's Secret but I got a good chuckle out of reading your post. Maybe I have to see it now!

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A Woman's Secret

 

Or, much ado about nothing! 

 

What a dreadful movie. The only mysteries here for me were:

 

1. How did I remain awake?

2. Who gave the green light on the whole mess in the first place? Wikipedia states that Howard Hughes held up the release "for no apparent reason". I disagree. I think the very apparent reason is that he had actually watched the thing!

3. Why is it on a list of Noirs? 

 

The only good thing about it was...no...there was nothing. I can only think someone carried out a heist on this whole course and smuggled this movie into the line-up. 

 

So you found another RKO 'noir' that was a dud.    Even that studio during its noir peak period could fail.   While the film has an interesting cast of actors that specialized in various genres (e.g. O'Hara in drama and adventure films,  Douglas mostly in light comedy,  Grahame a noir icon),  and a noir director in Nicolas Ray, the film falls flat.   

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So you found another RKO 'noir' that was a dud.    Even that studio during its noir peak period could fail.   While the film has an interesting cast of actors that specialized in various genres (e.g. O'Hara in drama and adventure films,  Douglas mostly in light comedy,  Grahame a noir icon),  and a noir director in Nicolas Ray, the film falls flat.   

I do find I prefer the RKO Noir output but, yes, this one was a real dud! It seemed to me they couldn't work out whether to make a drama, a musical or a comedy and ended up with none of them. 

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Kiss Me Deadly

 

It's amazing how quickly how society in the 50s changed: this film, made in 1955 is just so different in style and attitude to the Noirs of the late 40s and even the beginning of the 50s. Where did all the hats go? Gone too is the glamour of the female of the species, along with the nobility and decency of, well, pretty well everyone: everyone just seems to want more and everyone has a price. I have to say I don't like it as much. 

 

Mind you, there is a happy ending (I suppose), but I think - like many people - that the truncated ending with the ambiguity over whether Hammer and Velda survive would have been better. 

 

The scene at the end with the femme fatale meeting her doom is so similar to that of Raiders of the Lost Ark that I have to think that it was in some way deliberate by Speilberg in the latter film: it's as if he's using the image as a comment on the dangers of tampering with the unknown, certainly this film in 1955 shows a lot of the bad science of films of the day where radiation was seen almost like magic.

 

Wait, is that a giant mutant crab I see coming from the ashes of the beach-house?

 

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Side Street

 

I almost didn't watch this one: I'm not a fan of Farley Granger or Cathy O'Donnell (especially) but I'm actually quite glad I did as it turned out to be a fairly enjoyable B-movie. If I'd known too that Jean Hagen and Charles McGraw were in it I would've watched it far sooner, it's just a shame they had such small parts!

 

The film included some wonderful visuals of New York during the big car chase at the end of the movie: notably the bar-like shadows cast between the canyons of the downtown skyscrapers. It was actually fascinating to see the city in the 1950s like that, I've always been interested in the history and changing vistas of cities. 

 

I noticed too that the film climaxed outside the Stock Exchange, which was a neat bit of symmetry, closing the loop opened at the start of the film with a Wall Street broker taking money out of a bank. 

 

 

 

 

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Caged

 

I have to say that I enjoyed this more than the testosterone-fuelled man-movie "Brute Force". It was more nuanced in it's portrayal, more balanced. To me it was more Noir too - we follow the lead from a scared, new-fish, innocent girl, through a huge change to the hardened and cynical woman who leaves the prison a scant 15 months later: in true Noir style she pays for her mistake in the past, not with death but with an obvious descent from good to bad, and the prospect of ending up like the old lifer who tried to turn her away from her path into crime. 

 

Eleanor Parker was excellent too in portraying this change. You physically see her getting stronger and more hard-boiled as the film progresses, her voice altering to match that change. 

 

My favorite part: the very end. Almost wordless, she exits the prison - and movie - to her life of vice: sleazy music breaks in and she flicks away her cigarette in a tough-guy manner before climbing into a car with 4 strange men and off to her new life. Excellent film. 

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Caged

 

I have to say that I enjoyed this more than the testosterone-fuelled man-movie "Brute Force". It was more nuanced in it's portrayal, more balanced. To me it was more Noir too - we follow the lead from a scared, new-fish, innocent girl, through a huge change to the hardened and cynical woman who leaves the prison a scant 15 months later: in true Noir style she pays for her mistake in the past, not with death but with an obvious descent from good to bad, and the prospect of ending up like the old lifer who tried to turn her away from her path into crime. 

 

Eleanor Parker was excellent too in portraying this change. You physically see her getting stronger and more hard-boiled as the film progresses, her voice altering to match that change. 

 

My favorite part: the very end. Almost wordless, she exits the prison - and movie - to her life of vice: sleazy movie breaks in and she flicks away her cigarette in a tough-guy manner before climbing into a car with 4 strange men and off to her new life. Excellent film. 

 

Yes,  Caged is an excellent film.   Eleanor Parker does some fine acting and her transformation is a classic noir theme. 

 

Parker is a beauty but that doesn't get in the way in this gritty film. 

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