Dr. Rich Edwards

Daily Dose of Darkness #30: Into the Darkness (Scene from Desperate)

126 posts in this topic

Post #2 - I am very pleased to see all the comments on Raymond Burr.  I was going to say something but everyone picked up on him.  I literally "grew up" with him - when I was little, "Perry Mason" was my bedtime, so I'd sneak a peek (my mother watched it) and then go to bed where I could still hear it, and listen to the program.  I've watched it in syndication ever since, and do today.  I mentioned before about seeing all the Forties character actors on the original show and what a hoot that is.  I had the reverse reaction, though:  he was always a good buy then discovered he was always the BAD guy in the noir movies.  The two things I will probably always remember with fondness from my childhood are Raymond Burr/Perry Mason and Bob's Big Boy hamburgers (with fries and a chocolate shake). 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I write down my initial observations when I watch each Daily Dose.  The first word I wrote down when I watched this opening scene from Desperate was, "Wow."  I thought I was the one getting punched in the face.  Raymond Burr is positively terrifying, from the moment he calls the police to the end of the scene.  The swinging lamp truly does make the violence in the scene more intense.  Professor Edwards hit the nail on the head with his comment on this Daily Dose: "Diskant pulls out all the stops on how to use Expressionist lighting techniques to accentuate the violence and terror being wrought upon Steve."  I agree, and without having seen this entire movie yet I can tell it's a prime example of film noir.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Desperate (1947) That swinging overhead light and the shadows it casts are fantastic! It added such a sinister depth to the scene. You are sucked in and the shadows moving across their faces as the lamps swings around just made this scene so eery and beautiful too. The camera loved this affect of the lamp. It just played up the scene to perfection. AND I loved seeing Raymond Burr as a bad guy, genius! #NoirSummer

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

       Describe how this scene uses cinematography to accentuate the brutal beating of Steve Randall (Steve Brodie).

 

To me, I believe that how this scene uses cinematography (the contrast between light and darkness along with the camera angles) adds another layer of intensity to the scene.

 

Even how the overhead lighting swings back and forth over the crime boss’ head adds another layer to the savage beating that we (the audience) witness in the scene.

 

      How do Mann and Diskant utilize different points of view to heighten the tension in this scene?

I think Mann and Diskant utilize different points of view in this scene to get the emotions for the characters across and to also increase the intensity of the scene.

 

To me, I believe how they chose to manipulate the points of view made the scene more dramatic.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Post #2 - I am very pleased to see all the comments on Raymond Burr.  I was going to say something but everyone picked up on him.  I literally "grew up" with him - when I was little, "Perry Mason" was my bedtime, so I'd sneak a peek (my mother watched it) and then go to bed where I could still hear it, and listen to the program.  I've watched it in syndication ever since, and do today.  I mentioned before about seeing all the Forties character actors on the original show and what a hoot that is.  I had the reverse reaction, though:  he was always a good buy then discovered he was always the BAD guy in the noir movies.  The two things I will probably always remember with fondness from my childhood are Raymond Burr/Perry Mason and Bob's Big Boy hamburgers (with fries and a chocolate shake). 

I love your comments!!  I will always remember Raymond Burr/Perry Mason and Bob's Big Boy burgers!!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, I have seen Laird Cregar as Satan in "Heaven Can Wait," and he, indeed, was very dapper.  It is such a shame that he died so young--only 31 years of age, I believe.  I am anxious to see him in the movie "I Wake Up Screaming!".  I've read it is one of his best performances.  I just ordered it from Amazon.  Have you seen it?

I've only seen Laird Cregar in Hangover Square and thought he was wonderful in that film!  I had no idea that he was only 31 when he died.  What a loss!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The extreme close-ups of the fist and broken bottle accentuated the brutality. In a way, I felt as if I were in the character's place. I could only imagine how this looked on the big screen. Having the beating occur off screen also heightens the brutality. It's as if the beating is too brutal to show on screen. I keep thinking about the ear splitting scene in Reservoir Dogs. It occurs off screen, but you know what's happening and you can't help but feel the guy's pain. Knowing what's going on, yet not seeing it makes it more painful. Because the focus during the beating shifts to the two men watching, it shows just how brutal they are in that there is no empathy or remorse for their actions; they are truly psychopaths.

 

As for the tension, there is this sense of feeling low or less than a human. The camera is angled upward toward these thugs giving a sense of powerlessness of the victim. Ultimately, he relents and gives in to their demands. We are also victims by proxy. I noticed that the victim was filmed at eye level while the thugs were filmed at an angle. So in away, they are showing us, the viewer, just how powerful they are.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Holy Toledo what a scene. The swinging light is like a police strobe, or an anti-aircraft Kleig light alternatively revealing and concealing the damned devil himself. I was struck by this scene when I saw this move once ages ago and now I want to go dig it out of my collection to see the movie in its entirety. 

Noirs got grittier and dirtier and more nihilistic as time went on...from the grace of "The Maltese Falcon" the the nasty all-hope-abandoned "Brute Force". This course has really helped me to come to a much fuller and deeper understanding of the Noir Style-Movement.

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow - the swaying light-bulb during Steve’s beating reminds me of a swinging noose, or the movement of the pendulum in Vincent Price’s horror classic.  This one repetitive movement, broken by patches of light upon their faces, serves to increase our discomfort as the thugs watch dispassionately.  


 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1.) The swinging lamp containing a solitary light bulb lends tremendous atmosphere to this scene.  First we see the gansgters in shadow then the light swings and we see them with a key light.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1.)  The swinging light also obscures the violent beating of the scene. We don't really see the gangsters hitting Steve, just the reactions on their faces.

 

2.) Mann and Diskant's changing points of view draw the viewer close into the action of the scene. First we see Steve's beaten face from the gangter's point of view (lead gangster played by Raymond Burr, I believe).  When Burr breaks the bottle and threatens Steve with disfiguring his wife unless he confesses to the cops,  we see the broken bottle up close with the sharp glass practically touching the camera lenses.  This puts us right into the scene; the viewer can almost sense those sharpened edges on the bottle.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In the closeups of Raymond Burr, the light and shadows switch back and forth even before the ceiling light starts swinging.  When he's dialing the phone, he has his hand up so that his face is in shadow.  When he's talking into the phone, his face is well-lit.  The closeups of Burr make his demeanor even more threatening to us.  The first punch of his fist doesn't just hit Steve, it also swings right at our faces.  The broken bottle isn't just directed at Steve, it's directed right at us.  We want to cheer Steve on for holding out and not taking the fall.  But when Burr threatens Steve's wife, directly at the camera, with the zoom in on the bottle's broken edges pointing straight at us - it's suddenly more personal, and we hope that Steve will continue to hold out, to save his wife.


  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The lighting is brilliant!  It gives us the brutality of the beating without really showing much actual violence.  The deep black shadows punctuated by the sound of the blows landing, as well as the swinging light give a tension-filled randomness to the act. 

 

The cross cutting and lighting not only show us the characters in their pecking order and different perspectives, but lends tension to the scene by cutting the film to produce speed and driving rhythmn.  The appearing and disappearing shots of the beaters and their bosses, reveal a callous acceptance of their lifestyle and complete unconcern with this means to their desired ends.  True film noir stalwarts.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You only really see one great punch by Raymond Burr, and it had to have been real. The close up on the fist at the end of the action is classic. Nothing could be more telling as to how brutal this film is going to get. 

 

In every heist there is this back-room, box-like dump of a place with all kinds of discarded items where big plans are made, and the squeeze is put on guys that don't wanna play. With every sway of the lamp is another punch to our victim. You don't have to see the violence to make it clear. The chaos and soul-darkened violence is accentuate by only seeing the brutality in silhouette while we catch Burr and his right-hand man in and out of shadows. 

 

The cinematographer uses an array of low angle and close up shots, interspersed with a couple of cuts to the silhouettes of the beating. This displays the power of the criminal position and the intimidation that the victim is feeling. The darkness, both physical and psychological is overpowering, and any attempt to leave is only in vain, and our victim borders on being one more of the discarded expendable items in this room.  However, there is tension and fear in the hearts of the criminals here too. The low angle close-up of Burr's assistant looking at him is part of a progression. First we see them in apart from each other, as the beating continues, the assistant steps closer. A worried look his face, it concludes with him trying to read Burr's character. Is he bothered by the beating? Doesn't he feel how wrong this all is? Perhaps this alludes to dissention in the ranks.  

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I can't think of anything more frightening than a fist in the face from Raymond Burr, and then this film does exactly that; it gets more terrifying. The punch turns into threats, then a gang up, a broken glass in the face, to threats of the family. The altering points of view add drama in that we are the ones facing that broken bottle. It is pointed directly at us. While Steve took the brutal beating, we are next. We become him.

 

The light in the room is beautifully off center at first, creating drama and interest. It catches our eye enough to know that it is meaningful. It levels up in importance when it is knocked in the shuffle and swings back and forth, creating dark shadowy profiles as well as brightly lit faces of the corrupt individuals. The fighting is powerfully told through sound alone, as we do not see the beating because it is off camera. This is missing in many of today's films as directors often feel they have to show us every little thing. Through the way the fight is shot, we are creatively allowed to imagine the brutality in our minds as we listen to the harsh sounds. Possibly a nod to radio dramas of the time. Either way, we are completely terrified, demoralized and brutalized.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There are a lot of shots in this scene that give us the point of view of Steve Randall, or rather not quite his point of view, but as someone who is sitting next to him. We're still spectating, but it gives an even greater feel that we are actually in the room, feeling the brutal, visceral beating taking place. We're not the object of the beating, but we're right there feeling every agonizing second of it. We're next to Steve as Walt comes in, bathed in shadow. After Steve takes the hit in the face, the fist swings around to our face, as if we were collateral damage. While Steve is on the floor, the camera is low and pointing up at the men towering over us as we are helpless and unable to escape their grasp. When the beating proper begins, we're taken out of the subjective view point as Steve is dragged off camera, and we hear the sickening hits and the escalating music mixed with the swinging light which gives a dizzying sense of loss of control. We're not locked in anymore, the scene has become utter chaos.

 

After the beating, we're back next to Steve, regaining some sense of control, however the light continues to spin illustrating that the control we think we re-obtained is an illusion, much like Steve's resolve to defy these gangsters. Steve is prepared to die rather than bend to the whims of these people. Walt, however pulls out his ace in the hole, and when he smashes the bottle and sinisterly approaches Steve, we're no longer off to the side, we are Steve, as the jagged edges of the bottle come right up to our eyes. As Walt calmly threatens the life of Steve's young, innocent wife, we feel the same defeat that comes over him, the power is totally in the hands of Walt. The bottle is not intended to threaten Steve physically, but mentally. Having the bottle right in his face, as Walt casually threatens her looks, Steve, and we, cannot help but imagine the bottle being put to use on a defenseless woman, who we don't know, but who we still care what happens to after seeing how viciously Steve has been treated. We can breathe a sigh of relief when the scene ends, a mastery of cinematography, lighting and direction.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
30. DESPERATE: Chiaroscuro Chicago Kiss.

The moving light source creates shadows which reflect (and substitute for) the brutal beating.
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Another scene with lots of cool things... the use of lights and shadows was excellent. From the way the shadow cuts the thug in half as he walks towards Steve, to how the swinging light moves towards the beating and over the thugs.

 

I also thought the way the first punch was shot, focusing on the fist instead of the guy's face, was very effective. It conveyed the message of strength, power. Also, most of the shots of the main thug were from a low angle, which served to keep him on top of things. He is the boss.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I really enjoyed this scene as a fan of Raymond Burr's performance in Rear Window. In that picture we watch his expression evolve incrementally as Jeff tries to stave off his approach through the use of flashbulbs. Between each flash of light we see his irritation mounting and he becomes increasingly menacing. Similarly here, while the beating moves offscreen, the swinging light throws his face into high relief every few seconds. Each time he is illuminated, his detached expression gradually changes to one of deep satisfaction and malicious enjoyment. Even the thug next to him looks at him in awe and disgust. The subtle changes in his countenance in both of these films are so nuanced; he is truly a master of his expressions. It's fascinating (and terrifying) to watch. Looking forward to seeing this film in full!

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The swinging light allows for stage punching and the mystery of what effect the beating is having on the man's face. As we close in on Burr's reaction to the beating, the light allows for a lengthy shot before the cut,as it swings in and out and keeps the focus on the beating and not on a prolonged look at Burr's face.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Agree.   Was surprised I Wake Up Screaming was not on our Summer of Darkness schedule.  Cregar was outstandingly creepy as detective Cornell.  

It's sort of an outlier of noir, a special case it doesn't fit the parameters, and I believe that I read this someplace but I can't remember where,  it's directed by H. Bruce Humberstone, who made basically a one off, never directed anything else remotely noir, Edward Cronjager was the cinematographer and he also never shot another noir. Only the Art Director & Set Directors went to to more noirs afterwards. It's based on a hard boiled Black Mask story which seems to be it's only connection to the basic "where did film Noir come from narrative."  It would be interesting to do further investigation into the origins of this film since it's way way more Noirish than The Maltese Falcon.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is an interesting scene with the swinging light going back and forth. You can only imagine the toll that the beating is taking on the guy because of the low key lighting making the room so ominously dark.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Our hero, Steve Randall, is in a very unpleasant position. A bunch of cold-hearted thugs wants to frame him up for murder. They beat him badly and when he still opposes, the boss – Walt, uses the final argument – Steve's wife. He threatens he will cut her up. This scene is as noir as hell! The room is dark and small, it gives us the feeling of entrapment. The camera angles show Steve sitting while the thugs are standing, showing their obvious advantage. The low, wide-angle close-ups of Walt make him even more dangerous. He is in the shadows, like a dark, brute force of evil. Steve tries to defend himself, stands up, but he is withheld with a punch so strong that it hit the lamp which started to swing. That swinging overhead lamp in a completely dark room is purely formalistic. Just like the close-ups of Walt's fist and the broken bottle – the instruments of violence, seen from the POV. One of the thugs stares significantly at Walt while the others are beating Steve – we don't see the actual beating, we only hear it, but we know who's in charge and who decides when to stop.


Steve's position became hopeless as soon as Walt mentioned his wife... This is the only thing they „got” on him. And now he is really desperate.


  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Our hero, Steve Randall, is in a very unpleasant position. A bunch of cold-hearted thugs wants to frame him up for murder. They beat him badly and when he still opposes, the boss – Walt, uses the final argument – Steve's wife. He threatens he will cut her up. This scene is as noir as hell! The room is dark and small, it gives us the feeling of entrapment. The camera angles show Steve sitting while the thugs are standing, showing their obvious advantage. The low, wide-angle close-ups of Walt make him even more dangerous. He is in the shadows, like a dark, brute force of evil. Steve tries to defend himself, stands up, but he is withheld with a punch so strong that it hit the lamp which started to swing. That swinging overhead lamp in a completely dark room is purely formalistic. Just like the close-ups of Walt's fist and the broken bottle – the instruments of violence, seen from the POV. One of the thugs stares significantly at Walt while the others are beating Steve – we don't see the actual beating, we only hear it, but we know who's in charge and who decides when to stop.

Steve's position became hopeless as soon as Walt mentioned his wife... This is the only thing they „got” on him. And now he is really desperate.

 

 

Yes, there are many aspects to that scene that are formalistic.   Does that mean it shouldn't have been used?  (I know you're not saying one way or the other in your well written post).

 

Well sometimes it is done in such a manner that it isn't creative or looks like a parody,  other times it is done well.     I have had similar discussions about rock bands that decades later clearly use some of The Beatles musical forms.   Most of the time I'm from the school that says 'yea, that is true, but that form is a winner,,, so,  well,   so what,  it sounds good'.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

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

Create an account

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

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

New Members:

Register Here

Learn more about the new message boards:

FAQ

Having problems?

Contact Us