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The Working Dead

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About The Working Dead

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  • Birthday 02/11/1978

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  1. I don't ever like to tell people their opinions are wrong, but, well, you're wrong. That zither music is amazingly appropriate for the soundtrack. It sounds a bit off-putting at first, but watch it again. It fits perfectly. It's mournful when it needs to be, jaunty when it needs to be, and adds a certain level of irony to every scene. Also, Welles was only an actor for hire, though he wrote some of his own dialogue. Carol Reed/Graham Greene are the true architects of the film. They had a great collaboration, and their three films are all definite must-sees. The Fallen Idol and Our Man In Havana. Check 'em out!
  2. According to our good Professor, this message board isn't going to be deleted, it'll just stay on the TCM boards. There's nothing that says we can't stick around here. I know I for one am not quite done with this topic. I plan on continuing my own Summer of Darkness right up to the official end of summer in September. I'll probably slow down a bit on how many noir films I watch and how often I watch them, but I plan on writing something at least a couple times a week over at my blog. I'd love to keep as much of this community together as possible.
  3. This was a great film, and a great find this summer, one of the reasons I'm so glad I signed up for this course(and one of the reasons I'm so sad to not have TCM anymore). In my write-up of this for my blog I focused a lot on the lighting, which is hard to avoid, because it's so striking in this film. I love how this room(which the film returns to many times) is lit. Ostensibly there's only one light source actually in the room, but look at the corners and edges of the room. There's just enough light to make out the shape and contours of the space, but everything in between is darkness, save for th e lone light that swings wildly back and forth. As a visual metaphor for the movie as a whole, that's pretty damn apt. The two main characters in Desperate do not start the film in noir country, they're dragged there by Raymond Burr and his gang, and they continually try to escape. They run continually, trying to regain the light, and each place they run to begins as an idyllic safe haven, but quickly turns sour as the gang catches up to them. In Desperate there's something dark and rotten within America, something that threatens to swallow the light and corrupt even the most innocent. I mean, the movie isn't really as dark as all that, but it still seems to me that that's the underlying message.
  4. Well, the film isn't actually a parody, and it's not actually meant to be funny. The parodic elements aren't very evident in the opening scene, but there are plenty of things that happen later that twist what you expect to happen in a noir film.
  5. I love the Narrow Margin. Definitely one of the best films I've been introduced to this summer. I think the comments about this film being a reaction to the genre are correct, although I'll have to try to avoid spoilers by explaining why. First shot, pre-credits, of that train coming right for us. It's an aggressive, assaultive opening, but then the next(where the post-title credits begin) is of a train moving slowly, things calm down. The train is moving right to left, into the past, as if the film, having shocked us with sound and fury, is rewinding and resetting. The train stops moving and out step the detectives(who, when I first watched this, I assumed were gangsters at first), pulling us into the story proper. Charles McGraw is definitely a man who has seen his share of noir films, or appeared in his fair share of them. His dialogue isn't quite a parody here, but everything he says is about how he's got everything figured out already. His world is black and white, and he knows the parts everyone should play. The film is about to prove him wrong, but for now he's the two-fisted hero of his own detective story. It's interesting to consider this a sign of the end of the genre. I can totally see that, as once we get past the mid fifties the only way to do a really compelling noir film was to self-consciously comment on the conventions of noir. It became harder and harder to do a simple, straight forward noir, there had to be a hook, a dissection of the genre tropes. I love this film, and the way it utilizes the train both physically and metaphorically. All the action unfolds in tight spaces, moving back and forth on the same horizontal plane. It's claustrophobic and the film is constantly going over the same ground it's already covered with new shadings of information. Anyone in this thread who hasn't seen the film yet should drop everything and get right on it.
  6. It's interesting to see what they Hays Code was interested in keeping off of screens, and how that attitude lessened over the years. Clearly they are no longer very interested in making sure films don't depict detailed descriptions of crimes being planned and carried out. Just a few years earlier this film would not have been able to get made. At least not in the form we see now. I watched this through a second time with attention to how long specific shots lasted, and while there isn't technically a pattern, it has a very musical quality. That is to say, each edit could be seen as a beat, which I guess would give it more of a morse code feel. But most of the shots last less than 5 seconds, in fact many of them are under 2 seconds long. The longest shots are of the security guard getting out of the armored car, the delivery driver getting the boxes out of his truck, a ten second pan to the clock on the outside of the building, and a long shot of the plan for the heist. In between those shots are a bunch of quick staccato edits, leading to a weird rhythm of 'bam bam bam bambam baaaaaaaam baaaaaaam bambambam.' If that makes any sense. It was very propulsive.
  7. One of my favorite noirs is actually British. Time Without Pity, starring Michael Redgrave as an alcoholic recently released from a sanitarium, who learns his son is about to be executed for murder. He has 24 hour to prove his son's innocence before the boy is executed. It's fantastic(and I think I might have recommended it in another thread on here already). I watched a couple movies today in a DVD set of British noirs. Women of Twilight and The Slasher(original title Cosh Boy). I wouldn't recommend seeking them out, though. They weren't bad, but calling them noir was incredibly misleading.
  8. My write up of the film for my blog touched on this same thing. Ernie's wife was incredibly sympathetic to me. Ernie is obviously not the same man she fell in love with(although the film expresses this mainly through her materialistic desires), and as we see through the movie, he's a seething ball of rage who is very eager to use his fists on the people who might not deserve it. I completely understand why she would fall for a man who showed her a little more romance and excitement, even someone as shady as that jewel thief. It also had me viewing the end of the film with a bit of a 'Oh, I'm sure he'll get it right this time' touch of sarcasm.
  9. I really enjoyed this movie, and found it fun to write about over on my blog. I'll try to stick to just what we see here, though, and not get too far into plot specifics. This fits into my continuing idea of noir being a sort of body-horror film, wherein the body is the film itself. What I mean by that is that in a lot of postwar films noir, the noir elements are not immediately apparent. A lot of films start off in domestic situations, either as comedies or as dramas. And then as the film continues the noir elements become more pronounced, mutating the look and feel of the picture. Another great example of this is Desperate, which has a similar trajectory to 99 River Street. You can see the seeds of noir in this opening, in the forceful manner of speech Pauline and Ernie have together, the many reasons they would find themselves willing to do something desperate. I'm not sure that I really would consider, from this scene alone, any prominent noir influences. In fact, Eddie Driscoll doesn't know he's in a noir film until late in the game, and actively tries to avoid becoming the hero of one.
  10. In these terms I meant 'weakness' to imply a moral weakness, not a mental one. She seems confident and competent throughout the clip, but the implication seems to be that her greed or self-centered attitude(almost forcing a car off the road because she doesn't want to go to a party, deciding to run away with money that isn't hers) will prove to be the cause of all the troubles in the film.
  11. Great ideas, and yes, it helps. I've been carrying a notebook with me while I'm out and about(like any good gumshoe), and I had just started to formulate these ideas while on the bus home from work. I literally came in, checked my messages, and then posted on here in my excitement to hear the thoughts of others. I'm compiling a lot of notes. I'll probably be spending some time formulating a more cohesive post in the future.
  12. Ack, I'm quoting myself, how gauche. But, as the song says, "quote yourself if no one else will." I've thought of a few things that I could add to my original comment. I told you I'll be coming back to this idea. First off, there's another example in my theory of pre-war noir concerning foreign threats to the status quo while post-war noir contains threats from within. It's a bit of a sideways example, though, so bear with me. The Dick Powell noir Cornered, at first glance, seems like an outlier in postwar noir, something akin to The Third Man, where we follow a hero as he navigates treacherous foreign waters. But if you look more closely, I think it still supports my theory. Dick Powell plays Us, an American barging into postwar Europe on a quest for revenge. In the beginning of the film he sneaks into France, which is all smoking rubble and mass graves and displaced citizens. The villain of the movie is set up to be the mysterious Jarnac, a nazi collaborator who is responsible for the death of Powell's French wife. But I think the movie also makes a case for Powell as the villain of the piece. In postwar France he threatens the very delicate act of rebuilding a nation, as he imposes and blocks the unglamorous bureaucratic work of putting people's lives back together so he can find his wife's killer. The film then jumps to Brazil, where his quest for Jarnac threatens an operation to bring a whole network of nazi war criminals to trial. Dick Powell is the American everyman who thinks he's doing the right thing, but is actually threatening the world with his actions. And another thought that occurred to me, about possible reasons the noir cycle fizzled out in the late fifties. I don't think it could quite handle the civil rights movement. I don't mean this to imply noir is racist, not at all. This is also not the reason noir faded away, just one aspect I found interesting as I thought it over. Basically, the threat in a noir film was an Other, and then it was Us. Yet even when the threat was Us, it was still possible to classify the threat as an aberration, an Other at heart. Then as we enter the late fifties, we have no significant foreign threat to rally around, and those in our society who had actually been considered 'Other' were fighting for acceptance. It was too complex a field of variables for the noir world which, for all it's complications, still offered a world of blacks, whites, and grays. There was no way to keep telling stories in this vein without resorting to parody or metafiction. Horror during this period adapted, featuring monsters that were simply variations of us, and actively fighting for acceptance. The Munsters, The Addams Family, even Bewitched, all featured suburban monsters who just wanted to live normal lives free from persecution(it's probably telling that all the examples I just used are television shows, another threat to noir and cinema). Noir had no way to adapt; it had nothing to fight against within its framework, and so then the only way to successfully create a noir film or novel was to make a story that was actively commenting on noir. Neo-noirs like Night Moves, The Long Goodbye, Blue Velvet, even Brick, they all comment on the structure of film noir while employing it's trademarks. I dunno, as I read it typed out now it feels like that idea needs a bit more work, but I still think there's a germ of a good theory there. I'd love to hear what others think of this.
  13. Strangely, I hadn't noticed Alan/Jane's car lights blinking, but sure enough, there it is. Good catch. I'm with you on everything happening because of Jane, whether she intended it or not. I'm just worried the rest of the film will paint her as the weak one in the relationship, when in the beginning at least she seems to have quite a bit of agency.
  14. I'll argue against that sentiment, actually. I think films always reflect the social/cultural/political landscape of their times. Even if, ESPECIALLY if, they don't show the world as it actually was. Films often show an idealized version of the world, they show us how we want to view ourselves. The preponderance of lighthearted fare involving wealthy characters makes sense precisely because most of the people in the audience did not fit that description. It's like in Sullivan's Travels; no one wants to go to the movies to be reminded of how miserable they are, they want an escape. I think that also speaks to why noir flourished in a time of plenty. Sure, it was exposing the wounds we suffered from WWII, it was exposing the corruption that lay beneath our comfortable facades, but it did so in an arena of comfort. People were comfortable in their lives, so poking holes in their self-delusion didn't quite bring the house of cards tumbling down. Audiences felt safe, so filmmakers could go a bit darker without causing a panic. Other than that, though, I agree with all of your statements, so I feel a bit bad singling this point out to argue with. Just know that I really enjoyed your post.
  15. Cool scene, I got a real No Country For Old Men vibe from it. Without TCM I guess I'll be watching this one via one of those less-than-perfect public domain copies. Another dark road, another car driving down it. The crookedness of the road implies the general crookedness of the characters, which I believe extends to the 'innocent' husband and wife. It's telling that they're introduced bickering, that the wife is the instigator in everything; she tries to run the car off the road, she decides to take the money, she drives the getaway car. I'm interested to see where her character goes, because it's great to see a competent woman in one of these pictures that immediately knows what to do. But it's also disconcerting that the film seems to be setting her up as the instigator of all the bad to follow. In the opening scenes of Kiss Me Deadly or the Hitch-Hiker, the threat appeared suddenly to actually innocent people. Here, the two main characters may not be bad people, but it's telling that they willingly continue down the wrong path instead of just dumping the money and getting the hell out of there. Their complicity in the danger that will be stalking them is apparent from the get-go, giving the title, Too Late For Tears, a bit of an ironic 'told you so' connotation. The unexpected incident theme plays into what I was speaking of in the weekly lecture thread(more people need to join in over there, hint hint). In pre-war noir the threat was either The Other, or the film was set in a criminal underworld where the threat was primarily contained to that culture. In postwar noir the threat became Us, became our vices or our weaknesses. Our friends, neighbors, family. People who made mistakes(once), people who were trying to hide from their pasts, people who were trying to become new people. We'd vanquished the foreign threat, but needed to be vigilant about the one lurking under our own skin.
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