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Danilo Castro

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About Danilo Castro

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  1. Under the watchful eye of Anthony Mann and cinematographer George E. Diskant (KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL), this scene is an all time moment of mood and murkiness. Raymond Burr's large frame and tan hat are hazily highlighted by the lamp above the table, and a single strike to Randall sends the driver’s head smacking against the lamp on his way down to the floor; engulfing the rest of the exchange in swinging glimpses of the hoodlum’s piercing gaze. And it's absolutely amazing. This scene would be amazing on the grounds of Burr's grim glee, let alone the stunning visual aesthetic. A rollicking single source lamp in a dark room has become the noir standby, by in 1947 this was still a fresh and brilliant new idea. As a whole, DESPERATE is just okay, but this sequence alone warrants the price of admission. Mann was finally beginning to make use of his tremendous natural talent for imagery, a talent that would shoot through the roof when he teamed up with John Alton. But that's not to slight Diskant here, this scene is an eternal knockout - everything German Expressionism could've hopped to be.
  2. I had forgotten how barren these opening images of THE ASPHALT JUNGLE proved to be. Everything is shrouded in a hazy cloud of fantasy, as if they smeared Vaseline on the camera prior to shooting. This soft focus is out of place in 1950's noir, but the story as a whole practically reeks of a different time. There's almost an Orwellian tone to the abandoned landmarks and ruling policeman that punk Sterling Hayden around, a style that's further advanced by the dilapidated post war look of this American town. Also getting some heavy existentialism in those opening shots of Hayden, as if he were the Omega Man of noir - wandering the ruins of former corruption and greed. The story obviously doesn't go down this road, but it's an eerie visuals suggestion to throw at the viewer. I would imagine this is how a pulp story by Rod Serling would've started out. Great movie, great opener, and great start to the last week of summer of darkness!
  3. Few opening scenes have gotten us as up close and personal with the characters, and damn that Miles Davis - the score is haunting, sexy, and cool as can be all at once. I also like the nice juxtaposition of starting in so uncomfortably close but then pulling out to an extremely wide shot during the credits, like the camera is giving us a quick break to grasp our setting before we just right back into the action. The film is immediately noticeable as a late fifties (1957) entry in the noir canon, as evidenced by the crisp black and white and flat television format. And to be blunt, I'm not too intrigued in this opener besides the Davis soundtrack. I get a smooth and cool noir facade, but there isn't much that gives off that gut feeling that the best of them have. I don't know, maybe its because I'm not a huge fan of this movie in general, but I'm getting a French impression as opposed to the real McCoy. Danilo www.filmnoirarchive.com
  4. Hell yes, this opener is fantastic! I haven't seen the film yet, so I'm definitely more enticed to see after this amazing opener. From the subtle creativity of that opener with Ryan and the net in front of him to the innocuous build up that leads to a horrible discovery, it's all masterfully done. Similar almost to the facade of calm that drove the iconic opener of M (1931), this picture thrives off of much of the synthetic safeness here. The moment Ryan opens that door and the horror on his face is plastered in your brain, you know this is the kind of noir that's going to play it right. Through pacing, tone, and manipulation, this thing hits even harder when we see the victim then if we had just be shown off the bat. The boiling water is eerily brilliant, it's such a great little addition to the scene that it's chilling. The overhead shots of Ryan running in the train yard are an expansive contrast to the cramped claustrophobia of his shack, and yet he feels more suffocated than ever - only in a film noir! Also on a side note because I just thought of it, Robert Ryan would've been an amazing Mike Hammer. He fits all the ticks of Mickey Spillane's novels, and he would've been the perfect age in the 50's; what a waste. Throw him in a Hammer movie with Marie Windsor as Velda and you've got some noir perfection. Anyway, excuse the rambling just wanted to throw that out there!
  5. Parody seems to be a descriptor for many of the posts on this thread, and I suppose I can agree with that notion - if it's meant in the same capacity that KISS ME DEADLY (1955) is referred to as a parody. THE NARROW MARGIN does some brilliant bits of business in this opener, from the sound of the train during the RKO logo to the jarring light wipe with the credits. As is the case with any self respecting 50's noir, the picture's opening credits are laid out over an active background of moving imagery. The way the camera jumps around and darts it's attention is jarring to open, and things calm down a bit once we get to Charles McGraw and his partner. Not too unlike Ralph Meeker's Mike Hammer, McGraw's cop is a stereotype we know from the moment he gets off the train, and the actor takes this opportunity to have some fun. Some great lines, some great gestures, all fried with a hard boiled finish. I wouldn't necessarily agree that it's as subversively satiric as other posts would have you believe, but it's definitely a-one-of-a-kind noir experience.
  6. From the opening epilogue, which details the "confidentiality" of this particular case, it's clear we're in for an old fashioned docunoir. Starting off with an image of an old lady leaving the bank (which is such a great little addition from Phil Karlson), we rise up to the top floor where we get a gander at the shady business of a Kansas City mug. John Paynes character is presented in a wonderfully ambiguous tone here, playing off the idea that he could either be in on the job about to go down or is simply an unwitting assistant. The fact that the scene plays out with no dialogue and flows so smoothly is really a testament to director Karlson and the mood he was able to convey through imagery. Most documentary type films noir were clear cut and direct about their criminals, and this unclear opener throws a much needed monkey wrench in that routine. The first great pairing of Payne and Karlson (the year before 99 RIVER STREET) is a hard edged classic that fails to get old because of filmmaking chops like this.
  7. I don't know who's radiating more pent up cynicism in this scene: the sleaze soaked Kirk Douglas in stellar debut or the alcohol soaked Van Heflin is an equally ideal part. All niceties and B.S. exchanges between uncomfortable childhood buddies. That is, until Barbara Stanwyck shows up. You can just see that soon to be famous cleft chin clinch up in Douglas as Heflin whistles his boyhood standby. Everything was perfectly content to sit on egg shells in this sleepy town, but old Van boy here has opened the murderous floodgates of the past. And that isn't going to bode well for anyone. Except for us, of course, because THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS is a great little slice of small-town noir with a stellar cast. Look forward to seeing this on a TV screen instead of a YouTube panel of a desktop!
  8. A pitch black car, a pitch black night. A quick insert of a mile marker that looks curiously like a gravestone. An insert of Alan Palmer's wristwatch - he hasn't got much time in this unfair world. As everyone has already pointed out, Jane is the one calling the shots from the word go, and the camera quickly accentuates this. The conversation moves from a two shot of both actors through the windshield or a tight close up of Jane's smoldering face as she delivers her lines. Not at any point are we privy to a close up of her unlucky husband. And when we finally do get a tight shot of him, it's only of his arm being forced down on the brake by Jane! Boy oh boy, the money is definitely what did him in, but with that attitude it was bound to happen sooner or later. The whole opener is much too classic to be as unknown as it is, and rest in peace to the lovely Lizabeth Scott who just passed this January. She's a knockout in this picture, and I look forward to a nice crisp remaster!
  9. The story is in the shoes: Guy (an eternally uneasy Farley Granger) has respectably priced shoes, the kind of pair a man wears when he has money but isn't concerned with being flashy. Our buddy Bruno (the criminaly forgotten Robert Walker), on the other hand, is all about showing off. With what can only be described as a dandy pair of bowling shoes, Hitchcock has fully formed the personalities of both men before a line of dialogue or even a glimpse of their face. That's why he's the Master of Suspense, I suppose. Personally, I've always had a hard time coupling Hitch's films under the umbrella of film noir; I feel like they're too stringent of suspense (obviously) and his specific type of style - which is catered more for thrillers. But hey, it's tough to argue with a script Raymond Chandler contributed to, even though I'm sure he argued plenty.
  10. Bigelow lurching into the police office to proclaim his death; Blind Alley has never been so visceral or impressively ridiculous. Amidst the pitch black eternity of the night, this avenging angel that started his trip as a small town Joe Schmo has made the trip to hell - but not back. It's probably one of noir's most iconic openers, certainly one that jumps out when thinking of legendary cinematic moments. Laszlo's drowning visual palate is a thing of morbid beauty, and similar to the way KISS ME DEADLY served as a denouement for the P.I.'s of the 40's, D.O.A. marks the last stand of the mistaken man. It's everything this particular archetype could ever hope to be, and that mastery is conveyed flawlessly but the time this opener is over. Bigelow may have been dead on arrival, but boy film noir will never forget his unlikely blaze of glory. Fantastic film.
  11. The thing I enjoyed most about the opening of Caged, and most 50's films noir for that matter, is the dynamic movement of the title credits. Jump back a decade to The Maltese Falcon and everything is titled very statically and mundane. Not the 1950's, no dice here. Each opening sequence is rampant with quick moves, and this scene conveys that masterfully. The reveal of the woman's face is also a neat bit of subtlety, with the pain and the fear conveyed silently being beyond the usual amount of weakness exhibited in a noir opener. And as if things weren't gritty enough, Agnes Moorehead crowns this thing with a cherry on top, advising her to get her last look of freedom while she can. Haven't seen this flick, but my curiousity is definitely peaked.
  12. Mortality in the mundane, that's what makes the opening of The Hitch-Hiker so impressive. All seems fine and dandy until Emmett Myers shows up with gun in hand, setting the stage for what has got to be one of noir's great white knuckle thrillers. Nicholas Musuraca does all the Val Lewton Magic he can on the shadowy concealing of Myers, and wisely revels in this oppourtunity, as the rest of the film is stuck out in the sun dried hell of Thieves' Highway. Ida Lupino establishes a mood that reaches into the creepier psychological side of noir, and the berating cat and mouse game that's to follow is perfectly established here: Myers the unstable puppet master while Roy and Gilbert unwillingly dance to the tune of bullet puppet strings. Lupino only had one noir, but boy did she know how to play rough! A classic.
  13. Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer is the cold hearted revisionist bastard of detective literature. He's the brutish alternative to Philip Marlowe, and director Robert Aldrich not only understands this dichotomy, but exploits in further in this opening sequence. The bare feet running on the asphalt, the hyperventilating pace of the breathing that is uneasy to listen to at best, and the rip roaring jolt of this opener is a smack in the face of tradition; of the Hammetts and the Chandlers. And it's invigorating to watch. By the time we get to the famous reverse credits with Nat "King" Cole's creepy title song, we've now fully tumbled down the rabbit hole of Hammer's film noir fever dream. He's no Alice, but Mike is going to encounter an array of characters that wouldn't seem out of place in an urban wonderland. For everyone who hasn't seen it, make it a priority this week, it's a hypnotic cocktail that leaves you with a glorious pulp hangover when all is said and done.
  14. The film's today have been incredible (as usual), and many of them I think are severely underrated in the film noir canon. ACT OF VIOLENCE never fails to impress, and I'm still as equally torn between Heflin and Ryan's characters every time I see it. THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS had always stuck out to be as the best Lorre/Greenstreet pairing (without Bogie), and Zachary Scott is just so damn good at being oily in his film debut. As the renowned bunch, OUT OF THE PAST, THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE, and THE SET-UP need no introduction as classics of the style, and each mark the mountain top of their respective archetypes: PAST being a Vixenville noir, POSTMAN capturing Hate Street at its finest, and SET-UP perfectly reflecting Losers Lane. Excited to see BERLIN EXPRESS for the first time tonight!
  15. My vote for the greatest onscreen introduction of all time - this goosebump inducing scene never fails to evoke the shadowy mystery of film noir at its finest. Reed appropriately enough does his Orson Welles impression behind the camera as the actor's menacing charisma brings the acting end of this thing home. Of course, the real story here is the visual expertise of the director and cinematographer Robert Krasker. Evoking, as someone has already mentioned, the Paul Schrader checklist of noir, this scene has all the shadows and Dutch angles you could hope for. I think that even without the storyline in mind, one can understand the sheer power of the imagery in this scene. A hell of a movie, and one I'm excited to revisit tomorrow.
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