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Posts posted by maltesefalcon

  1. I must say that digesting these daily doses of film noir are quite beneficial to me. Sometimes I see something new, and other times I see something I’ve seen before, but now I see it in a new light. 

    In Edward Dmytryk’s ‘Murder, My Sweet’, we see how Dick Powell, in the role of Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, a role perhaps more familiarly associated with Humphrey Bogart in John Huston’s ‘The Maltese Falcon’. 

    Compared to Bogart’s Marlowe, Powell’s character seems to handle the complexity of Chandler’s character with graceful ease. Although that is not to malign Bogie’s performance, but Powell gives Marlowe a side which shows us the gracefulness, light-heartedness, and wit, which sits opposite the cold and cynical, hard-boiled private detective stereotype. 

    Certainly this more multidimensional type of character fits well into the milieu of film noir. I might also be so bold as to suggest that Dick Powell’s portrayal of Philip Marlowe paved the way for other complex characters who seem to play ‘both sides of the street’, like the character Raymond Reddington, played by James Spader in NBC TV’s ‘The Blacklist’. 

  2. When I saw the introduction to the Otto Preminger film, ‘Laura’, I realized that I must watch this film again, soon. 


    I was amazed at the audio-visual blend of the narration, paired with the various objets d’art, bric-a-brac, and tchotchkes in the house. It was a surreal juxtaposition to say the least. I must say that although such an evolved means of telling a story exists besides what we see in the opening scenes of ‘Laura’, really this is a subtle combination of techniques which might be more than what filmmakers of today would be willing to gamble on, in terms of conveying a message and/or feeling to the audience. 


    And then we have the actors, Dana Andrews and Clifton Webb, completing this compelling scenario, which has definitely got me signed up for a re-screening of Preminger’s ‘Laura’.

  3. Although Delmer Daves may not be a household name these days, those who appreciate his motion picture direction will include works such as ‘3:10 to Yuma’ (1957), and ‘Dark Passage’ (1947). 


    In the opening scenes of ‘Dark Passage’, we hear the familiar voice of Humphrey Bogart, but never his face. Why? Perhaps only for the simple reason that his character is shortly going to have his face transformed through the modern-day miracles of plastic surgery. 


    Being an ex-con on the lam from the penitentiary in San Quentin, Bogie’s character, Vincent Parry, flies off a truck while in a barrel. As he goes tumbling down a hill, we see an interesting camera technique, to give the viewer a sense of rolling downward. It makes me think of how the rolling bowling ball scenes in the Coen Brothers’ ‘The Big Lebowski’ were shot. 


    But back to Bogie and this flick. With such an identifiable voice, director Delmer Daves was easily able to pull off this first-person POV shot. We can see everything else, the countryside, the cops in pursuit, and the extra nosy driver who gives Bogie a ride. 


    Surely, tension and interest are built up with the first-person POV angle, plus it makes it easy and natural for Bogie’s ‘Vincent Parry’ to have a new face: that of Humphrey Bogart’s!

  4. It is a quiet and moonlit night on a tropical plantation somewhere in south Asia. Sap drips from the rubber tree, causing a minuscule splash. Native workers relax in hammocks under the sky, while one of those still awake plays tune on a horn. 


    The peaceful stillness is broken by the sudden clap of gunfire, to repeat itself stumbles out of the house, and down the front porch. A white woman, well-poised, empties the leaden contents of the revolver into the dying victim. 


    Despite the surprise of the plantation workers, the woman, played by Bette Davis, calmly issues orders to a native servant to fetch her husband, away on another one of their plantations. 


    Something isn’t quite right in this tropical paradise, in the opening scenes or William Wyler’s film, ‘The Letter’.

  5. Daily Dose #2: The Arrival of a Train (The Opening Scene of La Bête Humaine)


    In the opening scenes of ‘La Bête Humaine’, we have a pair of actors whose characters remain nameless and who only communicate via gestures and monosyllabic yells. And then there is the train, which seems to have a personality of its own, and it is the very reason why these 2 characters, played by Jean Gabin and Fernand Ledoux are here on the screen. 


    Finally, as the trains rolls into the station, we get a name: ‘Le Havre’, the terminus of this trip. At this point the soundtrack erupts with a cheerful tune, giving a little bit of warmth to the tale that has just begun. 


    But where does it end? What happens to these characters? How does the train figure into all of this? 


    We have to simply sit back and relax, and wait for Jean Renoir’s motion picture of Émile Zola’s ‘La Bête Humaine’, to tell us a story. 


  6. Old enough to remember the First World War, a toiling mother finds the morbid lyrics of the children's song disturbing. But to the little ones, oblivious to the horrors of mankind, life is but a dream. The innocence of youth is contrapuntally offset by the darkest parts of the adult human psyche. Grave warnings, pasted onto kiosks, are overlooked by little Elsie Beckmann, who innocently plays ball, until the silhouette of a man shadows the offer of a reward. This mysterious figure addresses tiny Elsie in tones more fitting for a child.

    Thus we see the opening scenes from Fritz Lang's 1931 thriller from Germany, simply titled 'M'. This film is arguably one of Lang's best, making skillful use of the new audio technology, and this movie can be considered part of the apex of Lang's career, along with 'Metropolis. 

    After fleeing a Europe overrun by Nazi Germany, Lang found safety in the USA, but unfortunately he never adapted to the way that films were shot in Hollywood, where the director's creative dreams were often dashed by an over-powerful producer. (Hitchcock noticed this himself when he came to the USA, and solved the problem by creating his own production company.)

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