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About WilliamsonEM6

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  • Birthday 10/27/1995

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  1. In this scene from The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, the most prevalent theme I can sense is that well-recognizable tension of the past coming back and the fear of its taint on the present or future. There is definitely a story to go with the relationship between Martha and Sam, with the initial Freudian slips and sexual innuendo. As for staging, the most important shots are between Sam and Walter. First they are relatively close as Walter lights his cigarette as his past and present meet, then the tension becomes more invisible, leading Walter to go across the room for a drink. They are close again but from the moment Sam mentions the girl (and potential blackmail), Walter is always on the other side of the room or behind something that he hopes can separate him from his past (such as the power of desk). Walter is stiff and grimacing, man, is he upset. He continues to drink (does he have a problem) as Martha and Sam inhabit their own world. Martha at first looks like the typical upper middle class city wife, with her furs and smart hat, routinely stopping by her husband's office. Then she lets her emotions overwhelm her with Sam, in addition to a little straight talk as she also confronts her past. In conclusion, there is likely some romantic past between Sam and Martha, but both Walter and Martha have tried to hide under a veneer of respectability (him a D.A. and her his doting wife), but Sam represents some event or mindset of their past that will not be easily escaped.
  2. Like many other scenes featured on a deserted highway, the audience finds themselves right in the middle of something. In this case, it is spousal quarrel, and the status quo is established. Alan and Jane are an "average" upper-middle class couple, the man is driving and the woman is complaining about the perceived judgments from a fellow female member of the class. It isn't a P.I. and his secretary pursuing their vaguely-labeled relationship or two criminals or working class folk. However, like Mike Hammer meeting Christina or Emmett Myers stalking the highways, it involves the upheaval of an otherwise normal if amoral life in one fateful meeting, this being the mix-up with the pay-off bag. The easiest event to point to that may have resulted in the common film occurrence of bad things happening to good people is the war. Here was a moment in history where time was fleeting, where any one you know might never return home, particularly young couples and newlyweds. Also, the Cold War period and its resulting paranoia meant that people you had also known your whole life would come under suspicion. This paranoia often meant the destruction of innocent lives and careers. Specifically, when it comes to the role of roads and highways in noir, it also poses interesting questions. Is it a coincidence that postwar America with its thriving economy and packaged American dream (look at any 1950s ad) in combination with a giant push for new infrastructure would result in films where terrible things happen in big cities and comfortable suburbs and the dark roads that connect them.
  3. In the opening scenes of Kiss Me, Deadly and The Hitch-Hiker, even before the credits have rolled, something visually interesting and unconventional is being shown: a woman running down a dark road and reversed credits, and a sole and predator hitchhiker thumbing a ride on a deserted highway before murdering a woman in cold blood. In contrast, Strangers on a Train has a more conventional stationary opening as the credits scroll forward, then we have the more visually interesting shots of two lives colliding via shoes on a train. Also, the music is typical and there is a humor to it, sort of like a meet-cute. It still is a sinister wrongdoer entering the life an otherwise average person, but it isn't foreboding or high contrast. It's not at night in a seedy environment, there is no sharp dialogue followed by a scream. It's in the middle of the day on a public transport where two people's feet accidentally bump under the table. Hitchcock's films often are stylistically noir (i.e. Suspicion, Shadow of a Doubt, Spellbound, Marnie) or have common themes, like an average man wrongly accused (The 39 Steps, Saboteur, The Wrong Man) or mixed up in a darker world due to one misstep or bad timing (The Man Who Knew Too Much, Rear Window, North By Northwest). In this particular film, the latter category definitely resonates. Hitchcock absolute deserves special consideration in the noir discussion. While the content matches with other noirs of the period, the style is at times a little more subtle, and the themes of cynicism, amorality, sexuality, and distrust are infused with a humor, an absurdity, and a suspensful, slick energy. Note: The men of Hitchcock's film also tend to be more conventionally attractive (i.e. Grant, Olivier, McCrea, Clift, Milland, Newman) or have a veneer of innocence (Cummings, Stewart, Clift, Perkins, Walker, Granger), not counting noir regulars like Joseph Cotten.
  4. The Window (1949): Like The Set-Up, The Window is another tight 73-minute noir with a simple story but compelling characters and interesting setting that lends itself to the noir style. I definitely recommend it. Basic Plot: Tommy, a little boy living in a New York tenement who is also known for spinning tales, witnesses a murder one hot summer night. But will anyone believe him – his parents, the cops – or will the murderers silence him forever? Noir Elements: Literary precursor, documentary realism (aerial shots, on-location shooting of New York), chiaroscuro lighting (cramped NY tenements), and sophisticated cinematography (low angles, close-ups, slow motion) House Style: (RKO) NY sophistication, experimental (little boy lead in film noir), theatrical (fable connection and drama) The Window is shot all on-location in the tenements of New York. It's dirty and all the kids look it as they play in abandoned buildings amongst the scrap, playing coppers and robbers, cowboys and indians. It's like Little Rascals meets film noir. Like in M (also Stranger on a Third Floor), a cramped tenement building lends itself to the chiaroscuro lighting, a compact space where little light gets through and everything is bathed in shadows. Besides the cinematography, the simplicity of the story and the down-to-earth performances are what elevate this film. Barbara Hale and Arthur Kennedy as the Woodry’s, Tommy's average and compassionate yet suspecting parents and Ruth Roman and Paul Stewart (Berlin Express, Johnny Eager) as the equally average but suspicious Kellersons are perfectly ordinary; they aren't glossy or outlandish and neither look like they could be mixed up in murder. All the cops and tenement tenants add an extra layer of normalcy to the story, no matter how incompetent almost every adult seems. However, what really sells the film is undeniably little Bobby Driscoll as Tommy. He runs like a kid, talks like one, and his motives and actions are accurate, he isn't written like an overly savvy kid or as an adult, but a creative child who gets in trouble every so often but for once, is in actual fear of his life and a little less innocent for his experiences. Driscoll has his own few iconic roles and a tragic life unfortunately befitting a child actor, but for this role and another later one, he won a Juvenile Academy Award – it was deserved.
  5. Just a general note on films made in the 1970s: you will see breasts, you will see 'staches of varying quaity, and you will not feel happy after it's all over.
  6. The Long Goodbye (1973) [CONTINUED]: The film is visual comfortable with its warm tones and Altman's signature mobile style is evident – the camera is never static. The score of mainstream jazz at a time when fusion jazz was all the rage adds to the noir atmosphere. It has a signature song repeated throughout the score (provided by a young John Williams with contributions from one of the most popular songwriters from the 1930s to 50s, Johnny Mercer). It's sad and romantic but also foreboding. Much can be said about themes and supporting performance(i.e. Rydell's Augustine, Gibson's Verringer, Bouton's Terry, van Pallandt's Mrs. Wade, and cameos from David Carradine and Arnold Schwarzenegger) in The Long Goodbye, but it, like its predecessors, has a distinct American flavor. It doesn't feel French or German, but most definitely native. Like the other Chandler-adapted film we've watched, the story is often complicated and the plot secondary to the interactions between characters and the look. This film could definitely be viewed as satire of an accepted style or genre. Even though film noir was first identified in 1946, the notion didn't seem to be accepted for wide study until the 1970s. In the end, the film, like many of this decade, are all about not trusting anybody. Your best friend will betray you, the women you think you like will betray you and so will your client, and hell, even the cat will leave when you don't have the very specific food it likes. Many a noir hero learns this by the end of a film, living a violent world that has no room for guys who know right and from wrong and who toe the line closer to the light. It's a world just as cynical but even more so, it's even outgrown what was the symbol of cynicism, mistrust, and amorality in the previous post-war world. Note: I suggest skimming Roger Ebert's first and second reviews.
  7. The Long Goodbye (1973): In the 1970s, a new period of cynicism and experimentation emerged in American cinema, and it is evidenced in the appearance of many now-famous neo-noirs. The similarities to the origins of noir are uncanny, a time post-war in which even more mistrust and cynicism are justified, after Watergate, after Vietnam, after Civil Rights, amidst new social movements and countercultures. However, this time, these independent filmmakers work outside the confines of the studio system (United Artists, well-known even during the studio era as more independent); they have swearing, drugs, extensive nudity, and can more than imply something. The Long Goodbye is set in this world, and with warm, soft colors, it features naked women doing yoga and eating pot brownies, men with infamous 70s 'staches and too long hair, imprisoned minorities, jaded, aggressive cops, and lots of colorful, patterned oversized clothes Basic Plot: One late night, private detective Philip Marlowe drives an old friend to the Mexican border. But when that same friend's wife ends up dead, Marlowe now finds himself in a web lies, further complicated by the arrival of a new, beautiful client.. We have another man filling Marlowe's shoes, not tough Bogart or smoother Powell, but awkward, out-of-touch Elliott Gould, playing the private detective as the "loser." He drives a 1940s car, smokes in every scene when nobody else does, wears a suit everywhere, uses private dick lingo like "$50 a day and expenses," and calls the freezer an icebox. He's a good guy, going to great lengths to feed his cat, help a friend, serve a client, not run over a dog, and find the truth. He is a dispossessed man, further represented by noir great Sterling Hayden. Hayden wrote most of his own lines, and was often drunk or high. He looks like the older Ernest Hemingway, and is the inevitable future for many a hardboiled writer or detective: an overly-trusting alcoholic who's robustness and romanticized version of himself is really the joke, a killing joke.
  8. The Big Clock (1948): The Big Clock inspired mixed feelings, for me at least. Some may like it, it has some decent performances and good cinematography, but I found it dull, due to its writing and pacing. It was only an hour and thirty-five minutes but it felt so stretched out, and not even Milland, Laughton, MacReady, Sullivan, Johnson, or Morgan, great noir leads and supporters one and all, could not save it. Basic Plot: The strained editor of a crime magazine finds himself in a frame-up for murder on the night he misses his wife's train and goes bar-hopping with the boss's former mistress. Noir Elements: Literary precursor, urban setting, flashback sequence, chiaroscuro lighting, femme fatale, and story of men's fateful decisions that could lead to their doom or redemption The first and last twenty minutes show genuine promise and satisfaction, with a few sprinkles of tension, mostly in the performances of Laughton, MacReady, and Morgan but the bare bones of the plot are too simple to stretch over an hour-and-a-half and the attempts at complexity and cleverness lack payoff or interest. If you want to see a film about a strained marriage, a hunt for the identification of one man, a cover up, and a payoff involving a large clock, see The Stranger not this.
  9. The Threat (1949) [CINEMATOGRAPHY] The natural crackle of the film print adds a certain texture to the scenes of violence. The cinematographer (see note) knew when to show the violence in full like during the death scenes (we even see a bullet hole in the final death) but also when to convey the violence through the looks of terror on other's face (like during the interrogation of the D.A.). Note: Cinematographer Harry J. Wild also shot Murder, My Sweet (1944), Cornered (1945) Johnny Angel (1945), Nocturne (1946), The Woman on the Beach (1947), They Won't Believe Me (1947), and Macao (1952). Furthermore, the heat conveyed this film is staggering. Everyone's dusty and sweaty from their stained shirts and pants, wet brows, and desperate actio
  10. The Threat (1949): The Threat is a tight, violent cop drama with the noir tone and style that thrives in B-pictures. Basic Plot: An escaped convict aims to get revenge against the District Attorney, detective, and female associate he thinks are responsible for his arrest. Noir Elements: Literary precursor, on-location shooting (realistic, gritty appearance), B-film (and noir) character actors and director, some interesting camera angles and chiaroscuro lighting, femme fatale (in the sense of a female in an unsavory line of work who attempt to manipulate a man and then kills him), and unyielding brutality and cynicism in an amoral protagonist House Style (RKO): Theatrical and experimental (in the build-up and violence) It starts with an escape in the dead of night, building as the very mention of Kluger's name strikes fear into all the people he plans to burn. He is escaping Folsom Prison, one of the first maximum-security prisons in the nation, where up until the 1940s, most prisoners spend their stir in darkness behind boilerplate doors (air holes were added some time later). Everyone is very average in appearance, typical of the B-film cast – nothing glamorous. And then Charles McGraw (who we saw as one of the hitmen in The Killers) as "Red" Kluger makes his entrance, a square draw and gravelly voice. He's big and bulky, strong, violent, and focused. He was a bootlegger after the war and then a robber and killer. He has a wicked slap that almost looks real, and has no qualms about violence towards women (similar to Cagney's characters). His eyes are usually dead, except when he's violent. Along for the ride are Red's tough, neanderthal-like heavies and a former partner's girlfriend who works at a seedy burlesque joint. Scene of the Crime wishes it was this tough. The only baffling character is Joe, the truck driver in the wrong place at the wrong time: why does he have gun? Where did the explosive anger come from? Why was his partner not surprised by his troubles?
  11. White Heat (1949): White Heat would be James Cagney's first gangster picture in ten years (his last being The Roaring Twenties, also starring fledgling Humphrey Bogart). It's slow and steady pace with lightning flashes of cruelty and chaos are rewarded with an explosive ending. Basic Plot: A ruthless and homicidal gangster, with an unusual relationship with his mother, spirals further down as he descends into chaos, revenge, and murder. Noir Elements: Literary precursor, on-location shooting, chiaroscuro lighting, urban settings, femme fatale, violence paired with sympathetically-portrayed criminal element (some based on real gangsters), and completely amoral hero(es) House Style: (WB) Gritty urban melodramas, fast-talking and rough action, low budget, working class values The performances are undeniably electric, thanks to Cagney's natural fire and energy (read the IMDb trivia on Cagney's little touches) and Margaret Wycherly as Ma Jarrett, equally ruthless. O'Brien provides the viewer's perspective as an average, generally moral man in a line of work that forces him to bend the rules and play against his principles. This sort of reminds of Possessed, which might have been an examination of the psychological underpinnings of a femme fatale, why she acts they way she does. In this, Cagney's Jarrett is not merely ruthless or violent but homicidal, psychotic, and/or mentally ill. The portrayal of his headaches and deep relationship with his mother make a more sympathetic protagonist. Some may argue that O'Brien is the hero, but he doesn't show up until thirty minutes in. Virginia Mayo as our femme fatale Verna and Steve Cochran as the slimy, betraying Big Ed are more than serviceable in their few scenes, especially in their respective scenes with Jarrett. But, we must never forget: THIS IS CAGNEY'S FILM. The film begins big with unwavering cruelty in the realistic train robbery and the aftermath, then goes onto a slow burn in the prison. After the breakout, it's downhill for Jarret's mind, picking flowers and tossing chocolate chips but also shooting men in car trunks while eating fried chicken and almost strangling a woman to death before going completely, self-destructively insane. I would however identify this film more as a gangster film or crime drama (maybe a psychological thriller), with some noir stylistic tendencies and violence, amorality, and fatalism to match.
  12. They Live by Night (1948): They Live By Night is a very fine noir, somewhere in between High Sierra and Gun Crazy. If at times sentimental and melodramatic, the film's simple story, tense pacing, reasonably sophisticated cinematography, and compelling characters make it just as formidable a noir as the aforementioned. Basic Plot: An unjustly imprisoned young convict crashes out with two other older, hardened criminals in order to prove his innocence. However, the world that his two cohorts drag him into may make it impossible to escape, and when he goes on the run with a girl he meets at a filling station, there will be no turning back. Noir Elements: Literary precursor, on-location shooting, chiaroscuro lighting, criminal element, and noir heroes (similar to Gun Crazy – leads that don't look hardened but are swept up into a darker world) Note: Directed by Nicholas Ray (A Woman's Secret, In a Lonely Place, On Dangerous Ground, Macao) and cinematography by George E. Diskant (Beware, My Lovely, Kansas City Confidential) House Style: (RKO) Eclectic, experimental (use of youths), theatrical (melodramatic ending), NY sophistication (cinematography) While this noir does not open on a scene of night, it does open with quite a bit of excitement, starting with a jailbreak (similar to Dark Passage). In this tense escape, we meet robbers (and occasionally killers) T-Dub (Jay C. Flippen) and Chickamaw (Howard Da Silva – Border Incident), and their much younger partner Bowie (Farley Granger). Further along, we are introduced to Keechie (Cathy O'Donnell) and her drunk father Mobley (Will Wright). While Flippen gives T-Dub a steady character, it is Silva's Chickamaw, O'Donnell's Keechie, and Granger's Bowie that make the film. Chickamaw's main feature may be his one eye, but he has a kinetic force that made me as a viewer feel very uncomfortable, we knew that whatever room he was in, nothing but trouble would follow. He's jittery and addicted to action (and booze) and anything can happen when he's there, and something will go wrong. Many noirs tend to portray the criminal more sympathetically, especially if they don't kill anyone (or don't mean to), are unjustly accused, have something to lose (like a family, girl, or dog), and in this case, also because they are young. They get caught up in something, get in over their head, and feel they have no choice which is the real story for a lot of criminals. Note: The association with Bonnie and Clyde (1967) is justified, they were both Depression-era "criminals" whoare often portrayed sympathetically (or romantically). Keechie isn't exactly a femme fatale like Peggy Cummins in Gun Crazy (more closely resembling a young Jodie foster), but she is solemn and quiet (for the most part), and a lot of her and Bowie's relationship is communicated through a few syllables and meaningful looks. Like Cummins, Granger was in his early 20s when he played this part but they both look about 17. He is full of energy, and his dark eyes are either fearful or hopeless or playful. They aren't Marie and Earle, experienced and hardened. They're just two quiet children in an adult world, and their simple dreams are complicated by dirty money and a path that can lead nowhere good.
  13. Scene of the Crime (1949) [CONTINUED – CYNICISM] As a transition between gangster films and cop shows, Scene speaks successfully to cynicism, this time not among criminals but cops. The cops, doing the the grunt work (similar to Mystery Street), have their own secret rules not found in the books of rules and regulations. They work the system, using fear and stool pigeons, which is how the LAPD is often portrayed as doing. Even the film's only private detective mentions the fantasy of Bogart's film roles; he is beaten up but admits his own weakness and drawbacks in being a private dick in the face of violent clients, and cops willing to cross the lines that only they thought they would cross. And Johnson's' own war scars, seen prominent on his forehead, do add to that character, sick and tired and uncomfortable in normal surroundings (like dinner parties). People like former partners Monigan and Piper are old and equally tired, in fear of being replaced and unable to function in the careers that have left them isolated and alienated. Furthermore, the scene with Monigan's son probably resembles many a conversation with soldier's families, a boy growing up without a father who doesn't care how is father died, how glorious they make it look – he's still dead. [Note: I might add that Monigan's murder which start the film is the most effective death of the film.] Being a hero is not celebrated in this post-war world, and that line "Don't try and be a hero" is repeated constantly, and those who do end by betrayed or shot for being such a sap.
  14. Scene of the Crime (1949): In Scene of the Crime, MGM is trying ever so hard to be Warner Bros, the master of fast-talking, rough, action-packed gritty urban melodramas. For the most part it fails, but it's an entertaining enough attempt. Basic Plot: A tough LAPD cop investigates the mysterious murder of a former partner. Noir Elements: Literary precursor, open at night with a murder, urban setting (Los Angeles), attempt at realism (Schary), some cinematography flourishes (wide-angle lens, close-ups, reflective surfaces), chiaroscuro lighting, post-war cynicism, femme fatale, and hero who uses morally ambiguous means to do the right thing (while also being swept into a larger, darker plot) House Style: (MGM) Big budget, big stars, and middle class appeal Note: Some comparisons, at least narrative-wise, could be drawn with L.A. Confidential: old cop friend of hero murdered, mob and police working in tandem, amoral cops, salacious press, larger outfit coming to L.A. to take over, and a blonde "sizzler" supposedly with a heart of gold who sets up our hero. Van Johnson joins the line-up of MGM pretty boys becoming tough guys, with Dick Powell and James Cagney (though he had 30s gangster origins). Though he does know how to carry a dramatic role, particularly in war films, this performance occasionally feels forced. Arlene Dahl would have been more appropriately cast as the femme fatale and Gloria DeHaven as the sweet-faced blonde waiting for our hero at the end of the story, but both try their best and make out better than some of the others. As a composite, they would a more effective dark lady, with Dahl's platinum appearance and sweet facade in combination with the wife's bitterness, beauty, manipulation, and perfectly-placed mole. The film's major flaws are found in miscasting, putting all the interesting violence offscreen (and removing the seedier aspects), lacking a formidable villain, too clean appearance, and attempting the middle class appeal (especially with the presence of the wife and the warm ending).
  15. I'll probably rewatch it in a few years. It's like a French fillm, you are a bit baffled by it but it's so stylistic that you're wondering if as a viewer, if you're slow to understand or if it's the most brilliant film ever made or is it just a mass of confusion driven by director and expertly-done visuals. Believe it or not, but the University of Minnesota has a mimeography of Welles' 152-page script (http://special.lib.umn.edu/findaid/xml/mss004.xml) so if I'm ever in Minnesota for whatever reason, I know the first thing I'll go looking for is this.
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