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KirkG

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Everything posted by KirkG

  1. As with several others who have already posted here, I find it difficult to be objective about Buster (though my favorite among Chaplin, Keaton and Lloyd tends to be whoever I've just seen). One thing I find interesting in looking closely at this sequence is how one has a sense that Buster gets up off the ground, finds his mark for the window, has the building facade crash around him, reacts and then runs off, all in one shot (Dr. Edwards almost says as much in his analysis). It always amazes me that not only does he stand on the exact spot he needs to, after this two ton wall comes crashi
  2. One of the interesting questions raised in today's "Daily Doozy" is that the gags in the silent era were completely visual. Of course that's mostly true. However, just as visual humor didn't just disappear with the coming of talkies, silent comedies have their share of verbal humor, with intertitles that could be quite witty. My favorites are "Beanie" Walker's work for the Hal Roach Studios.
  3. I have to repeat here the common quote "silent films were never silent." Musical accompaniment (from piano to full orchestra) was almost always a part of the contemporary audience's experience, and good accompaniment is key for modern audiences to enjoy them fully as well. Of course, that doesn't excuse the kind of exaggerated accompaniment and sound effects that are sometimes found in clips such as these. I will say that as someone growing up in the '60s and early '70s, things like these Youngson compilations were a great treat. It was hard to get to see these films in any format, let a
  4. To be honest, I was somewhat confused by the introduction to today's Daily Dose. It seems to say the "Elevator to the Gallows" does not count as film noir simply because it was not made in America (or perhaps I'm misreading it). I have a reasonably narrow definition of film noir myself, but specific nationality of the film is not one of the requirements. As to jazz and noir, I think they tie together for two primary reasons. First, jazz seems to be the music of mid-century urban America, which is the prototypical (but not only) noir setting. Second, the minor keys of jazz provide a melanch
  5. In today's clip from "Beware, My Lovely," when we first see Howard he is putting up a window screen which somewhat obscures our view of him. There's a spot of dirt on the screen, which appears to be a black mark on his face (and on his character?) but he works to clean it off. When he gets his coat from the closet, we see him in a mirror, which tells us there may be more than one side to him. Finally, after discovering the body of Mrs. Warren, he is panic stricken and flees town. The running would seem to be the action of a guilty man, but his surprise at finding the body seems to indicate he
  6. With this opening of "The Narrow Margin," we're challenged to note ways in which "noir conventions are being burlesqued." Brief though it is, we notice the dialogue is even more slangy than usual. In just about fifteen seconds, a woman is described as a "dame," a "dish," a "60 cent special," "cheap," "flashy," who's "strictly poison under the gravy" because "what kind of a dame would marry a hood?" The fact that it one of the toughest of tough guys, Charles McGraw, delivering this in his flat, gravelly tone emphasizes just how far we've come from Bogart and Powell tossing out Chandler bo
  7. In looking at today's clip from "Kansas City Confidential," I was stuck by the third suggested question. Why is a heist a good subject for film noir? First, it involves criminal activity, which must be a part of any noir film, and since we are following the story from the side of the professional criminal, we are deep into the dark side of life. Heist films take a purportedly realistic approach, familiar in many noir films, but rather than follow the authorities in solving a crime (as in "The Naked City") we see how the crime is planned. As things happen that (inevitably) put the plan
  8. In today's clip from "99 River Street" we see Ernie Driscoll reliving his glory days watching one of his old fights on television. The Curator's Note in The Daily Dose has already commented on the inherent critique in the visual presentation of film versus video, and little more need be added. What I find interesting is how this makes clear what Ernie has lost, as the visceral excitement of his days as a fighter have been marginalized into this small confining screen. Once again in noir the past is a powerful influence, this time not because of something done wrong, but because of what has bee
  9. In today's clip from "The Strange Loves of Martha Ivers," several things work to establish the relationships of the characters. Walter is first seen slightly higher than Sam, but when Sam asks him for a "favor," he is the taller one, indicating he may have the upper hand here. Walter seems reluctant until Sam asks "for old time's sake" which seems to have a chilling effect on Walter, making us wonder what in the past Sam may have on Walter. Once Martha enters and recognizes Sam, they are photographed together, as a couple. Walter is seen in separate shots, or, if in the same shot, ph
  10. Today's clip from "Too Late for Tears" would seem to begin with a couple of completely innocent people who by random chance end up with a bag of (presumably ill-gotten) money. By choosing to drive off with the money it would appear the couple takes their first wrong turn, which will likely lead them down a road of noir complications. One can reflect that the idea of innocent people being drawn into a dark and violent world would have resonance in post-war America. Many Americans would feel that they had just been unwillingly drawn into a World War and its attendant hells. But what I f
  11. I generally do not consider Hitchcock's films to be noir, though "Strangers on a Train" might actually qualify. To me, one of the important traits of the noir protagonist is that he has crossed the line somehow ("I did something wrong once"). It may be a big thing, it may seem minor, but this transgression sets the protagonist up for whatever happens to him. This may be too limiting of a definition, but there it is. In Hitchcock's world, the protagonist generally gets into trouble for no good reason, perhaps because he is mistaken. But "Strangers" could fit my noir definition because
  12. In my quest to watch new-to-me films noir off each Friday's schedule, this week I certainly got a mixed bag. "Follow Me Quietly" wins the award for most interesting title, and it also had some interesting ideas for a police procedural. Unfortunately, I didn't think it was too successful in following through on them. "Red Light" was certainly interesting in its combination of noir themes and style with religious ideas. It was a bit heavy-handed in its handling of the latter, but what really sank it was George Raft. Change the leading man and you might have had something. Some might
  13. In today's clip of the opening of "D.O.A.", we're not in a car, but as we follow behind Frank Bigelow, we might just as well be in Mike Hammer's convertible or in the police wagon of "Caged." We're driven relentlessly forward into the frame. We can almost feel the lines of perspective drawing us in. We don't see Bigelow's face for the long time, and this increases our curiosity about this man. Who is he? We also (without the camera tricks of "The Lady in the Lake") find ourselves in almost a first person p.o.v. This, combined with making the character a cypher, causes us to identify with h
  14. In today's opening shot from "Caged" we are once again traveling down a road, but this time our view is restricted to a very small window through wire mesh. The sound of a siren means we could be in an ambulance, but the title of the film makes it more likely we're in a police wagon. The interior is dark, with just a few Indistinct shadows moving around. Then the vehicle stop, the door is opened and we see we've been sharing this space with several women, the most prominent of whom is fearful (not unlike Christina). Once again we seem to be thrown right into the middle of a story, whe
  15. Today's clip from "The Hitch-Hiker" is fascinating in comparison to yesterday's "Kiss Me Deadly." Both involve hitchhikers on a lonely road, but where yesterday we had a terrorized figure being picked up by someone with seemingly no empathy but who turned out to be entirely in control, today we have a figure who terrorizes others, picked up by good samaritans who immediately lose control to this stranger. This contrast is strengthened visually but the fact that, although both scenes take place on a dark road at night, Christina was seen fairly brightly lit, while Emmett is clothed in the d
  16. The one thing about Welles is that he was willing to try everything that film had to offer. That makes him exciting to me, but it also means that inevitably there will be failures (if you're swinging for the fence you're going to whiff a few). It sounds like there are a lot of people on this forum for whom "The Lady Fron Shanghai" is a failure. I don't think it's a masterpiece, but I still find it fascinating and more interesting than most pictures made around that time.
  17. Today's clip of the opening for "Kiss Me Deadly" throws us straight into the action, with no explanation, following a trend we've been seeing in other pictures (such as "Act of Violence" and "The High Wall"). In this case, we're in the thick of it before the credits even roll. Mike Hammer is the toughest of tough guys. Confronted by this woman in great distress, his first response is "You almost wrecked my car." This is not Raymond Chandler's "man...who is not himself mean." Hammer may be meaner than the streets he goes down. He even threatens to throw Christina off a cliff. Yet when h
  18. I'm glad to see a little love for "Act of Violence." I remember the first time I saw it. It's one of those pictures that you think you've got all figured out. Frank seems to be a good guy targeted for some reason by the psychotic Joe. But things seem off, and you get a disquieting feeling: the Memorial Day parade that interrupts Joe's single minded movement, the high winds and storm clouds lowering at the lake. Suddenly, about one-third of the way through, Frank escapes to L.A., but leaving his family behind seems wrong and dangerous. What just happened? From then on, everything you thought yo
  19. This weekend I continued my effort to watch films new to me with two titles. At first, "They Won't Believe Me" didn't grab me. Visually, I didn't find it that impressive. But the character of an apparently nice guy (because he's played by Robert Young?) who is not only cheating on his wife as the story starts, but then dumps his girlfriend to go back to his wife's money, then cheats on her with another woman, was fascinating and unusual for the time. I began to notice little directorial touches like the overlapping of one shot with the sound of another (as with the discovery of the body co
  20. To me "The Third Man" is absolutely noir. The key is the moral uncertainty. There seems to be no clearly defined right or wrong in this world, and Holly, the American "cowboy" is completely ill equipped to deal with it. And when Holly does realize that Lime is evil, and takes part in his finish, it brings him no reward. In one of the great final shots, Anna, working under her own code of loyalty, simply ignores him. It may be true there is no femme fatale, but consider if there is an homme fatale. Doesn't Harry tempt Holly just as cleverly and ruthlessly as any of the women we've seen?
  21. The first view of Harry Lime in "The Third Man" is one of my absolute favorite sequences in movies (perhaps second only to the final shots of "City Lights"). Where to start with this iconic scene? We are clearly on the actual streets of Vienna, as we are throughout the film, often seeing the massive destruction caused by the war. But in the midst of these realistic settings we are given incredibly skewed camera angles, lighting from impossible sources, throwing increasingly weird shadows. These are noir standbys that we have seen in other pictures, but never pushed as far as they are here,
  22. The entrance of the two main characters in "The Postman Always Rings Twice" tells us a lot about them in myriad ways. Frank, first heard in voice over sounding wearier than he does in the flashback we see, so we can tell something's going to beat him down (I can't recall how much the scene before this reveals). He's hitch hiking - from nowhere, going nowhere - but he might stop here. The first thing we hear once he's left at this location is a police siren - a portent of trouble with the law to come? He easily assumes that the cop took a bribe, because he lives in an immoral world, accepti
  23. Not trying to pick on Ed here as he make an interesting point. But the idea of a house style didn't mean a studio only worked in specified genres, but that whatever genre the studio did use would be colored by the studio's overall tone. So when Warners did a musical, it was more likely to have the grittier edge of "42nd Street" rather than the frivolity of "Flying Down to Rio." When they made a technicolor swashbuckler, it was more likely to have the social conscience of "The Adventures of Robin Hood" rather than the dance like acrobatics of "The Three Musketeers." It's not that these th
  24. Today's scene from "The Mask of Dimitrios" is utterly charming in the way it enjoys playing with the characters of Lorre and Greenstreet. This film could have been made with two other actors, but then it wouldn't have been written or shot this way, to play on our expectations of these two from their other pictures, especially "The Maltese Falcon" (notice the low trucking shot forward and up until Greenstreet fills the frame and try not to think of Gutmann). This was all as much a wink to the audience as the pair's overtly jokey appearance as "themselves" in "Hollywood Canteen" In looking
  25. Today's clip from "Out of the Past" demonstrates what a beautifully photographed film this is. As with "The Big Sleep," we have an introductory scene played out in heat, but whereas that was conveyed through the General's description of his situation and Marlowe's discomfort, here we feel it through Jeff's voice over and the brightly lit exteriors. Kathie's entrance is remarkable. We see her in her white dress but, for a moment as she crosses into the shadowed cantina, she seems completely and deeply black. The visual effect doesn't seem forced, but is exactly what you'd expect seeing some
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