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The definitive film noir


Guest TCMhost-Claire

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Hey my frend....Burst the bubble and come out...nuthing has changed, there are still millions out there that think everyting is O.K. The interesting thing about it is....what happens when their bubble breaks,,,,,,,,,,,and everything isn't so great.

There is nuthing so satifying as haveing your own bubble...until realization pops it and it's too dam late to do anything about what has been going on. Stop, come out of it for awhile, and see what is going on around you. It's O.K. I rerckon...to be too soon old............until you are too soon stupid

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> I haven't seen them all but one that stands out is

> 'He Walked By Night'.

 

Fantastic John Alton cinematography in that one. He was probably the greatest of all noir cinematographers (although Nic Musuraca certainly had his moments).

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  • 4 weeks later...

"He Walked by Night" is a an EXCELLENT noir! Love that movie. Visually gorgeous. That's a noir.

 

Alot of the movies mentioned here and on imdb don't really seem to be noirs to me. (Not an expert so don't shoot me!) I don't think of 30's gangster films as noirs. To me it's stuff like THE SET UP, HITCHHIKER, T-MEN, OUT OF THE PAST, DOUBLE INDEMNITY, I WALK ALONE, etc..... Mostly movies from the mid 40's to the late 50's.

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> Alot of the movies mentioned here and on imdb don't

> really seem to be noirs to me. (Not an expert so

> don't shoot me!) I don't think of 30's gangster

> films as noirs. To me it's stuff like THE SET UP,

> HITCHHIKER, T-MEN, OUT OF THE PAST, DOUBLE INDEMNITY,

> I WALK ALONE, etc..... Mostly movies from the mid

> 40's to the late 50's.

 

These days just about every crime film seems to be labelled as film noir! I recently saw THE RACKET, which was included in one of the Warner Home Video film noir boxed sets. To me it didn't seem even remotely noir. It's just a crime film.

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I'm not sure about the Racket either. Some of my favorites off the top of my head would be:

 

1. THE SET-UP

2. HE WALKED BY NIGHT

3. DOUBLE INDEMNITY

4. SORRY WRONG NUMBER

5. OUT OF THE PAST

6. I WALK ALONE

7 THE KILLING

8. THE HITCHHIKER

9. DETOUR

10. KISS ME DEADLY

 

I love Maltese Falcon but is it noir. I kind of think it's an early one. Also the Naked City may be a noir. There's alot more that I like but I definitely don't consider straight gangster films like Scarface or the Godfather noir.

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THE RACKET sucks. It's not even a particularly good crime film. I see MALTESE FALCON as a semi-noir; content-wise it conforms to noir template, but the look of the film--like so many other Warner Bros films of that period--is fairly flat, decidedly unexpressionistic. A great film, but not so noir.

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When you're talking Noir, I think of the Holy Trinity of actors who are very much linked to the genre. These would be Edward G. Robinson, Humphrey Bogart, and John Garfield. You can't leave the devil out so I'd also add Robert Ryan as well.

 

Out of the Past (1947) is THE definitive Noir because it contains ALL the elements; voiceover, flashback, femme fatale, etc.

 

My personal list would include:

 

1)The Maltese Falcon

2)Double Indemnity

3)Scarlet Street

4)Out of the Past

5)Force of Evil

6)Detour

7)In a Lonely Place

8)Gilda

9)Sunset Blvd.

10)Act of Violence

11)Rififi

12)Body & Soul

13)The Setup

14)Touch of Evil

15)Chinatown

16)Le Samourai

18)Leave Her to Heaven

19)The Third Man

20)Kiss Me Deadly

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I dig your list the most! Many of my own personal faves are contained on it as well. My only quibblle would be MALTESE FALCON which I think is a great, four-star movie, but suffers somewhat from a non-noir look (typical of Warner Bros films at the time). But nonetheless a fantastic film!

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MF is definitely a more subtle film shot-wise than something like "Stranger on the Third Floor" or "The Letter" which preceded it. Light and shadow actually came from the German Expressionist films of the 20's. While it is important to Noir it is not original to the genre.

 

While there are not the light and shadow shots of those earlier films, there is lots of odd angled camera work. The cutaways are also interesting. These things are as much a part of Noir as light and shadow. "Gun Crazy" (1949), another fine film that I forgot to mention, has tons of these kinds of shots. Odd angles and POV shots suggest a claustrophobic feel and a nightmarish world out of step with reality.

 

"Lady From Shanghai" (1948) also uses this effect although with much more intensity. In "The Third Man" almost every shot is this way COMBINED with light and shadow to create a film that is quite headspinning to say the least.

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A couple of other mid-40s film noir gems directed by Joseph H. Lewis would be SO DARK THE NIGHT and MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS. The latter is a genuine sleeper and deserves a much wider reputation than it has. Earlier in the 40s Lewis also managed to deliver one of the better Falcon entires (...in San Francisco), some snappy East Side Kids programmers for Monogram and one of the more coherent post-Universal Bela Lugosi horror pictures, THE INVISIBLE GHOST, also for Monogram. Given TCM's new relationship with Columbia / Sony and the recent decision to air more Monogram titles, there's a good likelihood these films might show up in the coming months.

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I can't say enough about THE BIG COMBO, Arkadin. It's truly one of the 50s best noir films. Played out as a primal tale of lust and obsession, it probably goes deeper than most films of the period in its exposure of raw human emotion. Richard Conte (who I would place near the top of any list of noir icons) has rarely been better, spitting out his lines of bitter dialogue like a rabid mutt. He's matched all the way, though, by a stellar ensemble cast, including the hypnotic (and seldom seen) Jean Wallace as Conte's conflicted mistress (who was married at the time in real life to co-star Cornel Wilde), Brian Donlevy as the aging henchman and, most interestingly, Lee Van Cleef and Earl Holliman as a pair of preening, sadistic underlings. But the real star (apart from Lewis himself) is cinematographer John Alton, who contributes some of his most startling work, maintaining an unsettling visual dynamic throughout. A standout sequence, which you undoubtedly recall, (SPOILER ALERT, for those who wish to keep the shock of the moment intact) is Donlevy's execution-style murder at the hands of Van Cleef and Holliman. Donlevy's character is saddled with a hearing aid. Conte, in a moment of charitable humanity, pulls it out of Donlevy's ear before the shooting begins, sparing him the sound of his own death. The sequence is filmed completely silent, just the high-contrast image of flashing gunfire directly into the camera. Very disturbing. (I screened this film in a class on Film Noir that I teach and the audible gasps emanating from the students were quite palpable.) Anyway, these are random, rambling thoughts on the film. There's a beuatiful DVD out there on this film that Image Entertainment put out some years ago.

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I can't say enough about THE BIG COMBO, Arkadin. It's truly one of the 50s best noir films. Played out as a primal tale of lust and obsession, it probably goes deeper than most films of the period in its exposure of raw human emotion. Richard Conte (who I would place near the top of any list of noir icons) has rarely been better, spitting out his lines of bitter dialogue like a rabid mutt. He's matched all the way, though, by a stellar ensemble cast, including the hypnotic (and seldom seen) Jean Wallace as Conte's conflicted mistress (who was married at the time in real life to co-star Cornel Wilde), Brian Donlevy as the aging henchman and, most interestingly, Lee Van Cleef and Earl Holliman as a pair of preening, sadistic underlings. But the real star (apart from Lewis himself) is cinematographer John Alton, who contributes some of his most startling work, maintaining an unsettling visual dynamic throughout. A standout sequence, which you undoubtedly recall, (SPOILER ALERT, for those who wish to keep the shock of the moment intact) is Donlevy's execution-style murder at the hands of Van Cleef and Holliman. Donlevy's character is saddled with a hearing aid. Conte, in a moment of charitable humanity, pulls it out of Donlevy's ear before the shooting begins, sparing him the sound of his own death. The sequence is filmed completely silent, just the high-contrast image of flashing gunfire directly into the camera. Very disturbing. (I screened this film in a class on Film Noir that I teach and the audible gasps emanating from the students were quite palpable.) Anyway, these are random, rambling thoughts on the film. There's a beautiful DVD out there that Image Entertainment put out some years ago.

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I can't speak for the non-Image versions, but I can't see how they could possibly be better. $45 is a hefty price tag, though. I've actually seen copies out here in Northern California stores going for $20 - $25. Have you tried eBay? Sometimes good deals can be had there. Personally, I would hold out.

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  • 3 weeks later...

The definitive film noir is by far Robert Siodmak's "The Killers," the only noir to make it to the Academy Awards with a best director nomination. At the very least, it's memorable for being the film debut of Burt Lancaster. It is also the film that launched the floundering career of Ava Gardner. The screenplay was cowritten by an uncredited John Huston, who borrowed the flashback narrative structure from "Citizen Kane." It has remarkable set pieces, including the long-take payroll robbery scene and the spectacular opening sequence that replicates in style, mood, and language the original Hemingway story.

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A bonafide classic, for sure; no doubt your enthusiasm for it led you to select your Board name. Sidomak's career has yielded a number of fine noir films; my personal favorite of his would be PHANTOM LADY. His work in the horror genre was well-served by the 1943 Universal classic SON OF DRACULA. A definite genius of a director.

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