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*Hollow Triumph* (1948) Director: Steve Sekely, with Paul Henreid, Joan Bennett, Leslie Brooks, and Eduard Franz. The Scar is the UK title of this film.The cinematography by John Alton (director of photography) practically insures great visuals in "sewerscope" (a dark halo around the frame as if we were viewing the proceedings from inside a sewer).






A film that has apparently three different titles. Story line is, John Muller (Paul Henreid), a medical school dropout and brilliant criminal mastermind, has been released from prison. He plans with three accomplices a holdup at an illegal gambling casino. The gangster who runs the casino has a reputation for tracking down and killing his enemies, no matter how far they go or how long they hide. The robbery goes bad and the mobsters running the place know exactly who tried to rob them when half the team is captured.



Muller & His Brother




Muller decides to leave town and lie low. While hiding out from the mob, he takes an office job recommended by his brother (Franz) but he quickly decides that an honest living is not for him. An opportunity for a new direction comes to mind when he finds out that he's the exact look-a-like the psychologist Dr Bartok - the only difference is the doctor has a large scar on the side of his face. He plans to kill the man and take over his life. Joan Bennett is the psychologist's nurse/receptionist with whom he has an affair while studying up on Bartok, and Leslie Brooks is Bartok's girlfriend.


Bennett & Henried




Brooks & Henried





This film has a couple of nice twists that I won't give away, a great chase scene through LA's Bunker Hill section that actually involves the well known Film Noir archetype the Angels Flight cable car. Its biggest problem is the cast, Henreid and Bennett just don't spark, another of the usual suspect Noir leads would have made this more well known, possibly. Henreid just doesn't quite cut it, he's too cool to play alienated or obsessed.


Angel's Flight escape




Brooks has a walk on part as the secret girlfriend of Dr. Bartok, that Muller unexpectedly finds out about, this and other story points should have been emphasized more, as it is way too much time is wasted on the setup. Still a 6.5-7/10, shown on TCM.


Edited by: cigarjoe on Oct 21, 2011 9:47 AM spelling ;-)

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*The Mask Of Dimitrios* (1944)Directed by Jean Negulesco, with Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, Zachary Scott, Faye Emerson, Victor Francen, George Tobias, Steve Geray, Eduardo Ciannelli, Florence Bates.





A really offbeat story of a mild-mannered mystery writer Leyden (Lorre) who is intrigued by the tale told by a Turkish policeman, of notorious criminal Dimitrios Makropolous (Scott), whose body was found washed up on the shore in Istanbul. Leyden decides to follow the career of Dimitrios around Europe, to learn more about the man. Which we see in a series of flashbacks. Along the way, he is joined by mysterious Mr. Peters (Greenstreet), who has his own motivation. I really don't like any of the three leads all that much especially Scott who for me anyway has never been convincing in any role I've seen him in (he reminds me of that weasel Eric Roberts who I have the same ambivalence for), but Faye Emerson provides some nice eye candy. Its somwhat ineffective because you can kind of figure out the obvious direction its going from the get go.


The cinematography is very noir-ish, so its a treat regardless, in that respect, but then again on the other hand its not gritty cityscapes or lonely desert roadhouse diners, trailer courts or flashing neon backstreets in the type of noirs I enjoy nor does it have any hard-boiled dialog considering the cast of characters, lol, you are not going to get any of that from the likes of three of the silver screen's oiliest weasels, Lorre, Greenstreet, or Scott, it would sound ridiculous anyway. Its like watching a dark Casablanca or any Adventure Period Piece set in Hollywood back lot Exotic-Anywhere-Ville, so it lacks the emotional punch you get out of the best noirs.


I'll give this weasel fest a 7/10





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*Dangerous Crossing* (1953) Director, Joseph M. Newman, with Jean Crain, Michael Rennie, Max Shoalter and Carl Betz.


(possible spoilers)



Newlywed steel heiress Crain is abondoned on her honeymoon cruise, Betz her husband (and unbeknownst to her, one of the ships officers) in cahoots with a ship steward make her seem insane in the eyes of the rest crew with designs one doing her in once her sanity is questioned.



Most of the story takes place in dimly lit ship interiors, and when the action does take place on deck its mostly dark and foggy with an ominous sounding fog horn reinforces the mood of darkness and danger. Rennie plays the sympathetic ship's doctor who eventually believes Crain story.


Its different and entertaining enough a good little thriller, 7/10



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*Party Girl* (1958) Director: Nicholas Ray. With Robert Taylor, Cyd Charisse, Lee J. Cobb, and John Ireland. Sort of a hybrid Noir/Dance-Musical/Romance that's tailored to Charisse's dancing talents. Its not that obvious but obvious enough that she gets about 2 1/2 dance routines in a studio sound stage sized nightclub. Its also a bit light in the gritty diegetic Noir world depiction and there is really no character who is very alienated or obsessed and really no hard core Femme Fatale

Being in color (though I don't remember any daylight sequences of any great consequences besides the Swedish Clinic one) also detracts from it having a Noir feel, its sort of a noir-light in every department. Niagara overcomes being filmed in color much more convincingly with Joseph Cotton's alienated character and Marilyn's Femme Fatale.

Cobb plays a sort of Capone like character, it even references the Capone/baseball bat anecdote, Taylor plays a crippled but efficient mob "consigliere"/ lawyer, Charisse is a nightclub chorine who snubs gang man Ireland and catches the eye of Taylor.

Not by any means required noir viewing, saw it on TCM as part of Nicholas Ray's month, somewhat entertaining but compared to other Film Noir a 6/10.

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*Undercurrent* (1946) Director Vincente Minnelli. With Katharine Hepburn, Robert Taylor, Robert Mitchum, Edmund Gwenn, Marjorie Main, Jayne Meadows, Clinton Sundberg. Terrible Noir of exactly the type I really don't like upper crust/high society on recycled a million time sets. Overly melodramatic story of newly married Hepburn, whose husband (Taylor) is bitterly estranged from his brother (Mitchum). My wife even though the actors were miscast, avoid if you can 1/10

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It is hard to believe or accept that Mitchum is in a bad noir but this one comes very close.


If Taylor and Mitchum traded places it might of worked better. At least seeing Mitchum lose it at the end might of added some value. Other they Ryan not many are better at losing it than Mitchum.

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This one pulls you right in immediately with its opening shot of an iguana perched on a tree branch on a dark stormy night as the camera then moves in to reveal an airport. The scene continues without dialog for five minutes as we see a car arrive, a man stepping out and clutching a briefcase and boarding the plane.


For the rest of the film we're in Panama, or RKO's best efforts on the back lot to have it appear so. However, in the hands of director Ted Tetzlaff, a former cinematographer and with camera duties assigned to George Diskant, we're given an atmospheric facsimile of the locale.



Martin Rackin's script is chock full of snappy patter and if Pat O'Brien appears a bit too long in the tooth and thick in the wasistline to be playing the wisecracking hero, he's still more than capable of making with the rapid-fire exchanges as he had proved many times in earlier days at Warners. He's hired to protect a passenger from the plane we saw earlier - but not the man who was clutching the briefcase - for some reason, he exited before the plane landed if you catch my drift.



No, O'Brien's new client is the other passenger who was on the plane and who now has the brief case. The brief case has a map and that's the MacGuffin in the story. It doesn't matter what the map leads to, only that a group of people want it and they'll try to bribe, hire or beat O'Brien into revealing its location. The problem is that he doesn't know where it is as the last man to have it is dead and he didn't bother to let O'Brien know that it's hidden in plain sight.



Of course there's a somewhat deceitful dame, this time it's Anne Jeffries and as so often happens, there's a very helpful cab driver, this one played by Percy Kilbride. Walter Slezak gets the usual heavy role and it fits him well enough.



In the end, what it comes down to is an economy-line production that is bolstered by the cinematography and the dialogue. There's nothing revelatory here except for the fact that the film isn't as well known as it should be. If it had starred say Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer, it would be heralded as one of the greats. Enjoy it for its own charms, there are plenty of them.






Note: The poster has the title as *Riff-Raff* while the film's credits have it as *Riffraff*.

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*Raw Deal* (1948) Directed by Anthony Mann, cinematography by John Alton, with Dennis O'Keefe, Claire Trevor, Marsha Hunt, John Ireland, Raymond Burr, and Whit Bissel. Story line (from IMDb synopsys) Joe Sullivan (O'Keefe) is itching to get out of prison. He's taken the rap for Rick (Burr), who owes him $50 Grand for doing so with the added promise that he'll arrange for his escape. Rick sets up an escape for Joe, knowing/hoping that Joe will be caught escaping and be shot or locked away forever. But with the help of his love-struck girl Pat (Trevor) and his sympathetic legal caseworker Ann (Hunt), Joe gets further than he's supposed to, to slimy Rick's designs. Rick sends henchman Fantail (Ireland) to a meeting place to knock him off.


This Noir has a twist O'Keefe is the Homme Fatale to the two women in love with him and he is torn between them.

To quote Dan Hodges on "The Blackboard" a Film Noir discussion board:

"Raw Deal is a far better film than strict adherents to a hardboiled framework are able to acknowledge. Through a crime and love story that is the equal in its adultness with the best of French poetic realism, not to mention American film noir, Raw Deal shows the heart-wrenching despair men and women endure and the soul-deadening compromises they give in to. Not only the extraordinary visual style but also the exceptionally tense interplay of mature romantic relationships place Raw Deal among the best cinema, as well as film noir."

Shot in John Alaton's beautiful "sewerscope" where all the action is viewed from seemingly out of a dark sewer, lol. A very dark & stylistic film.

memorable quote:

"I got my breath of fresh air....you" (O'Keefe to Hunt)

Another of the true Hard Core Visual Noir's watched it on a Classic Crime Collection DVD 10/10

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> {quote:title=cigarjoe wrote:}{quote}


*Undercurrent* (1946) Director Vincente Minnelli. With Katharine Hepburn, Robert Taylor, Robert Mitchum, Edmund Gwenn, Marjorie Main, Jayne Meadows, Clinton Sundberg. Terrible Noir of exactly the type I really don't like upper crust/high society on recycled a million time sets. Overly melodramatic story of newly married Hepburn, whose husband (Taylor) is bitterly estranged from his brother (Mitchum). My wife even though the actors were miscast, avoid if you can 1/10


Granted, there are much better noirs, but I think it's decent enough that I have watched it several times, and looked forward to seeing it again, when I hadn't seen it for a few years. As one might expect, I enjoy Mitchum the most. But, it is one of the few films where I can stand Kate Hepburn. Taylor does a decent job, but if Robert Ryan had played his part, we might be looking at a classic.

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Saw two over the last few days:


*Sweet Smell of Success* (1957) well prior to TMC's last showing I'd only caught bits and pieces of this film. Finally it got my undivided attention and it just blew me away. First of all it captures the NYC of my early youth, I remember walking down those streets and being in that Times Square so in those respects it was a time machine. I was even intimately familiar with the nightclub "Robards" location a high school buddy's brother had a Waterbed store on that block of 59th Street in the mid 1960's.


But the stellar attraction in this film is the acting talents of Lancaster & Curtis each playing two sleaze balls trying to out do each other for the title of slimiest person alive. A shout out also to Barbra Nichols the cigarette girl/part time party girl. Bravo, the cinematography by James Wong Howe is fantastic. I'll probably have to pick up the Criterion release of this one. Easily a 10/10


*He Walked By Night* (1948) Half police procedural half hard core Noir, the procedural sort of bogs down the film which soars when Richard Basehart is on screen, great chase sequence at the end that predates "The Third Man". Great cinematography by John alton 6.5/10


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