Jump to content

 
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...
Dr. Rich Edwards

Daily Dose of Darkness #14: Warner Bros. Noir (Scene from The Mask of Dimitrios)

Recommended Posts

Daily Dose of Darkness #14: Warner Brothers Noir

(Scene from The Mask of Dimitrios)

—The scene contains two dramatic entrances, one for each actor. How is each entrance different? What changes in the scene as they continue to interact after their entrances?

First, we see Peter Lorre moving across the screen, muttering to himself, heading to his rooms. He is standing practically offscreen, in the foreground of the shot, when Sydney Greenstreet comes through a doorway in the background. Greenstreet moves toward the camera until he is in medium shot relative to the camera. His movement suggests that he’s taking more and more control of the situation. At one point, while Greentreet questions Lorre, the camera zooms in on him from below, suggesting something sinister, at least to me. As the scene progresses, the camera alternates so that first one and then the other actor has his back to the camera. As the conversation continues, both characters seem to become more comfortable with each other, in spite of the fact that one of them is holding a gun.

—What elements of the noir style did you notice in this scene, for example, in terms of camera movement or lighting?

The dialogue sets up the mystery: We don’t know who Dimitrios is, and we don’t know why both characters have an interest in him. For now, Greenstreet has the upper hand, which the camera demonstrates with his entrance and the shot of his face from below. And the gun certainly helps!

—Compare this scene in The Mask of Dimitrios with scenes from The Maltese Falcon or Nobody Lives Forever. What are the similarities? What are the differences?

There’s no detective, like there is in The Maltese Falcon, propelling the story in The Mask of Dimitrios. Lorre and Greenstreet are revealing the plot through their conversation and their actions. I get the sense from this brief clip that Lorre and Greenstreet will be playing a game of cat and mouse, and neither of them will need to bring in law enforcement or detective agencies. I haven’t seen Nobody Lives Forever, but I don’t see too much difference between this short clip from The Mask of Dimitrios and The Maltese Falcon, except maybe that the actors seem to be enjoying themselves immensely with the witty dialogue. (I enjoyed the witty dialogue!)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We see Peter Lorre exiting an elevator and without a care in the world walks up to his room opens the door and then enters his apartment. The camera pans to show the room in disarray and continues until we see a shadow of a man slowly walking into the room and as he continues forward, the better lit room reveals his face and the gun he's pointing at Lorre. The camera work and lighting demonstrate film noir techniques employed to create chock and suspense.

 

Greenstreet, the man with the gun, sits and the camera slowly begins to push in (not zoom in) and as it nears him it slowly tilts up until it is looking up at his face and shoulders. That shot makes him appear grandiose, perhaps someone to be dealt with. The next shot we see Lorre speaking to him looking up as if Greenstreet were a giant. The director wants us to see the contrast of the characters size.

 

Another signature mark of film noir in this clip is how each character is wanting of answers and the dialogue they speak is in the form of banter. 

 

Observations

 

In both The Maltese Falcon (Warner Bros.) and this clip from The Mask of Dimitrios (Warner Bros.) we see characters exiting elevators and walking the halls. I don't know if its something but I remember it happening in Murder, My Sweet (RKO Radio Pictures) several times as well.   

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sydney Greenstreet, the famed "fat man", and Peter Lorre, the sniveling weasel, both made epic appearances in The Maltese Falcon.  Using these actors in other films gives the audience a frame of reference.  "He's the guy from ...."  "Wonder if this character is like ...."  "Oh, it's that kind of film."  

 

Lorre enters, relaxed, carefree - playing with his hat, talking to himself, smiling.  He enters his room, sees a disaster, and says, "This is funny."  But his tone doesn't equate funny with odd, but more funny with humorous.  Most of us probably would've said something much stronger, like "What the heck -- ?!"  With the entrance of Greenstreet and the gun, Lorre's character doesn't seem to become more worried or agitated.  He continues in his same relaxed mode, chatting, saying, "I'm tired.  I'm going to bed."  He's not worried or afraid.  Lorre eventually sits, lights a cigarette, and even as Greenstreet is reading from the "secret, hidden" paper,  Lorre leans back on the bed and smiles.  Wait -- Is he as innocent as he seems?

 

Greenstreet enters with his gun-- not what we expect a burglar to be.  He doesn't bark out orders; he doesn't scramble around, tying up his victim; he doesn't mind Lorre's relaxed, chatty attitude.  He's obviously well-educated, with a speech pattern not common with burglars.  He does have a goal in mind, and he isn't going to be distracted from it.  He pulls out the hidden paper, reading through the secret information.  He enjoys the verbal sparring that Lorre begins when asked about Colonel Haki.  This victim is going to be a mental challenge; so much the better (and more enjoyable) for Greenstreet's character.

 

The camera angles are especially interesting when the characters are seated.  In a closeup of Greenstreet, the camera moves in from slightly below his face, looking up, creating a character who is larger than life.  Lorre is usually filmed straight on, until he leans back on the bed.  However, instead of becoming a smaller, weaker figure, he seems to mysteriously gain some slight edge of power and control.  In the camera view, we see his body relaxing, his face smiling.  So -- Who really has the upper hand in this scene?

  • Like 8

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

-- The scene contains two dramatic entrances, one for each actor. How is each entrance different? What changes in the scene as they continue to interact after their entrances?

 

The main difference is that Peter Lorre's character does not know that Sidney Greenstreet's character is hiding and waiting for him. This give Greenstreet the initial advantage. As the scene progresses, you can see how The demeanor of Lorre's character changes. He goes from scared and confused to being confident, coy, and elusive with his responses to questions. Greenstreet's articulation of the English language is superb and adds a deeper dimension to the dialog between the two characters.

 

-- What elements of the noir style did you notice in this scene, for example, in terms of camera movement or lighting?

 

The use of lighting is one of the most important elements of film noir. The placement of lights that reflect shadows and silhouette gives the film a particular mood that viewers immediately sense. In addition, the subtle movement of each character to calculated perfection. Finally, the music is an integral part in setting the mood for the viewer. The music informs the viewer that some type of danger is coming.

 

-- Compare this scene in The Mask of Dimitrios with scenes from The Maltese Falcon or Nobody Lives Forever. What are the similarities? What are the differences?

 

The similarities are that Lorre and Greenstreet are in both movies. The scene takes place at night with lighting setting the mood. Also, the dialogue between characters in both movies is quick,sophisticated, and Greenstreet's command of both scenes is amazing. Unlike The Maltese Falcon, Lorre and Greenstreet are adversaries. In addition, there are multiple characters in The Maltese Falcon and only two in The Mask of Dimitrios.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The first thing I noticed was the use of different camera angles for each character's entrance.  Peter Lorre filled the screen from the moment he stepped off the elevator to when he entered his apartment.  Then when Sydney Greenstreet enters, it is from a distant angle, and when his dark silhouette emerges it is quite ominous, only to become more frightening as he comes into the light revealing that he is holding a gun.

I liked the dialogue between the two, as it began as a tense standoff, then eventually tempered to a more relaxed conversation.  When Sydney Greenstreet says "Let us be frank with one another", there is still a lot of tension, despite Peter Lorre's remark "I have nothing to hide".  I find this typical in a film noir - each character has some thing or some information that the other one wants, and the conversation can be quite lengthy yet still vague.  

The line 'Poor Mr. Dimitrios was taken from us in Istanbul, and you have come from Istanbul' suddenly reveals that Peter Lorre's character might be a bit more sinister than the happy-go-lucky image he portrays at the beginning of the scene.

Well, those are my thoughts.  Thanks for listening!

 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

These Daily Doses of Darkness are the best! I am learning a lot from them and the comments posted here by my cohorts.

 

As for today's prompts:

 

-- The scene contains two dramatic entrances, one for each actor. How is each entrance different? What changes in the scene as they continue to interact after their entrances? 

The two entrances set different moods by using different camera angles, distances, dialogue and lighting. The entrance mood for Peter Lorre is casual and carefree as he is shown with a POV angle shot from medium distance, while musing aloud to himself about someone he deemed to be fascinating due to his lack of morals (giving us an insight into his own integrity?). The lighting is not super bright, but it reveals him clearly. On the other hand, the initial mood for Sydney Greenstreet is much more sinister, and not just because he appears with a gun in his hand. He is shot using more low angles, framed from a greater distance by a shadowy doorway. The dialogue spoken by both characters is witty, dryly humorous, and sophisticated. For me, it is reminiscent of the dialogue between Sydney Greenstreet and Humphrey Bogart when they first discuss the Maltese Falcon. I will say more about this is Prompt 3.

As the scene continues, their interaction shifts from the initial tension to a much more relaxed relationship, as they verbally spar over who knows what, and why are they investigating Dimitrios. Peter Lorre quickly realizes that Sydney Greenstreet wants information about Dimitrios and will not shoot him to get it. Sydney Greenstreet loses the upper hand, and they become equals (except that Sydney still holds a gun, ha ha).

 

-- What elements of the noir style did you notice in this scene, for example, in terms of camera movement or lighting?

The use of ominous background music, low key lighting for Sydney's entrance, lots of camera movement between the two more or less stationary actors, low-angle shots of Sydney to emphasize his size while he has the upper hand, and the revealing of possible clues to help set the scene for actions to be shown later (such as the note referring to Colonel Haki and the timeline of events for Dimitrios?).

 

-- Compare this scene in The Mask of Dimitrios with scenes from The Maltese Falcon or Nobody Lives Forever. What are the similarities? What are the differences?

I have not yet seen Nobody Lives Forever, so I will compare The Mask to The Maltese. Sydney Greenstreet plays basically the same role in both movies, whereas he interacts with Humphrey Bogart in one and Peter Lorre in the other. In both films, Sydney is trying to find out what Bogart/Lorre know, and vice versa. Both films feature witty, dialogue and the gradual loosening of the power initially held by Sidney.

The differences are that Bogart pretends to get angry and threatens Greenstreet, while Lorre simply refuses to show that he is concerned about Greenstreet and his gun. Lorre first says he is tired and going to go to bed now (not what I suppose would be my initial reaction if I came home to a ransacked room and a gunman). Then Lorre puts Greenstreet down by asking if he is drunk, and follows it by demanding that Greenstreet reveal what his game is before Lorre will do the same. 

 

- Tom Shawcross

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Peter Lorre exits the elevator projecting the jovial, slightly bumbling character and we watch over his shoulder as he unlocks his room and enters to find it ransacked. Music changes and there, looming in the doorway is Sidney Greenstreet. He has a gun, but he is still the sophisticated, fastidious fellow who spouts learned, almost poetic prose about books. Lorre still seems bumbling and confused, we watch from his prospective. Greenstreet sits and the camera crawls up to him as if the cameraman was on his knees begging. As the scene develops though Lorre reclines and there is an idea that he has more power than he did at the beginning of the scene. Whether it is because he knows Greenstreet is not gong to shoot him or because he knows something Greenstreet does not is not apparent at this point. Like Spade in the Maltese Falcon he is not intimidated, but where Bogart seems as if violence may burst out of him at any moment Lorre seems more likely to slither his way out of danger.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Difference in entrances:  Lorre is coming out of the elevator talking to himself.  He seems quite amused at the rather dubious  person he has just met.  The set is well lit and the atmosphere light.  Then he opens the door to find his apartment in chaos.  The camera pans across the debris and Greenstreet steps out of the dark carrying a gun.  Lorre is startled at first then the conversation becomes almost playful.  "Am I mad" says Lorre.  Despite the underlying threat of the gun and Greenstreet's tone, he does not appear to be unduly worried. 

Camera angles:  When Greenstreet is seated, we get a low angle shot of him.  Given Greenstreet's considerable size, this gives him the presence of a giant.  Lorre is seated lower then him and we get a camera angle which places Greenstreet in the forefront of the screen, even more dominating.  But Lorre seems so relaxed.  He slides even lower, into a relaxed positions and his tone is quite conversational. 

Comparison:  We have no sense of the tension that this kind of screen composition creates in The Big Sleep between Colonel Sternwood and Philip Marlowe.  Sternwood is seated higher than Marlowe.  Marlowe is made ill at ease by excessive heat. Marlowe is a hot-blooded man, Sternwood, cold-blooded.  There is little communality between them. 

So what is happening in The Mask of Demetrios.  I believe that Negulesco has been made aware that Greenstreet and Lorre share the same kind of movie magic as their illustrious predecessors, Stan and Olly.  By the end of the clip, Greenstreet has laid aside the gun and realized he has a partner here not an adversary.  Together, they can conquer the world!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Watching Peter Lorre and Sidney Greenstreet is watching masters at work. Lorre arrives, happy, nonchalant, expecting to go to bed and soon after opening his door and switching on the light he discovers that his room has been ransacked. He is now - in a second - confused and bewildered. Enter Greensteet, a man as large as his size. He had a gun pointing towards Lorre but yet you feel that there is no implied threat than actual dangers. The two men seem to change before us - Lorre relaxed but is still confused. Greenstreet is searching and has found only a hint. They play cat and mouse and somehow you feel that instead of rivals they may very well become some type of comrade.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The standout element for me in this scene is the camera movement. Although it never directly takes Leyden's POV, it often moves in concert with his movements; it moves towards Peters when Leyden moves towards Peters, it lowers when Leyden sits. Then the camera is positioned at a low angle beneath Peters, giving the impression that he's a dominant, imposing figure, which is likely how Leyden feels about him.

 

Of course, the noir elements are there--the dim lighting and the no-nonsense, gun-toting character, for example. And similar to the scene in The Maltese Falcon in which Spade encounters Gutman and his cronies already in his apartment, the same happens here when Leyden encounters Peters at his place (Greenstreet seemed to make a habit of this!), both times with Greenstreet's character looking for something.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Although we tend to think of Peter Lorre playing sneaky, slimy characters, he had keen ability to individualize his performances.  Leyden has no resemblance to the pathetic murderer in M, and based on this short clip, he is not as flamboyant or whiny as Joe Cairo in The Maltese Falcon.  He comes out of the elevator, maybe a little twitchy, but other than that, he seems to be at ease, talking to himself, not too unusual for a stereotypical eccentric writer (I should know).  His understated reaction to finding his room ransacked is interesting.  “That’s funny,” he says.  “Funny” would be finding something in a different place than he left it.  This qualifies as “What happened here!”  Leyden is cool and calm, even when he can has a gun pointed at him.  Although he is a little whiny about the state of his room, there is a little bite to his words to Peters near the end of the clip.  Leyden is also rather confident, comfortable enough to smoke a cigarette and lounge on the bed while a vague acquaintance points a gun at him.  In contrast to Leyden, Peters strikes me as very similar to Gutman, although Peters is more hands-on than Gutman was.  Gutman would relay the task of tearing up Leyden’s room to one of his lackeys; Peters does it himself.  I do love that upwards shot of Peters.  It emphasizes Greenstreet’s size and presence and emphasizes how threatening he is in his moment.  I need to see more, but I don’t think Mask of Dimitrios has as much stylization as Out of the Past does.  It relies more on dialogue and character interaction to create mood and tension.  Some of the lighting is curious, though.  I’m intrigued by that lamp behind Peter Lorre’s head.  It produces what looks like a water splatter on the wall.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Although we tend to think of Peter Lorre playing sneaky, slimy characters, he had keen ability to individualize his performances.  Leyden has no resemblance to the pathetic murderer in M, and based on this short clip, he is not as flamboyant or whiny as Joe Cairo in The Maltese Falcon.  He comes out of the elevator, maybe a little twitchy, but other than that, he seems to be at ease, talking to himself, not too unusual for a stereotypical eccentric writer (I should know).  His understated reaction to finding his room ransacked is interesting.  “That’s funny,” he says.  “Funny” would be finding something in a different place than he left it.  This qualifies as “What happened here!”  Leyden is cool and calm, even when he can has a gun pointed at him.  Although he is a little whiny about the state of his room, there is a little bite to his words to Peters near the end of the clip.  Leyden is also rather confident, comfortable enough to smoke a cigarette and lounge on the bed while a vague acquaintance points a gun at him.  In contrast to Leyden, Peters strikes me as very similar to Gutman, although Peters is more hands-on than Gutman was.  Gutman would relay the task of tearing up Leyden’s room to one of his lackeys; Peters does it himself.  I do love that upwards shot of Peters.  It emphasizes Greenstreet’s size and presence and emphasizes how threatening he is in his moment.  I need to see more, but I don’t think Mask of Dimitrios has as much stylization as Out of the Past does.  It relies more on dialogue and character interaction to create mood and tension.  Some of the lighting is curious, though.  I’m intrigued by that lamp behind Peter Lorre’s head.  It produces what looks like a water splatter on the wall.

I do remember Peter Lorre playing the detective Mr. Moto in a number of films (lots of times in an impeccable white suit, like Charlie Chan) and of course then he was always the good guy.  In this clip, the camera angles were interesting and both the back lighting and camera angle on Sidney Greenstreet certainly made him the powerful, sinister one!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I rather enjoy watching Peter Lorre, he always plays offbeat characters.  The camera panning over is ransacked bedroom certainly gives us the feel that something is not quite right and the eerie music only enhances that feeling.  Certainly a rather calm fellow for having a gun pointed at him by a complete stranger.  I am curious to find out who this Dimitrios is and what they want with him.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Many great cinematography elements here as well as strong blocking to support the scene.

  • We follow Lorre across the hall and into the room at a parallel angle - neutrality - not emphasizing the entrance from either inside or from behind. (Lorre's almost casual voice makes one wonder whether he wasn't that surprised at finding his room tossed, or whether that was just his acting style).
  • Greenstreet comes out of the shadows, and with a gun - surprise, likely evil, and in control. He remains standing until he feels he has Lorre aware of that fact. Then he sits, reinforcing the balance.
  • Camera lingers for a long time on Greenstreet while he is dispensing information without showing us Lorre's reaction. This happened twice. The second time the camera came in low and shot up from a low angle as if to suggest Greenstreet was really on top now.
  • At perhaps the height of the exchange the two men move closer together and the camera zooms in to keep them in opposite corners of the frame. They are still adversarial, but it's changing.
  • Lorre starts to feel more comfortable as the conversation goes on. He takes his coat off, moves closer, lights a smoke. Eventually, when he sees Greenstreet does not understand what he has on that paper, he even smiles and reclines - he now knows he is too valuable to kill (at least right now).

I've not seen this film but am looking forward to it as these two together are pure magic.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Lorre enters relaxed and at ease talking to himself ( aparently about a mysterious character, Dimitrois-"he is without morals but facinating"). Hs entrance takes longer and is more filled with detail.There is more light in the hall,  but it dims when he goes into his room-- typical Noir technique to set the stage for trouble.

 

Lorre is surprized to see his room turned up side down, but immediately learns why when Greenstreet enters, with less fanfair and almost unnoticed by Lorre. He "slips in" with gun in hand and starts questioning Lorre in a low controlled voice. The camers shifts from one actor to the other as they interact using pov shots as well as low angle and high angle shots to emphasize the height differences between Lorre and Greenstreet. There is tension between the two at first, but as they talk it becomes apparent they have met before (on a train ?) The tension is lowered as they talk revealing more about themselves and soon both are sitting down and Greenstreet puts the gun down. There is a lot of rather fast dialogue, typical of Noir fims and one has to be on his/her toes not to miss something important.

 

There is no real threating language in the script at this point, and the scene moves along well enough but without the intensity and rapid fire reparte we are used to seeing. The viewer who appreciates more complex plots will see and hear complications start to be laid out as the two simply chat together as the scene ends. I am starting to recognize that each Noir film is unique and creative on its own, but the basic elements of Noir are there if we look and listen.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Peter Lorre's entrance is textbook noir, his light musings contrasting the shadowy cinematography and downbeat score. This gives us that unsettling vibe we expect in a film noir, and it signals to us that something is amiss even before he enters his apartment to find it ransacked. Lorre's entrance also seems to establish certain aspects of Leyden's personality, like that he's fascinated by evil, but that he's not evil himself (although we know noir well enough not to take such things at face value).

 

Greenstreet's entrance is just as standard noir as Lorre's, only in the bad-guy way. I love how the camera pans to the bedroom door to reveal a massive, hat-wearing figure with a gun emerging from the shadows. When Greenstreet's Peters enters the room, we get the impression  (by every means available, meaning the dialogue, music, camera angles, etc...), that he is in complete control of the situation. However, as the action unfolds and we learn that Peters desperately wants something from Leyden, we see a shift in the dynamic, with Peters taking a seat and Peter Lorre standing over him, waving his arms excitedly and asking why this is happening. 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It is Lorre's room because he has the key. Nice internal monologue that he voices (for want of a better word, an aside). He exters with shadows behind him and heightening music. Something isn't right here. The room has been ransacked.There is a pan from one side of the room to another. It reminds me of the "in this corner" boxing entrances. These men are about to do battle -verbally. When Greenstreet enters, it is well lit, framing him almost in the background. The camera plays with Greenstreet's size. Small on the entrance, then eventually going to a low shot later where his body is the only thing in the frame. I think it's supposed to show he has the power -or thinks he does. Lorre doesnt seem intimidated in the least though. He writes Greenstreet off - he is either a thief or drunk. Greenstreet's voice flies through the dialogue. I can almost hear a touch of a brogue accent. Part of the exchange is shot over Lorre's shoulder -in shadows. He is hiding something, even though he declares it wasn't meant to be hidden.

 

Lorre doesn't submit to Greenstreet as he does in Falcon. Lorre is holding his own, almost nonchalant as her lays on the bed smoking. For Greenstreet's part, he doesn't have anyone else with him. He must think he can handle Lorre alone. Probably not his best idea.

 

I am so grateful for this class, so I can see more of these actors. I love Casablanca and now I see how all this chemistry came about. I am learning so much I feel my head will explode!

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 Lorre doesnt seem intimidated in the least though. He writes Greenstreet off - he is either a thief or drunk.

 

To me, that was the whole joke of the scene. Lorre and Greenstreet spot each other for what they are immediately. It's Lorre's cheeky follow up ("Are you drunk?") that lets you know that he's perfectly aware of who and what Greenstreet is--Lorre doesn't for one moment think that Greenstreet is a drunk or a common thief. They are both conmen/thieves--kind recognizes kind. And because of this mutual recognition, they are able to comfortably launch into a semantic game of evasion--each trying to match the other with more questions and less information.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

-- The scene contains two dramatic entrances, one for each actor. How is each entrance different? What changes in the scene as they continue to interact after their entrances?

 

Peter Lorre is at his most charming in this movie. Lorre, muttering to himself, enters his hotel room and finds its been searched but barely gets time to take this in when Sidney Greenstreet appears from the background holding a gun. Greenstreet demands Lorre be “frank” with him while Lorre is trying to figure out what Greenstreet is up to. Greenstreet is in charge and unapologetic about searching Lorre’s room, but because of Lorre’s interest in Dimitrios Greenstreet felt compelled to search his room. Lorre tries to figure out if Greenstreet is crazy or drunk. His child-like innocent manner is in full display as he casually sits down, lights his cigarette and gets comfortable. Lorre relaxes after his initial mistrust of Greenstreet. Greenstreet doesn’t get to that point, although he does become more civil towards Lorre.

 

-- What elements of the noir style did you notice in this scene, for example, in terms of camera movement or lighting?

 

The camera moves from Lorre’s POV (from left of screen behind his shoulder) to Greenstreet in the right of screen, eventually placing him square in the middle of the frame, face lit, rest in shadow, as he talks to Lorre. As he describes finding the list of names and dates, the camera again takes in Lorre and Greenstreet together, this time Lorre in frame and Greenstreet in the right foreground, then moves to Lorre in the frame when he declares he was not hiding anything. These scenes are in deep shadow, with the faces of Lorre and Greenstreet the main source of light and the focus of our attention.

 

-- Compare this scene in The Mask of Dimitrios with scenes from The Maltese Falcon or Nobody Lives Forever. What are the similarities? What are the differences?

Greenstreet and Lorre are both on the hunt in Maltese Falcon and are uneasy cohorts and competitors. Lorre is a dandy in Maltese Falcon – in Dimitrios he is a writer. Greenstreet is the ring leader in Maltese Falcon and I honestly don’t remember who/what he is (but I remember the ending) in Mask of Dimitrios. I saw it awhile ago and will be seeing it Friday or later. As for Nobody Lives Forever, The Mask of Dimitrios was done by the same director, Jean Negulesco at Warner Bros. Nobody Lives Forever is a story about a con, with John Garfield in the lead and the wonderful Geraldine Fitzgerald as the target. Mask of Dimitrios is about a con man, also, but a deceased one that cheated everyone he came in contact with. The character of Doc Ganson (George Couloris) in Nobody Lives Forever is also such a man, who Garfield finally has to confront. I believe these two films similarities are between in the flashbacks in The Mask of Dimitrios and the character of Doc Ganson, who is desperate for a score and has no scruples about how he gets it.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

-- The scene contains two dramatic entrances, one for each actor. How is each entrance different? What changes in the scene as they continue to interact after their entrances? 

Peter comes into the room in full view and close up. Sidney comes comes out of the shadow of a distant room and then moves closer. As the dialog continues we see close up views of the actors.

 

-- What elements of the noir style did you notice in this scene, for example, in terms of camera movement or lighting?

We see a bright lamp in the background of a dimly lit room. Camera angle on Sidney is from a low angle. Peter is talking to himself as in a voice-over as he leaves the elevator and on entering his apartment. Music suggests something is going to happen.

 

-- Compare this scene in The Mask of Dimitrios with scenes from The Maltese Falcon or Nobody Lives Forever. What are the similarities? What are the differences?

The scene are somewhat comparable to the scenes in the Maltese Falcon and Nobody Lives Forever in that we have meeting scenes with discussion and closeup views of the actors.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Noir element that really caught my eye, was the use of an ordinary prop - in this case a lamp - to introduce the characters, contrast the characters, and add a sinister feeling to the room.  

 

Lorre enters and occupies the left side of the frame.  Behind him - almost constantly - we see a lamp.  This lamp base is almost a figure to mimic that of Lorre.  It is somewhat slender with marked ornamental aspects, curves and limbs.  The single bulb is round and sits aglow with no lampshade.  The lamp is casting numerous orbs of light onto the wall.  A spray of light that at first glance is alluring and hypnotic.  Yet, it also hints to me of a "splattering" of light.  I am drawn to wonder what lies in the mind or psyche of Lorre.  Are these bursts of light indicative of Lorre's rich inner life, so rich he delights in the fascination of amoral characters, silly guns, and funny disarray?  Or rather, do these orbs suggest something more sinister bursting out of Lorre's mind.

 

Greenstreet enters the room.  Behind him is a very different lamp.  It is large and imposing like Greenstreet.  The lamp base is solid and heavy, with a singular roundish design.  The light bulb has a large lampshade on it. This lamp casts a fixed, intense, downcast, and oddly angular shape of light onto the wall.  This diagonal cast of light hints at danger.  And recalling when Lorre enters the room, the viewer sees a reflection of Greenstreet's lamp in the mirror on the wall.   The mirror image is shown before we see Greenstreet.  It begs the question:  Is the real Greenstreet - the man in the mirror or the man in the room?   

  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The scene starts with Peter casually waving his hat in front of him before he unlocks the door.

 

The tempo in the music intensifies as we survey Peter's room and then Sydney Greenstreet emerging from the back of the room towards us, gun in hand. His figure is cloaked in shadow in the beginning, and I also noticed his free hand seemed be in the gesture of a pointed gun as well.

 

Peter is strangely calm even as Sydney points the gun at him, even boldly asking "Are you drunk?" He hopes Sydney is messing with him, but he's not. At least Sydney appreciates the humor, as we see a slight smile.  Then Peter goes about his habits, lighting a cigarette.

 

Then it's down to business, and where the item mentioned in the title is.  All parties want the mask of Dimitrios, as they wanted the famed Maltese Falcon. Both are highly prized, and badly wanted.

 

The low angle camera closing in on Sydney gives a feeling of claustrophobia as we are looking up at him as if our heads are right in front of his gut.

 

Peter is in a very relaxed position at the end of the scene, leaning back as he smokes. He doesn't fear Sydney one bit, it's as if the two have become buddies.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As Leyden enters his room he notices that it has been ransacked. The camera scans the room to see the mess and it stops on the internal hallway. This is where the low-key lighting makes  Peters look like a shadowy figure with a gun pointed at Leyden. I can't compare this film to "Nobody lives forever" because I have not seen it yet but I am watching it right now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The scene contains two dramatic entrances, one for each actor. How is each entrance different? What changes in the scene as they continue to interact after their entrances? 

 

Full disclosure, I have never seen this film and knew nothing about it before I watched the clip.

 

Peter Lorre's entrance into the scene is pretty realistic in that it is obvious he is not just standing and waiting for his cue in order to come headlong out of the elevator. He is standing on the left side and has to maneuver out just slightly. He is also talking to himself, but I couldn't catch the first few lines of his dialogue because of his heavy German accent.

 

When he gets into his apartment he notices something "funny" and out comes Sidney Greenstreet, again from the left side of the bedroom, and again not headlong. Greenstreet's entrance is a bit more exciting as he has a gun trained on Lorre. Now we have a predicament.

 

Greenstreet feels comfortable enough to sit down while holding the pistol on Lorre.  When Greenstreet mentions the name "Dimitrios," Lorre appears to weaken and sits down too. Greenstreet is referring to a page of notes which appears to be entitled "Notes from... ." The name was cut off on my screen, but assume the name is  the "Colonel Hackey" Greenstreet is asking Lorre about.

 

The discussion focuses on characters from the Levant (the Ottoman Empire) so the Byzantine nature of the place discussed definitely fits into the complex plot lines of noir. As the two talk, the camera focus becomes narrow such that we  no longer are looking at the richly decorated stage set, but are now focused on the two verbally jousting with each other.

 

What elements of the noir style did you notice in this scene, for example, in terms of camera movement or lighting?

 

The atmospherics have a noirish touch, the switched on lamp creating a bright spot in the room casting shadows from the objects on the walls. The room has been tossed so it is messy, but obviously cluttered even when straightened. The lighting and jumble are consistent with what we expect from a  noir interior. 

 

The fact that Greenstreet in introduced to the scene with a gun pointed at Lorre is also appropriate for a noir scene, something criminal is afoot: we are either about to see a crime committed or be introduced to some shady characters who will, or have, committed crimes. Again, they are talking about intrigue in a part of the world which seems  just right for twisted plot lines. All of this falls within the scope of noir.

 

Compare this scene in The Mask of Dimitrios with scenes from The Maltese Falcon or Nobody Lives Forever. What are the similarities? What are the differences?

 

I have never seen "Nobody Lives Forever," so I will have to focus on The Maltese Falcon.

 

Falcon is a detective film in which a private investigator is hired to solve a mystery and theft. Since I never saw Dimitrios, I looked up the Bosley Crowther NYT review from June 24, 1944 (almost exactly 71 years ago!). I thought it would be interesting to see what Crowther thought about a film genre that had never been named before. Here are some of his comments:

 

"One might be excused for expecting the combination of Warner Brothers and an Eric Ambler yarn to result in something somewhat more exciting in the mystery thriller line than the film called "The Mask of Dimitrios," which came to the Strand yesterday. For the Warners are proved masters of such grisly tales as Mr. Ambler writes and the latter's "A Coffin for Dimitrios," peg for this picture, was a pip of a book, we hear. But, unfortunately, this screen adaptation is no great credit to either accessory to the act."

 

So Crowther, who had seen Falcon didn't think the film lived up to that film, or other Warner films derived from exciting crime novels, or mystery thrillers as he called them. He further wrote:

 

"In telling the picaresque story of a mystery writer on the trail of a Levantine bum whose career of crime in the Balkans has stimulated the writer's awe, the film wallows deeply in discourse and tediously trite flashbacks. This Dimitrios scoundrel, whom the writer seems to think such a fascinating rogue, is never proved to be much more than a vermin with a record that is cheap and banal. And the mystery built up around the research into his past is just plain dust in your eyes. Seldom has this reviewer waited so patiently—and in vain—to be surprised."

 

Crowther thought the film was too talky and didn't value the flashbacks, a confirmed construct of noir. He also didn't think the film contained enough surprises, if any at all. Crowther was looking for some Falcon suspense and surprise, but didn't get any. He also thought Dimitrios wasn't an interesting "scoundrel" upon which to base the film, nor did he find any mystery in this mystery story. He continued:

 

"To be sure, the Warner schemists have poured some scabby atmosphere into this film and have been very liberal with the scenery in picturing international haunts and Balkan dives. And they have run in a cast of old familiars to play assorted conspirators and muggs. Peter Lorre plays the writer—not very effectively, be it said, for the role calls for humored insouciance, which he does not give to it—and Sydney Greenstreet plays a mysterious meddler in his archly pontifical style. As the object of every one's attention, Zachary Scott, who makes his debut in this film, presents the rascally Dimitrios as a blue-steel American gangster type."

 

Crowther does take positive note of the atmospherics (all of that light and shadow and cluttered scenery in our clip, so that is interesting). He was picking up on the "heist" of this studio "A" picture, and derided the casting of Lorre and Greenstreet (a famous film couple they made something like 8 or 9 films together).  Lorre is not unconcerned or indifferent enough to the predicaments in which he finds himself in the film. I think he did try to play our scene that way, but Negulesco's direction probably got in the way (for example the way Lorre plops down at the mention of  Dimitrios, he should not have tippied his hand so bluntly). As for Greenstreet, he is always Greenstreet no matter what the role calls for (his lusting, leacherous character in the Woman In White is just as pontifcating as in our clip for example). We didn't get to see Scott in the scene, but I bet he does play it like John Dillinger.

 

Despite the fact that Falcon and Dimitrios are Warner "A" films, with similar casts and noir elements, Falcon appears to succeed where Dimitrios fails in delivering a solid mystery entertainment with noir features. Dimitrios has good noir features, but fails as commercial entertainment, this at least according to the leading American film critic of the era.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The entrances are different in that they play into the character traits and identities of the characters themselves. Lorre is very smooth and normal since he is caught unaware by Greenstreet who is more snakelike in his entrance.

 

The way the camera captures Lorre and Greenstreet is very noir. The dialogue between these characters is as well. The lighting again is focused on an object more than a person. in this case the paper and the light in the room.

 

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

© 2020 Turner Classic Movies Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy
×
×
  • Create New...