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Dr. Rich Edwards

Daily Dose of Darkness #18: Keep Driving (Scene from The Hitch-Hiker)

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The themes of helplessness and fear of impending death are introduced.  The two men are at the mercy of Emmet Myers.  Since he gives his name, expecting recognition, we are to believe the man is an escapee with a reputation.  The idea of fate is hinted at.  What are the fates of the three men, now that the hitch-hiker has entered the car.

 

The lighting exposes only the two men's faces in the beginning, but soon identifies the face of the third man.  The lighting continues to focus on the three men's faces as if they're faces alone in the world.  The lighting emphasizes the film noir theme of aloneness in the world.  The world outside the faces is non-existent in the shadows, and we are also alone with them.  The trunk light offers a glimmer of hope in the form of a rifle, but the hitch-hiker spots it and warns not to reach for it.  It's not looking good for the two men.

 

In the first film, the outside world is populated by other drivers on the road and police at the roadblock.  In this film, the outside world is non-existent and as black as night.  In the first film, the hitch-hiker seems to have no plan other than catching a ride away from the side of the road.  In this film, the hitch-hiker seems to be sharply developing a plan on the fly after catching the ride.  Both films suggest the theme of fate.  How will the characters' lives change now that the hitch-hikers are in the cars.

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We open on a pair of legs  in a wedge of light.  A dry wind blows dust across dirty shoes and a sinister brass sounds three notes.  Headlights move toward us out of the darkness and a black arm throws a thumb in the air.  The arm and thumb cover nearly the entire frame commanding rather than requesting the car to stop.

 

The stranger opens the back door.  Light glints across his leather jacket.  The sinister implications mount.  The jacket looks sinister and could remind audiences of this time of nazi uniforms.  

 

The stranger sits in darkness again a wedge of light barely illuminates his mouth.  Roy asks Bill for a cigarette.  Roy and Bill are friendly working guys and being good guys Bill offers the stranger a cigarette.  In return the stranger offers Bill the barrel of a .38 then thrusts his face aggressively into the light.  Sometimes a cigarette is just a cigarette, sometimes a gun is just a gun.  Not in this scene.

 

The stranger introduces himself as Emmett (forget the last name) we figure our from the dialog he's probably an escaped bad guy from something; jail probably.  I don't why dead heroes can be nervous, but who am I to quibble.

 

Emmett barks orders all the while staring with unblinking shark eyes.  He is in key light behind and between the more dimly lighted faces of Bill and Roy.  He dominates with his voice, his gun and his presence.  

 

Emmett progressively strip Bill and Roy of their power.  Taking away the .22 cartridges, patting them down, taking away Roy's wallet (identity?) warning them not to try to use the shotgun then taking that away from them.  His mocking "Do you like to shoot" and "So do I" show us his sadistic desire to dominate or kill.

 

Throughout these three souls interact in a world of darkness.  A world that is never more than five feet in front of them.  Within three minutes, through an act of common kindness, Roy and Bill have been stripped of power and identify facing and uncertain and threatening fate.

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Detour. Dark Passage. The Hitch-Hiker. Kiss Me Deadly. Fate seems to lurk on highways. The road and destiny are concepts that are linked together, and blasted or darkened landscapes serve to add that final noir dread. The films would have a different vibe if our characters all caught rides at busy, well-lit intersections.

 This is the Fifties - Jack Kerouac hitting the Road, man....

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I've also been comparing noir to Japanese horror films, or body horror.

. . .

 

I suppose the big takeaway here is... I love horror movies.

 

I think that the connection to horror is not so thin or in need of defending. Horror movies often use monsters, serial killers, and other horrors to explore real-world fears.

 

The idea that I mentioned before--being punished despite being morally innocent--is one that a lot of horror movies explore, especially of late.

Now, I have a very mixed reaction to horror movies that are of the "just because" mode--where people are tormented and killed by someone with no logic to it. I know it's horrifying in principle (movies like Eden Lake or The Strangers, for example), but I just can't get into that kind of horror.

 

I've read some critiques that argue that these movies are actually a criticism/exploration of things like class privilege, but because I don't watch those movies really I'm not in much of a position to say if I agree one way or the other.

 

I see what you mean about the body horror connection. Just as we watch characters become more and more morally corrupt (as in Double Indemnity), body horror often shows us a physical decay/transformation that goes along with a seemingly matching transformation of morality (as in The Fly, where Goldblum goes from goofy scientist to murderer). And body horror, like many noirs, often makes it clear that such corruption and transformation is a one-way path. In fact, I don't think I can name any noirs where someone goes down the path of corruption and is able to redeem himself. Can you guys think of any?

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The mood is set by the background music - somber and perhaps tense.  The music stops when the pistol is shown and the real tension begins. 

 

We see the antagonist only in shadow even as he ducks into the car keeping his face hidden from us in the darkness.  Even after all the faces are shown with diffused key lighting, his face is still moving in and out of the shadows.  This is unlike many of the films noir where we see the central character in a spotlight of key lighting to show us exactly who we are up against.   

 

The opening of Kiss Me Deadly and this scene are similar because we know we are on an open country road that is infrequently travelled.  Both give us the sense that we are alone; we cannot call for help and we cannot expect help to find us.  They are also both shot in close and mid range to keep the feeling of intimacy and loneliness.

 

Unlike Kiss Me Deadly with Christina in full light and moving to show desperation and tension, we feel the tension in the music, the somber lighting, the dark clothing, the wind blowing dirt on the dark worn boots.  We have a sense of grittiness in this scene.

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Mortality in the mundane, that's what makes the opening of The Hitch-Hiker so impressive. All seems fine and dandy until Emmett Myers shows up with gun in hand, setting the stage for what has got to be one of noir's great white knuckle thrillers. Nicholas Musuraca does all the Val Lewton Magic he can on the shadowy concealing of Myers, and wisely revels in this oppourtunity, as the rest of the film is stuck out in the sun dried hell of Thieves' Highway.

Ida Lupino establishes a mood that reaches into the creepier psychological side of noir, and the berating cat and mouse game that's to follow is perfectly established here: Myers the unstable puppet master while Roy and Gilbert unwillingly dance to the tune of bullet puppet strings. Lupino only had one noir, but boy did she know how to play rough! A classic.

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I have the utmost respect for Ida Lupino and everything she accomplished in her career.  She’s simply fantastic in High Sierra (Raoul Walsh, 1941 Warner Bros) and whenever I see it I always wish I could have hung out with her.

 

The opening scene of Lupino’s The Hitch-Hiker (1953 RKO) contains a convincing degree of realism with one notable stylistic exception.  Lupino chose to direct William Talman with a no nonsense infused menace as Talman orders the Edmund O’Brien and Frank Lovejoy around both inside and outside the car.  Lupino creates a very unsettling and queasy atmosphere of impending death, especially when the car turns off the main highway.  Talman’s character Emmett Myers reminds me of the more or less random, senseless and disturbing violence found in In Cold Blood (1967 Richard Brooks Truman Capote Columbia).

 

Lupino’s direction, however, takes a right turn into pure style with the lighting on Talman when he leans forward towards the front seat and into his own close-up, which reveals his face completely for the first time.  Here his face is wildly over lit and the source is completely unmotivated.  I’m guessing Lupino chose this lighting for dramatic effect, however it has the effect of also breaking the realism, and thus the menace she so masterfully established.  In truth, I would have preferred seeing Talman’s face revealed in a subtler, more moody manner to match the general lighting of the nighttime car interior, which would have maintained the illusion of menace.

 

While there are many examples of skewed, or harsh, or high contrast low-key lighting in film noir movies, the lighting in this close-up, jumps the shark a bit.  A good comparison is the strong lighting on Orson Welles in The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1949) when his face is revealed in the shadowy doorstep.  What’s nice about Welles’ lighting is while it’s dramatic, it’s also the result of the disgruntled second floor woman turning her light on to see what all the fuss is about.  In The Hitch-Hiker, it’s purely lighting for lighting’s sake (drama) and while that is a very noir approach I think it’s also reasonable to ask whether that approach works in this particular case.  No doubt others may find the drama of the lighting to work simply because it is so dramatic.

 

I haven’t seen The Hitch-Hiker yet, but the opening reminds me of a scene in Nightfall (Jacques Tourneur, 1957 Columbia) where two outdoorsmen on vacation help the passengers of an overturned car only to discover they’re criminals on the run.  The road to hell is paved with good intentions…

 

This week’s two opening scenes both begin with figures shown more or less from the waist down.  That creates mystery as to who they are and in both cases within a minute their faces are revealed.  One is running (for her life), the other is standing (prepared to take a life).  As the scene plays out in Kiss Me Deadly, we develop enormous concern for Cloris Leachman, and initially not so much for Ralph Meeker.  Conversely, as the scene plays out in The Hitch-Hiker, we develop enormous concern for Frank Lovejoy and Edmund O’Brien while fearing and loathing William Talman.  Cars are involved in both opening scenes and in both films an unexpected bond quickly develops between the passengers of the car and the person they stop to pick up.  One is fraught with mystery, the other fraught with impending death.  In both cases, the person they pick up will irreversibly alter the lives of the driver(s) of each car.  Detour anyone?

 

-Mark

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Wild rides into the dark, lonely night

The major themes of this scene in the Hitch-Hiker are fear, uncertainty, and the potential for violence.  This scene also starts on a dark lonely road with a single person hoping for a ride.  Soon when the hitch-hiker is seated in the back of the car, he takes the upper-hand revealing his gun and his unspoken intentions to take command of the vehicle and its front-seat occupants.  Intrepidation always seems to come with hitch-hiking whether it is the hitch-hiker who is dangerous or the hitch-hiker who is in danger when entering a stranger's car.  Either situation carries with it the potential for a life to be ended in a violent way.

The lighting of the scene is strategic in lighting what is important to see and obscuring what needs to be revealed later.  The lighting show the hitch-hiker's shoes but obscures his face.  Inside the car the hitch-hiker's face is dark at first and then revealed in a spotlight type manner with the light shining upward like a flashlight; this lighting makes it look like the hitch-hiker is in a police station awaiting interrogation.  The staging is significant with the hitch-hiker in back and the sportsmen in the front.  We even get a view from the rear of the car over the hitch-hiker's shoulders once he has commandeered the car.  Alternately we see from the sportsmen's and then from the hitch-hiker's perspective.

In both Kiss Me Deadly and The Hitch-Hiker we do not know exactly who the people alongside the road are.  Christina does not speak so we do knot know her name, and the hitch-hiker speaks his name but we do not know what his name signifies--is he a murderer, a bank robbery, or another kook escaped?  Both films utilize darkness and light to create a mood of doubt and fear.  Christina is a victim by her confused facial expression and her sobbing while the hitch-hiker bears the hardened face of a man who has seen his share of hard times.  With both scenes we the viewers are suddenly thrown into a situation without knowing the full explanation of what is happening.  We are along for a wild ride of fear and suspense.  Where are we going and where will we end up only the lone, disillusioned pedestrians may know.

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The idea that I mentioned before--being punished despite being morally innocent--is one that a lot of horror movies explore, especially of late.

Now, I have a very mixed reaction to horror movies that are of the "just because" mode--where people are tormented and killed by someone with no logic to it. I know it's horrifying in principle (movies like Eden Lake or The Strangers, for example), but I just can't get into that kind of horror.

 

 

I would like to point out that those are not the type of horror films I normally watch. I do watch some of them(seen The Strangers, not Eden Lake), and I do enjoy some of them, but I don't go to horror to watch people suffer. Horror to me is about empathy, and works best when you can place yourself in the character's shoes and hope for them to survive. I do think The Strangers is a bit more successful than most in its genre, but again, it's not the type of movie I gravitate towards.

 

You can make an argument for any horror movie being a commentary on American society, or global society. For example the first two Hostel films, which play very much on pot 9/11 xenophobia and American entitlement, or maybe just male entitlement, where the two bros who salivate over women in the red light district find themselves treated the exact same way, by wealthy sadists who only view them as pieces of meat.

 

The problem, I think, is that it used to be passionate filmmakers coming up with these stories. Tobe Hooper saw the Kent State shootings, the horror of vietnam, the riots, and made Texas Chainsaw Massacre because he saw America as a country that was literally eating its young. Same with Wes Craven and Last House on the Left or The Hills Have Eyes. Nowadays it seems to be done by committee; a bunch of executives in suits churning out a product to make sure they earn money off of (pretend) suffering. It's not as honest, not as defensible, twice as repugnant.

 

Japanese horror films that follow this 'just because' idea of horror also don't subscribe to our judeo-christian beliefs. At least not as deeply as our horror does. The threat, ghost, affliction, whatever, tends to take it's cues from Shinto Buddhism, where negative energy or emotions can act like a physical curse, like a disease. You can just have the bad luck to encounter the wrong thing, and it'll haunt you to the grave. It's also not as much about physical abuse(although that aspect CERTAINLY exists).

 

Not to get off topic, or anything.

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  What are some of the major themes and/or ideas introduced in the opening sequence of The Hitch-Hiker?

 

To me, I believe that the major themes and/or ideas introduced in the opening sequence of The Hitch-Hiker is based on the societal fears and pressures that were going on at that time like the growing fear that Americans started to have toward one another.

 

For example, what the two men believe is a good deed like helping a person in need of a ride causes them to meet their untimely end at the hands of a stranger.

 

I also believe that this opening scene is an attack on the set of core values that the American people at this time had about helping each other and that it shows how their sense of safety is no longer available to them.

 

  Discuss the role of lighting and staging in this scene, and how lighting and staging both work to reveal the underlying substance of film noir?

 

I believe that the role of the lighting and staging for this scene and how they both work together reveals several things about the underlying substance of the film noir style.

First, the use of the lighting and staging in this scene covers a lot of the information that we discussed in the article about film noir cinematography.

 

For example, when we do see the hitchhiker’s face for the first time, his face is up close with shadows around it. Which adds an ominous and foreboding presence to the scene.

Secondly, how the lighting and staging works together draws the audience into the scene and leaves us with a sense of panic like the two helpless men in the car.

 

It makes you want to scream, “Somebody do something”, as you watch the scene take place.

Thirdly, how the director uses the conventional protocols for the lighting and staging that we expect for the film noir style in new ways to terrify and frighten us keeps the audience guessing what will happen next as we watch the scene.

 

I also believe that the director even uses those expectations against us as well.

For example, when the man reaches for the rifle in the car, the scene turns more sinister because the hitchhiker tells the man that he won’t make it in time. Which adds another eerie and sinister layer to the scene because it feels like he was talking to us too.

 

  Compare and contrast the opening scenes of Kiss Me Deadly and The Hitch-Hiker? What is similar between the two? What is different? Why do these openings both work as excellent examples of how to open a film noir?

 

To me, I believe that there are several similarities and differences between the opening scenes of Kiss Me Deadly and The Hitch-Hiker.

 

In regard to similarities, they both open with a hitchhiker and someone who stops to help them. They both also use lighting and staging to create a mysterious, intriguing, and suspenseful atmosphere for the audience.

 

In addition to this, they both give the audience a glimpse into the types of characters that could exist in the world of film noir.

 

In regard to their differences, I believe that The Hitch-Hiker is more sinister in tone than Kiss Me Deadly.

 

In The Hitch-Hiker, it feels like the moral/theme of the story has a “no good deed goes unpunished” tone to it while Kiss Me Deadly is more based on the mystery of who the female hitchhiker is and why does she need Mike Hammer’s help.

 

In addition to this, Kiss Me Deadly played on the audience’s senses more and it was more disorienting than The Hitch-Hiker.

 

Although both of these films do a great job of luring the audience into the film, I just felt that Kiss Me Deadly was more innovative with its use of special effects.

 

I believe that both of these openings work as excellent examples of how to open a film noir because they both create a unique atmosphere that engages the audience and spins their suspension of disbelief because we (the audience) feel for the characters in each scene.

 

In addition to this, I also feel that both of these scenes approach the conventions/protocols that the audience expects for the film noir style in fresh and innovative ways.

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Major themes and ideas in this clip: Loneliness of the highway, danger and menace in the dark, normal world turned upsidedown, unknowableness of the future - but probably not good.

 

How lighting and staging reveal the underlying substance of film noir. The lighting is classic noir, playing with light and dark. The hitchhiker is introduced starting with just his feet – we don't see his face until they do and then it's revealed in a blast of light, adding to feeling of menace.

 

Compare and contrast opening scenes of Kiss Me Deadly and The HitchHiker. Similar in that a lonely figure appears to need help in a lonely stretch of highway. In both clips, there is danger revealed right away. But in Kiss, the lonely figure appears to be a victim, whereas in Hitchhiker, it’s the lonely figure that victimizes others. Both clips start in the dark and that creates a feeling of menace.

 

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I would like to point out that those are not the type of horror films I normally watch. I do watch some of them(seen The Strangers, not Eden Lake), and I do enjoy some of them, but I don't go to horror to watch people suffer. Horror to me is about empathy, and works best when you can place yourself in the character's shoes and hope for them to survive. I do think The Strangers is a bit more successful than most in its genre, but again, it's not the type of movie I gravitate towards.

 

The problem, I think, is that it used to be passionate filmmakers coming up with these stories. Tobe Hooper saw the Kent State shootings, the horror of vietnam, the riots, and made Texas Chainsaw Massacre because he saw America as a country that was literally eating its young. Same with Wes Craven and Last House on the Left or The Hills Have Eyes. Nowadays it seems to be done by committee; a bunch of executives in suits churning out a product to make sure they earn money off of (pretend) suffering. It's not as honest, not as defensible, twice as repugnant.

 

I mostly agree, though I'm not so sure that I have quite as charitable a view of the motivations behind Last House on the Left, which includes tone-deaf "comedic" interludes and generally wallows in the most annoying tropes of rape-revenge horror. The original movie, The Virgin Spring, feels much more honest to me, and I actually don't think there's much defensible about Last House (and probably even less defensible about its 2009 or whatever remake).  I think that there are still plenty of independent or semi-independent filmmakers making compelling stories about fear--but I think that the movement of raw, violent shock has passed into the mainstream and been incorporated into the corporate horror "machine".

 

I think that people will always be attracted to "extremes", so it's not to surprising that torture/gore stuff gets churned out on the regular.

 

I think that horror movies where people suffer despite no wrongdoing or logic can ring very true or very false. At its worst, "just because" horror comes from lazy writing where there's no need to explain who the killer is or why he/she/they feel the need to murder a random group of strangers. The deaths just become set-pieces and the killer is just the anonymous means to the end.

 

Some movies, though, manage to capture that very real-life sense that even if you do the right things and are generally a good person, you can still end up in a very bad situation. Sometimes in real life people do horrible things just because they want to and they can. But it takes a skilled director and writer to frame that kind of story in a way that makes it feel compelling rather than arbitrary.

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"I think that people will always be attracted to "extremes", so it's not to surprising that torture/gore stuff gets churned out on the regular."

 

"deaths just become set-pieces and the killer is just the anonymous means to the end."

 

I'd also argue that if all we had was Virgin Spring styled horror or whatever genre we'd be looking for more extreme content. Just so happens our cycles of artistic exploration always push to the extremes and then start over again a-new. Look at fossil fuels as a similar exercise in extreme capitalism. We have to go faster... Hopefully we haven't wiped everything out by 2021. I'm not overly excited about art in general anymore once you realize the ramifications and size of population we become a microcosm of pointillistic dots on the universe's canvas only to be phased out from the sun or worse destroyed by our own devices is an existential take on it.

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* What are the major themes and/or ideas introduced in the opening sequence of The Hitch-Hiker?

 

One of the major themes is darkness itself along with the viewer not knowing who the hitch-hiker is and just using his legs standing in the dark.

 

* Discuss the role of lighting and staging in this scene, and how lighting and staging both work to reveal the underlying substance of film noir?

 

The role of lighting shadows the character in the back seat of the vehicle.  As the suspense builds and the light along with a close up on the back seat character adds a sense of the viewer thinking what will the passenger do to the other characters sitting in the front seat?

 

* Compare and contrast the opening scenes of  Kiss Me Deadly and The Hitch-Hiker?  What is similar between the two? What is different?  Why do these openings both work as excellent examples of how to open a film noir?

 

The similarity between the two is the feeling of the unknown.  Where are the characters going or coming from? The difference is that in the film Kiss Me Deadly, the character is running out of the darkness and we later find out that she escaped from some place.  In the Hitch-hiker, the character is standing in the darkness going to someplace.  Both films work as an excellent example of film noir because of the use of darkness to play upon the element of suspense and an ominous situation.

 

 

 

 

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I mostly agree, though I'm not so sure that I have quite as charitable a view of the motivations behind Last House on the Left, which includes tone-deaf "comedic" interludes and generally wallows in the most annoying tropes of rape-revenge horror. The original movie, The Virgin Spring, feels much more honest to me, and I actually don't think there's much defensible about Last House (and probably even less defensible about its 2009 or whatever remake).  I think that there are still plenty of independent or semi-independent filmmakers making compelling stories about fear--but I think that the movement of raw, violent shock has passed into the mainstream and been incorporated into the corporate horror "machine".

 

 

I should clarify that I don't like Last House on the Left, for much of the same reasons you cite. However, I can see why it struck a nerve at the time. I think there's something more defensible about a young Wes Craven- a humanities professor and philosophy major- looking around and seeing the world becoming a nightmarish, tortuous place, and making Last House. Certainly more defensible than a group of executives in suits deciding that the best way to get money out of teens pockets is brutal rape and torture. I don't like the movie, it's not good, and it' not the type of horror film I watch. I generally don't think rape belongs in most horror, not because it doesn't happen or it isn't horrible, but because it's too horrible, and too often used to titillate the audience. If a movie is going to have a rape scene in it, it had better earn that transgression through story elements. I mean, there has to be a good reason beyond an excuse for more bloodletting. If you want something along the same lines without the uncomfortable misogyny(which, as a fan, I shamefully realize is highly prevalent in the genre), You're Next features a strong female lead who isn't motivated by a horrible gang rape in her past. 

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This topic including horror has got my blood pumping and peaked my interest in message boards again. So thanks Summer of Darkness! That's irony no?

 

Anyways sharing/caring time as a friend likes to say. I found a real poinient tune by Bad Religion called "The Gray Race" (also title of the album for interested punk fans out there ????) Lyrics to the song which is very befitting for Film Noir and existential conversation. Please enjoy! If that's possible. Film noir poetry anyone? Just as true yesterday as it is today...

 

The framework of the world

Is black and white

The infrastructure builders

Flex their might

 

Turning true emotion

Into digital expression

One by one we all fall down

 

The gray race shrivels

Trapped inside the world it creates

It's black and white

 

The perpetual destructive

Motion machine

Began to chart a course

Never before seen

 

Turning raw compassion

Into fields of plus and minus

One by one we all give in

 

The gray race shrivels

Trapped inside the world it creates

It's black and white

 

I'd swear there were times when I was someone else

A person with determination and knowledge of the self

But you flattened me to rubble and now I can see that I'm

Just a faded negative of the image I used to be

 

And that's our dilemma

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I'd also argue that if all we had was Virgin Spring styled horror or whatever genre we'd be looking for more extreme content. Just so happens our cycles of artistic exploration always push to the extremes and then start over again a-new. Look at fossil fuels as a similar exercise in extreme capitalism. We have to go faster... Hopefully we haven't wiped everything out by 2021. I'm not overly excited about art in general anymore once you realize the ramifications and size of population we become a microcosm of pointillistic dots on the universe's canvas only to be phased out from the sun or worse destroyed by our own devices is an existential take on it.

 

That' a pretty harsh, nihilistic viewpoint. What are you overly excited about these days? I feel my own philosophical outlook on the world is a mixture of nihilism and optimism. I see how things work in the world without us, and see those same forces at work within the human population. Things like the global birth rates dropping as our population expands, some experts project that we'll cap out and remain fairly steady at about 10 billion, barring any global catastrophes. There are microbes now that eat alkali and other pollutants(not at a rate to save us, I don't mean to imply we shouldn't worry about the environment, we definitely should). Did you know that HIV develops into full blown AIDS faster in patients that are more promiscuous? How does the virus know that? All viruses want to infect another host, killing the main host is just a side effect, not the goal. HIV can actually slow down how quickly it develops so it has a better chance of spreading.

 

That last one sounds bad, real bad. But consider that HIV is mutating slower than ever before, and our treatments are getting closer to a cure/vaccine every year. My point in all this is; water finds its own level, and life is not about us. The world will go on if we aren't here. It will be changed, but it always is. I find that very comforting, the realization that life will still exist. Will probably always exist. No matter how we screw it up.

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That' a pretty harsh, nihilistic viewpoint. What are you overly excited about these days? I feel my own philosophical outlook on the world is a mixture of nihilism and optimism. I see how things work in the world without us, and see those same forces at work within the human population. Things like the global birth rates dropping as our population expands, some experts project that we'll cap out and remain fairly steady at about 10 billion, barring any global catastrophes. There are microbes now that eat alkali and other pollutants(not at a rate to save us, I don't mean to imply we shouldn't worry about the environment, we definitely should). Did you know that HIV develops into full blown AIDS faster in patients that are more promiscuous? How does the virus know that? All viruses want to infect another host, killing the main host is just a side effect, not the goal. HIV can actually slow down how quickly it develops so it has a better chance of spreading.

 

That last one sounds bad, real bad. But consider that HIV is mutating slower than ever before, and our treatments are getting closer to a cure/vaccine every year. My point in all this is; water finds its own level, and life is not about us. The world will go on if we aren't here. It will be changed, but it always is. I find that very comforting, the realization that life will still exist. Will probably always exist. No matter how we screw it up.

I'm down with that. I'll be the guy with the bottle of tequila and whiskey in the bar.

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I'd also argue that if all we had was Virgin Spring styled horror or whatever genre we'd be looking for more extreme content. Just so happens our cycles of artistic exploration always push to the extremes and then start over again a-new

 

I completely agree, and I made a similar argument in the thread about "Could Noir Save Cinema". All art is, to some degree, both reactive and proactive. Sometimes it comes from a more base, capitalist point of view ("Hey, people like these heist movies. Let's make more heist movies!"), and sometimes it comes from an artist seeing something and genuinely reacting to it or filtering it through his/her own lens. Whether it's subtle homages or outright parody, all art builds on what came before it.

 

I think this is true in terms of shock value just as much as anything else. When people look at moves like Gilda and say "Oh, the days when a woman kept her clothes on and was still sexy," it's like, whoa, wait a minute! That's a woman doing a drunken striptease and the whole point of it was to push boundaries of sexuality on screen. Because movies in our time have generally grown more graphic in terms of violence and sex, we tend to think of older movies as being more "restrained." Often, though, those filmmakers were trying to push boundaries just as much as contemporary ones. I'd say that the main difference is that there isn't as strict of a "values code" these days (the MPAA acts as that, to a certain degree, and not merely as an objective ratings arbiter), and there's a much looser distribution system, so it's easier to get "edgy" or "controversial" stuff out there.

 

I went through a phase in my late teens/early 20s where I was really drawn to "extreme" cinema. Probably most of the stuff that I watched would be considered relatively tame on the "extreme" scale, but I think that phase really helped me to refine a sense of when an extreme act or image was critical to the movie, and when it was just being thrown in for cheap shock. I agree that there is a very human desire to test ourselves, to see how much we can take. When something is labeled as "the hottest sex scene ever filmed" or "the most gruesome on-screen death ever!", I think we can't help but be interested. And if you watch trailers for old noir movies, they use a lot of that language to suggest that the content of the movie will be MORE than what has come before it.

 

 If you want something along the same lines without the uncomfortable misogyny(which, as a fan, I shamefully realize is highly prevalent in the genre), You're Next features a strong female lead who isn't motivated by a horrible gang rape in her past. 

 

I enjoyed You're Next quite a bit (though I felt like its first half was stronger than its second half). Being a female film fan (or a male film fan who is sympathetic to gender issues) is . . . complicated. The treatment of gender in both noir and horror is something that both fascinates me and sometimes makes me really, really irritated. A lot of writers simply cannot conceive of a motivation for a female character beyond sexual victimization. It's weird.

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I completely agree, and I made a similar argument in the thread about "Could Noir Save Cinema". All art is, to some degree, both reactive and proactive. Sometimes it comes from a more base, capitalist point of view ("Hey, people like these heist movies. Let's make more heist movies!"), and sometimes it comes from an artist seeing something and genuinely reacting to it or filtering it through his/her own lens. Whether it's subtle homages or outright parody, all art builds on what came before it.

 

I think this is true in terms of shock value just as much as anything else. When people look at moves like Gilda and say "Oh, the days when a woman kept her clothes on and was still sexy," it's like, whoa, wait a minute! That's a woman doing a drunken striptease and the whole point of it was to push boundaries of sexuality on screen. Because movies in our time have generally grown more graphic in terms of violence and sex, we tend to think of older movies as being more "restrained." Often, though, those filmmakers were trying to push boundaries just as much as contemporary ones. I'd say that the main difference is that there isn't as strict of a "values code" these days (the MPAA acts as that, to a certain degree, and not merely as an objective ratings arbiter), and there's a much looser distribution system, so it's easier to get "edgy" or "controversial" stuff out there.

 

I went through a phase in my late teens/early 20s where I was really drawn to "extreme" cinema. Probably most of the stuff that I watched would be considered relatively tame on the "extreme" scale, but I think that phase really helped me to refine a sense of when an extreme act or image was critical to the movie, and when it was just being thrown in for cheap shock. I agree that there is a very human desire to test ourselves, to see how much we can take. When something is labeled as "the hottest sex scene ever filmed" or "the most gruesome on-screen death ever!", I think we can't help but be interested. And if you watch trailers for old noir movies, they use a lot of that language to suggest that the content of the movie will be MORE than what has come before it.

 

 

I enjoyed You're Next quite a bit (though I felt like its first half was stronger than its second half). Being a female film fan (or a male film fan who is sympathetic to gender issues) is . . . complicated. The treatment of gender in both noir and horror is something that both fascinates me and sometimes makes me really, really irritated. A lot of writers simply cannot conceive of a motivation for a female character beyond sexual victimization. It's weird.

You're next falls into the violent/shock gore category. It's pretty decent survivalist type horror which when done well is entertaining. Thought provoking? Not really. Arguably neo-noir thematically with betrayal and mystery in a hyped kind of way. Glad you are zeroing in on gender topic because the latest rage is trans-gender (role reversal) which I'm not sure will ever turn my crank sexually but is completely fascinating psychologically to use as a vehicle for stories.

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Doom, surprise, inevitability, those are the preliminary feelings shown. Four different beginnings this week, four different destinies. From the very first moments we are certain that nothing good can come from these stories, these unique films. Hidden faces, like hidden stories give way to shocking revelations as long as the plot unfolds. Very little information that will develop into nightmarish tales of "common people"? The skills shown by the writers, cinematographers and directors (to name some) in these four movies, to depict and expose fantastic stories, are still in fabulous shape after more than sixty years.

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The major themes I found in this clip were desperation, alienation and the conflict of humanity vs inhumanity. It is obvious that this criminal that has gotten in the backseat is desperate and will kill them without a thought to get what he wants. He is dangerous. As a criminal who is escaping, he is alienated which is represented by the opening of the sequence showing only his feet, then only the gun, then only his face in the backseat. A sort of visual synecdoche - the parts representing the whole but also the fact that he separated, alienated and disjointed. Not fully there. It is humanity in conflict with inhumanity, the two worlds colliding of good and evil. The men in the car are trying to help a fellow traveler. He wants to hurt them, taking their car and planning to take their lives, as well.

The lighting shows the two men clearly in the front, fully illuminated and innocent of bad intent. The man in the back is in shadows and when shown is only partially shown. It signifies the murderous intent, but also the discomfort of not knowing what his intentions are and what he wants them to do. He is mysterious and dangerous. HIs face is only shown fully w.hen he announces, "yeah, I'm Emmett Myers."

The camera shows him in between them, literally and figuratively. The driver is twitchy and wants to retaliate and make a move. The passenger is more careful and does what he says. Myers sits between them in control of them as he holds his gun on them. Then the camera angle changes and shows the trio from inside the car, but behind Myers to show the road in front of the them as they turn off onto a side street. The feeling is that he is directing them to pull off so that he can kill them and take the car, but he doesn't. He has other plans for them, but they are still "in the dark," and so are we. We do find out that the passenger has a rifle in the back and cartridges in the glove box. There may be hope yet.

The similarities between Kiss Me Deadly and The Hitch-Hiker are striking. They both start out with feet on a dark and lonely roadway. One pair is running away, barefoot, the other is standing calmly on the side of the dark road. The wind blows in both scenes, making us feel a chill. There is no light in either film except for the headlights of the cars. The feet represent disconnection, alienation in both. Also that they are both running from something - both evading the police and capture. Both hitchhikers are reticent to speak at first and both camera shots show the passengers shot from the front and from behind, showing the road as it appears to the driver. It gives the feeling of claustrophobia and motion sickness, not knowing what is coming ahead and only the headlights to illuminate the small bit of road in front. It is not a clear picture of the future and the strangers in the car offer little to illuminate the situation.

The differences are that the woman in Kiss Me Deadly is illuminated pretty quickly as the cars light up her face as they pass by. In the Hitch-Hiker, we only get the feet, then the gun, then the face and only the face at first. He is much more secretive and hidden. Once in the car, the woman is still at the mercy of the driver. In the Hitch-Hiker, he is very much in control. In the Hitch-Hiker, he makes the men drop their jackets around their elbows to make them more vulnerable. The woman in Kiss Me Deadly is wearing only a trench coat. In both, clothing is used to weaken them. In the Hitch-Hiker, the man is picked up by men wanting to help. The driver in Kiss Me Deadly has no desire to help at all. The music is used to create discord in Kiss Me Deadly - the jarring and frenzied juxtaposed with the calm Nat King Cole. The music in the Hitch-Hiker is simply used for suspense and is outside of the action, not a part of it as it is on the radio in Kiss Me Deadly.

Both are great examples of film noir, of a world gone wrong and by chance. Broken people are meeting up with deadly people who have bad intentions and they are desperate to get away. Good people get caught up in it and find themselves in sticky and dangerous situations. The lighting and the camera use is both realistic and formalistic at the same time - using the back cameras in the car to show the road is realistic, but causes us to feel emotions and gives us clues. The non-traditional shots of feet on the road - not giving us the whole picture all at once - is film noir at its best. The themes of desperation and disconnection with a world full of danger and sickness and the psychology of the post-war society that sees that life has changed.  

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The first idea present is not to trust hitch-hikers. I'm not being facetious. Films like this and Ted Bundy probably did a lot to destroy the practice. Perhaps that is part of the theme -- that there is a change in society, one that is darker, less trusting, more fearful. The scene gives all indication that we can't trust what is happening. The hitch-hiker's shabby shoes, his sweaty face, and his mustache (mustaches are creepy, I don't care the era). The sweat on his face contrasts deeply against those of the driver and his friend. There is something off and not right about the hitch-hiker.

 

This opening scene seems indicative of noir. It is a use of shadows to stage the opening scene portraying something wrong, though we aren't quite certain how it is wrong. The tension in noir begins almost immediately. There is no back story, no settling into the characters.

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The Hitch-Hiker introduces fear and madness into a normal world. This is a microcosm of the real world where the cold war between the US and Russia is heating up. The fear that we would be bombed by the Russians and that they would want to destroy our democratic way of lfe. The hitch hiker has taken away both the driver and his friend's freedom and they have to obey him or get shot or wounded.

 

The lighting and staging in this scene is exemplary. The hitch hiker's face is not revealed right away. Only after we see the gun, then the hitch hiker's face is shown dramatically popping out from the shadows. The fear and anxiety is eluded to until the gun and the hitch hiker's face is revealed. Then, the fear and anxiety is constant and increases with everything the hitch hiker orders the driver and his friend to do.

 

In both the opening scenes of Kiss Me Deadly and The Hitch-Hiker, there is someone hitch hiking, he/she are in some sort of trouble, and, he/she does get a ride. Also, fear and anxiety is established in both scenes. The difference between both scenes is that we know the trouble right away in The Hitch-Hiker while we find out some of the trouble at the scene's end in Kiss Me Deadly. Both these scenes grab our attention right away by using the film noir elements such as lighting, staging, and music to introduce fearful situations that keep our full attention.

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I love this movie and this is one of my favorite scenes. Ida Lupino and Nicholas Musuraca immerse the duo of Edmund O'Brian and Frank Lovejoy into the noir world with a bucket of of cold water to the face in this beautifully crafted scene.

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