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Dr. Rich Edwards

Daily Dose of Darkness #30: Into the Darkness (Scene from Desperate)

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Here are a few discussion starters (though feel free to come up with your own):

 

-- Describe how this scene uses cinematography to accentuate the brutal beating of Steve Randall (Steve Brodie).

 

The use of the swinging light brings and takes each character out of darkness. This technique, in turn, makes what is happening more sinister and dastardly. Furthermore, you have no idea what they are doing to Steve I'm the dark. It heightens the situation.

 

-- How do Mann and Diskant utilize different points of view to heighten the tension in this scene?

 

Steve is definitely in a submissive role in comparison to Raymond Burr. With Burr being a big man only adds to the advantage that he has over Steve. All of the crooks are standing whereas Steve stands only briefly but it quickly put back in an inferior position.

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You're so right about how this scene highlight's Burr's brutality. How fantastic is he in this scene? The way he stands motionless while watching Steve get beaten to a pulp, all the while with that light swinging above, is absolutely terrifying. I'm not sure which is scarier -- the swinging light or Burr's motionlessness. And we believe him when he uses the broken bottle as a threat to Steve's wife. We see no hint or trace of Perry Mason here. 

 

Nor a sign of Chief Ironside!  

So before getting a juicy role and a normal work schedule (& paycheck) on a syndicated television series, you have to earn your dues working the dark side!

 

 

 

 

Exactly, and Burr cut his early acting teeth in several noirs...starting with his role in Desperate.   He was also really good, and very creepy, in Pitfall, and also appeared in Raw Deal and His Kind of Woman.   His physical stature and voice made him a natural for these kind of roles.   

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I like how this segment begins and ends with close ups that emphasize Burr's ruthlessness and brutality. At the beginning, we hear Brodie get punched in the face, his head turns, and then there is a close up of Burr's knuckles and fist so large the image fills the whole screen. After Brodie is beaten by Burr's henchmen, Burr threatens him by breaking a wine bottle and pushing the jagged glass toward Brodie's face, and we see the broken bottle in huge close up pointing right at us since the camera sees the bottle from Brodie's point of view.

 

Interesting that the beating takes place off screen, while the sound effects and the moving shadows from the swinging lamp provide a sense of something more brutal and violent than a scene showing the actual beating would provide. The camera points up toward Burr, emphasizing his height and intimidating physical presence. It points down when we see Brodie, or shows us what Brodie sees from his submissive, lower vantage point.

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Burr's character in Raw Deal, shown earlier this summer, is even more creepy and sadistic than his character here. He throws flaming liqueur into a woman's face for spilling her drink on his jacket!

 

Exactly, and Burr cut his early acting teeth in several noirs...starting with his role in Desperate.   He was also really good, and very creepy, in Pitfall, and also appeared in Raw Deal and His Kind of Woman.   His physical stature and voice made him a natural for these kind of roles.   

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      The cinematography used in this scene powerfully sets up the viewer to be part of Steve's violent beating and bloodthirsty threat. The camera gives us a painful close-up (almost 3D) of Walt's fist crashing in on Steve's face. We also get a frightening close-up of the broken bottle's jagged edge. I could only imagine the impact this scene had in a darkened theater in the late forties.The extreme darkness of the gangster's den accelerates the audience's fear of the unknown. When we hear the blows and groans of Steve's sadistic beating it sets off a powerful psychological thought process  We imagine the beating worse than if it was shown in it's entirety.Meanwhile, the swinging lamp depicts the light and shadow on Walt and his henchman's face.It heightens their grim expressions almost like a monstrous mask.Thus betraying their savager and merciless demeanor. It pushes and pulls you into this scene. Desperate-  that's how you feel after watching this scene !!

      Mann and Distant use low angle shots of Burr and his "boys" to make him bigger than life. I agree with my fellow film fans. Burr is the real danger. he's scarier than the beating. It was obvious he was in charge. Conversely, the audience is in the same position as Steve , taking the hits and the devastating threats.

 Did anyone notice how devastatingly handsome Raymond Burr looks while making the phone call. That's noir.

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This scene from "Desperate" is like classic film noir 101.  It has elements of everything we have learned about in this course: the characters definitely seem archetypical, the shadows and lighting going from light to dark and back again (the swinging light is sensational!), the bleak mise-en-scene with German Expressionism written all over it--all we need to complete the scenario is the requisite femme fatale.  It also has a definite Anthony Mann vibe, I think.  He never pulls any punches in his films.   Having just been watching a number of films lately with the great Laird Cregar (his "Hangover Square" is an absolute gem of a film noir and such a beautiful black-and-white film with so much mood--a must-see!), I was taken aback when I saw Raymond Burr in this clip because he reminded me a lot of Cregar.  They both are tall and massive, have amazingly big and expressive eyes, and are so arresting on camera.  Cregar is absolutely unforgettable in all of his movie roles.  But I must say, Raymond Burr can play a baddie really well, too.  I will never forget him as the menacing Thorwald in the great Hitchcock movie, "Rear Window''--another must-see movie for any film fan.

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In Anthony Mann's Desperate (1947), the savage beating of the unwilling driver Steve (Steve Brodie) by the thugs of boss Walt (Raymond Burr) was accentuated by the swinging ceiling light bulb.  The faster it swung, the beating was more savage and intense.  As the ceiling light bulb slowed down, the beating slowed and stopped as boss Walt commenced verbal threats against Steve's newly married Bride.  The beating also felt claustrophobic from the overwhelming darkness and shadows to the glancing beams of light emanating from the swinging ceiling light bulb.

 

The scene's tension is heightened many fold when we are looking from boss Walt's point of view.  For boss Walt does not show much emotion (perhaps a brief smile or smirk) and focuses very intently on Steve when he speaks to or looks at him.  When we are looking from Steve's point of view, we feel relief that he is still alive from the beating and that he is still defying boss Walt even though it seems like a lost cause.

 

 

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A very young Raymond Burr with his signature baritone is absolutely chilling in this Daily Dose. No question, the shots, angles and lighting drip of German Expressionist and UFA influence. One is given the sense of the trap that Steve Brodie is in, the madness and violence of it, spinning out of control. Appropriately titled, this is certainly one to watch!

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Describe how this scene uses cinematography to accentuate the brutal beating of Steve Randall (Steve Brodie).


It seems very real.  How it would be the tough guy giving out orders and them being carried out when he watches.  The look on the other guy maybe his #2 guy.  Its dark and we can hear but not see.


How do Mann and Diskant utilize different points of view to heighten the tension in this scene?


The dark and light shots that sing in and out.  Lots of close ups and real in your face gritty realism.  


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There have been a lot of Daily Doses that have made me feel like I need to watch the entire film immediately after finishing the clips. Desperate has created the most powerful response yet. I really enjoyed the play of light and shadow accompanied by the musical score. It's the music that really highlights the darkest parts of this scene, and it comes to fit so neatly with what's going on, helping the audience delve deeper into this underworld. Poor Steve that almost got away with innocence, if it wasn't for his bride. I wonder what the connection between all parties is, especially between the boss of the gang and the quiet, shorter man next to him, probably his right-hand man. Those few seconds of where they're both framed, looking unemotionally at the beating of Steve, had a strong impact upon me. Yeah, they're so tough that they don't flinch at violence, they don't flinch at the possibility of losing (because they know they'll get their way), they won't flinch at the actions that they need to undertake to win it all.

 

I think that I need to make it a point to watch this film in particular. It's strenght and spirit is off the charts!

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There have been a lot of Daily Doses that have made me feel like I need to watch the entire film immediately after finishing the clips. Desperate has created the most powerful response yet. I really enjoyed the play of light and shadow accompanied by the musical score. It's the music that really highlights the darkest parts of this scene, and it comes to fit so neatly with what's going on, helping the audience delve deeper into this underworld. Poor Steve that almost got away with innocence, if it wasn't for his bride. I wonder what the connection between all parties is, especially between the boss of the gang and the quiet, shorter man next to him, probably his right-hand man. Those few seconds of where they're both framed, looking unemotionally at the beating of Steve, had a strong impact upon me. Yeah, they're so tough that they don't flinch at violence, they don't flinch at the possibility of losing (because they know they'll get their way), they won't flinch at the actions that they need to undertake to win it all.

 

I think that I need to make it a point to watch this film in particular. It's strenght and spirit is off the charts!

 

Poor Steve that almost got away with innocence, if it wasn't for his bride.

 

Not sure if it was Steve's innocence or his defiance that almost got away with calling Burr's bluff, but you're right, his wife was his weak spot.   Innocence is hard to come by, and harder still to protect, in the noir multiverse.  

 

That was one of the most compelling elements in this scene...Burr keeps raising the ante every time Steve calls him and, as is so often true in noir, the masterminds and heavies invariably know which buttons to push to elicit the desired response.   That often involves a threat not to the person themselves, but to someone they love or something they value more than life itself, someone/something more vulnerable, more defenseless, more 'innocent' if you will, than they are.  

 

This vulnerability...and the capacity and willingness of others (or life in general) to expose, corrupt and exploit it --- seems a key element in noir, and that's true of average Joe's, like Steve, loner tough-guys and tarnished knights alike.   

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This scene from "Desperate" is like classic film noir 101.  It has elements of everything we have learned about in this course: the characters definitely seem archetypical, the shadows and lighting going from light to dark and back again (the swinging light is sensational!), the bleak mise-en-scene with German Expressionism written all over it--all we need to complete the scenario is the requisite femme fatale.  It also has a definite Anthony Mann vibe, I think.  He never pulls any punches in his films.   Having just been watching a number of films lately with the great Laird Cregar (his "Hangover Square" is an absolute gem of a film noir and such a beautiful black-and-white film with so much mood--a must-see!), I was taken aback when I saw Raymond Burr in this clip because he reminded me a lot of Cregar.  They both are tall and massive, have amazingly big and expressive eyes, and are so arresting on camera.  Cregar is absolutely unforgettable in all of his movie roles.  But I must say, Raymond Burr can play a baddie really well, too.  I will never forget him as the menacing Thorwald in the great Hitchcock movie, "Rear Window''--another must-see movie for any film fan.

I have also noted on several occasions that Laird Cregar could have played some of the roles that went to Burr, perhaps with even more creepiness! What a shame he died so young. He could also be very dapper- have you seen his portrayal of Satan in "Heaven Can Wait"?

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Both the music and the lighting in this intensely violent scene from Anthony Mann's, "Desperate" help to heighten the sense of fear and terror for the audience. We are looking at first from a low camera angle- Randall's point of view- as Walt strides determinedly toward him and we see the fist coming straight into the face as if we were receiving the blow. The camera switches from low to high angle during the verbal exchange between the two men, indicating the dominant/submissive relationship. With the first strike Randall's body falls against the hanging lamp and starts it swinging widely, leaving most of the scene in darkness. Each time the light passes over the "Boss" and his second it creates a shadow from the hat brims, obscuring the eyes on their expressionless faces, making the beating even more terrifying for the audience. Most of the violence takes place out of shot, so we hear but we don't see what is happening to Steve. It's precisely what we DON'T see that terrifies us. When Walt calls off his thugs we feel relieved only to be dismayed when he breaks a bottle, and again we see the sharp, jagged edges coming directly at us and we anticipate the glass penetrating our throats. But instead of slicing Steve up, Walt exploits an even more sinister form of torment on Steve- the threat of doing harm to his beloved Bride! Mann's directing and Diskant's cinematography make Raymond Burr's performance more coldly evil than any of the noir antagonists of this classic period.

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-- Describe how this scene uses cinematography to accentuate the brutal beating of Steve Randall (Steve Brodie). The use of light and shadow is ominous, even before the beating. That first punch feels like a punch to the gut for the audience – its speed and viciousness is unexpected, even though we know what’s coming and all you can see is the fist at the end of that shot. When Brodie gets up and starts to walk out, the speed and force of the punch that sends him back down is, again, surprising. The swinging light, and the complete darkness outside of the light, forces us to look even harder for what is happening.

 

 

-- How do Mann and Diskant utilize different points of view to heighten the tension in this scene? Raymond Burr is very menacing as he stands over Steve Brodie. Brodie is as flat as he can get while still sitting and he squints up at the strong light behind Burr. The camera moving in for a closer shot of Burr as the others are beating Brodie is chilling. The fact that the beating can be heard, but not seen at this point, just heightens the tension. Then, after the beating stops, and Brodie is down, but still refuses to take the rap, makes us wonder what worse can happen – then it does, with the threat to Brodie’s wife. The broken bottle coming right at the camera is terrifying.

 

 

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Incredible use of light and shadow in this scene. As user Liz VK pointed out, the chiaroscuro lighting makes the scene very ominous, even before the beating. When Burr delivers the first punch, we see his fist at the end of the shot, making it feel like the violence is hitting too close to home and literally in your face. The same thing happens when the broken beer bottle gets into the shot near the end of the clip. Most of the beating takes place in darkness, playing on the idea that what you don't see is more terrifying. 

 

Of course, the high-angle shots of Raymond Burr symbolizes his power in the scene, and the hard light on the initial shot of the victim symbolizes the victim's helplessness.

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-- Describe how this scene uses cinematography to accentuate the brutal beating of Steve Randall (Steve Brodie).

Very dark room with just a ceiling light that the audience sees. The fixture is low so that the light doesn't spread very far. Low key lighting is used so we just see one side of the faces.

 

-- How do Mann and Diskant utilize different points of view to heighten the tension in this scene?

We first see Steve's POV with a fist that had just landed on his face. The ceiling fixture repeatedly swings back and forth with Walt's face being illuminated and darkened with each swing. Symbolically Steve is being hit each time Walt's face is illuminated. 

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I have also noted on several occasions that Laird Cregar could have played some of the roles that went to Burr, perhaps with even more creepiness! What a shame he died so young. He could also be very dapper- have you seen his portrayal of Satan in "Heaven Can Wait"?

Yes, I have seen Laird Cregar as Satan in "Heaven Can Wait," and he, indeed, was very dapper.  It is such a shame that he died so young--only 31 years of age, I believe.  I am anxious to see him in the movie "I Wake Up Screaming!".  I've read it is one of his best performances.  I just ordered it from Amazon.  Have you seen it?

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Yes, I have seen Laird Cregar as Satan in "Heaven Can Wait," and he, indeed, was very dapper.  It is such a shame that he died so young--only 31 years of age, I believe.  I am anxious to see him in the movie "I Wake Up Screaming!".  I've read it is one of his best performances.  I just ordered it from Amazon.  Have you seen it?

 

I Wake Up Screaming is a fine movie.   I was really impressed with Betty Grable in her first non-musical row.   Cregar is great as a man obsessed with,  well,  you will find out.

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I was trying to think where I knew Steve Brodie from when I watched this clip.  I finally had to look him up on the IMDB.  While he was in a lot of series television, the reason I remembered him was that he was in my very favorite Bonanza episode.  He played Macie in "Any Friend of Walter's" with Arthur Hunnicutt who was in last week's noir "Split Second".  Brodie was a crook trying to steal Arthur's gold but he was thwarted every time by Walter, the dog with a devious brain.

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I Wake Up Screaming is a fine movie.   I was really impressed with Betty Grable in her first non-musical row.   Cregar is great as a man obsessed with,  well,  you will find out.

 

Agree.   Was surprised I Wake Up Screaming was not on our Summer of Darkness schedule.  Cregar was outstandingly creepy as detective Cornell.  

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I think as a lot of people have already mentioned, the dark room and the stark contrast of light and dark makes for an ominous locale. Also the swinging light gives a very moody feel with the faces swinging in and out of view.

 

The different points of view once again as in other movies contrasts the power struggle or situations. When we get the single mans POV its low and looking up. When the gangsters are beating him its more equal ground and when the main gangster is talking about messing up the wife we look down on the beaten disheveled man as he considers how he can save his wife from any pain or despair.

 

M

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The darkness and the chiaroscuro are really well put on at this sequence. We have a lot of German Expresionism influencing the cinematography. First of all, we barely see all the man's faces on light: in great part of the time there's a clear shadow at least in half of it.

 

The violence against the man are all set on the dark, which makes it more emocionally strong. And the face of the man watching the beating with an waving light is just so well put to highten the power of the scene on a time that violence weren't allowed because of censorship rules.

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This is pure art. By using the swinging light and light coming from below, it heightens the feeing of danger and suspense. Everything is off balance as the light swings and we see on camera and eventually hear Steve being beaten savagely off camera. The close-ups of Raymond Burr and his fist and the bottle make our focus on the threat that the fists and glass pose to Steve and his new bride. It is the threat of the bride's safety and possible disfiguration by Burr's character that finally persuades Steve to go to police and do as he is told. The darkness of the room and the strange light that only partially illuminates faces adds to the horror of this scene. The scraping and clicking as the rotary phone dials the police station, as Burr implicates Steve in the crime.

The Expressionist camera work is superb in making this in the day where violence was restricted on screen. The sound of the man being beaten the light swinging, illuminated the hard expression of Burr and his flunky standing next to him - light, then dark, light then dark, with Steve's life swinging in the balance!

The point of view changes throughout the scene. At first we see Steve from behind as the other characters stand and threaten him. We see Burr's fist after he hits Steve from Steve's point of view - the close up. We feel his pain. Then again with the bottle. The point of view alternates so that we can see what is happening, but also be connected in an intimate way with Steve and what he is going through.

How fun is that?!!!

 

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Describe how this scene uses cinematography to accentuate the brutal beating of Steve Randall (Steve Brodie).

  • The room is stark and filled with shadows. Burr's first punch comes right into the camera, as if the audience is Steve's jaw. When Steve is thrown on the table and hits the light, the shadows fluctuate between full bore focus and complete darkness. It's as if we are being shown flash cards of a progressively more brutal beating and being manipulated into looking every time.
  • The sway of the lighting also creates a pendulum effect (a ticking clock) that subliminally communicates the length of the beating.
  • We hear the bottle broken but don't see it as it's in the dark. But then Burr walks it straight into the camera (us, again) and all we see are jagged sharp angles that make his threat about the wife that much more palpable.

How do Mann and Diskant utilize different points of view to heighten the tension in this scene?

  • We see from Steve's POV that Burr and the other heavies tower over and surround him. We stay behind Steve to see the faces, not the backs of heads, of the thugs - their evil is right in our face as well. When he does stand to assert himself, he's down again in a nanosecond - they are in total control.
  • Their swings come at us, and we morph from behind, to close up until finally the fight passes by us. We still hear the brutality and are left to imagine the horror, but we are now focused on the faces of Burr and his stooge, and we even see that guy turn as if to say "when is it enough?"...
  • On the cutback after the beating, he's cowering and cornered to reinforce he has no likely options. And Burr, towering and walking that jagged bottle into the camera, once more conveys the terror from Stave's perspective.
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  • Describe how this scene uses cinematography to accentuate the brutal beating of Steve Randall (Steve Brodie).

This scene uses cinematography to keep the shock and tension up without showing the bloody marks.  Violent swings, sound fx and the low key harsh light that mainly comes from the swinging light shining on reactions more than the victim who only can be seen at the beginning and end after the assault.  It keeps our attention on the bad guys and does not allow us to breathe.  Like we are also being assaulted and being forced to listen to them and their demands.

 

  • How do Mann and Diskant utilize different points of view to heighten the tension in this scene?

I'd suggest the different points of view keep a focus on how serious the two baddies are and what their adamantly requesting.  The strength seems to come from playing on a series of shadows which appear and re-appear over their faces in different angles keeping us biting our nails and feeling the intensity of the blows and dialogue.

 

 

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