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Dr. Rich Edwards

Daily Dose #32: Over Now (Opening Scene from Criss Cross)

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I highly recommend to you "Leave Her to Heaven" as a great film noir viewing experience starring Gene Tierney. It is one of my favorite noir films.  

Can't believe there are so many i haven't seen................looking forward to seeing this one.

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I see that many fellow students are exchanging ideas about additional films noir to explore after the Summer of Darkness is over.  I'd like to recommend this list of "Ten Overlooked Noirs" from the noted film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum.  He discusses a lot more than ten films here and offers some interesting ideas for future viewing.  Rosenbaum wrote the article for the DVD Beaver site in April 2006, so many of the films he described then as "should be available" (SBA) are now available in good editions on DVD or Blu-ray.  Hope you all enjoy the suggestions found here.

 

http://www.jonathanrosenbaum.net/2015/07/ten-overlooked-noirs/

 

http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/articles/noir.htm

 

http://www.imdb.com/list/ls073995945/

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I highly recommend to you "Leave Her to Heaven" as a great film noir viewing experience starring Gene Tierney. It is one of my favorite noir films.  

I agree - I love that film! And the character played by Gene Tierney is definitely an evil woman - but very different from the ones we have seen in the films this summer.

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-- Discuss how the opening of this film exemplifies the noir style and substance. We start with a city in the dark – classic noir. Passion, and sudden bright light on a closeup of the lovers. The score crashes and marches forward relentlessly, until the lovers appear. A long, diagonal shot of the parking lot as the camera closes in is unsettling. We don’t really know where we are or where we are going. The dialog suggests a crime is about to be committed and both lovers are involved. Once we see the husband, we know we have been looking at another femme fatale!

 

-- Now that you have seen all 32 Daily Doses, what did you take away from the Daily Doses assignment? Did it contribute to your learning about film noir? I loved the Daily Doses assignments! They kept me going, looking forward to the next one. They made it easy to think about and enjoy film noir everyday.

 

 

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I highly recommend to you "Leave Her to Heaven" as a great film noir viewing experience starring Gene Tierney. It is one of my favorite noir films.  

Absolutely -- and, it's one of the few in color that actually works in color.  Gene Tierney is downright scary (if you can believe that).

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I always find it interesting to jump into the middle of a story and not be too sure about where my sympathies should lie. Is she playing him, or is she genuinely in love? Is her snapping at her husband just the way she is, or its it the frustration after years of controlling behavior? Likewise, is his irritability symbolic of how he has always acted in this marriage, or has she led him to this place of suspicion? The implication seems to be that they are going to murder the husband, but the movie doesn't spell out who is on the "right" side of this dynamic.

 

More broadly, I've enjoyed the daily doses. Having such short clips means that the conversations can be much more focused. It would be crazy if we were trying to pick apart entire films. Having just 3-4 minutes of "text" to parse allows for everyone to be on the same page with what we're referencing. The doses also show off the great range of noir, from the snap crackle pop dialogue of The Big Sleep to the soul-crushing violence of Brute Force. It was a good survey, I think, especially for someone who might not have seen a lot of noir.

 

The doses have also been great previews for quite a few movies I haven't seen.  Of the 32 daily doses, I've seen 14. That gives me a great list to keep pursuing my noir viewing (I am what you'd call a very casual fan of noir).

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Thank you Mr. Edwards for this course.  I have learned a lot about film noir!

Agreed!  Thank you, Dr. Edwards!  This has been a great course (at least until I take the final)!  The opportunity to watch so many films, to read critical literature, to articulate analyses and to share feedback with so many other interested students has been a great and unique experience.  In particular, the integration of film clips with commentary has been excellent.  I've also really enjoyed learning more about the historical context (both cinematic and social) of the movement/genre/style and am especially grateful for the introduction to Poetic Realism.  Encore!

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-- Discuss how the opening of this film exemplifies the noir style and substance. We start with a city in the dark – classic noir. Passion, and sudden bright light on a closeup of the lovers. The score crashes and marches forward relentlessly, until the lovers appear. A long, diagonal shot of the parking lot as the camera closes in is unsettling. We don’t really know where we are or where we are going. The dialog suggests a crime is about to be committed and both lovers are involved. Once we see the husband, we know we have been looking at another femme fatale!

 

-- Now that you have seen all 32 Daily Doses, what did you take away from the Daily Doses assignment? Did it contribute to your learning about film noir? I loved the Daily Doses assignments! They kept me going, looking forward to the next one. They made it easy to think about and enjoy film noir everyday.

Good point on the diagonal shot of the parking lot.  Siodmak is really spare and elegant with his camerawork.  He doesn't lay on noir tropes too heavily. 

Also Yvonne DeCarlo coming down the staircase (the good old staircase again) starting in a position of power over Duryea at the head of the stairs descending to his anger and her doom.

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Discuss how the opening of this film exemplifies the noir style and substance.

- Style: It’s like a capstone of noir; initially it is the night time, city version of Border Incident; parking lot scene a la The Big Sleep; exotic night club, its owner in a white tux jacket is evocative of Casablanca.  Streets and cars in the parking lot are at angles; high contrast lighting reveals Yvonne De Carlo (ooh-la-la) and Burt Lancaster.  As they discuss their future, shadows surround their faces.  We see De Carlo from a low angle when she enters the club—the angle changes as she descends the stairs. She encounters shadows as she closes in on Dan Duryea.  Duryea’s pithy (and sometimes amusing) sarcasm harkens to the pulp writers.  The maitre d’ s sarcasm also provides some humor complementing Duryea’s tone.

  Substance:  De Carlo and Lancaster have a past, but they are going to execute (pardon the pun) an evil deed, ON PURPOSE, and we know one mistake means doom in Noirsville.  Mrs. Dundee, despite her sexy, combined with some girl-next-door charm is not complying with the norms of the time for women.  Her “conversation” with Mr. Dundee confirms she is trapped in a bad marriage.  She is all at once good, evil, and a victim.                                                                  
                                    OR
One could just say Dan Duryea….


 Now that you have seen all 32 Daily Doses, what did you take away from the Daily Doses assignment? Did it contribute to your learning about film noir?

- These focused mini-segments, both of the films, and theme of the week has given me a basis for viewing movies (in particular, film noir) for watching and understanding films on a much deeper technological, literary and philosophical level. 
DDD absolutely contributed to my learning about film noir due to the following factors:
Building block approach to the subject matter both in the overview/chronological approach and
in the increasing degree of difficulty of the weekly themes and questions;  Weekly subjects to learn about particular aspects of film noir, lighting and cameras, music and sound, literature, philosophy, history (both U.S. and film history), philosophy and psychology.

             Thank you Dr. Edwards, Mr. Muller, and TCM

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Interesting contrast between what is happening outside with Burt Lancaster and what is happening inside with Dan Duryea. The tension between de Carlo and Duryea is palpable, and the opening presents so many questions to draw the viewer into the action of the film. By opening the film this way a sense of mystery and moral uncertainty is created. The way de Carlo and Lancaster are plotting their get away (so to speak) would normally make me think that they are the criminal elements in this story. But then when we meet Duryea, it is readily apparent that he is probably more corrupt than Lancaster. There is no real reason so far that makes me think Duryea is more criminal than Lancaster, other than the fact that he is harsh and cruel toward de Carlo.

 

In light of the discussion with Eddie Muller about the ongoing preservation of noir films, I would like to note that many of the films presented by TCM have seemed to be in immaculate condition. Have these films been restored already by TCM or some other source, I wonder, or did some films just never become so obscure that the quality of the film was allowed to deteriorate?

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I really like the feeling of going full circle with this particular daily dose. A lot of the early films had that same sense of mystery, danger and urgency, and also dialogue that was quick and revealed little and left a lot of questions. It's also nice to see the progression from small casts and venues to the bigger, badder city or town (in this case, Los Angeles). Speaking of, I love films set in LA. I think that's the quintessential noir city, even more than the unnamed midwest town. It has that glamour and tempo that I associate so dearly with noir. It has that unabashed sense of danger and of humanity challenged or twisted.

 

This femme fatale has me worried. She's not in control, not even by appearance. Maybe she's not going to be a fatale at all.

 

I also liked the humor of the head waiter. "Oh these kinds of people" amazing line. That's what noir really is. All these sorts of terrible people that meet each other and that do or suffer terrible things.

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I was immediately struck, not by the parking lot tryst, but by Yvonne De Carlo in satin and furs, contrasted by dapper Dan Duryea in a crisp white jacket... She’s sizzling with a muted passion that is a perfect foil for Duryea’s sharp suspicious interrogation.  And then, of course, there’s Burt Lancaster in a heavily-patterned geometic jacket of his own - patterns are a favorite noir element.  Fashion statements like these highlight one reason I love to ‘look at’ a noir film, because I always come away so completely satisified by the visual feast.


 


Each Daily Dose perfectly encapsulated another facet of noir - whether it was the cinematography, costuming, sound, or music - that served to draw us into the action, quick - fast - and in a hurry!  


 

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One of my favorites is The Dark Corner starring . . . [drum roll] . . . Lucille Ball, of I Love Lucy fame. She's another example of Eddie Muller's contention that the working woman in postwar America holds it all together. Even friends and family members who swear they don't like film noir or even movies at all (I know, but what can I do?!) love this movie. I've seen it several times and it never disappoints.

I saw "Dark Corner" a few years ago.  It's compelling.  

 

I don't know if you know "Storm Warning", from 1951,  with Steve Cochran, Doris Day and Ginger Rogers.  Don't let the lightweight content resumes of these leading ladies fool you (this pre-dates "Julie" and "Midnight Lace" ). This film taps into a different type of paranoia, that of a town under the thumb of the ****.  Very Creepy.  Lots of night-for-night scenes.  Low rent interiors.  Low rent people.

 

Also, if you're looking for something international, there's an English film "Peeping Tom," from 1960, in color, but more like Eastman Color, looks very "real", not splashy like technicolor.  It's more toward Hitchcock/Horror, but it's definitely worth a look.  Has lots of film noir style: odd angles, lots of POV and subjective camera.  A little racy for then, but by today's standards, maybe a PG-13.  Great technique, lighting; very, very creepy antagonist.

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I saw "Dark Corner" a few years ago.  It's compelling.  

 

I don't know if you know "Storm Warning", from 1951,  with Steve Cochran, Doris Day and Ginger Rogers.  Don't let the lightweight content resumes of these leading ladies fool you (this pre-dates "Julie" and "Midnight Lace" ). This film taps into a different type of paranoia, that of a town under the thumb of the ****.  Very Creepy.  Lots of night-for-night scenes.  Low rent interiors.  Low rent people.

 

Also, if you're looking for something international, there's an English film "Peeping Tom," from 1960, in color, but more like Eastman Color, looks very "real", not splashy like technicolor.  It's more toward Hitchcock/Horror, but it's definitely worth a look.  Has lots of film noir style: odd angles, lots of POV and subjective camera.  A little racy for then, but by today's standards, maybe a PG-13.  Great technique, lighting; very, very creepy antagonist.

I've added these two to my list of must-see movies! It looks like, with any luck and great recommendations, my Summer of Darkness will last through the winter. This is fantastic because the Boston area was socked in by one snowstorm after another this past winter and movies saved me!!!

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Anna Dundee (Yvonne De Carlo):  Steve, all those things that happened to us.  Everything that went before.  We’ll forget it.  You’ll see.  I’ll make you forget it!

 

Are you kidding me?  I’ve no doubt Yvonne De Carlo could make me forget a lot of things.

 

One aspect of noir love is a twist on the traditional romantic novel or romantic film trope with a blocking agent negating or slowing down love’s full realization.  So, rather than a disapproving family or the escalation of a simple misunderstanding that stops two lovers from being together, in noir it’s another tough guy.  Some low life like Howard De Silva in The Blue DahliaJohn Ridgeley in The Big Sleep.  Albert Dekker in The Killers.  Or, Dan Duryea in today’s Daily Dose from Criss Cross.  They get in the way, mess things up, force you to agree to stuff that no one in their right mind should agree to, and add a real threat not only to the relationship but to the lover’s lives as well.  This cocktail of danger and love is thrilling!

 

I can’t say enough about how the film score, especially at the outset of the film, sets the genre or kind of film you’re watching.  Miklos Rozsa’s score for Criss Cross is one of noir’s best (wasn’t this used in Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid?).  I also admire the very effective Elmer Bernstein score during the opening still shots in The Grifters.  Within moments the audience is cued to the style of film they’re going to see.

 

The noir elements in the opening clip are the night shots of a city.  Characters in the dark who suddenly become illuminated by a single source light.  The suggestion of imminent or potential doom that the characters know about but cast aside.  Eddie Muller’s, “the break.”

 

I love Criss Cross!  Picture this.  A rainy night.  Everyone and everything tells you to stay home.  Forget that!  What the hell does Marlowe know?  You take your favorite femme fatale or hard-boiled shamus and head over to the local Rialto for a double bill of The Killers and Criss Cross.  So what if you’re dead by dawn.  You just had four hours of noir heaven.

 

-Mark

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I see that many fellow students are exchanging ideas about additional films noir to explore after the Summer of Darkness is over.  I'd like to recommend this list of "Ten Overlooked Noirs" from the noted film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum.  He discusses a lot more than ten films here and offers some interesting ideas for future viewing.  Rosenbaum wrote the article for the DVD Beaver site in April 2006, so many of the films he described then as "should be available" (SBA) are now available in good editions on DVD or Blu-ray.  Hope you all enjoy the suggestions found here.

 

http://www.jonathanrosenbaum.net/2015/07/ten-overlooked-noirs/

 

http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/articles/noir.htm

 

http://www.imdb.com/list/ls073995945/

Thanks for the info!!

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Do you remember week one, part one?  Entering Noir Country!  This opening is a sterling example of how to do it. 

 

The aerial shots gives us the point-of-view of fate, loitering over noir city searching for its next victim.  We follow Fate, to the accompaniment of a great score, as it dives down into the darkened parking lot where we see two lovers, caught in the high key lighting of headlights, trapped in the narrow space between two parked cars, planning something very naughty, the perfect heist. 

 

The woman, a sensual dark haired beauty, the stuff dreams are made of.  The guy, nothing like we expected, dressed pedestrianly, even square like.  The doll exclaims, "After it's all over.  It'll be just you and me.  The way it should of been all along from the start" 

 

Fate and we, the noir audience chuckle.  This is the dark city baby and if we've learned anything it the past few weeks it's that fate has just singled you out and It's not all over, nor just you and him, nor going to be the way it was from the start.

 

We cut to the club and our third victim, the controlling husband, dressed to the nines and in charge upset because his wife has gone AWOL completes our triangle of tragedy.  This not just a heist of money but a heist of something far more valuable the girl. Fate smiles, they won't get the money and they won't get the woman. Pretty, isn't it? 

 

 

 

 

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Haven't seen Criss Cross in over 5 years and forgot just how perfect this noir film is.  Everything about it is just right.   I did forget one thing after 5 years;  how much of a jerk Burt's cop 'friend' was.  

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Anna is an attractive package.  But open her up and - someone's gonna get it.  She and Steve are planning their future, which is based on a crime.  This will bring their past to the present and correct all wrongs.  When Steve tells her it may take a few weeks, it's a foreshadowing that this is not going to go smoothly - and probably not according to plan.  Anna is a femme fatale - and her quick, sharp answers to her husband show who the "fatale" part refers to.  Duryea's character tries to dish it out, but Anna is too quick and too smart for him.  She attacks as her defense, and she goes for the jugular.


 


The Daily Doses have forced to me to watch films for more than just a good storyline or a glimpse of my favorite actors.  I have had to look at techniques and effects and analyze what message or attitude is being conveyed.  I've had to think and participate, instead of just sit idly by.  I've enjoyed posting my ideas here on the message boards, and I've definitely enjoyed seeing the ideas posted by others, which have agreed with me, or sometimes challenged me to go deeper in my observations.


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Again in the opening of Criss Cross we have the city playing a part in framing out the perspective we are to take as viewers of this play. The arial shot of downtown Los Angeles with the police headquarters as the identifying landmark carries with it two concepts: 1. This is going to involve the law for sure, possibly some law enforcement corruption, maybe not. 2. That this, again is our, "home"-this is the reality of the multitude of schemes that get played out in the big city. That these two figures we descend upon are merely 2 out of hundreds of thousands that have a similar story to tell. 

 

Carrying through with the noir characteristics is the secret meeting in a dark parking lot between two desperate lovers. de Carlo's character is married to the tough guy night club owner, while she is in love with a guy her husband has something on, or who'll kill him for the dame. 

 

Musically and visually there is a busyness that occurs once the camera lands at eye level. We have the two lit up by a passing car head lights. While they talk about past present and future, they are constantly flickering in and out of light sources.  Lots of others with similar stories are passing around them. 

 

As we meet Slim Dundee, we have the busy night club band playing some haunting fast dance rhythm. Dundee is the contradiction of Rick of Casablanca in his white sport coat- a bad guy wearing white. 

The club is bustling and the intensity ensues as Mrs. Dundee proceeds to put Slim in his place. We know from how she handles him that, for as tough as he presents himself, he is completely at her mercy. 

 

I have gathered from the daily doses a certain appreciation for what a clip can present about a situation versus what will really play out as the final story. Films noir are always full of criss-crossing plot lines and twists that involve flashback; a reasoning with the present. I have a broader understanding of the ultimate truth that is portrayed through this film period. Whether truly considered "noir" or not, films from this period on would always use methods in cinematography, lighting, music... every aspect of the noir period had forever changed what we did with film in the future. There isn't a single film made today that doesn't employ some aspect of film making that came from this classical period. 

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Los Angeles City Hall at night in the opening credits is very reminiscent of the opening of D.O.A. and the aerial shots are spot on with several opening scenes in this time period as well. 

 

The basic set up and plot: Escapism. We meet these two main characters in a parking lot, desperately discussing plans to make things better, to break away from the angry controlling husband in the corner. Both men are in crisis, with Burt's character speaking in a frantic tone, and the husband realizing he's lost his wife. This reflects the postwar man in crisis. Yvonne's character is the one in control, giving plans, almost orders, to Burt's character, while a minute later telling her husband to shut up and leave her alone.  A little reminiscent of Casablanca (the main character being the owner of a seedy night club ) and The Big Sleep (meetings in parking lots with fur coats), Double Indemnity (possible plot to kill husband) and D.O.A. (as mentioned above), I can't believe I haven't yet seen this film. 

 

I have enjoyed The Daily Doses for exposing me to films I have yet to see and inspiring me to seek them out. I also enjoy that I have a record of my responses, almost now compiling an entire research paper. This is something that I can reference and add to for further examination. Thank you!

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Last night's send-off to Summer of Darkness was amazing, starting with Criss Cross.  From the very first scene you knew Steve, Anna and Dundee were headed for disaster and, like a lot of train wreck's, it was impossible to look away, even for a second.  Lancaster, DeCarlo and Duryea were fantastic!

 

All the elements of noir were in residence...the heist, the double cross, the flashbacks, the snappy patter, the love triangle...one member of whom, at least, was possessive and brutal, the gravity of the past weighing-down the present and destroying all hope of a future, the wonderful camerawork and lighting even in what could otherwise be 'throwaway' scenes.   And what an ending!   An absolutely wonderful film!  

 

Brute Force has always lived up to its name, and its cast is a virtual 'who's who' of noir!   It's a devastating portrayal and indictment of power and brutality and our whole penal system (and more) that's as poignant now as it was when first made.   The use of the same generic portrait of a woman to springboard into the flashbacks of how the cellmates of R17 got there was very nicely done and afforded both momentary relief from the claustrophobic cell and yet inevitably confirmed the hopelessness and futility of any chance of escaping it back to those happier times.  Those brief flashbacks were like having a door briefly open and then quickly shut in your face.

 

Desperate was all about random chance victimizing an average, innocent guy, a B noir made special by its direction, camerawork and the monomaniacal menace of Raymond Burr.   (It's easy to forget just how good Burr was in his early roles in noir, before he became Perry Mason and Ironsides.)  

 

And The Asphalt Jungle is one of the best heist films ever made as well as one of the best noirs. With Huston at the wheel and Sterling Hayden and Sam Jaffe in the roles, there's a certain nobility about the characters of Dix Handley and Doc that is uncommon for thugs in noir.   Neither are tarnished knights, remember.   One's got brains and the other's got muscle, but they're career criminals.   Each has a certain expertise and live by a very specific and unforgiving code.   Even when Dix is being brutal he's not especially brutish, and Doc is never arrogant and controlling.   Both are calm under pressure, both are street savvy, and both have fatal flaws that we know, from the get-go, will eventually catch-up to them, but there's something honorable, even admirable, about them all the same.    I also thought noir character actors Louis Calhern and Brad Dexter were outstanding, as well as a very young and very beautiful Marilyn Monroe as Calhern's 'niece'.  

 

A great conclusion to what's been, for me, a great ride.   I cannot thank Professor Edwards, Eddie Muller, TCM, Ball State and Canvas, etc. enough for making this outstanding adventure happen, and meeting new friends and affectionados of noir, and exchanging comments and ideas with them here on the Summer of Noir Message Boards has been a unexpected and delightful bonus.  

 

It's been fun, informative and thought-provoking.   Thank you, all!    As we've all learned over the past couple months, there's no escape from the noir universe, so hopefully the success of this course is more a beginning than an end, and we'll reconvene again in the shadows and share and suffer the consequences of our own imperfections real soon.       

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Anna is an attractive package.  But open her up and - someone's gonna get it.  She and Steve are planning their future, which is based on a crime.  This will bring their past to the present and correct all wrongs.  When Steve tells her it may take a few weeks, it's a foreshadowing that this is not going to go smoothly - and probably not according to plan.  Anna is a femme fatale - and her quick, sharp answers to her husband show who the "fatale" part refers to.  Duryea's character tries to dish it out, but Anna is too quick and too smart for him.  She attacks as her defense, and she goes for the jugular.

 

The Daily Doses have forced to me to watch films for more than just a good storyline or a glimpse of my favorite actors.  I have had to look at techniques and effects and analyze what message or attitude is being conveyed.  I've had to think and participate, instead of just sit idly by.  I've enjoyed posting my ideas here on the message boards, and I've definitely enjoyed seeing the ideas posted by others, which have agreed with me, or sometimes challenged me to go deeper in my observations.

 

 

One could say Steve's mom was more of a femme fatale than Anna.    She has a detective harass Anna with threats of prison just to protect her boy.   It was that action that set off all the other negative events that impacted both Anna and Steve.   

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The Daily Dose of Darkness taught me how to look for the substance and elements of film noir in each of those scenes.In addition, many were opening scenes and I learned to listen and to analyze; the music, lighting, staging, dialogue, protagonists and point of view. All of this raised the level of intrigue for watching the entire film.

     Thank you Professor Edwards, Eddie Muller, Ball University and TCM for the most rewarding Summer of Darkness.Kudos to all for conceiving such an innovative course.I have been a film noir fan for over 30 years. I was not familiar with many of the films introduced during the course but now I'm ready to analyze, discuss and recommend these movies to others. I've enjoyed the course mainly because of it's structure; lectures, extended readings, podcasts and the fabulous Daily Dose of Darkness (DDD). During the past nine weeks, I would wake up eagerly in anticipation of the DDD, it's special focus, pondering questions and the intelligent conversations on the message boards.

     I also want to comment on the live conversation with Eddie Muller. Wow!! I didn't miss any of his introductions on Friday nights. He made you want to go and buy the movie!! His passion for film is contagious. Professor Edwards and Eddie Muller are the true Ambassadors of film noir. I loved Muller's concise answers, definitions and opinions on the subject.My favorite comment of course is on the "femme fatale"....".Women were allowed to be equal to men. Equally tempted, equally compromised and equally guilty"!  Brilliant words!! I will be coining this phrase.

 Sincerely, Sonia Fuentes

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