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Favorite Film Noir


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Hi Marilyn,

 

I like your choices also and with three luscious ladies to boot!!

 

I'll pick "The Killers" because I love Ava Gardner, another luscious lady and have always enjoyed Burt Lancaster.

And, "Out Of The Past" because everybody in it is so vile really.......

 

Larry

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Film noir is not my favorite genre of movies but I really really like Crossfire with the 3 Roberts (although Mitchum's part is really small.) But Young & Ryan are just wonderful in this film. Robert Ryan is one of the most underrated actors ever. What a great performer.

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Hi Helen, you're so absolutely right about Ryan. He was superb in everything I've seen him in---perfectly natural, unmannered and believable, whether he's a villain or not. I saw Crossfire for the first time when I got it with the Film Noir 2 set and it changed my opinion of Young. I always thought he was a bit of bore and not much to my taste. I was very impressed with his intelligent handling of the part.

 

Other great Ryan performances, I think, include Lawman, The Set-Up, The Professionals, Odds Against Tomorrow, Flying Leathernecks and a whole bunch more but, now that I think about it, there is one Ryan film I don't like: The Canadians. I'm a Canadian and the film, like most of Hollywood's forays into 'God's Country' (!), is misleading and stupid beyond words but, I suppose Ryan was as good as he could've been in it.

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Scarlett, the title is Kiss of Death and Widmark is great in it. He was great in other noirs too like Night and the City, Panic in the Streets, Pickup on South Street.

 

I like all the noirs mentioned and I'd add:

 

High Sierra

The Hitch-Hiker

Macao

On Dangerous Ground

Force of Evil

Touch of Evil

The Devil Thumbs a Ride

Conflict

 

In Crossfire did anyone spot the reflection of one of the film crew in a background mirror? It's in the apartment of the murder victim. The movie was made in a matter of days and low budget, so I guess they missed it at first and then couldn't refilm the scene.

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Pleased to see that some of my faves have already been mentioned. I can't think of a film noir I didn't enjoy but here are some that stand out in my mind:

"The Killers" and "Criss Cross" with Burt Lancaster

"Out of the Past" and "Night of the Hunter" with Robert Mitchum

"Laura" and "Leave Her to Heaven" with Gene Tierney

"In a Lonely Place" with Humphrey Bogart

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  • 5 weeks later...

I like Deep Valley (1947) and House Across the Bay (1940), which have appeared on lists of film noir titles. Other favorite noirs are ones with Dan Duryea--Criss Cross, Black Angel, Too Late For Tears, etc.

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There is an excellent little film noir movie titled ?The Stranger on the Third Floor? (1940), which some people say is the first true American film noir movie. It does represent a stark transition from simple lighting of the 1930s gangster films because it has some very good high-contrast type noir type lighting. A lot of side lighting and back lighting. Thus, it looks like a ?40s film rather than a ?30s film. It also contains an interesting dream sequence which is outstanding and surrealistic.

 

I can?t remember where I last saw this film, but you might want to be on the look-out for it.

 

There is a lighting technique in movies that is sometimes called ?flat? lighting or ?high key? lighting. That generally means the main lights are to the sides of the camera and aimed directly at the subjects and they are lit up well. The lights usually had some kind of filter over them to make sure there were no strong shadows behind the actors. This is sometimes called ?flat? lighting, like filming a movie outdoors on a cloudy day where there are no shadows and everything is evenly lit. This is a common way gangster movies were filmed in the ?30s.

 

But in the ?40s the lighting technicians became more creative and did a lot of ?low-key? lighting and a lot of side lighting and back lighting. Back lighting makes people?s hair glow around the edges and it lights up cigarette smoke. Side lighting often causes strong shadows. They used a lot of clever lighting techniques in ?The Third Man?. Washing down the streets outdoors at night adds more natural looking lighting to a film.

 

So, ?The Stranger on the Third Floor? made a sudden jump from the flat lighting of the 1930s crime movies, to the creative lighting of the 1940s crime movies, especially in its dream sequence. This may be why some people consider it to be the first American film noir movie.

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FredCDobbs,

 

Another one of your interesting movie-craft posts. I have heard of "key" lighting--never really understood the technique...until reading your explanation.

 

While I am thinking about the subject (lighting):

Anyone know if there is a name for the lighting technique used to highlight Tom Neal's face in "Detour"--the 'sitting at diner' scenes. Something like, "Stagehand With Powerful Flashlight"? It was effective!

 

Oh yes, my favorite noir film:

Barton Keyes: "Walter, you're all washed up".

Walter Neff: "Thanks, Keyes. That was short anyway".

 

Rusty

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While not strictly a favorite and therefore perhaps not true to the thread, the most unexpected Film Noir movie I have seen is Blood on the Moon. Its a Western with Robert Mitchum. Still, it was presented in a format that struck me as Film Noir rather than the usual blustery or sweeping cowboy flick.

 

The photography was dark and moody. Robert Mitchum's character was one of dubious heroism in the style of the jaded private dick who is nudged by fate into doing good deeds against his nature.

 

I am not normally inclined to watch a Western (perhaps THE true difference between men and women). But this one I liked, maybe because it was so different.

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?While I am thinking about the subject (lighting):

Anyone know if there is a name for the lighting technique used to highlight Tom Neal's face in "Detour"--the 'sitting at diner' scenes. Something like, "Stagehand With Powerful Flashlight"? It was effective!?

 

I don?t remember that particular lighting. By the 1940s, even by the ?20s, Hollywood electrical technicians had invented all kinds of special theatrical lights. They had small spot lights just for faces and for cigarette smoke. They used bright bulbs and could be fitted with a rheostat, a gismo that could dim the light, so they could get just the right amount of light on someone?s face. Also, they could fade it up or down in brightness.

 

I was always amazed about how they could light cigarette smoke. The audience couldn?t see the light until the actor lit up a cigarette, then only the smoke was bright.

 

They did a lot of back lighting in the 1930s. This made people?s hair glow, especially blonde women. In some movies they must have used dozens or more separate lights just to light up specific parts of a scene, such as people?s faces.

 

They had special light bulbs they used for when guys would light a match and cup their hands around the match. Most of the time the light was coming from a tiny 110 volt light bulb the guy was holding.

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The audience couldn?t see the light until the actor lit up a cigarette, then only the smoke was bright.

 

Fred, just your typing of that line brought out a deep-seated memory of the sound of the flick of the match in those old movies where you knew you were going to see something through the light of the cigarette. It makes me happy that I'm alive and aware enough to value those moments, even though I'm not a film expert.

 

Fascinating. Have you shared your background here? I think you have, and I'm sorry to say I don't remember where. Can you point me to the post?

 

Fred, in all the recent crap about the Anime Alley stuff, I'm happy in the knowledge that I've backed the right horse, if you don't mind the analogy.

 

The old b/w movies are priceless, aren't they? I feel sorry for all those who think today's films, in general, are classics. But no matter, water under the bridge.

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There is no way that I could name just one favorite. "The Postman Always Rings Twice", "Double Indemnity", "DOA", "The Big Sleep", "Leave Her to Heaven", the list goes on and on. I am trying to record as many noir films as I can off of TCM while they still show them.

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stoneyburke, I did record "Lady in the Lake" when it was on TCM recently. I am saving that to watch one of the Saturday Nights in February. Was "Impact" shown on TCM recently? If so, I missed it. It looks like a good one too. The problem is that TCM likes to show noir in bunches between 12:00 and 6:00am and so I am usually limited to be able to record only one. The primetime slot appears to be reserved for attracting the new younger audience that would otherwise be watching 'merican Idle or some such garbage.

 

Keep fighting the good fight!

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No, constarkel, I can't remember the last time Impact was on. But it's a doozy. Brian Donlevy was grand.

 

You haven't seen Lady in the Lake yet? Consider yourself lucky to be seeing it for the first time, it's a dandy piece of filmmaking. Fred, do you agree? I love the idea of 'I Am The Camera'.

 

Oh yes, I agree on what seems to be, in general, the new programmaing theme...Karate Kid, for pity sake?

 

Nah, I give up on them all. They're welcome to what they most assuredly will be getting. I'll take the high road from now on and talk only to the people with taste.

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constarkel,

 

My PBS station broadcast "DOA" about a month ago. We (my wife and I) were scratching our heads over the term--"luminous toxin". No mention in my handy-dandy Merck Index. Searching the internet, we had a definition for "luminous toxin" within a few seconds--radium.

 

Mmmm...how about a nice big glass of radium water?

 

Rusty

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