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Razzberry

Noir Boulevard

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Any fans of film noir, even if it's just a movie or two?   One of my favorites is The Night of the Hunter, directed by Charles Laughton in 1955.  Now considered one of the greatest films ever made, at the time it opened to mixed reviews and was completely ignored for any award nominations.   Laughton was so disappointed he never again directed a film, much to our loss.  

Starring Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, Lillian Gish, Billy Chapin

Official synopsis: A religious fanatic marries a gullible widow whose young children are reluctant to tell him where their real daddy hid the $10,000 he'd stolen in a robbery.

The following may contain spoilers.

It was loosely based on the true story of Harry Powers, who was convicted for the murder of two widows and three children in West Virginia in 1932.  The children here are let down by just about every adult they know and have to go on the run.  It's a nail-biter, and the cinematography by Stanley Cortez is sharp and gorgeous.

Robert Mitchum is the despicable Harry Powell, a fake preacher with a madonna/whore complex or maybe just hates women.  Here he's shown snarling through a burlesque show while playing with his switchblade, which ends up popping open and cutting through his pants pocket.  Paging Dr. Freud...

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I think Shelley Winters was miscast as a timid southern woman, but she doesn't last long.

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The kids take off in a boat and spend the night in a barn.

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They're taken in finally by a woman who won't be intimidated by Powell and sees right through him.

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The Coens borrowed a saying for The Big Lebowski from this film.

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Edited by Razzberry
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Unlike Laughton I'm not throwing in the towel yet. lol   Some good ones can be seen free on You Tube or Amazon Prime.

Don't Bother To Knock  Weird Hotel where Marilyn Monroe is the babysitter from hell, the elevator operators are sketchy,  the guests horny, and the bar features the song stylings of Anne Bancroft nightly.

 

The Stranger  Orson Welles, Edward G. Robinson, Loretta Young
Robinson is an investigator from the War Crimes Commission who suspects Welles is actually an infamous Nazi hiding in plain sight.  Suspenseful and unique ending.  Full movie.

 

Criss Cross   Burt Lancaster, Yvonne DeCarlo, Dirty Dan Duryea, and Tony Curtis in his first role as DeCarlo's dance partner.   I love the music and energy in this scene.

 

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 Crossfire, 1947  Highly rated film-noir about a hate crime of religious intolerance, but could be about any intolerance. Nominated for 5 Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Writing, Best Supporting Actors Robert Ryan and Gloria Grahame as Ginny.  (Grahame was also related to co-star Robert Mitchum - her sister was married to Mitchum's brother).

 

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This Monday night, May 3, TCM will air Crossfire at 6:30 pm Pacific time, followed by Night of the Hunter at 8:15!  Yay.

Also I think it's only a matter of time until someone monetizes these great Fritz Lang films now free on YouTube.   Human Desire had been pulled and now has a new url.  (posted elsewhere but they belong here too) 

 

The Woman In The Window, 1944  Edward G. Robinson, Dan Duryea, Joan Bennett

 

Scarlet Street, 1945  Edward G. Robinson, Dan Duryea, Joan Bennett

 

The Blue Gardenia, 1953  Anne Baxter, Raymond Burr, Richard Conte

 

Human Desire, 1954  Gloria Grahame, Glenn Ford

 

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He Walked by Night, 1948  Richard Basehart, Scott Brady

This innovative L.A. noir is in my top ten favorites. It obviously influenced other filmmakers from L.A Confidential to Carol Reed's The Third Man and Jack Webb's Dragnet. Even Basehart's clever, ghost-like quality and self-doctoring of wounds reminded me of Anton Chigur from No Country For Old Men.  Full movie.

 

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13 minutes ago, Razzberry said:

He Walked by Night, 1948  Richard Basehart, Scott Brady

This innovative L.A. noir is in my top ten favorites. It obviously influenced other filmmakers from L.A Confidential to Carol Reed's The Third Man and Jack Webb's Dragnet. Even Basehart's clever, ghost-like quality and self-doctoring of wounds reminded me of Anton Chigur from No Country For Old Men.  Full movie.

Thank you @Razzberry don't worry I'm taking notes.  I'm adding all these movies to my watchlist.

Maybe people's hesitation is like mine.  I haven't seen THAT many movies from 1940s-1950s and if I have, I am not entirely sure that they'd qualify as Noir, exactly!

Have you tried Letterboxd?  You might like it.  There are a million Noir lists.  You can keep track of your ratings and reviews and what movies you still want to watch.

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Thanks for the tip about Letterboxd, Ms  Blue Jay.  I'll definitely check it out.   I'm not sure what qualifies as noir either, so I tend to have a liberal view.  Some people are very specific, but others are not. 

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Film noir (/nwɑːr/; French: [film nwaʁ]) is a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations. The 1930s, 1940s and 1950s are generally regarded as the "classic period" of American film noir. Film noir of this era is associated with a low-key, black-and-white visual style that has roots in German Expressionist cinematography. Many of the prototypical stories and much of the attitude of classic noir derive from the hardboiled school of crime fiction that emerged in the United States during the Great Depression.[1]

 

Edited by Ms Blue Jay

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Some people claim that a color film can't be noir, but I don't agree.  It's just that most of them were made pre-color.  A happy ending pretty much disqualifies it though.  lol

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One thing to beware about Letterboxd it has become a crazy addiction for me!  So just beware!

I'm really loose about the definition too, there's film noir, there's neo noir (The Wikipedia definition is very confusing because it says that neo-noir is 40s and 50s..... but isn't that what film noir is?).  I basically use it to describe a lot of mysteries and a lot of movies where there's a detective (or a gumshoe like figure)......No matter what time it takes place.  

Edited by Ms Blue Jay
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1940-1958 is considered noir's heyday.  There has to be a crime, usually a murder, and often a feeling of dread and distrust.  Just realized that I already violated the "no happy ending" with The Night of The Hunter, so possibly that would be considered neo-noir.  More current neo-noir films that I love would be Chinatown,  Blood Simple, and A Simple Plan,  to name a few.

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8 minutes ago, Razzberry said:

1940-1958 is considered noir's heyday.  There has to be a crime, usually a murder, and often a feeling of dread and distrust.  Just realized that I already violated the "no happy ending" with The Night of The Hunter, so possibly that would be considered neo-noir.  More current neo-noir films that I love would be Chinatown,  Blood Simple, and A Simple Plan,  to name a few.

I was thinking about The Big Lebowski which is the Coen's modern (comedic, of course) homage to movies like The Long Goodbye and The Big Sleep, but that movie doesn't have a sad ending.  Sad things happen, but for the Dude, everything ends up pretty much all right.   

Edited by Ms Blue Jay
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Out of the Past, 1947   Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, Kirk Douglas, Rhonda Fleming

Very popular movie, but not one of my favorites.  Even the hunky, disinterested, sleepy-eyed presence of Mitchum couldn't save the overly complicated plot or explain some of their actions.   Spoilers ahead.

 

Mitchum is Jeff Bailey, a man with a somewhat shady past who now owns a small gas station somewhere in Northern California.  The mileage on this sign seems a little off to me, but that's irrelevant. 

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One day an old partner in crime appears needing Jeff's help to find a dame (Greer) who absconded with 40k of his dough.

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Smart?  He's the Einstein of investigators!  From her friend he learns only the weight of her suitcase, and determines she must be in Acapulco, Mexico.  His superhero instincts are correct.

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He really DOES care, of course, because they're a perfect match.

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Back in San Francisco there's another complication with a woman named 'Meta' (Fleming), but don't ask me what.

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Greer goes back to Kirk but can't get over Jeff..

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Yeah, he probably should have, and avoided that Bonny & Clyde ending.

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The Big Knife, 1955  Directed by Robert Aldrich (What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?).  All star cast with Jack Palance, Ida Lupino, Rod Steiger, Shelley Winters, Jean Hagen, Wendell Corey.  Based on the play by Clifford Odets.  Loved it. 9/10

Palance plays a successful Hollywood actor named Charles Castle who wants to quit the business, but big studio boss (Steiger) won't hear of it.  A secret from Castle's past threatens his career.  B-list actress Dixie (Shelley Winters) knows about it and is becoming a loose cannon who "needs to be dealt with".  Powerful performances, shocking ending, and a suspenseful tight story about the seedy underbelly of Hollywood. So much so that most of the big studios wouldn't touch it.

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 Full movie.

 

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I've been reading about Ida Lupino and how for years she was the only female director in Hollywood.  She also wrote and acted.  When television became popular she was directing gritty episodes of The Untouchables, The Fugitive, Have Gun Will Travel, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, etc.  Very well respected.

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I found one of early films on YouTube called Outrage, about a girl who was raped by a stranger on her way home from work.  Lupino wasn't allowed to use the term 'rape' and it's never even called a sexual attack in the film.  She had to use terms like "criminal attack", though it's clear to the audience it was more than that.  Very good film and way ahead of its time.  Full movie (if short at 1 hr. 15 min.)

 

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God only knows how Not Wanted, 1949, got past the censures.  It's a bit rougher than Outrage but was the first movie from Lupino's production company The Filmakers.   It provided the template for most of their movies, which were anything but feel-good date-night flicks.  Instead they featured realistic, relatable people who suffer some traumatic event, but they always made money.
 

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Panic in the Streets, 1950  Directed by Elia Kazan. Starring Jack Palance, Richard Widmark, Barbara Bel Geddes, Zero Mostel.   Oscar winner for Best Writing.   

This sounded great, and particularly relevant today.  Not only is there a killer on the loose, but he's also carrying a deadly virus,  and they've only got 48 hours before it starts to spread.  Widmark explains to a skeptical police commissioner that 'pneumonic plague' is the pulmonary version of bubonic plague. Instead of being spread by rats, it spreads like wildfire by touch, coughing, and sneezing.  In 1950 people probably found the idea implausible, but I totally bought it.  

It's very good, but I think my expectation of excitement was too high.  Perhaps Kazan should've called it 'Plague On The Waterfront' and cast Brando.  7/10

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The Asphalt Jungle, 1950.  Directed by John Huston. Starring Sterling Hayden, Sam Jaffe, James Whitmore, Louis Calhern, Jean Hagen as "Doll" and Marilyn Monroe as Louis Cahern's granddaughter-age mistress.  The women are little more than decorations with little screen-time, despite later efforts to capitalize on Monroe's success and add her to the artwork. This is really all about the guys and their crime caper.

Sam Jaffe as the aging mild mannered crook was almost endearing, and Louis Calhern as the lecherous lawyer living beyond his means was excellent. My personal issue was with Sterling Hayden in a key role. I've always found him unremarkable to annoying as an actor. Tolerable in a supporting role, but certainly not one I care about seeing in a lead, so because of this I cared little about the dramatic ending. Other than that it's a wonderful cast and well done jewel-heist movie, but for me somewhat less than the groundbreaker I expected from the hype.

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Appreciate it, guys.  Here's a couple of good ones about the perils of picking up hitchhikers, male or female!

The Hitch-Hiker, 1953  Directed by Ida Lupino. Starring Edmond O'Brien, Frank Lovejoy.  1 hr. 10 min.
Two fishermen pick up a psychotic escaped convict who tells them that he intends to murder them when the ride is over.  Full movie.

 

Detour, 1945  Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer  Stars Tom Neal, Ann Savage   1 hr 07 min.      

Chance events trap hitchhiking nightclub pianist Al Roberts in a tightening net of death, deception and blackmail.

Of the two, this is my favorite.

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Full movie:

Btw, I discovered that most of these films are legit in the public domain for various reasons, usually because no one renewed the copyright or there was a problem with the original paperwork.

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The Lost Weekend, 1945.  Directed by Billy Wilder. Starring Ray Milland, Jane Wyman. Swept the Oscars and many other awards.
Ray Milland was outstanding as an alcoholic writer on a binge that apparently lasted off-and-on for years. Enabled by his well-meaning brother and girlfriend Jane Wyman, who wears a leopard coat throughout the film.  I almost hate to say it, but Nicholas Cage was more convincing and entertaining as a drunk in Leaving Las Vegas, and they didn't wimp out on the ending.

Some classify it a film-noir, but there's no crime involved.  It's grim, but the hopeful ending felt tacked on and unearned. I was surprised anyone would have an issue because it certainly didn't glamorize drinking - at times it felt like a very well done PSA about the evils of alcohol.  Nevertheless, it's a classic and well worth a watch.
7.5/10

It opens with a not-too-convincing pan of New York City and zooms in on Milland's apartment.  From the booze hanging out, we (and the neighbors, presumably) know at once there's an issue with the tenant. 

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He's been trying to write a book for years and hasn't gotten past the first page.

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His brother is finally fed up, but not his saintly girlfriend.

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Edited by Razzberry

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Ace in the Hole, 1951.  Directed by Billy Wilder.  Stars Kirk Douglas, Jan Sterling.  Oscar nom for Best Writing.

Synopsis: A frustrated former big-city journalist now stuck working for an Albuquerque newspaper exploits a story about a man trapped in a cave to rekindle his career, but the situation quickly escalates into an out-of-control circus.

Overshadowed by Wilder's other films like Sunset Blvd. Lost Weekend and Double Indemnity, Ace in the Hole is an underappreciated masterpiece of cynicism.  The razor-sharp writing and gripping story is such that it wasn't until Douglas was slapping around the victim's wife, punching out the sheriff, and basically running the rescue operation that I thought "Wait, this guy's a reporter and cave-in disasters aren't his field of expertise. How did he manage it?"  He does it by sheer force, and doesn't seem to have a single redeeming quality - not that I'm complaining.     9/10

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They're supposed to be covering a rattlesnake hunt but find out there's been an accident in the Indian cliff dwellings.

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Douglas spins it into a human interest story.

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More and more people start arriving.

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"S & M Amusement"  had me rolling.  Ouch!

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Sat. May 15  Pacific time                                                                                                                                           Break out the booze and hot coffee for this dynamite triple feature coming up on TCM. 

5:00pm  The Big Heat, 1953  Gloria Grahame, Glenn Ford, Jocelyn Brando
6:45pm  Gilda, 1946  Rita Hayworth, Glenn Ford
9:00pm  Touch of Evil, 1958  Orson Welles, Janet Leigh, Charlton Heston

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Ace in the Hole is great!

I don't know if its technically noir but Lonely are the Brave with Kirk Douglas as the last cowboy in the west is really good.  He literally loses an arm wrestling match to a one-armed man.

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 I see Gena Rowlands is in that too.   Thanks, meep.meep, it's going on my watch-list.

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Motherless Brooklyn, 2019  Directed, Written, and Produced by Edward Norton. Starring Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Alec Baldwin, Willem Dafoe, Gugu Mbatha-Raw.

I liked Ed Norton, but his reliance on tics and mental disorders in a shameless drive for Oscar glory needs to stop. It feels like cheap exploitation and detracts from the story, such as it is.  He's supposed to be afflicted with Tourette's syndrome and it comes off gimmicky, like some Rainman in Chinatown wannabe. I understand he adapted the screenplay from a book, but there's hundreds with a better detective story.

There's a few good shadow shots, lots of vintage cars and sets, but the muddled plot and overly long length at 2.5 hours left me disappointed, annoyed, and all-too aware that it was, after all, just Bruce Willis, Alec Baldwin and Ed Norton dressed up in Fedoras and trench coats.  

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No, because no one cares at this point!  I felt bad for his co-stars who did what they could with the material.

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The Grifters, 1990.  Directed by Stephen Frears, Produced by Martin Scorsese. Starring John Cusack, Anjelica Huston, Annette Bening.   Nominated for 4 Oscars

Synopsis:  A small-time conman has torn loyalties between his estranged mother and new girlfriend, both of whom are high-stakes grifters with their own angles to play.

There's no one to root for here, but I'd say some are "less bad" than others. They're all mesmerizing as they make their living ripping people off, and the last 15 minutes is so shocking and disgusting I had to watch it again right away. Needless to say it's not a happy ending, but the film is one of the most well crafted and acted I've seen in the genre.  Anjelica Huston is especially magnetic - whenever she's onscreen you simply can't take your eyes off her. 9.5/10

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On the road again thrillers for tomorrow on TCM                                                                                                   Wed. May 19  Pacific times

5:15 am  Hell Drivers, 1957
7:15 am  Jeopardy, 1953  
8:45 am  The Hitch-Hiker, 1953
10:15am  Tomorrow is Another Day, 1951
12:00pm  Detour, 1945
1:15 pm  Gun Crazy, 1950 
3:00 pm  They Live By Night, 1948

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Tonight, Thursday May 20 11:00 pm Pacific on TCM

 Born To Kill, 1947   Stylishly directed by multiple Oscar winning Robert Wise (Sound of Music, West Side Story)
Starring Lawrence Tierney, Claire Trevor, Walter Slezak, Elisha Cook Jr.

This movie is disturbing, (and not only because Lawrence Tierney), but his character is so evil.  Hell, most of them are.  More so than usual in a genre not known for romance.

Synopsis: A calculating divorcée risks her chances at wealth and security with a man she doesn't love by getting involved with the hotheaded murderer romancing her foster sister.

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This line kills me.  His minion's objection isn't because it's wrong or crazy, but isn't feasible. 

 

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A match made in hell...

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The Two Jakes, 1990.  Directed by Jack Nicholson  Starring Jack Nicholson, Harvey Keitel, Meg Tilly, Madeleine Stowe

Not as good as Chinatown but a worthy successor. If a bit too "talky" and confusing at times, the beautifully done LA sets and cinematography makes up for it. It's 1948, 10 years after Chinatown ends, and Jake Gittes (Nicholson) is still haunted by the past and in the PI business, but more prosperous now. 

The second Jake is Berman (Keitel), a real estate developer who shot his business partner after finding him together with his wife (Tilly). This time it's oil and gas, not water, that drives the plot. Evelyn Mulholland Mulwray only lives on in Jake's flashbacks and newspaper clippings, but her sister-daughter Katherine is very much alive.  7.5/10

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Jake survives with the triggering cigarette still clutched in his paw, Fedora in place,  and a headache.   You might say he's hot on the trail and returns to work immediately.

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Stowe plays Mrs. Bodine, the wife of the guy who was shot by Jake Berman.  She thinks "whipstocking" refers to some kinky act he was engaged in.   Apparently it's not.

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One of the best opening scenes ever.

 The Letter, 1940.  9/10    Directed by William Wyler  Stars Bette Davis, Herbert Marshall
                                                   Nominated for 7 Oscars

Bette plays the wife of a rubber tree planter in Malay.  The man she shot was a family friend.

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The Production Code made this sound ridiculous, but her husband and the cops are dimwits.  She gives the usual song & dance about how the gun "just went off" and everything was "a blur".  They buy it, until an incriminating letter she wrote to the victim turns up.

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The man's wife disagrees and the two have a showdown.

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Bette and Herbert Marshall weren't quite so lovey dovey in their next picture together The Little Foxes

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Act of Violence, 1949.  Directed by Fred Zinnemann (A Man for All Seasons, Oklahoma!, From Here to Eternity, The Day of the Jackal, High Noon)
Starring Van Heflin, Robert Ryan, Mary Astor, Janet Leigh

Synopsis: An embittered, vengeful POW stalks his former commanding officer who betrayed his men's planned escape attempt from a Nazi prison camp.

A very intelligent and thought provoking film from Zinnemann, and his only film-noir.  The acting is stellar with everyone on their A-game, and the taut script makes the time fly by. 

The first time I saw it, however, I couldn't jump the hurdle of sympathy for Heflin's character at all. In the POW camp he wasn't being tortured or even under suspicion.  The Nazis had no clue about an escape until he just waltzed in and gave up his men.  His excuse of "He gave me his word they wouldn't be punished!" is absurd - he's a fucking NAZI you dimwit!  Besides, I thought it was an officer's duty to attempt an escape, or maybe I've watched too many war movies?

Anyway, after the war he comes home and is a pillar of his community with a thriving business, a young wife (Janet Leigh), and a baby.  He's not shown to be troubled in any way, so I guess he's good at compartmentalization.

Then one day Robert Ryan, the lone survivor, limps into town packing a gat and a grudge, and blows his perfect world apart. One can hardly blame Ryan - in fact I was rooting for him at times.  Acts that are so egregious to go unpunished will fester and remain unhealed, so Heflin probably should have been tried for treason, but then we wouldn't have this brilliant film that questions cowardice, revenge, law and order, punishment, and forgiveness. 

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Next time - there's something queer going on in Chuckawalla between Wendell Corey and John Hodiak, and Lizabeth Scott's the last to know.

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You've mentioned many that I like, but a personal favorite is White Heat, James Cagney's end-of-an-era gangster movie. He was especially scary in the prison scene when he learns his mother is dead: 

 

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17 hours ago, GreekGeek said:

You've mentioned many that I like, but a personal favorite is White Heat, James Cagney's end-of-an-era gangster movie. He was especially scary in the prison scene when he learns his mother is dead: 

Thanks for mentioning this one!  I agree it's excellent.

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I think my favorite neo-noir is "Devil in a Blue Dress" because Denzel Washington was perfect as Easy Rawlins, but very close behind is "LA Confidential" because it had so much style. Also, it seems to be really hard for people to adapt James Ellroy's work well, but this did a great job of creating a screen version that was faithful to the feel even though it didn't keep all the subplots.

For classic noir, I don't have a fave because there are so many great ones. For now I'll add "Sweet Smell of Success" because the story is so wonderfully messed up and the dialog is highly quotable, and then "Leave Her to Heaven" because the femme fatale (played by Gene Tierney) is 10 pounds of gorgeous fatal lunacy in a 5-pound sack.

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Desert Fury, 1947. Starring Lizabeth Scott, Burt Lancaster, John Hodiak, Wendell Corey, and Mary Astor

Synopsis: The daughter of a Nevada casino owner gets involved with a racketeer, despite everyone's efforts to separate them.
 

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Desert Fury is so much fun that the plot-holes are barely noticeable.  Filmed in glorious Technicolor with beautiful scenery and a great cast, the gay subtext slides right by the Hays office. Wendell Corey makes his film debut as a henchman with a twist.  His growing resentment and jealousy of Paula (Scott) threatens to blow the lid off Chuckawalla. 

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Paula isn't bad, she's just spoiled and bored,  ignoring the warnings of her mother Fritzi (Astor), a hard-boiled dame who owns the Purple Sage casino, known for its table games and rooftop landscaping. 

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The casino and Fritzi's hard work allows Paula lots of free time to tool around in her 1946 Chrysler New Yorker Town and Country convertible.  For some reason she's love-struck when she meets Eddie Bendix, but others know he's bad news.

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Burt Lancaster is the strapping young sheriff with fluffy hair who's also smitten with Paula.  When Eddie and Johnny show up he alerts with ears pinned back.  These two left under a cloud of suspicion surrounding the death of Eddie's first wife, and why exactly they've returned isn't clear except to show great interest in the portion of bridge where her car went off. This is never explained, but it doesn't really matter.

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Fritzi doesn't allow Paula into the Purple Sage and is appalled to see her new companions.  Turns out Fritzi has a dark past with Eddie.  She 86s the lot of them, which only makes Eddie more attractive to Paula, so she enlists Burt's help.

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A Kiss Before Dying, 1956.  Starring Robert Wagner, Joanne Woodward, Mary Astor, Jeffrey Hunter

Synopsis: A ruthless college student resorts to murder in an attempt to marry an heiress.

Another of a handful of noirs filmed in color, this is different in other ways as well.  The opening graphics and theme song reminds me of a Doris Day rom-com. The first scene of a tearful and pregnant Woodward quickly dispels that notion. Her handsome sociopathic boyfriend Bud (Wagner) smooth-talks her down, but you can already see his wheels turning. She's the daughter of a rich copper mine owner who will disinherit her if the pregnancy becomes known, and this threatens Bud's plan to marry into wealth.  When she won't go along with talking her father into accepting Bud, she's coldly thrown off of a 12 story building.  Problem solved, except he goes too far with his diabolical plan.

Woodward and Newman have a habit of bad mouthing films they've done, and this was no exception.   She claimed that this was the worst film ever to come out of Hollywood. Not by a long shot, and critics disagreed.  It's one thing to be embarrassed about your own performance, but it's disrespectful of everyone else to label it garbage.  It was even remade later with Matt Dillon, though I haven't seen that one.

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She's getting on my nerves too.

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When she trips and falls down the bleachers, it gives him an idea...

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Jeffrey Hunter is a reporter and more eye candy.

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I loved the sporty little Ford he drove as product placement.

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Even when he stopped to make a call, the car stayed in the frame.

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Mary Astor plays his long suffering mother.  

Edited by Razzberry

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