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Film Noir 
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Post Re: Film Noir
What is the best classic film noir?

Rather than name one of the usual suspects, I present a lesser known one which packs a punch. Scarlet Street (1945) is a well-made movie, a classic non-detective film noir. Here’s the set-up. A lonely and good middle-aged cashier and Sunday painter, Christopher Cross (Edward G. Robinson) “saves” an attractive young woman, “Kitty” March (Joan Bennett) from being beaten by a guy who is actually her boyfriend, Johnny Prince (Dan Duryea). When the old guy lets her think he is an established and successful artist, her con-artist boyfriend starts scheming to take advantage of the innocent.

The suspense is whether the various cons and extortions will work. And how will Chris react? In a desperate attempt to win her friendship and love, Chris steals. He sets her up in a Greenwich Village apartment where he can paint, and where Johnny always seems to be around. Johnny’s get-rich-quick scheme is to sell the paintings and tell Chris they are in storage.

At this point, many things could go wrong with the movie and create a flop, but director Fritz Lang and his team handle them all beautifully. The paintings could be inappropriate for Chris and they could be so poor they would not command the attention and price that they eventually do. But the paintings were done specifically for the movie by established artist John Decker, and they portray a primitive style (Chris has no formal training and has trouble with perspective) and images which exemplify Chris’s character and life—a lone man with a black umbrella, a street scene with a deadly serpent, a telling portrait of Kitty (“Mona Lisa without the smile”). Kitty could be too hard, cold, and malicious. The New York Times reviewer in 1946 complained that Kitty “lacked malevolence.” But she cannot be particularly nasty or else a gentle man like Chris would be repulsed. The exploitation of Chris could get monotonous. But about the time I started to squirm, I realized that Kitty is just as much a victim of Johnny as Chris is of the Kitty/Johnny duo. Kitty is crazy for Johnny and claims repeatedly that she is in love. Johnny slaps her around, and she likes it. He promises to buy her an engagement ring but doesn’t seem to be making progress in that direction. He uses Kitty’s desire for him to pressure her into more and more schemes. Johnny could be a stereotype, but, as reflected in his clothes, he is a bit more complex. Paramount’s costume designer Travis Banton puts him in expensive pin-striped suits, indicating like a peacock Johnny’s sexual prowess and like a successful business man his wealth. We know, however, that Johnny is broke, and we might begin to wonder about his prowess: With the suits goes a dorky bow-tie and goofy panama hat. While Johnny talks as if he is a brilliant schemer, he is primarily greedy, and as soon as he dreams up the painting scam, we—and Kitty—sense that he has not thought this one through and that things may well unravel. Kitty, as her name suggests, could have been a stereotypical femme fatale, but she is more complicated than that. She does not lure an innocent old man into her web of intrigue: He chases after her. She does not leap at the chance to exploit him: Johnny comes up with the ideas, she generally has reservations, and then she executes the con well. Far from being an omniscient schemer, she is hopelessly in love with Johnny and is used and abused by him much like she and Johnny treat Chris. Speaking of Chris, he could have remained the simple innocent exploited by crooks, but we soon realize that besides being good, Chris is also pathetically weak.

The triangle is developed with excellent acting for that time, fine dialogue which is simultaneously snappy and realistic, and moody black and white photography by the talented Milton Krasner. Not a pretty picture, but very well done.


Wed Mar 04, 2009 3:06 am
Post Re: Film Noir
JIMBELL wrote:
Even though we prefer to watch, reading can enhance the viewing. To whet your appetite, here's some of my notes on the original, classic film noir book from France:

The Big Sleep—the classic, they say because of the atmosphere of decadence etc. but others have said the plot makes no sense.
Etc.


I think James related an anecdote in his review of The Big Sleep that Chandler, who wrote the original novel, wasn't sure about what happened to some of the characters, therefore it logically follows that if the author didn't know don't expect large amounts of narrative coherence to be intrinsic to the wider scope of things.

That being said, the Big Sleep rocks - it's worth the price of admission for the dialogue alone.

I find it makes perfect sense, but then people have commented, who have seen the movie adn know me, that that is more a commentary on me than anything else.
---

I'll also add a positive word for Brick -Nora Zehetner [sp] is a wonderful femme fatale - although I may be contextually mangling the term for the sake of image.


Wed Mar 04, 2009 6:38 pm
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Post Re: Film Noir
I strongly second the posters that mentioned Nightmare Alley & Brute Force. Neither are traditional film noirs plotwise, but both are dark as hell. Brute Force is also a must see for fans of prison movies as well, its pretty crazy the level of violence that they got away in this one considering its time.

Others that no one's mentioned yet:
Sam Fuller's Pickup On South Street with Richard Widmark
Kansas City Confidential(great heist flick)
Thieves Highway
Night & The City(Richard Widmark again)
Pushover(Fred McMurray & Kim Novak, in the vein of Double Indemnity)
Decoy(this one's a trip, pretty low budget, over the top plot, but one of the best femme fatales ever)
Quicksand(Mickey Rooney, Peter Lorre, & James Cagney's sister Jeanne - who's pretty hot)
File on Thelma Jordon(Barbara Stanwyck)
White Heat
Key Largo
Where the Sidewalk Ends
Narrow Margin
Gilda
Fallen Angel
Beyond A Reasonable Doubt
Red Rock West(best modern noir imo)

if you have TCM, check the schedule regularly, a lot of these titles get shown there(I'm not sure if they are all on dvd)


Wed Mar 04, 2009 8:24 pm
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Post Re: Film Noir
I had a similar thread at Rotten Tomatoes. Since then, I've managed to catch some great noir (and also take some detours with other classics). Here's what I've seen so far plus ratings out of four stars. The movies in parentheses are not necessarily noir films:

The Big Sleep ***
Nightmare Alley ***
Casablanca ****
(High Sierra) **.5
The Maltese Falcon ****
Brick ***.5
Key Largo ***.5
(Treasure of The Sierra Madre) ***
The Set-Up ***
In A Lonely Place ***.5
The Asphalt Jungle **.5
Out of The Past ***
(The African Queen) **.5
Double Indemnity ****
Touch Of Evil **.5
(All About Eve) ***
To Have And Have Not **.5
The Third Man **.5
The Big Heat ***.5
Fallen Angel **.5
The Wrong Man **
(Vertigo) ***

I know some of the ratings might be "blasphemous" but just my opinion.


Fri Mar 06, 2009 3:27 am
Post Re: Film Noir
calvero wrote:
I strongly second the posters that mentioned Nightmare Alley & Brute Force. Neither are traditional film noirs plotwise, but both are dark as hell. Brute Force is also a must see for fans of prison movies as well, its pretty crazy the level of violence that they got away in this one considering its time.

Others that no one's mentioned yet:
Sam Fuller's Pickup On South Street with Richard Widmark
Kansas City Confidential(great heist flick)
Thieves Highway
Night & The City(Richard Widmark again)
Pushover(Fred McMurray & Kim Novak, in the vein of Double Indemnity)
Decoy(this one's a trip, pretty low budget, over the top plot, but one of the best femme fatales ever)
Quicksand(Mickey Rooney, Peter Lorre, & James Cagney's sister Jeanne - who's pretty hot)
File on Thelma Jordon(Barbara Stanwyck)
White Heat
Key Largo
Where the Sidewalk Ends
Narrow Margin
Gilda
Fallen Angel
Beyond A Reasonable Doubt
Red Rock West(best modern noir imo)

if you have TCM, check the schedule regularly, a lot of these titles get shown there(I'm not sure if they are all on dvd)


Calvero
I love Nightmare Alley & Brute Force particularly
That's a cool list!
Have you seen both Narrow Margins?
Rob


Fri Mar 06, 2009 3:30 am
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Post Re: Film Noir
Quote:
Have you seen both Narrow Margins?


Yeah. the remake's not that bad.

another good modern noir(that isn't that well known) - China Moon w/Ed Harris & Madeline Stowe.

Film noir is probably my favorite genre, I'm always looking for ones I haven't seen(& TCM is full of them) And its great that so many studios are releasing dvds under that banner(though after seeing some of them, I think they are stretching the definition a bit)

Quote:
I had a similar thread at Rotten Tomatoes.


do you have a link? & do you know anything about the "hammer film noir" series? just came across them at the library, wonder if there's anything worth seeing.


Fri Mar 06, 2009 5:54 pm
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Post Re: Film Noir
calvero wrote:

Film noir is probably my favorite genre, I'm always looking for ones I haven't seen(& TCM is full of them) And its great that so many studios are releasing dvds under that banner(though after seeing some of them, I think they are stretching the definition a bit)

Quote:
I had a similar thread at Rotten Tomatoes.


do you have a link? & do you know anything about the "hammer film noir" series? just came across them at the library, wonder if there's anything worth seeing.



I assume you have seen Le Doulos - French 1960's noir from Melville. Amazing movie

The Hammer noirs are not what they are most famous for. i have seen Hell is a City (1960) and ten Seconds to Hell (1959) with Jack Palance. i saw them about thirty years ago so I'm a little sketchy on them

Rob


Fri Mar 06, 2009 6:24 pm
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Post Re: Film Noir
Quote:
I assume you have seen Le Doulos - French 1960's noir from Melville. Amazing movie


The only Melville I've seen is Le Samourai. Will keep an eye out for Le Doulos.

have you seen any of these hammer noirs? 'A Stolen Face' sounds like fun.

Quote:
Volume One:
• Bad Blonde (1952)—An innocent prize fighter (Tony Wright, Journey Into Nowhere) is seduced by a blonde vixen (Barbara Payton, Run for the Hills) to kill her fight manager husband.

• Man Bait (1952)—A bookstore owner (George Brent, Bride for Sale) falls for his sexy blonde clerk (Diana Dors, Craze), and ends up on the wrong end of wrath.

Volume Two:
• A Stolen Face (1952)—A plastic surgeon (Paul Henreid, Dead Ringer) loses the love of his life (Lizabeth Scott, Scared Stiff), so he makes a criminal in her image.

• Blackout (1954)—A beautiful blonde (Belinda Lee, Footsteps in the Fog) seduces an American in London (Dane Clark, Port of Hell), and soon he finds himself in a room with her dead father.

Volume Three:
• The Gambler and the Lady (1952)—A gambler (Dane Clark again) wants to marry a socialite (Naomi Chance, Blood Orange), but his nightclub singer ex (Kathleen Byron, Hell is Sold Out) won't let him go so easily.

• Heat Wave (1954)—An American writer (Alex Nicol, The Screaming Skull) living in England is seduced by a blonde (Hillary Brooke, The Man Who Knew Too Much) who wants to kill her husband.



http://www.dvdverdict.com/reviews/hammernoircol1.php


Wed Mar 11, 2009 4:43 pm
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Post Re: Film Noir
I've seen references to Robert Siodmak's Phantom Lady in books and articles about noir for years, but hadn't seen it until this weekend. Siodmak was on a roll in the 40s; as well as this film, he also directed other top-tier noirs like The Killers and the superb Criss Cross. Stylistically, Phantom Lady delivers everything you could want from a film noir - dark streets, shadows, a murky plot. The acting is variable, though (the two male leads seem to be aiming for opposite ends of the acting spectrum - underplaying and overplaying), and unfortunately here's a plot reveal that occurs much too early, leading to an anticlimactic feeling by the end. The flaws don't kill the film though - it's very engrossing and one of the most enjoyable 1940s noirs I've seen.


Sun May 03, 2009 1:36 am
Post Re: Film Noir
I have a strong affection for Miller's Crossing, another Coen Brothers neo-noir film. It's the perfect homage to classic noir films.


Sun May 03, 2009 1:38 pm
Post Re: Film Noir
I just wanted to say thanks to those who recommended Brick.

Watched it last night. Highly enjoyable. Best movie I've seen in a while.

Thanks! :)


Wed Jun 03, 2009 8:42 pm
Post Re: Film Noir
I'd also like to thank everybody for recommending Brick. I unearthed it at the local video store and watched it yesterday. It has met the high expectation I had after reading all the comments, although the noir-ish mood is undermined a little, because Brick is very, very funny.


Thu Jun 11, 2009 3:31 am
Post Re: Film Noir
I recently watched Brick as well, as a result of this forum. Good recommendation. I really enjoyed it.


Thu Jun 11, 2009 7:20 pm
Post Re: Film Noir
Just remembered a movie that didn't make it to the theaters and went directly to video/DVD: "Phoenix" (1998) with the always intense Ray Liotta. I liked it when I first saw it on tv. I know we are discussing movies that have been released theatrically - and "Phoenix" isn't "that" great a movie (even though I have seen much worse flicks that made it into the theaters) - I just thought that it has almost all basic noir ingedients except for the femme fatal, so it might be a neo-noir in a way? Any input - including dismissing this little flick as fluff - highly welcome. 8-)


Fri Jun 12, 2009 11:48 am
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Post Re: Film Noir
Sorry for bumping an old thread, but I've seen some posters review some noirs in another thread recently and thought they might be interested in a few good ones airing on TCM this week.


Quote:
CRY DANGER (1951)
The Film Noir Foundation, along with our colleagues at the UCLA Film & Television Archive, recently restored this Dick Powell thriller. Powell had a special way with a wisecrack, and was also one of the most astute independent producers in the business. Cry Danger was his film all the way, and he showed off his savvy by hiring wondrous wiseacre Bill Bowers to pen the original screenplay, and giving Oscar®-winning editor Robert Parrish his first directing gig. Sure, noir is supposed to be dark and nihilistic, but a great cast spewing Bowers' dynamite dialogue proves it can be incredibly fun as well. I dedicate this showing to the late, great Nancy Mysel, who supervised the restoration of this film, a project we both savored.

99 RIVER STREET (1953)
I'm a huge fan of rugged and razor-sharp 1950's paperback crime fiction--and this is about as close as anyone ever came to hurling it onto the screen, unabashed and undiluted. John Payne is terrific as a bitter ex-boxer turned cabbie Ernie Driscoll, whose wayward wife leads him into all sorts of nefariousness in nocturnal New York. Director Phil Karlson perfected his slam-bang style right here; to me, this is his signature film. The highlight: Evelyn Keyes, typically cast as the good girl, turning up the heat in a pair of jaw-dropping set pieces.

TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY (1951)
When I first encountered this exceptional film more than a decade ago, I declared it "Gun Crazy [1950] scripted by John Steinbeck." A minor masterpiece in the filmography of the virtually forgotten Felix Feist, this is one of the best "love on the lam" tales in all noir. Steve Cochran--the Elvis of Noir--is perfect as a vulnerable ex-con who falls hard for bruised "taxi dancer" Ruth Roman (as a blonde! And never better!). Thwarted passions, a dank hotel room, a dirty cop--a gunshot! And suddenly our luckless lovers are fugitives fleeing cross-country. It's high time for this fantastic film to finally come out of hiding and get the recognition it deserves.

THE BREAKING POINT (1950)
Many cineastes point to 1950 as perhaps the finest year ever for American movies (Sunset Boulevard, All About Eve, In a Lonely Place, The Asphalt Jungle, and many more)--but this breathtaking adaptation of Hemingway's To Have and Have Not stands equally with all those classics. John Garfield gives the most personal and self-revelatory performance of his career as a fishing boat captain who gets in too deep when he bends the law to keep his business afloat. The film was shunned--by its own studio--because of Garfield's troubles with the House Un-American Activities Committee, and in the following years copyright entanglements with the Hemingway estate kept it from earning the reputation is deserves. Insightful script (by Ranald MacDougall), brilliant performances from the entire cast (no one can be singled out, they're all superb), and Michael Curtiz's most compelling direction--and yes, I'm not forgetting Casablanca (1942) and Robin Hood (1938) and Mildred Pierce (1945) and many others. The Breaking Point truly is that good.


http://www.tcm.com/this-month/article/5 ... -1-17.html


Tue Jan 15, 2013 2:53 pm
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Post Re: Film Noir
calvero wrote:
The only Melville I've seen is Le Samourai. Will keep an eye out for Le Doulos.


Did you get a chance to see this yet? I don't think I'd seen it when this thread was active, but I have since and love it. I don't think it's as good as Le Samourai, but it's pretty great.

calvero wrote:
Sorry for bumping an old thread, but I've seen some posters review some noirs in another thread recently and thought they might be interested in a few good ones airing on TCM this week.


No need to apologize. Thanks for bumping and giving the heads up.


Thu Jan 17, 2013 12:40 pm
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Post Re: Film Noir
Quote:
Did you get a chance to see this yet?


Yes. It is pretty great.


Fri Jan 18, 2013 11:36 pm
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Post Re: Film Noir
here are my 10 favorite noirs(not counting Hitchcocks, that's a genre by itself. and I feel weird calling Sunset Blvd a noir)

1. The Asphalt Jungle
2. Out of the Past
3. Double Indemnity
4. Nightmare Alley
5. Night and the City
6. Maltese Falcon
7. The Killers
8. Fallen Angel
9. Touch of Evil
10. Scarlet Street

this is on youtube, haven't checked it out yet. its not on dvd.

Quote:
THE BREAKING POINT (1950)
Many cineastes point to 1950 as perhaps the finest year ever for American movies (Sunset Boulevard, All About Eve, In a Lonely Place, The Asphalt Jungle, and many more)--but this breathtaking adaptation of Hemingway's To Have and Have Not stands equally with all those classics. John Garfield gives the most personal and self-revelatory performance of his career as a fishing boat captain who gets in too deep when he bends the law to keep his business afloat. The film was shunned--by its own studio--because of Garfield's troubles with the House Un-American Activities Committee, and in the following years copyright entanglements with the Hemingway estate kept it from earning the reputation is deserves. Insightful script (by Ranald MacDougall), brilliant performances from the entire cast (no one can be singled out, they're all superb), and Michael Curtiz's most compelling direction--and yes, I'm not forgetting Casablanca (1942) and Robin Hood (1938) and Mildred Pierce (1945) and many others. The Breaking Point truly is that good.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6230u4Ql ... F0FD58A930


Tue Jan 29, 2013 12:47 am
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Post Re: Film Noir
JIMBELL wrote:
What is the best classic film noir?

Rather than name one of the usual suspects, I present a lesser known one which packs a punch. Scarlet Street (1945) is a well-made movie, a classic non-detective film noir.


I'd pick The Maltese Falcon, but Scarlet Street is very near the top.

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Tue Jan 29, 2013 4:02 am
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Post Re: Film Noir
calvero wrote:
here are my 10 favorite noirs(not counting Hitchcocks, that's a genre by itself. and I feel weird calling Sunset Blvd a noir)

1. The Asphalt Jungle
2. Out of the Past
3. Double Indemnity
4. Nightmare Alley
5. Night and the City
6. Maltese Falcon
7. The Killers
8. Fallen Angel
9. Touch of Evil
10. Scarlet Street


Strong list, sir. I haven't seen Nightmare Alley, The Killers, or Fallen Angel, but the other 7 are all excellent movies. I'm always glad to see some love for Huston's The Asphalt Jungle as it's a hell of a movie.


Tue Jan 29, 2013 11:52 am
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