Sunday, May 23, 2010

MURDER! CRIME! MYSTERY! an entire day of american film noir!

american film noir of the 40s and 50s is one of my favorite genres of film. everyone wears suits, derbys, and there is always a murder most foul or a heist to full off. these are great movies to flip on and get lost in an america that is long gone. TCM and FXM recently show six classic film noirs i have never seen and were all included on they shoot pictures list of top 250 film noirs ever made. i am going to watch all of them and blog it.

the first thing on the bill for today is 'the street with no name,' a 1948 fox production starring noir stalwarts mark stevens and richard widmark. the sheer appearance of richard widmark in anything is going to make for an interesting film. he is apparently a bad guy in this one and sees like he is in kiss me deadly mode. this is one of those, 'ripped from the pages' films with a lot of vocal narration over the first part of the film and a note indicating its real nature. much like phenix city story and kansas city confidential, these films pride themselves on a set up of lots of names and intercut scenes of police work. the feel is to make it like a newsreel eventually leading into the action of the plot. in terms of film noir, im really not a fan of these types of real life noir. the editing is a bit too jumpy and the dizzying amount of names, faces, details, makes the plot profoundly difficult for long periods of time. with this in particular, i have faith in william kneighly as a director (his film pandora and the flying dutchman is a masterpiece) and his directorial style is valliant but in the end, this is a sub-par noir. finally, widmark comes into the scene. he could have been bogart if he had the right agent. he commanded the screen like few did. he makes a medicore film worth watching. as i watch this, he slapped a woman a couple times. widmark did clearly girl slapping well though the best use of physical abuse towards in a film noir still belongs to pick-up on south street. ***** ****** sure did know how to take a slap right to the kisser. actually, i changed my mind, this is a pretty decent film. gotta love widmark

next up; richard thorpe's the unknown man with walter pidgeon and ann harding. the movie begins with a first person narration introducing you to the plot. its about a attorney that may have acquited a murderer. gettin' excited. i like the feel of this one. this one clearly has a low budget and the direction is decidedly lazy. while thorpe was a capable director, he clearly is "less than meets the eye." when it comes to noir, siodmak, fuller, and ulmer all had their distinct styles but a lot of noir directors had a very similar mise en scene. at least the lighting and shadows in the unknown man is quite well done. there was just a great OH SNAP moment...where the killer reveals himself by including a detail where only the killer and the lawyer would have known. and now he ended up dead. oooooh!

Scandal Sheet, directed by phil karlson and written by sam fuller. yup, right off the bat, this off has the gritty dialogue of fuller. there is a newspaper editor who has been implicated in a murder and the paper's star reporter investigates. this one also stars donna reed (who was a huge star even before her eponymous show) and broderick crawford fresh off his brilliant performance in all the king's men. there is a really great pivotal scene that takes place in a lonely hearts club, which were places where single people went to find spouses. for some reason, this seemed like a good force lonely people to meet other lonely people and one couple is given a free wedding at the end of the dance. yes, i firmly believe true love can form at a forced social event over the course of a few hours. -- fast forward an hour. i realize ive seen this movie before. sometimes when one watches a dizzying amount of the same kind of movie, the names escape me. however, it was the looming and panicked performance of broderick crawford that jogged my memory. i cant help but remember now how different this performance was from all the kings men. also, i remember john derek's great nice acting.

ok, halftime. quick bikeride out to go to whole foods, pick up some yogurt and kombucha. head over to the north andover sheep sheering festival, get locked out of my house, kick in third kitchen window dangling from drainpipe and climb into the house.


the fourth film of the day is eyes in the night, a film about a blind detective. so far there is ann harding (again), donna reed (again!), and a dog (named friday). its directed by fred zinnamin who would late achieve huge success with from here to eternity and a man for all seasons (and some would say a nuns story as well). this is exceptionally low budget and the camera work is excessively shocking and lazy. this guy would win an oscar? these pans are attrocious and even for a noir, the acting is pretty bad. lets see how it progresses. until im going to go back to drinking kombucha. i just did some quick research and this was only his second or third full length film. before this, he was mainly doing hokey shorts in the "crime does not pay" series. he made a decent noir some years later with act of violence but eyes in the night is clearly a director who hadnt hit his stride. also, the dog is the best actor in this by far. he opened a door handle with his mouth. WIN

penutlimate film in this marathon! its armored car robbery and clocking in at a tight 65 minutes, one of the shortest full length features ill ever watch. so far, this movie RULES. four guys rob an armored car (DUH) and a chase ensues. this has everything so far, a car non starting and tension ensuing. a perfect plan slowly unravelling and a host of a bush league actors from the 40s and 50s (charles macgraw!). directed oddly enough by richard fleischer, who went onto direct such shlocky and largely medicore big budgeters fantastic voyage and doctor doolittle, the filmmaking is very capable. maybe he should have stuck with noir, as his follow up to this, the narrow margin, is a great movie. yeah, cool flick.

LAST ONE! DESTINATION MURDER! ok, this was a crazy idea in retrospect. every actor is starting to look the same. so far today, ive seen a million white dude in hats and suits, a few choice dames, one black person, and one dog (who had a bigger role than said black person). im a big fan of this genre but it definitely does remind you how far cinema has come in terms of integration of not just white people. alright, nevermind that. we got the usual stuff. murder, off to a cop to find the killer on barely any clues. meh. im going to post this and try to live with the fact that i watched six film noirs today.