1941-1950

Fritz Lang – Ministry of Fear (1944)

Synopsis:
Ray Milland plays Stephen Neale–a bewildered man just released from an asylum. However, reality proves to be more surreal and perplexing than the asylum itself. Neale wanders through the streets, whimsically stopping off at a rural carnival, where he unwittingly gets involved in a complex and dangerous spy ring that is attempting to smuggle microfilm out of the country. He travels to London and hires a small-time detective to help him decipher the mysterious things that seem to constantly befall him. But things only get more confused from there, leading Stephen to Scotland Yard, where his fate entwines with a Nazi front organization, and a love affair. Read More »

Anthony Mann – Raw Deal (1948)

Synopsis:
Joe Sullivan is itching to get out of prison. He’s taken the rap for Rick, who owes him $50 Grand. Rick sets up an escape for Joe, knowing that Joe will be caught escaping and be shot or locked away forever. But with the help of his love-struck girl Pat and his sympathetic legal caseworker Ann, Joe gets further than he’s supposed to, and we are posed with two very important questions: Is Joe really the cold and heartless criminal he appears to be, or is there a heart of gold under that gritty exterior? And does Joe belong with the tough, street-wise Pat, or with the prim, moralizing Ann? Read More »

Alfred Hitchcock – Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

Synopsis:
Charlotte “Charlie” Newton is bored with her quiet life at home with her parents and her younger sister. She wishes something exciting would happen and knows exactly what they need: a visit from her sophisticated and much travelled Uncle Charlie Oakley, her mother’s younger brother. Imagine her delight when, out of the blue, they receive a telegram from Uncle Charlie announcing that he is coming to visit them for awhile. Charlie Oakley creates quite a stir and charms the ladies’ club, as well as the bank President where his brother-in-law works. Young Charlie begins to notice some odd behavior on his part, such as cutting out a story in the local paper about a man who marries and then murders rich widows. When two strangers appear asking questions about him, she begins to imagine the worst about her dearly beloved Uncle Charlie. Read More »

Earl McEvoy – The Killer That Stalked New York (1950)

Synopsis:
A married team of diamond smugglers enter New York to fence their purloined gems unaware that the wife is carrying the highly contagious, deadly smallpox virus. The crooks ensconce themselves in a hotel without realizing that the wife’s every move is being monitored by a Treasury agent. The husband directs her to stay put while he goes off on business. Actually he is going out to tryst with his conniving sister-in-law. Back in the room, the wife feels ill and so creeps out to see a doctor. Read More »

Rudolph Maté – Union Station (1950)

Synopsis:
Union Station is a tense crime thriller in the tradition of The Naked City that unfolds in Los Angeles. William Holden plays railroad worker Lt. William Calhoun. Calhoun goes into action when Lorna Murchison (Allene Roberts), the sightless daughter of millionaire Henry Murchison (Herbert Heyes), is kidnapped by ruthless Joe Beacon (Lyle Bettger). The abduction is witnessed by Joyce Willecombe (Nancy Olson), Murchison’s secretary. Using the handful of clues provided by Joyce, Calhoun and his associate, Inspector Donnelly (Barry Fitzgerald) do their best to second-guess the kidnapper. Read More »

Elia Kazan – Panic in the Streets [+commentary] (1950)

Synopsis:
Filmed entirely on location in New Orleans, Panic in the Streets stars Richard Widmark as a city medical officer, racing against time to stop a plague epidemic. The carrier was an illegal alien, who has been murdered by criminals Jack Palance and Zero Mostel. At first facing opposition from rule-bound police captain Paul Douglas, Widmark is finally able to work hand-in-glove with Douglas in tracking down Palance and Mostel, who have themselves become plague carriers. Read More »

Jules Dassin – Brute Force (1947)

William K Everson writes:
Brute Force was touted as being by far the toughest and most violent prison film Hollywood had ever made. Many European censors felt the same way and scenes were shortened for overseas release. Actually, the violence is essentially surface violence, and earlier prison films had been rougher in a psychological sense. Nevertheless, with all of those noir icons in the cast and behind the camera (especially Miklos Rosza’s music) the film made a welcome break in the increasingly formularized cycle of big-city crime noir films. Read More »