Nicholas Ray – A Woman’s Secret (1949)

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Synopsis:
Susan is laying in the hospital with a bullet near her heart. Marian has told the police that she shot Susan in a rage as Susan was giving up her singing. Marian and Luke found Susan when she was a failure. A singer with a limited range, she was a diamond in the rough to which Marian and Luke taught how to walk, dress and talk. With the singing lessons, Marian had hoped that she would have the career that Marian would have had if she had not lost her voice. Even thought Susan is a scatterbrain girl, Luke does not believe that Marian would or was capable of shooting her. Luke hopes that Detective Fowler will be able to find out the truth and free Marian. Continue reading

Mark Robson – Edge of Doom (1950)

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Martin Lynn (Farley Granger) has crossed his breaking point. Poor, stuck in a menial job and mourning his recently deceased, devoutly Catholic mother, the mentally fraying youth visits his local pastor to arrange a decent funeral for her and, in a frustrated rage, kills the cleric with a crucifix. On the run in a clouded haze, Martin slips into the night and anxiously watches as circumstances result in someone else being arrested for the crime. But the empathetic Father Roth (Dana Andrews), inquiring into the incident, sees something suspect in Martin – as well as a soul worth saving. The only crime drama produced by Samuel Goldwyn, this under-recognized film-noir thriller with a unique religious twist is powered by a searingly intense performance by Granger as a man undone by unforgiving forces closing in on him. Directed with clockwork urgency by Mark Robson, shot in shimmering black-and-white by Harry Stradling and named one of 1950’s 10-best films by the National Board of Review, Edge of Doom is a haunting vision of darkness not easily shaken. Continue reading

Nicholas Ray – Born to Be Bad [+Extra] (1950)

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Synopsis:
One of the most oft-revived of the pre-Technicolor Nicholas Ray efforts, Born to Be Bad offers us the spectacle of Joan Fontaine portraying a character described as “a cross between Lucrezia Borgia and Peg O’ My Heart”. For the benefit of her wealthy husband Zachary Scott and his family, Fontaine adopts a facade of wide-eyed sweetness. Bored with her hubby, she inaugurates a romance with novelist Robert Ryan. All her carefully crafted calculations come acropper when both men discover that she’s a bitch among bitches. She might have gotten away with all her machinations, but the censors said uh-uh. Originally slated for filming in 1946, with Henry Fonda scheduled to play the Robert Ryan part, Born to Bad was cancelled, then resurfaced as Bed as Roses in 1948, this time with Barbara Bel Geddes in the Fontaine role. RKO head Howard Hughes’ decision to replace Bel Geddes with the more bankable Fontaine was one of the reasons that producer Dore Schary left RKO in favor of MGM. Based on Anne Parrish’s novel All Kneeling, Born to be Bad is so overheated at times that it threatens to lapse into self-parody; though this never happens, the film was the basis for one of TV star Carol Burnett’s funniest and most devastating movie takeoffs, Raised to be Rotten Continue reading

François Truffaut – Vivement dimanche! AKA AKA Confidentially Yours (1983)

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Quote:
French director Francois Truffaut’s newest film is a tribute to American film noir. It is based on a 1962 novel by Charles Williams that blends mystery and comedy genres. Jean-Louis Trintignant plays Julien, a real estate agent who finds himself under suspicion for the murder of a friend. When his wife is killed shortly afterwards, Julien goes into hiding.
Barbara (Fanny Ardant), his feisty secretary who secretly loves him despite his penchant for beautiful blondes, volunteers to help clear his name. Donning a trench coat appropriate for the challenge at hand, she sallies forth on her own investigation. She soon discovers confusing clues and meets sinister figures, including a pimp, a movie-house cashier, a priest, and a smooth talking lawyer. Continue reading

Jules Dassin – Brute Force [+Extras] (1947)

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The meanest, heaviest, most unrelentingly grim hunk of American cinema you’re likely to see– at least prior to 1950– Brute Force is an explosive hybrid mixing aspects of the string of stark prison melodramas that stretch back to the silent era, and the broodingly dark crime dramas that sprung up in the postwar 1940’s that we’ve since come to identify as Film Noir.

One of my personal favorite ‘noir’s of all time, Brute Force features a young, highly flammable Burt Lancaster (in his second film role, his followup to Siodmak’s The Killers, another crime drama produced by Mark Hellinger) in the role of inmate Joe Collins, a part that seems to fit him like a glove. A seething prisoner barely able to contain his rage over his incarceration and the vicious machinations of the warden, Joe dominates the men in his cellblock by the raw power of his presence. Continue reading

Edgar G. Ulmer – Ruthless (1948)

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Quote:
Multi-millionaire Horace Woodruff Vendig (Zachary Scott) shows himself to the world as an ambitious philanthropist, but that’s far from the case. Even as a young man he starts to exhibit an obsessive and selfish urge to make more and more money, loving and leaving women at will to further this end. Vendig steps on and rolls over anyone who stands in his way, including his lifelong friend Vic Lambdin (Louis Hayward), utilities executive Buck Mansfield (Sydney Greenstreet) and various women, among them his first and only love, Martha Burnside (Diana Lynn), socialite Susan Duane (Martha Vickers) and Buck’s wife, Christa Mansfield (Lucille Bremer). It is a tribute to the acting skills of Scott that he makes his despicable character somehow likeable and sympathetic. The stellar cast includes Raymond Burr, Edith Barrett, Dennis Hoey and Joyce Arling. One of the few big-budgeted projects helmed by cult director Edgar G. Ulmer (Detour). Continue reading