Film Noir

Harold D. Schuster – Loophole (1954)

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Synopsis:
Everything’s going right for Mike Donovan (Barry Sullivan). He came home after the war, married his gal, got a regular job as a bank teller in Hollywood, makes payments on a house in the ‘burbs. But, as the voice-over narrator of this on-edge Film-Noir notes, “One day the world’s all right. The next, it’s nowhere.” Read More »

Phil Karlson – The Phenix City Story (1955)

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synopsis
Based on actual events, The Phenix City Story tells the tale of a wide-open “Sin City” in Alabama (across a bridge from Columbus, GA, and just a stone’s throw from the Ft. Benning Army base) where gambling, prostitution, and any number of other vices were tolerated openly by the law, most of it centered on the main downtown drag, 14th Street, thanks to the 50-year influence of organized crime on the local government. Reform groups, mostly in the form of vigilantes, had tried to clean up “the wickedest city in the United States” before, even taking the law into their own hands and wrecking some of the establishments, only to be stymied by the courts (which were otherwise indifferent to activities on 14th Street). Read More »

Billy Wilder – Double Indemnity (1944)

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Quote:
Billy Wilder only made one proper film noir, but it was a doozy: Double Indemnity is one of the most unrelentingly cynical films the genre produced, with a pair of career-changing performances from Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray and a script by Wilder and Raymond Chandler every bit as black-hearted as James M. Cain’s novel Three of a Kind, on which the film was based. The idiosyncratically attractive Stanwyck, generally thought of as pretty but hardly a bombshell, was rarely as sexy as she was as Phyllis Dietrichson, and never as sleazy; Phyllis knows how to use her allure to twist men around her little finger, and from the moment Walter Neff lays eyes on her, he’s taken a sharp turn down the Wrong Path, as Phyllis oozes erotic attraction at its least wholesome. Read More »

Boris Ingster – Stranger on the Third Floor (1940)

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Plot Synopsis: Though he doesn’t speak his first line of dialogue until the film’s final ten minutes, Peter Lorre spiritually dominates the fascinating RKO melodrama Stranger on the Third Floor. The plotline is carried by John McGuire, playing Ward, a newspaper reporter whose courtroom testimony sends the hapless Briggs (Elisha Cook Jr). to the death house. Ward is certain that he saw Briggs leaving the scene of a murder, but as the days pass, he is tortured by guilt and doubt — especially during the film’s surrealistic knockout of a nightmare sequence. When another murder is committed, Ward finds himself as much a victim of circumstantial evidence as the unfortunate Briggs. The reporter’s girlfriend (Margaret Tallichet) tries to clear Ward….and that’s when she first makes the acquaintance of Lorre, who is heard ordering a pound of raw meat! Stranger on the Third Floor was a “film noir” long prior to the genesis of that cinematic movement. Long ignored or trivialized by film historians, this 7-reel quickie has in recent years graduated to classic status.
— Hal Erickson, AMG Read More »

Charles Laughton & Robert Mitchum – The Night of the Hunter (1955)

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The Night of the Hunter—incredibly, the only film the great actor Charles Laughton ever directed—is truly a stand-alone masterwork. A horror movie with qualities of a Grimm fairy tale, it stars a sublimely sinister Robert Mitchum as a traveling preacher named Harry Powell (he of the tattooed knuckles), whose nefarious motives for marrying a fragile widow, played by Shelley Winters, are uncovered by her terrified young children. Graced by images of eerie beauty and a sneaky sense of humor, this ethereal, expressionistic American classic—also featuring the contributions of actress Lillian Gish and writer James Agee—is cinema’s most eccentric rendering of the battle between good and evil. Read More »

Jean Negulesco – Phone Call from a Stranger (1952)

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On a flight from Chicago to Los Angeles via Iowa, lawyer David Trask gets to know three of his fellow passengers as one technical issue after another leads to delays and unscheduled stops along the way. Those three are physician Dr. Robert Fortness, struggling actress with the stage name Binky Gay, and loud salesman Eddie Hoke, who is both quick with a joke and quick to show off a photograph of his beautiful wife, Marie Hoke. Below the surface, the three have deeper stories, which are bringing them back to Los Angeles and which Dr. Fortness and Binky divulge to David. Dr. Fortness, an alcoholic, is returning to own up to his drunken part in the death of a friend, and his wife Claire’s complicity in the matter. Binky, after being away in New York for a year, is returning to her husband, Mike Carr, hoping to take him away from his overbearing mother, former vaudeville star Sally Carr, who still basks in her former but no longer shining glory, and who is the cause of any marital problem she and Mike have had as she sees Binky as competition in every sense of the word. Because of an incident en route and his burgeoning friendship with them, David feels compelled to help them resolve their issues. Specifically in dealing with Eddie’s life, David is forced to reflect on his own and the reason he left his home in Midland City, Iowa. Read More »

Stanley Kubrick – The Killing (1956)

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Review:
When it comes to addressing old films, there are two broad schools of thought: one is that they don’t make them like they use to and the other is that technology has improved the quality of films. While each side has its pros and cons what it often boils down to is citing examples. Whether it’s the grand visuals of Avatar or the beautiful dramatics of Broken Bosoms, each side has some strong hitters.

The Killing is not about a murder, but a simple heist: two-million dollars from the racetracks. Led by Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden), a gang of men from different walks of life all come together to pull off a heist. But, as always happens, the heist hits a hitch, mainly Sherry Peatty (Marie Windsor), wife of George Peatty (Elisha Cook), their inside man. After wringing out the details from her husband, she compromises the confidentiality of the heist. Read More »