Derik Badman's Journal

Content Tagged "Film Noir"

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2020-04-26 09:46

Yesterday's afternoon movie was This Gun For Hire (1942) starring Veronica Lake and Alan Ladd. It's been on my film noir to watch list for many years, and I think this was my first watch through somehow. Which is odd cause I've seen the other Lake/Ladd noir movies (The Blue Dahlia and The Glass Key) which are harder to come by. This one was... ok... The plot, adapted from a Graham Greene novel, really felt like a novel adaptation that cut too much out and had a lot of not so great elements: a not very tense cat and mouse scene towards the end is far too long; Ladd's murderer for hire is given a sappy story about how he became a killer, so Lake's character will sort of agree to help him; Lake's character is somehow asked to help with an espionage case (why is not totally clear) but then really only gets Ladd's killer to do the work. As usual, for me at least, Lake is the one to watch in this movie. She has a goofy song and magic routine as her introduction but then spends most of the rest of the movie just being in danger. (Reading about the original novel's plot I see at least two of the elements I complained about were altered/added for the script.)

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2020-02-04 08:23

I watched Fritz Lang's The Woman in the Window the other day. It's one of those films noir that I somehow never saw (and was confusing with the similarly Lang directed Edward G Robinson/Joan Bennett starring Scarlet Street). I ended up skipping some of the latter part of the movie as it was feeling rather predictable. It's noirish aspects are pretty limited, other than that it is a crime film. Robinson's character, a professor whose wife and children have gone away on some trip, sees this portrait of a woman in the window next to his club. He and his buddies (one of whom is a D.A.) talk about how they'd love to meet the woman and how they are too old for adventures anymore. On his way home, he stops to look at the portrait again and the woman shows up. He, fairly innocently (at least it is not implied at all that they have any kind of physical relations), ends up at her apartment for drinks and to look at sketches by the same artist as the portrait (though one can certainly read "artist sketches" as "nudes", and thus imply something more erotic than we actually see). Some guy shows up and attacks Robinson in a rage, almost choking him, until the woman gets some scissors into Robinson's hands and he stabs the other man to death.

It's self-defense, but Robinson is concerned about his ruined reputation, so they decide to take the body to the country (they are in NYC) and cover up the murder. Somehow, he's more worried about his reputation and that people won't believe an innocent meeting with a woman, than he is worried about covering up a murder and that people will believe he is innocent. It's almost comical. Of course we immediately start seeing how, yes, he is not up for adventure, as his cover up starts going badly and his friend starts investigating the case, which gives the professor plenty of opportunities to let slip that he knows about more about the murder than he should.

I skipped a lot of the rising action part and went to the end. Surprisingly the woman, Joan Bennett, who is quite good in this, does not turn into a femme fatale or try to get him killed or anything (I think that's the plot in Scarlet Street). Instead, he ends up killing himself as he thinks he's about to get caught, but then... twist!... the guy who was trying to blackmail them gets shot and dies with incriminating evidence. But.. twist!... the professor wakes up and it was all a dream... Uggh. And thus he learned his lesson about... talking to women that aren't his wife... and that he's too old for adventures.

Lang is generally quite moralistic, as seen in this movie, and it feels like it takes away from the noir atmosphere, ditto the stupid "it was all a dream" ending.

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2019-10-21 08:24

Watched Ride the Pink Horse yesterday, a noir from 1947. I've seen it before but didn't remember it so well. It had an oddly upbeat ending for a noir, in that the protagonist not only survives, but does the right thing too. He is oddly hapless throughout. He mostly gets himself into trouble, gets almost killed, and just relies on other people to rescue him: ex-vet rescued by naive country girl, poor carousel owner, and FBI agent. I had a better impression of it in my vague memory from previous watchings, than I got from actual watching it yesterday.

It does have an interesting set-up at a fiesta season in some town in the southwest, filled with locals and visiting tourists. And there are some good scenes with the carousel and crowds of people. But in general, it felt like it was pulling its punches. Robert Montgomery directed it (and starred in it), similar to his The Lady in the Lake which is also not one of the most successful of noir Chandler adaptions.

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2019-10-15 18:08

Criterion was having a sale today... 50% off... and I failed to resist it. Bought a few more Ozu dvds (including the small boxed set of silent crime dramas from the 30s), and a couple film noir ones, like Ride the Pink Horse which I read about long long ago and then found a ripped download of it because at the time there was no way/place to even see the movie. I feel like I should buy that since I've watched it at least twice via my probably illegal download.

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2019-09-30 07:39

Also started watching Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye, an adaption of the Chandler novel (which I reread kind of recently). I know I've seen it before, but didn't remember it very well. I actually paused it with 30 minutes to go last night to make dinner and now I'm not sure I'm going to finish it. The film is not particularly interesting once the novelty of the 70's setting and unusual casting of Marlowe wear off. Sterling Hayden (who I've seen in a number of noirs like The Asphalt Jungle) really plays it up as a Hemingway-esque drunk writer. The script really misses, I think, by removing all the early parts about Marlowe and Terry Lennox's relationship. Lennox just appears in the film with no reference to who he is or how Marlowe knows him, so it takes away the viewer's sense of the relationship and the knowledge of Marlowe we get from how he sticks his neck out for this other guy. (And I think then makes the ending more poignant.)

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2019-09-18 21:41

Just got back from a showing at The Thin Man at the theater. I love watching Myrna Loy in that movie: the classy styles, the cute faces, the witty banter. She and William Powell have a great dynamic and on screen chemistry, I guess that's why they made like 5 sequels. It's weird, no matter how many times I see that movie, while I can remember the big twist climax, I can never actually remember the identity of the murderer. It's like that solution is almost an after thought. Nothing in the plot can really lead you to the conclusion, and even Nick, the detective, seems to only get to it at the same moment the movie shows it to us.

I was struck by some of noirish shadows, but mostly the film eschews the noir look. One scene that does take place mostly in the dark, as Nick uses a flashlight to investigate a dark room, is shot in a really unengaging way, without the dynamic shadows and dramatic lighting you get in a good noir. Oddly one scene that most looks like that is a non-dramatic scene of Nick and Nora in their hotel room late at night, lit only (primarily) by a lamp in between their beds. Nora is leaning back and the light casts most of her face in shadow. It leads up to a bit of drama but is primarily a scene played for comedy. (I tried to find a screenshot of that scene but failed.)

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  • Film Noir

2019-08-19 09:53

As Lianne wanted to work on her weaving after that, I ended up browsing the riches that is the Criterion Channel and somehow ended up watching Elevator to the Gallows, a crime film from 1958 by Louis Malle. I was mistakenly under the impression it was an adaption of The Postman Always Rings Twice, but the one I was thinking of is Italian, so... it turns out I had it confused with Ossessione by Visconti, which I also have yet to see. Anyway, this movie was enjoyable enough, though not particularly remarkable. The most interesting aspect was in the very end, where the two murderers end up getting caught because of some undeveloped film. The policeman is like "be careful about leaving photos lying around" (I badly paraphrase) and for the time that seems like a tricky way for a crime to be solved, but in the context of the present it is pretty prescient, as we now have photos everywhere and video and surveillance cameras and that is what they use in so many crimes (and crime films).

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