Friday, June 17, 2011

Baby, I don't care

      Film Noir. They were just a bunch of entertaining B movies.  Then the French took a fancy to them. Now there are Film Noir scholars, Film Noir books. Film Noir DVD sets.

    They are the dark, brooding, movies with great contrasts of shadow and light, evil bad guys, bad good guys, and devastatingly beautiful femme fatales. Snappy dialog. Fast-paced plots. Often told by a narrator who goes into the past. Film noir isn't just the late 1940s and early '50s. There are a some great Film Noir today.

     I though Ronald Regan and the monkey were B movies. Then Film Noir Night came on TCM, so I watched three classics. 

    The best:  Out of the Past  (1950). Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer and Kirk Douglas in a very early role. Mitchum's insouciance was a great contrast to Douglas' crisp, razor-sharp shark. I've never seen a man so big slouch so well in a chair while talking about so much money.

   I never thought muchl about Mitchum. I heard of him but  never appreciated his abilities on screen until this movie. Out of the Past caught my attention when I read that the film Against All Odds is a cheap knock off.  Having the best lines help. "You're like a leaf floating from gutter to gutter."  

   Night And The City  (1950). This is the better version even though so many love Robert DeNiro. Harry Fabian is a desperate guy, a two-bit hustler alternating between whiny resentment and enthusiasm for hare-brained schemes. He was was more desperate than funny. Always running. Fabian was running at the beginning of the movie in foggy London, and he was running at the end.

    In A Lonely Place (1950). Some say Humphrey Bogart's character here came closest to his true personality. I hope not. Bogie's a suspect in the murder of a young hat check girl. His beautiful neighbor Gloria Grahame provides an alibi. But after she falls for him, Bogie's  violent and erratic behavior makes her wonder whether he IS the killer. 

    World weary anti-heros, tough bad guys, beautiful women who fall for the wrong men. Nothing new, but told well. Best film noir: Double Indemnity 1944 Fred MacMurry and Barbara Stanwick. Kiss of Death (1947) gave Richard Widmark his debut role in an chilling and creepy part. It was directed by Henry Hathaway who went onto the A-list, including the first True Grit in 1969. 
     Don't Bother To Knock (1952). This movie doesn't roll backward in time, but it stars Marilyn Monroe in a role that will put your hair on end. She was a fine actress, but I guess did not realize it. 

     Plenty of good Film Noir today. Pulp Fiction. Streets of Blood. Bad Lieutenant. Stone. Friends of Eddie Coyle. Ripley's Game. Angel Heart.. Film Noir is just too good to stay in the past.

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