Noirvember 2021

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Niagara (1953)

This is a gorgeous looking film and it's not solely because of Marilyn Monroe...though the camera does love her and this was her first lead starring role and her first technicolor film too.

What made Niagara so fascinating to see was the stunning cinematography which featured Niagara Falls from the Canadian side. Very unusual for a early 1950s technicolor film to be filmed primarily on location. We don't just see the falls, we see them from the river angle, and from an aerial angle, and from various different points. The falls do figure prominently into the story.

I won't spoil anything, I promise! I'll just say at the start of the film we learn Marilyn Monroe is stuck in an unhappy marriage to Joseph Cotton who just got out of an Army mental care hospital. And yes there's some noir stuff going on, to make this film worthy of a noir fan. I'll just say there's this one scene that's haunting in how it's shot.

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Niagara (1953)

This is a gorgeous looking film it's not soley because of Marilyn Monroe though the camera does love her and this was her first lead starring role and her first technicolor film. What made Niagara so fascinating to see was the stunning cinematography feature Niagara Falls from the Canadian side. Very unusual for a early 50s technicolor film to be shoot primarily on location. We don't just see the falls, we see them from river angle, from aerial angle from various points and they figure promptly into the story.

I won't spoil anything, I promise, I'll just say at the start of the film we learn Marilyn Monroe is stuck in an unhappy marriage to Joseph Cotton who just got out of a Army psychology hospital. And yes there's some noir stuff going on to make this film worthy of a noir fan. I'll just say there's this one scene that is haunting in how it's shot.

I enjoyed the narrative of Niagara as a Hitchcockian noir, but it definitely stands out because of the stunningly gorgeous Technicolor cinematography.

I also don't think Monroe gets enough credit for her work in noir, with this and Don't Bother to Knock being among the best I've seen from her. Even her small turn in Asphalt Jungle was memorable.



MACAO: A decent story about travelers with hidden identities. It has some decent twists, a couple of solid song and dance numbets and a more than solid chase sequence. However, the troubled production (Sternberg was fired and replaced with Ray) is felt in the performances feeling less inspired (Grahame reportedly fought to get out of it it) than such a noir dream team should've delivered. William Bendix is cast against type and fairly wasted but he's always a very welcome presence. I'd say the stand out is Jane Russell, giving it her all. I liked it but I'm going to forget it.



I enjoyed the narrative of Niagara as a Hitchcockian noir, but it definitely stands out because of the stunningly gorgeous Technicolor cinematography.

I also don't think Monroe gets enough credit for her work in noir, with this and Don't Bother to Knock being among the best I've seen from her. Even her small turn in Asphalt Jungle was memorable.
You're right, it was like a Hitchcock noirish film, good call. I had a perfect print of the movie, gosh it looked so good...I must have paused it a dozen times just to get a longer look (no, not at Marilyn, at the falls Marilyn did look fabulous though)

Yes I agree! Marilyn was surprisingly effective in Don't Bother to Knock, she really fit the role well. Asphalt Jungle I loved this line of hers, "Haven't you bothered me enough, you big banana-head? " It makes me laugh just thinking of it. The Asphalt Jungle would be at the top of my personal favorite noirs.



MACAO: A decent story about travelers with hidden identities. It has some decent twists, a couple of solid song and dance numbets and a more than solid chase sequence. However, the troubled production (Sternberg was fired and replaced with Ray) is felt in the performances feeling less inspired (Grahame reportedly fought to get out of it it) than such a noir dream team should've delivered. William Bendix is cast against type and fairly wasted but he's always a very welcome presence. I'd say the stand out is Jane Russell, giving it her all. I liked it but I'm going to forget it.
Oh cool, you watch that. I mostly agree too, the movie doesn't work well thanks to the troubled production and yet for me it's still a fun film just to watch. I liked the way Gloria played it like she could care less if she lived or died. Maybe she was just pissed at her husband and the movie, but she comes through with this strange devil-may-care attitude.



Oh cool, you watch that. I mostly agree too, the movie doesn't work well thanks to the troubled production and yet for me it's still a fun film just to watch. I liked the way Gloria played it like she could care less if she lived or died. Maybe she was just pissed at her husband and the movie, but she comes through with this strange devil-may-care attitude.
I like that perspective on her performance. It just felt like no one was bringing the gravitas to their roles as they so often do. No one was bad, by any means, just lacked electricity.

It could definitely have worked for her character.

I think my biggest issue was Mitchum. Once again, he wasn't bad but he can be cool and aloof in his sleep. It's the performances where there's something burning beneath the surface that make him so watchable. Here, it all seemed cool surface, whether he was waking up from getting clobbered or going on a date.



I was thinking about writing some more things later this month for Noirvember, but to help kick things off here, I might as well re-post my review of The Third Man here:



We should've dug deeper than a grave.

WARNING: spoilers below
While the cinematic and literary roots of Film Noir stretch back well before the 40's, it's only natural that the genre would truly begin to flourish during that decade, as it obviously saw the global devastation of World War II, an event that brought a newfound paranoia and anxiety upon the world, even among the nations that were left relatively unscathed in its wake. And so, keeping that in mind, it only makes sense that Carol Reed's The Third Man had such a close connection to that conflict, as the film expertly balances its status as a living history lesson with being a wonderful piece of entertainment at the same time, telling a fantastic mystery set amongst the rubble of post-war Europe, and becoming one of the greatest Classical-era Noirs ever made in the process, if not, at the risk of hyperbole, the greatest.

It tells the story of Holly Martins, a self-described "hack writer" of pulp Westerns, who travels to Vienna in order to accept some sort of vague job offer from Harry Lime, an old friend of his. However, as soon as the hapless Holly arrives there, he's shocked to learn that Lime recently died, apparently killed in a freak car accident... that is, until a number of details fail to add up, forcing Holly to reopen the closed case himself, connecting with an old flame of Lime's that refuses to burn out, all the while continually dodging the murderous denizens of the local underworld, as he digs ever deeper into the seedy past of his "dead" friend, buried amongst the labyrinthian rubble of a post-war Vienna.

It's a fairly rich, multi-layered mystery, but rather than getting tangled up in unnecessarily convoluted "plot knots" like such genre peers as The Big Sleep, Graham Greene's sharply-written screenplay instead remains streamlined throughout, never becoming overly complicated just for the sake of it, but only throwing new wrinkles into the story when they're strictly needed, which keeps things intriguing without ever overwhelming us in the process. Anyway, speaking of other Noirs, The Third Man also distinguishes itself from them with its unexpected sense of fun, forgoing the fatalism that often characterized the genre with its generally lighter tone, literally from the start, with the close-up of Anton Karas's zither as it begins to play the quirky, iconic score, and continuing with a number of playful or comedic moments throughout, whether it be the sight of a small child leading a mob through the streets of Vienna, a hilarious misunderstanding involving a unwanted chauffer, or the unexpected appearance of a talking parrot at a most inconvenient moment.

All that being said though, there's still absolutely no doubt that The Third Man is a work of Film Noir on the whole, whether it be the deep, monstrously distorted shadows of its high-contrast lighting, or the way that the off-kilter dutch angles of Robert Krasker's virtuosic cinematography create a sort of topsy-turvy, funhouse mirror of reality. And, character-wise, the fresh faced, almost newborn-like naivety of Joseph Cotten's Martins starts to give way to the kind of cynicism we expect from a Noir protagonist, as he's repeatedly splashed with the cold water of Harry's greedy, sociopathic behavior throughout, with Lime himself making a tremendous impact with very little actual screentime, particularly during one of the greatest character reveals ever filmed.

But of course, despite the presence of such screen icons as Orson Welles, the real star here is Vienna itself, as the film was filmed on-location amongst the rubble of the once-glorious national capital, still recovering from the continent-wide post-war "hangover", as a devastated city divided up among the authorities of various post-war powers, with the classy architecture of the buildings that were lucky enough to survive the war, and the rubble of the ones that weren't, providing a concrete maze for the characters to survive, and concealing a new mystery around each and every one of its sharp corners, giving the city just as much character as any of the actual, well, characters. It's this conspiratorial atmosphere the locale provides that further sets The Third Man apart as a film, makes it one of the finest examples of its genre, and ultimately creates an experience that's just as fresh and entertaining today as it was over half a century ago; now, if you'll excuse me, I think I'm going to go get some zither lessons.


Final Score: 10



[Black Widow] Myself, I readily bought into Ginger's performance & character. I liked her most of all...After the movie was over, I asked my wife what she thought of the film and she liked the movie OK. I then said something to the effect that [spoilers]

I liked the movie and for it's over all tone Ginger fit the bill. I don't think it would've highlighted Gloria's talent very well, not her type of movie it was too light and play like (not that I minded).

Bette Davis, yeah she could do it, eyes closed. I'm not real familiar with Tallulah Bankhead. Funny thing is that the last person I heard mention Tallulah was Dorothy. True story!
Dorothy Kilgallen? Oh yeah, she would have reported big time on Tallulah Bankhead. TB had done a ton of Broadway in her career, where her larger than life persona could really shine. She said she never really liked working in films, although she gave some wonderful performances. I'm sure you remember her in Hitch's Lifeboat.

TB was first offered the "Lottie" role, then we she turned it down, it was offered to Joan Crawford, who likewise didn't want it. Then it was offered to G. Rogers.

I can see TB, B. Davis or Crawford in the role for sure. But, as you say, G. Grahame probably would not have fit he bill. Plus she was starting to have troubles in 1954...



Dorothy Kilgallen? Oh yeah, she would have reported big time on Tallulah Bankhead. TB had done a ton of Broadway in her career, where her larger than life persona could really shine. She said she never really liked working in films, although she gave some wonderful performances. I'm sure you remember her in Hitch's Lifeboat.

TB was first offered the "Lottie" role, then we she turned it down, it was offered to Joan Crawford, who likewise didn't want it. Then it was offered to G. Rogers.

I can see TB, B. Davis or Crawford in the role for sure. But, as you say, G. Grahame probably would not have fit he bill. Plus she was starting to have troubles in 1954...
Yup that Dorothy, the mystery guess was Carol Channing and she used a disguised voice that was so deep she sounded like a man. It really cracked the audience up.

Oh how could I forget Hitch's Lifeboat, so I guess I have seen TB in a movie.



Yup that Dorothy, the mystery guess was Carol Channing and she used a disguised voice that was so deep she sounded like a man. It really cracked the audience up.

Oh how could I forget Hitch's Lifeboat, so I guess I have seen TB in a movie.
Oh, I get ya. Dorothy mentioned TB on What's My Line?.
You know what I think of that great show. The classic episodes never get old.

You probably know this, but Arlene Francis lived to aged 93, dying in 2001! As many times as she came on the show buzzed, I thought maybe she had a drinking problem... I loved her style and class.



I've only seen the bolded ones, but they're all good/great. I haven't seen the others, but have heard good things about Martha Ivers and Woman in the Window.
I liked The Woman in the Window much more than Scarlet Street. Lang used the same 3 leads. "Window" had a much more agreeable ending to my taste, but it was not noir enough for the real noirsters. The book had a much sadder ending, but Lang changed it-- for the better I think.

Scarlet Street almost strikes me as a parody.



Oh, I get ya. Dorothy mentioned TB on What's My Line?.
You know what I think of that great show. The classic episodes never get old.

You probably know this, but Arlene Francis lived to aged 93, dying in 2001! As many times as she came on the show buzzed, I thought maybe she had a drinking problem... I loved her style and class.
I just seen Arlene in two films within the last several weeks: Billy Wilder's One, Two, Three (1961) and The Thrill of it All (1963)...neither were noir. I wish she had made a noir and I'd watch it.



I enjoyed the narrative of Niagara as a Hitchcockian noir, but it definitely stands out because of the stunningly gorgeous Technicolor cinematography.

I also don't think Monroe gets enough credit for her work in noir, with this and Don't Bother to Knock being among the best I've seen from her. Even her small turn in Asphalt Jungle was memorable.

I generally don't like Monroe as an actor. I don't even think I particularly care for her as an icon, even though she's undeniably in the stratosphere. She's just one of those giant stars that leaves me absolutely cold. But Don't Bother to Knock is an exception.


(I think I might have also liked her in The Misfits as well, but it's been too long for me to be certain)




The Trap (1959)

Why isn't this noir more known? At least I'd never heard of it before the day I watched it. It was real good too...An intense thriller which kind of reminded me of a cross between The Hitchhiker and the original 3:10 to Yuma.

There's an A list cast: Richard Widmark is a lawyer caught up in the mob and being drove, at gun point to a small southern California town to clear a path to the local airport, so that the mafia boss (Lee J. Cobb) can escape his murder rap.

The first part of the film sets up tension between the black sheep of the family (Widmark) and his small town sheriff father and deputy brother (Earl Holliman) who's too drunk to notice his wife is going to leave him (Tina Louise)...yeah that Tina Louise as in Ginger from Gilligan's Island. She's good too, everyone turns in good performances...but the real draw is the thriller elements that make up most of the film, I found it exciting. And a couple twist that I didn't see coming. Good noir.
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Thunder Road (1958): How Robert Mitchum can a Robert Mitchum movie be? Well, it's a noir about a hot rod bootleg driver and stars Mitchum, he wrote the story, co-wrote lyrics to the two main songs, and produced the film. It also co-stars his son as the kid brother he's desperately trying to keep out of the moonshine business.

So really damn Mitchum.

Which is a fine thing. A fitting end to my Mitchum run of noir. Gonna have to shift to either neo-noir, Nikkatsu noir or random classics I can scrounge up now.



Thunder Road (1958): How Robert Mitchum can a Robert Mitchum movie be? Well, it's a noir about a hot rod bootleg driver and stars Mitchum, he wrote the story, co-wrote lyrics to the two main songs, and produced the film. It also co-stars his son as the kid brother he's desperately trying to keep out of the moonshine business.

So really damn Mitchum.

Which is a fine thing. A fitting end to my Mitchum run of noir. Gonna have to shift to either neo-noir, Nikkatsu noir or random classics I can scrounge up now.
I haven't seen Thunder Road yet, but speaking of Mitchum noirs, I did watch Out Of The Past for the first time earlier this year, and liked it a lot; have you seen it yet, MKS?



I haven't seen Thunder Road yet, but speaking of Mitchum noirs, I did watch Out Of The Past for the first time earlier this year, and liked it a lot; have you seen it yet, MKS?
Indeed I do. It's such a fine twisty noir flick that hits all the expectations. Tournier was as good at noir as he was horror (his use of shadow is always put to great use).

I screened it for friends last weekend and paired it with A History of Violence. It was a most satisfying pairing.



Thunder Road (1958): How Robert Mitchum can a Robert Mitchum movie be? Well, it's a noir about a hot rod bootleg driver and stars Mitchum, he wrote the story, co-wrote lyrics to the two main songs, and produced the film. It also co-stars his son as the kid brother he's desperately trying to keep out of the moonshine business.

So really damn Mitchum.

Which is a fine thing. A fitting end to my Mitchum run of noir. Gonna have to shift to either neo-noir, Nikkatsu noir or random classics I can scrounge up now.
I think I might have seen Thunder Road, I have the movie. It sounds pretty great from it's description and I do remember a moonshine road race noir.

Have you seen Mitchum in the neo noir/remake The Big Sleep (1978)? I didn't really care much for it, but still interesting to see.



I think I might have seen Thunder Road, I have the movie. It sounds pretty great from it's description and I do remember a moonshine road race noir.

Have you seen Mitchum in the neo noir/remake The Big Sleep (1978)? I didn't really care much for it, but still interesting to see.
Yup! I much prefer his Farewell, My Lovely Chandler/Marlowe adaptation. That one was given a budget due to Chinatown's success and was period set while TBS was strangely contemporary. I did appreciate Rampling in the role Bacall made famous.

My biggest problem with both adaptations was that Mitchum was FAR too old at the time. It's utterly disappointing because he could've been a Marlowe to rival Bogie and possibly even the best Marlowe on celluloid if it had happened a few decades earlier. He's certainly much closer to the one I hear in my head when I read Chandler, despite loving Bogie and Gould in the roles.



Yup! I much prefer his Farewell, My Lovely Chandler/Marlowe adaptation. That one was given a budget due to Chinatown's success and was period set while TBS was strangely contemporary. I did appreciate Rampling in the role Bacall made famous.

My biggest problem with both adaptations was that Mitchum was FAR too old at the time. It's utterly disappointing because he could've been a Marlowe to rival Bogie and possibly even the best Marlowe on celluloid if it had happened a few decades earlier. He's certainly much closer to the one I hear in my head when I read Chandler, despite loving Bogie and Gould in the roles.
I haven't read Chandler so I can't comment directly on that, but I could see him playing Marlowe in his heyday and knocking it out of the ballpark. Then again I like Mitchum, so I'd be partial to that.