The MoFo Top 100 Film Noir Countdown

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I forgot the opening line.
Another "4/4 on my ballots" day concerning the two concurrent countdowns :

#14 The Night of the Hunter - An extremely imaginative mix of folklore, fairy tale, film noir, horror and parable - and also the only feature film directed by Charles Laughton (I think). I saw this again recently, and it's one of those films that gets insanely creative with it's visuals - specifically shadow and silhouette. Robert Mitchum makes for an almightily loathsome villain, and for a film from the 50s sex and sexual attraction is alluded to a lot, along with the way everything is twisted in the mind of this sociopath and so-called preacher. Despite the fact that there's so much religion sprinkled in here, I really enjoy this film for it's originality, cinematography, the performance of Mitchum (perhaps his best) and the way it's been directed. The Night of the Hunter has influenced a great many talented filmmakers, which goes to show it's enduring status as one of the great films. I had it at #10 on my ballot.

#13 Kiss Me Deadly - Watching this again before the film noir countdown confirmed it as one of my favourites. It's one hell of a gritty, dark, nasty film noir masterpiece directed by Robert Aldrich and twisted into shape using Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer novel. It uses a lot of innuendo, suggestion and playful filmmaking to get the steamy sexuality of everything past the Production Code Office - but oh boy, it's there. I love the fact that Spillane's Hammer (Ralph Meeker) sticks his nose into something he really, really, shouldn't have, and despite being warned he continues in such a pig-headed, determined way only to find out he's made a huge mistake. That ending is up in my top 50 best film endings of all time - such a shock, and it must have been one to cinema audiences. So much is great about this one - I had it at #4 on my ballot.

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Seen : 27/88
I'd never even heard of : 47/88
Movies that had been on my radar, but I haven't seen yet : 14/88
Films from my list : 15

#13 - My #4 - Kiss Me Deadly (1955)
#14 - My #10 - The Night of the Hunter (1955)
#16 - My #15 - The Asphalt Jungle (1950)
#21 - My #17 - Pickup on South Street (1953)
#24 - My #20 - Detour (1945)
#27 - My #14 - Gilda (1946)
#28 - My #11 - Murder, My Sweet (1944)
#31 - My #25 - The Lady From Shanghai (1947)
#33 - My #22 - Nightmare Alley (1947)
#36 - My #16 - Gun Crazy (1950)
#44 - My #19 - Criss Cross (1949)
#54 - My #12 - D.O.A. (1950)
#58 - My #23 - The Breaking Point (1950)
#61 - My #21 - Act of Violence (1949)
#67 - My #18 - The Hitch-Hiker (1953)
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While Night of the Hunter is a very visually interesting film, there's something about the way its edited that I just don't like. It often ruined or undermined what could've been otherwise engaging scenes, which made it hard for me to get invested. It was nominated for me in one of the Personal Recommendation HoFs, and this was what I sad at the time:



The Night of the Hunter (1955)
Directed by: Charles Laughton
Starring: Robert Mitchum, Billy Chapin, Lillian Gish

From a visual standpoint, Night of the Hunter is an incredibly intriguing film. It frequently presents its viewers with striking imagery, imaginative camera angles, and fascinating compositions. Partial sets engulfed in shadow, and contrast-heavy lightning techniques are clearly inspired by German Expressionism, a style I always find beautiful. So it really is a shame that the film is plagued by strange editing choices, and awkward pacing.

If I hadn't been watching a Criterion release, I honestly would've thought that parts of the film were missing. Had all existing reels of the film been damaged beyond restoration or repair, I trust that they would've at least put a disclaimer in at the start. Since that wasn't the case, I have to assume the choppy editing, and huge leaps in time and characterization I witnessed were all intentional. The tone is also all over the place, to the point that my room mate asked if I was watching two different films.

Religion is featured throughout, and I was never certain what impression it was supposed to leave. Early on I was worried it was supposed to be sincere, because it seemed so antiquated, even considering the time the film was made, but I was relieved when its presentation shifted to being a justification for horrific behaviour. However later in the film Ms Cooper was also preaching bible verses, but there's no distinction made between how her faith is meant to be perceived in comparison to the cult-like townspeople from the beginning. Because of that, the film's messaging felt incredibly confused.

Along that same vein, I could never quite get a grip on Robert Mitchum's character, or even his performance for that matter. There are some scenes where he is impressively menacing, but they're retroactively ruined by other parts of the film where he's a hilariously incompetent villain. In between those two extremes, he's occasionally charismatic, but never to the point where I'd believe everyone falls for his charade. I still can't decide if he did a good job or not, but given my issues with the rest of the film, the problem might just be the material he had to work with.

I laughed on a number of occasions, but never for a reason that anyone involved with making The Night of the Hunter would consider a compliment. I did enjoy the cinematography, and the film's unusual style did manage to keep me interested the entire time, but sections that felt like a skipping DVD, scene changes that gave tonal whiplash, and Powell cartoonishly running away scared, shouting that he'll be back at nightfall weigh the film down so much it's hard to have a positive overall opinion of it. I really want to like this more than I ultimately did, but I think the scales are just too unbalanced for me.
I wish I liked it more than I did, since on paper it does sound like something I'd probably like. Needless to say, it didn't make my list. I did however vote for Kiss Me Deadly, which I thought I had watched for a Hall of Fame a couple years ago, but I guess I just rewatched it while trying to come up with a nomination or something.

Seen: 36/88

My List: 15
01.
02.
03.
Stranger on the Third Floor (1940) - #92
04. Murder My Sweet (1944) - #28
05.
06. Detour (1945) - #24
07. Rebecca (1940) - #35
08. Ministry of Fear (1944) - #75
09. The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946) - #40
10.
11. This Gun for Hire (1942) - #78
12. Mildred Pierce (1945) - #15
13. Odd Man Out (1947) - #47
14.
15. Strangers on a Train (1951) - #18
16.
17. The Asphalt Jungle (1950) - #16
18. Night and the City (1950) - #25
19. Phantom Lady (1944) - #69
20.
21.
22.
23.
24. Kiss Me Deadly (1955) - #14

25. The Stranger (1946) - #38





The Night of the Hunter is one of my all-time favorite films. I recognize the Noir slathered all over this film but I didn't include it in my list. But I love it mightily. Robert Mitchum was a wheels-off psycho in this, alternately charming and then coo-coo bananas. That's why there were some touches of humor in this concerning the "Reverend" Harry Powell. And I welcomed those moments. But it was the visuals that truly captured me: Shelley Winters in the car underwater---I know it's horrible but the scene is beautifully shot. My favorite sequence is the already-mentioned trip down the river with the children, particularly with the kids briefly escaping Powell's web:



Too on the nose? I don't know. I just know I love it. The stars in the night sky. The animals observing the drifting boat. The little girl singing. A magical scene.

Then the battle of wills between Powell and Rachel Cooper (Lillian Gish). One of my favorite film battles of good versus evil. I cannot lavish this movie with enough praise. I didn't put it in my list because I consider it a stand-alone film, by itself on its classic mountain.

I love Kiss Me Deadly. One of the great Film Noirs. Ralph Meeker is my all-time favorite Mike Hammer. I really dug the Stacy Keach TV series, and have yet to see any of the Darren McGavin series. Hated Armand Assante as Hammer in I, the Jury (1982), which was just R-rated sleaze. I have yet to see the 1953 version of I, the Jury but I'm interested. I know there are others, including one starring MIckey Spillane himself. But they can't possibly get near the Robert Aldrich film with Meeker. No matter what I think of Hammer in this, I can't help but stay glued to him and actually care what happens to him, sleaze or not. This is top-tier Noir and highly recommended to those MoFos who haven't seen it and are curious. I had this at #11 on my list.

#2 The Asphalt Jungle List Proper #16
#4 The Big Combo List Proper #52
#5 Pickup on South Street List Proper #23
#6 Kansas City Confidential List Proper #53
#10 The Big Heat List Proper #17
#11 Kiss Me Deadly List Proper #13
#12 The Postman Always Rings Twice List Proper #23
#13 Murder, My Sweet List Proper #28
#14 Kiss of Death List Proper #59
#15 He Walked By Night List Proper #88
#16 The Naked City List Proper #60
#17 The Killers List Proper #22
#18 Detour List Proper #24
#20 Gun Crazy List Proper #36
#22 This Gun For Hire List Proper #78
#23 The Narrow Margin List Proper #43
#25 Crossfire List Proper #51
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#12 Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Production: Universal Pictures
Cast: Teresa Wright,Joseph Cotten, Macdonald Carey
369 Points, 26 Lists

'A teenage girl, overjoyed when her favorite uncle comes to visit the family in their quiet California town, slowly begins to suspect that he is in fact the "Merry Widow" killer sought by the authorities.'

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#11 The Killing (1956)

Director: Stanley Kubrick
Production: Harris Kubrick Productions
Cast: Sterling Hayden,Coleen Gray, Vince Edwards, Marie Windsor, Elisha Cook Jr.
413 Points, 35 Lists

'Crook Johnny Clay assembles a five-man team to plan and execute a daring racetrack robbery.'

______________________________________



Whoo! 2 for 2 SEEN, 2 for 2 from my ballot.

Shadow of a Doubt is easily Top 5 Hitchcock for me. Every time I see it, I love it even more. No wonder it was Hitchcock's personal favorite. Here's my full review, but also a bit of what I wrote:

The way we see this wonderful and beautiful relationship deteriorate under the weight of suspicion and mistrust is flawless; and it's on the script, but it's also on Wright and Cotten's excellent performances. It's a pity that the script feels the need to squeeze an unnecessary love relationship between Young Charlie and a persistent detective, but hey, that's a common occurrence in the Hollywood of yesterday.
I also guested on a friend's podcast where we talked about it. I can share the link later, but anyway, I had it at #6. This is a masterpiece.

As for The Killing, it is one I was thinking wouldn't show so I'm definitely glad it popped up. A very simple, straightforward heist film, but it's one that I've grown to appreciate more and more. Great performances from Sterling Hayden, but also from Elisha Cook, Jr. I have a review around that I might share later, but I had it at #22.


SEEN: 30/90
MY BALLOT: 15/25

My ballot  
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The Killing is a masterpiece, landing at #2 on my ballot. Here's a review I wrote a few years ago. Nobody could play bastards like Sterling Hayden.

Shadow of a Doubt is also excellent, but I didn't select it since I think of it as a psychological thriller.



Stats: Pit Stop #9





After hitting our ninth pit stop (90), here's were we are now:

Yearly Breakdown
  • 1940 = 4
  • 1941 = 1
  • 1942 = 1
  • 1943 = 2
  • 1944 = 6
  • 1945 = 7
  • 1946 = 9
  • 1947 = 10
  • 1948 = 10
  • 1949 = 7
  • 1950 = 9
  • 1951 = 4
  • 1952 = 3
  • 1953 = 5
  • 1954 = 0
  • 1955 = 6
  • 1956 = 4
  • 1957 = 0
  • 1958 = 2
  • 1959 = 0

A couple of years had solid showings in this batch, but 1947 and 1948 remain at the top with 10. Still, 1946 and 1950 inch closer.


Repeating Directors
  • Alfred Hitchcock = 7
  • Fritz Lang = 4
  • Jules Dassin = 4
  • Robert Siodmak = 3
  • Orson Welles = 3
  • Robert Wise = 3
  • Henry Hathaway = 3
  • Otto Preminger = 3
  • William Wyler = 3
  • Billy Wilder = 2
  • Michael Curtiz = 2
  • John Huston = 2
  • Edward Dmytryk = 2
  • Raoul Walsh = 2
  • Akira Kurosawa = 2
  • Joseph H. Lewis = 2
  • Nicholas Ray = 2
  • Jules Dassin = 2
  • John Cromwell = 2
  • Robert Rossen = 2

Alfred Hitchcock catapults to the top of the list with 3 entries in this last batch for a total of 7 entries in the countdown. Fritz Lang also gets to second place with 4, while Billy Wilder, Michael Curtiz, and John Huston join the list.



Shadow of a Doubt and The Killing are both excellent and both made my ballot. Shadow of a Doubt was my 15 and The Killing was my 10.

Seen: 89/90



I didnít like The Killing first round, but I hope to next time. Every time I see still of it I think, ďI gotta love thisĒ. Kubrick is a mixed bag for me, and mofo doesnít help my opinion because they worship at the altar. Case in point, The Killing top fifteen in anything.

Shadow Of A Doubt was my 17. Another I am on the fence about being Noir, but I couldnít leave it off. Solidifies my love of both Hitch and Cotten every watch.
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THE KILLING
(1956, Kubrick)



"You have not yet learned that in this life you have to be like everyone else - the perfect mediocrity; no better, no worse. Individuality's a monster and it must be strangled in it's cradle to make our friends feel confident."

Stanley Kubrick has been one of my favorite directors for a while now. From 2001 to Eyes Wide Shut, almost all of the films of his I've seen would probably make it to a Top 50 or Top 100 list, if I ever made one. Despite that, I still have a couple of blind spots on his early works. Earlier this year, I saw Fear and Desire during my #JanuaryOfDebuts. Now, it was The Killing's turn, so thanks to Peng for bringing it up (still have Killer's Kiss, Lolita, and Paths of Glory to check)

The Killing follows Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden), a veteran criminal and ex-convict determined to do "one last job" before marrying his girlfriend. The job? Robbing $2 million from the counting room of a racetrack. To achieve this, he assembles an assorted group of associates to create various diversions and perform different tasks. The crew includes a racetrack bartender, a "muscle" man, a corrupt cop, a sharpshooter, an old friend, and a racetrack cashier. But things might not go as planned when one of the group spills too much of the job to someone else.

Kubrick's approach to The Killing is methodical and one can say, distant, as we see all the preparations for the heist. It's like running through a checklist as we see how Clay recruits most of the members of the team, and how each of them prepares for the big hit. Aside of Johnny, the focus of the story is on George (Elisha Cook, Jr.) a racetrack cashier that is full of insecurities and frustrations, which make him speak too much to his wife, Sherry (Marie Windsor). And Sherry, by the way, might've very well won the 1956 Wife of the Year

Some minor complaints, the narration felt a bit awkward and maybe even unnecessary. Second, the distant approach doesn't give a lot of space for audiences to connect with the characters, but I don't think that was Kubrick's intentions anyway. His intention is to get us all amped up with the preparations and make us wonder "will they make it? or will they fail?" and in that, he succeeds. The swift direction and the tense score keeps us in the edge of our seats all the time.

Perhaps with a more character-driven approach, the ending would've packed more of a punch, but I thought it was cool anyway. I like to think that Johnny's final line is an example of Kubrick's perennial motif of "dehumanization", with him being dehumanized by all the time in jail and crime itself. All in all, The Killing is a pretty slick film, full of tension and nice camerawork.

Grade:



That's the review I wrote when I saw The Killing years ago.

Here's also the link to the podcast I guested in to talk about Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt and Vertigo

Silver Screeners - Episode 104: 1943's Shadow of a Doubt and 1958's Vertigo with special guest Carlo of The Movie Loot podcast





Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt was #17 on the MoFo Top 100 of the 1940s. Kubrick's The Killing was #52 on the MoFo Top 100 of the 1950s.
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Welcome to the human race...
four votes, all classics.

#3. the night of the hunter
#4. kiss me deadly
#5. the killing
#22. shadow of a doubt
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Iro's Top 100 Movies v3.0



5) Night and the City
6. The Killing
7) The Night of the Hunter
8) White Heat
9) Detour
12) Shadow of a Doubt
13) Ace in the Hole
14) Gun Crazy
16) The Postman Always Rings Twice
18) The Stranger
19) Odd Man Out
21) Mildred Pierce
22) The Lost Weekend
24) Crossfire



Society ennobler, last seen in Medici's Florence
#12. Shadow of a Doubt (1943) is my #7.

Another view specially for the countdown. I've had couple of strong issues but anyway, the film is so masterly atmospheric that it easily made its way to my top 10.

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"Population don't imitate art, population imitate bad television." W.A.
"You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus." M.T.



Top Ten Guess

10 Sweet Smell Of Success
9 Out Of The Past
8 Big Sleep
7 In A Lonely Place
6 Sunset Blvd
5 Third Man
4 Laura
3 Touch Of Evil
2 Maltese Falcon
1 Madelyn



2 for 2 today. Both of these were on my list. Shadow of a Doubt was my #9 pick and The Killing was my #13. That makes 6 picks unaccounted for with the Top 10 reveals left. I don't think my #25 will make it. It's a Samuel Fuller but I think it's shaky. #17 and #23 feature the same lead playing different yet similar characters. I think at least one will make it. The rest stand a decent chance.

56 of 90 seen so far.

1. Probably Top 5
2. Also Top 5
3. High Sierra (#50)
4. Strong maybe
5. Ride the Pink Horse (#45)
6. Mystery Street (#93)
7. Gun Crazy (#36)
8. Night of the Hunter (#14)
9. Shadow of a Doubt (#12)
10. The Asphalt Jungle (#16)
11. Night and the City (#25)
12. Kiss Me Deadly (#13)
13. The Killing (#11)
14. Stray Dog (#32)
15. Strangers on a Train (#18)
16. Key Largo (#26)
17. You would think so but who knows?
18. Detour (#24)
19. The Narrow Margin (#43)
20. Kansas City Confidential (#53)
21. Where the Sidewalk Ends (#66)
22. Too Late for Tears (#81)
23. Too much like #17?
24. The Set-Up (#46)
25. Probably not.



Unlike the results of this collective, I donít consider Hitchcock to be a giant of the Noir movement. He is the undisputed Master of Suspense, but while as the genre developed it certainly took cues from the genius of Hitchcock, there arenít many of his titles from the period I would strictly consider to be Film Noir. But one that easily qualifies was also his personal favorite.



Shadow of a Doubt is a darkly comic joy, set up by Teresa Wrightís Charlotte, a bright girl in a small town who is delighted that her favorite uncle is coming to town for a stay. Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten) is the only soul she has met so far who synchs to her sense of humor and intelligence. What she hasnít known all these years but is about to discover is that her beloved Uncle is also a murderer, a man who seduces rich spinsters then kills them for their fortunes. The police are finally on his trail, and when she confronts Charlie she strikes a bargain with him that she would help him escape if he leaves and never comes back to be near her or the family. But Uncle Charlie doesnít like that deal, leading to a confrontation between the two smart relatives. Instead of cat and mouse it's more cat and cat.



I had Shadow of a Doubt at number twenty on my ballot. I don't agree with Hitch that it is his very best among his best, but it is damn good, especially with Cotten cast against type.






Of course I had The Killing, as it turns out in the exact same spot as the collective.



A young Stanley Kubrick made his Studio bones with this take on the heist film, a variation on The Asphalt Jungle even starring Sterling Hayden again. This one has an omniscient narrator who pops in to tell us what is happening when, and we know all the mechanics of the robbery of a racetrack and what part each character plays. Then we watch how it all falls apart. Stanleyís eye and burgeoning cynical world view fits perfectly with the legendary pulp novelist Jim Thompsonís terse dialogue that is as brutal as the situations the criminals find themselves in. Haden is perfect in the lead, and thank goodness he and Stanley got along so he could become his General Jack D. Ripper eight years later. The entire cast is full of Noir regulars and all-stars, but the pair that really makes it an all-time classic and the double cross that undoes the robbery more than all the others are Marie Windsor and Elisha Cook Jr. This greedy tramp and her sap of a cuckold are Noir perfection.



Kubrickís next film, Paths of Glory, cemented his status as a genius, but this caper stands as a crackerjack great time, even when put in the context of his latter artistic masterpieces. It was eleventh on my ballot, fifteen points.







That's eighteen of mine. I only have three of the collective Top Ten left, with three more no-shows to go along with my one-pointer.

HOLDEN'S BALLOT
2. The Killers (#22)
3. Too Late for Tears (#81)
4. The Set-Up (#46)
7. The Asphalt Jungle (#16)
8. Odd Man Out (#47)
9. Criss Cross (#44)
10. Stray Dog (#32)
11. The Killing (#11)
12. The Big Combo (#52)
13. Phantom Lady (#69)
14. Born to Kill (#84)
15. Pickup on South Street (#21)
16. The Big Heat (#17)
18. He Walked By Night (#88)
19. Fallen Angel (#80)
20. Shadow of a Doubt (#12)
22. Panic in the Streets (#98)
24. Crossfire (#51)
25. The Crimson Kimono (DNP)