Film Noir HoF III

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Think you used enough dynamite there, Butch?
watched Double Indemnity last night and since I have exactly the same to say about it as I did when I rewatched it for the Second 40s HoF I'll just cut and paste my review from there:




Double Indemnity

Walter Neff: How could I have known that murder could sometimes smell like honeysuckle?

Considered a MUST SEE for anyone who enjoys noir films this was co-written by a decective-story great, and creator of Philip Marlowe; Raymond Chandler, and his style of colorful penmanship is all over this film.
The other writer? None other than Billy Wilder.

This film has all the usual pieces to a clever scam going to hell. With a femme fatale; Barbara Stanwyck, whom I really love when she plays it tough. When she plays the nervous/scared damsel it doesn't seem real. Or perhaps that's the point, since it's all a charade anyway. One you can see on multiple scenes when she watches Murray's character walk away; and if you know what you're looking for, you do see behind the mask. Though she does hide it VERY well.
She truly shined in the final confrontation. Sitting coldly on the sofa as things fell apart between her and Murray and the tension was very well done.

As for Murray, he played the sucker perfectly. Making the plays and the orchestrating the plans without the slightest clue he was the one being used. Though I must say I never had any sympathy for him, while I did enjoy him trying to play it cool.
But I really think that has to do with the bias of being so used to him playing Walt Disney films when I was a kid; like Flubber and Shaggy D.A. Never mind the sitcom; My Three Sons. So any time I ever watched this, those characters always stuck in my head.

The final character, Murray's boss played with his usual excellence is my man Edward G Robinson. I think some of my favorite scenes included Murray and Robinson; especially the closing scene of this movie.
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Think you used enough dynamite there, Butch?



Murder My Sweet

Philip Marlowe: She was a charming middle-aged lady with a face like a bucket of mud. I gave her a drink. She was a gal who'd take a drink, if she had to knock you down to get the bottle.

I've seen this film a couple of times and have always enjoyed it. Besides the fact that I do enjoy a good crime/noir film - following it's author's prose, there is sarcasm galore here as well. Along with some great use of camera trickery to delve into the narration and "feel" of this gum shoe tale of playing the sitting duck for the blind with unlimited ammo.

As I've mentioned previously, there's been several actors who have played Chandler's iconic Philip Marlowe, Powell does an excellent job playing the sarcastic, non violent detective who loves to drink and parley with. . . hell, pretty much everyone. And this film seems to epitomize a Chandler story while delving into the prose that would become the staple of the genre as well as some of the mannerisms, (the [email protected] in particular) to so many private dicks and cops to come. Hell, even Clint Eastwood's bad @ss Dirty Harry was a [email protected]; ya know.

Any ole flavor, this is a very fun detective romp with some great visuals and all the noir tropes that made it such a great genre to behold and be entertained by.



Double Indemnity (1944)


Now we're talking. Double Indemnity is a big step forward in characters and writing in general over the two previous films I watched. It doesn't have the noir looks of Murder, My Sweet, but it's considerably darker and more cynical as a story, and it doesn't overdo the sarcasm and humor.

Neff is little like Marlowe with his sardonic comments and, at times, arrogance. He feels like a cocky and overly confident man who thinks he's in control while in truth he's out of his element. Marlowe should know he's begging for trouble, but it's believable that Neff has illusions about his intellectual superiority.

Phyllis is a traditional femme fatale who plays on Neff's arrogance. Her introduction to Neff is a little hasty, but besides that, I like how the plot evolves. The more we learn about her past, the clearer it becomes that she's just using everyone to get what she wants. Her end felt a little weak, though. Likewise, the supporting cast is great, especially Keyes.

There are small issues with the plot (like it seems an obvious blunder to go for the titular double indemnity), but for the most parts, everything fits nicely together. Double Indemnity has a solid script at its core (even the Chandler's ironic narration works here). Its visuals are little behind the writing, but it's still a good movie.
Really like your review, but I must take issue (slight as it is) with your criticism regarding the plot, and your opinion of the double Indemnity being a blunder.
Surely, you’re aware that was the point?
Never mind the fact that people have indeed killed their spouses for the life insurance before, but in the film it was obvious that it was indeed a mistake for him to have gotten mixed up in it to begin with, because such a clause would always be under close scrutiny.



watched Double Indemnity last night and since I have exactly the same to say about it as I did when I rewatched it for the Second 40s HoF I'll just cut and paste my review from there
I haven't rewatched Double Indemnity yet, but I feel like I'll be doing something similar, since I'm not sure how differently I can word my opinion from what I wrote previously - assuming it hasn't changed, that is. That's the downside of having films appear in multiple HoFs.



The Third Man
Who killed Harry Lime? And for that matter, why don’t the police care? These are the questions Holly, Harry’s college friend and novelist, wants to know. But as the uncovers the truth about Harry, he may wish he left well enough alone.
Featuring a fantastic score, a labyrinthine plot, and fantastic editing, The Third Man draws you in centered around Holly’s search for the truth.
And of course, Orson Welles as Harry Lime, with that smirk and famous “cuckoo clock” speech, embracing the shadows that seem to envelope him as much as the mystery that surrounds his life and death.
This is among a handful of films that I can watch every other year or so because it remains such an intriguing film, and the images of war torn Vienna stand out, with ruined buildings and rubble laying around helping to give a bleak and somber tone throughout.

Great nomination! I’ve been wanting to see this again for the past few months since it had been years since I last watched it. Too long in fact. Was so glad to see it here.



Geez! I didn’t even mention the acting!
Welles in particular is so amazing in this film. He hides his sinister personality well with such charm and a face that suggests he could have been anyone’s best friend. And that was the point. He came to to with such a friendly demeanor that one would never have noticed the knife in his hand until it was in their back.
And Cotten plays the part of a novelist who quickly realized he was in way over his head. He plays the character as both naive and cuckold, as he falls for not only the lovey Anna, but also the charm of Lime. It isn’t until near the end that he realizes he had no clue about what was going on. By then, he realizes that his novels were nothing compared to real life, and nothing could have prepared him for it.
And that final scene......well, let’s just say that it was so famous that The Departed paid a homage to it.



Murder, My Sweet (1944)

This is not only one of the first Hollywood films noir (preceded only by Double Indemnity and The Maltese Falcon), but it is one of the all time very best, virtually defining the style.

Most viewers are aware that the film’s title was changed from Raymond Chandler’s original Farewell, My Lovely because preview audiences thought that the title suggested a musical comedy, and also because the star Dick Powell was solidly known as a musical comedy lead. But what I newly learned was that RKO had purchased the rights from Chandler in 1942, and had used a similar story with most of the same characters in the film The Falcon Takes Over (1942), starring George Sanders as “The Falcon”, but with no Philip Marlowe character in the adaption.

Dick Powell etched a superb performance playing Marlowe as a hard-boiled, but human shamus with a sense of humor. The performance highly impressed RKO’s studio head, and forever changed the types of roles that Powell would play. The cast itself has no weak portrayals, and the ensemble worked together and separately like a fine Swiss watch.

The plot is convoluted and tricky, as are most of Chandler’s stories. As in his other novels various taboo subjects such as homosexuality and drug addiction had to be soft pedaled and de-emphasized due to the Hays Code. But Marlowe is in on solving the mystery, and there is a very gratifying ending with Powell and Anne Shirley.

Mention must be made of Edward Dmytryk’s superb direction of a faithful screenplay by John Paxton. Dmytryk had done a number of good WWII films, but it was “My Sweet” that really cemented his stock. He went on to direct Crossfire, The Caine Mutiny, The Carpetbaggers, and many other wonderful films. We can thank his deft spinning of a dark and mysterious mood into Chandler’s work, which literally defined film noir.

There have been a number of Philip Marlowes portrayed in American feature film adaptions of Chandler novels. My personal ranking of the actors in order are: Humphrey Bogart, Dick Powell, Robert Mitchum, Robert Montgomery, James Garner, Elliot Gould, James Caan, and George Montgomery.



...

"I only took the job because my bank account was trying to crawl under a duck."

What the hell does that mean? ...

Heh, heh. It means it was trying to hide. It was so low that it was hidden..



Really like your review, but I must take issue (slight as it is) with your criticism regarding the plot, and your opinion of the double Indemnity being a blunder.
Surely, you’re aware that was the point?
Never mind the fact that people have indeed killed their spouses for the life insurance before, but in the film it was obvious that it was indeed a mistake for him to have gotten mixed up in it to begin with, because such a clause would always be under close scrutiny.
People might not know now that back in the 1940s-50s with the Hays Code, audiences already knew the outcome of the movie from the start. As the criminals could never get away with it.

Heh, heh. It means it was trying to hide. It was so low that it was hidden..
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Thanks Doc.



I don't think I can write anything better that what I already wrote here:
The Third Man (1949)

The Third Man is a well made movie with a tight, intelligent script. Joseph Cotton is pivotal as the overly curious American writer...A stranger in a strange land, who's trying to find out why his friend Harry was killed. Cotton's combination of nativity about the workings of the Vienna post war black market and his constant badgering of the British Major, give the film it's tension.

The film has three main focal points: Was Harry Lime murdered and if so by who? Was Harry involved in the seedy black market or not? And who's the mysterious third man that supposedly witnessed the traffic accident?

Joseph Cotton is perfectly cast as the likable American writer. His counterbalance is the surly British Major, aptly played by Trevor Howard. The love interest is the actress, Valli. She does a good job though she never really stands out from the crowd. For standing out of the crowed we need Orson Welles. Orson's role fits him like a glove. Only Orson could play a rogue character charged with crimes and still be likable in an impish way. There's also a cute dog and kitty in the film, both have a reason for their screen time.

With all this praise, I do have a complaint...The music score. Which was composed of a zither stringed instrument. The music score was both a distraction and annoying. The other complaint is the constant overuse of the Dutch Angle shot. Normally this is used sparingly and only to show great tension or chaos in a scene. Here it was over used.

The Third Man is a intelligently written film noir, with exceptional acting and fine directing.




Really like your review, but I must take issue (slight as it is) with your criticism regarding the plot, and your opinion of the double Indemnity being a blunder.
Surely, you’re aware that was the point?
Never mind the fact that people have indeed killed their spouses for the life insurance before, but in the film it was obvious that it was indeed a mistake for him to have gotten mixed up in it to begin with, because such a clause would always be under close scrutiny.
My point was that Neff, as a long time insurance salesman with a close relationship with Keyes, should have been aware that such a clause would bring extra scrutiny. To me, it seems a little too arrogant plan even for him.

I don't really understand what you mean with the last chapter though. Of course, people have killed (and will kill) for money and (at least) in the common moral sense it's a mistake. I just disagree that the mistake part shouldn't have been underlined as much by stupidly going for the double money.

People might not know now that back in the 1940s-50s with the Hays Code, audiences already knew the outcome of the movie from the start. As the criminals could never get away with it.
I kind of tend to forget that it's because of the Hays Code, but I'm aware of the tendency. With Double Indemnity there's never really question of that as the film practically starts with Neff making his confession, though.
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The Stranger (1946)

I've seen this before and the first time that I watched it I was disappointed and I think I know why. I expected to see one thing, and what was actually on the screen was quite different than what I had imaged...Which lead me to compare my preconceived expectations against what I thought a noir should be. But noir wasn't even known at the time of this movie.

On my third watch of The Stranger, I realized that this can't be held to some standard of what a noir is or isn't. That's not what the film was aiming for. If anything The Stranger reminds me of Hitchcock's suspense-thrillers of the 1940s. And when viewed in that light, The Stranger works quiet well.

Welles keen eye for angles and lighting and mastery of the camera is in full play here. There were numerous low angle shots, high angle shots, birds eye view shots, that were the hallmark of Welles films. Perhaps the most notably shot he does is mid range lens close focused on the subject in the corner foreground while in the opposite background corner is another subject. It's very distinctive as shown in my photo I used.

I know today people might say Nazis, spies & secrets, that's old hat. Well it's an old movie! and when it was made right after the war, escaped Nazis and the fear that they could be working covertly in small innocuous towns, was quite a real fear.

This time around, I really appreciated spending time with the characters and watching the story unfold and of course taking in the mastery of director Orson Welles. I enjoyed this!

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L.A. Confidential


L.A. Confidential starts off by introducing 3 very different officers of the law in rapid succession at the very beginning. They couldn’t be more different from each other, and for the next 2 plus hours we become so involved with them, we see ourselves having a beer with them. That’s how well fleshed our they are.
Wendell “Bud” White, played with amazing tenderness and intensity by Russell Crowe, is perhaps The one with the most depth. He’s seen as nothing but a brute, prone to violence. He’s used to beat prisoners at a hotel, but his real passion is defending the helpless women he seeks to protect.
Haunted by his past failure to protect his mother, he refuses to allow that to happen to any other woman on his watch. Smarter then he looks, his brawn hides the desire to do more.
Jack Vincennes is a detective played by Kevin Spacey, one who basks in the glory his side job as a consultant for a TV show. He also does side jobs for a magazine run by Danny Devitto. Eventually his conscience catches up to him. Watch those eyes of his when he realizes he has been betrayed.
Finally we have Edmund "Ed" Exley, played by Guy Pearce, who represents the idealist rookie who isn’t above taking advantage of a situation for his own career. He refuses to take payoffs and refuses to break the law to uphold a conviction, however. His transformation at the end is thus all the more shocking.
The plot move along at such a graceful pace that we’re never lost for one moment. *The dialogue crackles with moments of self realization with each character, as they come to realize that they’re caught up in a conspiracy that runs deeper then even they could have imagined.
And then there’s Lynn Bracken, a Veronica Lake look alike, played by Kim Basinger in her greatest role ever, one that netted her an Oscar. She plays Bracken as a vulnerable yet strong women who gets caught between White and Exley.
I remember seeing this shortly after it was released on dvd, and was enthralled by it 22 years ago, and remember it as being the best film of 1997. This should have won Best Picture, but Titanic was too much to overcome. Over the years, I’ve seen it about 5 more times, and I neve grow tired of it.
Filled with great performances, great scenes and authentic dialogue, one feels like they are transported to 1953. And when it ends, you want to go back for more.



I decided earlier that I wanted to watch The Stranger next, but before I turned it on I checked the forums, and saw that CR had recently posted his review of the same film. Little coincidences like that always amuse me haha.

I couldn't help but notice the checkers board whenever it was in frame. With the exception of when the clerk is playing with Rankin, the pieces were always askew, on the lines, or in the wrong blocks altogether, and it strangely bothered me. But now I wonder if that was somehow intentional. Wilson was never paying much attention to the board after all, and Potter is shown to be a cheat, so perhaps he's using the chaos to his advantage, or hoping that his opponent isn't familiar enough with the game to even realize it. Or (more likely) I am reading way too much into this haha.



I decided earlier that I wanted to watch The Stranger next, but before I turned it on I checked the forums, and saw that CR had recently posted his review of the same film. Little coincidences like that always amuse me haha.

I couldn't help but notice the checkers board whenever it was in frame. With the exception of when the clerk is playing with Rankin, the pieces were always askew, on the lines, or in the wrong blocks altogether, and it strangely bothered me. But now I wonder if that was somehow intentional. Wilson was never paying much attention to the board after all, and Potter is shown to be a cheat, so perhaps he's using the chaos to his advantage, or hoping that his opponent isn't familiar enough with the game to even realize it. Or (more likely) I am reading way too much into this haha.
You might be onto something there. I didn't notice the checkerboard being askew...I should go rewatch that segment and see.



I should go rewatch that segment and see.
I'll save you the trouble, though I just realized that I definitely resized the screen caps too small haha. Hopefully you can still see the pieces well enough.

Here are two different games against Wilson. The pieces are all over the place.



However when Potter asks if Rankin will play him (but is turned down), and in a later scene when they do actually play, the pieces are organized correctly.

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It could be intentional, or someone simply jostled the board in the earlier scenes haha. Maybe whoever was setting the table was extra careful for the shots Welles was personally in. I was pretty certain that I was over-analyzing it when I brought it up, but it's something that really stuck out to me for some reason. I think I just have a weird eye for those things.




Double Indemnity (1944)


Double Indemnity is the perfect noir. Billy Wilder - and the rest of the cast and crew - doesn't miss a beat, packing Hitchcockian suspense, typical Wilder wit, and a remarkably unpredictable and fascinating plot into a two hour film. It's tremendous. Every shot is well thought out. Every line.

It's one of the great experiences in cinema to just sit back and let magic unfold in front of you. Double Indemnity is like that. How it all unravels, how the characters - and the audience - puts the pieces together, it's so brilliant. I wanted to restart the movie right after I finished, because this is a special one.

While admittedly Fred MacMurray's performance is a little stiff (although that's just the character he plays too), Stanwyck fantastically portrays one of the great femme fatales. As Phyllis she pops out on the screen, stealing every scene she's in. She's the "antagonist" but I loved her character. Fascinating motivations are what makes a villain great, and that is why Phyllis is so great.

Of course that is all due to the script that Billy Wilder (and Chandler and Cain) wrote, based on an earlier novel. The screenplay is a masterclass in how to tell a suspenseful (and rather thick) story, while wittily introducing and building characters (I can see the guy who would go on to write Some Like it Hot). If Hitchcock is the master of suspense, Wilder it the master of the script. Both directors build their action and climaxes in different ways, and that leads to different - and equally splendid - results.

In the end, Double Indemnity captivated me for nearly two hours. There were moments when I held my breath, chuckled at a cheeky joke, and flat out dropped my jaw. Not only does Double Indemnity have the twists and turns to make you engaged, it has the brains and the skillful film making to make you in awe of one of the best (and most important) film noirs out there.

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