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Thread: Film noir

  1. #1
    Senior Member Receiving Daily Medication bugen's Avatar
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    Film noir

    Figured I'd make a new thread to gather comments from people on the best film noir. Here's a list of the ones I've seen as well as those that keep showing up near the top of various lists and need to be watched. I'll try to keep this updated with my own rating for each.

    Anyone please add films you think are essential noir!

    12 Angry Men
    Ace in the Hole - 4+
    Anatomy of a Murder - 5-
    Angels with Dirty Faces - 4+ (precursor)
    Asphalt Jungle - 5
    Beat the Devil
    Big Combo - 5-
    Big Heat - 5
    Big Sleep - 5- (4+)
    Blast of Silence - 4
    Blue Dahlia
    Brute Force - 4+
    Criss Cross
    Crossfire - 5-
    D.O.A. - 5-
    Dark Passage - 4
    Desperate Hours - 4+ (5-)
    Detour - 4+
    Double Indemnity - 5
    Gilda - 5-

    Glass Key
    Gun Crazy - 4+
    Honeymoon Killers - 5- (5)
    In a Lonely Place - 5
    Killers
    Killing - 5-
    Kiss Me Deadly
    Lady From Shanghai - 5-
    Lady in the Lake
    Laura - 5-
    Maltese Falcon - 5-
    Mask of Dimitrios - 4+
    Murder, My Sweet 5-
    Naked City - 4
    Night and the City
    Night of the Hunter
    Nightmare Alley
    No Man's Woman - 4
    Notorious - 5-
    Odd Man Out - 5
    On Dangerous Ground - 4+ (5-)
    On the Waterfront
    Out of the Past - 5
    Pickup on South Street - 5-
    Postman Always Rings Twice - 4
    Raw Deal - 4+ (5-)
    Rebecca - 5
    Roaring Twenties
    Rope - 5-
    Scarlet Street - 5
    Shadow of a Doubt - 5-
    Strangers on a Train - 5- (4+)
    Sunset Boulevard
    Sweet Smell of Success
    They Drive by Night
    Thieves' Highway - 4+
    Third Man - 5
    Touch of Evil - 5
    Woman in the Window - 4+
    Wrong Man
    - 5
    White Heat - 4+


    *Because the list and ratings are shaping up like they are, an additional comment should probably be included. Just in case anyone thinks, 'the ratings are all so high because he just likes everything,' please note this list was assembled by cross referencing numerous 'best of film noir' lists, as well as incorporating favorite noir as noted by the story experts on this forum. The films listed are all supposed to be bad-ass, and that seems to be bearing out.
    Last edited by bugen; 01-19-2017 at 10:30 AM.
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    Rope (1948) - directed by Alfred Hitchcock, written by Arthur Laurents (screenplay), Patrick Hamilton (play)

    Two men, morally and intellectually superior, decide to commit a murder just for the thrill. They throw a party with the victim's friends and family in attendance and his body hidden in a chest in the room, but an old college professor (Stewart) gets suspicious.

    The entire film takes place on one set, and despite the murder happening right at the film's opening, this one doesn't really get rolling until the guests arrive, particularly Jimmy Stewart. But man, it ratchets up the tension and is right up there with my favorite Hitchcock films. Loved it.

    5-
    Last edited by bugen; 12-19-2016 at 12:31 PM.
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    Senior Member 2nd Rubber Room Confinement Martin's Avatar
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    Not sure if it is really Film Noir but I have always thought of Hitchcock's Rebecca my favorite.

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    Dark Passage (1947) - directed by Delmer Daves, written by Delmer Daves (screenplay), David Goodis (novel)

    A convict escapes from prison and is aided by a woman who'd followed the events of his trial, believing him innocent. A manhunt ensues, but the convict (Humphrey Bogart) visits a plastic surgeon for facial reconstruction and slowly falls for the woman who rescued him.

    The beginning of the film is shot almost entirely in first person perspective, making it look like the greatest video game you've ever played. It's got a body count but isn't quite as dark as other, hopeless noir films--an excellent movie.

    4
    Last edited by bugen; 12-19-2016 at 12:29 PM.
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    Senior Member Receiving Daily Medication bugen's Avatar
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    I'll have to check out Rebecca, Martin, I've never seen it. Thanks for the recommendation!
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    Senior Member 2nd Rubber Room Confinement Martin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bugen View Post
    I'll have to check out Rebecca, Martin, I've never seen it. Thanks for the recommendation!
    To me Rebecca is an example of Hitchcock at his finest.
    Last edited by Martin; 12-18-2016 at 06:34 PM.

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    Gilda (1946) - directed by Charles Vidor, written by E.A. Ellington (story), Marion Parsonnet (screenplay)

    “I hated her, so I couldn’t get her out of my mind for a minute.”

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    Cynicism dresses the stage as a down on his luck but talented grifter gets an honest job at a casino from the head of a cartel that saves him from a mugging. His new boss meets and impulsively marries a woman from his past which forms a dangerous love triangle further complicated by murder.

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    A stunning Rita Hayworth freezes time with her first look toward the camera, and she plays the type of man-eating femme fatale capable of destroying everything around her. The cast turn in great performances, especially our grifter Glenn Ford, but the film sizzles because of her.

    5-

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    Last edited by bugen; 01-04-2017 at 08:25 AM.
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    Senior Member Receiving Daily Medication mhatchett's Avatar
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    I have a DVD Collection Film Noir Classic Collection Vol 3. It contains 5 classic Noir films, including 2 of my favorites, Lady in the Lake and On dangerous Ground with Robert Ryan.

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    Senior Member Receiving Daily Medication bugen's Avatar
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    Those both look good. Thanks!
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    Senior Member Starting to Drool Incessantly Theli's Avatar
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    You have a great list there, lot of good ones to investigate. I'll make a list of my favourites soon. Need to think it over, so many great ones.

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    Member Part-timer keithminnion's Avatar
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    Oh my goodness: CAGNEY!
    — Angels With Dirty Faces
    — The Roaring Twenties
    — White Heat
    ...so many more, but those are my top three.

    I second (or third?) Rebecca, as well.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Receiving Daily Medication bugen's Avatar
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    YES!! This is turning into exactly what I'd hoped! Thank you guys!!
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  13. #13
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    The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) - directed by Tay Garnett, written by Harry Ruskin, Niven Busch (screen play), James M. Cain (novel)

    A rambler falls in love with a restaurant owner's wife and the two hatch plans to murder him and be together.

    Based on James M. Cain's novel, this was an important film for the 'noir' genre and features a steamy Lana Turner as the femme fatale and John Garfield as a handsome young vagabond. A back-to-back reading of the book and viewing of the film is not recommended, however, as this is an excellent movie with strong leads and supporting members, but direct comparison to its source reveals numerous narrative weaknesses. Nevertheless, the film accomplishes its goal of telling a shocking story of murder, forbidden love and tragedy.

    In this rare situation and if you're unfamiliar with both, the recommendation is to see the film first, then read the book. That way you'll be greatly impressed both times.

    4 stars
    Last edited by bugen; 12-19-2016 at 12:26 PM.
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    Out of the Past (1947) - directed by Jacques Tourneur; written by Daniel Mainwaring (screenplay and novel)

    “Did you miss me?”
    “No more than I would my eyes.”


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    An ex-P.I. (Robert Mitchum) is sent to track down the wayward girlfriend (Jane Greer) of his old boss (Kirk Douglas). He finds her, falls in love, and ends up in a complicated web of danger and deceit.

    This movie is every bit the equal of Double Indemnity, until now my champion of film noir. There’s no victor emerging here, but one thing is clear: without these films, there’s no Aaron Sorkins or David Mamets. And without the Sorkins or Mamets, who’s going to teach screenwriters how to write?

    With modern Hollywood being sex squeezed into negligees, the contrast of film noir femme fatales as personified danger and clothed in class is... black and white. This time our leading lady is sweet and innocent; sweet like sugar in the air, innocent like a librarian nun leading girl scouts. The danger surfaces later, as it does the day after your first cocaine binge. Sweet, innocent and deadly like a religious war or nuclear pocket rockets.

    So you get this:

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    If you don’t recognize this look, consider yourself quite lucky—you haven’t encountered a soul-swallowing monster. Nobody walks away from this, and those who survive, limp.

    The transfer on the Blu-ray viewed was nothing short of spectacular. It’s a miracle this film looks as good as it does, and that miracle comes at the expense of a (very) large pile of cash from the studio and the meticulous fingers of a talented group of artists capable of restoring it to this extent. It snaps, crackles and pops, using a bitrate that should make modern studio blockbusters blush and quietly go home with their PIPs and puff pieces wasting valuable disc space. You cannot ask for better picture quality from this age than what you get here.

    This is exactly the movie you want to watch if you're new to film noir--it will knock you over.

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    “I don’t want to die.”
    “Neither do I, baby. But if I have to, I’m gonna die last.”


    5 stars
    Last edited by bugen; 12-19-2016 at 12:34 PM.
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    Senior Member Starting to Drool Incessantly Theli's Avatar
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    You're off to a great start so far!

    Some favourites off the top of my head:

    The Maltese Falcon
    The Big Sleep
    Ace in the Hole
    Double Indemnity
    Touch of Evil
    Laura
    Sunset Boulevard
    Out of the Past
    The Third Man
    Night of the Hunter
    The Mask of Dimitrios

    Note on Fritz Lang and the origin of film noir:

    Film noir is a distinctly American style of film. And in that distinctly American way it takes old world influences and adapts them to new world sensibilities. Often portraying stories of the weak, criminal, down-trodden, working class and/or a darker side of the American way of life, in a way representing the American dream turned nightmare. And this nightmare imagery is often inspired by the shadow-laden and surreal visuals of expressionist film, most often from the German school.

    How doe Fritz Lang fit into this? While living in Germany Lang was one of the most noted proponents of the expressionist style. His films had a much grander scope (and budgets) than many of his contemporaries, but the style similarities were there. His most lauded and well known film, Metropolis, was filmed in Germany in 1927, and though you would be hard pressed to call it film noir, you can see what would become his main subject and medium in years to come already developing; working class people struggling to survive highlighted by stark shadowy imagery. Even by that point Lang had embraced his interest in crime and repentance, though perhaps more romanticized, with Dr. Mabuse the Gambler and Four Around the Woman. What is arguably the first film noir though, or at least it’s first true progenitor, is Lang’s crime classic M.

    M combined the expressionist visual style of Lang’s previous works as well as the dark, but real world, subject matter he would eventually become known for. The story is the first movie to be based around a serial killer, but not in a gaudy gory way, though it is disturbing, especially since our killer is not just a serial killer but child murderer, it’s most disturbing aspects are on a psychological level. Interesting, too, is how Lang explores the criminal underworld, not just the demented and psychotic killer himself, with a sympathetic eye and ear. It also introduced the wider film world to mad genius that is Peter Lorre in one of his most manic portrayals.

    Even if that was where Lang’s career ended he would remain an important footnote in film history and film noir especially. But it was not. Lang went on to create a plethora of crime and film noir movies. Starting with the sequel to his crime epic The Gambler Dr. Mabuse in 1932 called the Testament of Dr. Mabuse, just before he fled Germany to live in the US. Once getting situated in the US his film career changed, his budgets were leaner and meaner than previously available in Europe, and his craft had to be honed to fit this new medium. His first US film was Fury, the story of a wrongly accused man trying to avenge himself on the people who framed him for a crime. He followed it up with another taut dark drama, You Only Live Once. His career flourished in the US and he created many more film noir styled movies, Scarlet Street, Clash by Night, While the City Sleeps, Blue Gardenia, and arguably his best American film, Big Heat. Though it’s a tough choice between his film noir entries, I think I might like his most surreal inclusion in the genre, The Secret Beyond the Door, most of all.

    Not everyone would agree that Lang was the creator of film noir, some would attribute that to John Huston, director of The Maltese Falcon (not even the first adaptation of the Hammett novel). And I can actually see that point of view. With that film Huston tighten the style first explored my Lang, and even few other directors, into a concise art form, one that good be imitated (if not duplicated), and because of the spurred the sub-genre to flourish. Because of it we had great films from some of the cheapest no name studios to others featuring the biggest name sin film. Interesting about Huston is that the Maltese Falcon was his first film, and arguably his best. It also made Bogart a big name, and featured pioneering film noir actor Peter Lorre in a diminutive but delightful roll. His film noir career did not end there, he went on to make several more, including Key Largo (featuring original gangster Edward G. Robinson and film noir’s dynamic due Bogart and Bacall) and Asphalt Jungle (a favourite of mine). Huston even featured in Roman Polanski neo-noir classic Chinatown in one of the most depraved and disturbing roles in film.

    Last note: though Billy Wilder came a bit later than the aforementioned directors his few inclusions in the genre are all top notch! Interesting his James M. Cain adaptation, Double Indemnity, screenplay was co-written by Raymond Chandler (he hated Wilder), but despite how freaking awesome that movie is, Sunset Boulevard and Ace in the Hole (one of the darkest films in the genre) may even surpass it.

    Edit: Real last note: I didn't include Casablanca or Citizen Kane, not because they are not amazing film, I just don't consider them to be film noir. They are from the right era and share much in the way of cinematography and even subject matter, but there's just some crucial element that seems to be lacking from me. Maybe not depraved enough, maybe that they almost seem to celebrate life, where as film noir tends to just show you life for what it is, warts and all.
    Last edited by Theli; 12-19-2016 at 05:07 PM.

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    Senior Member Receiving Daily Medication bugen's Avatar
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    Thanks for the write-up and recommendations, Theli! Really looking forward to Ace in the Hole! The Big Heat is on my list to see, and I'm looking into The Ministry of Fear and Scarlet Street and we'll see where it goes from there for Fritz Lang.

    It's been a long time since I've seen Casablanca, but until I can give it another watch I like the idea of it in the noir genre. One of the things I liked about it so much back in the day was it didn't have that Hollywood ending that everything else does. You're right, it's not as bleak as typical noir films, but since it was so much darker than other classic films I'd seen at the time that gave it a special place. I'll probably upgrade my DVD to the 70th anniversary BD before checking it out again. Citizen Kane I consider overrated (gasp) but will check it out again one day and possibly change my tune. It's been forever since I've seen it.
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    Senior Member Receiving Daily Medication bugen's Avatar
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    The Big Sleep (1946 version) - directed by Howard Hawks, written by William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett & Jules Furthman (screenplay), Raymond Chandler (novel)

    OK, this one's different. It's got great beats, gorgeous women (all over the place), procedural crime, Humphrey Bogart, and it's one of the most damned-complicated plots seen in movies and has a large list of characters. Seriously, you better be right up on top of you're game if you want to catch this one the first time through. I had a rough time following but think I got (most of) it.

    The dialogue is fantastic, with sharp wit and banter all film long. There seems to be two ways to watch this. Let go, and let it wash over you, or bite down and hang on like a terrier to figure out the convoluted plot. The experience makes me want to rate a 4+, but instinct says a second watch will clear up some of the fuzz and allow a smoother ride through a crazy, dark film.

    5- (4+) stars
    Last edited by bugen; 12-20-2016 at 09:20 AM.
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    Senior Member Receiving Daily Medication bugen's Avatar
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    The Third Man (1949) - directed by Carol Reed, written by Graham Greene

    A broke American writer (Joseph Cotton) receives a job offer from his friend (Orson Welles) and travels to post-war Vienna to accept. On arrival he finds his friend has been hit by a car and killed. As our writer asks a few questions and receives answers from various witnesses, he realizes their stories don't quite make sense and begins looking into his friend's death which he suspects is murder, and he immediately runs afoul of police.

    This British noir is surprisingly funny as our writer bumbles his way through an area in the foreign city where multiple languages are spoken and many people can't understand each other, and the lively music heightens the humor. Many people consider film noir American only; nevertheless, this one appears in multiple best of noir lists. It's smart, funny, and has an outstanding, poignant ending.

    5 stars
    Last edited by bugen; 12-20-2016 at 05:26 PM.
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    Senior Member Starting to Drool Incessantly Theli's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by keithminnion View Post
    Oh my goodness: CAGNEY!
    — Angels With Dirty Faces
    — The Roaring Twenties
    — White Heat
    ...so many more, but those are my top three.

    I second (or third?) Rebecca, as well.
    A lot of Cagney's (along with Edward G. Robinson's) early flicks were more gangster than noir to me (but honestly it just comes down to labeling, which is at least somewhat subjective), great flicks nonetheless. Kiss Tomorrow Good Bye was a solid flick too, and like White Heat, more in the film noir category than his earlier works. Great actor.

    When you've you worked your way through most of your list Andrew, drop me a line. I've watched a lot of lesser known film noir too and could probably give you some more tips. Honestly though your first list there has most of the greats, and you're doing damn good working your way through it so far.

    Quote Originally Posted by bugen View Post
    The Third Man (1949) - directed by Carol Reed, written by Graham Greene

    A broke American writer (Joseph Cotton) receives a job offer from his friend and travels to post-war Vienna to accept. On arrival he finds his friend (Orson Welles) has been hit by a car and killed. As our writer asks a few questions and receives answers from various witnesses, he realizes their stories don't quite make sense and begins looking into his friends death which he suspects is murder, immediately running afoul of police.

    This British noir is surprisingly funny as our writer bumbles his way through an area in the foreign city where multiple languages are spoken and many people can't understand each other, and the lively music heightens the humor. Many people consider film noir American only; nevertheless, this one nevertheless appears in multiple best of noir lists. It's smart, funny, and has an outstanding, poignant ending.

    5 stars
    Though it is mostly an American art form, you will find films like this one, and the Mask of Dimitrios and a few other that prove the exception.
    Last edited by Theli; 12-20-2016 at 03:32 PM.

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    Senior Member Receiving Daily Medication bugen's Avatar
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    Thanks for the offer, Theli. I'll definitely hit you up when the time comes, after I've got a strong footing.
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