Re-Watching the Classics: Dial M for Murder

I have been reviewing movies on this site for almost 10 months now and this is the first film I have looked at a film from one of the greatest directors of all time(some may say there is no question he is the greatest). I will have to say that Alfred Hitchcock is the reason I started watching classic film noir. I seen Rear Window and wanted to see more films like it and if it had Grace Kelly in it…all the better. This lead me to more Hitchcockian films and film noir. Some may argue this is not a film noir and they maybe right, it might be an early neo-noir? I’m not sure how you would classify it, all I know is it is noir.

This film is based on a play by Frederick Knott and was released in 1954. It revolves around a very small cast of characters with most of it taking place in a small apartment in England. The film starts out with Tony, played by Ray Milland and Margot played by Grace Kelly in what appears to be a happy marriage. This scene even has background music more akin to a Walt Disney movie then a Hitchcock film. After we see the kissing couple we go to the next scene with Margot kissing…a different man. This man is crime writer Mark Halliday played by Robert Cummings. This film has great dialog to tell the story as we find out Margot and Mark had an affair and Margot would have left her husband, but he has changed since Mark has been gone and now she is conflicted. In the next scene Tony has Lesgate (or is it Swann?) played by Anthony Dawson, come to the apartment to talk about selling his car. This is where Tony tells Lesgate his perfect murder and how and why Lesgate will kill his wife. When Tony and Mark go out to a dinner, Tony steps away to call his boss, but he is really calling his wife so she will be in position to be murdered by Lesgate. When Margot fights back and kills Lesgate in self-defense, Tony has to change his plans, but this may still work for Tony.

When Chief Inspector Hubbard played by John Williams gets involved in the case the tension gets cranked up a notch. With Millard and Kelly at the top of their game and Hitchcock doing some of his best work I don’t think there is any question this is an all time classic and should be watched by every movie buff. I can not imagine any fan of noir not finding this film entertaining.

But, is this a classic film noir or not? This is part of the fun of the noir genre as it is a genre with a lot of different takes on how it is classified. Other genres you recognize as soon as you watch them, Westerns, Science Fiction and Horror are easy to spot. Some people will look at a film and call it a film noir and some might say it is just a crime film or a thriller or maybe a murder mystery. Here are some argument points for and against this being classified as a film noir.


The main character of this film is a bad guy trying to pull off the perfect crime.

It has a very claustrophobic feel with most of the film taking place in a small apartment. Also both our main characters are prisoners in a marriage they do not want to be in anymore.

Characters like Margot and Lesgate have choices, but none of them are good. Tony also seems to be stuck in a situation he can not get out of, once Lesgate fails to complete Tony’s original plan.

This film does not have a happy ending for many of our characters, I will not go in-depth here because I do not want to spoil it for those that have not seen it yet.

Though Hitchcock used many techniques in filming this movie, he did go to the classic film noir well in quite a few scenes:

Like this one where he uses shadows and a fish eye point of view.

And the complete murder attempt is shot in the shadows and gives a very black and white feel.


Some say film noir can not be filmed in color, though this is not the norm, I have seen a few films in color that are considered film noir by many.

Grace Kelly character isn’t a femme fatale. This is true and some say every film noir has to have one. I don’t believe like this rule, though I love a good femme fatale, I believe there are plenty of great film noir movies without one.

I would love to hear more points from you on FOR or AGAINST this being a film noir.  Leave your point of view in the comments below.

Favorite Tidbit: Though this is almost always shown in 2D it is actually Hitchcock’s first and only attempt at 3D and was completely filmed in stereoscopic 3D. Now this is a Blu-Ray 3D I would love to see released.

Review: Cop Car

Cop Car is a recently released film on Blu-Ray after a limited run in theaters. Written by Jon Watts and Christopher D. Ford and Jon Watts also directed. Watts’ career has included a few television projects and a horror film called Clown. I am not familiar with Watts’ work other than this film, but we will soon be hearing much more from this director as he is attached to direct the new Spider-Man film from Marvel. Marvel has been very good at finding great talent to put behind the camera and they may have found another one in Watts.

Cop Car will more than likely draw its audience from Kevin Bacon fans more than Marvel fan boys, and though Bacon has a great performance in this film, the story is what drives it. One of the interesting things about this film is we do not get the whole story for any of the characters involved, but the short time that they cross paths is a mesmerizing story line. The film starts out with two young boys, played by James Freedson-Jackson and Hays Wellford, who have recently ran away from home and start walking through the country. They come upon a sheriff’s car in the middle of nowhere, seemingly abandon. After a few dares coming from both boys, they find the keys and decide to take it. Then there is a flashback to just before the kids found the car. Kevin Bacon is a Sheriff who is pulling a dead body out of the trunk of the car and is bringing it to an abandoned well. He dumps the body after some effort and when he walks back to where he parked his car, it is gone. The story continues from here as Bacon has to outsmart the dispatch as well as find his car before anybody finds that it has been stolen.

Even though this is a country-noir with vast landscapes, it has a very small cast to keep the story very tight and suspenseful. Camryn Manheim plays a witness to the kids driving the car and Shea Whigham shows up in an important role later in the film. Other than these 5, everybody else is pretty much background extras.

One aspect of this film that I loved is all the characters in this film are noir protagonists in different ways and all could be the main character of their own noir story. We just do not know that whole story and never find it out during this film. The two boys are running away from home at the beginning of the film, but we don’t know why. The Sheriff is getting rid of a dead body and again we don’t know why. Do to my policy of no spoilers I will not go into Whigham’s character, but lets just say he may have the most noir story line of them all.

This film is a must see for fans of Whigham or Bacon and I feel most noir fans will find it worth watching. All this adds up to wanting to see more work from Watts and hoping he gives the new Spider-Man a little noir flair.

Favorite Tidbit: Kevin Bacon’s wife Kyra Sedgwick is the voice of the Police Dispatch in this film.

Review: American Heist

American Heist is a new film recently released on DVD from director Sarik Andreasyan and writer Raul Inglis. This film starts with Adrien Brody getting out of prison and after a night out on the town is taken to a warehouse were he meets some old friends played by Akon and Tory Kittles who go by Sugar and Ray. He soon finds out he is going to have to payback his debts to his old friends and part of that is getting his brother, played by Hayden Christensen, involved.

One of the most interesting parts of this film is a femme fatale that does not know she is one. Jordana Brewster plays an old flame that is brought back into Christensen’s life and that attraction is used against him.

This film doesn’t have a very original or outstanding plot by any means. It does have another great performance from Brody and I liked Brewster in this as well. I don’t know why I got this vibe, maybe it was because of Brewster playing his love interest or because there is a bit of a resemblance I did not notice before, but I felt that Christensen’s part was written for Paul Walker and Christensen was just trying to do his best impression of him. This doesn’t mean Christensen did a bad job, just once this got in my head I could not get it out for the duration of the film.

While I was doing some research on this film, I found out it is actually a remake of The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery starring Steve McQueen. This movie was based on the true life incident involving the bank robber Fred William Bowerman. I have not seen this original film, but looks to have taken a lot of time and effort to be as accurate as possible. Reading a bit about The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery and the history of the bank robbery it is based on, I would say this film is very loosely based on the original film and has little to nothing to do with the real life bank robbery.  While the original took place in St. Louis and the film was made in 1959 only 6 years after the 1953 attempted bank robbery, this film takes place in a modern time frame and in New Orleans. The original didn’t have brothers involved, which is a key part of this films plot as well. I hope to watch The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery at some point and further compare the two films.

This film is not a modern-day classic that somehow slipped through the cracks. There is good reason you may not have heard of this film. That being said, it is not a horrible film and if you are in the mood for a heist film and do not want to watch Heat for the 100th time, this may fit the bill for you. I think fans of Adrien Brody will also enjoy his performance in this film.

Favorite Tidbit: Look for Hayden Christensen’s girlfriend Rachel Bilson in a small non-speaking but pivotal cameo appearance.

Articles: Film Noir’s Inner Character by Paul Bishop

Paul Bishop is a writer of crime fiction and a 35 year vet of the Los Angeles Police Department. He has written his take on classic film noir and the outside influences on it as well as why it was so popular in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Part 1 of his article concentrates on the 1940’s and can be read over at The Huffington Post here:

The second part of his article looks at the 1950’s and can be read here:

His articles are informative and I found interesting in the fact he doesn’t name any films in his article, but looks at why the films were made and why they were popular.


I came across this article written by Roger Ebert in the mid 1990’s. It’s about how popular, noir films are today and how they have changed from the classic era. It looks at many of the great neo-noir films of the mid 1990’s and breaks them down into three different categories: Classic Noir, Deadpan Noir and Neo Noir. This is a great article and talks about some films I have not revisited in a long time, but really want to take another look at them now. What do you think of the three types of noir and do they still hold up today, 20 years later?

Re-Watching the Classics: Cat People

Cat People from 1942 is a cult classic for many reasons. It has a following from film noir fans, horror fans and fans of well done B-movies.  Credit for this can be given to Val Lewton and this production of his very first film. Val Lewton used a bunch of techniques in filming and storytelling that gave him a signature style. R.K.O. gave him a small budget to make some horror films to try to compete with the Universal Monster films. Lewton took the opportunity, but ran with it in a slightly different direction. Lewton had this picture directed by Jacques Tourneur, who he used on his next few projects as well. Tourneur went on to direct his fair share of classic film noir films with his high point being Out of the Past.

This film revolves around Irena Dubrovna played by Simone Simon. She believes she is cursed and will harm any man who falls in love with her. She believes she will turn into a large cat and kill! When she catches the eye of Oliver Reed, played by Kent Smith, she has feelings for him as well. They eventually get married, but things soon start to change as Oliver is not happy in his marriage. Irena goes to a psychiatrist, played by Tom Conway, to help her overcome her fears and save her marriage. To make things worse Oliver and co-worker Alice Moore, played by Jane Randolph, start a relationship. This angers Irena and she starts to stock both of them. Does Irena really turn into a large cat or is she just going crazy? Will Alice and Oliver survive either way?

The film noir techniques used in this film are both beautiful and suspenseful. I particularly liked the swimming pool scene and the scene in the drawing-room also works well. This film would be the first time for the use of the “Lewton bus,” I will not explain that here as it may give away to much of the film, if not in story but feel. This film became a huge hit for R.K.O. and ran in theaters for a long time. In fact some critics wrote bad reviews for this, but because it was in theaters so long, some critics re-watched it and retracted some of those bad reviews. It also caused the next two Lewton films to be put on the shelf until Cat People’s theatrical run was over. Lewton’s filming style and way of making film was a big influence on film noir to come and film in general.

Well worth checking out to see how great a cheap B-movie can be done. This is a fun little film with some great performances and a twist at the end which still works today.

Article: The terror is lurking either in the home, or just outside of it”: How women writers redefined postwar noir

“Women Crime Writers: Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s and ’50s” editor Sarah Weinman did an interview with Scott Timberg over at This collection of novels looks great, with 6 of the 8 books being adapted to movies and the other two for television. This interview has a lot of great information about the women of crime fiction in the 40’s and 50’s. Check out the film interview here: