Review: Bewitched(1945)

Bewitched is a suspenseful classic film noir from 1945 and has nothing to do with the television series by the same name that would come later. This film is written and directed by Arch Oboler. This is a very short film at only a bit over one hour-long.

This story revolves around Phyllis Thaxter who is about to be married. She has a split personality and is trying to control her other self. The film opens at her engagement party where she says she is hearing voices and soon faints. As her other self starts to take over, she leaves her boyfriend and family to go to the big city and start over. She soon falls for a lawyer there and her fiance from her hometown soon finds her. Her evil personality soon takes over and kills the fiance. Her new boyfriend takes on the case to defend her against the murder charges. Will she be able to control her evil personality? Will her lawyer boyfriend save her from the death penalty?

This is an interesting look at split personalities from the 1940’s. The film is obviously short and really glosses over the psychology and science of split personality but I still found it intriguing. The film also has a few interesting scenes, with fade ins and outs as well as the final scene as Thaxter’s split personalities battle it out. Thaxter is also very good in this, only her second film. She went on to have a long career as an actress but never moved up to the A list. Though this all sounds like it is a good film, I would say it is an OK film with some compelling highlights. I think classic film noir fans will find the film worth seeing, but is not a film I would say is a “must see.”

Review: The Bribe

Five great stars in a daring drama of love and adventure! Well that tag line does sum up this film with an amazing cast. We have Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner, Vincent Price, Charles Laughton and John Hodiak in a film noir from 1949 directed by Robert Z. Leonard. The Bribe is based on a short story by Frederick Nebel and maybe the film should have been a bit shorter also.

This story starts with Robert Taylor’s character sent to a Central America to find out who is selling plane engines on the black market. He is told who his suspects are and he must find who is behind the illegal sales. The main suspect is Ava Gardner’s husband played by John Hodiak. To get closer to Hodiak it makes sense to get close to Gardner. Then of course Taylor falls for Gardner and Gardner soon starts to feel something for Taylor. Vincent Price plays a wealthy fisherman that Taylor also starts to suspect. Laughton plays the ruffled and uncomfortable odd ball that always seems to be around the motel, another suspect for Taylor. The plot twists and turns as Taylor don’t know who to believe or trust as alliances change throughout the film. Can he trust Gardner or is she a femme fatale? Will Taylor find who is selling the plane engines?

This film is 98 minutes long and drags a bit in the middle. I think this would have been a lot better film if it was edited down a few minutes to keep the tension high. I do have to say the film is worth watching for the last scene, it is pretty incredible. I also enjoy Gardner, Laughton, and Price, who have a presence that is always entertaining.

This is worth watching if you are a big fan of any of the 5 stars, but I think this cast was wasted in this film. It just seems to be missing something. It is still an entertaining film if you are a film noir fan.

Article: The couple who invented Nordic Noir

The Telegraph has a great little article by Jake Kerridge. Kerridge interviews Maj Sjöwall about her and her partner, Per Wahlöö, and their Nordic Noir book series about detective Martin Beck. In the article it goes over how these two influenced a lot of current greats like Lee Child and Henning Mankell. This is a short article worth your time if you are fans of Nordic Noir like Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbø. Here is a link to the full article:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/authorinterviews/11741385/The-couple-who-invented-Nordic-Noir.html

Hardboiled Wonderland 90 Crime Flick Picks From the 90s

Noir author Jedidiah Ayres commented on my “Taste of Cinema’s Best 20 Neo-Noir Films of the 1990’s” post I had earlier in the week. That post is here:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/07/16/taste-of-cinema-the-20-best-neo-noir-films-of-the-1990s/

Here is Ayers’ comment on the list: “Not. A. Single. John Dahl pick? No The Grifters, After Dark My Sweet, Lone Star, City of Industry, Little Odessa, The Indian Runner, Fresh, Lost Highway, Hard Eight, Copland? Oh well, controversy is fun. My picks (it woulda been hard to narrow to 20)”

Well I agree with him! Like he said narrowing it down to 20 would be hard, so why not just put all the greats on the list and come up with 90! So here is the link to Ayers’ Top 90 of the 90’s:

http://letterboxd.com/jedidiahayres/list/hardboiled-wonderland-90-crime-flick-picks/

I love this list, but I only have one thing to say Jedidiah, how could you have a 90 Best Crime Films of the 1990’s without Fight Club, Silence of the Lambs and Pulp Fiction on the list? Oh well, controversy is fun.

Article: Neo-Noiriste John Dahl

I came across this article on John Dahl, who’s first three films are all great neo-noir films. Those are Kill Me Again, Red Rock West and The Last Seduction. He made a couple more noirish greats in Rounders and Joy Ride.

This article maybe a little dated, since it was written in 2010, but for the most part very little has changed in the movie industry since then and Dahl has some good points. One thing Dahl doesn’t touch on in this article is television. Maybe television is the place where people can be a little more experimental and free to try what they want. It’s interesting that since this article Dahl has exclusively worked on television and has directed episodes of some of the great neo-noir series in the last 5 years including Breaking Bad, Dexter, Terriers, Arrow, Hannibal, Ray Donovan, Justified, Aquarius and more. Check out the full article below:

http://www.soundonsight.org/neo-noiriste-john-dahl/

Do you feel neo-noir is moved out of the theater and onto are T.V. screens?

Review: The Mask of Dimitrios

The Mask of Dimitrios is a film noir from 1944 with the dynamic noir duo of  Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet. This is the first feature film of director Jean Negulesco. Negulesco was slated to direct the Maltese Falcon in 1941, but was soon replaced by John Huston. He finally got his big break with this film and went on to a great career as a director in Hollywood. He also teamed up with Lorre and Greenstreet for a few more films. This is also the first film of Zachary Scott. This movie is based on the book A Coffin for Dimitrios by Eric Ambler.

Our story starts with a dead body washing up on shore in Turkey. This body is identified to be Dimitrios Makropoulos,a slick criminal that Colonel Haki has taken special interest in. Haki is played by Kurt Katch in this film. Colonel Haki in this film is the same character played by Orson Welles in Journey Into Fear a year earlier. I reviewed Journey Into Fear here:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/06/26/review-journey-into-fear/

Haki tells Cornelius Leyden, played by Lorre, a time line of Dimitrios’ crimes and past locations. Leyden is an author of detective stories and is intrigued by Dimitrios’ story and decides to further investigate him for a future book. As Leyden starts his investigation at the records office in Greece we soon see Mr. Peters…or is it Mr. Peterson? played by Greenstreet following Leyden. They soon meet on a train as Mr. Peters tells Leyden where to stay at his next stop. This film also uses flashback scenes to tell Dimitrios’ story as Leyden learns more and more about him. The mystery grows as we learn more about Dimitrios’ past. Will we find the connection between Mr. Peters and Dimitrios? Will we find out how Dimitrios died and why? Will Leyden get the story he wants for his next book?

This film has a pretty interesting story and hooks you as you want to learn more. I have to say though, my favorite parts of this film are the scenes of simple conversation between the two leads. Greenstreet and Lorre are two great actors and how they deliver their lines and interact with each other are some of the best I have ever seen. I can see why they where teamed up for 9 films together.

Zachary Scott is also very good as the title character, playing a smart charming criminal and spy.

The Mask of Dinitrios is a film noir I never really heard about until TCM’s Summer of Darkness. I liked the two leads in the Maltese Falcon and other films and was intrigued. This was a big hit when it was released in 1944 and not sure why it is not talked about more these days. This film is amazing and worth seeing for any classic film lover. If you are a fan of any of the three leads, and who isn’t?, you will love this film.

Favorite Tidbit: The character Dimitrios Makropoulos is inspired by Basil Zaharoff, a Greek-born arms dealer who became one of the richest man in the world and was known as “merchant of death” and “mystery man of Europe.”

Taste of Cinema: The 20 Best Neo-Noir Films Of The 1990s

Terek Puckett has picked his favorite neo-noir films from the 1990’s and it’s a pretty good list. There are a few films from the Far East I have not seen yet and will be putting in my Queue. There are also a few films that did not make the list that most, including myself, feel should be on it. He explains himself in the opening of the article why he didn’t put some of these on the list. Hopefully you will find the list as entertaining as I did and maybe find a film or two that you haven’t seen or even heard of. Here is the link to the full list:

http://www.tasteofcinema.com/2014/the-20-best-neo-noir-films-of-the-1990s/

Review: Nora Prentiss

OK, after watching this and Woman on the Run, which came out three years later and I reviewed earlier on this site, I’m a huge fan of Ann Sheridan. Nora Prentiss is a classic film noir from 1947 directed by Vincent Sherman.

This is a unique film in the classic film noir period. The first scene is a man covering his face and not wanting to talk to the press. The press is asking if “he really killed him” and similar questions. If it was not for this scene letting us know we are going into some dark noir story in this film, we may not think it was noir film for the first 40 minutes or so. The first part of this film is a love story between Dr. Richard Talbot played by Kent Smith and Nora Prentiss played by Sheridan. They meet when Nora is accidentally hit by a car and is brought to Dr. Talbot for examination.

Nora flirts with the Doctor and has him drive her home. When she finds out he is married, she apologizes for being fresh with him. Of course it is too late as Dr. Talbot is already having feelings for Nora, and you can see why. Sheridan does a great job of having you fall in love with her so you can easily see why Dr. Talbot would. Nora is a lounge singer and soon the Doctor goes to the night club to see her sing. The relationship progresses and Dr. Talbot says he is going to ask for a divorce that night. Talbot goes home and finds a party going on for his daughter’s 16th birthday, which has slipped his mind. We soon see Talbot start to lose his mind. Soon Talbot is seeing a patient, who drops dead in his office. Talbot noticing the striking resemblance between himself and this man and decides to trade places with him. So he fakes his own death, using the patients body and moves from San Francisco to New York with Nora. Nora has no idea this has happened and is happy that her love has decided to go to New York with her. We now see in the second half of this film why it is considered a noir! Will Talbot totally go crazy and hurt Nora? Will Nora figure out what her boyfriend has done to get out of his marriage? Will the dead man’s past come back to haunt our couple?

This is a very good classic film noir with two great performances from our leads. This film doesn’t seem to get the recognition it deserves and I’m not sure why? This is a film that needs to be seen more. Go watch it and then tell a friend or two about it as well. If you like classic film noir or just classic film, this is worth your time.

Review: Kill Me Three Times

Australia has been making a lot of great neo noir films as of late. Does Kill Me Three Times continue the streak? Kill Me Three Times is directed by Kriv Stenders and written by James McFarland and has a cast from around the world.

This film uses film noir tropes, but doesn’t even attempt to put a new spin on them, for better or for worse. The story starts with our main star, Simon Pegg, down on the ground, looking like he is about to die and says so in classic voice over fashion. This of course reminded me of Sunset Boulevard. The camera rises into the sky to show a house on the beach and we go into a flashback. Pegg’s character is Charlie Wolfe, who is a fixer, private detective, assassin? The one original idea about Wolfe is that he is a professional killer who is a lousy marksman.

Since this film is told in flashbacks and out-of-order it is hard to talk about this film and not give out to many spoilers. It tells a story of a small group of characters who all do not like each other.

Our femme fatale for this film is Teresa Palmer playing Lucy Webb. She is married to a dentist and her brother owns a bar. She manipulates both of them into doing unspeakable things to get what she wants.

Sullivan Stapleton plays Lucy’s husband Nathan. Nathan has a gambling problem and is in debt to a bookie for $250,000 and needs to pay it within a week.

Callan Mulvey plays Lucy’s brother and owner of the bar, Jack Taylor. Jack doesn’t trust his wife and feels she is cheating on him, he maybe right.

Alice Braga plays Jack’s wife who is abused by Jack and in constant fear for her safety. She is looking for a way out-of-town and her marriage.

Luke Hemsworth plays a good guy who owns the local gas station. He is kind of clueless to what is happening around him and it maybe to late before he figures it out.

Bryan Brown plays a local cop who is also a heavy for the bookie Nathan owes money to.

The film is told in three parts, all leads us to why Wolfe is on the ground near death. We have illegal gambling, insurance fraud, murder, theft and double crosses through out the film.

Well I’m sorry to say this is not a great neo noir film from Australia. It’s not a bad film just not on par with some of the other films coming out of Australia lately. It is a shame, because I really liked the cast, Pegg is always entertaining and the two female leads are good. The story was not horrible, but didn’t bring anything new to the party. It does have its entertaining moments but is just missing something to put it over the top. There are worse ways to spend a lazy afternoon if you are looking for something new in the genre to watch, just don’t expect anything special.

1947 Blogathon! Review: Born to Kill

Born to Kill is a classic film noir from 1947 directed by Robert Wise based on the book Deadlier than the Male by James Gunn.

This was a staring vehicle for Lawrence Tierney who came to prominence in Dillinger a few years earlier. The public ate up Tierney as the bad boy, all the women loved and all the men wanted to be, he’s just a little more bad than most. This also stars Claire Trevor as our femme fatale.

Born to Kill has almost every film noir trope you can think of, a crime of passion, loose women, murder, star-crossed lovers, unreliable characters, a private eye, black mail, friends loyal enough to kill for, crazy circumstances involving our main characters, not many truly good people and more.

This film starts with Helen played by Trevor getting out of court with her divorce finally official. She has been in Reno 6 weeks to get this done and now it is her last night in town. She goes home where she meets two women drinking in her rooming house. Laury Palmer played by Isabel Jewell, who lives next door to the rooming house and Mrs. Kraft played by Esther Howard who owns the rooming house. Palmer mentions she is using one man to make another man jealous as the girl talk continues. They are drinking beer and ask Helen to join them to celebrate her divorce. She declines and goes to the casino for one last night on the town. Helen is at the craps table when she sees Sam, played by Tierney, throwing the dice. We see the instant attraction between the two. Palmer and one of her dates runs into Helen at the craps table and Sam does not look happy. Palmer and her boyfriend go back to her place and run into a furious Sam.

Sam is the boyfriend Palmer is trying to make jealous and boy did she do a good job! Sam murders the two and in his getaway lets Palmer’s dog out. Helen comes along and sees the dog and brings him back to the house to find the two dead bodies. She doesn’t say anything and gets on the train to go back to San Francisco. Sam goes back to his place where his friend, played by Elisha Cook Jr., tells Sam to get on the next train to San Francisco. Soon Sam and Helen get on the train at the same time and our story gets more complex and interesting in San Francisco. We soon meet Helen’s sister played by Audrey Long and a hard-boiled private detective played by Walter Slezak for good measure.

So as you can see from my brief introduction to this movie that a lot of the film relies on a crazy amount of coincidences. That aside this is a very dark film with Sam being a man who women cannot resist and Helen being a woman that will do anything to get what she wants. This film had to really push the limits of what could be in a film in 1947. This is Robert Wise’s first film noir and he went on to make many more great ones. Strange to think of a director who could make such dark films is probably better known for his musicals later in his career.

still-of-walter-slezak-and-claire-trevor-in-born-to-kill-1947-large-picture

This is a very high level film noir and should be checked out by everybody who loves classic film. You could write a book on this film, but I’m going to stop writing now and let you go out and experience this film for yourself.

 

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