Review: Thieves’ Highway

Thieves’ Highway is Jules Dassin’s last Hollywood film before he moved to Europe. He became blacklisted after refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. This is an amazing film and America lost a great director to the old country as he went on to even make more masterpieces over seas.

This film stars Richard Conte as our hero. He comes back from traveling the world and has earned enough money to come home, get married to his girlfriend played by Barbara Lawrence and start his own little business. Unfortunately things have changed as his father has lost all his money and his ability to work. This is all do to a crooked fruit vendor up in San Francisco played by Lee J. Cobb. Conte vows vengeance for his Father and teams up with Millard Mitchell to buy some apples and truck them to San Francisco to make some money. Along the way our hero meets truck driver and overall fun-loving good guy Slob played by Jack Oakie. He also runs into Rica played by Valentina Cortese. Is Rica a femme fatale or does she have our hero’s best interest at heart? Will our hero get his revenge? Will he get burned by the same man who took advantage of his Father? Will his partner double cross him before he even gets to San Francisco?

This is an amazing film worth watching if you are a film noir fan or not. Conte and Cobb are at their best in this one. I also really liked Mitchell and Oakie in their smaller parts. Also look for a small appearance by Hope Emerson. All noir fans need to see this. I have seen a few of Dassin’s other films and have loved them all. I will be seeking out more of his work in the near future.

Review: The Silence

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The Silence(2010) is a thrilling neo noir from Germany directed and written for the screen by Baran bo Odar. This is based on a book by Jan Costin Wagner. In traditional noir fashion this film starts out with a grim scene that has happened in the past. We than flash forward 23 years where the exact same crime has been committed again. The movie continues to bounce back and forth between the two-time periods to clear up some questions, but leaves us asking more questions in this interesting story of past guilty and differing shades of evil.

We start out with a young girl riding her bike down a country road as two strangers played by Wotan Wilke Möhring and Ulrich Thomsen follow her. Thomsen gets out of the car and chases her down as Möhring watches on from the car. Things don’t just go to far here, they go way to far as the young girl is killed. Möhring helps his friend dispose of the body and we flash forward 23 years. When another young girl goes missing and they find her bike in the same field as the previous crime a retired detective played by Burghart Klaußner thinks it is the same man. He teams up with the current detective on the case played by Sebastian Blomberg. Will our duo solve both crimes? Are both crimes committed by the same people? How has the original murderer and his accomplice not been caught in the last 23 years. How does this crime affect the people in this town?

This film covers some dark material, from pedophiles to child pornography to serial killing. I do have to say this is done in classic film noir style in the way the grotesque is implied and not put on the screen to shock like most modern films. The story is very complex and you will be left with questions at the end, just like a real life case. This film is German, but could have easily taken place in any rural town. I really enjoyed this film and think most noir fans will too. If you are questioning whether you should watch this do to some of its subject matter, I encourage you to give it a try. Like I said this film is not in your face or over the top with shocking scenes, but is an interesting look at a subject way to prevalent in society today.

 

Review: Kansas City Confidential

Kansas City Confidential is a classic film noir from 1952, directed by Phil Karlson. I watched this recently because of the recent passing of Coleen Gray. I loved Gray in Nightmare Alley which I reviewed here:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/07/02/review-nightmare-alley/

I really look forward to watching more films with her in it. She was one of the great actress from the classic film noir era. If you have not watched any films with her in it, I highly recommended you do.

This story starts out with Preston Foster casing a bank. He is timing when a delivery man is stopping at a floral shop and when an armored car is picking up cash at the bank next door. When he seems to have the perfect crime planned out he starts to recruit his team. His team consists of three of the best actors to play thugs in the classic film noir era. The three criminals are played by Neville Brand, Lee Van Cleef and Jack Elam. The key to this heist is all four men wear a mask all the time!

The masks not only hide their I.D. from witnesses and the police, but also from each other. This way if somebody is busted they can not rat out the other three. So the robbery goes down, as our driver of the florist truck leaves, the crooks pull up in an exact replica and rob the armored car. When the A.P.B. goes out for the getaway vehicle our innocent driver is soon pulled over. The driver is played by our headlining star for this film,John Payne. The police take Payne in, thinking he has to be involved in the armed robbery in some way. He has been in prison for a year and just recently got out, so it doesn’t look good for him. As our four thieves get away clean and disappear to 4 different locations, with plans to meet at an unknown location later to split the money. When the police let Payne go, he starts his on investigation to find out who framed him. We don’t stay in Kansas City very long for this one as we travel to a few foreign locations.

This plot is a very well crafted story and you don’t know where it is going until the very end. The plot is very complicated, but very easy to follow. Though I watched this for Gray’s involvement, and she is great in her role as the innocent traveler who falls for Payne, the five male leads of this film stole the show. This is a must see for classic film noir fans and film buffs in general.

Article: The Last of the Film Noir Women

Here is a very nice article about Coleen Gray over at Legacy.com Written by Linnea Crowther. It has a great time line of Gray’s film noir career and a quick look at her influence on noir films. Worth checking out for all Gray fans or those wanting to learn a little more about the late actress. Enjoy!

http://www.legacy.com/news/legends-and-legacies/the-last-of-the-film-noir-women/3452/

Re-Watching the Classics: Conflict

Conflict is a classic film noir from director Curtis Bernhardt. The original story is from novelist Alfred Neumann and the great noir director Robert Siodmak. This film maybe cashing in on the success of The Maltese Falcon with the teaming up of Humphrey Bogart and Sydney Greenstreet once again. Then again who cares! I would love to see this duo in 100 movies!

This film revolves around Richard Mason played by Bogart. He is a wealth business man who is married to Kathryn played by Rose Hobart. Greenstreet plays a family friend who is a psychiatrist. Alexis Smith plays Kathryn’s little sister and has caught the eye of Richard. After a party where we get to know the main players Richard, Kathryn and her little sister are involved in a car crash. Richard is hospitalized and now has to use a cane to get around. Richard and Kathryn’s marriage is on the rocks after Kathryn brings up the fact she can tell Richard is in love with her little sister. She decides to go up to the lodge in the woods by herself and Richard stays behind. With Richard using his injury and alibi of staying in the city, he causes Kathryn to drive off the pass in her car falling to her death. With Kathryn out of the picture will Richard win the heart of her little sister? Will anybody ever find Kathryn? Will Richard’s evil plan all come together for him or will it unravel as his web of lies start to fall apart?

This maybe one of the lesser known noir films starring Bogart, but it shouldn’t be. This is an amazing film with Bogart at his dapper best. He is pure evil in this one, but you still root for him. Greenstreet plays the smartest man in the room like no other. The cinematography in this one is well above average for a classic noir with some amazing shots and scenes that look totally original. If you are noir fan or fan of Bogart and/or Greenstreet (and who is not!) you will enjoy this film.

Favorite Tidbit: Way before Easter Eggs was even a thing, this film has two of them, both from earlier in Bogart’s career. In one scene you will see a version of The Maltese Falcon on a filling cabinet and one of the brooches worn by Kathryn is the exact same one worn by Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca.

Review: 36th Precinct

The 36th Precinct is a French neo noir written and directed by Olivier Marchal. This film revolves around two men fighting for power in the police force. They are played by Daniel Auteuil who plays Leo and Gérard Depardieu who plays Denis. This film takes place over a long period of time and has many sub plots. There are also a number of minor characters, some of which I wish we learned a bit more about. The two stand outs for me are Catherine Marchal, who plays a detective new to Denis’ team and Francis Renaud, who plays a hot head young officer on Leo’s team.

This story starts out with a perfectly executed armed car robbery. The group all wear masks and work well as a team. Leo’s team is soon on the scene to investigate. Denis’ team also shows up at the scene of the crime. We can see the tension between our two leads as we learn they where once friends but something has made them bitter enemies. Then there is a meeting between the Police Chef and Leo, he is told who ever solves this crime is more than likely going to be the new Police Chef.

This sets up a fight for power between the two, both of which use criminal connections to get ahead. These criminal connections maybe the downfall of one or both of our leads. This story is a more complicated than a simple armed car robbery case and covers many years of back and forth struggles between these two men.

This film has been in development for sometime as a Hollywood remake. I think this is actually a good idea. Moving the film to a United States city and adding a little to the plot for an American audience may actually make for a good film. I feel this film is very good, but I personally think this plot is to complex for a simple 2 hour film. I would love to see this developed into a premium cable channel’s television series. This could be great as an 8 hour series in the vain of True Detective or Rectify. They could develop a few of the other characters and both of the main characters marriages in a short series. This could even be a jumping off point for a season 2. Either way I look forward to the remake of this film and in the meantime I think most will enjoy this original.

Video: San Francisco is the Scene of a Perfect Crime

In the world of noir Los Angeles and New York seem to be the two cities used most often. San Francisco may not have the numbers of the other two, but it sure has a lot of high quality noir and neo noir films based in this city. Here are the films I have already reviewed that appear in this video from RubyTuesday717 on YouTube.

Bullitt

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/02/21/re-watching-the-classics-bullitt/

Basic Instinct

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/04/14/the-great-villain-blogathon-2015-catherine-tramell-and-re-watching-basic-instinct-2/

Woman on the Run

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/06/24/review-women-on-the-run/

Maltese Falcon

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/03/05/re-watching-the-classics-the-maltese-falcon/

The Conversation

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/05/14/re-watching-the-classics-the-conversation/

Zodiac

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/02/26/re-watching-zodiac/

Here is the video, this is well done and every noir and neo noir fan will enjoy this short video:

Review: Roadblock

Roadblock is a film noir from 1951 directed by Harold Daniels. This film stars noir regular Charles McGraw with a bunch of noir roles coming before this film and maybe his high mark in the noir genre coming one year later with Narrow Margin. This also stars Joan Dixon as our femme fatale. She is a gold digger who doesn’t believe in love, but knows she wants riches.

The story start out with a sting on a man who has stolen some money. McGraw is an insurance fraud investigator and takes his job seriously. He stays honest and doesn’t bend the rules at his job. After successfully recovering a large amount of money for the insurance company, he gets on a train to head home. This is where he meets Dixon and falls madly in love. She says he doesn’t have the money or income to interest her. After running into her again while investigating another case he figures the only way to her heart is by stealing a large amount of money. While he do that to win the love of our femme fatale? Will he get away with it? If he does it will it be enough for her to “fall in love” with him?

This is a short film that is borrowing from a lot of the films that came before it. This doesn’t have anything that we have not seen from noir films of the 1940’s. This being said, it is still an entertaining short film. At only 73 minutes long it is well worth your time to check it.

Review: The Strip

The Strip from 1951 is a different film noir than most. This film has a small noir tale to tell, but the tale seems to just be there to get you from one song and dance number to the next. People who are fans of the music of the era will love this film.

This film revolves around Mickey Rooney who has just got out of a mental institution. He soon gets a job selling “insurance” for a local gangster played by James Craig. He soon gets the chance to chase his passion of playing drums at a club on the strip in Hollywood. Fluff, played by William Demarest, owns the club and is Rooney’s father figure for this film. He soon falls for Sally Forrest who is a cigarette girl and dancer at the club. Rooney soon has plans of marriage, but Forrest is hoping to improve her career in the entertainment industry by trying to get into the movies. Rooney, wanting to keep Forrest happy, introduces her to his old gangster connection, Craig. Craig says he has connections in the movie industry and will help Forrest get into the movies. Will Rooney lose his girl to his old gangster friend? Will Forrest ever get into the movies?

All this is happening as we see performances from Louis Armstrong, Monica Lewis and Vic Damone. We see Rooney on the drums and Forrest doing dance numbers as well. This is a very entertaining film because of the music and dancing, but falls into the average film noir department.

If you are a fan of Rooney, Forrest or some of the musical acts that perform, I think you will love this film. If you are looking for a very dark film noir, skip this one.