Re-watching the Classics: Diabolique

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Diabolique is a classic French film from 1955, loved by fans of foreign film, film noir and horror. This film is directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot based on a book by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac. This film revolves around three main characters in a love triangle.

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Christina Delassalle, played by Véra Clouzot, is a wealthy woman who owns a private school. She has a weak heart and is not going to live much longer.

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Nicole Horner, played by Simone Signoret, works at the school and is Christina’s confidant and friend.

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Michel Delassalle, played by Paul Meurisse, is married to Christina and is having an affair with Nicole. He beats both women and makes it well known to Christina that he wants her dead so he can sell the school and , her money.

When the two women cannot put up with Michel any longer, they plot his murder. Over a three day holiday they lure him away from the school, drug him and drowned him. They go back to the school, and throw Michel in the dirty pool. Everybody believes Michel has not left the school over the holiday. Everybody also has seen the two women leave the school for the holiday to go to Nicole’s home, hours away. Nicole has tenants who live up stairs to reinforce the alibi.

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This film is a slow burn and the tension increases with every passing scene. This has one of the best endings in all of film and will not be spoiled for those who have not seen it. The film actually tells you at the end not to talk about the ending so you do not ruin the film for everybody else. I guess spoilers where as common in 1955 as they are today.

This film needs to be seen by everybody who loves film. If you like suspense, thrillers, horror, or film noir, this is a must see.

The film got more notoriety five years later, when star Véra Clouzot died from a heart attack at 46, mirroring her character’s weak heart from this film. The film has made a number of best of lists, mostly in the horror genre, including Time Magazine’s Top 25 Horror films and Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments. This film has been remade 4 times, or at least used the same source material, over the years. The best know, is the remake starring Sharon Stone from 1996. This version pales in comparison to the original.

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Favorite Tidbit: If you think this film has a very Hitchcockian feel, you are not alone. Hitchcock himself tried to get the rights to the book, but was to late. This film was also a huge influence on Hitchcock when he made Psycho. It also influenced Robert Bloch when he wrote the book, and Bloch says Diabolique was his all time favorite horror film. In fact when Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac heard Hitchcock wanted to buy the rights to their book, they wrote their next book with Hitchcock in mind. Hitchcock did get the film rights to that novel, it became the film Vertigo.

 

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Article: 8 Classic Film Noirs Every Horror Fan Should See

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Patrick Cooper from the horror site Bloody Disgusting has an interesting look at some classic film noir from the prospective of a horror fan. He admits he purposely left out Cat People, but what other classics did he leave off the list that you think horror fans would enjoy? Check out the full article here:

8 Classic Film Noirs Every Horror Fan Should See

Review: The Curse of the Cat People

The Curse of the Cat People is the sequel of The Cat People, both produced for RKO by Val Lewton. This film is directed by Gunther von Fritsch (as Gunther V. Fritsch)  and Robert Wise. This is Wise’s first film and of course went on to direct some great films noir as well as a few classic musicals and throw in some sci-fi and horror favorites. Our three main characters are the same as the first film and we throw in a creepy little girl for an added twist.

This film was released in 1944, two years after the first film. Over this two years, our happy couple at the end of the first film has married and has a 7 to 8-year-old daughter named Amy, played by Ann Carter. If this time frame doesn’t make sense, well I think your right. Not only do we have a little girl 6 years older than possible, her father played by Kent Smith, thinks she has a little of her deceased first wife in her, someone who has died a year or so before she was born. Well who said a good film has to make total sense, especially a horror noir.

The film starts with a class of kids out playing, we soon learn Amy is a little different then the other kids. She starts to chase a butterfly and a boy helps her catch it. The boy accidentally kills the butterfly and Amy slaps the boy. Her father and mother played by Jane Randolph, meet with her teacher. When the teacher tell the parents it was nothing, only a slap. Her father is concerned with his daughter and how she is acting. The teacher reassured the couple that Amy is fine and it’s just kids being kids(Wow! how things have changed! can you imagine a girl slapping a boy in class today and the parents being worried about her actions and the teacher saying not to worry about it?)

As the film goes on Amy is alienated from the other kids more and more, but she finds a new friend in the ghost of Irene, her fathers first wife, played by Simone Simon, who has died in the first film. Things continue to get creeper and creeper from here.

Even though a lot of this film takes place during the Christmas Holiday, I think it is safe to say, this and the first film would make for a great Halloween double feature. Here is my review of the first film:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/09/23/re-watching-the-classics-cat-people/

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.

Review: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

This movie is a spaghetti western, horror, romance, fairy tale, neo-noir, Iranian vampire movie filmed in California!?!?!  This film is a stew of classic film ingredients by first time director and writer Ana Lily Amirpour.  I really look forward to seeing more from her, what a great eye in filming and what an original intriguing story.

I seen this just based on the buzz and did not know much about this going in.  I really thought it was just a well done horror movie worth seeing.  Then I put the Blu-Ray in and was totally surprised.  I did not plan to review this for this site, until I watched it and seen more than a few simple nods to the classic film noir era.  This film has a timeless feel to it, there is a 1950’s Thunderbird, classic oil wells and factories, and timeless clothing that could fit into almost any time frame. We do have fake posters of 1980’s pop stars on the wall and our soundtrack has music from the 2000’s. If you didn’t know better you could think this was filmed in the 1950’s as easily as filmed in the 2010’s.

Sheila Vand plays The Girl and Arash Marandi gives us his best James Dean playing Arash for our two leads.  We don’t have to many characters confusing the plot here.  Marshall Manesh plays Arash’s junkie father, Mozhan Marnò plays the local prostitute, Dominic Rains as a drug dealer, and Rome Shadanloo as the little rich girl.

This movie has a lot of symbolism and references to other films, this may be all subjective and you will find things I may not and you may not agree with what I felt I seen.  That is what makes this such a great film.

Our story starts with Arash getting in to his car and drives home.  We see his Dad shooting up with drugs.  Our drug dealer enters the house and wants paid.  He takes Arash’s car for the debt.  Our drug dealer soon picks up our prostitute in his new ride and later picks up The Girl.  He takes her back to his house and soon The Girl reveals she is a vampire and kills the drug dealer.  On her way out of the house she pass Arash, going in to try to get his car back.  Arash finds the body and takes the drug suppl and gets his keys to his car back.  Our romance starts as well as we go deeper into our story from here.

For noir fans, the plot is deep in the crime world of Bad City and has some great noir nods, like a femme fatale, she just happens to be a vampire.  If your a film noir fan and don’t like vampires, you will still love the cinematography!  A couple stills from the film that shows a taste of this:

So this film is for anybody who wants to see something new and fresh and original no matter what kind of movies you like.  This basically covers every genre out there and has something for everybody.  Go enjoy this film as soon as you can!

Re-watching Angel Heart

large_zVABs77t8P6flUShTnnTHjeTc3w  Angel Heart is a neo noir horror film from 1987.  Though this film was made with two of the biggest movie stars from the 1980’s, Robert De Niro(one of the biggest stars ever) and Micky Rourke it was not a big hit in theaters.  This was also directed by Alan Parker who had 3 or 4 hits under his belt when he made this movie. William Hjortsberg wrote the book this film is based on and has written a few other noir books.  I must say I’ve never read any of Hjortsberg’s books but hope to in the future.

With all this talent on the film, this film was more known at the time of its release for having Lisa Bonet in it.  At the time Lisa Bonet was the second biggest star of the hit television series The Cosby Show, so big she had her own spin-off series A Different World.  Both T.V. series had the biggest television star of The Cosby Show and all of television at the time,  Bill Cosby, behind them, he created both series.  Cosby had a lot riding on Lisa Bonet’s star power.  In this film Bonet plays a southern girl who is into voodoo and maybe even worse appears nude on-screen having sex with the main character while being splashed in blood.  This did not make Mr. Cosby happy, putting a black eye on two of his family oriented and biggest shows in one fell swoop.  I don’t  know if the controversy helped or hurt the film, but either way this was a flop at the box office.  Did Bill Cosby’s pull, hinder the distribution of this film?  I don’t know, but flashing forward almost 30 years we are learning more about the pull Cosby had and how he used it.  I would be interested in knowing if this being released at only 800 some odd theaters had something to do more with Cosby’s influence, then a failure on the distributors.  Even at the time of its release, it got very good reviews and was well received, but did not find an audience in theaters.  I think most people, like myself, had to wait for its VHS release to watch this film.

This film takes place in the mid 1950’s in New York as our protagonist Harry Angel goes to meet the mysterious Louis Cyphre played by Robert De Niro.  Cyphre hires Angel to find an old associate he helped with his music career before the war, called Johnny Favorite.  Johnny Favorite did not pay back his debt and has disappeared after the war and can not be found.  This leads Angel on a trail which leads to varies characters, most of which end up murdered soon after Angel interviews them.  The case leads him to the south, where he soon comes across voodoo worshipers and more craziness.

This film does have a horror element and has a great noir style in story and cinematography.  De Niro is great as Cyphre, not a big surprise, and Rourke is very good as our main character.  This is for both of the main stars fan base as well as those of Bonet.  It is also worth checking out for neo noir fans as well as horror fans alike.

Re-Watching Pathology

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So I was going down the list of movies classified as neo-noir on IMDb, to see if I can find any hidden gems I wasn’t aware of and to see what films I wanted to re-watch and review on this site.  Quite aways down this list I noticed this movie, Pathology.  I thought “I remember that movie!”  I originally watched this film back in 2008 when it came out on DVD for two reasons, fairly good reviews from horror fans and it had Alyssa Milano in it.  From what I remember I liked this film and thought it was an above average horror movie and Alyssa wasn’t in it as much as I would have hoped.  I would have never thought of this film as a neo-noir though.

On a second viewing I wanted to see why this would be classified as neo-noir and if I would agree.  So here are the elements I picked up on that would make it a neo-noir.  We have a lot of shadow and washed out grey scenes that look almost black and white.  There are a lot of shots filmed from a ground eye view, popular in noir.  We have a femme fatale played by Lauren Lee Smith that sucks our protagonist in.  Our main protagonist gets in a situation that is way over his head and very bleak.  This gives us the sense of doom that all good noir movies posses.  We have heinous crimes committed, though these crimes are not committed for profit like most noir.  There is not a very happy ending, just like most great noir.

This story starts with a gifted doctor, our protagonist, Ted Grey played by Milo Ventimiglia.  He leaves his girlfriend played by Milano to go study Pathology at an unnamed prestigious city morgue.  There he meets a slightly socially awkward Ben played by Keir O’Donnell.  Ben is an outcast and not accepted by the in-crowd led by Jake, played by Michael Weston and includes Smith’s femme fatale character.  Ted is slowly drawn into the popular group of gifted pathologists with nights of drinking and drugs.  They soon drag Ted into their sick game of killing people and then having the others in the group figure out how they did it.  This is just the start of the dark journey we go on.

A few great smaller parts played by Larry Drake and John de Lancie were very entertaining.  This is written by the writing team of Neveldine and Taylor who also brought us the Crank movies.

So is this film a neo-noir?  I think so, it definitely has horror elements, but mostly these are because of the gore, we are dealing with people who cut dead bodies open to see why they died after all.

I think this little film is worth watching for horror fans and noir fans alike.  It’s a pretty good story with a few like-able characters and a lot of unlike-able ones.