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FILM-TRIP

THE NOIR PAGE

A trip to the bank
Gun Crazy

"Black film," post-war French critics called them. Black as in base, corrupt, twisted.  These critics, having come through the Nazi occupation and post-war moroseness, saw in these bleak, dreamlike stories of greed, murder and revenge an appropriate iconography for Europe's existential despair.  I suspect they liked the  B-picture look:  lots of shadows, wet urban landscapes, severe camera angles that seemed to entrap the hero (almost always men) and work against his survival.

When Americans finally grasped the nightmare of World War II, some film studios and filmmakers took what they considered the perfect metaphor for this systemic corruption --the crime film--and gave it an edge. These new-look movies were distant cousins of the gangster films of pre-war Hollywood.  Those earlier works were much less cynical, their protagonists thinly disguised victims of poverty whose only way out and up was a life of crime.  Edward G. Robinson's Rico (Little Caesar, 1930) was at once ruthless and sympathetic, a modern Robin Hood; James Cagney's Tom Powers (The Public Enemy, 1931) strong-arms his way to the top like a loutish businessman.  These early anti-heroes were as much victims of the Depression as the people they robbed and killed.  

There's no mistaking the pre-noir look of Paul Muni in Scarface (1932) and the tormented eyes of Tom Neal in the noir cult classic Detour (1945).  Consider these titles:  Out of the Past, The Killers, In a Lonely Place, Murder, My Sweet, Where the Sidewalk Ends, The Asphalt Jungle, Kiss Me Deadly.  The angst and despair of a post-War America was put up on the silver screen for the world to see.

I've delineated a rather brief period for this survey of American film noir, starting with Double Indemnity in 1944 and ending with Kiss Me Deadly in 1955.  It includes only a few  films after 1955 as genuine noir:  The Killing (1956), Sweet Smell of Success (1957), Touch of Evil (1958), and Blast of Silence (1961).  Some critics and film historians cite any number of films outside this period as noir, most notably John Huston's The Maltese Falcon (1941) and Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt (1943).  There have been in recent years a rash of neo-noirs, but few capture either the feel or downright pessimism of the genre.  The closest to noir sensibility in my opinion are John Boorman's Point Blank (1967), Roman Polanski's Chinatown (1974) and Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver (1976). These are treated elsewhere.

 THE ASPHALT JUNGLE (Huston)
DOUBLE INDEMNITY (Wilder)
GUN CRAZY (Lewis)
LAURA (Preminger)
OUT OF THE PAST (Tourneur)
TOUCH OF EVIL (Welles)



Greer and Mitchum in
Out of the Past

MORE CHOICE NOIR

THE BIG COMBO (Lewis)
THE BIG HEAT (Lang)
THE BIG SLEEP (Hawks)
BLAST OF SILENCE (Baron)
THE BLUE DAHLIA (Marshall)
CRISS CROSS (Siodmak)
CROSSFIRE (Dmytryk)
DETOUR (Ulmer)
D.O.A. (MatÚ)
FORCE OF EVIL (Polonsky)
IN A LONELY PLACE (Ray)
THE KILLERS (Siodmak)
THE KILLING (Kubrick)
KISS ME DEADLY (Aldrich)
MILDRED PIERCE (Curtiz)
MURDER, MY SWEET (Dmytryk) 
THE NARROW MARGIN (Fleischer) 
PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET (Fuller)
THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE (Garnett)
RIDE THE PINK HORSE (Montgomery)
THE SET-UP (Wise) 
SUNSET BOULEVARD (Wilder)
SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS (Mackendrick)
THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW (Lang)

FRENCH NOIR
FILMS POLICIERS
BOB LE FLAMBEUR 
LE BOUCHER 
LE CIRCLE ROUGE 
DIABOLIQUE 
LE DOULOS 
RIFIFI 
LE SAMOURA¤ 
SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER 
TOUCHEZ PAS AU GRISBY 

NOIR SITES OF NOTE

Martin's Film Noir Page
Images: 10 Shades of Noir
Film Noir Reader
No Place For a Woman: The Family In Film Noir
Film Noir: The German-
Hollywood Connection

Bowling Noir