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  #421  
Old 4th June 2019, 08:59 PM
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The Last Seduction (1993, John Dahl)

It really is Bill's own fault here. He's great in this mind, sweaty and conniving where I've found him a bit stiff before. But it's Fiorentino's show. When she's on screen you cannot take your eyes off her.
A lighter score than I remembered, giving the whole thing a spritely air. Plus they all smoke. Indoors!! The fug in the bar scene must be like The Fog on BD
See this if you haven't. Dahl made some decent wee things imo.
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Last edited by Demoncrat; 4th June 2019 at 09:04 PM. Reason: doh
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  #422  
Old 13th January 2020, 03:18 PM
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Kiss of Death (1947)

Tim Burton - "So Jack, any thoughts on how you'd like to play the Joker?"

Jack Nicholson - "You know what Tim, i just got off watching Richard Widmark play Tommy Udo in Kiss of Death"
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  #423  
Old 12th February 2020, 11:36 PM
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A publicity image of Evelyn Ankers and Lon Chaney Jr. for the 1945 noir mystery The Frozen Ghost.

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  #424  
Old 18th February 2020, 02:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Demdike@Cult Labs View Post
A publicity image of Evelyn Ankers and Lon Chaney Jr. for the 1945 noir mystery The Frozen Ghost.


Another classic film that needs a decent release
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  #425  
Old 12th November 2020, 05:37 AM
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It's November Noir, so I'm going to watch a few classics. Starting with...

Double Indemnity

A car careens through the streets of nighttime Los Angeles. It's so dark outside that by the time you'd notice the headlights, it's too late. Eventually, it halts before the Pacific Insurance offices. A figure in a long coat and hat unfolds from the car, and lumbers into the building. The night staff welcome him as a Mr. Neff, and show pause at his appearance. He shuffles into the closed office of one Edward Keyes. He struggles out of his coat, to reveal a shoulder soaked in blood. He sweats as he lights a cigarette, and turns on the desk recorder. He begins his confession.

And so begins the start of the Film Noir genre. Billy Wilder's classic film of seduction, fraud, and murder was not the first to traffic in such genre conventions, but it paved the way for all its follow-ups. To this day, we still see its influence on thrillers.

Miklós Rózsa's dark ominous score shifts from the traditional. Scenes of embrace are virtually silent, while violence and meditations of murder are accompanied by sinister tones. Of course, this highlights the characters' exteriors. This isn't a story of love, but of lust and excited passions. Fred MacMurray is perfect as the charismatic dope Walter Neff, who falls for Barbara Stanwyck's Phyllis Dietrichson. Neff doesn't love Phyllis for who she is (he doesn't even know her), but is enamoured by her physical presence. Phyllis is more than happy to lead him on, showing off her anklet whenever she can.

What's rather interesting is how, despite being the femme-fatale, Phyllis is not the one who plans the murder. Oh, she certainly admits to fantasising about killing her husband, and her past suggests shadiness, but she never suggests it. It's Walter who devises the whole plot, and even plans a way to make a profit from it. Needless to say, it all goes awry.

It's during the climax that both reveal their true selves to each other. Phyllis shows herself as scared, stupid, and confused. Walter is vicious, vindictive, and stupid. The brutality of this scene is almost like Wilder's greatest joke. Instead of the true love ending, we get some of the coldest violence of the era.

The world of Double Indemity is one of suffocation. John Seitz's photographery frames Walter through Venetian blinds, and barred windows. He is a man trapped, with no exit in sight. As the film progresses, the lighting gets darker and darker, to the point that I swear I saw the Devil staring back at me.

Adding to the stifling atmosphere, is the rapid-paced dialogue, courtesy of Wilder and crime writer Raymond Chandler. There are some incredible lines in here ("I couldn't hear my own footsteps. It was the walk of a dead man."), and it does say a lot about Walter's descent. At the start, Walter is unflappable, and quick at delivering comebacks. Later, he is slower to respond, and his speech is more curt. As good as MacMurray is at delivering Chandler's lines, Edward G. Robinson owns it. He speaks faster than any rapper, which makes his almost mute performance at the end all the more devastating.

If I have any criticisms, it would be the fast pace at how Walter falls for Phyllis and commits to crime. Granted, the Hays Code meant Wilder couldn't include a sweaty sex scene (although he implies it), I think a two minute trip to the zoo or cinema would have helped.

Nevertheless, this is a fantastic film. The script, score, performances, and cinematography are timeless, and the ending is one of the greats.
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  #426  
Old 12th November 2020, 05:02 PM
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Great review M! REWATCH methinks then ...
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  #427  
Old 12th November 2020, 07:42 PM
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Having only recently got into (ie: finally appreciated) noir films in the last year/18 months, I agree that Double Indemnity is a cornerstone film, along with The Maltese Falcon.

Great review, not only has it inspired a re-watch but a Billy Wilder-a-thon!

Top stuff!
Justin101, Demoncrat and Linbro like this.
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  #428  
Old 12th November 2020, 08:23 PM
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Went on a family holiday to the US in 2016/17, and did a tour of Warner Brothers, including the prop warehouse - this is one of the seven 'Maltese Falcons' that were made for the film...
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  #429  
Old 13th November 2020, 01:03 PM
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The Stranger

Orson Welles said that his third feature was his worst, and I would have to concur. Coming after the groundbreaking Citizen Kane, and experimental narrative of The Magnificent Ambersons, The Stranger's story falls short of any expectations you may have. However, temper those expectations, and power through the script's poor plotting and conveniences, and you can see some of his magic.

Wilson (Edward G. Robinson), a war crimes agent, arrives to a small town in Connecticut. His mission to track down a Nazi fugitive responsible for some of the most heinous acts of the Holocaust. Wilson casts his suspicions on the local prep school's history teacher, Charles Rankin (Welles). Rankin is highly respected member of the community, but nobody knows of his past. Wilson's suspicions are proven to be correct, but he must act quickly, before Rankin kills again (this is not a spoiler as the film states this seven minutes in).

The Stranger feels like Welles's concession to the studios. He managed to make it on schedule and below budget, and despite some arguments with his producers, he didn't fight for it like his other films. His and John Huston's contributions to the screenplay are uncredited, possibly due to how the plot is boilerplate, and lacking. For example, Wilson's proof comes at the most ludicrous time, and he doesn't have to convince anybody of his suspicions. Everybody but one central character believes him, because the plot dictates that they must. As such, the performances are fine without ever crossing into the memorable.

However, as I mentioned, the Welles magic is there. Through cinematographer Russell Metty, he creates images that harken more to German Expressionism than his previous films. There is a shot of a cruel shadow climbing over a sleeping character that recalls Count Orlok preying on Hatter in Nosferatu. Welles employed longer takes to build suspense, with one shot lasting over four minutes. Welles also explores the psychological devastation such a revelation would have on the people around Rankin, with Rankin's wife, Mary (Loretta Young), clearly crumbling under the constant gaslighting and internal excuses.

Finally, although it was probably just intended to be a safe studio thriller, Welles's treatment of the Holocaust was perhaps the most explicit ever seen. The film never shies away from the atrocities committed by the Nazis. In one crucial scene, we are shown actual documentary footage from the concentration camps. As the footage of mass graves and mutilated survivors flash before us, Wilson calmly narrates the methods in which the Nazis murdered millions. It's stomach churning, and it's hard to imagine anybody but Welles having the gumption to include such a scene in a commercial thriller.

The Stranger is a serviceable genre exercise, that is perhaps better watched as a prelude to Welles's later ventures into Film Noir. The Lady from Shanghai would seem him fully embellishing the visual traits of the genre, while he would prove his narrative genius with Touch of Evil. On its own terms, The Stranger is an average Noir with some moments that still hold up to this day. Such as the following exchange...

"Surely, you don't think - Mr. Wilson, I've never - I've never so much as even seen a Nazi."

"Well, you might without you realising it. They look like other people and - act like other people, when it's to their benefit."
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  #430  
Old 16th November 2020, 05:10 AM
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In the Mouth of Madness

Some may balk at seeing John Carpenter's horror film here, but I think it does enough to count as a film noir. At the very least, it's a fascinating combination of genre overlap.

Sam Neill is John Trent, an insurance investigator hired by a publishing company to track down the missing writer, Sutter Cane. Cane had been writing what meant to be the finale of his horror series before vanishing. With the help of Cane's editor, Linda Styles (Julia Carmen), Trent tracks Kane to a small town. So small, that it doesn't appear on any map. It also doesn't help that Cane's novels are set there.

Pulp horror and mystery have their origins in the same type of magazines. Both H.P. Lovecraft (writer of At the Mountains of Madness and James M. Cain (although Cane can be seen as a substitute for Lovecraft and Stephen King, perhaps his name is meant to ivlke the famous noir writer) wrote serialised stories for these magazines, and they often employed the same techniques, such as first person narration, and a protagonist wandering into a plot far beyond their control. Carpenter and Michael DeLuca (screenwriter) blend the two together.

The film opens with a deranged Trent being dragged into a mental asylum, screaming that it might be too late. Dr. Wrenn (David Warner) visits him, and asks him to explain how he got here. Trent obliges, but it's a tale difficult to believe.

Trent is a chain-smoking, whiskey drinking, cynical wisearse who would be insufferable if he wasn't played by Neill. Like most noir heroes, he exposes slimebags committing fraud, and does so with a satisfied grin. However, halfway through, the film shift gears and Trent is unable to bear it. Indeed, Trent is the audience surrogate, and Carpenter enjoys toying with us as much as Cane loves twisting Trent.

In the Mouth of Madness sees Carpenter at his most audacious. It may represent the peak of his directing and editing skills. The second half of the film is deranged. Carpenter constantly shifts, leaving Trent and the audience and confused. Thankfully, Carpenter keeps the pace relentless, feeding us enough to keep us watching, but changing everything else to keep us on our toes.

In the Mouth of Madness is a magnificent blurring of the lines between fiction and reality, and the fourth wall between the audience and the image.
SPOILER:
At the end, when Trent sees himself on the cinema screen, he lets out a deranged laugh and an anguished scream. And we're right beside him.
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