Part I of October’s movies saw a fair number of horror titles, but you just can’t contain the film noir beast for very long, as evidenced below. I hope you’ll find something here worth investigating:
The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) Robert Fuest
MGM Midnite Movies DVD
Although he never actually speaks on-camera, Vincent Price has a lot of fun with this campy horror-revenge story. Dr. Phibes (Price) is a weird sort of scientist/musician/theologian seeking revenge on the doctors who allowed his beloved wife Victoria to die. Highly stylized, colorful, and just plain fun, The Abominable Dr. Phibes is great for a rainy afternoon.
Cry Danger (1951) Robert Parrish
Rocky Mulloy (Dick Powell) goes to the slammer for robbery and murder, neither of which he committed. Mulloy is released after serving five years of a life sentence when a witness named Delong (Richard Erdman) comes forward, providing Mulloy an alibi. But what’s Delong really up to? For that matter, what’s Mulloy up to?
Dick Powell continues to climb near the top of my favorite noir actors list. His performance doesn’t disappoint, even when he’s not playing Philip Marlowe. The film also stars William Conrad, as a literal heavy.
Halloween (1978) John Carpenter (5x)
Anchor Bay Blu-ray
What can you say about Halloween that hasn’t already been said? Simple and effective, with staying power. I watched this film for at least the fifth time, huddled with several people in a friend’s backyard with a late October chill in the air. And Michael Myers close by…
Two Days, One Night (2014) Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Sandra (Marion Cotillard) is about to get sacked at work. The small company she works for employs 17 workers but only has enough work for 16. Sandra is forced to spend her weekend trying to convince her co-workers to give up their bonuses so that she can keep her job.
Cotillard gives a wonderful performance of a woman on the brink of depression and despair, trying to hold her life, her family, and her sanity together. The Dardennes have as much to say about the economics and morality of the workplace as they do about how it affects us on an individual and family level.
No Man of Her Own (1950) Mitchell Leisen
Previously (and briefly, due to an upcoming blogathon post) discussed here.
Leave Her to Heaven (1945) John M. Stahl
Previously discussed here.
The Bigamist (1953) Ida Lupino
I missed seeing The Bigamist at the recent Noir City DC festival, but I did manage to watch it a couple of days later, although on a much smaller screen. The film – directed by and starring Ida Lupino – concerns a man named Harry (Edmond O’Brien) and his wife Eve (Joan Fontaine) as they attempt to adopt a child. If their adoption agent was anyone in the world but Mr. Jordan (Edmund Gwenn), they’d probably get the green light, but Mr. Jordan doesn’t play. Instead, he investigates the case to the nth degree and finds out that Harry does play, as in the field, already having fathered a child with another woman (Ida Lupino). Whoops…
Probably due to the nature of the film, RKO Pictures dropped The Bigamist, leaving it to Lupino’s fledgling company Filmmakers to distribute, which was clearly an uphill battle. The film is clearly noir, although many would argue that it’s simply a social commentary. However you choose to label it, the film is effective and is recognized as the first in which a female star also directed.
Fish Tank (2009) Andrea Arnold (2x)
I plan on blogging about this one for the Criterion Blogathon later this month.
Try and Get Me (a.k.a. The Sound of Fury) (1950) Cy Endfield
After having seen just a ten or twelve of them, you begin to think you’ve got film noir all figured out. Watching Try and Get Me completely overturned that brilliant idea. No matter how many films noir you’ve seen, you haven’t seen anything quite like this one.
Howard Tyler (Frank Lovejoy) and his wife (Kathleen Ryan) just can’t seem to make ends meet. Jobs are scarce and Howard is always one step behind in finding one, that is until he meets small-time hood Jerry Slocum (Lloyd Bridges), who has a job in mind for Howard. Problem is, Howard doesn’t know Jerry is a small-time hood, or a hood of any kind, for that matter. Soon Jerry has Howard involved in all kinds of illegal activity, including a kidnapping scheme that goes south quickly.
Howard Tyler is one of the saddest characters in film noir, a man trying to do the right thing who becomes trapped with no way out. Although his part in the botched kidnapping pales in comparison to Jerry’s, the public becomes hungry for the blood of both men.
Although the mob violence in Try and Get Me owes much to Fritz Lang’s excellent 1936 film Fury, Jo Pagano’s screenplay (based on his own novel called The Condemned) is based on an actual event in San Jose, California from 1933. The last 15 minutes of the film may be over the top, but you can’t deny the film’s power and impact. I’m still reeling from it…
Although there’s no definite news on a release date, the Film Noir Foundation reports that a DVD/Blu-ray release of Try and Get Me looks promising in the near future.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009) David Yates
My dissatisfaction with Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is probably due to finishing the book days before watching the film. The odd thing is, I think the book is the best of the series. I won’t go into the plot (which everyone probably knows already), but I couldn’t escape the feeling that Yates was trying to put his foot on every single plot point of the book and hoped what was touched on in isolation would make sense in the two-and-a-half hour whole. Specific isolated scenes look and and “feel” right, but Yates never really translates Harry’s frustration and slightly rebellious personality from the book to the film. So many scenes – such as the Quidditch match and the appearance of Cormac McLaggen, just to name two – don’t actually do anything to advance the story; they just seem to be there so that the fan base won’t have a fit. I know I’m in the minority on this one, but I was certainly disappointed.