By the time 2016 is over, I will have watched more than 250 movies with at least half of those being film noir or neo-noir titles. (I know 250 movies isn’t really that impressive, but I also tried to read 250 books this year, currently on #235. Hey, it’s a tough life loving books and movies…) These are some of the noir/neo-noir films I saw for the first time in 2016, many of which I hope to revisit in the coming years. It’s a fairly long list and I’m breaking it up into segments each day, so pace yourselves! I hope you’ll find something new to discover or a favorite to re-watch.
711 Ocean Drive (1950) Joseph M. Newman
Borrowed from K.D. (1:42)
Edmond O’Brien plays Mal Granger, a repairman for the telephone company who has a weakness for betting on the horses. Granger discovers an opportunity to put his electronics expertise to use in helping a local gangster (Barry Kelly) increase profits in his illegal racing wire operations. Then Granger starts to get greedy and power-hungry.
I’ve seen Edmond O’Brien in so many movies where he plays the “everyman,” the good guy, but here he’s clearly not on the up-and-up. It was a bit jolting seeing him play the criminal in Shield for Murder (1954, listed below), but after watching 711 Ocean Drive, I’m feeling more comfortable with O’Brien on the other side of the law. He’s an effective actor no matter which side he’s on.
The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) Vincente Minnelli
Noir City DC, AFI Silver (1:59)
Big House U.S.A. (1955) Howard W. Koch
Kino Lorber Blu-ray (1:23)
Man, what a cast! Broderick Crawford (far right), Ralph Meeker (far left), Reed Hadley, William Talman (second from right), Lon Chaney and Charles Bronson (second from left)? Wow… The biggest surprise here is that everyone gets a pretty good role and for the most part, each actor runs with it. Meeker plays Jerry “Iceman” Barker, a lifetime criminal who kidnaps a 10-year-old boy who’s just run away from summer camp. The boy suffers from asthma and you can tell something pretty awful is going to happen to him. (It does.) Barker is caught and sent to prison, but he says nothing about the ransom money he collected from the boy’s rich father.
Inside the prison, Barker meets the other inmates (Crawford, Talman, Chaney, and Bronson), all of whom hate him for having involved a kid in his crimes. Yet Rollo Lamar (Crawford), the leader of the group who’s planning an escape, sees an opportunity to pull Barker in with them, hoping to score some of Barker’s hidden loot.
Big House, U.S.A. has enough material for at least three movies. It takes awhile for us to reach the Big House itself (and if I have to tell you what “The Big House” is, you haven’t watched nearly enough crime pictures), but you never feel cheated because of it. More people should see this film, especially for the performances. This is one of five movies in the Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema Blu-ray box set.
Black Angel (1946) Roy William Neill
DVD – interlibrary loan (1:21)
The ending weakens an otherwise nice noir title with Dan Duryea, Peter Lorre and June Vincent, based on the Cornell Woolrich novel of the same name. One of the film noir movies I’d most like to revisit soon.
Black Tuesday (1954) Hugo Fregonese
Blast of Silence (1961) Allen Baron
Criterion DVD – interlibrary loan (1:17)
Boomerang! (1947) Elia Kazan
Fox Film Noir DVD – interlibrary loan (1:28)
Call Northside 777 (1948) Henry Hathaway
Fox Film Noir DVD (1:51)
Corridor of Mirrors (1948) Terence Young
Noir City DC, AFI Silver (1:45)
Crossfire (1947) Edward Dmytryk
Warner Archive DVD – library (1:25)
A police investigator (Robert Young, far right) discovers the murderer of young man might be one of a group of soldiers seen at a local bar earlier in the evening. Sergeant Keeley (Robert Mitchum, third from left) fears the murder might get pinned on his friend Mitch (George Cooper). Or maybe it’s another GI named Montgomery (Robert Ryan) or one named Floyd (Steve Brodie).
Crossfire boasts an excellent cast (also featuring Gloria Grahame), superb direction by Dmytryk, and one of the most effective uses of flashback in film noir. Although it’s a B movie, it doesn’t look like one (at least for the most part). It was also the first B movie to earn a Best Picture Academy Award nomination. If you’re into film noir, this one should definitely be on your list.
Cry of the City (1948) Robert Siodmak
Kino Lorber Blu-ray (1:35)
Cutter’s Way (1981) Ivan Passer
That covers A-C (including a “numbered” title)… See you next time as we pick up with D.