Continuing from yesterday’s look at films A-C:
The Damned Don’t Cry (1950) Vincent Sherman
Warner DVD (1:43)
Dead Reckoning (1947) John Cromwell
Columbia DVD – interlibrary loan (1:40)
Devil in a Blue Dress (1995) Carl Franklin
Twilight Time Blu-ray (1:42)
The Devil Thumbs a Ride (1947) Felix E. Feist
Borrowed from K.D. (1:02)
If there ever was a devil in film noir, it was Lawrence Tierney. Here he plays Steve Morgan, a sociopath who’s just robbed and killed a cashier, looking for a way out of town. Unsuspecting good guy Jimmy “Fergie” Ferguson (Ted North) gives Morgan a lift to Los Angeles but before they can reach L.A., they stop at a gas station and pick up two women. The fun’s just beginning when Morgan talks everyone into stopping for the night in an unoccupied beach house. As the cops begin to follow Morgan’s trail, murder and mayhem begin to mount.
The Devil Thumbs a Ride is a little too much comic relief to make it as hard-edged as it could’ve been, but it’s an effective little thriller and a great role for Tierney as he cunningly and ruthlessly works his charms on everyone he meets, caring only about himself. Good stuff.
The Drop (2014) Michaël R. Roskam
20th Century Fox DVD – library (1:47)
Elevator to the Gallows (1958) Louis Malle
Hulu streaming (1:28)
I’ll keep it somewhat brief, although I could expound on Malle’s first film for pages. This pre-New Wave noir/thriller could really work in any era, but being set in Paris with a Miles Davis soundtrack immediately gives it a feel that probably wouldn’t work quite as well in other contexts.
A man named Julien Tavernier (Maurice Ronet) decides to murder his boss, a rich industrialist, and then run off with the boss’s wife Florence (Jeanne Moreau). During his escape, Tavernier gets stuck in an elevator while Florence anxiously awaits his return. Meanwhile, a young man (Georges Poujouly) decides to steal Tavernier’s car and assume his identity, heading out to the countryside with his girlfriend (Yori Bertin).
This brief summary doesn’t do the film justice. Some critics have called Louis Malle the Quentin Tarantino of his generation, based largely on this film. It’s a fair comparison: Malle captures the moodiness, the unleashed style of camerawork, the stark performances, and the pacing of what could certainly be thought of as a forerunner of the French New Wave (although many differences would emerge from that period). The story itself is simple, but what Malle does with it is complex, imaginative and exciting. If you can put yourself in the mindset of audiences of the time, thinking about what films were like at the time, you’ll see how much Elevator to the Gallows is telling audiences that something different is coming, something that’s going to take cinema in a new direction.
Follow Me Quietly (1949) Richard Fleischer (and Anthony Mann, uncredited)
Borrowed from K.D. (1:00)
I’m beginning to think that Bosley Crowther (film critic for The New York Times from 1940 to 1967) either didn’t “get” film noir or just plain hated it. It seems every time I research a film noir, he usually comes up giving it a negative review. Some of his thoughts on Follow Me Quietly include the following:
“There is no intelligent reason why anyone should heed the proposal of ‘Follow Me Quietly’….” “this utterly senseless little thriller is patently nothing more than a convenient one-hour time-killer between performances of the eight-act vaudeville bill.”
Lighten up, Bosley…
Okay, so it’s not Citizen Kane, but Follow Me Quietly is an effective thriller with people you’ve mostly never heard of featuring a couple of really nifty scenes. An elusive killer known only as “The Judge” has taken it upon himself to kill anyone he considers evil or worthless. In one of the notes he leaves for the police, he states, “I have been ordained to destroy all evil.” Looks like the Judge will be working overtime on this movie…
The Judge has murdered seven people and Detective Harry Grant (William Lundigan, who also starred in The House on Telegraph Hill ) and Police Sgt. Art Collins (Jeff Corey) are hot on the trail. Their second biggest problem (after the Judge himself) is Ann Gorman (Dorothy Patrick, who appeared in noirs High Wall  and House by the River ). Ann is new in town, trying to make a name for herself as a reporter and she just won’t leave Grant alone until he gives her the whole story on the Judge.
Neither Lundigan nor Patrick were probably ever headliners in any other film, but they work well together in this one. Follow Me Quietly is a far better thriller (and film noir) than Bosley Crowther gives it credit for. Do check it out.
High Sierra (1941) Raoul Walsh
TCM Greatest Classic Gangsters – Humphrey Bogart DVD (1:40)
His Kind of Woman (1951) John Farrow
Warner Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 3 DVD (2:00)
House of Strangers (1949) Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Fox Film Noir DVD – interlibrary loan (1:41)
The House on 92nd Street (1945) Henry Hathaway
20th Century Fox DVD (1:28)
The House on Telegraph Hill (1951) Robert Wise
Netflix streaming (1:33)
Human Desire (1954) Fritz Lang
DVD – interlibrary loan (1:31)
A terrific noir with Glenn Ford as an Army veteran train engineer who gets mixed up with Gloria Grahame and her murdering husband Broderick Crawford. Train metaphors abound and they’re fairly effective. Some consider this a “throwaway” effort from Fritz Lang, but I’d argue that such is not the case. It’s a film rarely discussed, but should be.