While many of my online movie friends are currently attending the TCM Film Festival, I am stuck at home, but at least I’m watching some good film noir and reading the latest issue of The Dark Pages: The Newsletter for Film Noir Lovers, edited by Karen Burroughs Hannsberry. I’ve talked about the newsletter before, but if you’re a fan of noir, you should seriously consider subscribing.
As you probably know from my Best of the Year posts, I love making lists. I also love trying to work through them, especially movie lists. I’m currently working on two long-term movie-watching projects based on lists: Roger Ebert’s Great Movies and Michael F. Keaney’s Film Noir Guide: 745 Films of the Classic Era, 1940-1959. I’m working through other lists as well, titles I’ve picked up here and there from other books and websites, but these are the main two lists I’m targeting right now.
I’m very pleased to announce that my first guest appearance on the podcast Film Don’t Lie is now available here. My friend and podcast host Audy Christianos invited me to come on the show to discuss one of the great Friday night double features currently playing on the Criterion Channel at FilmStruck, this one featuring Night Moves (1975) and My Night at Maud’s (1969). These films have more in common than the word “night,” so I hope you’ll join us to find out more.
The Blue Devils Drum and Bugle Corps, circa 2000
My band friends will be familiar with this organization, but if you’ve never attended a Drum Corps International (DCI) event or seen one on TV, you should check it out. In brief, drum and bugle corps are like high school and college marching bands (minus woodwinds) taken to a professional level and very competitive. In the preliminary competition leading up to the yearly finals, you see some corps that are superb and others that are clearly not going to come close to making it to the final 12. (This will have a connection to movies, I promise. Bear with me.)
So I’m a little nervous… I’ve been asked to be a guest on an upcoming podcast about movies. I’ve done podcasting before: for three years with The Comics Alternative (mostly on the Young Reader episodes) and have been a guest on other podcasts, but those shows were always about comics and graphic novels. Tomorrow I record my first podcast episode about movies, two in particular.
If you’re new to my monthly Film Noir Releases posts, welcome! My goal is to cover all the first-time releases to Blu-ray and DVD, usually passing over reissues unless there’s a good reason to include them. (I also tend to leave out more recent films from the last several years.) Unless otherwise noted, the following are all North American Region A Blu-ray discs. I often use the terms “film noir” and “neo-noir” rather loosely, so while you may quibble with some of my choices, I hope these are films you’ll at least consider. As always, if you know of any film noir or neo-noir films I’ve left out, please let me know in the comments below. And thanks for reading.
Just a few weeks ago, things looked pretty bleak for May releases, but several new titles have been announced in the last few days. More may be on the way; if so, I’ll be sure to update the post. But what we have so far looks pretty interesting… Let’s have a look:
(Out of the Fog is the fourth in a series of film noir titles I recently purchased from Warner Archive. I previously discussed Riffraff , The Threat , and Southside 1-1000 ).
Out of the Fog (1941)
Directed by Anatole Litvak
Produced by Hal B. Wallis
Screenplay by Robert Macaulay, Robert Rossen, Jerry Walk
Based on the play Gentle People by Irwin Shaw
Cinematography by James Wong Howe
Warner Bros. DVD (1:32)
When I was looking for that all-important fourth film in the recent 4 for $44 sale at the Warner online store, the names Ida Lupino and John Garfield initially pulled me in. (I’d greatly enjoyed them both in The Sea Wolf, a film I’ve already seen twice this year.) Then when I noticed the film also includes two other favorites, Thomas Mitchell and John Qualen, I was sold.
(Southside 1-1000 is the third in a series of four film noir titles I recently purchased from Warner Archive. I previously discussed Riffraff  and The Threat . Look for a review of Out of the Fog , the final film in this set, very soon.)
Southside 1-1000 (1950)
Directed by Boris Ingster
Produced by Frank King, Maurice King
Screenplay by Boris Ingster, Leo Townsend
Based on a story by Bert C. Brown, Milton M. Raison
Cinematography by Russell Harlan
Edited by Christian Nyby
Warner Archive DVD/MOD (1:13)
The King Brothers’ masterpiece, Gun Crazy (1950)
The list of movies King Brothers Productions planned to make but didn’t is nearly as long as the ones they did produce, and of those films, I’d love to see them all. (And if there’s a King Brothers biography out there [I can’t find one], I’d certainly buy it.) For nearly 20 years, the King Brothers broke all the rules, employing blacklisted writers in the 1940s and 50s, publicly trading their company, and creating several good films including one masterpiece, Gun Crazy (1950). Southside 1-1000 was the first film the King Brothers made after Gun Crazy and while it’s not in the same league with that film (What film is?), it’s definitely worth a look, especially for film noir fans.
(The Threat is the second in a series of four film noir titles I recently purchased from Warner Archive. Riffraff  was the first in that series.)
The Threat (1949)
Directed by Felix E. Feist
Screenplay by High King
Cinematography by Harry J. Wild
Warner Archive DVD/MOD (1:07)
It’s been called “The poor man’s White Heat,” featuring a standout performance by film noir icon Charles McGraw, but are those reasons enough to recommend The Threat, a 67-minute B picture?
I, Tonya (2017)
Directed by Craig Gillespie
Produced by Tom Ackerley, Margot Robbie, Steven Rogers, Bryan Unkeless
Written by Steven Rogers
Cinematography by Nicholas Karakatsanis
Edited by Tatiana S. Riegel
Library DVD (1:59)
“Why can’t it just be about the skating?”
Figure skater Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) asks this question to a panel of judges just after she has clearly given a superb performance on the ice. She’s given safe, pat answers that allow the judges to weasel out of the real answer, the answer a different judge later gives Tonya in a parking garage as he’s attempting to make a clean escape: you don’t fit the image we’re looking for.
I, Tonya is a marvel of a film, somewhat like Harding herself: it meets audiences on its own terms, not theirs. It follows the rules, but breaks them just enough to make you think it might collapse, but doesn’t. It’s darkly comedic and sometimes over-the-top, but never loses sight of its focus, and let’s make this clear: that focus is not on Tonya Harding.