Experiment in Terror (1962) Blake Edwards
Indicator Blu-ray (2:03)
I’m stepping outside my prescribed classic film noir timeline (roughly 1940-1959) to bring you a nail-biter from 1962, but once you see it, I don’t think you’ll mind my bending the rules a bit.
White Heat (1949) Raoul Walsh
Ultimate Gangsters Collection Blu-ray (1:54)
James Cagney stars as Cody Jarrett, psychotic leader of a gang of robbers, but there’s much more to the role and the film. Jarrett is vicious, murdering people without thinking twice, even discarding his own people if they’re injured and unable to help themselves.
My previous bonus episode covered T-Men (1947), a recent Blu-ray from ClassicFlix. Now comes another release from the same company, one that may be even more impressive than T-Men: Alfred L. Werker’s He Walked by Night (1948) with directorial contributions by Anthony Mann.
The Dark Mirror (1946) Robert Siodmak
Olive Blu-ray (1:25)
Watching The Dark Mirror in 1946 was undoubtedly a fascinating experience. First of all you had Olivia de Havilland performing wonderfully as twin sisters, a Nunnally Johnson screenplay, cinematographer Milton R. Krasner, music by Dimitri Tiomkin and, of course, Robert Siodmak directing. Over 70 years later, the film’s impact is far less than it was in 1946, but this has less to do with the people who made the film than our understanding of psychology.
T-Men (1947) Anthony Mann
U.S. Treasury Agents Dennis O’Brien (Dennis O’Keefe) and Tony Genaro (Alfred Ryder) go after counterfeiters in this crackerjack police procedural that begins in a pseudo-documentary style before settling down to nail-biting crime story, a nice blend of procedural and film noir. The tension is both excellent and hard-edged, and anytime you’ve got Charles McGraw in the cast, you know there’s gonna be some serious hurt put on someone… and there is! The film features cinematography by the always wonderful John Alton. (More on him and director Anthony Mann in a moment.)
The Machinist (2004)
Directed by Brad Anderson
Produced by Carlos Fernández
Written by Scott Kosar
Cinematography by Xavi Giménez
Music by Roque Baños
DVD – interlibrary loan (1:42)
The Machinist disturbs us from the very first frame and never lets up until the final credits roll, yet when you think about it, we’re really not off the hook even then. Much of what disturbs us is watching an emaciated Christian Bale, who lost 62 pounds for the role of Trevor Reznik, a machinist with a prolonged case of insomnia. The disturbing sight of Bale is a strong foundation for more things that will disturb us in the film, grounding the audience in elements that have one foot in horror and the other in noir. Part of what makes The Machinist so powerful is in how it maintains that balance.
Peeping Tom (1960)
Produced and directed by Michael Powell
Written by Leo Marks
Cinematography by Otto Heller
Edited by Noreen Ackland
Music by Brian Easdale
Studio Canal Vintage Classics/Optimum Home Entertainment 50th Anniversary Blu-ray (1:41)
(For more on the Blind Spot Series, please visit The Matinee.)
For many years, perhaps even as a child, I had heard of Peeping Tom discussed in hushed whispers among a handful of adults, although I’m not sure if any of them had actually seen the film, certainly not in central Mississippi where I grew up. It was never a film I had rigorously sought out, but the title (apart from the cultural phrase itself) drifted through the air from time to time, landing on my adolescent ears. Otherwise I knew little about the film, who starred in it, when it was released, and especially (to my disappointment) at what level of salaciousness it operated.