Ride the Pink Horse (1947) Robert Montgomery
Criterion Collection DVD (library)
A man named Gagin (Robert Montgomery) wearing a suit and hat steps off a Greyhound bus into the small town of San Pablo, New Mexico, looks around, takes several tentative steps, and discreetly transfers a gun from his briefcase to his suit jacket pocket. The locals – Hispanic Americans and Native Americans – are preparing for the town’s annual fiesta, but Gagin has no interest in these people or their celebration. He’s here for another reason: to find a man named Frank Hugo, the man who killed Gagin’s friend.
The Imposter (documentary 2012) Bart Layton
Many people avoid documentaries for several reasons: they generally consider them boring, slow-moving, poorly made, they don’t feature real actors… The list of excuses is endless (and not always unmerited). I’d like to challenge those folks who avoid documentaries to watch Bart Layton’s The Imposter, a film that singlehandedly could change the way you feel about documentaries. Seriously.
The Phenix City Story (1955) Phil Karlson
Film Noir Collection Vol. 5 (Warner Home Video)
The Phenix City Story is one of those odd films you’re not exactly sure how to handle. Is it film noir, crime drama, true crime expose, or something else? Some writers of works dealing with film noir include it while others ignore it. It’s a question best settled by each individual viewer.
99 River Street (aka Crosstown) (1953) Phil Karlson
Edward Small Productions/United Artists
You could certainly be excused for watching the first 10 minutes of 99 River Street dismissing it as just another “coulda been a contender” flick about a down-and-out fighter trying to cope with life outside the ring, but if you stop there, you’ll miss one of the most neglected film noir firecrackers of all time.
Possessed (1947) Curtis Bernhardt
Warner Archive Blu-ray
A strange, frightened, forlorn woman (Joan Crawford) wanders the streets of Los Angeles, asking everyone she meets if they’ve seen “David.” Eventually she awakens in a hospital, where doctors learn that her name is Louise Howell, a disturbed woman who slowly, reluctantly tells her story in flashback.
Blackout: World War II and the Origins of Film Noir (2005) Sheri Chinen Biesen
The Johns Hopkins University Press
Paperback, 243 pages
Photos, notes, index
I’ve only read a few books on film noir and most of those have been overviews, giving readers information on several of the most prominent characteristics, themes, directors, styles of cinematography, budgets and more. While all those books have proved helpful in understanding this group of films I love so much, none of them have really explained the hows and whys of film noir. Most of them claim that film noir grew out of post-WWII America, but Sheri Chinen Biesen proves otherwise.
The Release Calendar over at Blu-ray.com has some noir and noir-ish movies coming out later this month that may be worth a look. Here are a few:
Part II features more film noir, two Oscar-winning films from this year, a nominee from a few years ago, and more. Enjoy!
February was practically Film Noir Month here at Journeys in Darkness and Light, especially in Part I, as you’ll see. If you’re a film noir fan, you’ll find plenty of films to consider here. If you’re not, I hope you’ll want to check out at least one or two of these films after reading a bit about them.
For those new to the blog, the links will take you to fuller, previously posted reviews. Reviews printed on this page are mainly brief thoughts about movies I didn’t have time to explore as much as I would’ve liked. I hope to post Part II in the next few days. Comments welcome. Enjoy!
Raw Deal (1948) Anthony Mann
Amazon Instant Video
A woman named Pat (Claire Trevor, middle) goes to visit her man Joe (Dennis O’Keefe, right) in prison. Before she can see him, a prison official informs Pat that she’ll have to wait: Joe has another visitor that’s already talking to him. Pat is shocked to find a beautiful young social worker named Ann (Marsha Hunt, left) exiting the visitors area, but goes on in to see Joe to discuss her upcoming role in helping him escape.