Noirvember 2017, Episode 4: Caged (1950)

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Caged (1950) John Cromwell
Warner Archive DVD (1:37)

“Pile out, you tramps, end of the line!”

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“Women in prison” movies became a huge subgenre of crime films in the 1970s, but many people forget that they’d been around for several years. Directed by John Cromwell (sometimes called the “Master of Melodrama”), Caged served as a template of sorts for future entries of the subgenre. In this picture written by Virginia Kellogg (based on her story “Women Without Men” with Bernard C. Schoenfeld), 19-year-old Marie Allen (Eleanor Parker) is sent to prison for her part in an armed robbery attempt which left her husband dead. Marie has no idea how to handle living with hardened criminals and navigating a prison culture she can’t understand, but things soon get even worse: she finds out she’s pregnant and won’t be able to gain parole to have the baby.

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Film Noir Releases in October 2017

If you’re new to my monthly film noir releases post, 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. Unless otherwise noted, these 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!

It should come as no surprise that October is ruled by horror releases, but there are still some nice noir titles to be had including a motherlode box set that will excite most any noir fan provided they can speak and understand French (and own a region-free Blu-ray player). Let’s see what October holds…

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Night Moves (1975) Arthur Penn

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Night Moves (1975)
Directed by Arthur Penn
Produced by Robert M. Sherman
Written by Alan Sharp
Music by Michael Small
Cinematography by Bruce Surtees
Edited by Dede Allen, Stephan A. Rotter
Warner DVD – Interlibrary loan (1:39)
Recently released on Blu-ray from Warner Archive

In the first half of Night Moves, private detective Harry Moseby (Gene Hackman) is showing a woman named Paula (Jennifer Warren) a sequence of chess moves from a famous match originally played in the 1920s.

“It’s a beauty,” Paula says after Harry shows her the sequence again.

“Yeah,” Harry replies, “but he didn’t see it. He played something else and he lost. Must’ve regretted it every day of his life. I know I would have.”

In a way, I’ve just given away everything about Arthur Penn’s brilliant neo-noir Night Moves, and then again I’ve given away nothing. Night Moves is one of those movies that’s been largely overlooked for the past 40 years, at least by the majority of the moviegoing public (and sometimes even Gene Hackman fans). It’s a great film for many reasons (which I’ll elaborate on in a moment), but it demands from the viewer a patient and careful eye. It also requires at least two viewings (this was my third) to fully appreciate its wonders, and for a 40-year-old film, that’s asking a lot. Yet the rewards are tremendous.

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