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Feature
Become A Film Noir Expert In Ten Easy Movies
Master a genre in just a handful of films

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Become A Film Noir Expert In Ten Easy Movies | Out Of The Past (1947)
Out Of The Past (1947)

Director: Jacques Tourneur
Cast: Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, Kirk Douglas
Tagline: “A guy without a fortune! A girl with too much past!”

If RKO, the edgiest of Hollywood’s big five studios, stumbled on noirs as a cheap way of keeping its slate ticking over, it sure unleashed some firecrackers. Unsurprising perhaps, considering the quality of directors patrolling its lot. The likes of Anthony Mann, Robert Wise and Nicholas Ray all cut their teeth at the studio in the ‘40s. Then there’s this gem. Subtitled ‘Build My Gallows High’, it’s a black-as-pitch template for anyone who wants to make a classic film noir, giving us twisted timelines and enough fatalistic loners, double-dealing molls and unrepentant villains to staff an entire circle of hell. Director Jacques Tourneur’s crew also boasted a cinematographer, Nicholas Musuraca, who did so much to establish the genre’s ‘noir’ look. Borrowing from German expressionism styles of Lang, Murnau and co., his chiaroscuro lighting offers plenty of dark nooks from which bad guys (and girls) could emerge with teeth bared and revolvers cocked. And there are plenty of bad guys to fill them. Chief among them is a young Kirk Douglas as a gangster with an almost Tex Avery-like weakness for his ex-girlfriend Jane Green. We say ‘ex’ only because she’s shot him and made off with $40,000, hardly a deal-breaker in film noir relationships. Bullet wound or no bullet wound, he still yearns for her badly enough to send Robert Mitchum’s P.I. after her. “I just want her back,” he growls at the laconic gumshoe. “When you see her, you'll understand better." He does. It doesn’t end well.

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