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RE: My Top Film Noir

 
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RE: My Top Film Noir - 13/7/2008 10:47:40 AM   
elab49


Posts: 54430
Joined: 1/10/2005
I think it highlights the occasional problems with the categorisation, which is fair enough. And it might mean I get to add bits I completely forgot to include in the review

I have the next 4 almost ready I just needed to transfer stuff to get the pics and I really want to rewatch one first as I'm going from memory (but as its first pretty much ever release isn't till September I'm being creative!)

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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RE: My Top Film Noir - 14/7/2008 5:49:20 PM   
Piles


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From: Whalley Range
Just finished the Stranger and read your review. Whilst I certainly enjoyed it (the film I mean), I agree that it's not at all Welles' best. I'm hoping for Touch  of Evil and, of course, the Third Man somewhere amongst the t op twenty, and I think I'll be in luck. I definitely agree about the music, which jarrs and was the most obvious negative for me. All in all, I'd give it a seven out of ten. A good film, but probably wouldn't make my top 40 noirs.

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Post #: 32
RE: My Top Film Noir - 14/7/2008 5:57:17 PM   
elab49


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But remembering I'm helping myself along by splitting out the categories - so Third Man won't be in this group at all.

S'not cheating though

I'm really glad you enjoyed it though.

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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Post #: 33
RE: My Top Film Noir - 14/7/2008 6:04:54 PM   
Piles


Posts: 5541
Joined: 6/8/2007
From: Whalley Range
quote:

ORIGINAL: elab49

But remembering I'm helping myself along by splitting out the categories - so Third Man won't be in this group at all.

S'not cheating though

I'm really glad you enjoyed it though.


Hmmm. I thought the Third Man would definitely qualify as classic noir? It's 40s/50s and has some US cast members, but I'm guessing you're classifying it as english because of Reed?

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RE: My Top Film Noir - 14/7/2008 6:43:48 PM   
elab49


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The AFI did try to appropriate it using the bastardised version Selznick put together but that was corrected with the proper version years ago.

So it isn't just because of Reed - writer/director/most background staff/production companies - creatively this was always a British film that just happened to have a couple of Americans in it and it is now universally accepted as a British film - with the proper version available the BFI voted it best British film.  IMDB now note the correct provenance too.

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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Post #: 35
RE: My Top Film Noir - 14/7/2008 6:52:11 PM   
Professor Moriarty

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: elab49

with the proper version available the BFI voted it best British film. 


Would that poll have taken Carry on Camping into consideration? 

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Post #: 36
RE: My Top Film Noir - 14/7/2008 6:52:24 PM   
Piles


Posts: 5541
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From: Whalley Range
quote:

ORIGINAL: elab49

The AFI did try to appropriate it using the bastardised version Selznick put together but that was corrected with the proper version years ago.

So it isn't just because of Reed - writer/director/most background staff/production companies - creatively this was always a British film that just happened to have a couple of Americans in it and it is now universally accepted as a British film - with the proper version available the BFI voted it best British film.  IMDB now note the correct provenance too.


I see that now. At least, if you stick to your current ordering of categories, the Third Man will be the last review posted .

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RE: My Top Film Noir - 14/7/2008 7:58:05 PM   
elab49


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Piles
I see that now. At least, if you stick to your current ordering of categories, the Third Man will be the last review posted .


I am considering a capo di capo (sic?) over all the categories but I'm genuinely not going to choose it till I've ordered the groups and rewatched everything 

With BFI poll, if I recall correctly 5 of the top 10 were from an amazing 5 year period in the 40s with Powell, Lean, Reed and Ealing all producing work. I've checked and I think the only Carry On comes in at no 99. It should, obviously, be Screaming but I will accept Khyber as being more fully a Carry On film. Was it the RT that had that poll? Honestly, Camping. What is wrong with those people.

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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Post #: 38
RE: My Top Film Noir - 28/7/2008 8:48:37 AM   
Professor Moriarty

 

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*bump*


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RE: My Top Film Noir - 28/7/2008 10:05:38 AM   
elab49


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One of the advantages of going from a top 25 to a top 40 is I can play around with the boundaries of the definition of Film Noir in my list. While I've already referenced the impact of German Expressionism and popularity of pulp fiction, other factors did come into play. Cost was certainly an issue – restrictions in the war years took advantage of movies that could be made cheaper, as could the breaking down of the monopoly of the main studios running from the making to the showing of films.  And films run in cycles – we regularly see lots of imitators after a box-office hit, and the box office success of films like Double Indemnity, Laura and Murder My Sweet in the mid-40s inevitably pump-primed the main cycle of classic noir into the early 50s.

But the first cycle ran from about 1940-1944 and as well as the full on 'clichιd' film noir, we also had works that were tangential but incorporated some of the other influences that would come to bear when the cycle hit full flow.

Another element that fed into classic noir, then, was poetic realism, a pre-war film movement in France that gave us key proto-noirs by Jean Renoir, Marcel Carnι and Juliιn Duvivier. The focus was on marginalised characters – the disaffected and often the destitute. This chimed perfectly with the noir character aesthetic (the returning GI, the poor schlubs who turned to crime) although it did also come into conflict with the Hollywood code of happy endings (as all noir did) – in France the protagonist normally ended up dead. But many of these films were also remade as noirs – La Bete Humaine became Fritz Lang's Human Desire, Le Jour se Leve as Litvak's The Long Night.

The greatest star of this movement was Jean Gabin. He made only 2 films in English when he left France for Hollywood as the Germans invaded. And this was the first.

No. 39


Moontide (1942)

d. Archie Mayo (with uncredited work from Fritz Lang).  
w. John O'Hara from a novel by Willard Robertson. (uncredited contributions from Nunnally Johnson).

Spoiler-free synopsis : 2 of life's losers find love but a possible murder and a disturbed acquaintance threaten to ruin things for them.

To an extent this is another case of what might have been and I hope there will be an element of latitude so low down on the list. That said there are noir elements in the film (even as eventually realised) and it is now generally included in lists of film noirs from the classic period and is finally about to get a DVD release with Fox's Film Noir imprint.

It does make clear the link between poetic realism and the classic noir films with the character and setting occasionally showing some resemblance to one of Gabin's previous films, Quai des Brumes (a film we will undoubtedly return to on other lists). The storyline itself is not unique and I have mentioned elsewhere the similarities to von Sternberg's Docks of New York – but remakes were common in the noir cycles

I love this film because of the performances. Gabin's work – one of my favourite actors and possessor of a perfect French shrug – appears in the first of his 2 English roles, having left France during the war (the second was with his Pepe le Moko director Duvivier and was basically a propaganda film) is superb. A very physical actor he bears some similarities to Mifune in his screen presence and to Spencer Tracy in appearance. Providing excellent support are key noir actress Ida Lupino (soon to become one of the period's few female directors with entries of her own in the noir cannon) and the much-loved Thomas Mitchell (in an unusual role – although there were limits to what could be done explicitly on screen it is clear that Tiny is stalker-level obsessed with Bobo which leads to run ins with the woman in his life and figures in his attempt to kill her. He also – just to make clear what the subtext is here – clearly enjoys towel-whipping a naked Claude Rains!). Rains plays a rather odd role as an intellectual nightwatchman who becomes caught up with the main characters and has a remarkably interesting hat. He becomes complicit when he, believing Bobo has done something terrible while drunk, takes steps to protect him.

 The Hat!

Admittedly the final creative team doesn't have much of a noir footprint. The screenplay by John O'Hara of Butterfield 8 and Pal Joey fame, shows the weight of multiple writers. The original source has a more fatalistic ending that would be even better suited to a noir tale but the studios wouldn't go for it. Fritz Lang did some initial work on the film including having discussions with Dali about the dream sequences indicating his take would be more in keeping with the original work and consider the impact of guilt on Bobo's character both in terms of where he came from (a criminal father – in keeping with the rising interest in psychology, etc, a common theme in noir is the impact of criminal parentage – at least 2 more in my list have characters whose actions are heavily influenced by trying to escape their father's crimes – is someone fated to follow in his footsteps?) and what he might have done (finding out a local character has been strangled, Tiny uses this to strengthen his hold on Bobo – he has been using a previous incident to live off him for years). While it is almost impossible to say what is left from Lang, chunks of the dream sequence seem a fair bet. As Jasiri mentions on the 81 (or 82 or however high is has gotten!) thread, clocks were Lang's thing and this one has some familiarity.


Early invisible Quiz        The clock (bottles as hands)


The painting's title is Persistence of Memory – very apt for the film. James Basevi – art director and one time head of special effects at MGM - presumably also met Dali on this and it seems reasonable to wonder if this was one of the roots of the work done on Spellbound where the 2 worked together again and Dali's work finally made it onto the screen. 

The beautifully shot chase sequence at the end and the wonderful creation of the nighttime port got Charles G Clarke an Oscar nomination for his work. Again, there is uncredited support, this time from Lucien Ballard who later gave time to Laura and The Killing, learning his trade on set with von Sternberg. But the nomination was well deserved whoever was responsible. Scenes like this one on the beach highlight the characters using every possible light source from the reflections on the edge of the sand and the fire lit by holidaymakers. Less chiaroscuro lighting and more on character focus, particularly the lighting on Gabin's face as the moods of his character change, especially noticeable as he hunts down Tiny at the end, brings it into acceptable noir territory.



But, as I said – here it is the acting I enjoy and just can't resist having Gabin in my classic noir list. His co-stars will all turn up again later. 

Trivia: Gabin apparently, like Depardieu, was an autodidact making his performance in English all the more remarkable

< Message edited by elab49 -- 30/7/2008 4:07:49 PM >

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RE: My Top Film Noir - 28/7/2008 10:28:41 AM   
TRM


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Cant say that ive ever heard of that one, but i guess thats what these lists are all about.

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RE: My Top Film Noir - 28/7/2008 10:42:10 AM   
Professor Moriarty

 

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Heard of it, but never watched it.  So elab has my appetite whetted now.  1942 seems so far away for me though

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RE: My Top Film Noir - 30/7/2008 3:38:08 PM   
rick_7


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Enjoying this loads, and can't wait to see what comes next. I haven't seen Moontide, either, but I'd certainly like to now.
 
Top work.

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RE: My Top Film Noir - 31/7/2008 11:15:10 AM   
Jasiri


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quote:

ORIGINAL: rick_7

Enjoying this loads, and can't wait to see what comes next. I haven't seen Moontide, either, but I'd certainly like to now.
 
Top work.


Absolutely, I knew the film by title as one that Lang had worked on but had never looked into it further so never realised that Jean Gabin and Ida Lupino were in it.

quote:

ORIGINAL: elab49

While it is almost impossible to say what is left from Lang, chunks of the dream sequence seem a fair bet. As Jasiri mentions on the 81 (or 82 or however high is has gotten!) thread, clocks were Lang's thing and this one has some familiarity.


As soon as I saw the picture of the clock I thought 'that's Lang'.


quote:

ORIGINAL: elab49

at least 2 more in my list have characters whose actions are heavily influenced by trying to escape their father's crimes


I'll hazard a guess at Moonrise being one,can't think of another offhand.

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RE: My Top Film Noir - 31/7/2008 11:26:16 AM   
Professor Moriarty

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Jasiri

quote:

ORIGINAL: elab49

at least 2 more in my list have characters whose actions are heavily influenced by trying to escape their father's crimes


I'll hazard a guess at Moonrise being one,can't think of another offhand.



I'm hazarding a guess that one of those is directed by Charles Laughton.

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RE: My Top Film Noir - 31/7/2008 1:22:56 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54430
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quote:

ORIGINAL: Jasiri

I'll hazard a guess at Moonrise being one,can't think of another offhand.





The other will be a lot lower than that.

quote:

I'm hazarding a guess that one of those is directed by Charles Laughton.


I hadn't thought of it that way round, but you're quite right. And quite right!

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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Post #: 46
RE: My Top Film Noir - 31/7/2008 7:36:48 PM   
Jasiri


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quote:

ORIGINAL: elab49


quote:

I'm hazarding a guess that one of those is directed by Charles Laughton.


I hadn't thought of it that way round, but you're quite right. And quite right!


Oh right...it's been a while since I've aired one of my unpopular opinions about a much loved 'classic' .

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Post #: 47
RE: My Top Film Noir - 31/7/2008 7:46:28 PM   
elab49


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I wasn't a fan myself for a long time. I'm not really sure why it changed but my view of it and the enjoyment I get from it certainly has. So it will be interesting to hear how it is seen by others.

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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Post #: 48
RE: My Top Film Noir - 11/8/2008 8:38:24 PM   
Professor Moriarty

 

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 time for  review

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RE: My Top Film Noir - 11/8/2008 8:53:44 PM   
elab49


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I have a few days off coming up so I was planning a minor blitz then. Well - at least 2!

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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Post #: 50
RE: My Top Film Noir - 15/8/2008 5:16:28 PM   
elab49


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No. 38

 
Stranger on the Third Floor (1940)
 
d. Boris Ingster
w. Frank Patros (uncredited work from Nathanial West)
 
 
Spoiler Free Synopsis: A reporter who witnesses the aftermath of a murder discovers how easy it is to be the victim of circumstances.

The last shall be first and the first shall be last as the saying goes – or at least 3rd from last. Stranger on the Third Floor is pretty much universally acknowledged as the first film noir. Along with two other films (Citizen Kane and I Wake Up Screaming) from 1940/41, this RKO B movie is seen as a seminal work that helped set the tone for the film noir cannon – this in no small measure due to Van Nest Polglase's art direction on two of them. Here it is considered to be the earliest example of the blurring of the line between reality and dream and display of German Expressionism in a Hollywood film.

Ingster the director didn't have much of an impact apart from this although he had formerly been with UFA, the German film studio that provided a home to the likes of Lang, Murnau, Wilder and Siodmak. And while Frank Patros did contribute to another couple of classic noirs his better work was more tangential to the genre – De Havilland's spell in the asylum in The Snake Pit and a very enjoyable ghost story with Ray Milland called The Uninvited. But with Polglase and cameraman Nicolas Musuraca the anticipated style of film noir is there to see. Musuraca is up there with the likes of Metty and Laszlo when it comes to noir work and his low key lighting helps turn the film into a study of paranoia and guilt. When the guilty verdict comes in the tone turns dark and the lighting contrasts deepen. We see through tilted cameras (not really seen again till post-The Third Man but had been popular with the likes of James Whale), with odd angles throwing ominous shadows on the wall. The neighbourhood of low rent rooming houses, unpleasant neighbours and run-down restaurants gets creepier even before we finally see the appearance of the man whose name above the title caused confusion given how small the part was – Peter Lorre could have sleepwalked whose appearance generally harks back to Cesare and The Cabinet of Dr Caligari.



Other noir staples are here too. As Ward realises how easy it is for circumstance to place you at the sharp end he flashbacks to his run in with his obnoxious neighbour Meng (beautifully played by Charles Halton) – panicking after finding a body he ends up acting in the same way as the unfortunate Briggs (Elisha Cook Jr – he appears therefore, of course, it is a noir!). After the verdict the voiceover starts - not the normal narrative, more stream of consciousness. And the dream sequence. Over 6 minutes of full-blown German Expressionism as Ward faces the courts with the sleeping jurors, justice gone dark (previously shown lit up as he wrestled his with his conscience in trying to decide what to do), and the vision of a blind judge with scales and scythe. Justice is not blind to bias but truth.



It is a remarkably cynical and bitter film. Cynicism represented by Ward's mentor – newspapermen were good for this role. As far as he is concerned it makes no difference if Briggs is innocent and gets the chair – there's too many people in the world anyway! Justice was not portrayed so nastily again till later in the 40s with the likes of Lady From Shanghai. From the newspapermen disparaging the idea of innocence being relevant to the clearly bored courtroom personnel – the judge is caught napping, the defence is incompetent and the jury is asleep. Justice is konked out and snoring.  It makes a joke of the thesis offered in the history of courtroom cinema in the recent Beeb documentary that there was faith in the system and in justice until the world fell apart. In the late 60s and 70s cynicism prevailed - lawyers became bad guys and judges set up hit squads. Sure mistakes were made earlier but with Atticus Finch there to protect us we knew there was right and truth in the world. Stranger on the Third Floor does not subscribe to this view.


Overall the acting is decent. John McGuire is pretty bland although he handles the voiceover well and Tallichet's (Mrs William Wyler) performance is fine. Her investigation in the final quarter of the film is said to be one of the influences on Siodmak's Phantom Lady – of which more later. Elisha Cook Jr gives an excellent account of himself as the persecuted Briggs whose plaintive cries proclaiming his innocence as he is led away lead to the change in tone.

One final thing. You always wonder if you are overanalysing with some of these films. But Ingster was another immigrant who left Nazi Germany. The film is about the oppression of innocence and how easily doing nothing means it could happen to you to. So part of the dream sequence might point to the theme being something else entirely….






< Message edited by elab49 -- 16/8/2008 10:39:51 AM >


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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Post #: 51
RE: My Top Film Noir - 16/8/2008 9:52:45 AM   
Jasiri


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I recorded this a little while back,I'd a feeling I'd seen it before but seeing the pictures above I haven't.I'll try and give it a watch over the weekend.

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RE: My Top Film Noir - 16/8/2008 10:36:21 AM   
chris_scott01


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I noticed it was on last Christmas really late but I totally forgot to record it.  I really regret missing it, it sounds great.

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RE: My Top Film Noir - 16/8/2008 10:40:37 AM   
Professor Moriarty

 

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I love the lists that shed light (and shadow ) on films you didn't know about.  Sterling review and I'll certainly be looking out for this one.  Top stuff elab

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Post #: 54
RE: My Top Film Noir - 16/8/2008 10:45:29 AM   
elab49


Posts: 54430
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Given its place in film history it is quite hard to find. I understand - with most of these older US films it seems - there is a Spanish release. The old RKO library was split between what is now RKO pictures and down a route that ended up with TCM. Neither seem particularly DVD friendly, unfortunately. The copy I have has a slightly out-of-step audio (just a little bit) at the start but apart from that the visuals are excellent.

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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Post #: 55
RE: My Top Film Noir - 19/8/2008 3:26:25 PM   
elab49


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Conundrum. I actually have 2 ready to go my copy of the next one has gone AWOL - so no pics!

Is it done to skip one and come back to it?

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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Post #: 56
RE: My Top Film Noir - 19/8/2008 3:28:36 PM   
Professor Moriarty

 

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As the call girl said to the vicar get it up and we'll worry about that later.

By the way I've just come into possession of Panic in the Streets, any good?

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Post #: 57
RE: My Top Film Noir - 19/8/2008 3:41:20 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54430
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Watchable as Widmark always is but Kazan's noirs are a tad dry and drag a little for my taste. Of the 'social noir' directors Dymytryck is much better, for me. I prefer the very similar Killer That Stalked New York. Bit more fun. Although it doesn't have Jack Palance or an oddly cast - to our eyes - Zero Mostel.

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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Post #: 58
RE: My Top Film Noir - 19/8/2008 4:00:21 PM   
Piles


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From: Whalley Range
More I haven't seen. Get to the Third Man already!

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Post #: 59
RE: My Top Film Noir - 19/8/2008 4:37:25 PM   
elab49


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That'll be a while I'm afraid. Classic noir, then proto noir - then British noir.

Maybe 2010 at my unacceptably slow rate

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Lips Together and Blow - blogtasticness and Glasgow Film Festival GFF13!

quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


Annual Poll 2013 - All Lists Welcome

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