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RE: My Top Film Noir - 27/8/2008 4:28:37 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54579
Joined: 1/10/2005
No. 37



The Unsuspected (1947)

d. Michael Curtiz
w. Randall MacDougall (from a work by Charlotte Armstrong)

Spoiler Free Synopsis : Did radio host Victor Grandison's secretary commit suicide or was she murdered? And if so, why?
 
It might seem odd, but even though Laura remains one of the most famous of all film noir, upper class 40s murder mysteries rarely featured in the classic noir cannon. One that did is also of note – Michael Curtiz's very classy The Unsuspected, one of the most beautifully shot noirs of the period. While he is probably best known for his historical costume dramas, my top 5 of his films would be headed by We're No Angels and The Unsuspected would also secure a place. Unlike many on this list, The Unsuspected is a big studio production.

The film is certainly about style although it doesn't entirely lack substance. Starting with a shadow gliding smoothly across the walls, alighting for a moment on a portrait (yes – it does also have some plot similarities to Laura!), the blacks have a gorgeous deep velvety texture, the shadows bringing the underworld into the upper class drawing room. There is a well shot sequence in the noir trademark industrial wasteland as the police chase down Grandy's accomplice before he has the hero, well – wasted! As the police close in and surround him the camera comes closer and closer to Rains, trapping him. Bredell brought his skills to other noir classics, working on several projects with the great Robert Siodmak. Using reflections and expressionistic angles, it also contains one of the most famous stylised shots in film noir – deliberate and telling, as the killer lies in his hotel room listening to Grandison on the radio as the lights flash on and off.





Curtiz regularly used the same backroom staff. Art director (Anton Grot) and writer Randall MacDougall worked with him on various projects including the rather overblown melodrama that is, undeservedly, his best known noir – Mildred Pierce, with Crawford of the immobile face. The Unsuspected is from a source novel written by Charlotte Armstrong (whose work was also used for Chabrol's Merci Pour le Chocolate): MacDougall produced an accomplished screenplay that gives enough depth to support Rains performance and some lovely lines for Constance Bennett and Audrey Totter, The basic storyline has been used repeatedly over the years – adapted for films like Ruth Gordon's excellent Whatever Happened to Aunt Alice.

So why is this in the list and not other, better, noirs – I won't pretend this is a work of genius, even if I have thoroughly enjoyed watching it over the years. But there are 2 key reasons why it made the list. One is Bredell's camerawork, mentioned above. The other is Rain's superb performance as our homme fatale lead.



The 'romantic leads' are a tad bland – personally I'd have loved Victor to get away with it. But this absence focuses even more of the attention on Rain's performance. One of my favourite actors he walks away with the film – manipulating his killer accomplice having, we assume, had something to do with the 'accident' that apparently killed his heiress ward, fooling all around as the dapper radio host plotting to own what he is freely given who has a rather unsavoury obsession with the seedier elements he writes about in his show. He relishes the nastiness of the tales he tells referring to the killer, the bad guy, as 'the unsuspected' – tormented by his crime and trapped awaiting capture, "hiding his evil behind a mask”. Rain's silky malevolence makes this one of the performances of his career.



His only challenges are wisecracking Constance Bennett, whose suspicions over the death of one of her colleagues really sets the plot in motion, and jealous niece Audrey Totter  – the only other actor with a significant noir catalogue playing Robert Taylor's psychiatrist in Bernhardt's High Wall – a worthwhile watch – and the female lead in Robert Montgomery's experimental Lady in the Lake. Her complicity in the first murder eventually leads to her own, giving it her all as she tries to seduce everyone in the bland heiress's life – a woman who generally gets what she wants. Including some of the best lines. The scenes with her uncle are fascinating, both aware of how dangerous the other is. Best scenes include chess in the guest house.

Highly enjoyable noir melodrama – a treat for the eyes and any fan of Rains or great performances.

Trivia – one of the earliest uses of technology as a plot device in noir, apparently. Not the earliest, as I've seen commented on earlier – assuming we include They Drive By Night, the garage trick predates it by some years.



< Message edited by elab49 -- 27/8/2008 10:53:45 PM >


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Post #: 61
RE: My Top Film Noir - 27/8/2008 4:41:23 PM   
Professor Moriarty

 

Posts: 10280
Joined: 6/10/2005
From: the waters of Casablanca
Super stuff elab.  Great writing and wonderful noir pictures.  Has to be my favourite thread.

I'm on for getting Strangers on the Third Floor now, from your previous review.  I might get to watch it this afternoon, at which case I'll be able to read the review in detail as I won't be worried by spoilers.

I may have mentioned before that the automatic gate in Drive by Night reminds me of an early Columbo with the use of technology.

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Post #: 62
RE: My Top Film Noir - 27/8/2008 5:16:22 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54579
Joined: 1/10/2005
Sounds like a Columbo.

I was trying to remember which Christie used the records - They Do It With Mirrors? I'm sure it is a later one than the novel this is based on. But I think Columbo used that too. The recording thing is pretty common now.

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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 #: 63
RE: My Top Film Noir - 27/8/2008 10:23:05 PM   
siegfried


Posts: 13582
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From: Long ago and far away
Unsuspected is a film which has passed me by, but from your excellent review, the great pictures, and the fact that it stars one of my favourite actors, Claude Rains, and was directed by Michael Curtiz, it's now on my list of must see films.

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Post #: 64
RE: My Top Film Noir - 28/8/2008 6:27:25 PM   
Professor Moriarty

 

Posts: 10280
Joined: 6/10/2005
From: the waters of Casablanca
I watched Stranger on the Third Floor earlier.

The boy has a guilt ridden conscience that would do the whole of the Catholic Church proud.

Nicely shot.  Pretty well acted.  But it rams its points home with all the subtlety of a brick.  Inventive and good fun to watch.  Clearly a bridge between German expressionism and noir as it is mostly recognised.  Good fun, but hardly a life-changing experience unless you are trying to watch the whole of the genre.  3/5

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Post #: 65
RE: My Top Film Noir - 28/8/2008 6:47:03 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54579
Joined: 1/10/2005
quote:

ORIGINAL: Professor Moriarty
unless you are trying to watch the whole of the genre. 


Trying to, anyway

A nice respectable score.

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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 #: 66
RE: My Top Film Noir - 3/9/2008 5:25:40 AM   
MR T's GOLD CHAINS

 

Posts: 262
Joined: 9/10/2005
Classic Noir for me:

Touch of Evil
The Maltese Falcon
Casablanca
White Heat

Modern Noir:
Blade Runner
LA Confidential
Devil In A Blue Dress
Lonely Hearts

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Post #: 67
RE: My Top Film Noir - 3/9/2008 8:34:14 AM   
elab49


Posts: 54579
Joined: 1/10/2005
It is only recently that Casablanca seems to have been discussed in that context - for me, it isn't a film noir. The other 3?

Devil in a Blue Dress annoys me. The book was so full of atmosphere but if you compare the creation of period LA to LA Confidential, it just doesn't work, for me. Airless and unconvincing. Washington never looks as if he is working anywhere before the 1990s so the whole thing, Cheadle aside, feels like an anachronism. But it can clearly be done because Hansen's 50s LA feels completely authentic, even with all its location work.

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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 #: 68
RE: My Top Film Noir - 14/9/2008 5:11:24 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54579
Joined: 1/10/2005
Lots of spoilers in this one but, if anyone wants to see it, it starts in about 10 minutes on Sky Classic!

No 36

 
Sorry, Wrong Number (1948)
 
Director – Anatole Litvak
Writer – Lucille Fletcher (from her own radio play)

Spoiler-Free Synopsis: Spoilt heiress Stanwyck becomes increasingly upset as she overhears 2 men planning a murder while trying to track down her missing husband.

I've actually managed to find some audio-visual aids for some of my choices. This story originated as a 22-minute radio play – a virtual monologue performed by Mercury's Agnes Moorhead, its popularity led to regular repeats. I found a site that hosts the original broadcast, which is fascinating to listen to, after you've seen the film. Moorhead sounds older, and just a little less sophisticated than the take in the film.
 
http://jayspace2006.blogspot.com/2006/12/sorry-wrong-number-radio-drama.html

Clearly, then, the 90min film is a little less taut than the radio play. Adapting her own script Fletcher expands the narrative primarily through the use of flashbacks. While never having face to face contact with anyone, emphasising her isolation, Leona traces the story of her husband's betrayal through a series of telephone calls to his secretary, his ex- (the wife of a lawyer), her doctor and his accomplice. From her bed she uncovers a fairly complex plot through a combination of flashbacks and voiceovers from multiple points of view, discovering her husband has been stealing from her father's company and has been caught up in blackmail as a result.


The film is full of trapped people. Henry is weak – trapped in marriage, by his father-in-laws contempt, by Murano as a result of his own greed, and by the law. Leona – for whom we have little sympathy – is taught to be a control freak by her father and is trapped by her belief in her own fake infirmity – so much so she can't move as death approaches. She lives in a claustrophobic but lavish little world, clutching her chest at every exertion. The camera pans round the various vials and pill bottles – snake oil for the drug company heiress that can't cure herself. Her father – an excellently ebullient Ed Begley, better known for radio at the time – succeeds in controlling her husband but is outflanked by her – first a 'turn' as he tries to stop her marriage, and her ignoring his pleas to return home to be a trophy again (one memorable shot pans up the wall of dead stuffed trophies to the painting of her as a child – another, in her room in NY, pans from the reflection of her on the bed up to an overbearing portrait of him).


Stanwyck's character is extremely unsympathetic – even given a moment of realisation at the end isn't enough for us not to wonder if she deserves what she gets. As a controlling woman who has a fit of the vapours every time something doesn't go her way it is notable that the police station already know who she is, even though they've only recently taken the house in New York. We see how unpleasant she is in the flashbacks. The studio decided Moorhead didn't have sufficient star quality for the film adaptation (and after the film it was this version that was adapted for radio) - Stanwyck was an obvious choice. Where some actresses would do the full hysterical reaction to the first overheard conversation, with Stanwyck it is all in the eyes and only gradually do panic and hysteria take hold. We realise quickly what is going on – when the conversation refers to the noise of the train going over the bridge and the kitchen window, the camera draws back to the window then downstairs (but not before emphasising Leona's isolation) to the kitchen to what I presume is a security box saying the window is unlocked. The conversation refers to the husband being out of the way, leaving 11pm back Sunday. Half way through Leona, receives a call with a telegram from Henry – and realisation dawns.


Lancaster is cast in what would be against type to us, but this was at the start of his career. He'd already had a run in with William Conrad in The Killers and starred in Dassin's Brute Force. Initially we feel sorry for him having to put up with Leona – until we start to see Henry and realise what a weak, ineffectual and dislikeable person he is. No one comes out well in this scenario.


Litvak isn't a significant noir director. Some are arguable and I'd exclude Out of the Fog where Garfield – a perennially inadequate actor – tries hard to do a very poor Cagney impersonation throughout thereby marring an interesting film with my favourite Lupino along with the always wonderful Thomas Mitchell (this time her father although trying to kill her a year later in Moontide).  He seems more comfortable in serious melodrama. But he and cameraman Polito do a very good job here. There is a nicely surreal almost dream-like visit to Staten Island (helped by almost Bergmanesque film music!).


Numbers appear everywhere – highlighted on doors, emphasised in addresses, the secretary's bingo night and the numbers she keeps dialling. And ultimately the right one – hers. Again the camera draws back – she is alone and unprotected – moves downstairs as a shadow closes in on the kitchen window and enters the house.


Sterling support from Wendell Corey, who would clash with Stanwyck again a couple of years later in Thelma Jordan, and William Conrad – he and Raymond Burr, the 70s TV good guys, were pretty reliable bad guys in classic noir.


The films ends on one of the most suspenseful moments in all film noir – as it builds to a crescendo during her final conversation with Henry, as the shadow is finally seen ascending the stairs – Stanwyck's terror is really quite infectious. And then she is killed. First time I saw it I really didn't expect it. Stanwyck is a star – even if we don't like her here. But I applaud the brave decision.



Trivia – Kind of a query. The painting The Horse Fair by Rosa Bonheur is deliberately highlighted during the film and I've no idea why. Granted at the time Evans has just given the morgue as the number he'll be at shortly – is this then a clue to that, before Leona finds out herself? It was very popular and I believe the original hangs in New York – but it depicts an annual Parisian Horse Fair, not a parade of horse for the slaughter. Although some are broken – perhaps that is all? 



Next up - another female writer.

< Message edited by elab49 -- 14/9/2008 9:09:59 PM >


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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 #: 69
RE: My Top Film Noir - 14/9/2008 5:25:28 PM   
TRM


Posts: 4797
Joined: 20/10/2006
From: Bristol
I may be being a bit silly here, but what film is it Elab?

Edit: Finally the top picture has appeared on my screen. So just ignore me Its also another one i know nothing about... (except from what i have just read)

< Message edited by TRM -- 14/9/2008 5:30:49 PM >


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Post #: 70
RE: My Top Film Noir - 14/9/2008 5:40:34 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54579
Joined: 1/10/2005
Nope - I did also completely forget to add the title and year!

Sorry.

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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 #: 71
RE: My Top Film Noir - 14/9/2008 7:41:38 PM   
Professor Moriarty

 

Posts: 10280
Joined: 6/10/2005
From: the waters of Casablanca
I only found out about this film last week.  I think I mentioned in the telephone thread that I was looking forward to seeing it.  Even more so now.

Excellent review and really insightful elab

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Post #: 72
RE: My Top Film Noir - 14/9/2008 9:12:09 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54579
Joined: 1/10/2005
I only have it on video so I was holding back when I saw it coming on Sky so I got nab the pics I wanted for it. But it does mean the next 3 will be coming up over the next few days.

Another clue for the next one - Raymond Chandler rated this writer highly.

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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 #: 73
RE: My Top Film Noir - 14/9/2008 10:23:12 PM   
Professor Moriarty

 

Posts: 10280
Joined: 6/10/2005
From: the waters of Casablanca
I already thought this guess was wrong as I think the film might be just a tad higher up your list.  The second clue doesn't help me other than to really make me think I'm wide of the mark as its not very detectivey.  But will Bogie be making an appearance in the next film?

Edit: I'm thinking actually that there might be a third clue already and this film has been mentioned in a previous review. 

And if I'm wrong in that then I don't know any other noirs written by dames

< Message edited by Professor Moriarty -- 14/9/2008 10:27:40 PM >

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Post #: 74
RE: My Top Film Noir - 14/9/2008 11:26:53 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54579
Joined: 1/10/2005
There are a few but for this particular choice it is the source novel that was written by a female. And, interestingly, no detective appears. And no Bogart

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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 #: 75
RE: My Top Film Noir - 15/9/2008 8:45:04 AM   
Professor Moriarty

 

Posts: 10280
Joined: 6/10/2005
From: the waters of Casablanca
It won't be In a Lonely Place or Laura then.


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Post #: 76
RE: My Top Film Noir - 15/9/2008 9:30:39 AM   
elab49


Posts: 54579
Joined: 1/10/2005
Ultimately I decided I wasn't completely convinced of In a Lonely Place's place as a noir so, good film though I think it, it won't be turning up here I'm afraid.

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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 #: 77
RE: My Top Film Noir - 15/9/2008 10:54:22 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54579
Joined: 1/10/2005
Don't faint I've managed 2 in the same month!

No. 35



The Reckless Moment (1949)

Director - Max Ophuls
Writers - Screenplay (Henry Garson, Robert Soderberg), Adaptation (Mel Dinelli, Robert Kent)

Spoiler-Free Synopsis - Middle class matron deals with blackmail after concealing the accidental death of her daughter's disreputable beau. Lots of spoilers follow.

"he was better than I am -  he had no illusions about himself”

In 1951 Raymond Chandler wrote to his English publisher lauding a little known author as "for my money…the top suspense writer of them all”. The writer was Elizabeth Sanxay Holding and the 3rd of the books Chandler named – The Blank Wall – has twice reached the screen. Jakubowski referred to her as an important precursor to Highsmith and Rendell and Hitchcock was also a fan, reprinting the story in its entirety in a 1959 anthology. Essentially, Holding's acute psychological perception lends itself to a more thoughtful noir aesthetic

Joan Bennett plays Lucia Harper – even though clearly upper-middle class, money is not easy to access – to their cost. Her husband is abroad on war work, her "son too young and father too old”. So when her daughter becomes involved with an unsavoury character she takes it upon herself to warn him off. The tactic doesn't work and he comes to the house and has a confrontation with her daughter in the boathouse that results in his accidental death (the girl doesn't realise what has happened). Finding the body the next morning, Lucia uses the boat to dump it somewhere else and hopes no connection will be made to their family. Unfortunately Darby was in debt to some lowlife criminals and used her daughter's letters as collateral. Donnelly – James Mason – comes to collect.



There are several unusual aspects to this noir the first being the obvious – the protagonist is female. But this isn't the over-boiled melodrama of a Crawford led noir. The thought processes at work here are far subtler and a more piercing analysis of social responsibility ensues. The basic plot – the fateful decision to cover up a death and what falls out from that – isn't uncommon. It has been seen from various aspects in films as diverse as Detour and Woman in the Window. Even with a female protagonist in Mildred Pierce or The Accused. But Lucia is clearly trapped before this happens. She is repeatedly questioned on where she has been and where she is going, her son constantly reminded to dress properly – social convention reigns supreme. The faηade must be maintained at all cost. Throughout most of the film she keeps everything to herself desperately trying to keep all the balls in the air as she tries to find the money to meet the blackmail demands, visiting loan companies and pawn shops, and worrying over the accounts. The power of this noir lies in the distortion of the social norms. Here she is a prisoner. Nagel emphasises the issues of class and respectability – Lucia is, Martin isn't.

Donnelly turns up half an hour in – wearing black he closes the blinds and reduces the room to shadows. Mason's Donnelly gives the impression of a beaten down, almost deadened soul. Fallen into bad company he resides in low-key criminality. And, fatefully, he becomes ensnared by Lucia – he banters with her father, looks longingly at her life. He gives up his share in the blackmail, he presses his partner on her behalf and, ultimately, he kills for her. She is as damning for him as any femme fatale but their relationship is almost unique in noir – he tries to do good for her. But in the end the result is still the same.

His partner Nagel sees this and resents it. He turns up trying to force the cash from Lucia but it is clear he doesn't care about that – he calls her names, wants to hurt her – for her class or simply what she has done to Donnelly, winning his soul. He blames her for the ruin of Donnelly – and truly she is.




Joan Bennett excels in the role like Tilda Swinton after her. After playing ladies of dubious repute for Fritz Lang, the more mature character here was a step change. Mason – a truly beautiful man – deserved more recognition for his role as the tortured Donnelly who never really had a chance in life and who dies after clearly seeing what it is he can't have. It was his second film with Ophuls after the equally interesting Caught.



As you might expect, the direction is to be praised. The standard city vs. country aesthetic is used – the city all seedy bars and low rent hotels (films like Asphalt Jungle and On Dangerous Ground are amongst those that have used this conflict between the 2 locales to indicate different worlds not just different locations). There is repeated unusual and aggressive blocking of the 4th wall – when Lucia confronts Darby he blocks her off and, interestingly, when arguing with Donnelly in the car Lucia unconsciously takes control and does the same thing  – and we see the first real sign of interest he has in her. Nagel looms large over Lucia in the boathouse.


The use of smoky atmospheres to denote seedy activity is also noteworthy because of the use of the smokiest cigarette ever seen on film – when meeting Donnelly at home Lucia's cigarette tries to create an entire atmosphere by itself – the darkness of the city has entered her home. And we have the more standard symbolism – the cracked glass of the broken torch after Darby is killed.


The most impressive sequence is the discovery and concealment of the corpse. Out for her walk the music (very Hitchcockian) builds up until Lucia spots the body and then, abruptly, silence. She realises who it is, checks to see if anyone else is there and gets the boat. The absence of sound throughout the process of finding and hiding the body creates as much tension as any well-written theme could. Because now she wants no noise – hide the body in silence, in secret.

The camerawork continually emphasises movement – moving and circling shots repeatedly follow Lucia through the garage, the house, up the stairs – a busy and efficient woman at first, a harried one who is constantly followed by people who need something from her later on, never leaving her in peace.

The screenplay writers aren't well known but it is clear that they had substantial input from the star and her husband – produced Walter Wanger- as well as director Ophuls. Dinelli and Kent who adapted the story have a stronger pedigree in films like Spiral Staircase and Where the Sidewalk Ends, respectively. Several changes are made from the book and the later remake – The Deep End – stayed faithful with these alterations. In the book the accident is caused by her father – he stays oblivious throughout as he hadn't known the name of the dead man or that he had killed him – but making it the daughter works better, I think. The translation from New York and its suburbs to LA have little affect. But the final change is possibly the most significant.

In the book Lucia is suspected (the shopping list that fleetingly looks significant in the film is a key piece of evidence in the book) but Donnelly confesses, but does not die. Ophuls has, however, made a film noir. Donnelly is fatally injured in killing Nagel and dies taking the blame for Lucia – she was literally a femme fatale. For Lucia both end the same, however – back, trapped, in her social world.



A final note. The daughter goes to art school and the dead man is a dodgy art dealer. Artists and paintings are unusually common in noir – whether a featured painting (Laura, Woman in the Window, The Big Heat) or one of the characters (Crimson Kimono, The Two Mrs Carrolls, etc). The convention of the tortured artist seems to fit well into noir characterisation.



Overall, a very classy piece of work, well performed throughout.  

 
Trivia – the original choice of director was Jean Renoir, but he was too expensive. Ophuls cost half as much! It would have been interesting as his only real noir – Woman on the Beach – also featured an artist at its heart.

< Message edited by elab49 -- 15/9/2008 11:28:48 PM >


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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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(in reply to elab49)
Post #: 78
RE: My Top Film Noir - 16/9/2008 6:22:44 PM   
jamesbondguy


Posts: 6238
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From: The Village Green
Max Ophuls= awesome. Good choice, although I think Reckless Moment pales in comparison to his best American film Letter from An Unknown Woman, and the French Madame De..... You familiar with the rest of his work, elab?

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Post #: 79
RE: My Top Film Noir - 16/9/2008 6:56:26 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54579
Joined: 1/10/2005
I've got the 6 second sight releases - Le Plaisir (which is the one, I think, Godard called one of the greatest films ever made? - I think it says that on the back of the case!), Madame De, La Ronde, Caught, Reckless Moment and Letter. I've got Lola Montes recorded somewhere as well (always liked Peter Ustinov). 

I have a stronger favourable opinion of the 2 noirs I think, partly, because the melodrama aspect of Letter appeals to me less (I actually got it for my motherinlaw, not me) - although it is clearly a superior film of its type. If I was to sit down to read a book I doubt I'd be interested in the source for Letter - but I bought The Blank Wall as soon as Persephone published it over here (finally!). So even appreciating a beautifully put together film, it wouldn't be my favourite.

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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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(in reply to jamesbondguy)
Post #: 80
RE: My Top Film Noir - 16/9/2008 7:19:08 PM   
Professor Moriarty

 

Posts: 10280
Joined: 6/10/2005
From: the waters of Casablanca
I've just watched Welles' The Stranger and hence had opportunity now to read your excellent review elab.

I find your synopsis to be spot on regarding the strenghts and weaknesses of the film, also wonderful to get the insight like Welles only took this up late from Huston.

It's a very so-so thriller really, which is raised above the average by some excellent cinematography at times, in particular some of the shots up and down the church steeple are fantastic.  It also recalls both The Third Man and Hitchcock's Suspicion.  I've actually not watched (or can't remember) Hitch's Spellbound that you refer to, but I have a copy so I may check that out soon. 

And the aide memoire for the killer is almost laugh out loud funny.  A film that's well worth a watch but its positioning in the lower etchelons of a top 40 is about right.  Can't help thinking this wont be the last we'll see of Robinson or Welles in this list though.

(in reply to elab49)
Post #: 81
RE: My Top Film Noir - 19/9/2008 9:35:42 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54579
Joined: 1/10/2005
Glad you found something to enjoy in it. It is fun seeing Welles trying so hard to be such a good boy!

For fans of the genre wanting to give some a go, then tonight on Sky Classics you'll find Siegel's inferior The Killers on at 10,45 followed by an excellent post-classic noir by Samuel Fuller called Underworld USA, with one of Cliff Robertson's best performances.

Next week Sorry, Wrong Number is repeated on Sky Classics and I'm sure I saw The Unsuspected turn up in the TCM listings, for the Claude Rains fans out there.

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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

(in reply to Professor Moriarty)
Post #: 82
RE: My Top Film Noir - 23/9/2008 1:27:39 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54579
Joined: 1/10/2005
The Unsuspected is on overnight, tonight, on TCM. Earlier in the evening you can also catch the superb Pick-Up on South Street on Film 4.

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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

(in reply to elab49)
Post #: 83
RE: My Top Film Noir - 25/9/2008 3:11:51 PM   
Professor Moriarty

 

Posts: 10280
Joined: 6/10/2005
From: the waters of Casablanca
I thought I'd seen mention of an upcoming noir review of a movie featuring truckers and wondered if it was the excellent Dassin film I've just seen.

(in reply to elab49)
Post #: 84
RE: My Top Film Noir - 25/9/2008 3:22:12 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54579
Joined: 1/10/2005
It wasn't in this part of the list, sorry - I'm afraid that only made also ran. Excellent at times, Conte and Cobb brilliant - but Valentina Cortese could not act her way out of a paper bag and that knocked it down.

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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

(in reply to Professor Moriarty)
Post #: 85
RE: My Top Film Noir - 26/9/2008 6:34:43 AM   
Raving Dave

 

Posts: 1
Joined: 26/9/2008
"The Unsuspected" is one of the finest Film Noirs ever produced.  I am so glad you give the cameraman, Woody Bredell, the accolades he deserves.  He is one of a only a handful of Hollywood cameramen who really knew how to use light and shadow to tell a Film Noir story.  I  have never seen shadows and reflections used so often or to such superb effect as they are in this movie.

You like to think Bredell and the tempermental Curtiz worked hand-in-glove in the making of this movie (cut to the two of them fist-fighting in the screening room).  The scene when Rains, Totter, and Fred Clark first encounter Ted North in the study is one of the most perfectly staged scenes you'll ever see.  It's a perfect little tutorial in blocking actors and composing for the camera.

And as clever as it is for the movie's psycho-killer, played by Jack Lambert, to see "KILL" flashing at him from the sign outside his Hotel Peekskill window, the shot establishing the hotel is even more amazing.

The scene starts inside the compartment of a moving train car where we see Ted North's character listening to Victor Grandison's broadcast on a portable radio.  North strikes a match.  We see his reflection in the window as he lights his cigarette, as buildings rush past outside.   The camera then floats THROUGH  North's reflection in the glass window to the outside of the train and travels half a block up a rain-slick street to the Hotel Peekskill.  It's a seamless, barely-noticeable transition and a finer bit of cinematic prestidigitation you'll never see.

One thing we may never know is why the model-handsome but oh-so-wooden actor Ted North is lit with all the care and soft-focus filtration of Greta Garbo in that scene in the study while none of the other actors are.  It's so obvious as to be distracting and comical.  One wonders if Mr. Curtiz might have had a bit of a "man-crush" on the attractive but semi-talented Mr. North. 

(in reply to elab49)
Post #: 86
RE: My Top Film Noir - 24/2/2009 11:31:22 PM   
Miles Messervy 007


Posts: 6884
Joined: 11/2/2009
elab?

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jamesbondguy:
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quote:

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Post #: 87
RE: My Top Film Noir - 27/2/2009 5:54:19 PM   
jamesbondguy


Posts: 6238
Joined: 6/1/2007
From: The Village Green
This is probably the best place to ask.... Have you seen any of Joseph H Lewis' films outside of Gun Crazy, and if so, what would you recommend, elab?

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Post #: 88
RE: My Top Film Noir - 27/2/2009 6:00:08 PM   
Piles


Posts: 5545
Joined: 6/8/2007
From: Whalley Range
I just had "the Reckless Moment" arrive in the post from LoveFilm this morning,s o I'll put up some thoughts at some point.

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Post #: 89
RE: My Top Film Noir - 28/2/2009 1:14:17 AM   
elab49


Posts: 54579
Joined: 1/10/2005
Looking forward to it Piles - I hope you enjoy it. Raving Dave - and I'll be looking at The Unsuspected again to look at the study scene with your post in mind.

JBG - I've got My Name is Julia Ross, which I do recommend having a look at, but I think the other best film he made is The Big Combo - a fantastic noir, quite high on my list. Beautifully shot but the performances make it. Conte in particular - but one death scene is really quite brilliantly handled. If you get the chance Terror in a Texas Town is a nice offbeat story, and another with Trumbo. And a very imaginative choice of weapon, too

Miles - I'm very embarrassed. I still haven't transferred everything from broken laptop but I do have a ton of half written reviews on it. I need to get my act together

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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

(in reply to Piles)
Post #: 90
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