Sunday, 16 October 2016

Films noirs

This is a thought-provoking article by Graeme Ross, celebrating the dark films of the middle third of the 20th century. RKO and Warner Brothers dominate, but not exclusively.  There are two titles which I do not recall - Criss Cross and Detour - which I shall look out for (BBC-2 on a Saturday morning and Bay TV's "talking pictures" slots are obvious areas).

I would add one more title to the list: "Born to Kill", also distributed as "Lady of Deceit". The typical noir plot points are there, but there are also hints of darker things. Lawrence Tierney, already known as an aggressor in private life, plays one of the leads. Walter Slezak is great as inquiry agent Arnett and a feature of the film is his relationship with the more elegant Helen (Claire Trevor). My favourite quotation from the movie is his: "Has it occurred to you? Neither of us looks like a scoundrel, do we?". The version I have seen was clearly cut and badly, too. Perhaps it is too late to hope for a full restoration.

"Night and the City" is such an iconic production that it has been remade several times. Gerald Kersh, on whose novel the original was based, wrote more books about the dark side of London and perhaps these could be mined further by an enterprising film-maker.

"The Killers" is notable among other things for the debut of Burt Lancaster. Based on an Ernest Hemingway story, this is another film which was remade and inspired others, like "Point Blank", in the same genre. It was reported that Ronald Reagan did not mind most of his old films being shown on TV during his first presidential election campaign, even "Bedtime for Bonzo" which showed he could take a joke, but he did object to the 1964 version of "The Killers" in which he is a criminal mastermind.

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