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Author Topic: Noir-vember Group Marathon 2011  (Read 40185 times)

MartinTeller

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Re: Noir-vember Group Marathon 2011
« Reply #230 on: November 25, 2011, 04:18:34 AM »
Quicksand - A young mechanic borrows $20 from the till to take a dame out on the town, setting in motion an escalating series of crimes.  This is a really enjoyable "out of the frying pan, into the fire" situation as Mickey Rooney digs himself in deeper and deeper.  Maybe not as hard-edged as I usually prefer my noir, but the story moves at a rapid clip and never slows down.  And I don't mean to imply it's light-hearted, although there is some amusement in how incompetent the protagonist is at committing crimes.  It's also kinda funny to see the diminutive Rooney square off against the equally diminutive Peter Lorre (sadly, not a large role, but his presence is welcome).  I'm only familiar with the "Andy Hardy" Rooney by reputation, but as a noir actor he's growing on me more and more.  There's a simplistic but entertaining good girl/bad girl dichotomy with Barbara Bates (a little too earnest, but cute) and Jeanne Cagney (Jimmy's sister, and a delightful performance).  Some beautiful lighting and shot composition as well.  Exciting, fun, and memorable... I'm buying a copy of this one for my collection.  Rating: Very Good


This marathon is shaking up my top 100 noirs a lot more than I thought it would.

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Noir-vember Group Marathon 2011 - Mystery Street
« Reply #231 on: November 25, 2011, 02:28:09 PM »
Mystery Street

The Cranes Are Flying is amazing, and if you give it another one of your lukewarm reviews I will smack you silly.
One of my favorite quotes from Martin. The irony is I gave the film * * 1/2. I know Martin likes when I follow his suggestions, but it always leaves the door open for me writing about being unimpressed.

There are three things I hope for from a film noir: Great Dialogue, Moral ambiguity and stylish lighting with heavy shadows. Mystery Street has exactly 1 great line. ("Fresh air couldn't get in here with a permit.") The lighting I found to be very average. I know Martin disagrees. That leaves moral ambiguity.

This is a pretty straight forward murder investigation, much like the first 20 minutes of The Lineup. They set up a CSI science vs. police investigation partnership which I found enjoyable. Then it becomes about uncovering statements that we already know are lies. This is my problem. You know the truth will come out when the film is ready, so there's little left to keep interest. We find out who the murderer is almost matter of fact. We're always a couple of steps ahead of all the other characters, including the police and the killer. So, there are no surprises, just solid performances.
RATING: * * 1/2

PeacefulAnarchy

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Re: Noir-vember Group Marathon 2011
« Reply #232 on: November 25, 2011, 03:24:40 PM »
Uncle Harry is one of those endings that's too ludicrous to be taken seriously.  Which is kind of an awesome way to subvert the Production Code.

That's how I feel about Woman in the Window.  I don't know if that's the case with Uncle Harry... according to IMDb (unreliable, I know), they tested five different endings.  Also a producer apparently resigned over it.
A lot of noirs seem to have endings like that. Sometimes I have no problem with it, like with Suspicion, other times it has a big impact on my impression like with Detour. Uncle Harry and Woman in the Window are kind of in the middle, it's obvious enough that I can separate it from the rest of the film but it still affects my impression of the film as a whole.

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Noir-vember Group Marathon 2011 - 99 River Street
« Reply #233 on: November 25, 2011, 05:18:03 PM »
99 River Street
Anytime you get hooked up with a dame you're bound to end up in trouble.

I'm sure there's an endless amount of material regarding the portrayal of women in film noir. I haven't read any of it, so I'm discovering it for myself. For the most part women are the wellspring for mistrust, and the more innocent they appear at first, the more devious they are, unless they are established as the peripheral dutiful housewife. The women here do not fare well. Even the good girl has a really bad moment. Not that the men fare much better.

Anyways, the real joy of this film is the plot, which twists and corkscrews like a great rollercoaster. About 3 main plots fold in on each other like a shuffled deck of cards until you wonder how director Phil Karlson plans to keep it all straight. He does this better than most classic directors, who prefer to just get lost in the shadows of the city. For all that happens - and I went into this completely cold - this is a very easy movie to follow.

In my last review I sad that my favorite kind of noir has "stylish lighting with heavy shadows". This reminded me that noir also does well with a stark, low-budget look. Good noir can create a feeling of dingy poverty. A reminder that these people are just a couple of steps from the gutter.

Sometimes the production value is too low. There are some jarring moments that feel false. I wondered if they were trying to fix some problems after shooting. (There's a scene which inexplicably cuts to a close-up of our lead while he hears a lot of plot dialogue that was clearly not recorded on site.) I also don't know how I feel about Evelyn Keyes. She's good at times, but not consistently and tends to fall hardest during her big moments.
RATING: * * *

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Noir-vember Group Marathon 2011 - The Big Clock
« Reply #234 on: November 25, 2011, 07:35:13 PM »
The Big Clock

Disappointing murder investigation that takes a good story and ruins it by patching over plot holes with comedy that has no place here. Starts kind of slow, but once we get to the murder there's the nice hook of the killer hiring someone to investigate the crime, while all the evidence points towards that investigator. At first there's just too many references to time and clocks, but in the last twenty minutes there's borderline slapstick involving sketches and fainting.

Performances are very mannered, as if the cast was told to act like they're in a noir instead of playing situations for real. Charles Laughton can often turn mannerisms into a great performance, but I don't know if I've ever seen him come off so fake. Elsa Lanchester can do wonders with fake acting, but she behaves as if she's in a genre spoof. She gets the last line, which is handled much like the final line of Some Like it Hot. That's how off the tone is. The best performance is Harry Morgan as Laughton's silent, suspicious hired hand. He steals scenes just by standing quietly in the room.
RATING: * *

MartinTeller

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Re: Noir-vember Group Marathon 2011
« Reply #235 on: November 25, 2011, 07:43:25 PM »
Is Mrs. 1SO watching these with you?  I like reading about her opinions too.


Highway 301 - The criminal exploits of a small group of gangsters working in the Maryland/Virginia/North Carolina area.  The docudrama subgenre of noir tends to produce few masterpieces and a lot of mediocrities.  This one is closer to mediocrity, but has a few worthwhile assets.  The intro, with "crime does not pay" lectures by the governors of the three states, sets the self-righteous, judgemental tone for the film's narration and messages.  The story follows a standard formula, with early successes by the gang followed by the net of the law gradually closing around them and forcing their hand.  The characterizations are fun but one-note.  Steve Cochran in the lead has an edgy brutality but not much else.  However, the action sequences are well done, and there is one nail-biting, suspenseful scene as one of the gangster's gals tries to escape.  The photography is quite nice as well, at least during the gloomy night scenes.  Rating: Fair

1SO

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Re: Noir-vember Group Marathon 2011
« Reply #236 on: November 25, 2011, 09:50:45 PM »
Is Mrs. 1SO watching these with you?  I like reading about her opinions too.

Mrs. 1SO thought Mystery Street was the only really good one today. She liked the police work much more than in The Lineup. Thought the performances and the mystery worked well together, with each one pushing the other forward. She also liked the Boston setting and the use of Harvard and Cape Cod.

With 99 River Street, she also liked the story but thought most of the acting was weak. Evelyn Keyes does something in the beginning to the boxer that she was never forgiven for. Never really wanted to like her, though ultimately you have to. Found the ending way too happy[/spoiler] and thought all the energy and twists died off once the reach the titular location.

The Big Clock was the low point of the day for her. Hated the acting. Thought they were making such a big deal out of things and then playing too much comedy. In fact, she gave up on the mystery/suspense and just started laughing along with it. After this, I decided to wait on Armored Car Robbery and watch a Sherlock Holmes instead.

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Re: Noir-vember Group Marathon 2011
« Reply #237 on: November 25, 2011, 10:18:48 PM »
Aw, The Big Clock is great, Laughton sports possibly the worst mustache in movie history.  Lots of noirs are funny, The Big Sleep first among them.
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1SO

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Re: Noir-vember Group Marathon 2011
« Reply #238 on: November 25, 2011, 10:38:56 PM »
Aw, The Big Clock is great, Laughton sports possibly the worst mustache in movie history.

Have you seen Sleepaway Camp?

MartinTeller

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Re: Noir-vember Group Marathon 2011
« Reply #239 on: November 25, 2011, 11:07:39 PM »
I Wouldn't Be in Your Shoes - A dancer chucks his tap shoes out the window at a noisy cat and ends up facing a murder charge.  I could make a comparison to a certain other film noir (actually a film noir and its remake) but that would be giving away its surprising twist.  Given the era, you know the innocent man will get a last minute reprieve, the trick is how we get to that point.  When the realization dawned on me -- about 30 seconds before the first real clue -- it was one of those magic "How did I not see this coming?" moments.  Certain plot points that at first seemed very contrived clicked into place (although to be totally honest, a lot of it is still kinda contrived... goofy coincidences and twists are something of a trademark for Cornell Woolrich).  The film is clearly a shoestring budget production, but even if the performances aren't great, they are at least sincere.  The "wrong man" scenario provides the usual (justified) paranoia concerning the authorities charged with protecting us, and the tight running time makes this a worthwhile picture, even if not exactly an undiscovered classic.  Rating: Good

 

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