Blind Alley (1939)
A clever idea for a home invasion movie. A gangster (Chester Morris) holds up in the home of a psychiatrist (Ralph Bellamy) who defeats the criminal with psychoanalysis. Like accidentally breaking into the home of Hannibal Lector it becomes a case where the innocent society people aren't locked up with the criminal but the criminal is trapped with somebody who can get inside his head. The psychology is pedestrian, but Bellamy is perfectly cast as the meek professor who comes to realize he has the upper hand. Morris is a familiar face who I will now remember from this performance. Ann Dvorak (Scarface, G-Men) is also excellent. With a few more familiar faces, the cast easily make up for the silly psychobabble.RATING: * * * - Okay
The Dark Past (1948)
When I learned this was a remake of Blind Alley, I wanted to watch them close together for comparison, especially with William Holden playing the gangster. Except for an additional opening and closing scene, it's the same script and there are a number of repeated shots, including the dream sequence being shown as a negative image. (The explanation of the dream is a more regular flashback, while Blind Alley staged it as German Expressionism.) Holden is fine, reminding me more of Bogart in High Sierra than Chester Morris, but Lee J. Cobb is all wrong for the psychiatrist. The performance is okay, he just doesn't look the part like Bellamy does. Also, the psychoanalysis seems sillier this time. It worked with the 30s style of acting, but Noir's grit makes it all a bit goofy. In the ongoing argument of what counts as Noir, it's an interesting case to take the exact same script from before the Noir era and call it Noir simply because of the time when it was made.RATING: * * ½
Kid Glove Killer (1942)
Directed by Fred Zinnemann before he found his groove and starring Van Heflin before he found his. Heflin's haircut and exaggerated gestures have me thinking they were grooming him to be a new James Cagney. However, the way he treats his assistant (Marsha Hunt) leaves much to be desired. Cagney knew how to walk the line between charming and cad and his women (especially Joan Blondell) could give it right back to him. Poor Hunt is treated like she's less worthy, repeatedly stopping her work to answer the phone or door or light his cigarette. Aside from that dated attitude, the story is a pretty good forensics manhunt. A 1940s episode of CSI. That same year Zinnemann made Eyes in the Night
, which is sillier, pulpier and more enjoyable.RATING: * * ½The Man I Love
My least favorite kind of Noir is melodrama. There are a number of fine examples, like Mildred Pierce and Beyond the Forest, but the lesser ones are like watching soap opera. I love Ida Lupino and it's always nice to see Alan Hale, but this was a snooze.