June this year marks our first anniversary here at Celluloid Pop Culture Junkie. So to celebrate that occasion we’re re-watching my 15 must see film noirs through out the month and inviting you all to do the same, possibly to discover a new world of cinema gold you never knew existed; And I’m betting some of you will be blown away by the pure awesomeness of these films.For the purpose of these articles we are going to be looking at the classic “Film Noirs” by definition, starting in the early 40’s spanning to the late 50’s; Slow exposure black and white film cinematography with strong shadows rooted in silent German expressionist films and stories derived mostly from anti-hero crime fiction of the great depression era . Really the term “Film Noir” wasn’t even adopted in America till the 70’s, many of the classics were referred to as Melodramas by US film historians and critics during their initial run. However the term was first used to describe Hollywood films in 1946 by a French critic Nino Frank. Believe it or not, there still is a debate amongst film enthusiasts and scholars alike whether “Film Noir” is an actual distinct genre within itself or not. In all honesty, who really gives a shit? It’s like arguing who the best captain on Star Trek was, it’s a stupid question that’s never ever going to get you laid. So forget it already and just enjoy the actual films with some sort of companion if possible. Now here are some great unforgettable pictures that everyone who loves the movies should see. If you decide to give any of these a viewing, you’ll find something to fall in love with and will want to turn other humans onto for the rest of your life. I’m not going to rate where these stand in my opinion until the top 6, so the first few articles will be a general “must see” on my list for everyone. We’ll start thing off today with a John Huston heist classic:
- The Asphalt Jungle (1950) director John Huston- Locked away for seven years criminal mastermind Doc Riedenschneider (Sam Jaffe) feels he has conceived the perfect heist. First thing after hitting the streets Doc puts together a team of thieves to help execute the job. With superb acting and cast all around, Louis Calhern, Jean Hagen, James Whitmore, John McIntire, even Marilyn Monroe in a small roll; And most important Sterling Hayden is Dix Handley a bad ass low level “Strong-arm” man who gets involved in a robbery that will net a million dollars in jewels. Things go wrong, people get messed up, things go really wrong, more people get messed up. Basically the only two reasons you should need to watch this immediately if you haven’t already seen it is Sterling Hayden and John Huston. Anytime Hayden took on this bad ass hard boiled anti-hero type role he knocked it out of the park and always had you remembering his character, he’ll pop up again in later films on this list most defiantly. Now director John Huston is one of those names that when you see it you should pick up that film a watch the hell out of it. Simply because you will see magic over and over no matter how many time you watch one of the films he’s directed they only get better and better, a true cinema master and artist in the highest regards. My recommendation is get you hands on every film he directed and revel in the brilliance. You can start with this one if you like.
- Out Of The Past (1947) director Jacques Tourneur- The first thing you notice about this beautiful little number is the extremely fast and snappy dialog, it’s text book Noir. The story goes Robert Mitchum/Jeff Bailey is a gas station owner in a small town, a man comes to the gas station who use to know Bailey and wants a meeting with him. Turns out Jeff was a Private Detective that skipped out on a case for a wealthy criminal client and now that client (Kirk Douglas) has found him and wants a chat. This would be the perfect film to show someone who would like to get into classic film noir, a great introduction to the genre. Director Jacques Tourneur shows his brilliant understanding of blocking actors, use of light and shadows, highlighting the superb black and white photography. This one’s a real winner and if you would like to be a winner as well you might like to check this shit out.
- Mildred Pierce (1945) director Michael Curtiz- Joan Crawford in her Oscar winning Best Actress performance, chilling as hell. Starting the picture off at night at a house on the beach. With 6 shots to the heart a man with a funky little mustache falls to the floor uttering his last word “Mildred”, a smoking gun thrown at his side. Seconds later a car rushes away from the house, cutting to the seaside boardwalk. A distraught Joan Crawford/ Mildred Pierce walks towards a railing looking as though she is planing to jump over in an attempt to kill herself. Stop by a cop who convinces her to take a walk instead of a swim, she meets an old friend who owns a bar on the walk and we start the story of a woman who takes control of her life in the 40’s and becomes a success in business only to give everything up for her spoiled daughter. A great study in the roll reversal of male and female part in these films. Everything ruthless and dirty down that a guy normally does in the noir films, Joan Crawford takes that destructive male energy and make it decidedly female and it is scary as hell. Once she turns, she tears though anyone standing in her way to get what she wants. One you might not want to watch with the wife or girlfriend , forbid she gets any ideas from the piece and decides to go all Mildred Pierce on your ass. You’ve been warned.
So, that’s the first 3 Film Noirs of my favorite 15 list for your viewing pleasure this month. Hope you decide to give a few of them a look.
Till Next Time. Stay Tuned.