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. Director Billy Wilder starts today’s list off with more cinema gold.
- Double Indemnity (1944) director Billy Wilder- The great director Billy Wilder brings us one of the all time great films, with script co-written by pulp master Raymond Chandler. Staring Fred MacMurray as insurance salesman Walter Neff who finds himself wrapped up into the perfect scheme to help murder trophy wife Barbara Stanwyck/Phyllis Dietrichson’s older husband and take the life insurance money for their own. The only one to stand in their way is master claims investigator Barton Keyes played by the legendary Edward G. Robinson. Stylish cinematography, great snappy dialog and performances that you can use as your go to as an actor or actress, this one has it all. If you’ve never seen this film you should find it and watch the dark brilliance unfold in front of your virgin “indemnity” eyes. I wish in a way I was the ones of you who have no idea this film exists, because that way I could have my mind blown again by how dam good classic cinema can be (it happens so rarely these days) . Lucky lucky humans who decide to give this one a watch, Gold, Gold, Gold!
- Night And The City (1950) director Jules Dassin- Put together the greatest understanding of light and shadow, use of practical locations, lighting accents, scene blocking and you have a technically stunning film in Night and the City. The fact that director Jules Dassin made the movie under the pressures of the Hollywood communist black list looming over him is incredible. From Dassin himself in an interview he said that 20th Century Fox studio head Darryl Zanuck handed him the book and said that this would be his last picture with them and he’d better get out of the States, go to London, get a script going quick, shoot all the expensive scenes first and make a great film because it would be his last, most likely of his career. Even though he would go on to make great films in France till 1981, his career almost died because of someone naming him as a communist sympathizer. Amongst all this chaos he still managed to bring us a superb piece of film noir for the ages. A decidedly American view in the portrayal of the “fish out of water, that just can’t win” story and the protagonist Harry Fabian. Played expertly by Richard Widmark, a hustler that can’t ever have a scheme work out, until he meets and hustles the worlds greatest Greco-Roman wrestler of all time and things go down hill fast from there. As these film do most of the time, it doesn’t end well for anybody in the picture. I do really love the use of the real locations in London, brilliant sets and production design that absolutely add atmosphere and great visual metaphors through out . A real gem in the classic cinema catalog, much to be learned from the direction of almost every aspect of this film and production.
- Beat The Devil (1953) director John Huston- Shot on location in Italy, John Huston delivers again with the great Humphrey Bogart at the helm as aging American playboy Billy Dannreuther. Four international crooks are stranded in Italy waiting for the repair of their steamer ship, Billy and Mrs. Dannreuther accompany them on the way to Africa to swindle land with rich uranium deposits. A British couple the Chelms, gets caught up in the groups business and schemes, where fun and folly turn deadly at the drop of a hat. The tone that Huston walks with this film is amazing, great comedic moments that plays on convention of the film noir story and delivery of archetype heroes and villains. Helped along with co writing credit going to Truman Capote, slick and lightning fast dialog is delivered by actors, all at the height of their craft. Brilliant performances all play off each other to give us truly great cinematic characters and moments. All this is wrapped up with gorgeous Italian locations shot by master cinematographer Oswald Morris. Rule number one, anytime you see John Huston on a film it’s always worth a look or two or three. One really interesting fun fact for film geeks I’ve found out while writing this article is that Humphrey Bogart was involved in a serious automobile accident during production, which knocked out several of his teeth and screwed up his ability to speak. Huston hired a young British actor noted for his mimicry skills to rerecord some of Bogart’s spoken lines during post-production looping. Although it is undetectable when viewing the film today, it is Peter Sellers who provides Bogart’s voice during some of the scenes in this movie. Dam cool trivia to me.
And that does it for part 3. Ending off with another superb John Huston classic. Next time we count down the first half of my top 6 all time favorite films noirs. Radness upon radness upon awesome.
Stay Tuned. Till Next Time.