Noir Do Wells 2: Desperate (1947)

Posted by Charles Reece, April 26, 2009 08:34pm | Post a Comment
Anthony Mann's Desperate

anthony mann desperate

I tend to view film noirs as fantasies dealing with realistic themes. As such, they don't have to be versimilitudinous representations of the way people would act in a realworld parallel (for the narratives are rarely plausible), but be symbollically suggestive of our moral situation. If Robert Mitchum or Burt Lancaster falls in love to the point of a sick obsession within 2 minutes of screen time, that's okay; it just adds to the dreamy quality of the film, while still conveying something real. What doesn't work within the oneiric narrative is Desperate's hero, Steve (Steve Brodie), and villain, Walt (Raymond Burr), consistently acting in such a dunderheaded fashion that their actions convey nothing but ill-thought out plot mechanics.

On the eve of his and Anne's (Audrey Long) 6-month anniversary, independent trucker Steve gets a job offer from an old friend, Walt. Tried and true Steve doesn't find out until he gets to the loading dock that the job is transporting stolen merchandise. He, of course, refuses, only to be persuaded at gun point. The cops show up for a shootout, allowing Steve to escape in his truck after punching out the hood who's currently in the driver's seat. Walt's brother, Al (Larry Nunn), isn't so lucky, getting knocked out and arrested. Now on the lam, Steve commits the first in a long line of convenient errors which get him where the scenarists need him to be. He leaves the hood's gun on his lap with the hood unconscious in the passenger seat. The crook wakes up, grabs the gun and forces Steve to take him to Walt's hideout. Although pure nonsense, Mann and his cinematographer, George Diskant, at least aesthetically justify these contrivances with the film's noirish set piece, where Walt and his cronies beat the tar out of Steve in a masterful chiaroscuro rendering:

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Noir Do Wells 1: Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956)

Posted by Charles Reece, April 18, 2009 09:56pm | Post a Comment

The most wonderful thing about life seems to be that we hardly tap our potential for self-destruction.
-- John Cheever

Over the past few weeks, I've been attending some of the features being shown at the American Cinematheque's 11th Annual Film Noir Festival. My next few blog entries will be about what I saw. First up, two films by two of my favorite directors that center on the basic stupidity of their protagonists to get all the pieces to fit into their respective jury-rigged plots.

Fritz Lang's Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

Independent journalist Tom Garrett (a well-lubricated Dana Andrews) goes along with a harebrained scheme to prove the injustice of the death penalty as devised by his future father-in-law, the liberal newspaper editor Austin Spencer (Sidney Blackmer). More gonzo than Hunter S. Thompson, Tom will plant enough evidence to get himself convicted for an unsolved, brutal murder. Since women are prone to hysteria, the two men decide it best not to tell Tom's fiance, Susan Spencer (Joan Fontaine, the missing link between Grace Kelly and Madame). It's not difficult to see where this one's going: on the way to the courthouse when the jury is to hand in its verdict, Austin gets into a fatal car crash, with all the exculpatory photographic evidence burning up (cars were real fire hazards in those days).

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Los Angeles Film Noir Festival 2009

Posted by Mr. Chadwick, April 13, 2009 11:34pm | Post a Comment

OK, I'm late with this one. I've already attended three double features and I have tickets to two more. You've still got a week's worth of programming left, so get on it! Ann Rutherford gave an amazing interview last week, absolutely sharp as a tack and a total charmer. The Fritz Lang double on Sunday was amazing-- Ida Lupino was smoking hot in the first feature While The City Sleeps. Opening night was amazing... 3 hours of Jane Greer. This week I'll be at the Deadline USA/ Chicago Deadline & Walk Softly Stranger/ Chicago Syndicate doubles. My hopes are high as Abbe Lane is in Chicago Syndicate. 1955 may have been a September year for film noir, but it was a peak year for Abbe. Check out the rest of the festival lineup at the Egyptian Theater site.

Film Noir Festival 2008, Final Week

Posted by Mr. Chadwick, April 15, 2008 11:50pm | Post a Comment

So, this year's festival is winding down.  This is the final full week of programming; there is one more double next Thursday, including an amazing Richard Widmark classic.  Anyone not familiar with Mr. Widmark's career take note, this showing of Night and the City is a great starting off point.  Anyone familiar with his work should come out and pay respects as he passed on March 24th after a lengthy illness...

Last Friday my young Sylvian got a nice earful from unannounced guest speaker James Elroy.  My wife Esther spotted his mug when were eating across the street at Musso & Frank, so we kinda figured he was in the area for Hell's Five Hours & The Night Holds Terror, but we didn't know he'd do a number before the 1st feature.  The always lovely Coleen Grey (who starred in Hell's Five Hours) spoke between the films; she's quite a charmer.  Fortunately she wasn't chastised by Kenneth Anger this time around.  Previously at a showing of Nightmare Alley, Mr. Anger abruptly corrected her from the audience about some detail or another, leaving her a bit befuddled.

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Film Noir Festival Week 2

Posted by Mr. Chadwick, April 9, 2008 12:25am | Post a Comment

Took my lovelies out to the Dick Powell double feature on Friday.  We caught an atmospheric Italian dinner across the way at Miceli's before hand (always an oasis in the madness that is modern TMZ Hollywood) then headed over to the classic movie house.  Master Sylvian used his trick cig that he had purchased at Hollywood Toys & Costume to have a smoke break between the hardboiled flicks and made a couple of innocents gasp-all in all a wonderful night! We'll be there this coming  Friday  as well, a special treat being billed as  "Hostage Noir Double Feature".  In the past, many of the movies listed as "not on DVD" come out soon after the festival is over, so if you miss something keep and out for it in our Film Noir section up in the Mez. Click on the poster to link to the Egyptian Theatre schedule....

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