I picked up a Film Noir box set last weekend with a gift certificate I got for my birthday. That's 10 movies to go through, so I decided, what the fuck, let's make September "Noir Month" in my K2K and I will kommit to watching all 10 plus a few other random ones I'll bump up my Netflix queue.
Maybe we'll try some sort of format for these posts, sorta analyzing some noir elements:
Notable Talent (i.e. people I'm familiar with): Director Fred Zinneman (who also did Day of the Jackal and A Man For All Seasons), Van Heflin (who I'm becoming a fan of), Janet Leigh, Mary Astor (only like 7 or 8 years after The Maltese Falcon but looking 20 years older).
Detective Story: Nope, not really a mystery story, although there are some secrets under the surface.
Twisty, Turny Plot: Pretty straight forward, but with one good twist in the middle.
Moral Ambiguity: Oh, lords yes. In fact, this is probably the film's strongest point. We have this nice guy, war hero, a pillar of his community being stalked by a seemingly insane old army buddy, who is trying to kill him. Only it turns out that the nutcase might have a pretty good reason for wanting revenge, and the hero may not be as heroic as we think. We're frequently unsure of where our sympathies should lie, as one fellow is a killer and the other is a coward. At the end, they both are given a chance at redemption, and maybe they get it, but in a particularly bleak manner. Also, the main character ends up hanging out with a hooker for half the movie, although he never actually cheats on his wife. The hooker herself is an ambiguous character, it's never quite clear if she's trying to help him, or trying to get money from him. Maybe both.
Sweet-ass Shadowy Black and White Cinematography: Indeed. Not the most stylish noir I've seen, but we're treated to plenty of great shots of smoky nightclubs, empty streets at night, trains plowing through the dark. It opens with a fucking awesome shot of a shadowy figure stalking down the street with the buildings all lit up behind him.
Overall Quality: Pretty good. Not an all time genre favorite (that would be The Maltese Falcon, by the way), but possibly a minor classic. It's dark and suspenseful , well shot and has a lot of good character work. Maybe it sidetracks a bit too much in the middle, and maybe it overstates its themes, but not enough to really gripe about. The ending was a little too pat for me, but I also have to give it credit for avoiding a happy ending.
So then I think I'll try to rank all the noir I watch the month, because hey what's more fun than racing movies like horses? Nothing. This is the first one I've watching this month, so it's #1 by default right now.