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DARK NIGHTS. COOL FILMS. NOIR AT ITS BEST
on June 30, 2004
A dark night. A rain-drenched sidewalk. A streetlight flickering on the pavement. Murky shadows, creepy shapes. A gunshot. A beautiful woman chased down the street by a man whose body is encased in a trenchcoat and whose face is obscured by a fedora. Relax. Loosen up. Enjoy. You haven't witnessed a crime, but are witness to the America's newest nostalgia craze: Film Noir. Shadows, Lies and Private Eyes: The Film Noir Collection is a set of five flicks overflowing with dames, gats and double-crosses, and packaged with bonuses including audio commentaries, trailers, interviews and other assorted gimcracks and gewgaws.
Gun Crazy, which film noir expert Eddie Muller refers to as "a noir Bonnie and Clyde," stars Peggy Cummins and John Dall. (To noir buffs, these two are major stars. To all others ...who?) The blatant sexuality of Dall's love for guns and Cummins love for ... well ... killing people is extraordinary for 1949, and today, the creepy carnality is still disturbing.
The masterpiece The Asphalt Jungle (1950) walks the line between gangster and noir, but with a young Marilyn Monroe and a studly Sterling Hayden, John Houston's tale of dishonor among thieves torches the screen with lust and violence.
The Set-Up, directed by Robert Wise way, way before The Sound of Music and starring Robert Ryan, is the personal favorite of both the director and the star. Filmed in real time, it's a 72 minutes tale of life before, during and after the boxing match that defines a fighter's life. It's all here --- the smoke-filled rooms, the bloodthirsty fans, the savagery in the ring, the delusional dreams of boxing's palooka world.
Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer heat up Jacques Tourneur's Out of the Past (1947). With Mitchum spouting lines like "Then build my gallows high, baby," this archetypal noir has a hoodwinked detective in Mitchum and a scary hood in Kirk Douglas. The Warner collection rounds out with Edward Dmytryk's Murder, My Sweet (1944), as quintessential film noir as you can get. Based on Raymond Chandler's novel Farewell, My Lovely, the flick stars Dick Powell as Philip Marlowe. The search for the treacherous Velma through the indigent void called Los Angeles powers this black excursion into near oblivion. As Powell/Marlowe says: "I'm just a small businessman in a very messy business."
So go, sweetheart. Enjoy. Get the lowdown on all the cats and kittens, molls and johns, and bad guys, hustlers and con-men who hawk their hearts on the streets of broken dreams called film noir. By the way, is that a gun in your pocket, or do you just like watching movies like these?