The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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Yojimbo
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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#401 Post by Yojimbo » Sun Nov 28, 2010 1:10 pm

Steven H wrote:I love The Hitch-Hiker and I think it works much better as a noir to me than a "proto-slasher" flick. Law enforcement details are given short thrift (imagine if it had lapsed into a police procedural halfway through as it sort of threatens to), Talman hams the sadism up to the Nth degree, and romance is completely absent (though, there's probably some homoerotic undercurrent we could awkwardly fit into the discussion) so the film takes on those psychological characteristics that scream "horror" to some. For me, it's basically a desperate "man on the run" noir story line with some atypical embellishments (sorta like Where Danger Lives with Margo played by a snarling, relatively anal, rabid dog) and I have hard time seeing past this. The desolate, hellish scenery and somewhat superhuman characteristics given to Talman's Emmett Myers does give me a slight pause, though, regarding genre.
I think, given the contrasting opinions on just this one page, that the post-mortems, when individual lists are revealed, and argued over, may well prove to be the most fascinating part of this whole exercise.

I love 'Where Danger Lives', though: part of my Desert Island 'Faith Domergue Good Girl/Bad Girl Double Bill'
(with 'This Island Earth')

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#402 Post by domino harvey » Sun Nov 28, 2010 2:39 pm

Dieterle's Dark City is kind of whatever. The first twenty minutes or so are good and suggest the film will be a dirty little conman pic, but it quickly devolves into a boilerplate revenge story. Charlton Heston is always an asshole, but at least he's supposed to be one here-- bonus points for seducing his victim's widow. Ed Begley and Jack Webb are fun before they meet their untimely demises, and the artifice of the constant rear-projections is enjoyable. Yeah, sure, but I'll forget this movie by the time I finish this sentence.

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zedz
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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#403 Post by zedz » Sun Nov 28, 2010 4:02 pm

Haven't watched any real noirs this weekend, but I did watch one fake one: Daisy Kenyon. Fantastic film, and it's got the right noir shadows, and it's packaged in the Fox noir line (but what isn't?), but it's definitely not noir. It has put me over the edge and prompted me to do two top-five non-noir mini-lists: best US not-noirs (or semi-noir - stuff I'm not counting for one reason or another but which has certain stylistic and thematic sympathies with noir) and best non-US noirs (given my hard line that noir is historically as specifically American as neo-realism is specifically Italian). I could try for a list of post-period noirs as well, with no country of origin constraints, but it would probably be all Melville.

Since everybody's going to have different parameters for what is and isn't noir, for your consideration:

Five American Not-Noirs:

1. Night of the Hunter
2. White Heat
3. Daisy Kenyon
4. Invasion of the Body Snatchers
5. Notorious

Five Not-American Noirs

1. It Always Rains on Sunday
2. Rififi
3. The Upturned Glass
4. Ossessione
5. High and Low

If you're including British films in your list, definitely check out numbers 1 and 3 above.
Last edited by zedz on Sun Nov 28, 2010 9:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#404 Post by domino harvey » Sun Nov 28, 2010 4:16 pm

Surprised you didn't try to sneak the Roaring Twenties in there-- unless of course it's on your actual list! :shock:

I think the biggest arguments of Noir, Not Noir are internal. A big one for me: I can't for the life of me consider Sweet Smell of Success a noir. I just can't. (And I'm with you on Night of the Hunter too-- not a noir) And I can't decide if the Wyler twosome of Detective Story and the Desperate Hours are noirs or not. If they are, both place prominently. If not, then, well, fuck this list, haha

Just a reminder: argue about it all you want, but your vote will be counted regardless. So, be brave... and bring on the Guys and Dolls votes, I dare you

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#405 Post by zedz » Sun Nov 28, 2010 4:42 pm

I have the same problem with Sweet Smell of Success. It's been on and off my list with alarming frequency. I have the same gut feeling as you, but when I consider it logically it seems to qualify on points.

Detective Story, however, a well-done TV play, doesn't seem stylistically noir to me at all, just a case of right place, right time, mistaken identity.

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#406 Post by Yojimbo » Sun Nov 28, 2010 5:17 pm

zedz wrote:I have the same problem with Sweet Smell of Success. It's been on and off my list with alarming frequency. I have the same gut feeling as you, but when I consider it logically it seems to qualify on points.

Detective Story, however, a well-done TV play, doesn't seem stylistically noir to me at all, just a case of right place, right time, mistaken identity.
but then again Detective Story does star noir icon Kirk Douglas, and its a b&w crime film.

Its borderline for me, not least because of its stagebound nature, although can you consider William Wyler a noir director? :-k

Glad you like 'It Always Rains on Sunday'
Googie Withers has long been a favourite of mine; perhaps Britain's answer to Arletty?
(there's 'Pink Strings and Sealing Wax', also)
Haven't seen the other British film, though

'Sweet Smell of Success' looks great; but its not a prototypical noir for me
So if it sneaks in it will only be by dint of the quality of the film, the performances, and cinematography.

Trivia matter: David Bowie ripped off the 'Match me, Sidney" line for an episode of the HBO comedy series, 'Dream On'

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#407 Post by domino harvey » Sun Nov 28, 2010 7:20 pm

Sigh. I have to resign myself to the fact that I just will not get through all the noirs I want to see before the list is due. I'm still going to use this thread as a catch-all for noir viewings even after the list is tallied and finished though-- who's with me?!

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#408 Post by Cold Bishop » Sun Nov 28, 2010 7:22 pm

domino harvey wrote:Aren't you the one with a horror film as your "noir" swapsie, Mr Authenticity? The Lewton set is on its way to me, so I'll weigh in with more/less razzing then, but you are crazy if you don't consider Odd Man Out a noir, though!
Ah... but it's not truly a horror film. If the other Lewton films represent the horror film as film noir: the classic horror film abstracted through the shadows, atmosphere and ambiguity of the film noir... then The Seventh Victim represents something else entirely, the film noir as horror film: the anxieties, environments and pulp material of the film noir amplified and abstracted with such all-encompassing, near-palpable menace that it begins to feel like a horror film.

Either way, given some of your tastes, a violent reaction from you wouldn't surprise me. I'm not sure I entirely liked the film when I first saw it, but it keeps drawing one back. For lack of a better term, there almost seems to be an undefinable void at the center of film, one which is easy to register as narrative or dramatic dissatisfaction, instead of what it is: absolutely central to Lewton's atmosphere of ennui and doom.

Regardless, owning the box-set is long overdue.

...and for such a limited genre, there is always another noir to be seen. I'm sure plenty of kevyipped titles will be trickling in long after the 13th, quite a few of which could have made the list. C'est la vie.

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#409 Post by domino harvey » Wed Dec 01, 2010 7:38 pm

This worst part about watching something like A Blueprint For Murder is that I've wasted time between now and the deadline that could have been spent watching a good noir. I assume this one was released in the Midnight Movies label because it is awful and thus "camp." To be fair, it is awful. Joseph Cotten meanders through a film which makes such a strong case against one character as being a poisoner that as the film kept hammering the viewer over and over the head with the idea that she must have done it, I came to the conclusion while watching that either this is one of the worst screenplays ever written or the twist is that she didn't do it after all, somehow. Well,
SpoilerShow
She did it

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#410 Post by domino harvey » Thu Dec 02, 2010 6:04 pm

I'd heard lukewarm things about Anthony Mann's Railroaded! but I loved it. In fact, I'd go so far as to call it an archetypal example of everything I enjoy about noir. There's nothing exceptional or novel about the picture, but it constructs the typical hallmarks of noir so thoroughly that I just had a flat out ball being reminded of how much I enjoy films of this ilk. From the vaguely attractive also-rans to John Ireland's sneering heavy, this is a slick, speedy, and dirty little number. Gotta love those uneasy bursts of extreme violence, my favorite Mann hallmark-- gunshots to the throat, catfights where the good girl wins, and a completely gratuitous gunshot victim in the final confrontation, what could be better? As stated, there's nothing particularly new or fresh here, but while we remember most fondly those noirs that present the novel, here's one that does the expected so well that it's worth noting.

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#411 Post by Perkins Cobb » Thu Dec 02, 2010 7:42 pm

Oh, hell, I just found this -- I've been skipping this section all year since I haven't seen enough silents to make a serious list.

I have, on the other hand, seen nearly every important film noir, although I haven't revisited many of them in the last 10 years or so. So my comments will be vague, but off the top of my head, here are a couple of last-minute recommendations I didn't notice while skimming the last 17 pages:

Shield For Murder -- The termite art version of On Dangerous Ground (also undermentioned above, now that I think about it), this is the definitive sweaty Edmond O'Brien performance. The Big O plays a crooked cop, and the film takes police corruption so thoroughly for granted that its cynicism is way ahead of its time. Screenplay by two great writers, noir vet John C. Higgins and the neglected Richard Alan Simmons.

Without Warning -- Adam Williams as a serial murderer pursued by forensic cops. The uniform blandness of the third-tier cast works, oddly, to the movie's advantage, because it presciently gets across the idea of psychos roaming unnoticed among us that wouldn't become common until after Psycho (and the real serial killers of the 1970s-80s). Shot around the Chavez Ravine area, it's also a great L.A. movie -- it captures the feeling of anonymity within the city's sprawl that you feel if you live there.

The River's Edge -- Almost a diptych with Slightly Scarlet (except this one is in Scope), it extends Allan Dwan's fusion of noir sleaziness with a critique of tawdry '50s status living even further. I think the two Dwans, Leave Her to Heaven, and Desert Fury (also pretty good, although not on a level with any of these) are the only color films that I would class as noir.

Maybe I'll pop in with a few more if I have time to make a list. And I need to try to make a case for that paintball episode of Community.

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#412 Post by Yojimbo » Thu Dec 02, 2010 7:58 pm

domino harvey wrote:I'd heard lukewarm things about Anthony Mann's Railroaded! but I loved it. In fact, I'd go so far as to call it an archetypal example of everything I enjoy about noir. There's nothing exceptional or novel about the picture, but it constructs the typical hallmarks of noir so thoroughly that I just had a flat out ball being reminded of how much I enjoy films of this ilk. From the vaguely attractive also-rans to John Ireland's sneering heavy, this is a slick, speedy, and dirty little number. Gotta love those uneasy bursts of extreme violence, my favorite Mann hallmark-- gunshots to the throat, catfights where the good girl wins, and a completely gratuitous gunshot victim in the final confrontation, what could be better? As stated, there's nothing particularly new or fresh here, but while we remember most fondly those noirs that present the novel, here's one that does the expected so well that it's worth noting.
I just checked to confirm that John Alton wasn't DP on this one and that it starred Sheila Ryan (as Rosie Ryan: talk about perfect casting!).
I was disappointed with it on my only viewing, about 10 years ago.
And I recall thinking what a significant contribution Alton made to Mann noirs.

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#413 Post by domino harvey » Fri Dec 03, 2010 8:55 pm

Regret to inform the board that I didn't care for Stranger on the Third Floor. I'm pretty liberal with throwing "noir" around, but, uh, this isn't one for me even if I liked it. It feels too much like a sloppy dip from the German Expressionism well instead of exhibiting a style influenced by German Expressionism. And the difference is all the difference. I thought the film briefly had a good idea with the absurd self-directed obsession over being falsely accused, but it drops that tack pretty quickly and makes his fears somewhat accurate to no great effect. Meh. I like Lorre in general fine, but I'm not seeing what everyone is jizzing over here with regards to his performance either.

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#414 Post by Cold Bishop » Fri Dec 03, 2010 9:22 pm

My feeling was similar. I thought the "nightmare sequence" was the only real source of interest. Lorre's fine, but it's just Lorre doing Lorre. And the denouement is unsatisfying. I'd still classify it as film noir, as it's just as convincing as any other early entry of that era (I Wake Up Screaming, Among the Living, Street of Chance), not fully formed but clearly embryonic. But outside the perfect nightmare scene, it's not a masterpiece.

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#415 Post by domino harvey » Sat Dec 04, 2010 6:25 pm

Brief thoughts from my Warner Archives Noir binging, round one:

Mann's The Tall Target is a masterpiece no matter how you want to qualify it. Tense, lean, and yes, violent, it's a period noir that functions better than most pure noir. Dick Powell makes a more convincing tough guy here than with his wacky-doodle approach in Murder, My Sweet. Great stacking of contrivances too, the odds seem cooked so well against Powell that it's just a delight to see him maneuver each obstacle.

Speaking of plot contrivances, The Unsuspected is maybe a bit slick, but all the elements are there for one of the most convoluted plots ever seen in one of these films-- I'm not complaining, but wow, it goes to show the talent of Curtiz and co. that this one didn't fall flat on its face via ludicrous plot mechanations. Claude Rains is perfectly delightful as "Grandy" and the film delights in giving the audience heads-ups for each hit before it lobs (Is there any better way to get a noir audience to sit up straight than to introduce a room as being "sound-proof"?). Loved the dramatic scene that plays out while varying sets of house lights are being turned off and on from a breaker box in the basement.

Johnny Eager's probably more a gangster film than noir, but nevertheless, it's a real crackerjack with a fun Robert Taylor performance-- I'm starting to wonder if I've had such a negative view of Taylor just because his best roles are buried in TCM/Archive limbo? Van Hefflin's drunktank act is a little tired, though surprise surprise, the Academy gave him an Oscar for it. This one has some clever setpieces and good interplay between worlds of deception and is a nice entry in the tail-end of the gangster genre. It is also a better film than anything in the last two Gangster sets-- seriously, someone wanted Picture Snatcher over this?

And on the interplay between worlds, the Locket at one point goes four layers deep into narrative time-- eat it, Inception. Making a flashback within a flashback within a flashback not just laugh-out-loud funny at face says alot about the talent involved here. Mitchum is overshadowed by some also-rans and there is some nice camerawork and framing (gotta love the shot from within the bridal veil looking up!), but the class consciousness is played down for the typical psychological noir angle to returns that could've been greater. While I wouldn't rank it among the greats of that subsection, it's quite a fun little pic.

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#416 Post by domino harvey » Sun Dec 05, 2010 4:54 pm

Two more psychological noirs down.

High Wall is fun, at least for a while. Robert Taylor again. Nuthouse. Shadow-play. Torrential rains. Unlikely wardship. Uppity Herbert Marshall performance. Anticlimactic truth serum finale. Best transfer yet from a Warner Archives title.

I didn't like Crack-Up at all though. The premise sounds like a good time will be had by all, but the film is a noir "thriller" about art, and displays some ugly anti-intellectualism early on from which it never recovers. The plot mechanics are fuzzy at best and the pic does nothing to exploit or work its premise into an interesting arena. I did like the penny arcade sequence before it became apparent that it was never going to end. Watching two Herbert Marshall pics with truth serum finales was probably a bad idea to begin with.

Hey, I probably won't have a chance to watch all eight films in the newest Warners Noir set, which titles should be given top priority?

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#417 Post by Cold Bishop » Sun Dec 05, 2010 5:02 pm

The Phenix City Story
Armored Car Robbery
Desperate
Cornered
Deadline at Dawn
Dial 1119
Backfire
Crime in the Street (Not a bad film. Actually better than most of the others. But it's a J.D. film, not film noir)

roughly in that order.

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#418 Post by domino harvey » Tue Dec 07, 2010 9:01 pm

Oh no, I'm afraid I really didn't like the Seventh Victim. I would use harsher language, but there's no need to piss all over a film someone has singled out as their swapsie. This is like the opposite of noir for me, in that it's a film with no budget that never escapes the budget-- the pic looks and feels cheap. Everything is low rent, from the zillionth Italian restaurant set to the Cleopatra wig to the clumsy, purely functional dialog. How can a film about vengeful Satan worshipers be so dull? Sorry, I tried.

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#419 Post by zedz » Tue Dec 07, 2010 9:50 pm

Ouch! Do you feel the same way about the other Lewton horror films?

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#420 Post by Yojimbo » Wed Dec 08, 2010 12:04 am

Watched colour noirs, 'Kill Me Again' and 'The Hot Spot': I suppose you could call it a 'Desert Noir/Madsen Family' double-bill, given both the respective settings, and that Michael Madsen starred in the former and sis Virginia in the latter.
Overall I much preferred 'Kill Me Again' even though its somewhat lightweight in its noir mood and tone; almost part slick caper movie, and Joanne Whalley Kilmer smacks more of head girl playing at being femme fatale as part of the school drama project.
I thought Val Kilmer was a good choice for the Private Eye down-on-his-luck/patsy, though, and his still-pudgy baby fat face helped steer him clear of hardbitten cliches. Michael Madsen was menacing, more because of his size but I thought the most menace was provided by the bit part loan sharks and hitmen.
I loved the use of desert scenery; reminded me of those great Monte Hellman 1960's Westerns, even if they were filmed a few hundred miles from this film's Arizona/Nevada locations.
This one might just squeeze in, but it wasn't as impressive as my only previous viewing.


'Hot Spot' looked great, and it featured a wonderfully moody blues and jazz score, - I have it on both CD and vinyl, - but it was too much, too slow and too long building mood, that the kiss-off when it came almost seemed like an afterthought.
Anybody who doubted from recent photos of a skeletal Jennifer Connelly were reminded here that at least then she had real curves; Michael's sister Virginia's curves were rather more ample, but her 'femme fatale' was so over-the-top caricature she could have been auditioning for 'Jessica Rabbit'
And her accent sounded to me more like Southern Belle Carolinas than smouldering-hot Texas, but then most South-East American accents sound the same to me, anyhow.

Don Johnson wasn't much better; all smouldering and brooding and moody (leftovers from 'Miami Vice', probably)

Once again the best acting provided by support character actors: in this case the sheriff and his deputy, and a low-rent blackmailer.

I'm sure there's a great novel in there, somewhere: I must check it out!
Otherwise, no way José!

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#421 Post by Cold Bishop » Wed Dec 08, 2010 3:04 am

#-o "...a film with no budget that never escapes the budget..."? I was half-expecting you to dislike the film, but this is your complaint? Did you completely miss the Lewton touch? The whole series is defined by Lewton transcending his budget. Forget film noir; Jean Cocteau was perhaps his only contemporary. Call it pretentious. Call it incoherent. But to rag on it the way you would a Monogram or PRC scare film of the period... well, I worry for you.

And if you end up disliking I Walked With a Zombie, we're no longer friends. [-(

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#422 Post by the preacher » Wed Dec 08, 2010 10:03 am

A couple of neglected films/filmmakers:

Johnny Angel by Edwin L. Marin (also contender: Nocturne)

Image

Raft plays straight man to a cast of colorful actors - Claire Trevor, Signe Hasso, Hoagy Carmichael, Marvin Miller and Margaret Wycherly – as he pursues his father’s killer through a backlot New Orleans demimonde cunningly photographed by Harry Wild.
A ghost ship emerges out of the fog: bullet-holes, overturned chairs and broken photographs point to a perturbed past. The world of Johnny Angel is very noir indeed. Raft plays Captain Johnny Angel, who's out to avenge the murder of his father, but gets only bland sympathy from the babyish Gusty, his father's boss. Trevor, as Gusty's scheming wife, is playing a shady game of her own, while French girl Paulette (Hasso) is hunted by an unknown killer and trusts no one. They all inhabit a closed world, where even pastoral idylls reek of claustrophobia and obsession. The men struggle against the towering shadows of their fathers, the women are dangerously enigmatic, and the docks of New Orleans glisten under the diffuse light of a single street-lamp. Even Hoagy Carmichael sounds eerie singing 'Memphis in June'. There are no black diamonds, but Johnny Angel glitters like one. -Time Out Film Guide
99 River Street by Phil Karlson (also contenders: Kansas City Confidential, The Phoenix City Story)

Image

A down-on-his-luck boxer, who is reduced to driving a cab, offers to help a would-be actress who is accused of murdering a stage producer...but finds that he must clear his name as well when his wife's lifeless body turns up in the back of his cab. Based on a story by George Zuckerman.
John Payne as an ex-prizefighter pursued for the murder of his unfaithful wife (Peggie Castle); an aspiring actress (Evelyn Keyes) comes to his aid. Phil Karlson directed this low-budget independent film noir in 1953, and it's an example of the kind of humble brilliance that often emerged from the American genre cinema. Karlson's career-long fixation on revenge (which culminated with the commercial success of Walking Tall) here receives an unusually philosophical treatment: Payne's search for his wife's killers will become his vindication for a lifetime of disappointment and defeat. Though Karlson is among the most insistently physical of action directors, he also gives a sensitive treatment to the film's strikingly abstract subtheme of theater and performance. With Brad Dexter and Frank Faylen. -Dave Kehr

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#423 Post by Yojimbo » Wed Dec 08, 2010 11:13 am

Can anybody suggest a good 'double-bill' for 'Dead Reckoning', - not necessarily a Bogie film?
I'm watching, and rewatching some, in twos, or even threes to make sure I'll have all likely candidates sized up before the deadline
(At the moment I'm thinking of tacking it on the the Anthony Mann 'Raw Deal'/'T Men' double-rewatch, - Wallace Ford could at least be said to be a tenuous connection that links it to the Manns, or at least the latter)

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#424 Post by antnield » Wed Dec 08, 2010 11:29 am

Yojimbo wrote:Can anybody suggest a good 'double-bill' for 'Dead Reckoning', - not necessarily a Bogie film?
How about a Lizabeth Scott double-bill? Possibilities include I Walk Alone (though I don't believe there's a disc available anywhere; I caught it on TV many years ago), The Racket and The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, all of which are surely in contention for a top 50 spot.

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#425 Post by Yojimbo » Wed Dec 08, 2010 12:02 pm

antnield wrote:
Yojimbo wrote:Can anybody suggest a good 'double-bill' for 'Dead Reckoning', - not necessarily a Bogie film?
How about a Lizabeth Scott double-bill? Possibilities include I Walk Alone (though I don't believe there's a disc available anywhere; I caught it on TV many years ago), The Racket and The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, all of which are surely in contention for a top 50 spot.
If The Racket is on one of the Warner noir sets I've already watched it and it will make my 50.
I have, or had, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers on VHS, although I might need to re-watch it.
I might have I Walk Alone either on vhs or on one of those 50 movie packs.
The reviewers of 'Dead Reckoning' seem to be all giving Scott a bad rap but I think her trashier platinum blonde is more suited to noir than the classier, too-elegant, 'Betty' Bacall!

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