More unseen noirs from the DVR
Follow Me Quietly (Richard Fleischer 1949)
Anthony Mann co-wrote this weird bit of business chiefly memorable for its central conceit: A harried cop investigating a serial killer known as The Judge constructs a life-size doll representation of the killer to show witnesses and other cops. The scenes with the life-size, blank-faced dummy are exactly as unsettling as they sound, and even though the film doesn't have much more to offer than that, it's certainly an inescapable image. The film also features a fun segment that points out the perils of handcuffing yourself to a criminal!
Knock on Any Door (Nicholas Ray 1949)
Ray is most at home in the depths of another culture, but his early take on juvenile delinquency is flawed. Most of the blame for this falls on the unsympathetic central character, which is not in and of itself problematic, except that the film asks the audience to relate to a thug who blames everyone else for his own problems and causes the death of his wife and unborn child. The pic is basically Whiny Excusefest 1949. Despite this fatal error in construction, the film works surprisingly well, almost entirely on the shoulders of Humphrey Bogart, who gets off some nice one-liners and gives the picture an air of importance it never really earns. I also enjoyed the perverse choice of having a horrifically scarred prosecuting attorney badger the defendant as being "attractive"-- and of course, speaking of perversities:
So You Want to Be a Detective (Richard L Bare 1948)
Though it kind of deflates the entire point of the movie, it was still pretty ballsy to have the kid actually be guilty. Imagine how the last ten minutes could have salvaged this film if it weren't indebted to hokey liberal ideology-- Bogart realizes he's been duped by the very turn the other cheek forgiveness he's been kicking himself for not indulging in! He rallies against not society but crime! That might have been a brutal, interesting climax, one that would make sense. What's actually here and happens instead is beguiling, to put it mildly.
I love me some Joe McDoakes and here he's "Philip Snarlowe," with the narrator following him around ala Lady in the Lake
as the series pokes fun at the machismo and cliches inherent in the genre (gotta love the crying bottle blond niece). A nice early bit of self-aware parody from Hollywood.
Bedevilled (Mitchell Leisen 1955)
Wow, well I must admit that telling a film noir story via bloated CinemaScope travelogue ala Three Coins the Fountain
never occurred to me as even a possibility, but it exists alright. Yikes. Anne Baxter is the frazzled, murder-witnessing American nightclub singer in Paris fleeing thugs and seeking shelter with a dull candidate for priesthood (literally). For the entire length of the film (which feels far longer than it is) I was convinced that this couldn't be the same Mitchell Leisen and maybe I'd read the name wrong. To his eternal discredit, nope.
Crime By Night (William Clemens 1944)
Needlessly complicated b-detective flick, with top billed Jane Wyman acting secretary to Jerome Cowan's weak William Powell imitation. Murder most foul is afoot in a small lake-side town and only Cowan's plucky private eye can manipulate all parties involved into solving the mystery. Other than the sight of a young Eleanor Parker prancing about in jodhpurs, not much of this enterprise leaves an impression.