Film Review – THE BLUE DAHLIA (1946)

THE BLUE DAHLIA (1946, USA) ***½
Crime, Drama, Film-Noir, Mystery, Thriller
dist. Paramount Pictures; pr co. Paramount Pictures; d. George Marshall; w. Raymond Chandler; pr. John Houseman ; ph. Lionel Lindon (B&W. 35mm. Spherical. 1.37:1); m. Victor Young; ed. Arthur P. Schmidt; ad. Hans Dreier, Walter H. Tyler; rel. 16 April 1946 (USA), 1 June 1946 (UK); BBFC cert: PG; r/t. 96m.
cast: Alan Ladd (Johnny Morrison), Veronica Lake (Joyce Harwood), William Bendix (Buzz Wanchek), Howard Da Silva (Eddie Harwood), Doris Dowling (Helen Morrison), Tom Powers (Capt. Hendrickson), Hugh Beaumont (George Copeland), Howard Freeman (Corelli), Don Costello (Leo), Will Wright (‘Dad’ Newell), Frank Faylen (Man Recommending a Motel), Walter Sande (Heath).
Ladd stars as a returning vet from WWII with Beaumont and brain-injured Bendix. When Ladd tries to reunite with his wife, Dowling, he discovers her promiscuity and walks out. When Dowling ends up murdered, Ladd is the chief suspect and runs into Lake whilst trying to evade capture and clear his name. A largely effective film noir that has more than its share of melodrama and a resolution that feels overly manufactured. Chandler’s script is a little over-reliant on cliched dialogue and often lacks his verbal spark, whilst the ending was changed against his wishes. There are, though, many wonderful individual scenes and Lake’s confident performance coupled with Ladd’s toughness elevates the material.
AAN: Best Writing, Original Screenplay (Raymond Chandler)

Film Review – THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI (1947)

LADY FROM SHANGHAI, THE (1947, USA) ***½
Crime, Drama, Mystery

dist. Columbia Pictures; pr co. Mercury Productions; d. Orson Welles; w. Orson Welles (based on the novel “If I Die Before I Wake” by Sherwood King); exec pr. Harry Cohn (uncredited); pr. Orson Welles; assoc pr. William Castle, Richard Wilson; ph. Charles Lawton Jr. (B&W. 35mm. Spherical. 1.37:1); m. Heinz Roemheld; md. Morris Stoloff; ed. Viola Lawrence; ad. Sturges Carne, Stephen Goosson; set d. Wilbur Menefee, Herman N. Schoenbrun; cos. Jean Louis; m/up. Clay Campbell, Robert J. Schiffer, Helen Hunt (all uncredited); sd. Lodge Cunningham (Mono (Western Electric Recording)); sfx. Lawrence W. Butler (uncredited); rel. 24 December 1947 (France), 7 March 1948 (UK), 14 April 1948 (USA); cert: -/PG; r/t. 87m.

cast: Rita Hayworth (Elsa Bannister), Orson Welles (Michael O’Hara), Everett Sloane (Arthur Bannister), Glenn Anders (George Grisby), Ted de Corsia (Sidney Broome), Erskine Sanford (Judge), Gus Schilling (Goldie), Carl Frank (District Attorney Galloway), Louis Merrill (Jake Bjornsen), Evelyn Ellis (Bessie), Harry Shannon (Cab Driver).

Michael O’Hara (Welles), an Irish adventurer, is lured by Elsa Bannister (Hayworth), beautiful wife of a crippled but successful lawyer (Sloane), into joining the crew of her husband’s yacht bound for a cruise in the Pacific. Bannister’s partner, Grisby (Anders), joins the party and offers O’Hara five thousand dollars to help him frame a disappearance act intended to look like murder. O’Hara accepts, hoping the money will enable him to get Elsa away from her husband. As you would come to expect from Welles the director, the film is full of technical brilliance and is visually stunning. Of the memorable scenes the funhouse finale is the most iconic and has been copied numerous times since. The performances are excellent with Welles convincingly affecting an Irish accent and Hayworth at her alluring best. Sloane and Arden are both sinister and on the verge of being unhinged. The bizarre story, however, must rely on the film’s technical virtues to paper over its implausibility. The script therefore, despite its adventurous and sometimes witty approach, is the weak link that prevents the film from being an out and out classic. That does not mean there is not much to enjoy in this experimental noir, just do not expect it to hang together as a whole. Welles’ original rough cut of this picture ran 155m.

Film Review – ANGEL FACE (1953)

ANGEL FACE (1953, USA) ***½
Crime, Drama, Romance
dist. RKO Radio Pictures; pr co. RKO Radio Pictures; d. Otto Preminger; w. Frank S. Nugent, Oscar Millard (based on a story by Chester Erskine); exec pr. Howard Hughes (presenter); pr. Otto Preminger; ph. Harry Stradling Sr. (B&W. 35mm. Spherical. 1.37:1); m. Dimitri Tiomkin; ed. Frederic Knudtson; ad. Carroll Clark, Albert S. D’Agostino; set d. Jack Mills, Darrell Silvera; cos. Michael Woulfe; m/up. Mel Berns, Larry Germain; sd. Clem Portman, Earl A. Wolcott (Mono (RCA Sound System)); rel. 2 January 1953 (UK), 4 February 1953 (USA); cert: PG; r/t. 91m.

cast: Robert Mitchum (Frank Jessup), Jean Simmons (Diane Tremayne Jessup), Mona Freeman (Mary Wilton), Herbert Marshall (Mr. Charles Tremayne), Leon Ames (Fred Barrett), Barbara O’Neil (Mrs. Catherine Tremayne), Kenneth Tobey (Bill Crompton), Raymond Greenleaf (Arthur Vance), Griff Barnett (The Judge), Robert Gist (Miller), Morgan Farley (Juror), Jim Backus (District Attorney Judson).

Beautiful Diane Tremayne (Simmons) is a sophisticated, wealthy young woman capable of manipulating anyone who crosses her path. She also has a dark side she manages to conceal behind her appearance and her good manners. Soon after the untimely death of her stepmother (O’Neil), Diane pursues handsome Frank Jessup (Mitchum). Before long, she starts to win him over — but Frank quickly suspects that the manic Diane had more to do with her stepmother’s death than she lets on. This hastily filmed noir melodrama echoes the work of James M. Cain in its plot device of the beautiful and manipulative girl and the sap whose strings she pulls. The hasty production schedule (due to the impending expiration of Simmons’ contract with Howard Hughes) is occasionally evident in this otherwise top-draw drama. The plot unfolds quickly – a little too quickly at times – helping to gloss over some of the more implausible moments. Simmons and Mitchum are both excellent with Simmons playing her role with subtle ambiguity, thereby keeping us guessing as to her true motives. Mitchum is at his laconic best as the self-centred driver who cannot help himself. The staging is standard for the most part, but Preminger does extract all he can from both the cast and the story, whilst Tiomkin’s score perfectly captures the mood. The finale may ultimately be predictable, but the performances manage to keep you second-guessing yourself.

Film Review – OUT OF THE PAST (1947)

Image result for out of the past 1947Out of the Past (1947; USA; B&W; 97m) ***** d. Jacques Tourneur; w. Daniel Mainwaring; ph. Nicholas Musuraca; m. Roy Webb.  Cast: Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, Kirk Douglas, Rhonda Fleming, Steve Brodie, Richard Webb, Virginia Huston, Dickie Moore, Frank Wilcox, Mary Field, Paul Valentine, Ken Niles, Oliver Blake, James Bush, John Kellogg. A private eye escapes his past to run a gas station in a small town, but his past catches up with him. Now he must return to the big city world of danger, corruption, double-crosses and duplicitous dames. Classic film noir is brilliantly structured and immaculately directed by Tourneur with crackling dialogue. Mitchum and Greer give standout performances as opportunistic lovers thrown together by fate. Douglas is the sleazy gambler making up the triangle. Cross follows double-cross and it hangs together until its ironic final twist. A masterclass in film-making. Mainwaring adapted his own novel “Build My Gallows High”, which was also the UK title of the film on its original release. Remade as AGAINST ALL ODDS (1984). [PG]

Film Review – DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944)

Image result for double indemnityDouble Indemnity (1944; USA; B&W; 107m) *****  d. Billy Wilder; w. Billy Wilder, Raymond Chandler; ph. John F. Seitz; m. Miklós Rózsa.  Cast: Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson, Porter Hall, Jean Heather, Tom Powers, Gig Young, Richard Gaines, Fortunio Bonanova, Edmund Cobb, Byron Barr, John Philliber, Clarence Muse, Bess Flowers, Sam McDaniel. An insurance rep lets himself be talked into a murder/insurance fraud scheme that arouses an insurance investigator’s suspicions. Classic and highly influential film noir with a tight script, hardboiled and witty dialogue and first-rate performances. Stanwyck is the deceptive, but alluring, femme fatale and MacMurray the smitten salesman. Robinson is superb as the eccentric investigator. Based on the novel by James M. Cain. Remade as a TV Movie in 1973. [PG]

Film Review – WHIRLPOOL (1949)

Image result for whirlpool 1949Whirlpool (1949; USA; B&W; 97m) ***  d. Otto Preminger; w. Ben Hecht, Andrew Solt; ph. Arthur Miller; m. David Raksin.  Cast: Gene Tierney, Richard Conte, José Ferrer, Charles Bickford, Richard Conte, Barbara O’Neil, Constance Collier, Fortunio Bonanova, Eduard Franz. A woman secretly suffering from kleptomania is hypnotized in an effort to cure her condition. Soon afterwards, she is found at the scene of a murder with no memory of how she got there and seemingly no way to prove her innocence. Film noir is interesting for its premise and Ferrer’s sinister performance as the hypnotist. But after a promising start the plot descends into melodrama and loses its sense of logic in a weak finale that too neatly wraps up the story. Evocative score by Raskin. Based on the novel “Methinks the Lady” by Guy Endore. [PG]

Film Review – THE MALTESE FALCON (1941)

Image result for THE MALTESE FALCON BLU-RAYMaltese Falcon, The (1941; USA; B&W; 100m) *****  d. John Huston; w. John Huston; ph. Arthur Edeson; m. Adolph Deutsch.  Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Sydney Greenstreet, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Walter Huston, Elisha Cook Jr., Barton MacLane, Lee Patrick, Gladys George, Ward Bond, Jerome Cowan, James Burke, Murray Alper, John Hamilton, Emory Parnell. A private detective takes on a case that involves him with three eccentric criminals, a gorgeous liar, and their quest for a priceless statuette. Classic hard-boiled private-eye movie is a wonderful vehicle for Bogart as the cynical Sam Spade. The complex and twisting plot is expertly handled by Huston and brilliantly edited by Richards. It crams so much plot progression into its first ten minutes and never lets up its pace. The supporting cast – notably Lorre and Greenstreet – is wonderful. This would become the template for many film-noir movies to follow. Based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett previously filmed in 1931 and 1936 (as SATAN MET A LADY). Also available in a computer colourised version. [PG]

Film Review – THE PROWLER (1951)

Prowler, The (1951; USA; B&W; 92m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Joseph Losey; w. Hugo Butler, Dalton Trumbo, Robert Thoeren, Hans Wilhelm; ph. Arthur C. Miller; m. Lyn Murray.  Cast: Van Heflin, Evelyn Keyes, John Maxwell, Katherine Warren, Emerson Treacy, Madge Blake, Wheaton Chambers, Robert Osterloh, Sherry Hall, Louise Lorimer. When Susan Gilvray (Keyes) reports a prowler outside her house police officer Webb Garwood (Heflin) investigates and sparks fly. If only her husband wasn’t in the way. Taut thriller is driven by Heflin’s commanding central performance. As his machinations start to unravel the pace quickens to an evocative finale in a desert ghost town. Keyes is a little mannered in her performance, but the production values are strong and the cinematography perfectly captures the noir atmosphere. [PG]

Film Review – FALLEN ANGEL (1945)

Fallen Angel (1945; USA; B&W; 94m) ∗∗∗½  d. Otto Preminger; w. Harry Kleiner; ph. Joseph LaShelle; m. David Riskin.  Cast: Dana Andrews, Alice Faye, Linda Darnell, Charles Bickford, Anne Revere, Bruce Cabot, John Carradine A slick con man arrives in a small town looking to make some money, but soon gets more than he bargained for. Well cast film-noir is solid entertainment despite the melodramatic and uneven nature of its script. Andrews is always a great rogue and there are some effective individual scenes. Darnell makes the most of her manipulative role, whilst Bickford adds a layered performance as a semi-retired cop. Based on the novel by Marty Holland. [PG]

Film Review – NIGHT AND THE CITY (1950)

Night and the City (1950; USA/UK; B&W; 96m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Jules Dassin; w. Jo Eisinger; ph. Max Greene; m. Benjamin Frankel (British version), Franz Waxman (American version).  Cast: Richard Widmark, Gene Tierney, Googie Withers, Hugh Marlowe, Francis L. Sullivan, Herbert Lom, Stanislaus Zbyszko, Mike Mazurki, Charles Farrell, Ada Reeve, Ken Richmond. A small-time grifter and nightclub tout takes advantage of some fortuitous circumstances and tries to become a big-time player as a wrestling promoter. Moody and effective noir, if occasionally over-wrought, in which Widmark scores in the lead role and is backed by strong performances from an interesting cast. Great Score by Waxman and atmospheric photography on the streets of London by Greene add to the flavour. Thrilling chase finale through the docks. Based on the novel by Gerald Kersh. Alternative British version runs to 101m with a different score by Frankel. Remade in 1992 with Robert De Niro. [PG]