'The Crooked Way' is among the better noir films I've seen recently. Great selection!
Good question! Probably the live versions of At My Window that you can find on youtube (with piano, steel guitar, etc). The album version of that isn't as good though. Flying Shoes is another! And Dublin Blues by Guy Clark is on a Clark/Townes/Steve Earle concert album, and that would make my list of the best ten songs ever written were I ever to make such a list. Which ones do you like? :-)
Though I don't think 'Phantom Lady' was technically a 'B' movie, the obvious budgetary constraints only seem to have further highlighted its expressionistic elements. I'm especially thinking of the long, wordless chase sequence through the shadowy backstreets that culminates at the lonely subway station. It's remarkable to behold, but is topped not long thereafter by that Dionysian jam session! For some reason, I had always thought of Raines as a poor man's (or woman's) Lauren Bacall, so it was a pleasant surprise to see her let her hair down, so to speak, at least during the first half, which I found to be much more interesting than the second. Have you read much from Woolrich? The consensus seems to be that his premises were the primary attraction, not necessarily their elaborations. One could also detect his stamp in the underlying humanism of the story, not to mention in its low-key realism. We probably also need to credit producer Joan Harrison (I believe this was her first credit in this role), who may have helped emphasize Raines's character.
Finally got around to watching Phantom Lady again. Still good on repeat viewings! What really impresses me is Siodmak's attitude to sound - in the jazz bar scene in the middle of the movie, when Elisha Cook sits down at the drumkit he bangs out a string of eighth notes on the cymbals - just pure crashing white noise. That contrasts perfectly with the near silence of the concluding sequence. I think many directors would have underlined the climax with a tense string score, but Siodmak leaves it almost soundless, which amplifies the suspense by making us really feel the isolation and helplessness of Ella Raines' circumstances. It's a bit unfortunate that the film had to descend into a bit of psychoanalytic gibberish in the last half, and the plot is a bit predictable from the midpoint onwards, but I think both the train station scene and the climax are quite incredible examples of suspenseful direction. And the jazz scene is one of the best in all of noir. The scene with Raines at the shaking mirror seems a perfect visual summary of the themes of the film, and the rest of the scene is charged with more visceral sexual tension than anything else I've seen from that period. Incidentally, I saw Raines recently in another noir, The Web, where she plays coy and sultry really well, so I'm quite impressed with her at the moment. As for noir fiction in general, I've not really read any of it - more interested in the films!
I think Leisen might be underrated generally - I've now seen seven of his films, all worthwhile, and Remember the Night is one of the great screwball comedies in my book. It was good to see a more dramatically ambitious film from him (I've mostly watched his comedies), and I'm going to try to find No Man of Her Own and To Each His Own soon - I think those are the two best-regarded Leisen films I've missed. But first I'm exploring another director who might also have been overlooked because he often worked in comedy - Henry Koster. :-)
I've been meaning to watch 'Remember the Night'; Stanwyck/MacMurray pairing hasn't gone wrong for me yet. I think I've seen more from Leisen than what I can remember... I'm certainly a fan of 'No Man of Her Own' and its remarkable mise-en-scène which helps overcome any narrative implausibilities. And, of course, Stanwyck is great as always. I hope you take a look at it soon. I'm not familiar with Koster's work.
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