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Criminal Chiaroscuro

by chrryblssmninja
Film noir, noir precursors, neo-noir, and films with a strong noir bent that I’ve watched so far. List is not in any strict order. This list was previously named “Shades of Noir,” but I changed the name on 1/4/2010 when I found out there was a book of the same name. I’ve wondered about including Shock Corridor: It might fall under noir, noir influences (though Fuller has directed fims such as Pickup on South Street), or just the “Samuel Fuller” genre. However, I think it hits many noir marks: obsession, questioning people on a “street,” pursuit of success, downfall ending, claustrophoic setting, water elements, shadowy photography with… Read more

Film noir, noir precursors, neo-noir, and films with a strong noir bent that I’ve watched so far. List is not in any strict order.

This list was previously named “Shades of Noir,” but I changed the name on 1/4/2010 when I found out there was a book of the same name.

I’ve wondered about including Shock Corridor: It might fall under noir, noir influences (though Fuller has directed fims such as Pickup on South Street), or just the “Samuel Fuller” genre. However, I think it hits many noir marks: obsession, questioning people on a “street,” pursuit of success, downfall ending, claustrophoic setting, water elements, shadowy photography with dramatic angles, lurid subject matter, the sunlight out of reach (only visible in color flashbacks/imaginings) and a slight doubling possibility (is Cathy going mad too?). If I made a timeline of noir, I’d put it as an outlier way at the tail end of the classic period, along with what others consider the “excesses” of ’50’s noir.

I’ve also watched Road House (1948), but while it has noirish aspects and is made at the same time, it’s not quite claustrophobic enough (even given the predominance of sets and the foggy forest climax). I’d categorize it as a good melodrama, but it didn’t jump out as noir to me.

July 6th, 2011:
I made this film noir infocard.

August 16, 2011:
I’ve included The Unknown because, although it is not a precursor film, it has a plot and several almost fetishistic aspects that would be perfect for noir. There’s lurid feel and focus on the unrepentant criminal that mesmerizes the viewer, and the stage setting of the final act makes the viewer somewhat complicit in hoping “are they really going to go that far? Oh gosh, I hope they do.” It shows that, even in the late ’20’s silent era, there were Hollywood movies that share the same twisting of morality present in noir.

February 29, 2012:
The Captive City is a very tame and quaint movie amongst all these dark films, but little plot and visual details of shadow and corruption qualified it for my list. A grayscale spectrum has to include some lighter films too.
The Kiss is a silent romantic melodrama, but is included mainly for its ending.

January 18, 2013: The Inner Circle (1946) is a trifle, but ’s enjoyable, has some noir scenes and double-crossing, and ultimately treats justice like a plaything.

May 31, 2013: Night Has a Thousand Eyes has noir frame and pedigree (being adapted from a Cornell Woolrich story), but falls flat in the second half (until the conclusion) due to a lack of propulsive tension, no matter how much gravitas Edward G. Robinson adds to the proceedings. Except for the opening shots and other aspects, it could be any cheaply-made supernatural mystery.

August 31, 2013: Violent Saturday might not be straight-ahead noir, but there’s casual criminality, small-town seediness, and a tension between the use and aftermath of violence within the stories of individual characters. It’s this moral tightrope act that distinguishes the film from other heist pictures and aligns it alongside noir.

September 16, 2013
Tony D’Ambra at filmsnoir.net posted a great link to this post on the conditions surrounding Nino Frank’s coinage of the term “film noir.”

November 1, 2013
1945’s Midnight Manhunt has a good silent noir beginning, but turns into a macabre yet middling comedic mystery about corpse-stealing in The Museum of the Last Gangster. The lighting is definitely dark. Along with the setting, Ann Savage’s ruthless reporter and George Zucco’s intimidating killer could have been in a better movie that would better fit noir.

November 3, 2013
Borderline (1950) isn’t really noir except for the darker, vice and twist-filled bookends. MacMurray, Trevor, and Burr have been in better noirs than this poor mistaken-identity caper.

November 30, 2013
Beware, My Lovely, despite a few noirish touches with Robert Ryan’s character and some light and sound work, isn’t so much a noir as a house hostage confinement thriller.

April 23, 2014:
The Band Wagon is included solely for the “Girl Hunt” sequence.

June 14, 2014:
Not yet in the database: Apenas un delicuente (Hardly a Criminal), a 1949 film directed by Hugo Fregonese.

September 5, 2014:
Treasure of Monte Cristo is a serviceable San Francisco B-mystery but lacks the moral dimensions of the source novel.

September 8, 2014:
Roaring City (1951) is not yet in the database.

November 27: 2014:
The Tragedy of Today (The Perfect Game, Kanzenna yûgi) (1958) is not yet in the database.

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