Film Noir

[7] Joan Crawford won her Oscar for playing the title character in this noir-melodrama from director Michael Curtiz (Casablanca). Based on the book by James M. Cain, Mildred Pierce is told largely in flashback, with Crawford spilling the beans to police after her second husband is found murdered in their beach house. She tells them how she divorced her adulterous first husband and pulled herself …

[7] Humphrey Bogart escapes from San Quentin to try and prove he’s innocent of killing his wife. Lauren Bacall plays the woman who believes him and gives him shelter. He resorts to plastic surgery to hide his identity from the police and extortionists, but will he be able to discover who the real killer is? Or will he be forced to flee the country? Dark …

[5.0] Joan Crawford plays an impoverished woman who leaves her husband after a tragedy claims the life of their young son. Determined never to be poor again, she sleeps her way through a string of men to reach a higher social standing. But once she ingratiates herself with gangsters, she gets in over her head. The Damned Don’t Cry delivers the typical Joan Crawford character …

[8.0] Chameleon master craftsman Billy Wilder (Sunset Boulevard, The Lost Weekend) staked a name for himself and elevated low-budget film noir to new levels of respectability with his Hitchcockian suspense yarn Double Indemnity. The film, co-written by Wilder and Raymond Chandler, stars Fred MacMurray as an L.A. insurance salesman who conspires with an unhappy housewife, played by Barbara Stanwyck, to collect a massive insurance payout …

[6.0] Humphrey Bogart plays a Hollywood screenwriter suspected of murder until his next door neighbor, played by Gloria Grahame, vouches for him. Grahame starts a romance with Bogey as the investigation continues. It’s not long before Bogey reveals a hidden rage and a violent streak that make her reconsider his culpability. In a Lonely Place is reminiscent of Sunset Boulevard, released the same year. Both …

[7] Jason Patric stars as an alcoholic drifter with a troubled past who wanders into a kidnapping/ransom plot with a widow and her uncle, played by Rachel Ward and Bruce Dern. While Dern’s character does much of the planning, Patric and Ward develop a lustful relationship. But does she really love him? And can either of them trust Dern’s character? Under the direction of James …

[7] Fritz Lang (Metropolis, M) directs this adaptation of Graham Greene’s novel about a British man (Ray Milland) recently released from an insane asylum who gets caught up in a Nazi attempt to smuggle sensitive information out of England during World War II. Lang brings a lot of style and paranoia to the film, particularly in two strong opening sequences. The first begets a mystery …

[7.0] Humphrey Bogart stars in this taut mystery-thriller as a district attorney trying to keep a terrified witness alive until he can testify against the ringleader of a hit-squad. The Enforcer is largely told through a series of flashbacks told by various members of the hit squad — usually proximate to their untimely demises. That sort of movie is entertaining enough, but The Enforcer is …

[8] James Cagney and Pat O’Brien star as a criminal and a priest who grew up on the streets of New York, rekindling their friendship and mentoring a new gang of street rats through O’Brien’s youth ministry. At first, the boys benefit from both men’s teachings, but when Cagney settles back into his old ways, O’Brien fears what the boys may learn from example. O’Brien’s …

[2.0] Dennis Quaid stars in this remake of a 1949 thriller about a literature professor who has 24 hours to live, and he spends that time trying to figure out who poisoned him and why. I like Dennis Quaid a lot, but nothing can save this movie from the fact that it was made by pretentious film school hacks with an absurdly improbable screenplay. Quaid’s …

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