Film Noir

[5.5] Henry Fonda barricades himself inside his motel room after murdering a fiendish magician played by Vincent Price. While the police and a impassioned Barbara Bel Geddes try to coax him out, the movie cuts back and forth to events leading up to the siege. The Long Night features some fancy outdoor sets and occassionally gorgeous cinematography, as well as some enjoyable performances from Fonda and …

[6.5] Elia Kazan makes a concerted effort to be less ‘theatrical’ and more ‘cinematic’ with Panic in the Streets, a New Orleans thriller about a policeman and a doctor searching the streets for a killer infected with pneumonic plague. Richard Widmark plays the doctor and Paul Douglas plays the cop. They’re forced to work together and begrudgingly do so for a while, but they eventually …

[7.0] Ingrid Bergman won the first of her three Oscars for this psychological thriller from George Cukor. Bergman plays a woman increasingly traumatized by her husband, a thief who nearly succeeds in convincing her that she’s losing her mind. It’s easy to invest in a movie when someone’s being mean to Ingrid Bergman. I only wish that she were more empowered in the story’s third …

[8.5] Joseph Cotten uncovers a conspiracy surrounding a deceased friend in The Third Man, a masterfully crafted film noir thriller from author Graham Greene and director Carol Reed. Reed keeps the story moving at a brisk pace, surrounding Cotten’s character with a superb supporting cast that includes Alida Valli, Trevor Howard, Bernard Lee, and Orson Welles. Robert Krasker’s Oscar-winning cinematography is a revelation, turning war-torn …

[4.0] Humphrey Bogart defends a juvenile delinquent (John Derek) in this uneven and heavy-handed flick from director Nicholas Ray. Didn’t care for Derek in this movie, but Bogey makes a nice courtroom stand at the end. The best thing about this movie is that it probably inspired Ray to continue exploring similar themes in his later, greater Rebel Without a Cause. With George Macready.

[6.5] Five ladies of ill repute muster the courage to take the stand against their evil nightclub boss in this Bette Davis vehicle. Davis overacts a tad (doesn’t she always?), but Humphrey Bogart is reliable in the role of the tenacious district attorney. This is an instance where I’d love to have seen some of the off-screen action, but the film works remarkably well under …

[4.0] This second retelling of The Maltese Falcon (before John Huston proved the the third time was the charm) is a bizarre pseudo-comedy with an ingratiating performance by Warren William in the role Humphrey Bogart would later immortalize. Warren got under my skin — I hated him. Bette Davis was all right, but the real standout performance was Arthur Treacher as the tall Englishman, Travers. …

[5.0] A mysterious woman enters detective Sam Spade’s office with information about a valuable statue called the Maltese Falcon. Spade is soon swept up into a mystery involving multiple pursuers of the statue in this famous story from Dashielle Hammett. This film directed by Roy Del Ruth is the first of three film iterations of the story. The third version — directed by John Huston …

[7.0] A claustrophobic mystery featuring a career-launching performance from Humphrey Bogart. Characters like Sam Spade can often be played over the top, but Bogart keeps it grounded and accessible for me. I also like the ensemble of supporting players, including Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet and Mary Astor — all greedy characters who can’t be trusted. The final act puts them all in a room together, …

[5.0] George Clooney and Cate Blanchett star in Steven Soderbergh’s homage to war-time film noir, right down to the black and white 4×3 Academy aspect ratio. Clooney plays an American military journalist who tries to figure out who shot his driver (Tobey Maguire) in Berlin, after Germany fell but before the atomic bomb. Then Clooney discovers he and Maguire have bedded the same woman, a …