‘Lifeboat’ 1944, by Alfred Hitchcock

John Hodiak and Tallulah Bankhead in Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat.
Photograph: Ronald Grant Archive
Lifeboat opens with the fog over the North Atlantic parting and a solitary Connie Porter (Talluah Bankhead) appearing in a lifeboat – the setting for the remainder of the film.
Following an attack on a civilian ship by a German U-Boat, drifting survivors (a woman with a baby, ship-hands, an industrialist, an unknown foreigner) one by one start to fill the boat.
What follows is a tightly wound claustrophobic drama of conspiracy, deception and mistrust amid the backdrop of the second world war.
Hitchcock’s cameo appearance is an image on a newspaper drifting past the lifeboat after the ship goes down
Although it was Hitchcock who conceived the film’s central idea, it was John Steinbeck who, at the director’s request, expanded and moulded the story into the tale that was filmed.
However, Steinbeck took exception to the negative portrayal of some of his characters and requested that his name be removed from the film completely (a request ignored by Fox).

The story of how the survivors fare with an enemy among them makes for tense and gripping viewing – see in particular the suicide of one of the survivors (William Bendix in a stunning role} and the deliberate drowning of another in order to conceal a secret.
It’s this tension that draws you into the film, and asks you to question yourself: what would you do if placed in that situation?
Source: My favourite Hitchcock: Lifeboat | Film | The Guardian

“M” directed by Fritz Lang, 1931.

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Photo: Peter Lorre played the serial killer in “M”.
M is supposedly based on the real-life case of serial killer Peter Kürten, the “Vampire of Düsseldorf”, whose crimes took place in the 1920s, although Lang denied that he drew from this case.
“At the time I decided to use the subject matter of M there were many serial killers terrorizing Germany — Haarmann, Grossmann, Kürten, Denke,” Lang told film historian Gero Gandert in a 1963 interview.
In 1930, when Lang placed an ad in the newspaper stating that his next film would be Mörder unter uns (Murderer Among Us) and was about a child murderer, he immediately began receiving threatening letters in the mail.
He was also denied a studio space to shoot the film at Stakken studio.
When Lang confronted the head of Stakken studio to find out why he was being denied access to the studio, the studio head informed Lang that he was a member of the Nazi party and that the party suspected that the film was meant to depict the Nazis.
This assumption was based entirely on the film’s original title and the Nazi party relented when informed of the film’s plot.
M was eventually shot in six weeks at a Stanken Zeppelinhalle studio just outside of Berlin. Lang also made the film for Nero-Film instead of UFA or his own production company.
It was produced by Nero studio head Seymour Nebenzal, who later produced Lang’s The Testament of Doctor Mabuse.
Other titles given to the film before “M” were Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder (A City searches for a Murderer) and Dein Mörder sieht Dich an (Your Killer Looks At You).
While researching for the film Lang spent eight days inside a mental institution in Germany and met several real child murderers, including Peter Kürten.
He later used several real criminals as extras in the film and eventually 25 cast members were arrested during the film’s shooting.
Peter Lorre was cast in the lead role of Hans Beckert, the mentally ill child murderer.
During filming, Lorre acted in the film during the day while appearing onstage in Valentine Katayev’s Squaring the Circle at night.
Lorre’s character whistles the tune “In the Hall of the Mountain King” from Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite No. 1.
However, Peter Lorre himself could not whistle – it is actually Lang’s wife and co-writer Thea von Harbou who is heard.
The film was one of the first to use a leitmotif, associating “In the Hall of the Mountain King” with the Lorre character.
Later in the film, the mere sound of the song lets the audience know that he is nearby, off-screen.
This association of a musical theme with a particular character or situation, a technique borrowed from opera, is now a film staple.
READ ON via M (1931 film) – Wikipedia.

Quicksand,1950.

Quicksand is a 1950 American film noir. It is a crime film starring Mickey Rooney and Peter Lorre.
It is a story about a young garage mechanic’s descent into crime after he steals $20 to take his girlfriend on a date.
It was directed by Irving Pichel shortly before he was blacklisted by McCarthy’s House on Un-American Activities Committee used to block screenwriters from obtaining employment in the film industry.

This film was a chance for Rooney to play a substantial role that differentiated him from his widely regaled Andy Hardy goody, “good boy” image. It was considered by many to be one of Rooney’s best ever roles.
Source: Quicksand (1950 film) – Wikipedia

‘They Live by Night’ 1948 directed by Nicholas Ray.

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Nicholas Ray’s astonishingly self-assured, lyrical directorial debut opens with title cards and lush orchestrations over shots of a boy and a girl in rapturous mutual absorption: “This boy … and this girl … were never properly introduced … to the world we live in …” A shriek of horns suddenly obliterates all other sound – their shocked faces both turn toward the camera, and the title appears: They Live by Night.
Meet 23-year-old escaped killer Bowie Bowers and his farm-girl sweetheart Keechie Mobley (Farley Granger and Cathy O’Donnell), in an imaginary idyll of peace and contentment that will never come true for them.
Bowie, jailed at 16 for killing his father’s murderer, has known nothing but jail, and is still a boy.
Having escaped the prison farm with two older bank robbers – T-Dub and the psychotic Indian Chicamaw “One-Eye” Mobley (Jay C Flippen, Howard da Silva) – he feels loyalty-bound to tag along on their crime spree.
Keechie is Chicamaw’s niece, and soon circumstances force them to lam it cross-country at the same time as they tremblingly discover love for the first time.
Somehow all the planets aligned for Ray, a novice director with an achingly poetic-realist vision of Depression-era Texas and the determination to implement it wholesale: a perfect source novel, Edward Anderson’s Thieves Like Us; and exactly the right combination of producer (John Houseman), studio (RKO) and sympathetic studio head (Dore Schary).
The result is luminous in its imagery and highly sophisticated in its musical choices.
John Patterson
Source: Top 10 film noir | Film | The Guardian

Laura, a classic whounnit (1944).

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I’ve seen Otto Preminger’s “Laura” three or four times, but the identity of the murderer doesn’t spring quickly to mind. That’s not because the guilty person is forgettable but because the identity is so arbitrary: It is not necessary that the murderer be the murderer.
Three or four other characters would have done as well, and indeed if it were not for Walter Winchell we would have another ending altogether.
Film noir is known for its convoluted plots and arbitrary twists, but even in a genre that gave us “The Maltese Falcon,” this takes some kind of prize.
“Laura” (1944) has a detective who never goes to the station; a suspect who is invited to tag along as other suspects are interrogated; a heroine who is dead for most of the film; a man insanely jealous of a woman even though he never for a moment seems heterosexual; a romantic lead who is a dull-witted Kentucky bumpkin moving in Manhattan penthouse society, and a murder weapon that is returned to its hiding place by the cop, who will “come by for it in the morning.”
The only nude scene involves the jealous man and the cop. That “Laura” continues to weave a spell — and it does — is a tribute to style over sanity.
No doubt the famous musical theme by David Raksin has something to do with it: The music lends a haunted, nostalgic, regretful cast to everything it plays under, and it plays under a lot.
There is also Clifton Webb’s narration, measured, precise, a little mad: “I shall never forget the weekend Laura died. A silver sun burned through the sky like a huge magnifying glass.
It was the hottest Sunday in my recollection. I felt as if I were the only human being left in New York. For Laura’s horrible death, I was alone. I, Waldo Lydecker, was the only one who really knew her.
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”It is Clifton Webb’s performance as Waldo Lydecker that stands at the heart of the film, with Vincent Price (see above), as Laura’s fiancee Shelby Carpenter, nibbling at the edges like an eager spaniel.
Both actors, and Judith Anderson as a neurotic friend, create characters who have no reality except their own, which is good enough for them.
The hero and heroine, on the other hand, are cardboard. Gene Tierney, as Laura, is gorgeous, has perfect features, looks great in the stills, but never seems emotionally involved; her work in “Leave Her to Heaven” (1945) is stronger, deeper, more convincing.
Dana Andrews, as Detective Mark McPherson, stands straight, chain-smokes, speaks in a monotone, and reminded the studio head Daryl F. Zanuck of “an agreeable schoolboy.”
As actors, Tierney and Andrews basically play eyewitnesses to scene-stealing by Webb and Price.
Read on via Laura Movie Review & Film Summary (1944) | Roger Ebert

‘A Bullet for Joey’ with Edward G. Robinson 1955.

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Edward G. Robinson in “A Bullet for Joey”
by Kino Lorber.  Newly restored in high definition
Directed by Lewis Allen.  Cast: Edward G. Robinson, George Raft, Audrey Totter, George Dolenz, Peter van Eyck. Released April 15, 1955.
Edward G. Robinson and George Raft last appeared together in the 1941 Warner Brothers feature “Manpower” on which, it has been said, they did not get along.
The two actors are co-stars again fourteen years later in the 1950s noir “A Bullet For Joey. ”Raft had been appearing in low budget noir programmers for the low budget Lippert Pictures, while Robinson’s last two movies were the western “The Violent Men” and the drama “Tight Spot,” both for Columbia.
They’d come a long way from the gangster movies in which each actor had established himself. Raft is hardly the most versatile actor of his time, but he has a very firm, anchored presence in every scene. Edward G. Robinson is a brilliant actor who owns every scene in which he appears. Both are a good reason to see “A Bullet For Joey.
”Robinson is a detective investigating a cop’s murder in Montreal, and as he digs deeper he discovers a complex plot where mobster Raft is being paid to help kidnap a nuclear physicist and turn him over to communist spies.
Audrey Totter is a seductive blonde whom gangster Raft uses to help him execute his kidnapping plot.
Lewis Allen uses no fancy angles, simply framing the action.
“A Bullet For Joey” progresses at an even pace, with new developments, that pop up continuously to further enhance the narrative. It is taut, suspenseful, and well acted.
One year later Robinson would score big in “The Ten Commandments.” He would continue to remain active until his death in 1973, his final film being “Soylent Green” in which he gives one of his finest performances.
Source: DVD review: “A Bullet for Joey” (1955) | Examiner.com

Deadline USA with Humphrey Bogart 1952.

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 Here Bogey is talking to a Stone Hand in the Comp Room about what explosive content to sub into the final page.
DEADLINE USA (1952): Is the best crime movie I’ve seen about the newspaper industry as well as being an exciting and gripping yarn.
The movie features Humphrey Bogart, Ethel Barrymore and Kim Hunter, written and directed by Richard Brooks.
It is the story of a crusading newspaper editor who exposes a gangster’s crimes while also trying to keep the paper from going out of business.
The newspaper story used as background to the film, called The Day, is loosely based upon the old New York Sun.
The scenes of the printing room were shot at the New York Daily News building.
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Dark Passage, 1947.

Scene From Dark Passage

ca. 1947 — Irene Jansen (Lauren Bacall) caring for Vincent Parry (Humphrey Bogart) as he recovers from plastic surgery in Dark Passage. — Image by © John Springer Collection/CORBIS

Dark Passage (1947) is a Warner Bros. film noir directed by Delmer Daves and starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.
The film is based on the novel of the same name by David Goodis. It was the third of four films real-life couple Bacall and Bogart made together.
The film is notable for employing cinematography that avoided showing the face of Bogart’s character, (Vincent Parry), prior to the point in the story at which Vincent undergoes plastic surgery to change his appearance.
The majority of the pre-surgery scenes are shot from Vincent’s point of view. In those scenes shot from other perspectives, the camera is always positioned so that its field of view does not include his face.
The story follows Vincent’s attempts to hide from the law and clear his name of murder.
Source: Dark Passage (film) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

‘Double Indemnity,’ 1944.

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By Alasdair Bayman
Photo: Paramount Pictures
What happens when you get a femme fatale, a life insurance firm, and a detached member of The American Dream?
Double Indemnity, of course. Made within the reign of the Hay’s Production Code, Billy Wilder’s 1944 film noir is arguably one of the genres finest—a true gem in the catalogue of American film due to its mesmerising script, artful performances and cinematography.
Focusing upon an insurance agent, Walter Neff (Fred MacMurry) and his quest to finally achieve some sort of cohesive position in society and his life.
He seeks the aid of the married, promiscuous Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) to help achieve this idea; the only small problem for Neff and Stanwyck is successfully pulling off a profitable murder scam against Phyllis’ husband, Mr. Dietrichson (Tom Powers) and the company that Walter works for, as headed by the enigmatic Edward G. Robinson’s Barton Keyes.
The ability to transcend the basic features of film noir at the time of its creation, by rejecting the societal constraints of its time, is paramount to the plaudits of this fundamental piece in modern film history.
Opening the film with the streets of a dark and dirty L.A.—as opposed to the stereotypical New York, Double Indemnity sets out on a path of switching the known formulaic narratives and features of previous film noir films out of the window.
This is not to discount such classics as Public Enemy and Scarface as inferior to Wilder’s piece, but they lack the creative fluidity that is permeating to Double Indemnity.
Continue reading via Classic Review: Double Indemnity

Alfred Hitchcock’s real-time ‘Rope’ 1948.

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Rope is a 1948 American psychological crime thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, based on the 1929 play of the same name by Patrick Hamilton, and adapted by Hume Cronyn and Arthur Laurents.
The film was produced by Hitchcock and Sidney Bernstein as the first of their Transatlantic Pictures productions.
Starring James Stewart, John Dall and Farley Granger, this is the first of Hitchcock’s Technicolor films, and is notable for taking place in real time and being edited so as to appear as a single continuous shot through the use of long takes.
It is the second of Hitchcock’s “limited setting” films, the first being Lifeboat.
The original play was said to be inspired by the real-life murder of 14-year-old Bobby Franks in 1924 by University of Chicago students Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb.
Read on via Rope (film) – Wikipedia