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.
”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.
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.
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.
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.