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Friday, September 6, 2019


With over 7600 posts on this blog over the last 10 years, I am sure a lot of you know my love for film noir.

For those who do not know, Film Noir is a term coined by the French to explain the crime films made in the USA in the 1940's and 1950's that were motivated by cynical attitudes and strong sexual motivation.

There are hundreds of these types of movies and I cannot think of one I don't like. For people my age, music and films such as these strike a cord with life and usually have a much deeper meaning than for most people. As I have gotten older I appreciate Film Noir for all of it's dark glory, and can relate to MANY things in these films.

This blog is about movies and music and anything else that interests me, so I will never discuss my personal issues or a lot of politics, but with recent issues in my life and much darker times, I have been watching a lot more Film Noir. These films are usually in beautiful Black and White and have an odd look to them. The characters are a mixed bag of criminals, loose women, fall guys, hard boiled detectives and much more.

The dialogue in these films is cutting edge and still strong and sometimes shocking, even today. I have many favorites, but some that really stand out include such films as "The Big Combo" made in 1955 with Richard Conte as a maniacal crime boss named Mr. Brown who has no remorse when killing anyone to stay on top. Cornel Wilde is a detective who is in love with Brown's moll Susan Lowell (Jean Wallace) and he cannot understand why she won;t give him the time of day.

There are images in this film which stay with me forever including the torture of Wilde's character by Brown that involves a hearing aid and loud jazz music by Shorty Rogers and the silent killing of Brown's assistant by Brown himself.

Another great film that falls into this genre is "Blast Of Silence" made in 1961 and starring Allen Baron as a hired killer from Cleveland who travels to New York at Christmas to assassinate the enemy of a second rate crime boss. All goes well until the killer, named Frank Bono runs into an old girl friend and this in turn starts his life spiraling out of control. Frank has second thoughts on doing the job he was hired for and soon he finds himself the hunted one.

Set in Manhattan and filmed entirely on location for little money, this film is about as bleak and black hearted as I have ever seen. I can really relate to Frank's haunted existence and how he sees the world.

Then you have "Kiss Of Death" from 1947 in which Richard Widmark plays a psycho killer named Tommy Udo and laughs like a madman while he pushes a helpless woman in a wheelchair down a flight of stairs. Arguably the best film in this genre is "Kiss Me Deadly" from 1955.

In this gem you have Ralph Meeker starring as detective Mike Hammer and this Hammer is unlike any ever presented on screen. He is cold, callous, brutal and has a sexual obsession with his secretary, Velda. It is Hammer's cruel and stubborn behavior that ultimately brings about the nuclear destruction of a good portion of Southern California.

"Kiss Me Deadly" was singled out by the US Government as being the number one menace to American youth back in the day because up to that time no movie had ever been so cynical, cold blooded or sexually perverse. To this day the movie still stands the test of time.

Another fine example of this genre is the 1956 thriller "The Killing" which tells the story of an ex-con named Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden) who tries to pull off an armed robbery at a race track with the help of some friends. All of the plans Johnny makes fall apart quickly because of one tiny mistake.

The final line of the film, which Johnny utters at the airport as the police close in on him is priceless. As he watches millions of dollars in stolen money blow around an airport runway he mutters "Eh, whats the difference". That is a line that pretty much sums everything up very well.The film is full of classic dialogue and brutality.

Of course, these are just a few examples of these kinds of films. Other examples of must see Noir include "Double Indemnity", "Plunder Road", "Out Of The Past", "The Maltese Falcon", "Detour", "Gun Crazy", "Laura", The Big Sleep", "The Set Up" and hundreds more.

If you're so inclined, I would suggest you check out some of these films and see what I am talking about. They are great viewing anytime, but in dark times they can be very therapeutic.

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