Tag Archives: Film Noir

Deception (1946)

“They say never confess a secret to a woman.”

Deception, a 1946 film from director Irving Rapper, frequently appears on film noir lists, but the story seems rooted in soap-opera drama more than anything else. The plot involves a love triangle between pianist Christine Radcliffe (Bette Davis), cellist Karel Novak (Paul Henreid), and eccentric composer Alexander Hollenius (Claude Rains).

The film begins in New York with Christine arriving late to a concert. Judging by Christine’s emotional reaction to the cello playing of star musician Karel Novak, this is no ordinary concert, and that proves to be correct when after the concert Christine goes back stage to meet Novak. He’s surrounded by fans, but after they melt away he sets eyes on Christine. This is clearly a reunion, and it’s revealed that Novak and Christine were lovers during the war in Europe. Separated by circumstances, they lost contact, and it’s a miracle that they’re reunited.

Christine takes Novak home, and he imagines that she’s had it tough living on her own piecing together a living as a struggling musician. Christine’s home is at the top of huge skyscraper accessible, for the most part, by a lift. The film shows Novak and Christine exiting the lift and then there’s a dark set of stairs up to Christine’s apartment. Novak clearly imagines Christine lives in a garret (so did I), but Christine’s splendid, spacious apartment is decorated with antiques and one whole wall gives a marvellous view of the skyline of New York. Novak is obviously suspicious about where the money came from for such luxuries, and his suspicions are confirmed as he prowls around her apartment and spies fur coats in the cupboard and fine paintings on the wall.

The lovers who’ve been separated for years are at each other’s throats within minutes, but Christine manages to dissuade Novak of his suspicions with stories of taking wealthy, talentless pupils for piano lessons. Obviously Novak has no idea about rents in New York otherwise he’d sniff that the story is ridiculous, but he swallows it hook, line and sinker.

Christine and Novak plan a wedding with a reception to be held in her apartment. The champagne flows generously but the party is broken up by the arrival of grumpy, imperious composer Hollenius whose rudeness sends the guests out the door. The composer’s speeches to Christine indicate the possessiveness of a jilted lover, and once again Christine mollifies Novak’s suspicions with stories that Hollenius is an eccentric, wealthy friend and nothing more.

As the plot thickens, the ties between the three main characters tighten. Hollenius appears to befriend the newlyweds, and he indicates that he wants to take Novak under his wing and nurture his career. Christine suspects Hollenius’s motives, but there’s not much she can do without telling Novak the truth about her relationship with Hollenius.

Claude Rains as Hollenius seems to have the best role and the best lines here. He’s a petty, jealous tyrant capable of pitching the most outrageous scenes both publicly and privately. In one scene, he takes Novak and Christine out to dinner and plays the temperamental epicurean to the hilt. In another scene, Christine storms Hollenius’s bedroom ready to do battle for her man, but she’s met with sarcasm and derision:

“To be faced with a virago at this time of the morning, Christine, my constitution simply will not stand for it.”

Shots focus on interiors. Christine’s modern apartment is in contrast to the interior of Hollenius’s house which resembles, rather appropriately, the inside of a lavish medieval European palace and reflects the temperament of its owner. One marvellous shot shows the reflection, in shadow, of an ornate staircase on the wall.

Deception is not Bette Davis’s best film, but it’s well worth catching for the scenes that include Hollenius. Claude Rains seems to have great fun with this role as he moves from imperious demands to almost bitchy feigned indifference. The film’s best scene takes place between Christine and Hollenius in his palatial bedroom, and he makes some excellent points about Christine’s erratic behaviour.

Deception (a Warner Bros. studio film), was the first Bette Davis film to follow the only film she made with her own production company Stolen Life (1946). According to biographer, Barbara Leaming, Davis, whose behaviour was “even more arbitrary and destructive than usual,” on the set of Deception, announced her pregnancy during the filming. She was married to third husband William Grant Sherry at the time and the marriage was to end in divorce a few years later in 1950.

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The Shack Out on 101 (1955)

“Whatever you two guys can get, they don’t let out at night.”

The Shack on 101 may very well be one of the strangest entries in the film noir Atomic Noir/Red-Scare sub-genre, and while it’s certainly more than a little odd, it’s also lots of fun and really entertaining. You know this film is going to be different in its opening scene of a bikini-clad girl stretched out on the beach while the waves wash over her feet and legs. Is she asleep? Sunbathing or dead? Then we see a male figure in the distance. He spots the girl and dashes towards her….

The man is Slob (Lee Marvin), the short order chef at the local greasy spoon–the shack in the title, and the girl is Kotty (Terry Moore) the shack’s live-in waitress. We get just a brief glimpse of the shack in the distance. It’s perched on a cliff facing the ocean and is accessible by stairs, and it is quite literally a shack–it looks like a condemned trailer, but it’s the pride and joy of its owner, war veteran, George played with delightful gusto by Keenan Wynn 

Most of the film’s action takes place inside the crappy shack, and the film’s interior scenes look like exactly what they are–a stage set with seaside decor. This translates to seashells and a huge marlin perched on the wall. The stage set masquerading as the inside of a hillside diner is most evident when one of the characters, Professor Bastion, opens a door and then goes down the stairs to the diner’s main room. Here the long-angled shots show the width of the stage set, and we could be watching a play. It all looks very cheaply done and yet somehow this film works.

The film’s drama centres on the shack and the relationships between its inhabitants and its customers. The shack’s owner, lonely bachelor George is in love with Kotty, but she only has eyes for customer Professor Sam Bastion (Frank Lovejoy). Bastion, who works at the nearby nuclear facility, professes an interest in collecting shells which he buys from Slob. Bastion’s relationship with Slob leads him to meet, date, and fall in love with Kotty. Kotty, while she admires and brags about Bastion’s intelligence and education, nurses an inferiority complex. So she’s boning up to take the civil service exam and along the way she hopes to impress the prof. One night, after a hot and heavy session on the beach, Kotty peevishly expresses the fact that Bastion spends more time with Slob than with her,  and she concludes that the Prof is ashamed to be seen out in public with her. 

Back at the shack, Slob, who refers to Kotty as “The Tomato,” makes constant passes at Kotty with George continually leaping to her defence. The film establishes a claustrophobic atmosphere between its characters–there’s George in love with Kotty who’s in love with the Professor who buys shells off of Slob. Slob manages to sound like a complaining wife when he whines to George about “the tomato” with a what-does-she-have-that-I-don’t argument. Kotty who is after all picking up a paycheck every week, never seems to lift a finger. So there’s Slob in the kitchen ruining the food as a act of revenge against customers he dislikes, Kotty too busy running after the Professor to actually do the job she’s paid for, and George too lovelorn to ask his only waitress to work.

Meanwhile there are a handful of locals who drop in occasionally and bitch about the food. The plot thickens quickly. Why are nuclear scientists disappearing? Why is the Professor obsessed with clam shells, and why does Kotty hang out her underwear on the line for the world to see?

This highly entertaining film has some gaping holes in its plot, but that simply doesn’t matter. Instead just sit back and enjoy some terrific dialogue combined with some of the most bizarre scenes of male bonding ever seen on the big screen. In one scene Slob (a man with an “8-cylinder body and a 2-cylinder mind“) and George lift weights together while pondering over the women who’ll be impressed by their muscles. Then they hold a sexy legs contest. Then there’s a very peculiar scuba scene that takes place inside the shack. In another scene Kotty and the Professor play a sexy politics question-and-answer game and as they cover the various branches of government, she gushingly confesses “I wish there were more branches.”

Since this is an Atomic Noir/Red Scare film,  there have to be good guys and bad guys and all the stereotypes that go along with these categories. But Shack Out on 101 is definite cult material loaded with snappy dialogue to complement the bizarre behaviour of most of its characters. The film is directed by Edward Dein and co-written with his wife Mildred. It’s easy to imagine these two sitting down and dreaming up the scenes and then connecting them together with the plot outline. Of course, I have no idea that this is how it happened, but the scenes are so intense and rich, the sense I get is that the scenes dominate over the film as a whole.

Anyway, this really is a great little film.

Quotes:

“At one time, I was so skinny, I was embarrassed to undress in front of myself.”

“That’s what I like about free enterprise. I’ve got the enterprise and everybody’s free to give me the business.”

“It’s a good thing I ain’t wired. You’d be shoving me around like a vacuum cleaner.”

“I’m not Mr America, but my mother loves me.”

“I’m not one of those dopes who buys his wife a mink coat and sits and waits for her to warm up.”

“Since when was you so choosy, I’m a man, ain’t I?”

“I was so ashamed, I shut the door and got sick.”

“Well if you dance with the gods, they lead you to paradise.”

“Last night, I added a new word to my vocabulary…TRAITOR.”

“We’re helping the enemy.”

“Too bad I wasn’t born a tomato.”

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Dark City (1950)

“Guys like you ought to be put away.”

dark cityWWII still echoes in the 1950 noir film Dark City starring Lizabeth Scott and Charlton Heston. Dark City was Heston’s first major role and here he is cast against his later mould, and instead of playing General Gordon, Michelangelo, Julius Caesar, Ben Hur, John the Baptist, El Cid and Moses, here Heston plays the damaged and slightly nasty bookie, Danny Haley. Danny owns a piece of a bookie joint and looks forward to the day he’ll have enough cash to leave the city and go… somewhere else.  

The film begins with a raid on the bookie joint, and as luck would have it Danny isn’t caught up in the raid but he watches it happen. While he escapes arrest, he watches as his pals Barney (Ed Begley) and Augie (Jack Webb) are carted off to jail. The group’s slightly slow sidekick, Soldier (Harry Morgan) cleans up after the raid and then Danny appears and makes phone calls. The raid wasn’t supposed to happen and Danny and his pals paid big bribes to ensure they were safe. This is the second raid in three months and it’s left Danny and his pals in a bad spot.

Although Danny owns just a piece of the bookie joint, he has a leadership role with Barney, Augie, and Soldier. Augie is a cheap thug who gets his kicks out of tormenting easy targets while Danny is the brains of the operation. But there’s something wrong with Danny, and just what that is begins to become evident when he goes to see his girl, Fran Garland (gorgeous Lizabeth Scott), a singer at local nightclub Sammy’s. Fran sings sweet love melodies to a room full of mesmerised men, she’s really just singing her heart out to Danny as he sits at the bar and listens. But while Fran gazes at Danny like a love-sick Cocker Spaniel looking for a new home, Danny continually warns Fran to give him space, not to question him, and not to expect too much. It’s clear that where women are concerned, he has a giant chip on his shoulder.

At Sammy’s, Danny runs into a pleasant, friendly and guileless stranger, Arthur Winant (Dan DeFore), an athletic director from Los Angeles who’s there to buy gym equipment, and they strike up a casual conversation about their mutual WWII  experiences stationed in England. Danny spots a $5,000 cashier’s in Arthur’s wallet and invites him to a friendly little card game with Barney and Augie.

After the card game goes sour, the players are picked off one at a time in this tense noir tale of revenge. At one point, Captain Garvey (Dean Jagger), the vice cop responsible for raiding Danny’s bookie joint begins hauling Danny in to the cop shop in an effort to make him see the error of his ways. Danny, it turns out, is the son of one of those American blue blood families, a Cornell grad to boot. Garvey’s dressing down of Danny is one of the best played scenes in the film.

Heston plays a great jerk. He’s sarcastic and his superior air is underscored by a disdainful sneer. Lizabeth Scott acts her heart out as she tries to get Danny to love her, but Danny has a lot of lessons to learn along the way, and some of these come from the sweet and complex Mrs. Winant (Viveca Lindfors). The film’s moral centre is found in the characters of Mrs Winant and Soldier–with both characters tweaking Danny’s conscience. Soldier, damaged by one too many punches considers Danny to be worse than his pals Barney and Augie because he ‘knows better.’ Somewhere buried in Danny’s brain, there are the remnants of a conscience but he’d rather leave it hidden–along with his painful past.

One of the film’s severest faults is its underutilisation of Scott. Scott’s singing scenes (that’s someone else’s voice) are delivered with stiff moves. With sappy lines and a lovesick gaze, Fran isn’t given much scope beyond becoming Danny’s doormat. Although the plot hands Fran the ability and the insider knowledge to affect what happens, her fairly cardboard cutout figure role is limited to convincing Danny to go back on the straight and narrow, and she doesn’t act beyond cajoling and pleading. If Fran’s role were written differently, Dark City would have been a much better film.  The plum roles here are reserved for Heston as Danny–a man who had the best start in life and proceeds to flush his advantages down the toilet, and Viveca Lindfors as Mrs. Winant, a kind, patient and understanding woman. Dark City is directed by William Dieterle.

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Noir Quotes-His Kind of Woman (1951)

“This story didn’t happen in Italy. It only started there.” (voice over)

“Guess what upper crust crumb just bought a plushy villa looking over the Bay of Naples?” (radio)

“I went down there to cure a cold and wound up doing thirty days.” (Dan Milner)

“I’m going to go home and go to bed where I can’t get into trouble.”(Dan Milner)

“I never bet on a race in my life that wasn’t fixed.”(Dan Milner)

“Are you in the oil business or are you spending all your alimony at once?”(Dan Milner to Lenore Brent)

“I’d rather sing than clip coupons. But then I have a million dollars, so no one takes me seriously.”(Lenore Brent to Dan Milner)

“Given enough time and ammunition, you might very likely rid the world of all animal life.” (Lenore Brent to Mark Cardigan)

“I’ve forgotten a lot of things, but you’ll never be one of them.” (Mark Cardigan to Lenore Brent)

“I want information and I’m beginning not to care how I get it.” (Dan Milner)

“I was just getting ready to take my tie off. Wondering if I should hang myself with it.” (Dan Milner)

“The boys know not to mess up his face.”

“That’s nice. You’ve got good hands.” (Lenore Brent to Dan Milner)

“Every once in while, a good man like a good horse, gets into a slump.”

“You know, you can’t take his opinion on anything. He’s an intellectual.” (Myron Winton to Mark Cardigan)

“If I don’t hook my man in two weeks, I might be hitting you up for a job.” (Lenore Brent)

“Were you in love with me last night?”(Lenore Brent to Dan Milner)

“It’s too bad we both have to die for something so rotten.”

“The fireworks start any time now.” (Dan Milner to Lenore Brent)

“Stick with me, Bucko. This is my private hunting ground. I know it like an owl knows his tree.” (Mark Cardigan to Dan Milner)

“I stole a gun for you.”(Lenore Brent to Dan Milner)

“One of your fellow Americans need help, and all you can do is stand there gaping.” (Mark Cardigan)

“Wake up little boy, wake up. I want him to see it coming.” (Nick Ferraro)

“I haven’t met as many rich dames as I’d like to, but I know one thing–they all have a terror of talking about their dough.” (Dan Milner)

“But I don’t like to shoot a corpse. I want to see the expression on his face when he knows it’s coming.” (Nick Ferraro)

“I was going to kiss it all goodbye for you.” (Lenore Brent to Dan Milner)

‘You’re not going to find a thing except yourself.”

“Ok, so you’re a man. How could I tell?”
“Don’t feel so bad. There are a lot of places in the world. They’ve all got women in them.”

“There’s only one way to handle welshes.” (Nick Ferraro)

“Here’s one anesthesia where death doesn’t follow in one year. It follows right now.”

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His Kind of Woman (1951)

“I was just getting ready to take my tie off. Wondering if I should hang myself with it.”

his kind of womanHis Kind of Woman begins in a beautiful villa in Italy where exiled drug czar and psychotic crime boss Nick Ferraro (Raymond Burr) paces the marble floor like a trapped animal. One of Ferraro’s minions listens to a radio broadcast that states that Ferraro should be rolling in dough–even on Italy’s far-flung shores, but while Ferraro is trapped in Italy, the boys back home aren’t sending along those ill-gotten gains from all the gambling and narcotics scores. And so Ferraro decides it’s time to get back to America and straighten out his rackets. But the problem is he’s been deported and as an undesirable, he’s not allowed back in….

Meanwhile gambler Dan Milner (Robert Mitchum) returns to his Los Angeles haunts after thirty days in the slammer. He strolls into one of his favourite late night diners to order milk, but there’s something wrong. Sam, the server seems tense and nervous, and Milner takes the hint, strolling back to his apartment where he finds three hoods waiting for him. The hoods are there to collect $600 dollars that Milner doesn’t owe. After being beaten up, Milner receives a phone call asking him to go to the home of a local crime boss and here Milner gets an offer he can’t refuse. He’s offered a cool $50,000 if he just goes down to Mexico and stays there for a year.

Although Milner hadn’t planned on going to Mexico, he realises that he can’t refuse, so he takes the downpayment and heads to Nogales. In a tatty Nogales bar, he runs into Lenore Brent (Jane Russell), a woman who claims to be a millionairess. While Milner, is strongly attracted to Lenore, she brushes him off as she sniffs that he’s not in her league, but nonetheless the pair find themselves on a chartered plane heading for Morro’s Lodge, an exclusive, isolated coastal resort.

Upon his arrival, Milner makes it a point to try and discover why he’s in Mexico, and he does this by trying to mingle with the guests. Striking up relationships with some of the guests proves difficult, and no one seems to be quite who they claim. There’s writer Martin Krafft (John Mylong)  a man who plays solitary chess games against himself in a distinctly anti-social way. Another man Myron Winton (Jim Backus) has the persona of a buffoon, but he’s a card sharp intent on separating a pair of newlyweds.  Meanwhile Milner is closely watched by a couple of hoods who refuse to give any information but don’t want him mingling with the guests too much.

The resort is obviously the hangout for millionaries who don’t want the hassle of publicity, and the guests seem to be a strange blend of the extraordinary wealthy along with a few playmates. Milner doesn’t make much headway in the information department but thinks that at least he can while away the time massaging suntan oil onto Lenore’s shoulders. And then married Hollywood actor Mark Cardigan (Vincent Price) shows up for a tryst with Lenore.

From the very first scene as Ferraro menacingly walks through his villa, His Kind of Woman is great entertainment. The film is an interesting blend of hardboiled noir laced with comic elements, and most of the film’s humour comes from Cardigan–a thwarted Errol Flynn type who can’t wait to act out his heroic fantasies off screen using real guns for a change.

The film’s strength is in its well-fleshed characters. There’s a strong sense of just who Milner, Lenore, Cardigan and the psycho Ferraro are, and even minor characters are given quirks that make them fascinating and three-dimensional. Mitchum–as always–is superb. Cool and laconic, he never breaks a sweat until the film’s final scenes. Milner knows that he’s been set up from the very beginning, but he doesn’t fight it and goes along for the ride until that ride gets too bumpy. The film’s title His Kind of Woman refers to the fact that Milner recognises Lenore as his type of dame from the moment he sets eyes on her. When Mitchum first sees Lenore, he buys her a bottle of champagne and carries it over to her table. While he may be hoping to impress her, the way he holds the bottle looks like he intends to slug someone with it. She may act as though she’s slumming by hanging out in a scruffy Nogales bar, but she’s more at home singing in bars than she is sporting with the rich and famous at Morro’s Lodge. Jane Russell as Lenore has a fantastic wardrobe–with gowns that look as though they’ve been poured on to her luscious full curves. The scenes between Mitchum and Russell snap as dialogue is exchanged. One of my favourites scenes involves Lenore discovering that Milner likes ironing his money. Milner is a tough guy but he’s so tough, he doesn’t have to worry about displaying that toughness at every turn.

The comedy takes over at a few points during the film. The Shakespeare-quoting Cardigan becomes the focus of some of the scenes, and with a captive audience made up of Mexican police and American holidaymakers, the opportunity for real-life adventures swell his already impossible ego. But it’s all great fun and Cardigan’s very genuine relationship with Milner–a relationship of contrasts plays well on the screen. Similarly Milner’s relationship with Lenore believably simmers while she struggles with the idea that she needs to nail Cardigan to a commitment in the next two weeks.

Raymond Burr as savage crime czar Nick Ferraro is suitably psychotic, and as it turns out Martin Krafft is a Nazi doctor, so there are all these characters who may have disguises and fake names but who in the end run true to type. The film’s final scenes involve some rather convoluted back and forth fighting, and while some of these scenes drag out the ending, it’s all to allow the film to conclude in splendid, no-holds barred Errol Flynn fashion. 

The film, from Howard Hughes RKO studios, is directed by John Farrow.

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Noir Quotes–Naked Alibi (1954)

“Stinking cops. Nobody socks me around like that. Nobody. I get even. I always do.” (Gene Barry as Al Willis)

“I don’t want to go downtown. They’ll beat me.” (Gene Barry as Al Willis)

“Shooting off at the mouth is one thing and killing a guy is something else.” (Gene Barry as Al Willis)

“They’ll get you copper. One of those trigger-happy bulls you used to boss around is going to blow your head off.” (Gene Barry as Al Willis)

“Make believe it’s another business trip.” (Gene Barry as Al Willis to his wife)

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Noir Quotes-Dead Reckoning (1947)

Right now the cops are after me. Not that I’ve done anything wrong, father.” (Bogart/Murdock to priest)

“If I can’t work this out, I want somebody to know what happened.” (Bogart as Murdock to priest)

“Didn’t I tell you, all females are the same with their faces washed.” (Murdock to Sgt Drake)

“Stalled again like a jeep on synthetic gas.” (Murdock voiceover)

“He’s as crisp as bacon.” (Copper to Murdock in morgue)

“Not doing much business for the one cool spot in town.” (Murdock to copper in morgue)

“All that’s missing is the sledgehammer highball and a pair of snake-eye dice.” (Murdock voiceover)

“Think I fell for that fancy tripe? Let’s have a new story, baby.” (Murdoch to Coral Chandler)

“I’m not the type tears do anything to.” (Murdock to Coral Chandler)

“I never think when I gamble. I just feel and I feel snake eyes.” (Murdock)

“Keep the motor running and the headlights on.” (Murdock to Coral Chandler)

“As a good last gesture, just shoot straight and make it fast, will you?” (Martinelli to Murdock)

“All mushy outside and hard at the core, eh?” (Murdock to Coral Chandler)

“When a guy’s pal is killed, he ought to do something about it.” (Murdock)

“Here’s a little melody for you. One of my favourite tunes.” (Murdock KOs Krause)

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