Tag Archives: Black and White

Film Noir Friday: Laura

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Laura

Detective Mark McPherson investigates the apparent murder of advertising executive Laura Hunt. Told in flashback by Newspaper columnist Waldo Lydecker, Laura follows the detective as he falls in love with her through diaries and a portrait that hangs on her wall.
Gene Tierney stars as Laura, the titular character whose image floats through the film as if she were a mythical creature. Dana Andrews stars opposite her as the detective, Clifton Webb is Waldo Lydecker, Vincent Price is Shelby Carpenter, a role that would surprise today’s audiences, and Dorothy Adams is Bessie Clary.
Laura was adapted to screen from the 1943 novel of the same name by Vera Caspary. Directed and Produced by Otto Preminger, Laura is a classic Film Noir making lists of the top Noir’s for years.
While today’s audience may not find themselves as satisfied with the reveal, Laura still stands the test of time. A successful and talented woman is at the helm. Put on a pedestal by all the men, today’s feminist audience may see these male characters in a less than romantic light.
Film Noir has allowed women to take on roles usually reserved for men. After the Hayes Code was instated women typically portrayed the love interest, the wife, or the daughter. Occasionally they got to play roles far more interesting than that and Laura was a role worth having. Gene Tierney is perfect, as it is believable that any man could fall for her on her portrait alone. She has an essence that pours off the screen; her image excites us as she glides through the memories and imaginations of the other characters. While this role puts Tierney in a place of objectification she is also a strong and smart woman who fights against the ideas that men have of her.

 

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Gene Tierney and Vincent Price

Laura could have been created for the young starlet who by this time was best known for her film Heaven Can Wait alongside Don Ameche. While other good roles came before Laura better ones came after. Tierney would go on to star in Leave Her to Heaven alongside Cornel Wilde, Jeanne Crain and once again, Vincent Price. Vincent Price would appear in a few more roles outside of the genre he is most associated with but would eventually find his home in horror.

 

 

 

Suspense Saturday: And Then There Were None

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Released in 1945

Adapted from the novel and play by Queen of Crime Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None adapts the plays more Hollywood friendly ending. Released in October of 1945, And Then There Were None received rave reviews and currently holds a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That probably wouldn’t be the case if were made today. Mostly due to the changing times, there is less of a need for happy endings and for pretty  people to win. Today we want more realistic and honest stories. While the book and a more recent adaptation gives us that, And Then There Were None is given an ending that reflects the production system of its era and not the truth of the situation. That being said, And Then There Were None is still an enjoyable film and a must see for mystery lovers.

Today’s audiences and lovers of cult classic Clue probably recognize the story as And Then There Were None is one of the most adapted and used plots of the 20th century. Before the release of the novel there wasn’t many like it. That changed after the publication and popularity. With the release of the film and the success of the play the plot has been adapted and reworked plenty of times.

Ten strangers are summoned to a remote island. As they wait for their mysterious host to arrive they listen to several recordings dealing out serious accusations. Soon they begin to die one by one and they reach the only conclusion that makes sense. One of them must be the murderer.

The film is available to stream on Amazon Prime.

Film Noir Friday: Too Late for Tears

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Lizabeth Scott as Jane Palmer

Too Late for Tears was originally released in 1949 starring Lizabeth Scott, Don DeFore, Dan Duryea, Arthur Kennedy and Kristine Miller. The film was Directed by Byron Haskin, written by Roy Huggins and adapted from a serial by Roy Huggins. In the public domain, Too Late for Tears is available to watch on YouTube in pristine condition. An original print was found in France and restored at UCLA. This edition premiered on TCM on July 17, 2015.

After a bag of cash is thrown into their backseat by mistake a husband and wife disagree on what to do with it. Alan Palmer, played by Arthur Kennedy wants to turn it in. His wife Jane, played by Lizabeth Scott, wants to keep the money. Things soon go south for her when she meets Danny Fuller (Dan Duryea) who claims the money is his. Jane tries desperately to keep the money, going so far as to kill her own husband and bring Fuller into it. As she grows more ruthless, Jane’s sister in law Kathy (Kristine Miller) becomes suspicious of her so she calls in a man from his past.

Too Late for Tears showcases the perfect example of a Femme Fatale. A beautiful women who pulls the strings even as the anti-hero attempts to gain control. Much like the better known Femme Fatale’s like Barbara Stanwyck’s turn as Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity, Jane Palmer seduces a man into helping her get away with the murder of her husband. While Stanwyck’s role as Phyllis was straight up seduction, things for Jane are a little different. There was no original plan for her to do this but she was sick of the mundane life she was leading. Being a house wife was not for her so when given the opportunity to change her life she went for it. She was willing to risk her life and things resulted in murder just so she could hold onto it. Beneath the wide eyed innocence that she seems to pull off so perfectly is a killer who’s main goal is to grab a huge chunk out of life damn the consequences.

When a film is found or restored I will always recommend it. Especially if that film is good or at least interesting. Too Late for Tears is one of my new favorite films of the genre. The main focus is on the female protagonist and while there are big male roles in the film it is the woman that does most of the dirty work. Film Noir has always been one of my favorites due to the complexity of the female characters and this film is no exception. It gives us a character that appears innocent and thirsty for adventure on the surface but beneath it all she is thirsty for a lot more. She shows weakness, strength and a vigorous need to fight back. That vigor however will be her end.

 

Suspense Saturday: Murder!

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Murder! released in 1930

Let’s go back to the early days of Hitchcock. In 1930 Alfred Hitchcock was still a budding director; co-written by Hitchcock, his wife Alma Reville and Walter C. Mycroft it is based on a book and play Enter Sir John by Clemence Dane and Helen Simpson. The third talkie film directed by the future master of suspense Murder! may not be one of his most popular films but when you watch it you will see the directors signature from the beginning.

Actress Diana Baring, played by Norah Baring, is accused of murdering fellow actress Edna Druce when she is found in a daze with blood on her clothes and the weapon at her feet. She has no recollection of the events and the police arrest her due to the damning evidence. The two young actresses are thought to be rivals and she withholds information that could help the police. After she is found guilty, juror and actor-manager Sir John Menier played by Herbert Marchass, feels responsible so he begins investigating the crime to prove her innocence.

Spoiler Alert

His investigation leads him to another actor in the troupe. Menier fakes an audition, calling in actor Handell Fane, who often plays cross-dressing roles. When Fane realizes that he is accusing him of the crime he leaves and goes to his job in the circus. When he realizes that he is caught, Fane hangs himself while performing his trapeze act. If it wasn’t for the work of Menier, Diana would have suffered that same fate in prison.

Murder! has me feeling more sympathy towards the actual perpetrator of the crime than I do for the women falsely accused. Considering the time of this film I highly doubt that was the intention but also, knowing Hitchcock, he probably wanted us to feel things far beyond our own comfort zones. Was that intentional?I don’t know, but like in all art, it is entirely up to our own interpretation.

Murder! is available to watch on Amazon Prime as well as on various free streaming sites.

 

10 Decades, 10 films (Horror)

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The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari  1919 (German)

Genre: German Expressionist

Known for:The twist ending.

It ended and started a decade. Dr. Caligari is one of the best known and best reviewed early horror films. While researching this film some places said 1919 others said 1920 but I do know that I haven’t seen many films pre 1920 so Its best that I use this great film to start off this post. The first time I heard of Dr. Caligai was via a horror documentary. I heard about it more recently through my father who is a great lover of silent films. This film is said to have introduced the twist ending something that’s common in horror and suspense films.

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Nosferatu 1922 (German)
Genre: German Expressionist Horror.
Known for: Nosferatu is an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stokers Dracula. The studio could not obtain the rights to the film.
Starring: Max Schreck as Count Orloc
After Stokers heirs sued a court ruling ordered that all copies of this film be destroyed. One copy survived however and Nosferatu has gone on to be one of the most influential and highly regarded horror films of all time.

When I was a little girl I stumbled upon this film by accident. I walked it to the living room while my dad was off talking on the phone. Nosferatu was on the television and I came in on the most popular scene. Count Orloc rises from his coffin and ascends the stairs. I remember running out of the room terrified. The rest is history.

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Freaks 1932 (American)

Known for: Freaks had a cast of real circus performers.

Tod Browning began his career in the circus and this film is inspired by some of his experiences. Two “normal” looking people scheme to steal the inheritance of one the “Freaks”.

After watching this film for the first time I feel like a part of me had changed. It’s a film that really makes you think. Looks don’t make a person a freak or a monster it is there personalities that make them monsters.

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Cat People 1942 (American)
Genre: Atmospheric, Suspense.
Known for: Cat People popularized the Lewton Bus effect.
Cat People was a Val Lewton picture that raised far beyond the limitations of most b pictures. Irena is a woman who believes she descends from a race of people that turn into cats when they become sexually aroused.

I had heard of this film thinks to my father and several horror documentaries. A few years ago I watched Cat People for the first time and was very pleased with the whole film most notably the atmosphere.

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Them! 1954 (American)
Genre: Science Fiction
Known for: Being the first big bug film. It was among the nuclear monster films popular in the 1950’s.
Them starts off as a suspense film. Police investigate suspicious deaths. The giant ants are not seen until a third of the film has passed. They are heard before being seen adding to the suspense.

I had the pleasure of seeing this film for the first time on a big screen while at school. I wasn’t very interested in these types of films prior.

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Peeping Tom 1960 (British)
Genre: Voyeurism, Early Slasher, Thiller
Known for: Highly regarded as the first slasher Peeping Tom ruined the career of its director Michael Powell.
Peeping Tom is the story of a serial killer who stalks and records his victims so he can keep their expressions of terror. Peeping Top now enjoys a cult following.

I saw this film for the first time in the past year or two thinks to TCM.

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Halloween 1978 (American)
Genre: Slasher
Known for: Popularizing the American slasher film.
Starring Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode Halloween is a independent horror film Directed, Written and composed by John Carpenter. Some have criticized this film by saying that encourages Sadism and Misogyny.

Halloween ranks in my top five. I saw this film for the first time when I was around ten years old. I immediately fell in love with the genre.

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A Nightmare on Elm Street 1984 (American)
Genre: Slasher, Supernatural
Known for: Freddy Kruger
A severally burnt man haunts the dreams of teenagers. He kills them while they sleep. Nancy fights back after loosing her friends to the monster inside her dreams. She learns secrets about Elm Street.

After I was done watching this film my mom entered my room and scared me as payback for all the times I scared her.

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The People Under the Stairs 1991 (American)
Genre: Comedy Horror
Known for: Having an African American kid as it’s protagonist.
A young boy goes to rob the slum lords of his apartment when he comes across the disturbing life’s they lead. There are people under the stairs that have resulted to cannibalism to live. Fool meets the crazy couples daughter and roach a boy who lives in the walls. They help protect him.

I heard of this film several times before giving it a proper chance. I am glad I did.

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The House of the Devil 2009 (American)
Genre: Haunted house and slasher elements. Satanic panic.

Known for:  Set during the early 1980’s

The House of the Devil makes it easy to forget you are watching a modern film. A college sophomore strapped for cash takes a babysitting job at an old house in the middle of nowhere. While there she begins to suspect that the residents didn’t tell her the truth.

I was recently introduced to this film. It has quickly became a favorite of the genre.

Current recent favorite. 

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We Are What We Are 2013 (American)
Genre: Cannibals
Known for: An American Remake of a Mexican film of the same name.
After the matriarch of a family of cannibals die her young daughters must take up where she leaves off. They are saddled with a domineering father whose health is failing.

I knew I wanted to see this film I just didn’t know why. I was attracted to this films interesting mystique so I gave it a shot via Netflix and I am glad that I did.