Noirvember was the name of the game this past month, and I watched nearly 50 noir films total! That includes re-watches of course, but the majority of the films I watched were new-to-me (you can see everything I watched for Noirvember here). Between that and TCM’s Noir Summer in June and July, I think it’s safe to say I’ve had a very noir-filled year. But it’s a genre/style I never tire of, so I might sneak in one or two from TCM in December. To counter-balance all the dark films I watched, I did continue my Disney retrospective and revisited the 10 films made during the time period hailed as the company’s Renaissance (from 1989’s The Little Mermaid to 1999’s Tarzan). I’m going to try to finish of their canon of animated films before the year ends, but there’s more than a dozen left, so I’ll probably end up just finishing up the 2000’s decade instead. With both the noir and Disney films having a running time around 90 minutes, I managed to watch 64 films in total. Anyway, let’s look at what I saw for the first time in November.
New-to-Me Films by Decade:
- 1920s – 1
- 1930s – 1
- 1940s – 20
- 1950s – 12
- 1960s – 5
- 1970s – 0
- 1980s – 2
- 1990s – 0
- 2000s – 0
- 2010s – 2
List of New-to-Me Films:
- Kings Row (1942)
- Ride the Pink Horse (1947)
- Kiss of Death (1947)
- Fallen Angel (1945)
- Union Station (1950)
- The Dark Corner (1946)
- Against All Odds (1984)
- Slightly Scarlet (1956)
- The Big Steal (1949)
- Secret Beyond the Door (1948)
- Odds Against Tomorrow (1959)
- You Only Live Once (1937)
- Spectre (2015)
- Boomerang! (1947)
- Call Northside 777 (1948)
- The Killers (1964)
- Murder by Contract (1958)
- Caught (1949)
- The Prowler (1951)
- Don’t Bother to Knock (1952)
- Moonrise (1948)
- Shoot the Piano Player (1960)
- Their Own Desire (1929)
- Mr. Arkadin (1955)
- Rififi (1955)
- T-Men (1947)
- Kiss the Blood Off My Hands (1948)
- The Shanghai Gesture (1941)
- The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981)
- In Cold Blood (1967)
- The Thief (1952)
- Man Hunt (1941)
- Border Incident (1949)
- Dead Reckoning (1947)
- The Good Dinosaur (2015)
- Blast of Silence (1961)
- Persona (1966)
- Mystery Street (1950)
- The Turning Point (1952)
- No Man of Her Own (1950)
- The Reckless Moment (1949)
- Cloak and Dagger (1946)
- Lady in the Lake (547)
- Best Picture Nominees Watched: 1
- Movies Watched from The Criterion Collection: 8
- Movies Watched via the Watch TCM app: 5
- Movies Watched on TCM: 2
- Movies Watched on Hulu: 1
- Movies Watched in theaters: 3
Trends and Notes
As I watched a ton of noir, all the trends will be about that, and there’s a lot to be said here.
- Watched 3 films starring Robert Montgomery, 2 of which were also directed by him and released in 1947.
- Watched 7 films from the year 1947, 2 of them were in a row and one was a re-watch.
- Watched 3 films directed by Henry Hathaway.
- Watched 4 films starring Richard Widmark, 2 of them were re-watches.
- Watched 4 films from the year 1950, one was a re-watch.
- Watched 4 films from the year 1946, 2 of them were re-watches.
- Watched 4 films from the year 1949.
- Watched 4 films directed by Fritz Lang.
- Watched 3 films starring Joan Bennett (2 of them were directed by Lang).
- Watched 5 films from 1948; one was a re-watch.
- Watched 3 films directed by Jules Dassin, 2 of them were re-watches.
- Watched 3 films starring Gene Tierney, 2 of them were re-watches.
- Watched 3 films from the year 1952.
- Watched 3 films from the year 1955, 2 of them were in a row and one was a re-watch.
A Few Favorite Discoveries:
I began Noirvember with this film, and it stuck with me throughout the month. Director-star Robert Montgomery made Ride the Pink Horse the same year he made the experimental Lady in the Lake (which I actually ended Noirvember with). The film has a lot of great things going for it both in front of and behind the camera, I’m surprised it’s not better known. I wrote more about the film in my post for the Criterion Blogathon, which can be read here.
Fallen Angel came out a year after Laura, reuniting director Otto Preminger and actor Dana Andrews, as well as cinematographer Joseph LaShelle. It’s not as remarkable as their previous film, but it’s still a film worth watching. It’s another film I watched early in the month that stayed with me. One of my favorite noir shots from all the films I watched this month is this one, a clever, stylish way of getting around the Hays Code. Andrews plays a drifter who falls in love with a diner waitress, played by the alluring Linda Darnell. Both are excellent in their roles, but I think my favorite performance comes from Alice Faye as the wealthy spinster that Andrews marries for money. This was actually Faye’s last film up until making the 1962 film State Fair, and if it had ended up being her very last it wouldn’t have been a bad way to go out.
I watched two films directed by Max Ophüls this month (and both starred James Mason and were made in 1949), but I actually prefer Caught over the more well-regarded The Reckless Moment. It’s beautifully shot and the way Barbara Bel Geddes and Robert Ryan are framed in their scenes together is remarkable, often showing the power dynamic in their relationship. The film features wonderful performances from Mason and Ryan, two of my favorite underrated actors. Ryan has played a lot of bad characters, but here he plays one of the most ruthless of them as a wealthy playboy who seems charming but is a really despicable person. This was Mason’s first Hollywood film, and here he shows hints of the greatness that was to come later in his career.
The noir genre is full of seedy characters, but Van Heflin’s shady cop is one of the creepiest. He meets a suburban housewife (played by Evelyn Keyes) when she reports a prowler watching her get dressed. Though she initially resists him, they begin an affair that later leads to some deadly results. The Prowler presents an interesting portrait of a male authority figure with a predatory, obsessive behavior. It’s really an unsettling film because of its realistic elements. It’s a great hidden noir gem that I think more people should watch.
Rififi features the usual plot devices found in heist films, but it works out so beautifully here. The film isn’t slow, but it’s patient in the way it unfolds and really builds up the tension in crucial scenes. In other films, the big steal would play out rather quickly but here the scene lasts for 30 minutes and not a word is spoken, and its one of the most impactful heists I’ve seen. The heist itself wouldn’t be as effective if it weren’t for a strong set-up that allows the audience to grow attached to characters that are committing a crime, and then to finish the film with a bang (literally) in the hopes that the characters succeed. Blacklisted director Jules Dassin made Rififi after a five year hiatus and it’s truly a masterpiece in filmmaking, and a great way of showing Hollywood what they were missing.
I posted the penultimate entry for my 2015 Blind Spots series over the weekend, where I shared my thoughts on Persona, which was one of the most interesting films I saw in November. My thoughts on the film can be found here.