Some of my favorite movies are in the film noir genre.Â What a surprise, right?Â Thing is, I’ve always liked them, since before they were called film noir, or at least since before I was aware of that French phrase.
Of course, it’s well-known that the filmmakers weren’t really aware that they were creating a whole new approach to cinema.Â They were just doing their best with the low budgets they had to work with.
Â These movies were almost always made by the “B” picture crews of the old Hollywood studios.Â That meant less money, less time to shoot, lesser-known actors, and so on.Â You want to shoot a scene with dark dialogue in it?Â Just turn down the lights, cast a few shadows, and point the camera in such aÂ way as toÂ create a dark mood to match the dialogue.Â These directors,Â among whom were greats such asÂ Jacques Tourneur and Anthony Mann, would go on to “bigger and better” movies, but they will always be remembered for their role in forgingÂ the path through the unchartedÂ film noir wilderness.
Growing up in a very small town meant one movie theater, where they had double features (an “A” picture coupled with a “B” picture) all the time, and would change the program three times a week.Â This meant a tremendous number of movies were passing through that little burg. We got a good smattering of everything Hollywood was cranking out in those days, but the black-and-white crime movies always got my attention.Â Just seeing Richard Conte’s name on a poster was enough for me to circle the date and see the movie.
Some of my all-time favorites include Double Indemnity, Out Of The Past, Scarlet Street, The Damned Don’t Cry, The Narrow Margin, Raw Deal, Detour, The Asphalt Jungle, and the Jules Dassin classic, Night And The City.Â I might add that all of these came out either before I was born or before I was old enough to go to the movies by myself, so I really became acquainted with these through TV.
Some of the greatÂ filmsÂ noir I actually saw in my hometown theater include New York Confidential, Kiss Me Deadly, The Killing, Violent Saturday, and that sleeper of sleepers, Plunder Road.
Recent years have seen an upswing in the genre.Â Movies like Body Heat, The Grifters, and After Dark My Sweet (all of which were in color, by the way) have shown there’s a substantial demand for well-done treatments of these great stories.
Also, the rise of the DVD has seen the floodgates open up in terms of releasing many of the really obscure examples of film noir.Â Gems like The Naked Kiss, Bad Blonde, Shoot To Kill, Railroaded, and The Scar are now available after decades of oblivion.
Anybody got any favorites they’d like to share?