Thursday, November 30, 2017

November Quick Picks and Pans – Film Noir Edition

The Stranger (1946) Director Orson Welles’ tense examination of the evil that lies under our noses resonates long after the final scene. Welles stars as Charles Rankin, aka: Franz Kindler, escaped Nazi war criminal and one of the masterminds behind the concentration camps. He’s settled away from prying eyes in the small Connecticut town of Harper as a college history professor, and is poised to wed his naïve new bride, Mary (Loretta Young).

Edward G. Robinson (in a nice turn in a protagonist role) co-stars as government-appointed Nazi hunter Mr. Wilson, who is determined to bring Kindler to justice. In one disturbing scene, he attempts to convince Mary that her new husband isn’t the man he claims to be with a montage of clips depicting the atrocities in the Nazi concentration camps (Welles included actual concentration camp footage, adding a painful level of verisimilitude to the film). Welles masterfully depicts the behavior of a sociopath as his veneer of respectability is stripped away, and reduced to a cornered animal, thinking of nothing but self-preservation. The story comes to a memorable conclusion in a clock tower.

Note: A huge thanks to Olive Films for providing a Blu-ray screener for this review. You can find it here.

Rating: ****½. Available on Blu-ray and DVD

The Dark Corner (1946) Someone has it in for private detective Bradford Galt (Mark Stevens), and Galt’s former partner and con-man Tony Jardine (Kurt Kreuger) is the prime suspect. Jardine’s latest target is a wealthy art dealer and his trophy wife (Clifton Webb and Cathy Downs). The real surprise in this fast-paced potboiler is Lucille Ball, in a dramatic role as Galt’s plucky assistant Kathleen. She’s loyal to a fault, resourceful, and knows how to think on her feet. Ball and Stevens share some good chemistry as their characters’ relationship becomes something more than professional. Also watch for a great supporting performance by William Bendix as Stauffer, a sleazy thug for hire.

Rating: ****. Available on DVD

I Wake Up Screaming (1941) Victor Mature plays talent scout Frankie Christopher, who’s in over his head when his latest discovery, Vicky (Carole Landis) ends up murdered. To complicate matters, he’s become involved with Vicky’s cynical sister Jill (Betty Grable). He’s dogged by Ed Cornell (Laird Cregar, in a deliciously enigmatic role), a tenacious police detective who’s convinced about Frankie’s guilt. It’s a race against time as he attempts to prove his innocence before Cornell can snare him in a trap. The film also features Elijah Cook, Jr., terrific, as always, as a shifty desk clerk at an apartment building. It’s certainly lighter in tone than the provocative title would suggest, but riveting nonetheless.   

Rating: **** Available on Blu-ray and DVD

Shock (1946) Janet Stewart (Anabel Shaw) witnesses a man murdering his wife, which sends her into a catatonic state. Unfortunately for Janet, her psychiatrist, Dr. Richard Cross (Vincent Price) is also the assailant. Price captivates as the conflicted Dr. Cross, who wrestles with his conscience about killing his wife, and torn between a doctor’s oath to heal and his desire to avoid getting caught. Lynn Bari plays his remorseless lover, Nurse Elaine Jordan, who keeps him wrapped around her finger. The two conspire to keep Janet sedated and out of the picture. The plot may have more holes than a wheel of Swiss cheese, but it scarcely matters, watching the interplay between Price and Bari in this underrated noir thriller.

Rating: ***½. Available on DVD

Quicksand (1950) Mickey Rooney stars as Dan, a ne’er-do-well auto mechanic up to his neck in problems. Dan arranges a date with Vera (Jeanne Cagney), a waitress at a diner with an eye for expensive things, but looks before he leaps (a recurring theme). Without a cent to his name, and unable to borrow funds, he takes matters into his own hands, pilfering a $20 bill from the repair shop cash register. The petty theft is only the start of his troubles, which continue to cascade, as he tries to replace the money, and only gets deeper in debt. Quicksand features a nice supporting performance by Peter Lorre as Nick, a seedy penny arcade owner. Unfortunately, Rooney just isn’t charismatic enough to carry the movie, and Dan, as written, is too self-centered and obtuse for his own good. By the time we’ve reached the film’s climax, our sympathy for his predicament has worn thin. It’s well worth a look for the atmosphere though, and Lorre is fine as always.

Rating: ***. Available on DVD and Amazon Video                       


  1. Lock the door, hide the phone, and have a noir marathon with these titles.

    1. Absolutely! A great bunch of movies. Thanks for stopping by!