Category Archives: Film Noir

The Big Nowhere #2: Crashout

CrashoutThe second of my series looking at some of the best film noir you’ve never heard of, ‘The Big Nowhere’, is live here here at the film site, 4:3.

This week I  look at Lewis R. Foster’s little known 1955 jail break noir, Crashout. Crashout is a B-noir in every sense of the word. The prison break that opens the film was borrowed from scenes shot for another jail noir, Don Siegel’s Riot in Cell Block 11 (1954), and the cast is made up almost completely of solid but unspectacular character actors. But in addition to being fast paced and incredibly tense, Crashout has a remarkably sophisticated story that belies its outward appearance as a macho prison noir.

You can read the piece in full here on the 4:3 site.

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The Big Nowhere: The best film noir you have never heard of

Martha 1As regular Pulp Curry readers will be aware, one of my great cinema loves in film noir. Everyone can name their favourite films noirs, usually the big name, famous ones, like Double Indemnity (1944), the 1946 version of The Killers or Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil (1958). But one of the things I love about the canon of cinema known as film noir is how broad and deep it is. So many fantastic films noirs were made that are relatively unknown to many people.

For a while now, I’ve been thinking it would be great to do a series of posts on the best unknown noirs and what they tell us about what film noir. I was going to do this for Pulp Curry, but a meeting during the recent Melbourne International Film Festival with Conor Bateman, who runs the great Sydney-based film site, 4:3, made me think they might be a better location for the posts.

So over the next few months, I’m am going to be doing a series of columns on 4:3, each one focusing on a different film noir that I think is particularly good and unknown, and posting links to them on this site.

The criteria are simple. That the film be little known, good, American and released during 1945 – 1960. … Read more

The Burglar and unbearable anxiety of late film noir

burglarlc8What I love about the canon of cinema known as film noir is just when you think you’ve seen the all important films, along comes something and blows you away.

Thus was the case recently when I watched the 1957 film The Burglar, based on the book by one of the doyens of classic noir fiction, David Goodis, who also wrote the screenplay.

It begins with a cinema newsreel story titled “Estate sold to spiritualist cult in strange bargain”. The breathless voiceover tells cinemagoers how a millionaire called Bartram Jonesworth has died and left his estate, including a mansion and an emerald necklace, to an aging spiritualist called Sister Sarah.

In the cinema audience is career burglar Nat Harbin (long time TV and movie actor, Dan Duryea). So keen is he to get to work on what could be the score of a lifetime, he doesn’t stay for the feature, he bolts outside and starts thinking about how they can steal the necklace.

He gets his stepsister, Gladden (Jayne Mansfield) to case the mansion under the pretences of visiting to make a donation to Sister Sarah’s work. Gladden informs Harbin and his associates, Baylock and Dohmer, the necklace is kept in a safe in Sister Sarah’s bedroom. The best time to make a move is the fifteen-minute window at eleven o’clock each night during which the spiritualist always watches her favourite news show.… Read more

In a Lonely Place

In a Lonely placeOne of my favourite classic film noirs, without doubt, is Nicholas Ray’s 1950 masterpiece In A Lonely Place.

It’s a taunt, claustrophobic film that works on a very emotional level for me, much more so than most classic noirs I can think of, a devastating story about the artistic process of writing and one of the few period noirs that casts a critical eye on male violence. No matter how many times I’ve seen it, I always end up with a knot in my stomach from on-screen tension.

Dix Steele (Humphrey Bogart) is a cynical screenwriter on the verge of being washed up. He also has a very violent streak to his personality that’s obviously got him into trouble many times. His agent gives him a chance for a comeback, a gig adapting a novel into a screenplay for a director well known for his popular mainstream fare. Exactly the type of film Dix hates.

His self-sabotaging distain for the job is evident when he discovers the hatcheck girl at the nightclub he’s spent the evening in has read the book he’s been asked to adapt. He invites her back to his apartment for her take about the tome. His worst suspicions about the job confirmed, he sends the girls on her way with taxi fare and goes to bed.… Read more

M Emmet Walsh and Blood Simple

Walsh“Well Ma’am if I see him, I’ll sure give him the message.” 

The late Roger Ebert called it the “Stanton-Walsh Rule”. Any movie “featuring either Harry Dean Stanton or M.Emmet Walsh in a supporting role can’t be altogether bad”.

I’ve always liked Walsh as a character actor. But it was only when I recently re-watched the Cohen Bother’s Blood Simple after many year, that I realised just how on the money Ebert was.

Walsh plays a seedy PI called Loren Visser. Visser hired by a rich Texan bar owner, Julian (Dan Hedaya), to kill his wife, Abby (a very young Francis McDormand), who is cheating with one of Julian’s employees, Ray (John Getz).

If you haven’t seen Blood Simple, it won’t spoil your viewing pleasure too much if I tell you Visser kills Julian, tries to frame Abbey for the murder, and all manner of hell is unleashed.

On one level, Blood Simple comes across as a fairly standard small town film noir. Characters chase their own shadows and do very bad things in an effort to extract themselves from an increasingly fraught and dangerous situation.

What really raises it about the pack of similar films is the Cohen brother’s signature brand of dark weirdness, which managers to be both restrained and shocking. … Read more