Double Indemnity (1944; USA; B&W; 107m) ***** d. Billy Wilder; w. Billy Wilder, Raymond Chandler; ph. John F. Seitz; m. Miklós Rózsa. Cast: Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson, Porter Hall, Jean Heather, Tom Powers, Gig Young, Richard Gaines, Fortunio Bonanova, Edmund Cobb, Byron Barr, John Philliber, Clarence Muse, Bess Flowers, Sam McDaniel. An insurance rep lets himself be talked into a murder/insurance fraud scheme that arouses an insurance investigator’s suspicions. Classic and highly influential film noir with a tight script, hardboiled and witty dialogue and first-rate performances. Stanwyck is the deceptive, but alluring, femme fatale and MacMurray the smitten salesman. Robinson is superb as the eccentric investigator. Based on the novel by James M. Cain. Remade as a TV Movie in 1973. [PG]
Whirlpool (1949; USA; B&W; 97m) *** d. Otto Preminger; w. Ben Hecht, Andrew Solt; ph. Arthur Miller; m. David Raksin. Cast: Gene Tierney, Richard Conte, José Ferrer, Charles Bickford, Richard Conte, Barbara O’Neil, Constance Collier, Fortunio Bonanova, Eduard Franz. A woman secretly suffering from kleptomania is hypnotized in an effort to cure her condition. Soon afterwards, she is found at the scene of a murder with no memory of how she got there and seemingly no way to prove her innocence. Film noir is interesting for its premise and Ferrer’s sinister performance as the hypnotist. But after a promising start the plot descends into melodrama and loses its sense of logic in a weak finale that too neatly wraps up the story. Evocative score by Raskin. Based on the novel “Methinks the Lady” by Guy Endore. [PG]
Maltese Falcon, The (1941; USA; B&W; 100m) ***** d. John Huston; w. John Huston; ph. Arthur Edeson; m. Adolph Deutsch. Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Sydney Greenstreet, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Walter Huston, Elisha Cook Jr., Barton MacLane, Lee Patrick, Gladys George, Ward Bond, Jerome Cowan, James Burke, Murray Alper, John Hamilton, Emory Parnell. A private detective takes on a case that involves him with three eccentric criminals, a gorgeous liar, and their quest for a priceless statuette. Classic hard-boiled private-eye movie is a wonderful vehicle for Bogart as the cynical Sam Spade. The complex and twisting plot is expertly handled by Huston and brilliantly edited by Richards. It crams so much plot progression into its first ten minutes and never lets up its pace. The supporting cast – notably Lorre and Greenstreet – is wonderful. This would become the template for many film-noir movies to follow. Based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett previously filmed in 1931 and 1936 (as SATAN MET A LADY). Also available in a computer colourised version. [PG]
Prowler, The (1951; USA; B&W; 92m) ∗∗∗∗ d. Joseph Losey; w. Hugo Butler, Dalton Trumbo, Robert Thoeren, Hans Wilhelm; ph. Arthur C. Miller; m. Lyn Murray. Cast: Van Heflin, Evelyn Keyes, John Maxwell, Katherine Warren, Emerson Treacy, Madge Blake, Wheaton Chambers, Robert Osterloh, Sherry Hall, Louise Lorimer. When Susan Gilvray (Keyes) reports a prowler outside her house police officer Webb Garwood (Heflin) investigates and sparks fly. If only her husband wasn’t in the way. Taut thriller is driven by Heflin’s commanding central performance. As his machinations start to unravel the pace quickens to an evocative finale in a desert ghost town. Keyes is a little mannered in her performance, but the production values are strong and the cinematography perfectly captures the noir atmosphere. [PG]
Fallen Angel (1945; USA; B&W; 94m) ∗∗∗½ d. Otto Preminger; w. Harry Kleiner; ph. Joseph LaShelle; m. David Riskin. Cast: Dana Andrews, Alice Faye, Linda Darnell, Charles Bickford, Anne Revere, Bruce Cabot, John Carradine A slick con man arrives in a small town looking to make some money, but soon gets more than he bargained for. Well cast film-noir is solid entertainment despite the melodramatic and uneven nature of its script. Andrews is always a great rogue and there are some effective individual scenes. Darnell makes the most of her manipulative role, whilst Bickford adds a layered performance as a semi-retired cop. Based on the novel by Marty Holland. [PG]
Night and the City (1950; USA/UK; B&W; 96m) ∗∗∗∗ d. Jules Dassin; w. Jo Eisinger; ph. Max Greene; m. Benjamin Frankel (British version), Franz Waxman (American version). Cast: Richard Widmark, Gene Tierney, Googie Withers, Hugh Marlowe, Francis L. Sullivan, Herbert Lom, Stanislaus Zbyszko, Mike Mazurki, Charles Farrell, Ada Reeve, Ken Richmond. A small-time grifter and nightclub tout takes advantage of some fortuitous circumstances and tries to become a big-time player as a wrestling promoter. Moody and effective noir, if occasionally over-wrought, in which Widmark scores in the lead role and is backed by strong performances from an interesting cast. Great Score by Waxman and atmospheric photography on the streets of London by Greene add to the flavour. Thrilling chase finale through the docks. Based on the novel by Gerald Kersh. Alternative British version runs to 101m with a different score by Frankel. Remade in 1992 with Robert De Niro. [PG]
Dark Corner, The (1946; USA; B&W; 99m) ∗∗∗½ d. Henry Hathaway; w. Jay Dratler, Bernard C. Schoenfeld; ph. Joseph MacDonald; m. Cyril J. Mockridge. Cast: Lucille Ball, Clifton Webb, William Bendix, Mark Stevens, Kurt Kreuger, Cathy Downs, Reed Hadley, Constance Collier, Eddie Heywood. Secretary tries to help her private eye boss, who is framed for a murder. Film noir has many positives – including Ball’s energetic performance and Webb’s slimy art dealer. It is sumptuously shot with great use of light and shadow by MacDonald. Stevens is somewhat two-dimensional as the framed PI and there are some plot conveniences that lead to a rushed denouement, but it is a good example of the genre. Based on the serial story by Leo Rosten. [PG]
Murder, My Sweet (1944; USA; B&W; 95m) ∗∗∗∗½ d. Edward Dmytryk; w. John Paxton; ph. Harry J. Wild; m. Roy Webb. Cast: Dick Powell, Anne Shirley, Mike Mazurki, Claire Trevor, Otto Kruger, Miles Mander, Douglas Walton, Donald Douglas, Ralf Harolde, Esther Howard, Jack Carr, Ralph Dunn, George Anderson, Paul Phillips, Larry Wheat. After being hired to find an ex-con’s former girlfriend, Philip Marlowe is drawn into a deeply complex web of mystery and deceit. Densely plotted and stylishly filmed mystery with Powell making a strong impression as a pre-Bogart Philip Marlowe. Proved to be hugely influential on the film noir genre with its use of voiceover, night-time settings, adventurous framing, seedy characters and hardboiled dialogue. Based on the novel “Farewell, My Lovely” by Raymond Chandler, the title used for its UK release. Filmed previously as THE FALCON TAKES OVER (1942) and remade as FAREWELL, MY LOVELY in 1975. [PG]
Branded (1950; USA; Technicolor; 104m) ∗∗∗ d. Rudolph Maté; w. Sydney Boehm, Cyril Hume; ph. Charles Lang; m. Roy Webb; ed. Alma Macrorie. Cast: Alan Ladd, Mona Freeman, Charles Bickford, Robert Keith, Joseph Calleia, Peter Hansen, Selena Royle, Tom Tully, John Berkes, Milburn Stone, Martin Garralaga, Edward Clark, John Butler. A gunfighter takes part in a scheme to bilk a wealthy cattle family out of half a million dollars by pretending to be their son, who was kidnapped as child. Ladd’s intense performance and the stunning vistas are the best thing about this tale of redemption. Based on the novel “Montana Rides” by Max Brand (as Evan Evans). European version runs 94m. [PG]
Gone Girl (2014; USA; Colour; 149m) ∗∗∗½ d. David Fincher; w. Gillian Flynn; ph. Jeff Cronenweth; m. Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross; ed. Kirk Baxter. Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Kim Dickens, Patrick Fugit, Carrie Coon, Missi Pyle, Kathleen Rose Perkins, Scoot McNairy, Sela Ward, Emily Ratajkowski, Lee Norris, Casey Wilson, Lyn Quinn, Lola Kirke, David Clennon, Lola Kirke. With his wife’s disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man sees the spotlight turned on him when it’s suspected that he may not be innocent. Initially inventive and intriguing, but ultimately it descends into increasing implausibility. Affleck and Pike deliver top class performances to maintain interest throughout despite the contrivances and Fincher keeps the pace consistent. Flynn adapted her own novel. 
Gilda (1946; USA; B&W; 110m) ∗∗∗½ d. Charles Vidor; w. Jo Eisinger, Marion Parsonnet; ph. Rudolph Maté; m. Hugo Friedhofer; ed. Charles Nelson. Cast: Rita Hayworth, Glenn Ford, George Macready, Joseph Calleia, Steven Geray, Joe Sawyer, Gerald Mohr, Mark Roberts, Ludwig Donath, Donald Douglas, Sam Flint, Bess Flowers, Jean Del Val, Eduardo Ciannelli, Argentina Brunetti. The sinister boss of a South American casino finds that his right-hand man and his sensuous new wife already know each other. Hayworth delivers a mesmerising performance in this stylish but often overwrought noir, which is daring for its themes of sexual repression. Based on a story by E.A. Ellington. [PG]
CROSSFIRE (RKO Radio Pictures, Inc., USA, 86 mins, B&W, 1.37:1, Mono, Cert: PG, Crime Thriller) ∗∗∗∗∗
Starring: Robert Young (Captain Finlay); Robert Mitchum (Sgt. Felix Keeley); Robert Ryan (Sgt. Montgomery); Gloria Grahame (Ginny Tremaine); Paul Kelly (The Man); Sam Levene (Joseph Samuels); Jacqueline White (Mary Mitchell); Steve Brodie (Floyd Bowers); George Cooper (Corp. Arthur Mitchell); Richard Benedict (Bill Williams); Richard Powers (Detective Dick); William Phipps (Leroy); Lex Barker (Harry); Marlo Dwyer (Miss Lewis).
Producer: Adrian Scott; Director: Edward Dmytryk; Writer: John Paxton (Based on the novel “The Brick Foxhole” by Richard Brooks); Director of Photography: J. Roy Hunt; Music: Roy Webb; Film Editor: Harry Gerstad; Art Director: Albert S. D’Agostino, Alfred Herman; Set Decorator: Darrell Silvera, John Sturtevant.
Detective Finlay (Young) investigates a group of soldiers who are accused of beating a man to death without an apparent motive in this well-directed and acted film noir based on Brooks’ controversial novel of a homophobic motivated murder (here translated into a hatred of Jews rather than homosexuals).
Dmytryk (also responsible for Murder My Sweet in 1944) directs with a sure and efficient hand giving the story sufficient room to breathe whilst keeping the plot moving along. Ryan conveys a fine balance of calmness in the early scenes and a descent into desperation as the net closes. Mitchum is solid and confident in an early supporting role, whilst Young displays a world –weariness that would become a signature for the noir police detective. Hunt’s photography is first-rate with most scenes set at night and being low lit giving ample opportunity for contrast and shadow. Paxton’s adaptation provides good dialogue for the actors and generally steers clear of the genre’s more obvious traits. Grahame has some memorable screen time as the painted lady caught up in events.
Whilst this is not a classic, the film is one of the better examples of the atmosphere and tension the genre could create with a gifted director at the helm.
Both producer Scott and director Dmytryk were later accused of communist sympathies and became the first two members of the “Hollywood Ten” who were blacklisted and imprisoned – although Dmytryk was later reprieved.