Category Archives: Film Noir

#320 The Big Heat

(1953, Fritz Lang)

“I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Believe me, rich is better”

Today I’m reviewing a film noir! Awwwww yeaaaaaah!

The Big Heat stars Glenn Ford as Dave Bannion, a police detective investigating the death of fellow officer Tom Duncan. After a woman named Lucy (Dorothy Greene) tips him off that the case may not be as open-and-shut as it first seems, she soon turns up dead. Bannion begins investigating further, and finds himself receiving threatening phone calls, and a confrontation with a local mob boss results in the death of his wife. Now Bannion is on the trail of the truth, both for justice and for revenge! Read the rest of this entry

#296 Touch Of Evil

(1958, Orson Welles)
“In any free country a policeman is supposed to enforce the law”

Hey look, it’s another film noir! I’m getting pretty happy with how often these seem to be turning up these days, so today I’m particularly happy. This one is an Orson Welles film too, so hopefully it’ll come with a Citizen Kane level of sheen. Let’s take a look shall we?

Touch Of Evil is set around the US-Mexico border, with the star of the show being Miguel “Mike” Vargas (Charlton Heston), a Mexican drug enforcement officer newly married to Susie (Janet Leigh), an American. When a car explodes after passing onto US soil, an investigation is launched, headed up by Captain Hank Quinlan (Orson Welles), a disgusting, overweight slob of a man. As Vargas assists with the investigation, he begins to question Quinlan’s judgement and suspects him of falsifying evidence for his own gains, causing him to launch his own investigation. However, this potentially puts his wife in danger.

Read the rest of this entry

#285 LA Confidential

(1997, Curtis Hanson)
“It’ll look like justice. That’s what the man got. Justice.”

For some reason, this review appears to be missing from the spot it’s supposed to be in, and I don’t know what went wrong. So please forgive it from posted way out of order, I only just discovered this!

I love me some detective thrillers. I love detectives and mystery and crime and thrillers so much that I think I might marry the entire genre one day. So I’m happy today because I get to review a nice little classic crime thriller. Happy days.

LA Confidential is about three detectives that get involved in a web of corruption and deceit following a mass murder at a local café called The Nite Owl. Ed Exley (Guy Pearce) is a young sergeant determined to be the most honourable police officer, attempting to live up to his famous detective father. Bud White (Russell Crowe) is a violent cop who likes violently attacking men who beat women, and sees the Nite Owl killings as personal due to the death of his former partner. Finally, Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) is a charming narcotics officer who receives kickbacks for providing information about celebrity arrests to Hush-Hush Magazine, and gets involved when one of his schemes results in the death of a young actor.

Read the rest of this entry

#282 Blue Velvet

(1986, David Lynch)

“Don’t you fucking look at me!”

David Lynch is well-known for making some very odd movies, but not all of his movies are dreamlike drug trips where character names change and mutant alien babies cry for eternity. Sometimes he’ll make a movie like Blue Velvet, which is actually a pretty standard mystery movie. Mostly.

Returning from college to visit his hospitalised father, Special Agent Dale Cooper eccentric student Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) discovers a severed ear and decides to investigate. Using information given to him by a local detective’s daughter, Sandy (Laura Dern), Jeffrey discovers a dark underbelly to his hometown occupied by mysterious nightclub singer Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini) and violent sadomasochist criminal Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper).

Read the rest of this entry

#260 The Big Sleep

(1946, Howard Hawks)

“I don’t know yet what I’m going to tell them. It’ll be pretty close to the truth”

Humphrey Bogart was pretty much the star of film noir during the forties. Best known for his roles in The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca (which will be appearing on here at a later date), he also famously played acclaimed mystery writer Raymond Chandler’s detective Phillip Marlowe in The Big Sleep. I like me a good mystery thriller, so I should like this, right?

The Big Sleep sees Marlowe, a private investigator, being called to the offices of retired general General Sternwood (Charles Waldron). Someone is blackmailing his daughter Carmen (Martha Vickers), and he wants Marlowe to find out who, and find a way to resolve those debts. Meanwhile, Sternwood’s older daughter, Vivian (Lauren Bacall), informs Marlowe that her father’s real motive for contacting him is to find a missing friend of his. What follows is a twisted tale of twists and mysterious motives.

Read the rest of this entry

#248 Gaslight

(1944, George Cukor)

“How can a madwoman help her husband?”

I love me a good noir thriller. Spooky mystery and tense atmosphere is an easy way for a film to win me over. And so, I gleefully look back to a movie from the classic era of film noir starring classic actress Ingrid Bergman, Gaslight, the remake of a British movie released only 4 years before.

World-famous opera singer Alice Alquist has been murdered, and her murderer has escaped before he could find her jewels, as he was interrupted by Alice’s daughter, Paula. A few years later, Paula (Ingrid Bergman), studying singing in Italy, where she meets a man named Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer).

Gregory convinces Paula to move back into the inherited home owned by Alice, but when they move in, strange things start happening. Things begin disappearing or moving around the house, footsteps are heard in the sealed attic and the gaslight lamps begin to fade at mysterious times. Is Paula going mad or is there something sinister afoot?

Read the rest of this entry

#188 Body Heat

(1981, Lawrence Kasdan)

“You shouldn’t wear that body”

Lawrence Kasdan is a pretty decent screenwriter when he works with collaborators. I enjoyed his work on the Indiana Jones movies, and The Empire Strikes Back was the best in the Star Wars franchise. But when he works alone, he tends to be a little clumsy, as I discovered in The Big Chill. But did he fare much better in his directorial debut, an attempt to revive the film noir genre, Body Heat?

Body Heat focuses on a slightly inept and very sleazy lawyer named Ned Racine (William Hurt), who meets an attractive woman named Matty Walker (Kathleen Turner), who is married to the somewhat shady businessman Edmund Walker. Ned and Matty begin an affair that they go to great lengths to try and hide. However, things take a darker turn when they decide that the way to safely continue to pursue their relationship is to kill off Matty’s husband. Cue a web of deceptions and shady dealings and all that fun stuff.

So let’s talk about this affair, which was central to the whole movie. My main issue with it revolved around the fact that it began very clumsily. I can accept the two of them flirting awkwardly in public places, since there’s no other way to really pull this off. The real issue comes from the fact that the relationship sparks from Ned being a creepy sexual predator, following her back to her home and insisting on seeing her wind chimes (yes really) before rushing at her and leaping into her pants before she has a chance to say no. The whole thing came across as disturbing and didn’t really help to make the audience identify with our protagonist.

OK, it fits with the character anyway, since the guy is meant to be sleazy and somewhat unlikeable, but the way he practically forces himself on her feels too much like rape to make the affair work in any realistic manner, since the movie then shifts to presenting Matty as the one in control of the whole affair. Bit difficult to believe that when she wasn’t the one doing the pursuing, and there were no hints that she was planning on luring him in either.

I also found the movie fairly dull during the earlier parts of the movie. With the affair clumsily kicking around centre stage with characters that were unlikeable and uninteresting, it’s hard to get into the movie at first. There are mildly entertaining near-misses where they’re almost discovered, including an uncomfortable impromptu dinner with Matty’s husband or when Matty’s young niece catches them in the act, but other than that, a good part of the movie is dedicated to the two lounging around naked talking in hushed tones.

It also didn’t help that the movie absolutely loved to keep pointing out its own name, by making constant references to how hot it was. Characters are frequently drenched in sweat and there’s a conversation about the weather every five minutes. If I wanted to see endless conversations about the weather, I’d go to any public place in Britain, and if I wanted to see people looking this sweaty constantly, I’d go to a gym.

When the talk of murder sneaks in, however, the movie does start to pick up a little. The movie becomes messy in the most glorious way, with the police adding a new difficulty to the affair, and the duo constantly trying to cover their tracks. Matty’s behaviour gets a lot more suspicious and the level of mystery and intrigue lifts right up. And, as I’ve mentioned before, I love me some intrigue and mystery.

There are a ton of twists and turns at this point in the movie, and I enjoyed most of them except the very last one regarding Matty’s identity. I’m not going to spoil it, but while every other twist followed some kind of logical progression, this last one felt a little out of nowhere, and seemed to raise more questions about its logic rather than adequately wrap up the film. The way it’s dropped in also felt like it was a last-minute addition to the script than something that needed to be there.

Body Heat is a pretty decent film noir throwback, but it’s a little awkwardly paced at times, leaves a few plot holes far too open and spending too much time lounging around naked and drenched in sweat to be an amazing movie. It’s watchable, but fairly average. And pretty much proves that Lawrence Kasdan does better work as a screenwriter in a team than in the director’s chair.

Starring William Hurt, Kathleen Turner, Richard Crenna, Ted Danson, J.A. Preston & Mickey Rourke
Written by Lawrence Kasdan
Produced by Fred T. Gallo, Robert Grand and (uncredited) George Lucas
Music by John Barry
Cinematography by Richard H. Kline
Edited by Carol Littleton

Favourite Scene: The will reading scene was pretty tense and started raising questions about who Matty is and what she really wants.
Scene That Bugged Me: How to convince a woman to sleep with you: break into her house, grab her and start forcing yourself on her. WORKS EVERY TIME.

Watch it if: You want to see Kathleen Turner naked.
Avoid it if: You really don’t want to sit through 45 minutes of a couple lounging around doing nothing

#183 M

(1931, Fritz Lang)

“I have no control over this evil thing inside of me”

M is one of those old films I’d vaguely heard of in the past. I knew it was the first sound movie by Metropolis director Fritz Lang, and I knew it had Peter Lorre in it, a German actor well-known for his many roles alongside Humphrey Bogart. But that was all I knew, so it’ll be interesting to see what I think of this.

M is set in an unnamed city where children are being abducted and killed, and the police are at a complete loss about what to do due to lack of clues. To combat this, they put the entire city on lockdown, conducting random searches and treating everyone as a possible suspect. The criminal underworld naturally don’t like this as it gets in the way of their “business transactions”, leading them to start an investigation of their own, creating a lynch mob in the process. And shenanigans happen.

Read the rest of this entry

#120 Chinatown

(1974, Roman Polanski)

“Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown”

Read the rest of this entry

#10 Who Framed Roger Rabbit

(1988, Robert Zemeckis)

“A laugh can be a very powerful thing. Why, sometimes in life, it’s the only weapon we have”

Read the rest of this entry