Phantom Lady (1944)
Loyal secretary Ella Raines desperately tries to save her innocent boss from the gallows. Woody Bredell’s moody noir photography and an orgasmic jazz jam session add jive to Siodmak’s otherwise lack-luster direction. Franchot Tone is convincing as a closet psychopath. Elisha Cook Jr’s turn as a sleazy jazz drummer is anarchic, but Raines’ impersonation of a gum-chewing floozy is just embarrassing. Based on a Cornell Woolrich novel.
Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
Manipulative NY celebrity columnist enlists sleazy publicist to destroy his younger sister’s suitor. As bracing as vinegar and cold as ice. Ambition stripped of all pretense. Great chemistry between Burt Lancaster as the sinister chat columnist and Tony Curtis as the ruthless publicist. DP James Wong Howe’s sharpest picture: the streets of Manhattan have never looked so real.
The Amazing Mr. X (1948)
A crooked clairvoyant manipulates a widow who believes her dead husband is back. A brilliant gothic satire with humor, poetry, and panache. John Alton’s expressionist lensing, Bernard Vorhaus’ fluid direction, and an ace Alex Laszlo score deliver top-flight entertainment.
John Ireland is great as a savage hood who frames an innocent guy for murder. Anthony Mann’s poverty-row pulp-b is very noir, cut with acid, and photographed in the deafening blaze of gun-fire. Very entertaining.
Raw Deal (1948)
A tragic love triangle very reminiscent of Marcel Carne’s Port of Shadows has to be one of the great noirs. A sublime film from director Anthony Mann and DP John Alton, with a knockout cast in a strong story stunningly rendered as expressionist art. The portrayals by Dennis O’Keefe, Claire Trevor, Marsha Hunt, and John Ireland are career bests. Poetic voice-overs by Claire Trevor are beautifully enhanced by Paul Sawtell’s eerie scoring.
Obsession (1948 UK)
A macabre and sardonic melodrama. Psychopath shrink plans perfect murder. Taut direction from Edward Dmytryk with a Nino Rota score! Gruesome and disturbing.
Private Hell 36 (1954)
A flat crooked cop flic from Don Siegel. Ida Lupino, who co-wrote the screenplay, and Steve Cochran make it interesting.
Noir western from Raoul Walsh. Robert Mitchum is trapped by a dark dimly discerned past. Solid but inferior to the moody western Blood on The Moon (1948), also starring Mitchum. Story is far-fetched and the actions of the protagonists seem un-convincing.
Strange Illusion (1945)
A truly bizarre Hamlet remake. Edgar Ulmer turns a PRC-b into a camp expressionist noir of foul villains with a knockout finale. Jimmy Lydon, remember Henry Aldrich, plays Hamlet to Warren Williams’ Claudius, who is a bit of a lecher and is not past feeling-up teenage girls in swimming pools!
The Long Night (1947)
A war vet is under siege in a tenement after killing a romantic rival. An RKO Henry Fonda vehicle from Anatole Litvak plays as melodrama with a strong supporting cast. Barbara Bel Geddes is interesting as the love interest, but Vincent Price as the rival is too rococo and out-of-place. Me, I’m stuck on the luscious Ann Dvorak, a straight-up dame who falls for Fonda. John Wexley’s script over-reaches on the social criticism angle.