Caught (1949) Max Ophuls renders the most elegant and romantic noir melodrama you will ever see. Robert Ryan, Barbara Bel Geddes and James Mason are superb in a toxic triangle of entrapment and maniacal control. Ryan is a rich nuerotic who marries Bel Geddes to prove he can, and Mason is the doctor committed to social justice who falls for her. An effective morality tale delivers a subversive plot with the integrity of commitment combating the perverting nature of greed: opulence and decency fight it out in a young woman’s soul. We can forgive the contrived resolution.
Escape (UK 1948) A hidden gem of a thriller directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz starring Rex Harrison and Peggy Cummins. Moody noir photography on fog-laden moors at night, the use of flashback, and the dire consequences of a chance encounter give it a noir dimension. Harrison is great as a toff prison escapee and Peggy Cummins (Gun Crazy) is cute as a button as an upper-class girl who falls for Harrison a la The 39 Steps.
I Can Get It for You Wholesale (1951) Abraham Polonksy’s last script before the HUAC blacklist destroyed his career. A solid drama about the NY garment business, directed by Michael Gordon and starring Susan Hayward, Dan Dailey, and George Sanders. A soft ending mars an otherwise acid critique of naked ambition and the American dream.
Night Editor (1946) A sexually charged cult noir starring the queen of b-movies Janis Carter as a rotten rich dame who double-crosses her cop lover in a story exposing the lurid morals that sometimes accompany privilege. The dialog is heavy with sexual metaphors and the repartee ‘hard-boiled’. One scene where Carter begs to see the bashed body of young woman is one of the most explicit portrayals of sexual psychosis in any noir. The atmosphere created by director Henry Levin and DPs Burnett Guffey and Philip Tannura is dark and claustrophobic. Solid entertainment and downright fun to watch. The only weakness is the framing of the story inside a wider newspaper at night theme and the feel-good ending – the movie was a pilot for a movie series which did not proceed.
Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1948) Edward G Robinson is magnificent as a man trapped by an accursed gift. Redemption is a zero sum game. A moody and deeply unsettling film based on the Cornell Woolrich novel. The deeply intelligent script by Jonathan Latimer and Barré Lyndon is more subtle and superior to Woolrich’s novel, and showcases the richness to be found in many b-movies.