The Big Bluff (1955): The bitter flavour of festering reality

The Big Bluff (1955)

The lurid original posters for The Big Bluff are those rare cinematic documents, where the movie promoted is actually sleazier than the posters would have you believe.

A suave grifter latches on to a dying woman with dough, only he is impatient to see her gone.  His evil machinations are his undoing.  The sheer perversity of the scenario and its relentless immorality leave you stunned.  Don’t go figuring this is a cinematic experience. It has the bitter flavour of festering reality, and is played out in a fetid LA where evil ambition and a conniving race to the bottom suck you down into a putrid swamp.  The homme-fatale is tripped-up in a quintessential noir dénouement, twisted and out of left field.

A b-movie par-excellence that is so compelling it feels much longer than the economical 70 minutes it takes to go from melodrama to perdition.

Director W. Lee Wilder, Billy Wilder’s estranged brother, and DP Gordon Avil, keep the action up, with some crazy antics like what-the-heck low angle and point-of-view shots that keep you unsettled in flash noir style, not to mention some tawdry kissing that literally mists up the screen.

Check out the cheap cabaret act featuring a floozy so vulgar you are in no doubt of where you are headed.



Wicked Women: “transforming sexist into sexy”

The Justice & Police Museum in Sydney is hosting an exhibition of original paintings by Australian artist Rosemary Valadon Wicked Women features portraits of contemporary Australian women inspired by pulp fiction and film noir.  Valadon’s paintings are promoted as both embracing and subverting  the genre’s stereotypes – sexist becomes sexy.

Tara Moss, Rachel Ward, Skye Leckie, Imogen Kelly, Sonia Kruger, Ros Reines, Larissa Behrendt, Antonella Gambotto-Burke, Margaret Cunneen, Essie Davis, Annette Shun Wah, Kara Shead, each chose a classic film poster or book cover for their sitting.

The paintings are indeed a cheeky and edgy feminist response to the motif of the dangerous femme deftly portrayed, and with a real feel for noir archetypes.

The exhibition runs from Saturday 20 October 2012 to Sunday 28 April 2013.


New Film Noir Poster Book: “Where Danger Lives’

Alain Silver and James Ursini have produced yet another book on film noir. This time they look at the graphics used to market noir movies.  The book titled ‘Film Noir Graphics: Where Danger Lives’ is lavishly illustrated with over 300 full color posters, lobby cards, and other marketing handouts. All the graphics are rendered in high resolution from pristine originals. Many items I have not seen before, and quite a few are for more obscure films that will whet the appetite of many a noir fan.

More a coffee-table short black than a serious study, the book is one you will want to dip into between movie sessions.  There is a commentary of sorts organized by chapters with titles derived from major films noir, such as ‘Touch of Evil’ and ‘Night and the City’.  The narrative is a set of elaborated captions that segue into each other as you move from page to page.  Silver and Ursini attempt to unify their comments by covering the use of noir motifs and how these elements are rendered by the artists who produced the artwork. Differences across studios and countries are identified.  What is interesting is the artistic license taken by some artists depicting scenes and themes which are not found in the actual movie.  There is a degree of repetition in the text from chapter to chapter, and sometimes the commentary jumps across pages and you find that you are not quite sure which graphic is being referred to.

Whether the US$40 price-tag is value for money is debatable.  The internet is a treasure trove for poster addicts, with such sites as offering free downloads of high-res images organized in a searchable database.  It comes down to the value you place on the commentary, which does offer some insights. What is missing is a wider survey of the role of graphics in movie marketing, and a behind the scenes look at who the artists were and how the material was produced.

You can buy the book from Amazon. An eBook version is not currently available.


The Origins of Noir: The Case for the Policier

“Renoir’s second talkie, La Nuit du carrefour (1932)— my all-time favorite French noir, and the sexiest movie he ever made…  his edgy adaptation of Georges Simenon’s Maigret at the Crossroads, filmed in a foggy suburb that vibrates with off-screen sounds and a mysterious Danish heroine (Winna Winifried), cries out for discovery.” – Jonathon Rosenbaum

In 1931 Georges Simenon’s crime novel La Nuit du Carrefour was published by the French pulp magazine Police Magazine:

La Nuit De Carrefour (1932)

In 1932 Jean Renoir in his second film adapted the story for the screen:

La Nuit De Carrefour (1932) La Nuit De Carrefour (1932)

La Nuit De Carrefour (1932) La Nuit De Carrefour (1932)

La Nuit De Carrefour (1932) La Nuit De Carrefour (1932)