Noir Comic Moments #4: The philosopher hood

Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (1950)

Not even Jimmy Cagney can save Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (1950) from a deserved obscurity. In this over-rated picture Cagney is a vicious hood getting established in a new town after a violent prison break. The absurd plot moves at a glacial pace, and would almost work as a parody if it wasn’t for the brutal and wanton violence. Cagney looks tired and bored, as you would expect from a 51yo playing a 37yo, while Barbara Payton is ok as the girl he deceives. There are cops as stupid as they are bent, a gay shyster lawyer with a black body-builder houseboy, and a dizzy rich dame who falls for Cagney, while he is shacked-up with Payton, the sister of a young prisoner killed during the breakout. One of the more absurd scenes is the rich girl’s daddy bursting into the bedroom of the newly-married couple sound asleep in separate beds, with Cagney in silk pyjamas and as meek as a lamb.

A labored late gangster movie wrongly seen as a noir by some perhaps from its use of flashback.

There is a weird interlude where Cagney and an accomplice visit a ‘reformed’ hood to get wise on where he can find a ’good lawyer’. The former hood is now ‘respectable’ and moonlights as a lecturer on “the key to cosmic consciousness” – no kidding. After shaking down the barker for the name he wants, Cagney picks-up the rich girl who is a loyal follower, by begging a lift in her hot-rod. You can’t help but laugh out loud during the ensuing scene:

Five Star Final (1931): Down with the bosses!

Five Star Final (1931)

The great Edward G. Robinson is the hard-boiled editor of a big-city tabloid. The owner of the paper comes up with the idea of boosting circulation by pursuing a lurid expose on the fate of a woman convicted of a crime of passion 10 years earlier, with tragic consequences.  Directed by the distinguished Mervyn LeRoy, Five Star Final is an early Warner ‘social protest’ movie, and the sort of movie that epitomises the pre-Code talkies: sharp dialog, sexual innuendo, irreverent satire, and social criticism.  While the picture is marred by the stagy treatment of the melodrama involving the family destroyed by the tragedy that ensues, the immensity of the tragedy and its putrid genesis sustain a powerful and still relevant narrative.  Boris Karloff is a hoot as an amoral ‘undercover’ reporter: Edward G. calls him “the most blasphemous thing I’ve ever seen”.

But is it a film noir? I think there are sufficient noir elements to sustain a strong case: the theme of the corrupt brutality of ‘business’, individual entrapment, the futility of trying to escape a dark past, and a downbeat ending.

The final three minutes are brilliant and can be savoured from this clip:

La Pantera Negra (Mexico 2010): The Black Panther

Featured this month at the Edinburgh International Film Festival: “Dishevelled private eye Nico Beamonte’s latest case comes from God himself – possibly. He wants Nico to find the mysterious Black Panther. But who, or what, is the Black Panther? And what has this got to do with a cryogenically frozen Mariachi singer and a 1950s flying saucer? Surrealism, Mexican-style – as if film noir had collided with props left over from a Ray Harryhausen film.”

Bullets or Ballots (1936): Proto-Noir ?

Cop Edward G Robinson goes under-cover to break up a gang of racketeers. Hoods include Humphrey Bogart and a mean Joan Blondell. Very noir lensing by Hal Mohr (Johnny Holiday (1949), The Big Night (1951), Woman on the Run (1950), The Second Woman (1950), Rancho Notorious (1952), The Big Night (1951), and Underworld U.S.A. (1961)).

Check out this original 3min uber cool trailer:

New DVD Set: Film Noir Collector’s Edition

Questar Entertainment on May18 will release a 6-DVD Box set of 7 classic films noir. Questar has kindly sent me a complimentary promotional copy.

The nicely boxed set presents each DVD in it’s own case with high quality stills and artwork, and the DVD menu has a cool animated noir motif and voice-over. While the titles are in the public domain and the image quality is variable, all but two of the transfers are of higher quality than files currently available on the Internet. Sound quality on all transfers is very good with no hiss.

The Movies

Disc 1:


DOA ( 1950) ‘I want to report a murder…mine.’ Edmond O’Brien stars as an accountant whose number is up when he is poisoned, and spends his last desperate hours trying to find out who ‘killed’ him and why.

A taut thriller with a bravura performance from Edmond O’Brien as Frank Bigelow. From the Cardinal Pictures factory and directed by Rudolph Maté, this movie packs so much in 83 minutes. It starts off slow, but once the action shifts from a sleepy rural burg to San Francisco and LA, the pace is frenetic. The streets of these cities are filmed in deep focus, and there is a sense of immediacy in every scene.

The image quality is good, but I have seen a better transfer on late-night TV.

Disc 2:


Detour (1945) ‘What did you do with the body?‘ A hitchhiker gets into the wrong car and picks up the wrong woman. Roger Ebert: ‘No one who has seen it has easily forgotten it’.

Edgar G. Ulmer’s cult poverty-row noir .  Filmed on a shoe-string, this story of a guy so dumb he blames fate for the consequences of his own foolishness, is pure pulp noir, with a career-best from Anne Savage, as the street-wise conniving dame, who incredulously falls for the sap.

This is the best transfer of Detour I have seen.

Disc 3:

The Stranger

The Stranger (1946) Orson Welles stars in this tense thriller as a small-town professor who will stop at nothing to conceal his Nazi past, with Edward G. Robinson as the Nazi hunter out to expose him.

A strong thriller with Orson Welles directing and playing the lead in a screenplay by Victor Trivas. Edward G Robinson is solid – as always – as the investigator, with the beautiful Loretta Young perfect as the innocent and loyal wife. Welles’ deft direction and the camera-work of Russell Metty transform an over-the-top thriller into a moody and intelligent noir, where Jungian concepts of the unconscious are woven with a taut psychological study of the deranged mind of a desperate man.

Image quality is good.

Disc 4:

Scarlet Street (1945) stars Edward G. Robinson as a henpecked husband who falls under the spell of a scheming femme-fatale.

This classic film noir from Fritz Lang, shattered the closed romantic realism of Hollywood. It is unremitting in its pessimism. A dark mood and pervading doom are devastating in their intensity.

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946 ) Stars Barbara Stanwyck and Van Heflin. A dark tale of small town secrets, obsession, and murder.

A very dark noir rife with fascinating psychological puzzles.

The image quality for these two transfers is poor to fair.  For Scarlet Street (1945) the KINO digitally restored DVD can’t be beat.  I have seen a better transfer of The Strange Love of Martha Ivers on television.

Disc 5:

Too Late for Tears

Killer Bait (aka Too Late for Tears) (1949) stars Lizabeth Scott as a woman who will do anything to keep $60,000 that falls into her lap.

From the opening scene of the silhouette of a car speeding up a winding road on a hill outside LA one dark night, you know you are in noir territory. Soon a preposterous chance event launches a wild descent into dark avarice and eroticised violence as perverse and relentless as fate itself.

Image quality is Ok.


Suddenly (1954) stars Frank Sinatra in his most controversial role as a psycho who holds a family hostage while plotting to assassinate the president.

A fast-paced b-thriller with a viciously violent protagonist.

Image quality is Ok.

Disc 6:


  • Featurette: What is Film Noir?
  • Featurette: Femme Fatale – The Noir Dame
  • Film Noir poster gallery
  • 38 Film Noir trailers

The two short featurettes are good intros but fairly unsophisticated. What makes them very entertaining is the skillful editing of themed montages of film clips.  There were a few posters I hadn’t seen before in the Poster Gallery.  The trailers included a few sleepers I was not aware of, with the image quality variable.

The Verdict

The high quality of  the packaging make the set compelling, and the better image quality of five of the seven movies over downloads is a definite plus, but the recommended retail price of  US$49.99 is on the high side.  It gets down to how much you value the convenience of easily loading a DVD into your DVD-player and watching the movies on a large screen television.  Amazon is taking orders for the special price of US$44.99.  At this price, with each movie costing you only US$6.42, the set is Ok value.  All  the pictures, bar Suddenly, are essential noirs, and for many chronic noiristas,  a good quality transfer of  Detour would be worth a lot more.