Sunday, July 27, 2008

Three Great Film Noir You Never Heard Of by Steve-O

One of the coolest things about loving film noir is discovering lost, forgotten films. True, most lost films are forgotten for a reason. However, every now and then you find a film so amazing that it makes watching hours and hours of bad films worth while.

If you're new to classic film noir, I recommend you first check out all the great movies released on DVD over the past few years. Start off with big studio noirs like Out of the Past (1947), Criss Cross (1949) and Gilda (1946). Then work your way to the smaller budget films like Caged (1950) and D.O.A. (1950). If you're still a noir fan, step down to the Bs like Railroaded and Decoy.

There you have the three tiers of film noir. Don Miller, writing in "B" movies: An Informal Survey of the American Low-budget Film, notes that there were three classifications of movies during the 30s and 40s: “... the A, the B, and the programmers, sometimes alluded to as a 'nervous A' or 'gilt-edged B.' That hybrid would often play the top half of a double bill, have one or two fairly high-priced performers and, when a character walked into a room, the walls wouldn't shake as he shut the door; it looked reasonably opulent, but if a studio tried to palm it off as a big or A picture, you knew they were kidding.” The three films that I want to recommend fall into the B category. They're nearly impossible to find on television and I doubt they'll ever find their way to DVD. They are cheaply made without a movie star in sight. Nevertheless they're wonderful.

First is a film called Suspense. The 1946 film is – and I'm not kidding here – a figure-skating noir. Olympic figure skater Belita stars as a skater that dumps her mobster boyfriend for a peanut vendor (Barry Sullivan). The film is wonderfully strange with outstanding performances from Albert Dekker (The Killers) and Bonita Granville (her other noir role was The Guilty). The film is loaded with strange images (including Belita crashing through a giant Dali-like skull to begin a skating exhibition) and some true suspense.

Night Editor from the same year is based on a long-running radio series. The film begins, like the radio series, with a newspaper editor recounting a scandalous story from the past. Surprisingly, the story he tells is fatalistic and dark. A drunk cop spends his nights cheating on his wife with a sexy (and also married) society girl (a wicked performance by Janis Carter). The cheating couple witnesses the brutal murder of a woman on a dark street. The cop (William Gargan) doesn't stop the killer for fear that it would cause a scandal. He doesn't want it to get out that he was stepping out on his wife. To make matters worse, detective Cochrane – who has already been reprimanded for poor performance -- shows up to work hungover and is quickly assigned the murder. He has to investigate and at the same time find a way to cover up his role. His cars tire tracks at the scene makes him a potential suspect in the killing. 99-percent of the film is just perfect. The happy ending tacked on at the end is very annoying but not unexpected. However, this is a great little movie.

The third film I covered last week at the Noir of the Week blog. The Guilty (1948) is possibly the cheapest movie I have ever seen. The acting is wooden and the sets look like they just might fall down. However, it's a damned involving story of murder. A twin girl is killed in a dark, nameless city. The prime suspect is a WWII shell-shocked vet. A couple of other potential suspects include the “bad” sister's violent boyfriend and creepy middle-aged house member. Who did the killing? I found myself involved from beginning to end.

These three films are not easy to find. However, if you do get to see them you'll probably agree they're true black-and-white gems.


  1. You're right: I've never heard of 'em. And I have a film noir bible I read almost daily!

    Interesting post.

  2. Ginger, Steve-O's post is intriguing. I love the concept of a "ice-skating noir"! With Bonita Granville nonetheless!

  3. Thanks Raquelle for letting me post here for a day. It's not as dark at my blog.

    I hope people do finally see these three I mention (Night Editor is the best of the 3). When I posted about The Guilty at Noir of the Week I got almost no response... probably because no one had heard of it never mind seen it.

  4. Steve, How did you come about seeing these films in the first place?

  5. Hi Raquelle, I just stumbled in to your blog from Noir of the Week. I had a noir buff ask me about "The Guilty" this morning. I was not aware of the film up till then. When I googled it, I found Steve-O and his article. Ironic, as Steve had just reviewed "Apology For Murder" that we released a few weeks ago, I also searched my own database, and found I have a broadcast version of the film. So the long and short of it is that I promised the caller to release the film on DVD. Steve has already reviewed it, so no need to go into any details, but as I am watching it right now, it looks like the quality will be pretty good. I love Bonita Granville, and I am looking forward to her performance. Thanks for blogging on these films!

  6. I wanted to saw your right but they beat me to it. I have one that takes place in the old Getty Museum up above the Villa in Malibu but I can't think of the title or players. Two sisters lived in the house. I don't want to give it away just in case.


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