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Saturday, April 2nd, 2005

WICKED AS THEY COME -The Film Noir Festival

So this past weekend I went on what can only be described as a film going rampage! 

On Saturday I saw 3 films back to back:

The first noir I saw was WICKED AS THEY COME (1954).  It was delicious, nasty and acidic?in other words, everything a noir should be!  The story is about a women from the wrong side of the tracks (aren?t they all?) who decides her only way out of the slums is to sleep her way to the top.  It reminded me a lot of the Pre-Code films BABYFACE and RED HEADED WOMAN only with a noir twist.  The clothing and jewelry in the film are to die for.  Arlene Dahl is terrific in the lead role.  She is a master of pulling off the predatory gleam and the calculating stare.  Apparently this is considered the best in a series of fifties crime thrillers made in the UK by Ken Hughes.  Overall an excellent juicy good film.

The next noir was THE WHIP HAND (1951).  I would place this film in the ?so bad it?s good? category.  This film really reflects the era and political climate it was made in.  The story is about a journalist who takes a fishing trip and winds up stumbling upon a vast Community conspiracy in the middle the Wisconsin countryside.  Yes, it is every bit as ridiculous as it sounds.  Fear, paranoia and mystery abound and regardless of the far flung plot, the film still manages to be entertaining.  The title however is really misleading and really doesn?t fit the film.  The screenwriter and producer Stanley Rubin was there in person and he was very interesting.  He originally wrote the film to be about a journalist who stumbles upon a Natzi conspiracy.  Howard Hughes (who in charge of RKO at the time) ordered him to make the script ?more contemporary? by re-writing it to be about Communism.  Rubin refused.  He said that there was ENOUGH fear and paranoia in Hollywood and he was not about to add to it.  He asked to have his name taken off the film.  Hughes happily granted the request and also re-titled the film and radically changed the ending.  Rubin said that to this day he has no regrets about it.  He shouldn?t.  He did the right thing.

The third film of the night was THE HIDDEN ROOM (1949) directed by the then blacklisted Edward Dmytryk.  This film seemed to be much more of a pure psychological drama than an actual noir.  Robert Newton plays a husband who finds out his wife has been cheating on him and even flaunting the affair.  He decides to kidnap her lover and plan his gruesome demise.  He keeps the ?other man? hidden away in a secret room that looks more like a dungeon with concrete walls and a cot.  He keeps him chained to a bed while be plans with great precision how to not only kill him but to make him 100% disappear forever.  He plans to poison the man and then to soak his body in a bathtub filled with acid until his entire body is gone down the drain.  The problem with this film (at least as I see it) is that the actors are far too genteel and mannerly.  The Robert Newton character says things like, ?Hello chap?I think I?ll set about plotting your demise.?  He is so formal and cold and casual about everything.  What makes the film problematic for me is that the ?other man? is that way too.  He is way too cool and calm and unbelievable in the situation.  He seems to have no desperation or fury whatsoever.  It is almost as if he has resigned himself to his fate.  Unfortunately that just doesn?t make for interesting noir.  The other thing that bothered me about this film was the cheating wife?s dog.  She has a poodle.  The poodle becomes pivotal to the plot and I?m sorry but POODLES JUST DON?T BELONG IN NOIR.  The only dogs I deem suitable for noir would be pit bulls, rottweilers or maybe german shepherds..but NOT poodles!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Sorry, excuse my tangent?.that?s just my opinion.

Regardless of the quality of these films, I felt very fortunate to see them particularly since the last 2 are extremely rare.

Written by Karie (site owner) on 04/02 at 01:33 AM







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