To continue on from where I left off last time in this post about the best film noir, here’s the remainder of my Top 10 list of best film noir classics. Starting with #5, here we go!
5. Kiss Me Deadly: In 1955, this film must have been pretty hot stuff. It remains a great film to this day. According to IMDB, a doomed female hitchhiker pulls Mike Hammer into a deadly whirlpool of intrigue, revolving around a mysterious “great whatsit.”
This was Cloris Leachman’s first theatrical film role. It was also filmed in less than 3 weeks. That’s amazing, but back then they cranked out movies such as these like sausages! 🙂
I must confess I’ve never completely understood what’s going on in this movie. But, then, isn’t that just like film noir? All twisty plots and gritty guys with guns.
4. The Maltese Falcon: They had to film Dashiell Hammett’s book three times before they got it right. This version from 1941 is the best! It may help that the movie is virtually, word-for-word, the same as the book. The line, “The stuff that dreams are made of,” was included at Humphrey Bogart’s suggestion. Most of the film was shot in sequence, which is highly unusual. And all that history at the beginning of the film about the Maltese Falcon? Totally made up, of course.
3. Out of the Past: This film from 1947 is a real hum-dinger. Here’s the IMDB description: A private eye escapes his past to run a gas station in a small town, but his past catches up with him. Now he must return to the big city world of danger, corruption, double crosses and duplicitous dames.
This is another one of those films that you have to watch at least twice to figure out what the hell is going on. It has enough plot twists and double crosses to make you do an Exorcist-style head spin. No matter. The movie is a great ride with a suitably depressing ending and an enduring example of great film noir.
2. Sunset Boulevard: From 1950, this is truly one of the greatest film noir movies ever. Directed by Billy Wilder and starring William Holden and Gloria Swanson, this movie is about an unsuccessful screenwriter who basically shacks up with a washed-up silent movie star. He’s supposed to write the script for her “comeback” movie. Well, that ain’t gonna happen.
To make matters even trickier, Holden’s character falls for a young female screenwriter, played by fresh-faced Nancy Olson.
But among the best things about this movie are some of lines!
Norma Desmond: “I *am* big. It’s the *pictures* that got small.”
Norma Desmond: “We didn’t need dialogue. We had faces!”
Joe Gillis: “There’s nothing tragic about being fifty. Not unless you’re trying to be twenty-five.”
Norma Desmond: “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”
1. The Big Sleep: From 1946, this movie adapted from the Raymond Chandler novel is one of the most convoluted, yet entertaining examples of film noir. Philip Marlowe is hired by a filthy rich man to deal with a blackmail scheme involving his childlike youngest daughter.
This film was made one way, then recut to emphasize the romance between Bogey and Bacall. And in neither version could anyone (including the book’s author) explain who killed the chauffeur.
Well, there you have it! It’s hardly an exhaustive list, but then I only get ten choices.
If you can think of one that should be there, but isn’t, feel free to leave a comment! Thanks in advance.
And now, Part Two of my #CreativeSprint for the last half of April!
PS: Happy May Day!