The Maltese Falcon is generally considered to be the first true film noir with a widespread release and as far as I’m concerned it’s the best.
It doesn’t carry all the hallmarks of the genre but it set a lot of the guidelines of what was to come. Seeing it for the first time as a teenager it helped me connect a lot of dots and to this day holds a special place in my heart. It was the first time I was introduced to Humphrey Bogart, who is still my favorite golden age Hollywood actor. After seeing countless parodies growing up of the private detective visited by a deadly dame that was in distress it was great to finally see one of the movies where it originated from.
If you’ve ever looked into film noir, no doubt you’ve come across Double Indemnity. It’s often cited as one of the definitive examples of the genre. It actually transcends noir in my opinion and works effectively as a crime drama attracting a wider audience.
I won’t spend a lot of time focusing on the plot here, but if you’re not familiar it’s fairly simple. Walter Neff (played by the always likeable Fred MacMurrary) is an insurance salesman who one day by chance encounters Phyllis Dietrichson (in a noir defining role for Barabra Stanwyck). Dietrichson is married and the two go in on a plot together to murder her husband and collect the insurance money. As these movies usually go there ends up being a snag in the plan and everything begins to unravel.
Film noir has always been a world unto itself, a dark shadowy world full of cigarette smoke, booze and femme fatales. Its posters are no different. Unfortunately for us, hand drawn and painted movie posters are all but a lost art. It’s amazing the time and care that use to go into producing them. Each movie studio had their own distinct style when it came to advertising their films, which I hope comes across here. I’ve attempted to round up 10 of the best and most visually appealing along with my personal favorites. It wasn’t easy to narrow down and a lot ended up being left on the cutting room floor. Which opens up room for a sequel post….
Without further adieu:
I’ve been shying away from reviewing a lot of the classics of the film noir genre. Part of the problem is when I sit down to watch a movie; I almost always pick one I haven’t watched before rather than an old favorite. There’s just too many movies out there I still haven’t seen. The Warner Brothers Archive released Out Of The Past on Blu-Ray for the first time a few weeks ago and I figured now was as good a time as any.
Out Of The Past is considered a classic of the genre. 1941’s The Maltese Falcon may set the guidelines but it’s Out Of The Past that defines them. It has almost every hallmark that goes into a noir. The private detective main character, the beautiful and deadly femme fatale, narration, extensive flashbacks, heavy use of shadows, hard boiled dialogue, a bleak tone and dark undercurrent pulling at the main characters. Most noir leads are doomed almost from the outset. In this case the movie begins with another hallmark of noir someone who’s reformed being visited by a figure from their shady past only to suck them back in.
I would rank the original 2005 Sin City as one of my favorite comic book movies. Waiting 9 years for a sequel that was announced pretty shortly after the release of the first one felt like an eternity. Especially after it was given an October 2013 release date and then pushed back to August 2014. Needless to say, I was looking forward to this movie yet as the reviews started to pour in after opening weekend I got real nervous.
I immediately noticed a trend in the reviews. Ones that seemed to be from comic book related websites spoke favorably and seemed to “understand” it. While mainstream media outlets all had pretty damning things to say. Typified with Rotten Tomatoes listing it at around 40% yet IMDB ranking it at about 7/10. What’s the truth? I’d say somewhere in the middle (good, but not great) but not nearly as bad as some websites would have you believe. I figured I’d do my best to address some of the facts.