Daaaaaaamn Gene Tierney is a cold bitch in this one. My eyeballs have experienced plenty of femme fatales since starting this whole Hardboiled Hangover thing, but nothing like the icy chill Tierney’s deranged Ellen Berent character gave off in Leave Her to Heaven. Beneath her technicolor warmth lurks a jealousy that drives her to commit some seriously heinous acts, which must have been teetering on the razor’s edge of the censor board’s moral standards. Backed up by Cornel Wilde, Jeanne Craine, and John M. Stahl’s sharp direction, Leave Her to Heaven is a beautiful and brutal melodrama.
Y’know a movie is going to be hard when it starts with trash floating down a gutter. Ottto Preminger’s Where the Sidewalk Ends has a solid premise – a detective investigating a murder he committed – and one tough as nails leading man, Dana Andrews, best known as the droll cop in Preminger’s Laura. The film addresses typical noir themes such as doomed fate and punishment, all presented in Preminger’s clear-cut style. No frills or excessive visual flair, no social commentary, just a rugged, violent thriller of the streets.
Buckshot will do nasty things to a person’s face. Just ask Laura. It could make them unrecognizable, sparking a murder investigation of the wrong body. Such is the surface plot of Otto Preminger’s celebrated noir Laura. Originally intended to be a play based on Vera Caspary’s novel of the same name, Laura is a classic choking with malice and trickery, played out with slick grace. It’s a murder mystery like no other – one in which every single person (besides the detective) could be the culprit. This means it doesn’t really matter who it is. Does that make sense? Aw hell, just enjoy the ride.
“I’ll show everybody!”
The world of noir is populated with morally ambiguous anti-heroes heading 1,000 miles per hour down a dead end street. Out of all of em, I might hold the self-destructive hustler Harry Fabian closest to my heart. A lot of that sentiment has to do with actor Richard Widmark, who delivers a manically spirited and heartbreaking performance. Night and the City – whose title itself evokes noir – was directed by Jules Dassin after he fled to England to dodge HUAC’s late 1940s anticommunist witch hunt. If he stayed in the States, Dassin would’ve most certainly been forced to testify, which would’ve inevitably led to him being blacklisted. The project was already waiting for him when he touched down in England and it’s easy to interpret Night and the City as an allegory for the paranoia and backstabbing he resented in post-war Hollywood at the time.