German director Douglas Sirk is probably best known for his 1950s Technicolor melodramas that focused on female and domestic issues. Since their initial release, films like Magnificent Obsession and All That Heaven Allows have grown into critical and cult successes for their intelligent criticisms of American society. Bridging the gap between his early work and these celebrated melodramas is Sleep, My Love – a psychological noir that has a familiar plot, but sharp directing and top notch acting all around.
In hindsight, you know why Angela Lansbury makes such a wicked femme fatale? After planting herself in the national consciousness as kindly old gumshoe Jessica Fletcher for 12 years, seeing her in a role like Myra in Please Murder Me is jarring. Earlier in her career she scored big playing baddies and this little B-thriller is a great example of her dark side. Directed by Peter Godrey (The Two Mrs. Carrolls), Please Murder Me is 74-minutes of nasty little power plays and shocking revenge through sacrifice. And one super sketchy murder trial.
Barbara Stanwyck always seems to find herself in some form of a domestic nightmare. As the dark queen of noir, Stanwyck frequently donned the cowl of of the femme fatale in a litany of murder dramas: The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, The File on Thelma Jordan, No Man of Her Own, and, most famously, Double Indemnity. This morning I watched her in another suburban shit show, Crime of Passion. It was Stanwyck’s swansong with film noir, and boy howdy does she go out with a whimper. And a bang. A bang right through her husband’s slimy boss’ head.
(No not the Arnold Schwarzenegger action flick from the ’80s) Raw Deal is a pretty underrated gem of the classic noir cycle. It was made the same year as T-Men with many of the same principal talents. While that film had a social realism thing going on, Raw Deal goes right for the hypothetical throat. It’s a tale of betrayal amongst a group of crooks and the two women who strive for the love of Joe (Dennis O’Keefe). On the surface it reads like a standard revenge story, but thanks to director Anthony Mann and DP John Alton, Raw Deal plunges into a hallucinatory realm of violence and cynicism that’s as disenchanted as the hardest noirs oughta be.