Back in 1948, Harry Kleiner wrote The Street With No Name, which became an instant classic in the film noir realm. The film, starring the almighty Richard Widmark and Mark Stevens, was an unofficial sequel to House on 92nd Street, both films backed by the feds. Maverick director Samuel Fuller convinced Kleiner to pen a loose remake of The Street With No Name set in Japan – expanding on the plot of an undercover fed infiltrating a treacherous underworld. The result was House of Bamboo, a film often considered to be the first picture to depict Japanese folks as normal people, working slobs just like Americans. It has its flaws here and there, but overall it’s a terrific film marked with the brute violence, tabloid sensibilities, and strong politics that Fuller would become known for. (more…)
Make up your mind to be a cop, not a gangster with a badge.
There’s a chilling moment in Nicolas Ray’s tough, contemplative noir On Dangerous Ground where detective Jim Wilson is beating the confession out of a suspect, connecting punch after punch, pleading with him, “Why do you make me do it?!” He’s internalized the brutality and depravity his job has exposed him to until it’s become second nature. It’s a violently tangible performance delivered by Robert Ryan (Act of Violence), and under the expressive direction of Ray, his character undergoes something like a spirit quest out in the mountains. On Dangerous Ground offers heaps of grit and haymakers, but also a flood of compassion towards its lineup of riff raff.
Post-war disillusionment is often noted as one of the overall themes of film noir. A soldier returns from war to be greeted by a sardonic American society not worth fighting for – that’s a broad example. Austro-American director Fred Zinnemann’s hopelessly grim thriller Act of Violence takes on this disillusionment fist-first, with a tightly-wound reversal of the good guy/bad guy set up that barrels forward to its ill-fated climax. Heightened by six terrific performances, this dark little film offers a bit of redemption at the end, though not without a price.