American Film Noir (Good Copyright)

WHAT “FILM NOIR” IS
    
“Film noir is a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations. Hollywood's classical film noir period is generally regarded as extending from the early 1940s to the late 1950s. Film noir of this era is associated with a low-key black-and-white visual style that has roots in German Expressionist cinematography. Many of the prototypical stories and much of the attitude of classic noir derive from the hardboiled school of crime fiction that emerged in the United States during the last depression. The term film noir, French for "black film, first applied to Hollywood films by French critic Nino Frank in 1946, was unrecognized by most American film industry professionals of that era. Cinema historians and critics defined the category retrospectively. Before the notion was widely adopted in the 1970s, many of the classic films noirs were referred to as melodramas. Whether film noir qualifies as a distinct genre is a matter of ongoing debate among scholars.

“Film noir encompasses a range of plots: the central figure may be a private eye (The Big Sleep), a plainclothes policeman (The Big Heat), an aging boxer (The Set-Up), a hapless grifter (Night and the City), a law-abiding citizen lured into a life of crime (Gun Crazy), or simply a victim of circumstance (D.O.A.). Although film noir was originally associated with American productions, films now so described have been made around the world. Many pictures released from the 1960s onward share attributes with film noir of the classical period, and often treat its conventions self-referentially. Some refer to such latter-day works as neo-noir. The clichés of film noir have inspired parody since the mid-1940s.”  Wikipedia


FATW’S GOOD COPYRIGHT FILM NOIR PACKAGE


FATW’s good copyright American film noir package, includes the titles listed and described in detail below; all are available on home video through FATW’s Mr. FAT-W Video label.  In addition to these, FATW has a number of public domain and foreign film noir features available.


APOLOGY FOR MURDER  (1945)

BEHIND LOCKED DOORS  (1948)
DANGEROUS INTRUDER  (1945)  
DARK WATERS  (1944)
FRENCH KEY, THE  (1946)
GLASS ALIBI  (1946)
HER SISTER'S SECRET  (1946)
IN THIS CORNER  (1948)
LADY CHASER  (1945)
LOVE FROM A STRANGER  (1947)
PRETENDER, THE (1947)
REPEAT PERFORMANCE  (1947)
THE SHANGHAI GESTURE
STRANGE IMPERSONATION  (1946)
STRANGLER OF THE SWAMP (a/k/a STRANGLER FROM THE SWAMP)  (1946)
WOMAN WHO CAME BACK, THE  (1945)



APOLOGY FOR MURDER  (1945)


C. 27 Sept. 1945  P.R.C. Pictures, Inc.  LP13574

B&W  66 Mins.  Good Copyright

Director:             Sam Newfield
Writer:                Fred Myton
Producer.:          Sigmund Newfeld
Cinematog.:       John H. Greenhalgh, Jr.
Music:                 Leo Erdody
Editor:                 Holbrook Todd
Cast:                    Hugh Beaumont, Ann Savage, Charles D. Brown, Russell Hicks


                                     
"An unfaithful wife starts a love triangle that leads to the murder of her husband.  The wife and her murdering boy friend go free while an innocent man is sent to jail for the crime.  Greed for her dead husband's money leads this woman into still another illicit affair which brings about the death of all the guilty and the freedom of an innocent man."  (publicity release) “PRC’s Apology for Murder is aptly named: the production values in this 67-minute quickie are pretty sorry.  If you’re willing to look past the mildewed sets and murky lighting, however, this well-paced film noir is pretty enjoyable.  Hugh Beaumont (yes, that Hugh Beaumont) plays a tough reporter whose honesty is compromised by scheming Anne Savage.  Unable to unwrap himself from Anne’s little finger, Beaumont agrees to go in on her plan to murder her husband Russell Hicks.  They then contrive to frame an innocent man for their perfidy.  You’ve seen this before as Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice, but the actors are energetic and the direction by the overworked Sam Newfield is better than usual.” Corel All Movie Guide 2
            

BEHIND LOCKED DOORS  (1948)


C. 20 Oct. 1948  Pathe Industries, Inc.  LP1874

B&W  62 Mins.  Good Copyright  
 
Director:              Oscar "Budd" Boetticher, Jr.
Writers:                Eugene Ling, Malvin Wald
Producer:             Eugene Ling
Cinematog.:         Guy Roe
Art Director:        Edward Ilou
Composer:            Irving Friedman, Albert Glasser
Film Editor:          Norman Colbert
Set Decor.:           Armor E. Marlowe, Al Orenbach
Costumes:            Frances Ehren
Special Eff.:          Armor E. Marlowe, George J. Teague

Cast:                      Richard Carlson, Lucille Bremer, Ralph Harold, Douglas Fowley, Trevor
                               Bardette, Gwen Donovan, Morgan Farley, Ralf Harolde, Thomas Brown
                               Henry, Herbert Heyes, Tor Johnson, Dickie Moore, Richard Moore


Good mystery about "... a private detective who has himself committed to a booby hatch where, it is suspected, a political crook is hiding from the police...Before he can complete his job, the crook gets wise and finale winds up with gunplay and brutality as a dangerous patient gets loose and runs amok."   "Production values are modest but expert for budget allotment... good acting."  "Photography, settings, editing and other technical functions measure up." (Variety, September 8, 1948) “When a corrupt judge seeks refuge in an insane asylum, a journalist hot on his trail has himself committed to the asylum so he can get a scoop on the inside story.  Some good, tense moments in this cut-above B movie.”  Corel All Movie Guide 2



DANGEROUS INTRUDER  (1945)  


C. 21 Nov. 1945  P.R.C. Pictures, Inc.  LP416

B&W  65 Mins.  Good Copyright   
 
Director:                Vernon Keays
Writer:                   Martin G. Goldsmith
Producer:              Martin Mooney
Cinematog.:          James Brown
Composer:             Karl Hajos
Editor:                    Carl Pierson

Cast:                       Charles Arnt, Veda Ann Borg, Richard Powers, Fay Helm, Helena Phillips
                                 Evans, Fay Helm, Tom Keene, Jo Ann Marlowe, Richard Power, John
                                 Rogers, Roberta Smith, George Sorel, Forrest Taylor

Crime melodrama, starring beautiful Veda Ann Borg as showgirl struck by car of wealthy art fancier who is taken to his home to convalesce.  She gradually comes to realize that he killed his wealthy spinster aunt so he could inherit her wealth.  "... until the last reel, has all the necessary ingredients of suspense, fast action and good acting to make it an above-average thriller, but then falls flat because of a routine denouement.  Modestly budgeted, picture emerges as a fair entry."   (Variety, November 21, 1945) “A New York-bound hitchhiker is hit by a car.  The driver, a successful art dealer, stops and finds that he has hit a beautiful girl.  He takes her to his home and later learns that she was to be a dancer.  As she recovers she cannot help but notice that her benefactor and his step daughter both seem a little touched.  The suspense comes in when she figures out that the greedy dealer is planning to kill all his female relatives in order to receive a large inheritance.”   Corel All Movie Guide 2


DARK WATERS  (1944)


C.15 Sept.1944 Dark Waters Productions Inc. LP13028  

B&W  93Mins. Good Copyright    
 
Director:             Andre de Toth
Writers:              Marian Cockrell, Joan Harrison, Arthur Horman
Producer:           Benedict E. Bogeaus
Cinematog.:       John Mescall, Louis Clyde Stouman
Art Dir.:              Charles Odds
Music Dir.:         Miklos Rozsa
Composer:         Miklos Rozsa
Editor:                 James Smith
Set Decor.:         Maurice Yates
Choreog.:           Jack Crosby
Spec.Eff.:           Harry Redmond

Cast:                   Merle Oberon, Franchot Tone, Thomas Mitchell, Fay Bainter, Rex Ingram,
                            John Qualen, Elisha Cook Jr., Eugene Borden, Paul E. Burns, Nina Mae
                            McKinney, Peter Miles, Odette Myrtil, Alan Napier, Gigi Perreau


"The dank and forbidding regions of the Louisiana bayous have always made excellent locales for melodramatic films.  The heavy, oppressive vegetation, the ambient sense of maddening heat and the silence are perfect aids to mystery and violence on the screen. And that is one reason why 'Dark Waters'... is a killer-diller of a thriller--it is set in the Louisiana bayous.  It also presents a creepy story with mild psychological  overtones and it is neatly produced and directed-- and well played by an excellent cast.... what it comes down to is tingling diversion for the latter part of an hour and a half....Andre De Toth has directed nicely for mysterious moods and cold suspense, and Benedict Bogeaus has produced the whole show for strictly A-picture  tone..." (The New York Times, November 22, 1944) “The guardians of a troubled young heiress attempt to drive her insane.”   Corel All Movie Guide 2

                                                                   

FRENCH KEY, THE  (1946)


C. 8 Apr. 1946 Republic Pictures Corp.  LP320

B&W  64 Mins.  Good Copyright  

Director:                  Walter Colmes
Writer:                     Frank Gruber
Producer:                Walter Colmes
Cinematog.:            Jockey A. Feindel
Composer:               Alexander Laszlo
Editor:                      Robert Jahns

Cast:                         Albert Dekker, Evelyn Ankers, Mike Mazurki, John Eldridge, Frank Fenton,
                                  Richard Arlen, Byron Foulger, Curly Joe de Rita, David Gorcey, Selmar
                                  Jackson, Marjorie Manners, Walter Soderling, Sammy Stein, Archie
                                  Twitchell, Emmett Vogan, Alan Ward


"Dekker gives mystery drama some class in this murder yarn." Good mystery. "Exploits of super book salesman [Albert Dekker] ...and his muscle-bound sidekick [Mike Mazurki] read better than they film.  It's still okay program material, having enough cast strength to help the bookings. Physical production has good values and there are moments of topnotch suspense...." (Variety, May 22,  1946)


“French Key is a Republic Pictures murder mystery with all of the studio’s genre trademarks: Good cast, reasonably good direction, fairly good sets and middling story values.  Albert Dekker plays a private eye who is framed for murder.  With the police breathing down his neck, it’s up to the detective to solve the mystery himself.  The supporting suspects include such reassuringly familiar faces as Evelyn Ankers, Mike Mazurki, Richard Arlen, Frank Fenton and Byron Foulger.  Some prints of French Key have been cut from 64 to 54 minutes in order to fit into a TV ‘hour’.” Corel All Movie Guide 2



GLASS ALIBI  (1946)


C. 29 March 1946  Republic Pictures Corp.  LP239

B&W  70 Mins.  Good Copyright  

Director:               W. Lee Wilder
Writer:                  Mindret Lord
Producer:              W. Lee Wilder
Cinematog.:          Henry Sharp
Music Dir.:            Alexander Laszlo
Editor:                   John F. Fink, John Link

Cast:                      Paul Kelly, Ann Gwynne, Douglas Fowley, Jack Conrad, Maris Wrixon, Phyllis
                                Adair, George Chandler, Eula Guy, Selmar Jackson, Cy Kendall, Victor Potel,
                                Walter Soderling, Ted Stanhope, Forrest Taylor, Cyril Thornton



"A cleverly fabricated alibi proves to be the criminal's own death warrant in exciting new film... A smart guy is  himself grimly outsmarted by fate in 'The Glass Alibi,' eventually paying for a murder he didn't commit on the strength of evidence calculated to absolve him from guilt in another.  It's a suspenseful yarn intelligently filmed, skillfully cast and well directed.....Douglas Fowley excels in the role of Joe Eyknew, a scheming newspaper reporter who takes over the moll of a mobster  on the lam and is responsible for getting the fugitive jailed.  Although it's Belle he loves, Joe seizes an opportunity to marry a rich girl given only six months to live.  The fact that she doesn't die before Joe wearies of the pretense, together with the certainty of vengeance by gangster Hogan, activates most of the thrills.  Paul Kelly is fine as a police lieutenant...  and Ann Gwynne is excellent as the ... hard-boiled girl friend." (New York Daily News, May 25, 1946)


“In this drama, a reporter marries a socialite from Santa Monica with a bad ticker.  The gold-digging reporter is well aware of her delicate condition.  He and his girl friend conspire to kill her.  He shoots her, but does not realize that she was dead before the bullet entered her body, from a heart attack.  He is later captured and convicted.  The detective that caught him was well aware that the woman died of heart failure, but he decided to say nothing.” Corel All Movie Guide 2




HER SISTER'S SECRET  (1946)


C. 12 Sept. 1946  Pathe Industries, Inc.  LP598

B&W  85 Mins.  Good Copyright

Director:                        Edgar G. Ulmer
Writer:                            Anne Green
Producer:                       Henry Brash
Cinematog.:                   Franz Planer
Art Director:                  Edward C. Jewell
Composer:                     Hans Sommer
Editor:                            Jack W. Ogilvie
Story:                             “Dark Angel,” by Gina Kaus
Cast:                               Nancy Coleman, Regis Toomey, Philip Reed, Margaret Lindsay, Felix
                                         Bressart, Henry Stephenson, Rudolph Anders, Fritz Feld, Helen Heigh,
                                         George Meeker, Winston Severn, Frank Williams


A soap-opera like romantic drama "about a love-smitten New Orleans lass who has a child out of wedlock, secretly gives the baby to her married, childless sister and then is tormented by maternal yearning..." (The New  York Times, January 23, 1947)


“An unusually elaborate film from the bargain-basement PRC studios, Her Sister’s Secret is set in New Orleans at Mardi Gras time.  The “secret” involves an illegitimate child.  Nancy Coleman is impregnated by a soldier on leave, and when she fears that he’ll never return, she persuades her married sister (Margaret Lindsay) to raise the child.  The better-than-usual cast includes Phillip Reed as the soldier, along with Regis Toomey, Felix Bessart and Henry Stephenson.  Her Sister’s Secret was the sort of B-plus fare that PRC would specialize in when it reorganized in 1947 and changed its name to Eagle-Lion.”  Corel All Movie Guide 2



IN THIS CORNER  (1948)


C. 23 Sept. 1948  Pathe Industries, Inc.  LP1827

B&W  62 Mins.  Good Copyright  

Director:                      Charles F. “Chuck” Reisner
Writers:                        Fred Niblo, Jr., Burk Symon, Burk Wymon
Producer:                     David L. Stephenson
Cinematog.:                 Joseph La Shelle, Guy Roe
Art Director:                Edward Ilou
Music Dir.:                   Irving Friedman
Composer:                   Albert Glasser
Editors:                         Norman Colbert, Alfred de Gaetano

Cast:                             Scott Brady, Cy Kendall, Anabel Shaw, James Millican, Mary Meade,
                                       Robert Bice, Charles D. Brown, John Doucette, Don Forbes, John
                                       Idrisano, Bill Kennedy


"Prizefight yarn has been mixed with theme of restoring  war-marked veterans to normal activity and it all comes off well enough....Scott Brady, screen newcomer, makes a bid for attention and has the physical appearance to carry off role of vet who becomes a light heavyweight fighter.  He looks like he has a chance with proper handling and more experience.  Yarn concerns Brady, discharged from Navy service, taking up fisticuffs for a livelihood.  A crooked manager gets hold of him and shoves him along fast as a buildup for big gambling  killing.  When Brady won't go for a fixed fight, the gambler  plot[s] without him.  He frames Brady to make it look like a punch has killed a sparring partner. This reawakens mental block Brady received during service when a blow from him killed a navy buddy.  He loses the fight but next time around, just when Brady is taking a terrific beating, his girl friend rushes in with the supposedly dead man and saves the day."  (Variety, September 1, 1948)


“This boxing drama focuses on the manager rather than the fighter.  The story begins as a corrupt manager fakes the death of his fighter’s sparring partner after he refuses to take a dive knowing that it will push him over the edge and destroy his career as he accidently killed a man while boxing in the military.  Fortunately, the boxer has a devoted, supportive girlfriend who investigates the “death” and brings the dead partner to ringside at the crucial moment.”   Corel All Movie Guide 2



LADY CHASER  (1945)


C. 25 Nov. 1946  Pathe Industries, Inc.  LP715

B&W  60 Mins.  Good Copyright  

Director:                    Sam Newfield
Writer:                        Fred Myton
Producer:                  Sigmund Newfeld
Cinematog.:              John H. Greenhalgh, Jr.
Art Director:             Paul F. Sylos
Editor:                        Holbrook Todd
Story:                         by G.T. Fleming-Roberts

Cast:                           Ann Savage, Robert Lowery, Inez Cooper, Frank Ferguson, Paul Bryar,
                                    Ralph Dunn, William Haade, Garry Owen, Charles Williams



"Dorian Westmore... accepts an aspirin tablet from Inez Palmer... a total stranger.  It turns out that this pill was poisoned.  Dorian gives it to a wealthy uncle and he dies.  Unable to prove where she got the aspirin. After the trial, her fiancé, Peter Kane... tells her attorney, J. T. Vickers... that he is going to prove Dorain's innocence.  When Inez reads of the trial she becomes panic stricken.  She realizes that the person she has  been blackmailing tried to kill her with the poisoned pill.  She tells her boy friend Bill... that she must go into hiding.  Peter starts his search for Inez with his only clue that she was accompanied by a maid.  He finds the maid and gains her confidence and just before she tells him where Inez is, he is knocked out.  When he comes to he finds the maid had been murdered.  Through a pin that the maid had, Peter gets a clue to the whereabouts of Inez.... The first break comes when Peter  gets a wire from Inez telling him to go to a certain address.  When he gets there Inez denies sending the wire and the both of them [sic] realize they have been tricked.  Vickers Arrives [sic] and demands the evidence that Inez is blackmailing him with.  A struggle begins and because of the noise the neighbors summon the police. The police burst in and Peter tells the  Inspector that Inez is the girl who can clear Dorian. Then it occurs to Peter that Vickers is the murderer and the whole case is solved." (publicity release)


“In this humorous murder mystery, a woman is wrongfully accused of poisoning her uncle when he died after she gave the ailing fellow a pill that she believed was aspirin.  To prove her innocence, the woman must find the strange lady that gave her the pill.  A crazy chase ensues.”  Corel All Movie Guide 2



LOVE FROM A STRANGER  (1947)


C. 5 Sept. 1947  Pathe Industries, Inc.  LP1288

B&W  81 Mins.  Good Copyright  

Director:                  Richard Whorf
Writer:                      Philip MacDonald
Cinematog.:             Tony Gaudio
Art Directors:          Jack R. Rabin, Perry Smith
Music Dir.:               Irving Friedman
Composer:               Hans Salter
Editor:                      Fred Allen
Set Decor.:              Armor E. Marlowe
Special Eff.:             George J. Teague
Story:                      “Philomel Cottage,” by Agatha Christie

Cast:                         Sylvia Sidney, John Hodiak, John C. Howard, Isobel Elsom, Ernest Cossart,
                                   Phyllis Barry, Billy Bevan, Anita Bolster, Colin Campbell, David Cavendish,
                                   Charles Coleman, Abe Dinovitch, John W. Goldsworthy, Keith Hitchcock,
                                   Nolan Leary, Ann Richards, Gerald Rogers, Philip Tonge, Frederic Worlock


Fair mystery based on Agatha Christie novel, starring Sylvia Sidney and John Hodiak.  In 1900s London, "... mysterious South American gentleman sweeps an attractive London sweepstakes winner into marriage" after answering her ad to sublet her apartment prior to taking world tour with sweepstake winnings.  The newlyweds go off to a secluded cottage in Devonshire, deciding to keep the location a romantic secret.  She learns who he really is from a sketch in a magazine article about a notorious wife-killer wanted by the police of two continents.    Her ex-fiancé tracks her down just in time to save her from her new husband.  "It may well be that some will find a modicum of excitement... But the chances are he will be so far ahead of the story that its climactic scene will explode with all the thunder of a cap  pistol." (The New York Times, November 28, 1947, and  publicity releases)


“A bride on her honeymoon comes to suspect that her husband is a murderer who plans to make her his next victim.” Corel All Movie Guide 2



PRETENDER, THE (1947)


C. 28 July 1947  Republic Pictures Corp.  LP1166

Color  68 Mins.  Good Copyright
   
Director:                       W. Lee Wilder
Writers:                         Don Martin, Doris Miller
Producer:                      W. Lee Wilder
Cinematog.:                  John Alton
Art Director:                 Paul F. Sylos
Music Dir.:                    Paul Dessau
Editors:                         Asa Boyd Clark, John Link
Costumes:                     I.R. Berne
Makeup:                        Don L. Cash

Cast:                               Albert Dekker, Catherine Craig, Charles Drake, Alan Carney, Charles
                                        Middleton, Linda Stirling, Ernie S. Adams, John Bagni, Cay Forester, Eula
                                        Guy, Selmar Jackson, Tom Kennedy, Michael Mark, Peter Michael,
                                        Stanley Ross, Forrest Taylor, Ben Welden, Peggy Wynne

“Albert Dekker plays a crooked investment agent who embezzles a large sum from an estate, hoping to cover his crime by marrying the estate’s heiress (Catherine Craig).  The girl is already engaged, so Dekker arranges to have the fiancé killed.  The hit man’s only means of identifying the victim-to-be is his picture in the society columns.  But the girl changes her mind and agrees to marry Dekker–meaning that it is his picture that will appear in the columns, thereby condemning him to death.  Desperately trying to contact the hit man, Dekker discovers that the man is dead...but the assassin’s successor is still at large.  A cheap but tidy “hoist on his own petard” melodrama, The Pretender was produced and directed by W. Lee Wilder, brother of the more famous (and frankly more talented) Billy Wilder.” Corel All Movie Guide 2



REPEAT PERFORMANCE  (1947)


C. 13 May 1947  Pathe Industries, Inc.  LP1135

B&W  93 Mins.  Good Copyright  
    
Director:                      Alfred L. Werker
Writer:                         Walter Bullock
Producer:                    Aubrey Schenk
Cinematog.:                 Lewis William O’Connell
Art Director:               Edward C. Jewell
Music Dir.:                   Irving Friedman
Composer:                   George Antheil
Editors:                        Alfred de Gaetano, Louis H. Sackin
Set Decor.:                   Armor E. Marlowe
Story:                           by William O’Farrell
Cast:                             Richard Basehart, Louis Hayward, Joan Leslie, Tom Conway, Benay
                                       Venuta,  Virginia Field, Ilka Gruning, Natalie Schafer

" 'Repeat Performance' represents Eagle-Lion's first stab at the bigtime via a top-budgeted production made on its home lot.  That in itself would not rate it A playing time but the film has the proper ingredients to go good biz in most first-run situations.  Novel story, a fantasy affair, is well-paced and well-acted and the names of Joan Leslie and Louis Hayward should help brighten the marquee.  E-L has already teed off a boff ballyhoo campaign with its world preem last week in Zanesville, O., which will probably pay off.  'Performance' marks  the first picture done by Miss Leslie since she ankled the Warners' lot after her lengthy litigation with that company.  She gets a chance at a meaty, serious role and makes out okay in it, although a little more restraint would have helped erase the starry-eyed ingenue for which audiences have come to accept her.  Film also marks the screen debut of Richard Basehart." (Variety, May, 1945)


".... the film opens grimly with a young lady, on New Year's Eve, shooting her wretched husband and rushing forth into the night.  En  route, she philosophizes that she'd like to play that year over again--do a rewrite, as she puts it, on the third act--and thus avoid the horrible deed that she has just done.  And, lo and behold, some nameless wonder suddenly turns back the clock a year and arranges for her to repeat it, knowing all the while how the first draft ended.  In this incredible repetition, it is rather convincingly revealed that the lady's husband was a devil and that she spent a good part of her time trying to keep him away from 1.  the bottle and 2.  a predatory blonde.  But none of her devices, despite a generous intervention of fate which almost destroys the gentleman via a fall out of a theater balcony.  And the film concludes with this scoundrel getting what he deserved all along, only this time the shot that kills Barney is fired by a poet instead of the wife.  Not only is dramatic credibility completely lacking in all this stew but the whole thing is done with such pretension that even the possible salve of ridicule is missed.  And such a mood of complete irascibility has seldom been sustained on the screen."  (The New York Times, July 2, 1947)    


“On New Year’s Eve, Joan Leslie runs desperately out of a penthouse apartment and into the Times Square crowd.  She has reason to fell – she has just shot and killed her husband.  Through a freakish wrinkle in time, Joan is transported back to the last New Year’s and is allowed to relive the past year all over again.  This time she is forearmed with the knowledge of the murder and does everything she can to avoid the deed – a task made difficult by such antagonists as her nasty husband and her emotionally disturbed brother (Richard Basehart, in his film debut).  Events lead inexorably to the murder...but will she do it this time?  Cleverly assembled, and with a more expensive cast and budget than was usual for pinchpenny Eagle-Lion studios, Repeat Performance is a brisk and absorbing semi-fantasy.  It was remade for television [by Republic Pictures] as Turn Back the Clock (89), with the original film’s star Joan Leslie in a brief cameo role.” Corel All Movie Guide 2



THE SHANGHAI GESTURE


1941; B&W, 106 mins. Good Clopyright


Director:                  Josef von Sternberg

Producer:                Arnold Pressburger
Ass. Prod.:               Albert de Courvill
Screenplay:             Josef von Sternberg, Karl Vollmoeller, Geza Herzeg, Jules Furthman; from
                                   the play by John Colton
Dir. Photog.:            Paul Ivano
Music Score:           Richard Hageman
Costumes:               Oleg Cassini for Gene Tierney; Royer for Ona Munson
Film Editor:             Sam Winston
Distributor:              United Artists
Cast:                         Gene Tierney,  Walter Huston, Victor Mature), Maria Ouspenskaya,
                                  
Mike Mazurki, Ona Munson, Phyllis Brooks, Albert Basserman

Academy Award Nominations, 1942:  Boris Levin, Art Direction; Richard Hageman, Score


DRAMA:    One of the great classic "film noir" masterpieces.  "Mother Gin Sling is the owner of a Shanghai casino which, despite her bribes, the local authorities have decided to close under pressure from British financier Sir Guy Charteris.  Charteris has his own plans for the property and refuses to accept any of Gin Sling's calls to discuss it.  She has him investigated and learns that as a young man he was engaged in questionable activities in China, married a native woman, then fled with money from her estate and their infant daughter.  At the same time, she discovers that this daughter, Poppy, now grown, has become a habitue of her establishment.  Through one of her associates, Dr. Omar, Mother Gin Sling encourages Poppy's gambling until she has run up a considerable debt.  Poppy, although enraged at Gin Sling's contemptuous treatment of her and suspicious of Omar's fidelity, nonetheless thwarts her father's attempt to send her out of the city and continues to patronize the casino.  In order to get his daughter out of this environment, Charteris feels compelled to accept an invitation to Gin Sling's New Year's dinner and to hear her implicit blackmail demands.  Ultimately, Gin Sling reveals to the incredulous Charteris that she is the wife whom he presumed killed and whose money he appropriated.  Shaken, Charteris explains that he thought she had died after betraying him; but Poppy is unable to accept under any circumstances that Gin Sling could be her mother and hysterically denounces the woman.  Infuriated by her own daughter's vilification, Gin Sling loses control and shoots her." Film Noir, Ed. Alain Silver and Elizabeth Ward, The Overlook Press, 1988, p.255.

Background:    "The nightmarish, almost Baroque environment that von Sternberg creates in 'The Shanghai Gesture' contains much of what was to become a standard expression of the noir vision.  Numerous changes in the 1925 Broadway play were mandated by the Hays Office -- which had rejected nearly three dozen earlier film treatments.  In Jules Furthman's screen version, for example, Mother Goddamn becomes Mother Gin Sling and her brothel becomes a gambling house.  Despite all these changes, Sternberg evokes an underworld more tangible and more threatening than anything in such noir precursors as 'Underworld' and 'Thunderbolt.'  The true nature of Gin Sling's establishment is, in effect, revealed in her "purchase" of Dixie, a blond playgirl, from the police and culminates in the New Year's auction of women suspended in cages outside the casino.  Despite such exotic embellishments or the title disclaimer that 'Our story has nothing to do with the present,' 'Shanghai Gesture' obviously anticipates and has everything to do with the postwar noir vision fatality and inexplicable malaise.


    "Poppy is the key characterization of that fatality.  She is both the physical and psychological child of the youthful liaison between Gin Sling and Charteris; and, in the latter capacity, she embodies the emotional estrangement that both her parents suffered in assuming betrayal by the other.  Sternberg uses Poppy's fascination with vice and her subsequent degeneration as an emblem of the more gradual process by which her parents have alienated themselves from normal relationships.  In contrast to the artificial Gin Sling, whose masklike makeup and exotic headdress outwardly suggest a lifeless doll, and Charteris, who takes satisfaction in frustrating his sycophants by lighting his own cigarette, Poppy initially reacts to Gin Sling's gambling house with an open and natural disdain, 'What a witches' Sabbath...so incredibly evil.  I didn't think such a place existed except in my own imagination--like a half-remembered dream.  Anything could happen here, at any moment.'  Poppy's words are, of course, in the narrative convention of film noir, prophetic ones.  The effects of her surrender to the dark side of her 'own imagination' are apparent.  Her gambling, drinking, and infatuation with Omar are examples, as are her altered appearance, haggard and slow-moving, and her frequently slurred words.  Her drug addiction is not explicit but abundantly suggested by her own name, her mercurial behavior, and her increasing dependence on Omar.

    "Sternberg visually underscores the concept of Poppy's 'evil, half-remembered dream' with numerous diffused close-ups, many of them on the half-familiar faces of well-known character actors that portray Gin Sling's minions:  Maria Ouspenskaya as the Amah, Gin Sling's attendant; Eric Blore as the bookkeeper; Marcel Dalio as the croupier who controls the gamblers' fates; and Mike Mazurki as the hulking coolie who banters with Charteris in Pidgin English.  From cuts of intent faces watching the spinning of the roulette wheel, Sternberg pulls back to overhead long shots of the smoke-filled hall with its cramped figures arranged into tiers around the wheel like a rendering of Dante's Inferno in evening dress.  In a world where normal relationships are impossible, Sternberg isolates moments of either detachment or fury.  In contrast to the increasingly frenzied Poppy, who senses herself being slowly crushed as surely as the was figurine that Gin Sling rends with her polished nails, there is the imperturbable Omar, as laconic and icily unreachable as the Dietrich figures in Sternberg's earlier films.  Omar's dark skin, hair slick with oil, and hooded eyes complement the moment when he spreads his cape around Poppy like a vampire before kissing her, almost suggesting an incubus who personifies the destruction of the noir underworld.

    "Charteris' appearance in this underworld precipitates the violent denouement, which is a return to the darker vision of Sternberg's earlier films, a much bleaker vision than that found in the fates of the quixotic figures of the later 'Macao.'  Poppy's death not only verifies her observation that 'anything could happen here, at any moment,' but also denies any possibility of regeneration.  The irony of Gin Sling's earlier remark that occasionally 'Shanghai decides to clean itself like a swan in a muddy lake,' is that the characters have no such option but are trapped in a miasma of their own dissolution.  For the murdered Poppy, the question of 'paying' for her sins is moot.  For Gin Sling and for Charteris, who stumbles out of the casino to suffer a final taunt from the coolie ('You likee Chinee New Year?'), the question is left open-ended."  Film Noir, Ed. Alain Silver and Elizabeth Ward, The Overlook Press, 1988, p.255-256.  

Internet Movie Database Summary:


    “A young woman, Poppy, out for excitement in Shanghai, enters a gambling house owned by "Mother" Gin Sling, a dragon-lady who worked herself up from poverty to buy the casino. Sir Guy Charteris, wealthy entrepreneur, has purchased a large area of Shanghai, forcing Gin Sling to vacate by the coming Chinese New Year. Under orders from Gin Sling, who has found out Poppy is Charteris' daughter, the smarmy Doctor Omar leads Poppy deeper and deeper into an addiction to gambling and alcohol. Gin Sling, realizing that Charteris was her long-ago husband who she thinks abandoned her, plans her revenge by inviting Charteris to a Chinese New Year dinner party to expose his past indiscretions. Charteris, however, has a suprise of his own to spring on Gin Sling.”

Internet Movie Database Review:


    “Summary: Everyone has a past.....

        “.....in this tawdry melodrama of intrigue, deception and betrayal. Everything is for sale; self-interest is the prime commodity.

        “As a kind of Far Eastern "Grand Hotel," this picture may be short on substance, but its compensation is atmosphere - the exotic type that von Sternberg has employed to advantage elsewhere - and a host of commendable performances. Nothing is what it appears to be: the camera eye moves us forward, but smoke and crowds keep getting in the way; explosive sounds may be firecrackers or gunshots; a mask may be a cover or a revelation.

        “Well worth watching, with particular praise reserved for the too-little-known Ona Munson.”


STRANGE IMPERSONATION  (1946)


C. 5 Mar. 1946  Republic Pictures Corp. LP240

B&W  60 Mins.  Good Copyright  **½ Corel All Movie Guide 2
    
Director:                              Anthony Mann
Writer:                                 Mindret Lord
Producers:                          W. Lee Wilder/William Wilder
Cinematog.:                        Robert Pittack
Music Dir.:                          Alexander Laszlo
Editor:                                 John Link
Story:                                  Anne Wigton and Herman Lewis
Cast:                                    William Gargan, Hillary Brooke, Brenda Marshall, Lyle Talbot,
                                             H.B.Warner, George Chandler, Ruth Ford, Cay Forester, Richard
                                              Scott, Mary Treen,  Herman Lewis

"Nora Goodrich (Brenda Marshall), a chemist with the Wilmotte Institute, is discoverer of a new anesthesia, and confides to her assistant Arline... that she intends to perform the first experiment on herself. Dr. Stephan Lindstron (William Gargan), Nora's fiancé and co-worker, receives word he must leave immediately for France, and wants Nora to marry him and make the trip with him. Unknown to him, Nora plans to take the anesthesia that evening with Arline's help. She promises Stephan his answer next day. That afternoon, after Nora leaves the laboratory, a half-drunk girl, Jane Karaski... falls in the path of Nora's car, but is unhurt. Ambulance-chaser J. W. Rinse... tries to press his services on both girls, but they refuse... Nora drives Jane to the girl's shabby one-room apartment, and leaves Jane twenty-five dollars. At Nora's apartment, that evening, she instructs Arline in the administration of the second injection, warning her that more than 5 c.c.'s of fluid in the beaker will cause an explosion. Arline waits until Nora is asleep, then  deliberately pours the fluid until it registers '20.' She rushes for the door just as Stephan enters the apartment. He is too late to prevent the explosion, but he ... rushes [Nora] to a hospital. Nora's face is heavily bandaged, and while she is lying in the hospital, Arline maneuvers affairs so that the doctor forbids Stephan from visiting Nora...Meantime, Nora... at a loss to understand Stephan's absence, believes it is because her face is scarred. Stephan is compelled to see more and more of Arline--as the only source of direct news of Nora. He is led to believe that Nora does not want to see him at all." Nora returns home, badly scarred, and Jane attempts blackmail; in a struggle to gain control of Jane's gun, Jane falls off the balcony and is killed. Stephan mistakenly identifies Jane's corpse as Nora. Nora mistakenly leaves with Jane's purse, and undergoes plastic surgery, emerging with Jane's face. She reads of Stephan's pending marriage to Arline, and obtains a job at the Institute.  Stephan, now married to Arline, falls in love with her, not knowing that she is really Nora, his old true love. Stephan and Nora plan to leave for France to undertake the medical research project.  Arline, recognizing "Jane" as the original Nora, arranges for Rinse, the ambulance-chasing attorney, to falsely identify "Jane" to the police as the killer of Nora. Nobody believes that "Jane" is in reality Nora, and Arline refuses to back up her story. "The scene changes, and once again we are back in Nora's old apartment where the experiment first took place. At this moment, Stephan is sitting beside Nora on the couch, shaking her by the shoulders. Nora opens her eyes, runs to the mirror, finds she is still Nora and touches her face unbelievingly. It has all been a bad dream.  She promises gladly--to marry Stephan next day." (publicity release)


“In this complex drama, a female chemist decides to test out her new formula for an anesthetic upon herself.  Her assistant helps her.  Unfortunately, something goes terribly awry and the woman ends up jilted by her fiancé, blackmailed, and horribly disfigured.  Fortunately, things are not as they seem.” Corel All Movie Guide 2



STRANGLER OF THE SWAMP (a/k/a STRANGLER FROM THE SWAMP)  (1946)


C. 6 Jan. 1946  PRC Pictures, Inc.  L12  

B&W  60 Mins.  Good Copyright
 
Director:                        Frank Wisbar
Writers:                         Harold Erickson, Frank Wisbar
Producer:                      Raoul Pagel
Cinematog.:                  James S. Brown, Jr.
Art Director:                Edward C. Jewell
Music Dir.:                    Alex Steinert
Editor:                           Hugh Wynn
Set Decor.:                   Glenn Thompson
Story:                           Frank Wisbar and Leo McCarthy

Cast:                             Robert H. Barrat, Rosemary La Planche, Blake Edwards, Charles
                                       Middleton, Frank Conlan, Virginia Farmer, Nolan Leary, Therese Lyon,
                                       Effie Parnell

  "The basic ingredients of 'Strangler of the Swamp,' the New York Theater's current invitation to gooseflesh, are one swamp, constant and heavy mist which dissipates neither night nor day, and a ghostly strangler. The strangler is the best part of the picture because you never know whether he's real or just a figment of the imaginations of guilty folk. There is the unjust lynching of the fellow who used to operate the hand-ferry over that swamp. He was blamed for a murder another had committed, and before anyone had guessed a contrary solution, he was a ghost and strictly limited to ghostly revenges. Various people die in several ways, but always there is a choice between a natural death and a strangler's handiwork. Eventually the ghost himself becomes visible to the greatest doubter of all, stout-hearted Robert Barrat. But just at the climax, when the young hero is about to die mysteriously and his girl is defending him with a mystic determination to sacrifice herself willingly to the ghost's ministrations, the ghost fades away. Thus the choice of reality or figment remains entirely open, which is a rare and splendid occurrence to record among the little 'B' chillers.  Consistency to one side for the time being, 'Strangler of the Swamp' deserves commendation for leaving its complete solution hanging in the air just as the subtler type of ghost is wont to do." (New York Post, January 28, 1946)

"....The haunt...exists...because a man named Douglas is unjustly hanged for murder. Protesting his innocence to the last, the ferryman has called down a curse upon those responsible for his fate, and soon the superstitious swampland folk are subject to strangely violent deaths. One man is thrown from a horse and strangled by the reins; another is garroted while stringing a clothesline; another choked by a fishnet and still another hanged in trying to destroy the noose which was used on Douglas.  Although Douglas himself is subsequently proved innocent by a confession left by one of his victims, his spirit continues with vengeance until the power of the church and a young girl's courage combine to dissolve the demon. Robert Barratt is well cast and extremely able as Christian Sanders, community leader who tries to dissuade the people from credence in the Douglas curse and urges them to drain the swampland for a church site.  Rosemary La Planche appears as feminine star and for romance with Blake Edwards.  Villain is Charles Middleton." (New York Daily News, January 28, 1946)


"In the very early 30s, Frank Wisbar (a director always more associated with artistic experiment than with commercial success) made a remarkable German fantasy film entitled Farhman Maria (Ferryman Maria), which starred that unique actress Sybille Schmitz, so effective as the Vampire's chief victim in Carl Dreyer's Vampyr. Although not a horror film, it dealt partially with the supernatural, and like so many German films of its type, featured a personalized Death. While it perhaps owed its initial inspiration to Fritz Lang's Destiny, it was a unique and original film that has surprisingly been ignored by the standard histories of film... Only in David Stewart Hull's Film in the Third Reich, published as late as 1969, does one find the film finally acknowledged--and, happily, praised. Wisbar's Hollywood career was, unfortunately, quite unworthy of him, largely limited to the 1940s and 'B' products at PRC [Producers Releasing Corporation] and Republic--including... The Devil Bat's Daughter.  But the action-and-melodrama-oriented production executives at PRC for once were sold a bill of goods themselves, for Wisbar's Strangler of the Swamp is a simpler reworking of his old classic Farhman Maria. The heroine--named Maria, and played by Rosemary La Planche-- arrives to take over the operation of the lonely ferry when her grandfather, who runs it, is killed. The community is haunted by the spectre of a man hanged years before for a murder of which he is innocent; he returns periodically to cause the deaths (usually by accidental hanging--entrapment by undergrowth vines, or the rope of the ferry itself) of the men responsible for his death. His curse extends to their descendants too, and can only be ended when one of them voluntarily offers his or her life to him in final expiation.  Ultimately, in order to save the man she loves (Blake Edwards, in his pre-director and pre-Julie Andrews days), Maria offers herself to the wraith. In the traditional, German romanticist- fantasies, like Nosferatu, the sacrifice would be accepted, and the woman would die--bringing peace and life to those she loved.  However, such a denouement would have been unthinkable for PRC, already caught napping with this Gothic mood piece. They settled for the wraith's being satisfied by the gesture and returning to the grave, having first made his own peace with God, and leaving the way clear for a traditional happy ending. Like most of the old German fantasies, the film is totally stylized, and virtually all studio made.... The first third of the film is particularly effective: the (justified) fears and superstitions of the villagers, the matter-of-fact acceptance of the supernatural, the eerie clanging of the ferry signal at night, and the gradual manifestation of the ghost (played by Charles Middleton) are sparse and well- handled; no special effects or shimmering lights, merely a grim, barely definable shape that merges with the shadows and the night.... But lowest-rung grade 'B' or not [Strangler of the Swamp] is a commendable attempt to do something different with a standardized genre (serious ghost stories were still rare on the screen in 1945...) and, most of all, it is an example of how genuine feeling and style can be extracted from even the cheapest film if the director cares." (Classics of the Horror Film, Everson, The Citadel Press, 1974)


“A ferryman who was wrongly hanged for murder haunts the swamp near the town where he was executed.  He strangles those responsible one by one.” Corel All Movie Guide 2



WOMAN WHO CAME BACK, THE  (1945)


C. 28 Nov. 1945  Republic Pictures Corp.  LP13677
B&W  69 Mins.  Good Copyright   
 

Director:                        Walter Colmes
Writer:                           Dennis Cooper
Producer:                      Walter Colmes
Cinematog.:                  Henry Sharp
Music Dir.:                    Walter Scharf
Composer:                    Edward Plumb
Editor:                          John Link
Set Decor.:                   Jacques Mapes
Idea:                             Philip Yordan
Story:                          John Kafk
a
Cast:                             Nancy Kelly, John Loder, Otto Kruger, Ruth Ford, Harry Tyler, Jeanne
                                      Gail, John Farrell MacDonald, Almira Sessions, Emmett Vogan

"Lorna Webster (Nancy Kelly) on returning to her ancestral home in a New England village, believes she has been bewitched--A curse put upon her by a practitioner in the art of sorcery who was burned at the stake 300 years ago by her clerical ancestor.  Events seem to bear out Lorna's grim theory.  The baby niece of Dr. Matt Adams (John Loder) with whom Lorna is in love, mysteriously falls ill after Lorna has an altercation with the baby's mother... The mother herself, in flight from a phantom dog, almost commits suicide and the same frightening canine haunts the home of Lorna nearly driving her to insanity. Dr. Adams, aided by the Reverend Stevens (Otto Kruger) tries to solve the mystery but the townspeople, convinced that Lorna is a witch, start a whispering campaign which threatens bodily harm to the girl. Finally, in desperation, Lorna discovers old documents in the crypt of the village church where her ancestor preached.  These documents prevent the townspeople from slaying Lorna and explain the entire puzzling circumstances." (publicity release)


“This thriller is set in New England and follows the exploits of a young woman who believes that she has been cursed by an evil sorceress.  She goes back to her familial estate in a small town.  The townsfolk also believe that she is cursed as her ancestors before her were cursed three centuries ago.  They treat her terribly as she investigates.  In the end, they nearly drive her to suicide.” Corel All Movie Guide 2
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