Quick Reviews of Three Noir Films

Impact (1949) starring Brian Donlevy, Ella Raines, Charles Coburn, & Helen Walker

A unfaithful wife plots with her lover to kill her husband, but the lover is accidentally killed instead. The husband stays in hiding and lets his wife be charged with conspiracy.

This is a B-movie w/ a lead actor (Donlevy) who usually plays the 2nd lead. Walker is the cold-hearted femme fatale in the big city; Raines is the charming small-town widow/businesswoman (good girl). Raines is esp. lovely, even wearing overalls! As usual, Coburn does a fine job; here he plays a wise (yet also kindly) cop. There are a LOT of twists and turns that keep it interesting. I was reminded of Out of the Past in the country life scenes. If you want to take a deeper dive into noir, then check this out.

Niagara (1953) starring Marilyn Monroe, Joseph Cotten, & Jean Peters

As two couples are visiting Niagara Falls, tensions between one wife and her husband reach the level of murder.

This is a rare (technicolor) noir which highlights Niagara Falls and Monroe- two gorgeous sights (no doubt)! Two V different types of marrieds staying at a mobile lodge in Canada get to know each other… and vacay drama ensues! There are many close-ups on Monroe’s face (always w/ glam makeup), her figure, and signature walk- the typical “male gaze” comes to mind. Monroe does a good job, as does Cotten as her troubled/PTSD-affected war vet husband. Peters is beautiful also, BUT she gets the “girl next door” role and some action scenes. Unfortunately, Casey Adams (more known for his light/TV roles) acts like he’s in a totally different movie! If you’re a fan of Monroe and like suspense/psychological dramas (such as Hitchcock), then I esp. recommend this movie.

Elevator to the Gallows (1958) starring Jeanne Moreau & Maurice Ronet

A self-assured businessman murders his employer, the husband of his mistress, which unintentionally provokes an ill-fated chain of events.

This film ushered in the French new wave; it was directed by Louis Malle (who was ONLY 24 y.o.) I’m a fan of his 1992 erotic thriller- Damage (starring Jeremy Irons and Juliette Binoche). The music was composed by an American jazz great- Miles Davis. Malle shot Moreau (before fame) in close-up and natural light (often w/o make-up). The scene of Moreau walking down the Champs Elysees at night was shot using fast film in a camera mounted on a baby carriage; it used ONLY natural light from the street and store windows. Check it out if you’re in the mood for something different.


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