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TOH! Picks Top 15 Classic Noir Films (CLIPS)

Thompson on Hollywood By TOH! | Thompson on Hollywood March 21, 2014 at 5:28PM

As the always-delectable 16th annual Noir City festival kicks off at LA's American Cinematheque on March 21, we here at TOH! have listed our top 15 classic noirs of all time. Not surprisingly, they tend to be black-and-white.
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'Gun Crazy'
'Gun Crazy'

2. "Gun Crazy" (1950): Director Joseph H. Lewis was a stylish craftsman through and through, and this is his crowning achievement. Sort of a proto-Bonnie & Clyde tale (along with Nicholas Ray's "They Live By Night"), "Gun Crazy" follows John Dall as he falls hard for weapons-lusty Peggy Cummins at a sharpshooting road show. It's not long before the two are in over their heads, on a major crime spree. Includes the famous long take shot from the back of a car while the lovers' first big bank robbery is going down.

3. The Killers (1946): Czar of Noir Eddie Muller has described Robert Siodmak’s Hemingway adaptation “The Killers” as the “Citizen Kane” of the genre, and he’s right. It has a strikingly similar structure to Orson Welles’ mega classic, complete with the mysterious man (here Burt Lancaster) who dies in the film’s opening minutes, the equally mysterious words he utters before death (the fabulous line: “Once I did something wrong”) and the flashback structure as told from the different viewpoints of the crooks, cops and femme fatale who knew him. While Lancaster and Ava Gardner are given top billing, it’s actually Edmond O’Brien’s film; the great character actor plays an insurance claimsman unraveling the mystery.

4. In a Lonely Place (1950): Noir has never met melodrama to such achingly wistful effect as in Nicholas Ray’s masterpiece of paranoia, doomed romance and alienation. Humphrey Bogart goes dark as jaded, unstable screenwriter Dixon Steele. He falls in love with the luscious Gloria Grahame and is able to crawl out of his pit of unhappiness for a couple blissful weeks before everything goes to hell again -- he’s suspected of a brutal murder, and his subsequent behavior doesn’t exactly make him the poster boy for innocence.

5. Detour (1945): Edgar G. Ulmer’s brilliant film boasts one of the more unique noir plot structures. Tom Neal, driving to California using a dead man's identity, makes the mistake of offering a ride to a cute dame (Ann Savage, who practically shoots lasers out of her eyes as she delivers one knock-‘em-flat line after another). The two shack up in a Hollywood apartment. And then… they stay there. For a rather long time. Throughout this middle act, as Neal and Savage play a sort of perverse husband and wife, we get to see a microcosm of soured domesticity turn to lethal blows. You’ll never look at a phone cord the same way again.

Ryan Lattanzio's Top 5:

1. "Laura" (1944): Otto Preminger's classic of police corruption, murder and mayhem slithers with bump-in-the-night psychosexual undertones, from the central premise of a detective who falls in love with a dead woman, to yellow (and most definitely gay) journalist Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb), whose puff pieces vaunt a faded Hollywood dreamscape of paranoia, delusion and fallen starlets.

This article is related to: Trailers, Trailers, Jeanne Moreau, Double Indemnity, Raymond Chandler


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