Noirvember Nights

Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine in Suspicion (1941)

The air is thick with fog, an encroaching darkness consuming the night. Headlights beam through the black, like an angler fish attracting prey. The road goes on and on, and your mind is racing along the tracks. You’re on to your last cigarette and you can’t get what happened out of your mind…You murdered someone and you can’t get away.

With the spooky season coming to an end and last jack-o’-lantern losing its light, comes November. And that means it’s time to watch some film noir. Clueless detectives, murders abound, and lit matches…all in glorious black-and-white. I’m ready for the hazy exploration of the night. I must admit that I have not dipped my toes in to much of this genre of film, but this year I am ready. As November 2020 rolls on ahead, I am planning on watching as many film noirs as possible.

So what’s the plan?

I’m planning to watch a noir film for EVERY day in November. Actually, it should be every night. 😉 And that is going to be no easy task. I had a difficult time with October with horror films, yet with little to no effort, I was able to see 23 films out of the 31 days in the month. Therefore, I believe that I can try my best at this mission. As long as no one blows out the match I just struck…

Let’s just start with what I have seen thus far on my November journey, starting with the first four days of the month and a list of the films that I plan to watch. Beginning with a double feature for the first day of month! First up is a little film from the Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema box set from Kino Lorber (find it here) in:

Witness to Murder (1954)

Barbara Stanwyck in Witness to Murder (1954)

Coming out only a few weeks before Hitchcock’s Rear Window, is this little underappreciated gem starring Barbara Stanwyck, George Sanders, and Gary Merrill. Oddly enough, the film has a similar plot to the aforementioned Hitchcock production, but has it’s own charm. Cheryl Draper (Stanwyck) discovers a murder happening across the street and when the police arrive, the body is gone and the man in question claims to know nothing. This cat-and-mouse game goes on throughout the film to a climatic finish. One aspect of social commentary of the time, seems to be the belief that women are delusional and not to be taken too seriously. It makes for through storytelling, but the truth of the time still stings.

After watching murder unfold, I next had to move on to the highlight of the day in:

Out of the Past (1947)

Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer in Out of the Past (1947)

Jacques Tourneur directs this absolutely STUNNING production with an all-star cast in Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, Kirk Douglas, Rhonda Fleming, and Richard Webb. Jeff Bailey/Markham (Mitchum) is peacefully living his life as a gas station owner when someone from his own past comes calling. Thus marks the beginning of this dark noir filled with twists and turns, dipping from past-to-present. The most marvelous acting in the film comes from Jane Greer who plays Kathie Moffat, a love interest who seems to good to be true. If you haven’t check out any noirs before, this is a great start! Find it on blu-ray here from the Warner Archive Collection.

Next up is a Hitchcock film that has been unfortunately collecting too much dust on my shelf until now. On November 2nd, the day seemed right to say…

I Confess (1953)

Montgomery Clift in I Confess (1953)

Another wonderful blu-ray from the Warner Archive Collection (here) comes this fantastic drama that pits belief against duty. A murder is committed and Father Logan (Montgomery Clift) hears the confessional, and is now powerless to help. The film has many threads that tie the characters together and masterfully unfolds in a way that will keep you guessing. Alongside Clift, stars Anne Baxter and Karl Malden who are both phenomenal here. You may know who the murderer is, but there is more than meets the eye with this mystery.

On November 3rd, I decided to evade the madness of the election by ending my evening with a little Marilyn Monroe in…

Don’t Bother to Knock (1952)

Marilyn Monroe in Don’t Bother to Knock (1952)

WOW! I did not expect this film to turn out the way it did. Set during one long night in a New York hotel, with a female bar singer (Ann Bancroft), the man who’s trying to win her back (Richard Widmark), and a babysitter who is trying to find her way in the Big Apple (Marilyn Monroe). The story is compelling in the relationships, or lack thereof, that we are witnessing unfold, and something is just slightly off. Without giving too much away, let’s just say you have to watch this one. And it’s only a short 78-minute run time! Just call room 809 and ask if Bunny is alright 😉 Find it here from Amazon, just know it is expensive as it is OOP (Out-of-Print).

Last, but certainly not least is the film that I will be watching today (November 4th), once I finally get off work and take a slight deviation from the country road onto the highway in…

Detour (1945)

Tom Neal in Detour (1945)

This film is absolutely STUNNING! I have seen it once before on the Criterion Channel (right as it was about to launch in fact), and I recall how dark and gritty this film struck. Made on a very low budget, director Edgar G. Ulmer hit this adaptation of Martin Goldsmith’s novel with the same name from 1939, out of the park. The film follows New York pianist Al Roberts (Tom Neal) as he hitchhikes across the country with only a dime to his name, to find and marry his girlfriend who left for Hollywood to seek fame. Along the way he gets himself into quite the pickle with a body, a car, and a girl who knows a little too much. Story aside, this film is presented in a stunning 4K restoration from Criterion (find it here) and has quite the story to it’s survival. This is one you surely do NOT want to miss!

What’s on the Queue?

That is all I have seen thus far! Noirvember is just beginning and with many more films to see, here are just a few that I have on my list: Spellbound (1945), Rififi (1955), Anatomy of a Murder (1959), The Wrong Man (1956), The Lady from Shanghai (1947), Only Angels Have Wings (1939), and so many more!

What about you? Are you gearing up for some smoky noir nights? Recommendations? Tell me what you’ll be watching for November and let me know what you think of my choices.

Thanks for reading, I’m not Jonesing around…

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