Episode 261- The Big Sleep (1946)

In this week’s episode of “Walk the Dark Street” we return to the Age of Classic Noir with the 1946 Bogey and Bacall vehicle, directed by Howard Hawks and with a screenplay written by none other than William Faulkner, adapted from a Raymond Chandler novel. Faulkner, later legendary for his simple, clear-cut storytelling and basic, almost child-like use of language is the perfect person to adapt this painfully easy to follow story about a simple family, a simple mystery and I’m simply lying to you. This film is not easy to follow and is less of a whodunit than it is a “why is my forehead throbbing now that the movie’s over?” sort of film. Sure, the cast is amazing, Howard Hawks’ direction is slick, tight, and speedy but is that enough to overcome a, um, SLIGHTLY convoluted plot that ends up with more holes in it than a . . . thing with a lot of holes? I believe I’ve mentioned that I’m not good at these noir similes, haven’t I? Well, give a listen, and see if this is muddled mess or the sort of movie where you don’t really know what’s happening but you just don’t care? I’ll be over here with my Big Book of Film Noir Similes so maybe I’ll have a handle on it by the end of this series.

Poll question: when you watch a mystery or thriller, do you prefer to try to figure out whodunit in advance or do you like to just let the story carry you along?

Episode 260 – Diva (1981)

“Hey, man, you know what they call Max, Mike; Movies in France?”

“No. What do they call it?”

“They call it Le Max, Mike; Cinéma.”

“That’s cool. What do they call ‘Walk the Dark Street’ in France’?”

“That’d be “Marcher Dans La Rue Sombre. “

“Cool. Cool. Is that because they use the metric system?”

“What? No! How does that make any sense? Well, you’ve ruined it now.”

As you may have surmised, this week’s potential example of film noir comes from the land of 400 cheeses, Peugeots, and dressing: France, what with it being French and all. So, it’s French, it’s in color, and did we mention it’s not in English? Is this film actually film noir or, is it, as the French would say . . . um, film noir? Huh . . . Give le listen and findez-vous out!

Poll question: what is your favorite foreign film?

Episode 259 – The Long Goodbye (1973)

And we’re back, walking the dark street with our series “Walk the Dark Street.” Works out rather nicely, doesn’t it? This week our subject is a 70’s take on that classic Raymond Chandler character Phillip Marlowe in Robert Altman’s film version of “The Long Goodbye.” This one’s a little different folks; for one thing, it’s in color, which is an issue in and of itself (see the poll question below). For another, the hard-bitten, hard-drinking, razor sharp detective, so ably portrayed before by Humphrey Bogart, is now played by . . . Elliott Gould? Sure, that tracks. Natural progression, going from Bogey to Gould to Robert Mitchum (1975, “Farewell My Lovely”). I mean . . . at least they’re in correct alphabetical order? So this one is a poser, most dear and impeccably dressed listeners: can a noir film work with such an odd choice for Marlowe, and in color no less? Do please consider: this movie does have a cat in it, and it’s kind of surprising who plays the feline part. And a future governor of California makes an uncredited, non-speaking appearance, so we’re in for some interesting weather. Give a listen and see what we thought!

Poll question: do you think film noir works better with black-and-white movies or does color not make a difference?

Episode 258 – Sunset Boulevard (1950)

This dame was trouble. I could tell. Those big, brown eyes, so innocent, eyes that said “trust me, I won’t stab you in the back.” Right. I’d heard that before and I had the scars on my trapezius to prove it. She tossed her long mane of hair aside and crossed her long, gorgeous legs, all four of them. I sat back and . . . four? Mane? BUMPY?! How did you even fit in the dress?! And lipstick? Ponies don’t have lips! Get out of my office!

Welcome to a brand new, shiny series! Well, it’s not shiny or new. It’s dark and bleak and gritty and the sun never shines. It’s “Walk the Dark Street,” our series on film noir, that noir-y-est of all film styles. We’re leading off with “Sunset Boulevard.” Sure, it’s not a detective story but it’s dark, cynical, world-weary, and it’s got a dead monkey in it: all the ingredients for a noir film. Join us, won’t you? You’re ready for your close-up, aren’t you?

Poll question: What is your favorite film noir?