It’s tough deciding what to write about first for a film festival. For my AFI FEST 2011 series I tried to go in linear order as best I could, but that went out the window as later showings all vied for my attention. In the end I only reviewed a handful of films when I could have reviewed pretty much everything. This year I aim to fix that and put more of a Flickchart spin on my festival coverage, starting with the TCM Classic Film Fest 2012. There will be a couple of single reviews, of course, but I’ll also be ranking and comparing some of the films I’ve seen based on a theme or particular element that ties the films together.
I’d like to start this post series with a look at TCM’s selection of Noir films. Considering the theme of the festival was “style in the movies,” it’s only natural that they would have films from that genre handy. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to work all the Noir films into my schedule, but the ones that I did see were an absolute treat.
But which one was best? Which one had the edge over the others? In true noir fashion, let’s set all the cards on the table and see how it all shakes out!
Directed By: Robert Siodmak
Starring: Burt Lancaster • Dan Duryea • Stephen McNally • Tom Pedi • Yvonne De Carlo
Genres: Caper • Crime • Crime Drama • Crime Thriller • Drama • Femme Fatale • Film Noir • Thriller
By far the most polished of the three, Criss Cross is a solid entry in the genre. Burt Lancaster turns in a great performance as Steve, an armored truck driver who joins forces with a criminal named Slim (played by Dan Duryea) to rob a vast sum of money. They’re joined by Yvonne De Carlo, who holds her own as Anna, the ex-wife with an agenda of her own. Everything plays out like you might expect, which is really only the main complaint I have about this film.
Raw Deal is about a man names Joe (O’Keefe) who has taken the rap for Rick (played to the nines by Raymond Burr). Joe escapes with the help of his girl Pat (Trevor) and they embark on a quest for payback. Along the way they kidnap Joe’s case worker Ann (Hunt), sparking a rather fatal love triangle. This is quite an interesting beast of a film. The plotting is a little on the clunky side and I’m not entirely certain the narration gimmick works for me. We get the occasional voiceover from Pat, but it only comes into play when the film dons her point of view. An interesting idea, but it plays out a bit more jarring than it probably should. That said, I adore the contrast between the two female characters and that this is essentially their story.
Directed By: Reginald Le Borg
Starring: Robert Armstrong • Lou Lubin • Elisha Cook Jr. • Teala Loring • Virginia Dale
Genres: Crime • Drama • Film Noir • Police Detective Film • Psychological Thriller • Thriller
Bringing up the rear is Fall Guy, which has perhaps the most interesting premise out of the three films. Tom Cochrane (Penn) is picked up by the feds, full of dope and covered in blood. All evidence points to him as a murderer, but there’s only one hitch: there is no victim. Tom must retrace his steps to find out what happened the night before and to determine whether he actually committed murder. Despite it’s interesting premise, the film has a few problems that are hard to look past. First and foremost is the rather blunt and kindergarten-level anti-drug message, which plays out in the dialog every few minutes. The acting is also weak and uninspired, making some of the more dramatic scenes play out sillier than they should. If it weren’t for the basic idea, this film would be a complete pass.
Criss Cross has the polish, Raw Deal the characters, and Fall Guy the premise. Only one of them can have the top spot, so which one gets the prize? Coming in at #328 on my Flickchart, Raw Deal stands above the rest. Despite my nitpicks, it was perhaps the most entertaining film out of the bunch and even though the narration gimmick didn’t work as well for me, it was still interesting. I loved the dynamic between the two female characters and how they fought for control of Joe’s moral compass. If you get a chance to see this one, I highly recommend it.