List o’ the Week: Noir I Don’t Care For (Part 1)

The poster, I like. The movie, not so much.

The poster, I like. The movie, not so much.

This edition of the “list o’ the week” may represent even more of a sacrilege than my previous failure to fall head over heels for Arsenic and Old Lace – this week, I list those film noir features that, frankly, left me cold. There aren’t many – y’all know how I love my noir. But every now and then, I run across a noir that isn’t necessarily shadowy because of its setting and tone, but because I’m trying to shield my eyes! Hence, I offer this week’s list, in no particular order: Noir I Don’t Care For (Part 1).

House on 92nd Street (1945)

When I think of noirs that I never plan to see again, this is always the first one that comes to mind.  Filled with spies and Nazis and whatnot, this semi-documentary “based on actual FBI files” just wasn’t my cup of tea. In fact, I’ve found that, generally speaking, I’m not a huge fan of the semi-documentary noirs – which brings me to . . .

He Walked By Night (1948)

This film, about a cop-killer on the lam, is often lauded by noir lovers – a glance at the reviews on the reveals such accolades as “influential,” “innovative,” “suspenseful,” and “unforgettable.” It was kind of a yawn-fest for me.

It certainly looks noirish enough, but come on – it's CLAUDETTE COLBERT.

It certainly looks noirish enough, but come on – it’s CLAUDETTE COLBERT.

Sleep, My Love (1948)

Claudette Colbert. Film noir.  There’s just something very wrong with that combination.

Cornered (1945)

Although it stars Dick Powell – and I’m nuts about Dick Powell – this one just did not do it for me. He played a Canadian pilot and prisoner of war survivor bent on avenging the death of his French war bride. Just, no.

The Second Woman (1950)

Lots of psychiatric terms tossed about in this one – like “paranoiac” and “delusions” and “persecution.” I actually don’t even remember what it was about. I just remember that I was glad when it was over.

Abandoned (1949)

The best part of this movie was Raymond Burr (who can practically do no wrong, in my book), but even he couldn’t salvage this snoozer about a baby-stealing racket.

The best thing about this clunker was Hedy Lamarr's wardrobe.

The best thing about this clunker was Hedy Lamarr’s wardrobe.

A Lady Without Passport (1950)

Hedy Lamarr and John Hodiak starred in this feature, whose plot I never was able to decipher.

On Dangerous Ground (1952)

Goodness knows, I’m wild about Ida Lupino and Robert Ryan, but not in this film. Ryan was a brooding, quick-tempered New York cop and Lupino played a blind woman who strikes up a friendship with the officer – I hate to admit it, but I agreed with the notoriously acerbic New York Times critic Bosley Crowther when he panned the movie’s “obvious attempt to get something more than sheer melodrama onto the screen.”

Mr. Arkadin (1955)

I confess that I could not even make it through this Orson Welles starrer. In fact, I disliked it so much that I decided it wasn’t film noir at all, and left it completely out of the chapter on Welles in my book, Bad Boys. (Don’t tell anybody.)

The Sniper (1952)

I think that, of all the films on this list, this one is my least favorite. Centering on a mentally disturbed laundry service employee, this picture was directed by Stanley Kramer and featured one of my all-time favorite femmes, Marie Windsor – but no matter. It was lousy.

What say you? Have you seen any of these? What did you think?

~ by shadowsandsatin on February 4, 2013.

21 Responses to “List o’ the Week: Noir I Don’t Care For (Part 1)”

  1. Oh, good, so I’m not the only one who found CORNERED and MR. ARKADIN disappointing! I wanted to like them, honest I did, especially CORNERED, since it was my hero Dick Powell’s first film after one of my favorites, MURDER, MY SWEET. Each film had its moments, but nowhere near enough to keep my attention. Furthermore, at the risk of sounding catty to my fellow females, the women were surprisingly drab and plain. I know postwar life was tough, but this was just plain blah. And MR. ARKADIN came across like a high school movie class assigntment. Don’t you hate when that happens? Thanks for giving me a chance to get that off my chest, Karen! 🙂

    • Dorian, your comment had me cracking up! The worst part, for me, about Mr. Arkadin, is that I’d purchased it from a private dealer for the purposes of viewing it for my book, and then I was like, EW.

  2. I haven’t seen all the films on your list, but while I disagree with you about ON Dangerous Ground as I enjoy watching how Ryan regains a measure of his humanity, I do agree with you on House on 92nd Street (great location shots but the plot is rather dull and the casting could have used a charismatic star in the lead role) and especially Cornered, which I consider more of a ho hum cloak and dagger espionage spy story than real noir. Cornered is a true misfire.

    • Hi, Charles! I definitely appreciated Ryan’s performance in On Dangerous Ground, but overall, it left me checking my watch, if you know what I mean. I’m glad you agree about Cornered — I actually felt bad, not liking a Dick Powell feature, but good grief!

  3. I haven’t seen any of these films, and am having real trouble imagining Claudette Colbert in a film noir. Also, I loved the word “clunker”.

  4. Awesome list. One of my biggest disappointments yet (after nearly 100 noirs) was “Shadow of a Doubt”. It was booooring and nearly no suspense at all. After all, I’m not Hitch’s biggest fan. Only a handful of his movies really stood the test of time, imo. Especially I mostly hate his characterisation of women. Looking forward to your next list. Read you soon, Karen!

    • Hi, Jörn! Thanks! I must say Hitchcock is one of my favorites, but the first time I saw “Shadow of a Doubt,” I didn’t see what the fuss was about. It seemed kinda slow-moving, without much to it. But I have seen it numerous times since, and grow to appreciate it more each time — not just the performances, but the tension that builds throughout, and the sheer malevolence Joseph Cotten’s character — I simply love it now. See you soon!

  5. The House on 92nd Street had one true noir scene in a dockside bar, which was so “echt” noir, it was almost parodic – other than that, it was basically a policier-snoozer that doesn’t build to anything. The Second Woman had a plot that was too complicated and confusing even for noir; plus, as I recall, everything seemed to hinge on a house’s architecture, which just, somehow, lacked drama. The house motif brings to mind Fritz Lang’s The Secret Beyond the Door, another ‘architecture’ noir that I’ve always found slightly preposterous (talk about unbelievable and confusing plotting!), and wasn’t one of Joan Bennett’s or Lang’s best noir outings.

  6. cool idea, Karen. just curious if you (and maybe this is for another post) love any semi-docu or strictly procedural noirs, or is the whole subgenre kind of boring to you as opposed to character driven ones? related: architecture noir is another cool idea for a list!
    bye bye!

  7. Intriguing topic for a post! I’m a big fan of CORNERED, though. Powell gives one of his best performances as an obsessed man of vengeance. I’m not sure how the producer got that pic past the censors. Doesn’t he beat a man to death?

    • Thanks, Rick! Wow, yet another “Cornered” fan! That one seems to definitely have a mixed bag of fans and non-fans! I vaguely recalled the beating — but since not much about the movie sticks in my head, I’m not surprised that it’s only a vague recollection, LOL.

  8. Good for you. Just proves yet again we all have our likes and dislikes. Personally I love ON DANGEROUS GROUND.
    Sometimes you have to be brave to say you don’t like something others think is wonderful. So Bravo!
    I look forward to your part 2.

  9. Reblogged this on filmcamera999.

  10. I remember really liking He Walked by Night, but it’s been awhile since I’ve seen it.

    I have to disagree about Cornered. I loved that one. You know who else loved it? Cranky old NY TImes critic Bosley Crowther, who pretty much hated everything. But now I can’t dig up his 1945 review online.

    I tend to find something I like in most noirs, and although I apparently gave a good review to Sleep, My Love, I don’t remember a thing about it. So that’s not really a mark in its favor. Also, I am definitely not a fan of Claudette Colbert.

    House on 92nd Street is pretty lame, but historically interesting. As far as noir “docudramas” go, I’ve always thought Call Northside 777 is a lot weaker than its reputation suggests. I do love T-Men and Canon City, though. I guess I like them low-budget and trashy.

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