Thanks to Turner Classic Movies’ nine-week Summer of Darkness series, I spent June and July with duplicitous dames, menacing mugs and the movie buffs that love them. And although August is half over, I’m not ready to give up this twisted summer romance.
First, some stats: I watched 55 of the 121 films (most of them on the indispensable Watch TCM App) and had previously seen another 26 of the titles in the series (brilliantly curated by TCM programmer Millie De Chirico). I also got to see three of the programmed movies on the big screen in New York City within weeks of their TV airings. Hitchcock’s criminally underrated THE WRONG MAN (1956) and the gorgeous 4K restoration of Carol Reed’s THE THIRD MAN (1949) both played at Film Forum in July, and I caught an outdoor screening of Robert Siodmak’s THE KILLERS (1946) in Bryant Park (which I wrote about here).
My favorite is a three-way tie: Byron Haskin’s TOO LATE FOR TEARS (1949) with “tiger” Lizabeth Scott; Richard Fleischer’s NARROW MARGIN (1952) with gravel-voiced noir stalwart Charles McGraw; and Joseph H. Lewis’ seminal GUN CRAZY (1950). Least fav: the talky A WOMAN’S SECRET (1949) with Maureen O’Hara. Biggest what the fuck? David Bradley’s TALK ABOUT A STRANGER (1952) with George Murphy, Nancy Davis (future Mrs. Reagan) and Billy Gray (Bud from Father Knows Best), which apparently failed to kick off the “Dog Noir” sub-genre.
I learned a lot during Noir Summer, thanks to host Eddie Muller’s witty and insightful wrap-arounds and Professor Rich Edwards’ on-line course Investigating Film Noir, presented by Ball State University in conjunction with TCM. But my biggest takeaway from the last two months is this: I prefer pulpy, low-budget noir to the glossier studio product.
And here’s the best part: tons of independently produced and Poverty Row noirs are streaming for free on YouTube. So my love affair can continue. For free.
If you’re jonesing for one more crime film fix before you hang up your #NoirSummer holster, I write about five underrated noirs today for the excellent film blog Rupert Pupkin Speaks. You can read it here.
Let me know what you think of my choices, and tell me your suggestions for others I shouldn’t miss. Because we’re all in this together now, pal. Whether you like it or not.