I did some rewatching of noir flicks this week, but also enjoyed two new films — one old and dark, one new and satirically darker:
Phantom Lady (1944): I finally got to see Phantom Lady, featuring Ella Raines, directed by Robert Siodmak, and produced by Joan Harrison (a Hitchcock protege turned noir producer). Raines plays Carol Richman, a career gal who takes it upon herself to prove her boss did not kill his wife. Along with Lucille Ball two years later in The Dark Corner (1946), Raines effectively broadens the scope of women’s roles in noir. She is no femme fatale nor blushing bride but the “working girl,” full of integrity and determination (even if directed in service of a man rather than herself), the noir version of the Hawksian woman — e.g. Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday (1940). In fact, it was Hawks who discovered Raines; read more on this subject by Imogen Sara Smith in Noir City. As many critics have noted, the great weakness in this film is Franchot Tone, who gives away his secrets almost immediately after entering the picture at the midpoint. Instead of the Hitchcock approach (where we worry with Raines rather than wonder who the villain is), Harrison should have kept everyone guessing. This failure, however, is offset not only by Raines’ performance but by Elisha Cook Jr, performing the most orgasmic drum solo ever shot and slipped past the censors. RECOMMENDED.
Bad copy but worth seeing:
Er ist Wieder Da (Look Who’s Back) (2015): Hitler awakens on the ground above the site of his Berlin bunker in 2014 and TV producers have a field day. I don’t think you need more description than this for a brilliant satire that is like a mix of Spike Lee’s Bamboozled (2000) and Borat (2006). The humor is broad yet sometimes so incisive it’s painful, and Oliver Masucci makes Hitler utterly magnetic…terrifyingly so. Streaming on Netflix now with subtitles; don’t miss it.HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.