THE LAST HURRAH : Ten Greatest Film Noirs of the 20th Century and their best physical releases here in the 21st Century!

I have not put CASABLANCA or THIRD MAN on this list, because although they have noir elements, there is an A picture scope to them in terms of not just budget but aspiration, that transcends the conventions of the noir, they ultimately tell larger tales than the fall or redemption of a single man, which is the heart of the noir aesthetic.

With that caveat aside, onto the list.

  1. MALTESE FALCON (1941)

  2. DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944)

I don’t love the cover art for the Eureka release of Billy Wilder’s DOUBLE INDEMNITY (I think they should have gone with the art used for DVD and other releases) , but the film itself is magnificent, one of the greatest film noirs of all time. And a very good Blu-ray release. It is currently the must own version of this film.

3. MURDER MY SWEET (1944)

4. KISS ME DEADLY (1955)

5 DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS (1995)

Walter Mosley’s DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS remains a watershed book, in many ways improving on the pulp noir and film noir roots laid by writers like Hammett And Chandler. As someone who has read the book, listened to the audio book, and seen the film, Director and Screenwriter Carl Franklin’s take on DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS is just as watershed a film. With a stellar cast, the film is Noir distilled, while being one of the most beautiful color films, and is endlessly watchable and compelling. Indicator Films finally releases this film on Blu-ray, with Booklet and one newer special feature… a charming 2018 Interview– Carl Franklin: DANCING WITH THE DEVIL. That said I do wish they had sprung for new interviews and commentaries to go along with the ported features from the original 20 year old DVD; but that aside this is a must own limited-special edition release, that is  25 years in the making.

6. LADY FROM SHANGHAI (1947)

7. THE BIG HEAT (1953)

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8. THE BIG SLEEP (1946)

9. I WAKE UP SCREAMING (1941)

While ostensibly 1941’s MALTESE FALCON is recognized as the first FILM NOIR, this film, I WAKE UP SCREAMING, made at the same time as MALTESE FALCON, actually is the first film to put together all the iconic elements we would later associate with film noir.

In addition to the Femme Fatale, and the morally challenged protagonist, this film adds the heavy use of shadows, the Venetian blinds, the stylish dutch and off-center shooting angles, in essence the visual language of film noir shows up first in this least heralded of films. And with a winding script that keeps you shifting your belief of “who done it” from one character to another, and some strange and compelling performances and laudable direction, you end up with a film that deserves to be better known.

 

10. RAW DEAL (1948)

Being the single best of Anthony Mann’s and John Alton’s magnificent collaborations makes RAW DEAL a must for any top ten list. This special edition, complete with booklet  is a must own release.

Well, that’s it my top 10 list.

2020 saw all ten of these films available on quality, feature rich Blu-Ray releases (eff barebone, questionable quality 4K releases — I despise the “no interior artwork, lacking new artwork” 4k releases. I also blame 4k for the further fragmentation and dwindling of a market, that can not survive anymore fragmentation. If you are going to do UHD releases, release them with the Blu-Ray and/or DVD in multi-packs. You eliminate having to have a DVD market and a Bluray Market and a UHD market, and the associated expenses of trying to package for 3 different formats ) for the first time in the relatively short history of physical media. And arguably by the end of 2021 these ten movies will never again all be available in quality, feature rich, physical media versions.

I hope that will not be the case, but hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

If you want these films in physical media, pick all ten up today, while they are still in stock. Click the images to be taken to the movies in question.

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BOOK OF THE DAY: The Big Book of Noir

The Big Book of Noir

True to its name the Ed Gorman edited THE BIG BOOK OF NOIR covers all things Noir, from books to film… and especially offering sometimes striking insight from the creators, on the art and the business… of Noir. Definitely recommended.

‘When Bob [Robert Aldrich] was directing and he wanted me, he knew the best thing was to let me alone. He gave me the Mickey Spillane book KISS ME DEADLY (to adapt into a screenplay/movie) and I said, “This is Lousy. Let me see what I can do.” You give me a piece of junk, I can’t write it. I have to write something else. So I went to work on it. I write if fast, because I had contempt for it. It was automatic writing. You get into a kind of stream and you can’t stop.’
— A.I. B
ezzerides, Screenwriter of KISS ME DEADLY

Kiss Me Deadly (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

The Mike Hammer Collection, Volume 2: One Lonely Night, The Big Kill, Kiss Me Deadly

I’m a huge fan of the film, and could never get into the Spillane novel. Spillane’s writing to me always seemed a ‘by-the-numbers’ take of the square jawed tough guy (and that might be an unfair assessment looking at his work from a 21st century perspective, perhaps his work just does not age as well as some other writers, however the movie is also of this period and I find it timeless), and what I like about the film is, between script and direction, it subverts all those tropes.  However, try both film and book for yourself… and decide.

More Great Movie Opening / Title Credit Sequences!

My previous tirade on public domain abuse and Shakespeare 🙂 made me think of a few more incredible opening credit sequences.


WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE’S ROMEO AND JULIET- Brilliantly directed by Baz Lurhmann (the only one of his four films I’ve seen all of, the other three I’m not positive are for me) this is a great film, great trailer, and…. Great opening credit sequence.

William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet (Special Edition)


PAT GARRET AND BILLY THE KID- You could hold up any of Pekinpah’s films, but even for a Pekinpah film this credit sequence stands out. It’s amazing. And not something PETA would approve of.

Sam Peckinpah’s Legendary Westerns Collection (The Wild Bunch / Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid / Ride the High Country / The Ballad of Cable Hogue)

PISTOL WHIPPED- Seagal’s movies of the last decade or two have been of questionable quality. PISTOL WHIPPED is a surprisingly good film, that I actually enjoy more, every time I watch it. And one of the impressive things for me with this film was that opening credit sequence. Bullets and Gravestones, a nicely done combination.

Pistol Whipped


MENACE II SOCIETY- Doesn’t actually have a credit sequence, it has a title sequence. But what a sequence. It is a horrific, horrific film, that remains almost 20 years later brilliantly directed, and wrenchingly performed. To think this is someone’s debut film is amazing. Offensive, vulgar, sad, twisted, and unfortunately still too accurate a portrait of generational ignorance, lost souls, and man made hells. But the film is also quite engrossing, with moments of levity and even fleeting moments… of love.

Menace II Society [Blu-ray]
I’m a DVD guy, I really don’t care for Bluray. The packaging sucks (The moronic blue bar, was it designed by a blind guy? Cheap materials, poorly designed. Everyone I own (METROPOLIS, WATCHMEN Director’s Cut) looks like crap on my shelf, compared to the simple, functional design of a DVD case), and the quality difference between DVD, for me isn’t enough to justify paying more. So, I only recommend Blu-rays over DVD, if they offer special features not found on the DVD, and the price is right. This Blu-Ray qualifies.

Kiss Me Deadly (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

KISS ME DEADLY- Sports one of the most striking and haunting credit sequences. The Scrolling text, with the woman panting inconsolably beneath it.


FRACTURE- Is a very good thriller, with a quiet, understated credit sequence that is, like the film itself… endearing, and sticks with you long after you’ve seen the movie.

Fracture (Widescreen Edition)

That’s all for now!