BETRAYAL, DECEPTION AND LUST: TCM's FILM NOIR(ISH) TRIPLE DECKER TRIPLE FEATURE
Tonite ( date correction
: September 6
th ) is a great night of TCM programming, for me
anyway...and for you, hopefully, as it’s the introduction into the career of Star of the Month: KIRK DOUGLAS.
This evening’s noirish
triple decker triple feature, “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers” “Out of the Past”
and “I Walk Alone”
are samples of some of the best movies film noir has to offer.
I find “I Walk Alone” to be a quintessential dyed-in-the-wool 1940’s movie.
All three films dress themselves differently. If they were quilts, they’d have distinct patterns. They evince different shades and shapes of the noir pallette. I find “Out of the Past” the glossiest dime in this bunch with its outdoor scenes filmed in bright sunlight. The movie’s silver nitrate ‘pings’
with crispness. The message also seems to come across how small we humans are; see Mitchum walk along the lake when he’s fishing, with those mountains as a backdrop.
“...Martha Ivers” and “I Walk Alone” look flatter to me with all the in-studio shooting; a matte finish instead of a glossy one. (This is not
a criticism; just highlighting the differences of how each movie feels and looks to me). “Out of the Past” has the more complex plot with flashbacks and sub-plots weaving seamlessly in and out of its noir-y tapestry.
“I Walk Alone” and “...Martha Ivers” have plots that go forward in a simpler, laser beam sort of way... straight and true. When I travel these three films noir, I can gaze along the way at the scenery of a straight road just as easily as I can check out the scenery of a winding, twisty road. All three films give me something to look at and enjoy. Part of the scenery along the road is...our heroes. They each have a distinct persona. And some I feel sorrier for than others.VAN HEFLIN as The Sardonic, SAM MASTERSON
“I don’t like to get pushed around. I don’t like anyone I like to be pushed around. I don’t like anyone to get pushed around.” “I wasn’t there, Martha.”
It took me a good thirty-five years and 11,329,099, 632 times of watching “THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS”
to really fall for Van Heflin. Now, I’m crazy about him in this movie. He plays Sam Masterson and Sam is a wise-guy, wry and smart alec, he roams from thing to thing. Did a stint in the Army. He’s very flippant (“the road turned and I didn’t.”)
Heflin’s is the easiest and breeziest of performances of tonite. But there are
a couple of layers to our Sammykins. HURT
- As he talks about his “people” we see a glimpse of the hurt of a boy who has been abandoned. SENSITIVITY
- He covers Toni with a blanket when she falls asleep in his
bed. He does so, tenderly, with Miklos Rosza’s music sweetly underscoring the scene. (Oh those lush violins make my heart swoon). To be honest, Toni could really be his
for the asking as he wryly watches her eagerness to be with him. But she’s been victimized enough. OPPORTUNISM
- Sam looks for a favor from his old childhood friend when he kind of stumbles onto his past. Maybe this
film should be called ‘Out of the Past.’ If he can cut himself a piece of the coal-baked pie...he’s in. He’ll roll the dice with his grandmother if he had to. When he hooks up again with Martha, is it true love, passion with him? I don’t think so. Their first kiss was a tender nostalgic one, but when Martha opens her eyes in that glorious close-up, and then Sam does...it becomes something else; calculations and machinations I think Sam has more feeling for Toni than he does with Martha ‘roll-in-the-hay- for-old-times-sake’
Ivers. You know you really can’t
go home again. Sam is very different from Jeff Markham. If you want to see what it looks like when the mighty falls, you ought to stay tuned at 10:00pm and watch Robert Mitchum in “Out of the Past.” P.S.
Love ANN DORAN’s little spot as Douglas’ secretary. She’s intriguing.
********MITCHUM as Laconic Fatalist, JEFF BAILEY”You build my gallows high, Baby.”
There’s something devastating about a man who falls in love, and gets his heart broken. That’s part of the story of “OUT OF THE PAST.”
I think it’s safe to say this film is considered by many to be the gold standard of film noir. From the crisp dialogue and cinematography to die for, the melancholy music that doesn’t intrude but underscores, the perfect cast and the fluid direction of Jacques Tourneur, “Out of the Past” has it all; night shrouds events, the requisite wide-brimmed fedoras and trenchcoat, a hero who stolidly meets his fate, and Jane Greer walking in from the sunlight.
It’s not like our hero doesn’t try to get out of the way. He does. ROBERT MITCHUM
as Jeff Bailey changes his name and profession to start a new life. But his past catches up with him when Kirk Douglas’ character “big-time operator” Whit Stirling brings Jeff back in the fold. You’ve seen a bunch of movies where two guys fall for the same girl. Well, it happens here too. Whit sends Jeff to bring back his girl. Why would a man want back a woman who stole his money and
shoots him? Believe me, he doesn’t care about the money. Jeff finally sees the girl. The build-up to WHO the Object of Desire is is great. She walked in out of the sun...and blinded him.
Even with Lana and Ava and Rita and Gloria and Joanie et al making their seductive contributions to being lethaI ladies, I find Jane Greer the most devastating femme fatale I’ve ever seen. Her lies are criminal, her eyes should be against the law.
I’ve seen this movie a slew of times and never noticed until tonight that the earrings Jeff buys from the guide and offers to Kathie, which she refuses, are the same earrings she wears when they come in out of the rain running into her cabin. So you see, you can find something Jeff and Kathie have like a “Last Tango in Paris” type arrangement where he meets her on her terms, at night and asks no question. It’s Jeff’s falling that gets me. He’s so big, man of few words...waits for her like a school boy.When he’s betrayed it’s rough. He doesn’t drink like Bogie in “Casablanca” but it is
a kick in the teeth. He sees who he’s dealing with now. And he’s got to beat her at her own game. But you don’t know Kathie Moffatt.
I have to beg to differ with TCM's guest host, Illeana Douglas, when she says the plot of this film is confusing. It’s not in the least.