A Movie Day: Quint on Fritz Lang’s CLASH BY NIGHT (1952)!
Home is where you come when you’ve run out of places.
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge and plowing through the hundreds of DVDs I own for movies I haven’t seen. Each day I’ll talk about a film I haven’t previously seen and each film will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
I don’t know if you guys saw the talkback on THE ASPHALT JUNGLE yesterday, but I’ve been throwing myself off of a horrible sleep schedule that I’ve been fighting since my trip to Romania. I’ve been getting up later and later, hence the reason for the articles posting later and later in the day. I decided to stay up about 24 hours and swing myself over to a more regular schedule and as a result I went to bed around 4pm and slept a good 12 hours.
I was able to watch yesterday’s movie, CLASH BY NIGHT, yesterday and now I’m writing it up. You’ll also see SCARLET STREET post later today.
CLASH BY NIGHT, Fritz Lang’s 1952 drama, is included in Warner Brother’s Film Noir Classics Collection (v2) although it doesn’t have many of the trademarks of the noir genre.
For instance there is no crime involved in the story… it’s also an RKO Picture, a studio not as well known for noir, although they did produce many of Val Lewton’s noiry horror titles (which we’ll get into later down the line).
But the reason for its inclusion in the Noir set is first and foremost Barbara Stanwyck’s superbly aging femme fatale turn as Mae in the flick. She belongs in a hard case private dick movie and you get the feeling that perhaps Mae’s past did include people like Sam Spade. Considering that, casting Stanwyck in this role was a stroke of genius. She brings along that baggage from her noir work like DOUBLE INDEMNITY.
The flick is set in a West Coast fishing village, a small town dedicated to fisherman and canneries. Mae returns home, still beautiful, but getting older. You get the impression that the world has chewed her up and spit her out.
She saunters back into her hometown and into the lives of her kind-of-a-bastard brother (played by Keith Andes), his girlfriend (played by Marilyn Monroe, the year before she became an icon with the double-shot of HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE and GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES), a local swinger named Earl (the always great Robert Ryan) and a local fisherman named Jerry (an outstanding turn by Paul Douglas). Jerry’s a bear of a man, with a heart bigger than it should be.
He falls for Mae and she for him in a very guarded sense. She thinks he’s too good for her and he can’t believe what the hell he’s hearing… he’s no looker, he’s not all that smart, but he’s kind and good through and through. That’s what scares her. She’s attracted to dangerous men and always hurts the good guys.
The sexual tension between Stanwyck and Robert Ryan is thick in the film. He really is a bastard, he hates women just as much as he loves them. Robert Ryan is Earl, Jerry’s best friend, and he continues to make moves after Jerry and Mae are married, sensing that something in Stanwyck is turned on by it.
Paul Douglas steals this film. Other than a turn in 1951’s ANGELS IN THE OUTFIELD (a film I saw as a kid, but don’t remember much about), I’m totally unfamiliar with him as an actor, but I get an Ernest Borgnine vibe off of him. Not mean EMPEROR OF THE NORTH POLE Borgnine, but the sweet and soft version he doesn’t get to play too often… a little dumb, but with a big heart and even bigger personality. Douglas is in a film featuring in this article… don’t know when we’ll get to it, but it’s an Ealing comedy called THE MAGGIE. Can’t wait to see him work again after this one.
Stanwyck is unbelievable in this movie. She’s four hundred different things at once. She’s a manipulator, she’s the puppet, she’s longing for real, true love, she’s a seductress of other men, she’s tired of life and she’s invigorated by life. She’s always moving. Her performance is multi-layered and fascinating. Just watch how she uses body language in this movie and what her eyes tell you.
Alfred Hayes (screenwriter), adapting Clifford Odets’ play, gives her film noir dialogue, but in this melodrama setting. Her words are like bullets out of a machine gun, spurting poetically out of her mouth in quick bursts.
Monroe is luminous in the film, even more beautiful and care-free likable than in yesterday’s AMAD: THE ASPHALT JUNGLE. She has a little more to do here and… well, she is in a swimsuit at one point, so there’s that, too. However, I did notice that they looped a lot of her lines, so maybe that means she wasn’t very good on the first run at it.
Lang’s direction is great… a lot of interesting camerawork here. Long takes, moving camera. The black and white photography isn’t very dark, or at least not as dark as Lang’s previous entries, like METROPOLIS or M, but he does use the camera to tell the story just as much as the actors and dialogue and the cinematography is sharp.
Overall, a great surprise of a drama. I hope you guys dug it as much as I did.
Here’s the line-up for the next 7 days:
Sunday, June 15th: SCARLET STREET (1945)
Monday, June 16th: KILLER BAIT (aka TOO LATE FOR TEARS) (1949)
Tuesday, June 17th: ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS (1964)
Wednesday, June 18th: CITY FOR CONQUEST (1940)
Thursday, June 19th: SAN QUENTIN (1937)
Friday, June 20th: 42nd STREET (1933)
Saturday, June 21st: DAMES (1934)
Be back in the evening with the next installment, 1945’s SCARLET STREET starring Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett and Dan Duryea… We follow director Fritz Lang back to this noir.
Take a look at the line-up above… we have a couple more of the more obscure noirs, a sci-fi flick and a few musicals. In the coming weeks we have many more 60s and 70s films and our first run of flicks that takes us into the 1980s.
See you folks for SCARLET STREET!
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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June 15, 2008, 6:17 a.m. CST
by Lloyd Bonafide the Korean War Veteran
June 15, 2008, 8:38 a.m. CST
Good stuff. I'll stay tuned to get your take on it.
June 15, 2008, 8:59 a.m. CST
I agrees tho. Beats the hell out of ScriptGirl / Harry's DVD adverts / bad teen fiction. More Quint! Occasional Cumpston! Vern! This is what the kids want, and I, as a self-appointed arbiter of taste, have thus decreed up on the matter.
June 15, 2008, 9:49 a.m. CST
Yeah, I love the Berkeley I've seen and it's actually some of the greyest stuff on the list... in that I've seen a ton of his movies and I find it hard to keep straight in my mind, so it's quite possible I've seen some of the Berkeley stuff on the list. I know I've seen one of the Gold Diggers movies, but I don't remember if it was 1933 or 1935... Saw one of 'em at the Alamo. Footlight Parade is the only one in the Berkeley Box Set I'm sure I've seen...
June 15, 2008, 11:24 a.m. CST
by Raymond Shaw
I dunno about quantity but as far as quality is concerned RKO should be associated with film noir. "Out of the Past" (with R Mitchum), "On Dangerous Ground" (with R Ryan), "Crossfire" (with Mitchum and Ryan), "They Live by Night" , "Deadline at Dawn", "Murder, My Sweet" are all top notch noirs from RKO. They also put out a bunch of lesser but still good noirs like "The Set Up" (Ryan again), "Macao" (Mitchum again) "The Narrow Margin" Raymond Shaw
June 15, 2008, 11:25 a.m. CST
Has anyone seen an obscure Max Ophuls (from when he was in America) noir called Caught? It has one of the classic Ryan performances as a Howard Hughes-esque psycho millionaire in love/hate with Barbara Bel Geddes. It is only available on a French Region 2 import. Has anyone heard anything about a release from Warners? If you see it on TCM's schedule, it's worth watching. Come for the noir, stay for the Ryan-tastic.
June 15, 2008, 12:18 p.m. CST
by lex romero
hopefully we have have the neverending "is it a noir or not" debate, heh. Edwawrd Robinson is fantastic though. Fantastic actor.
June 15, 2008, 1:03 p.m. CST
I just watched this movie last night! It's in my Noir set, though I hardly consider it such. Stanwick's awesome, as is Ryan!
June 15, 2008, 1:13 p.m. CST
... and also buy a mint copy of Action Comics #1.
June 15, 2008, 2:15 p.m. CST
I have the Noir box set and was originally disappointed when I watched this one. Not that this is a bad movie per-se, but it is not something I would really consider a noir, so did not satisfy the mood I was craving at the time. Need to pop it back in and give it a fair shake.<br><Br> And R. Shaw, that is indeed a fine list of movies from the RKO vaults. Underrated and forgotten gems.
June 15, 2008, 7:30 p.m. CST
Quint, here is my suggestion for you. Watch four or five movies a week, and pick the best or most controversial one and discuss that on Sunday. That way it will be more of an "event".
June 15, 2008, 7:33 p.m. CST
you really make AICN look bad when one of your reviews appears right above the previous day's review. it really shows how little AICN posts anymore.
June 15, 2008, 9:30 p.m. CST
I do see what you're saying... there will be a point, and we might have reached it, where people start dropping away now that the newness has worn off... But keeping this pace is a big part of the experiment. It's like a diet of film, a new daily routine. I don't expect everyone to keep up with it. That's my job, it doesn't have to be yours. If there's a quote that grabs you in the headline or a title you'd like to discuss, then anyone can jump in at any time.<BR><BR>As far as updates, the weekends are always slow. You'll probably end up seeing 3 AMADs above the fold since I'm posting today's tonight (and because I was late with yesterday's), but come tomorrow morning that won't be the case anymore, thanks to Merrick, Mori, Harry... and maybe me in the morning, scrounging up the leftovers.<BR><BR>Thanks to everyone keeping up so far. See you in the next one!
June 15, 2008, 10:44 p.m. CST
but Scarlet Street is a gazillion times better.
June 16, 2008, 12:23 a.m. CST
by Napoleon Park
I saw Barbara Stanwyck as the matriarch on "the Big Valley". It wasn't until years later after they first invented cable Tv and were filling the late night hours with great movies you never see anymore that I actually saw a Barbara Stanwyck movie and realizes how earth, sensual and sexy she was. It was a little disturbing, actually, like finding out your grandma used to be hot.
June 16, 2008, 2:54 a.m. CST
I was about to leave AICN. It is full of people who know nothing about movies and a lot about hate.
June 16, 2008, 7:24 a.m. CST
by Darth Fart
It makes you wonder how many talkbackers are actually "film fans?" If this was a Hulk thread, it'd be full of unarticulated crap.
June 16, 2008, 6:34 p.m. CST
RKO produced craploads of Noir and there are craploads of them without crime. It's the tone and characterizations, not the subject matter that counts.
June 17, 2008, 3:54 p.m. CST
I wish I could keep up with this. I just don't got the time, I love old films though but since my mind was injected with brandwashing since I was a wee kid old style movies just can't hold my ADD unless I sit down and plan like 2 days ahead to watch a B&W film. UNLESS ITS LANGS. Though I did a study of Langs work in college and its obvious his work droped off when he fled to America even though the H-Man was a big fan. He pretty much is the first in the line of directors to come to Hollywood and make nothing remotely close to what they were doing in their homeland. A lot of his Hollywood films are noir and not that much too them. Even his later works where he went back to Germany were not that good, but by then he had pretty much become blind and crazy. I wonder what would've happened had he stayed and took H-man's offer?
July 5, 2008, 10:59 p.m. CST
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