Thursday, December 1, 2022

Christmas & Holliday Set Noir (some with links)

It seems appropriate to mention a few of the Film Noir/Neo Noir that take place around Christmas and the Holidays



Classical Noir




L'Assassinat du père Noël (Who Killed Santa Claus?
) (1941) - 
Gaspard the globe maker is a French alpine towns Père Noël. Every Christmas Eve he visits, carrying a woven basket over his shoulder rather than a sack, all the houses in town with children. He does his routine. It's a French Version of "who's naughty and who is nice." He's of course tipped off by the parents ahead of time, and he makes the naughty kids squirm by mentioning, say, that he has two whips in the bottom of his basket for them. At every house Gaspard is offered a seat by a warm fireplace and the best drink of the house by the parents, resulting that over the course of Santa's visits Père Noël gets drunker and drunker. By the time he reaches the last house he is teetering and keeps getting the little boy's name wrong. It's quite amusing. But Père Noël never shows up for the mid night mass.   

"Alpen Noir - Christmas Noir - Snow Noir - Kids Noir"

A dead Santa laying in a snowfield in the French Alps










Christmas Holiday  Gotta love Hayes Code Hollywood, after officer Harren's plane lands in New Orleans and he's put up in a hotel, a guy (actually a pimp for a whorehouse) suggests that they go to a "dance hall" to forget his troubles and after all its Christmas Eve. They arrive and we get subtle shots suggesting what the dance hall really is: We see two women sitting together, and two women dancing together pass by on the screen as the pimp goes to find the Madame.

New Orleans - whorehouse with decked halls of holly- Fa-la-la-la-la 


Roadblock 
 
The tale begins with a teaser, insurance detectives Joe Peters (Charles McGraw) and Harry Miller stage a shootout in Cincinnati, Peters "kills" Miller in front of a "mark" about to get into a car. Peters forces the mark at gunpoint the drive him away from the scene of the crime. The menacing Peters threatens the mark as being the only witness, the mark panics, and offers Peters $100,000 to not kill him. Peters acquiesces and the mark drives him to a cemetery where in the tomb of his late brother he removes a floor tile hiding a tin box containing the money he embezzled. Detective Miller who tailed Peters and the mark re-appears at the tomb and Peters with Miller arrest the embezzler. 

The real story begins when Peters, while flying back to LA, meets and is smitten by con girl Diane (Dixon). Diane cons herself to a reduced ticket by pretending to be Peters' wife. Straight-arrow Peters disapproves of the scam when Diane takes the seat on the plane but keeps mum. Bad weather forces the plane down for an unscheduled landing and being "husband & wife" on the roster they have to share a room at the only hotel in town. It's a cute meet type of situation, and by the end of the trip in LA Peters is hooked on Diane, but Diane has her sights set on bigger game. 

Joan Dixon and Charles McGraw









Crime Wave  Crime Wave (1953) Masterpiece of L.A. Location Noir - This is a great late period quickly paced Noir shot in crisp Black and White that hits on all cylinders. The acting by the cast is riveting. A must film for any Film Noir collection. The use of The City Of Angels circa 1953 for both exterior and (in the case of City Hall) interior shots make it highly valuable as a time capsule of what used to be. We get Glendale festooned with Christmas decorations, Burbank, Chinatown, the Gas Works, Owl Drugs and Union Station to boot.

"How come the smart guys are inside and the dopes outside?" (Steve Lacey)

Glendale - Christmas street decorations



I, The Jury 
 
Biff Elliot in the role of Hammer and Peggy Castel as Charlotte Manning and Tani Guthrie as Mary Bellamy were hot. Elliot on the other hand was a bit miscast. But the films various episodes are bookended with Christmas-y title cards. It's L.A. filling in for New York City, and Mike Hammer is on the hunt for the killer of his handicapped friend, promising to put a bullet in the guts to however did the deed. Great cinematography by John Alton that features a nice sequence in one of Noir's iconic locations, L.A.'s Bradbury Building. We even get to see Elisha Cook Jr. as a sad sack Santa, how Noir is that?

Hammer's dead buddy





Cover Up  Insurance investigator (Dennis O'Keefe) shows up in a small town right at Christmas time to investigate an apparent suicide that his company may have to pay out on a claim for. He's met on the train trip to the town by a very attractive (Barbara Britton) The man, who O'Keefe's character is supposed to investigate, was a very unpopular man disliked by many. The evidence uncovered, surrounding his death, points not to suicide but more to murder. He is perplexed that  everyone in the town really couldn't give a rats ass about the affair.  

Barbara Britton and Dennis O'Keefe 





Lady In The Lake An unusual innovative Noir, part serious, partly send up, I chuckled at some of the conversations between Totter & Montgomery and the allusion to author's of hard boiled detective fiction. With the POV camera portrayal gimmick of Marlowe by Montgomery the brunt of the film falls on Audrey Totter's shoulders and she is both fascinating and stellar in the various long takes.  Some great sequences to watch for, the casing of Lavery's house with the intro of Jane Meadows, and the reveal of the body (nuff said), the auto accident sequence, and the confrontation between Nolan and Meadows. 

This has a Christmas theme vocal chorus that warps ominous for what little soundtrack there is.   Once you get the hang of the POV its very entertaining. This is a film you could "almost" show to kids that are enamored with first person shooter games, they'd probably "get it." lol. 

Audrey Totter 










Repeat Performance  On New Year's Eve 1946, Sheila Page kills her husband Barney. She wishes that she could relive 1946 and avoid the mistakes that she made throughout the year. Her wish comes true but cheating fate proves more difficult than she anticipated. So we get, obviously, as the story is ratcheting up towards the denouement between Christmas and New Years.

The old print above, there's a new release Blu /DVD out of this film just issued from Flicker Alley.







Backfire  It's Christmas & the Holidays, Bob Corey (Joel MaCrea), recovering from a series of operations in a Veterans' hospital, learns that his friend, Steve Connally (Edmund OBrein), with whom he intended to buy a ranch, has disappeared under circumstance that indicate he may have been involved in a murder. Accompanied by his nurse, Julie Benson (Virginia Mayo), with whom he has fallen in love, Bob follows a series of clues and incidents, including three more murders, that leads to a gambler (Dane Clark), masquerading as an undertaker to avoid taxes on his illegal income, has a whole lot to do with his friend's predicament. Entertaining & Viveca Lindfors as the torch singer is Hot. 

Virginia Mayo







I Wouldn't Be In Your Shoes Based on a Cornell Woolrich story that is very similar in premise to The Phantom Lady. A husband and wife dance team is living on the skids in some tenement apartment. Vaudeville is dead and and crappy TV variety shows and "specials" are in the distant future. By day Thomas J. 'Tom' Quinn (Don Castle) is hitting the talent agencies, clubs, and lounges, looking for a booking, while by night wife Ann Quinn (Elyse Knox) is hoofing it as a sort of  taxi dancer in a new angle on a dime a dance joint the Ortiz Dance Academy. One night, while trying to sleep some alley cats in heat start caterwauling on the fence between back yards. Tom throws his shoes out the window at them. The next day a miser is found murdered and the plaster cast of a footprint pins the murder to Tom's shoe. Regis Toomey is a Police Inspector Clint Judd, who is one of Ann's regulars at the ballroom. Cheapo Christmas time Noir 

Elyse Knox










Girl With Hyacinths  Swedish NoirThe young Dagmar Brink (Eva Hemming) commits suicide. Her belongings are inherited by the resident caretaker in the house she lived in. The caretaker, who never knew her, wonders why and decides to make contact with the people who knew her to find out why she killed herself. 

Eva Hemming




Beware My Lovely  Helen Gordon (Ida Lupino) hires Howard Wilton (Robert Ryan) as a handyman to do chores around her house. Howard seems normal but he's wound a bit too tight. Howard is a schizophrenic, and is always apprehensive and paranoid, he thinks everyone, including Helen, is plotting against him. Howard is afflicted with lapses of memory, and has extreme mood swings. During these blackouts he commits acts of violence, which he later forgets. Helen becomes a prisoner in her own house after Wilton locks the doors and rips out the telephone. 






Quai des Orfèvres  Jenny Lamour (Suzy Delair) wants to succeed as a singer in a music hall. Her husband and accompanist is Maurice Martineau ( Bernard Blier), is a nice but very jealous man. When he knew Jenny is making eyes at Brignon (Charles Dullin), an old businessman, in order to get some music hall work. Maurice looses his temper and threatens Brignon with death. But Jenny went anyway to a rendez-vous at the old man's, who is found murdered the same evening. Who killed Him? 

 Bernard Blier and Suzy Delair




Kiss Of Death - Christmas Eve. New York City. Last minute shopping for the wife and kids. Excon Nick Bianco and three other hoods knock over a jewelry shop located on the 26th floor of the Chrysler Building. The robbery goes off without a hitch the getaway by local elevator screws them over when one of the tied up jewelers is able to hit an alarm button before they make the lobby. It goes Noirsville. 







Lady On A Train Nikki Collins is on a train headed towards Grand Central Terminal. The train stops on the Park Avenue viaduct. It's waiting for a green light to proceed into the tunnel.  While halted Nikki,  witnesses, looking through a window in a Harlem tenement a murder committed. When she goes to report the crime to the NYPD they think she's read one too many mystery novels. Nikki frustrated, then asks a mystery writer she known to help with her amateur sleuthing to try and solve the murder.






Dillinger -  Dillinger is sent to prison as a young man for a small time robbery. He winds up sharing a cell with a con named Specs. Specs introduces Dillinger to his two bit gang and he joins them. 

Dillinger serves his time and then returns to break the gang out of jail. Dillinger eventually takes over the gang and they set out on a crime spree in the Mid West.  A Bio Noir with some Christmas sequences.




Mr. Arkadin  It's Christmas Day, Guy Van Stratten, a grifter, makes his way through a snowy streets of Munich to an apartment house at Sebastianplatz 16. He climbs up to a barely furnished garratt. Guy is there trying to persuade a just released from prison con Jakob Zouk to leave with him. Guy begins to tell his story and the film goes into a series of flashbacks detailing the tale up to this point. Guy was scratching out a living smuggling cigarettes from France to Italy. One night, along a  Mediterranean quay on the French Riviera, Guy witnesses the end of a confrontation in which one man Bracco lays dying with a knife in the back while his attacker hobbles away quickly on a wooden leg.










Transitional Noir







Two Men In Manhattan Jean-Pierre Melville filmed both a Noir love letter and, almost a time capsule video documentary of 1958 New York City. From the opening bars of the jazzy score and Googie style credits that run over a wonderful (looking out the back window of a cab) trip down through traffic, a traffic of tail fin adorned cars, traveling South along Broadway, and then on 7th Avenue right  through the heart of manically lit Times Square you know you are in for a special visual treat.

Melville's New York is the real deal. Its not some Hollywood backlot dressed up like New York City. Melville's New York is a dreary smoggy winter sky New York. The old New York that bleched black coal smoke by the ton into the atmo, a New York of  steaming man holes in streets that were choked with Buses and  Checker Cabs. Melville's New York was a  holiday day  New York festooned with Christmas decorations two days before December 25th.

Rockefeller Center Plaza - Manhattan 












The Red Lanterns (1963) aka (Ta kokkina fanariaThe Red Lanterns, a Greek film depicting the tragically intertwined lives of five whores working a bordello in the old Troumba Pier red light district of Piraeus but a Noir and its shot stylistically in a noir style to boot. But it's not any noir that mainstream Hollywood studio under the censorship of the MPPC and the Legion of Decency would attempt to make. 

Everything goes Noirsville at the Red Lantern's wild Christmas Eve party.

 Jenny (Tzeni - Tzenny) Karezi



Blast Of Silence - Blast of Silence didn't quite come out of nowhere. Allen Baron was an artist who attended the School of Visual Arts and was an illustrator, he got the bug to make a movie after visiting a soundstage in Hollywood. He learned rudimentary camera work while working on a film down in Havana in 1959.

Blast of Silence was mostly shot "guerrilla style" without permits on the streets of New York City for roughly 20,000 dollars. This de facto neorealism imbues the film with an aura of believability that bigger Hollywood productions often did not acquire.

On a side note, I've written countless times that most of the films depicting New York's quintessential Film Noir hardboiled detective Mike Hammer, are less "New Yorkie" than eight films that are not Hammer films, but films that captured both a Film Noir Style and wallow in the true gritty NYC ambiance that every Hammer film demanded. These eight are The Naked City (1948), Killer's Kiss (1955), Two Men in Manhattan (1959), Odds Against Tomorrow (1959)* only partially set in NYC,  Blast of Silence (1961), Something Wild (1961), Aroused (1966) and The Incident (1967). Watch these and see what could have been.


Big Ralphie (Larry Tucker) and his rats, in his Christmas decorated flop



Neo Noir











Le Monte-Charge  aka Paris Pickup  On a Christmas Eve an ex-convict, Robert Herbin, meets a beautiful Italian married woman Marthe Drévet, who has got a lot of things to hide. She lives in an old factory loft apartment. The first floor of which is a big workshop where a service elevator leads to flat. Robert just out of prison picks up Marthe. Marthe takes Robert to back her home for a drink, he puts a small bird ornament he bought on the Xmas tree, and they go for a stroll in the streets. When they come back, there's a dead body in the room (the husband) and, the bird ornament has disappeared.

Robert Hossein



The Lookout  
The Lookout (2007) Fargo-esque Christmas Neo Noir 

"Glory days, well, they'll pass you by, Glory days, in the wink of a young girl's eye, Glory days, glory days"

Fly over country. The Great Plains. Chris Pratt (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a "Richie $ Rich," Varsity Hockey Star. Got it made. Got the car. 2001 Ford Mustang. Got the babe Kelly. Got the top down. Speeding across a Kansas prairie, with another couple in the backseat, on a two lane highway. Watching the fireflies. He turns off the headlights for better effect. What they see looks like a billion star warp drive on the Starship Enterprise. What they don't see is the New Holland TR86 combine stalled in the middle of the road. Head-on!!!!

Four years later. - When Chris woke up out of his coma he had frontal lobe damage. His girlfriend Kelly has lost her leg and their two friends are dead. Chris has anterograde amnesia, and must keep a notebook to remind himself of his daily routines.

As part of his rehabilitation into society the Independent Life Skills Center teams him up with a blind apartment mate Lewis (Jeff Daniels). He also has a job as a night janitor cleaning up at a bank. Besides Lewis his only other friend is Ted (Sergio Di Zio), a goofy sheriff's deputy who brings him a doughnut when he passes by the bank on his night time rounds. Of course it all goes Noirsville just around Christmas.







Delusion Christmas in the Desert Neo Noir - George O'Brien (Metzler) is a yuppie executive of some type of LA based computer software company that's been bought out by a bigger fish. He decides to take a walk on the wild side.  O'Brien is a cultured metrosexual, one scene has him and a cohort sitting in a spa/hot tub with mud facials, they calmly discuss embezzling a large sum of cash by faking expenses in the takeover confusion, then crossing the Nevada state line and setting up shop with a new company in Reno.

It's Christmas time, and O'Brien is soon on his way from smog shrouded LA to Reno with a gift to himself of a half million in the spare tire well of his tres hip silver 1990 Volvo 760. Then of course it all goes Ho Ho ho Merry Noirsville. 

Jim Metzler with a Christmas decorated cactus outside the trailer window in the Mojave Desert





Warm Nights On A Slow Moving Train Aussie Railway Noir - Christmas Noir. The tale of a "railroad lady" a woman who, on the weekends, moonlights as a professional prostitute. She trolls the lounge car and spreads her legs for lonely men on the overnight train, the Sydney/Melbourne/Sydney Express. Called the "Sex" or "Mex" (for Mebourne express). It's a seventeen car train and a twelve hour journey in each direction.

During the week she's a demure Catholic girls school art teacher. She is justifying her seedy second occupation by using the jack to buy her paraplegic junkie brother the morphine he needs for his habit. He is sort of her latent de facto pimp. Merry Christmas!







Hard Eight Reno Neo Noir. Sydney (Hall). Hard guy. An ex gangster. Maybe it's just the Christmas season or maybe Sydney is seeking perhaps a personal redemption. He's in some Mojave desert pitstop trying hard to weasel some wings. 

John (Reilly). Dumbass. Loser. Down and out. Transient at Jack's. Went from Los Angeles to Vegas to, get this, try and win the six grand he needs to bury his mother. Sydney "finds" John and offers him a cigarette and a cup of joe. Sydney we find out later has an Atlantic City connection to John. At the booth Sydney offers to give John fifty bucks. He asks John what he'd do with the fifty, Johns says he'll eat. Sydney  answers and then what? Sydney tells him that with the fifty dollars I'll take you to Vegas and show you how to survive. John wonders what's the catch, but he agrees to let Sydney show him and they drive back to Vegas.










Un Flic   Simon (Richard Crenna) is one of four men who rob a seaside bank on a rainy, foggy afternoon. Thing things go Noirsville for them when one of the men is fatally wounded. Edouard Coleman (Alain Delon) is a cop "Un Flic," on another heist planed by Simon involving a suitcase heist on a moving express train during the night. Not everything goes as planned. With Catherine Deneuve in the cast who is involved with both Simon & Edouard.






La Cite Des Enfants Perdus 
Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Bizarre Kid Noir & a Christmas Noir.  Here is a fantastical visual display of style combined with the highest studio stagecraft arts creating a very fascinating film. It has a Rube Goldberg-ish modus operandi that is part Sci-Fi, part Fantasy, part Steampunk i.e. The Wild Wild West (TV Series 1965–1969), part Head/Graphic Comix artist influence (i.e. Jean Giraud, Jordi Bernet, R. Crumb, Spain Rodriquez, Caro himself, etc., etc.) part Sergio Leone in the grotesque close ups. I also see a bit of Dicken's Oliver Twist, and films Seconds (1966), The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1962), and La Strada (1954).with a dash of another French Kid Noir, L’enfer des anges (1939) in the mix.

There is so much coming at you that it's not humanly possible to take it in at one time because you are just not expecting it. It's like trying to tell somebody what it's like to be hit by a wave who has never been to a beach. Yeah, you can imagine what its like but you are not expecting a total assault on your senses. You have no concept that the water is going to weigh so much that it will knock you on your ass nor of the force of the spinning turbulence on your body, nor the crashing pounding sound of the surf, or the feel and after-taste of salt water. It's overwhelming even when you are prepared.

In La Cité des enfants perdus you are getting hit with a complex story, with fantastically weird characters, and a plethora of visuals, immensely interesting visuals and short vignettes that may or may not be important to the story. Stuff like a few second sequence of a reference to the blind leading the blind, or an elaborate burglary involving a mouse attracted to grated cheese with a string tied to its tail. The mouse pulls a magnet trolling for the key to the door. One getting drunk and hitting on a B-Girl in a dive bar. A raft of mice floating into the backstage doorway of a burlesque house. And they delightfully go on and on and on.




Bad Santa 
 The Santa Claus Racket. 

"Santa Claus is drunk in the Ski Room, And it's Christmas eve in a sad café." (Tom Waits)

The racket goes like this. Every year Marcus (Tony Cox) makes a sort of promo of their Christmas Holiday Santa services, call it "Santa and his real life North Pole Workshop Elf." He sends it off to various department stores across the country. The "Elf " angle is golden. Unique. When they get bites Marcus high grades everything out but the most promising target stores. They go for the interview and if if they get the gig, Marcus goes phase two, and gets the floor & duct plans. 

The gig lasts from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve. Marcus acts as usher and MC. Willy the Santa (Billy Bob Thornton) sits on the Christmas throne and marinates all day. Marcus brings on the kids, the snotnoses, the wishful, the dumb struck, the un believers. During breaks during the day Marcus learns the alarm systems figures out the duct work etc., etc. Then when Christmas Eve comes they rob the place.




2 comments:

  1. Great list! Some I didn't know about. Can I suggest NO MAN OF HER OWN (1950)? The last part is set at Christmas time. Barbara Stanwyck, Lyle Bettger, based on Cornell Woolrich, "I Married a Dead Man" (I wish they'd kept that title for the film)

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  2. Yea "No Man Of Her Own" should be another for sure, I'm sure there are others out there.

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