Robert Ryan and Ida Lupino star in the film noir by Nicholas Ray

Robert Ryan is ‘On Dangerous Ground’ on Criterion Channel

On Dangerous Ground (1952), directed by Nicholas Ray from a script he developed with A.I. Bezzerides and producer John Houseman, opens on the urgent yet fractured dramatic score by Bernard Herrmann, a theme that rushes forward anxiously, pauses with quieter instruments, then jumps again as we watch the nocturnal city streets in the rain through […]

Joan Crawford stars with Ann Blyth, Zachary Scott, and Jack Carson

Last chance: Joan Crawford is ‘Mildred Pierce’ on HBO Max

Is Mildred Pierce (1945) film noir or melodrama? I say why choose? Film noir is almost entirely associated with crime stories and life in the shadows and at night in the city and sure enough Mildred Pierce, based on the novel by James M. Cain, opens with death and darkness and the twilight of the […]

‘Moonrise’ – dreamy rural noir on Criterion Channel and free on Kanopy

The most authentically romantic filmmaker of classic Hollywood, Frank Borzage made films where the power of love conquered all, not simply narrative obstacles and stubborn complications but time and space itself. He’s the last filmmaker you would expect to produce a film noir masterpiece yet in Moonrise (1948) he delivers beautifully. Dane Clark is Danny […]

‘The Limey’ – Terence Stamp’s revenge on Amazon Prime

The Limey (1999), Steven Soderbergh’s immediate follow-up to his sexy and stylish Out of Sight, is an equally stylish but far more austere crime drama, cool and removed and filled with regret where Out of Sight was warm and romantic and sexy. Terence Stamp is Wilson, an aging cockney criminal fresh out of prison who […]

Orson Welles is Harry Lime on Carol Reed's classic

Continental noir: ‘The Third Man’ on Criterion Channel

Carol Reed’s continental film noir The Third Man (1949), written by Graham Greene and starring Joseph Cotten as a cynical American pulp novelist playing detective in the rubble-strewn underworld of post-war Vienna and Orson Welles as a charming but ruthless black marketeer, is one of the true classics. The film is directed by Reed but […]

‘The Woman in the Window’ on Amazon Prime

Fritz Lang’s The Woman in the Window (1944) is a film noir nightmare in every definition of the term. Edward G. Robinson is the middle-aged philosophy professor who meets beautiful young model Kitty (Joan Bennett) on the street. His wife and kids are out of town for vacation so he joins this single, sexy young […]

Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton star in Sam Raimi's thriller

‘A Simple Plan’ on Amazon Prime and Hulu

A Simple Plan (1998) – An endless white landscape of rolling hills and snow-blanketed forests. A lonely acoustic score (by Danny Elfman) plays in the background. A vision of rural simplicity portrayed in hushed tones. The stillness is about to shatter. Brothers Hank (Bill Paxton), an accountant at a small town feed store, and Jacob […]

‘Gun Crazy’ – a film noir classic on Criterion Channel

Gun Crazy (1950), the greatest of the criminal lovers-on-the-run thriller, explodes onto the screen in a fury of sex and guns and love and violence. Directed by Joseph H. Lewis, it is a masterpiece of style and a blast of cinematic ecstasy on a budget barely bigger than a B movie. John Dall is a […]

Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle in 'Taxi Driver'

Martin Scorsese’s ‘Taxi Driver’

Taxi Driver (1976), Martin Scorsese’s incendiary masterpiece of alienation and anger and urban anxiety may be the most maverick vision of seventies American cinema. It is certainly one of the most visceral portraits of the American urban underbelly ever put on film, a movie bathed in blood as much as in light, and almost forty years […]