Sunset Boulevard premiered 70 years ago this week.
In this noir melodrama a brilliant cellist (Paul Henried) scarred by the war, arrives in New York and reunites with his former flame, an aspiring pianist played by Bette Davis, who betrays him with a narcissistic composer then sacrifices everything.
1939. Charles “King” Vidor (dir.) Starring Ralph Bellamy, Ann Dvorak, Chester Morris.
Criterionchannel.com avers Blind Alley is “one of the very first Hollywood films” accurately described as noir, though the basic premise– a crew of criminals on the lam take a bourgeois family hostage– depends heavily on the gangster genre. In addition the film’s claustrophobic locale– the interior of a psychology professor’s lakeside mansion– tends to render the action fairly static. The primary conflict between the main antagonists takes the form of the pipe-smoking academic (Shelby) and a neurotic yet sadistic escaped convict (Wilson), who wrangle over the content of the latter’s expressionistic dreams, which ultimately lend stylistic verve to an otherwise literalist interpretation of childhood trauma. The crushingly obvious Oedipal conclusion Shelby and Wilson arrive at– “every time you kill a man you kill your father”– disarms the gangster with self-knowledge, precipitating his sudden death. Ann Dvorak plays an appealing moll, not only devoted to her killer-lover but aroused by his spontaneous acts of violence.
maltida & althea
Anton Diffring’s perverse cosmopolitan charm carries this batty Hammer film about a belle époque predator who salvages the glands of his victims to preserve himself far beyond an ordinary lifespan. A perfect companion to Circus of Horrors, also starring Diffring.
Baby It’s Cold Outside:
Ain’t He Sweet:
Ain’t Nobody’s Business:
Baby, Get Lost:
Hadda Brooks sings “Til You” in the film adaptation of Dorothy Hughes’ In a Lonely Place.
Ava Gardner in The Bribe (1949)