To celebrate ‘NOIRVEMBER’, this month the premier streaming service ARROW is showing a selection of brilliant crime films. DARK AND DEADLY: THE NOIR COLLECTION features classics from a genre characterised by stark and beautiful black and white photography, desperate men, femme fatales, merciless mobsters, brutal violence, and moody, evocative scores.
The films include many of the genre’s major names on both sides of the camera, including directors Robert Siodmak (The Killers, Criss Cross), Fritz Lang (The Big Heat, The Woman in the Window) and Joseph H. Lewis (Gun Crazy), and actors John Garfield, Cornel Wilde and Richard Conte. The season also includes Paul Joyce’s riveting documentary Dark and Deadly: 50 Years of Film Noir, which gives you the lowdown on the genre and acts as a terrific primer for the films.
So what are you waiting for? Draw the curtains, fire up ARROW, pour yourself a stiff drink and settle in for four consummate examples of the genre, and a crash course in the art of noir.
The Dark Mirror (1946)
In Robert Siodmak’s classic crime melodrama, a man is murdered and there’s an obvious suspect, but she has an identical twin sister (both played by Olivia de Havilland, Gone with the Wind), and one of them has a cast-iron alibi. The perfect crime? A psychologist with a specialist interest in twin psychology delves into the heart of the mystery, at considerable risk to himself.
Poster tagline: “Twins! One who loves… and one who loves to kill!”
Critical consensus: “Visually stunning” The Movie Scene
Key scene: Olivia de Havilland sharing the screen with Olivia de Havilland is a sight to behold.
Secret Beyond the Door (1947)
Fritz Lang adapts the Bluebeard legend with a dash of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca in this gripping psychological thriller. Shortly after their marriage, Celia (Joan Bennett, Suspiria) begins to suspect her architect husband Mark (Michael Redgrave, Dead of Night) of having a secret past, and wonders about the reason behind multiple rooms in his self-designed home, one of which is kept permanently locked.
Poster tagline: “Some men destroy what they love the most!”
Critical consensus: “A sublime, delirious melodrama” The Guardian
Key scene: Wait until you see what Michael Redgrave had built in the basement.
Force of Evil (1948)
In Abraham Polonsky’s acclaimed crime drama (a big influence on Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas), an unscrupulous lawyer (John Garfield, The Postman Always Rings Twice) scents a personal fortune when he concocts a plan to merge New York City’s numbers rackets into a single powerful and unbreakable operation, but reckons without his brother, who’d rather stay independent.
Poster tagline: “John Garfield puts his Body and Soul into Force of Evil”
Critical consensus: “A shining example of everything Hollywood falling into place, and a masterpiece of cinema.” Empire
Key scene: When the conflicted brothers clash, it is cinema dynamite
The Big Combo (1955)
In Joseph H. Lewis’s ultra-stylish and brutal film, Lieutenant Diamond (Cornel Wilde, The Naked Prey) is determined to bring down mob boss Mr Brown (Richard Conte, Thieves’ Highway), even if it means jeopardising his own career. But the feeling is mutual and the unscrupulous gangster is more than willing to operate outside the law to get his man, leading to some wince-inducing set-pieces (some involving a pre-stardom Lee Van Cleef).
Poster tagline: “The most startling story the screen has ever dared reveal!”
Critical consensus: “Even better than Lewis’ earlier – and remarkable – Gun Crazy” Time Out
Key scene: There’s a scene with Brian Donlevy and a hearing aid that’ll make your ears ring.
Dark and Deadly: 50 Years of Film Noir (1995)
Paul Joyce’s fascinating documentary looks at the renaissance of the film noir genre, talking to directors including John Dahl (Red Rock West), James Foley (At Close Range) and Carl Franklin (One False Move) who are using it to reflect contemporary fears and fascinations.