Category Archives: Film Noir

Film Noir | Some Like It Hot (1959)

Film Noir Some Like It Hot Movie Poster


My wife Hilary and I watched the film noir Some Like It Hot a few days ago, and we were incredibly delighted. I know that I will sound like a heretic as I say this, but it was actually the very first Marilyn Monroe film I have ever watched. Go ahead and stone me. But seriously, Some Like It Hot was easily one of the best films that I have enjoyed, and I’m certain that it will hold a place of prominence in my collection forevermore. The movie effortlessly blends light-hearted comedy with heavier noir themes. We were astounded at how hilarious many of the scenes were, and I truly didn’t expect the amount of slapstick present in the script, but underlying it all were serious matters of life and death. The basic premise holds that two musicians were the unfortunate witnesses of a mob killing and decide to escape to Florida disguised as female jazz players. Here’s how it toes the line of noir definition:

1) The Seedy Underworld

A cold New York City winter; a car chase and then white Miami beach sand. The majority of the film noir takes place in a beach side resort.

2) The Anti-Hero

Tony Curtis (Joe) and Jack Lemmon (Jerry) share the role of anti-hero in Some Like It Hot. Desperate for money, women, and fame, these two goofs really step in it by witnessing a massacre at the hands of the mobster “Spatz.” As marked men, their only chance of survival is to don nylons, make-up, and wigs and head south til it all blows over.

Film Noir Some Like it Hot Joe and Jerry


3) The Femme Fatale

Marilyn Monroe (Sugar Cane Kowalczyk) plays the role of femme fatale. She oozes charisma and a brand of innocent sexuality that is rare in film noir. As a ukulele player/lounge singer, she charms and entertains while cursing the institution of love as she is simultaneously drawn into it. In many aspects, she steals the show.

Film Noir Some Like it Hot Marilyn Monroe


4) Misogyny

Sugar Cane and the other women are portrayed as very silly and frivolous girls. Even to the last scene Marilyn’s character is helplessly toyed with by Tony Curtis; she is utterly powerless before him (and never catches on to his simple deceptions). A sweet moment of retribution occurs when Jack Lemmon’s character enchants Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown), who decides that “she” would make a fine catch. Jack from then on must constantly swat the amorous advances of a dirty old man in a hilarious twist on noir misogyny.

Film Noir Some Like it Hot Tony CurtisFilm Noir Some Like it Hot Marilyn Monroe

Film Noir Some Like it Hot Tony Curtis Film Noir Some Like it Hot Marilyn Monroe

5) Redemption

Several threads of redemption appear in this film noir: Joe attempts to redeem himself after lying to Sugar, he and Jerry both must redeem themselves from the grip of the mob, and Sugar seeks to redeem the institution of love (or herself through its embrace).

6) Loss of Innocence

The clear loss of innocence occurs when Joe and Jerry witness the gruesome gang execution in the beginning of the film. As helpless bystanders they are tossed in harms way, no longer safe on the side-lines of the mob war.

Film Noir Some Like it Hot


7) Eroticism

The love story that develops between Joe and Sugar is composed of scenes that appear quite racy for the time period. Joe pretends to be a millionaire who has lost his libido, and Sugar is issued the challenge of igniting it once again. He claims to have lost the ability to love, and through a series of “test” kisses, puts it to Sugar to heal him. They share a dimly-lit yacht cabin couch and a meal composed of stolen wine and cold pheasant. Quite romantic, and subtle in its touch of eroticism.

Film Noir Some Like it Hot Eroticism


8 ) Blaxploitation

The Italian mobsters are reduced to the status of “goombas” and “guidos” in Some Like It Hot. Every Italian-American racial stereotype you can imagine surfaces in the film.

9) Smoke

Once again, cigarette smoke seems to be the insidious glue that holds the film together. Tobacco and gin hovers on the breath of every character.

Amazing film noir. It seems to be a bright and comfy launching point into an otherwise dark and dreary genre. Get it on

Interesting Facts about Some Like It Hot: 

  • Tony Curtis jested that kissing Marilyn Monroe was “like kissing Hitler”
  • Some Like It Hot received a “C” (Condemned) rating from the National Legion of Decency (formerly the Catholic Legion of Decency).
  • It has a collective score of 98% on
  • Tony Curtis has said that he asked Billy Wilder (director) if he could imitate Cary Grant for his stint as the millionaire in the movie. Wilder liked it and they shot it that way. Apparently, Grant saw the parody of himself and stated, “I don’t talk like that.”
  • Voted #1 on the American Film Institute’s list of 100 Funniest Movies.
  • Supposedly when Orry-Kelly was measuring all three stars for dresses, he half-jokingly told Marilyn Monroe, “Tony Curtis has a nicer butt than you,” at which point Monroe pulled open her blouse and said, “Yeah, but he doesn’t have tits like these!”

“I’m a man!” “Nobody’s perfect.” -closing lines

Film Noir Some Like it Hot Ending


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Film Noir | Sin City (2005)

Film Noir Sin City Movie Poster


Overtly-stylized film noir fetish satisfaction rushed over me in shuddering waves as I viewed Sin City last week. I could not have been more overjoyed and overwhelmed by the intensity of the film coupled with its adherence to the graphic novel story-lines. It benefited immensely from its unwavering dedication to accurately following the comic (which is rare in a film version of any comic book). Of course, this accuracy is obviously a direct byproduct of the author/creator Frank Miller’s personal involvement and direction.  Add Robert Rodriguez and a dash of Tarantino to the mix and you have one hell of a film noir flick. Once again I fall victim to Quinton Tarantino’s seductive direction, I’ve got problems. Before I lose myself in lengthy comparative analyses of noir definition, let me thank Stephen P. for loaning me the film (and sticking around to watch it).

1) The Seedy Underworld

Frank Miller’s invented playground of devilish behavior, Sin City is indeed a “wretched hive of scum and villainy.” Grit, blood, sweat, tears, and piss stain the monochrome streets and characters who walk them. Often it feels as if the city itself is a living beast rapt in the taut anticipation of cruel violence. The seedy underworld of this film noir sets the standard for the genre.

2) The Anti-Hero

The anti-heroes of Sin City are incredible. They ride that perfect balance between horridly flawed and perfectly lovable. Dwight (Clive Owen), Hartigan (Bruce Willis), and Marv (Mickey Rourke) fit this character archetype with ease. Each man battles his own demons, for Dwight: his addictions, Hartigan: his heart condition, and Marv: his madness. All I can say is holy shiz Mickey Rourke, who wins immeasurable applause for this deft performance. Each of these anti-heroes, despite their disparities, won me over easily.

3) The Femme Fatale

Sin City is loaded with femme fatale archetypes; the seductress (Goldie/Wendy, played by Jaime King), the snitch (Becky, played by Alexis Bledel), the deadly (Gail and Miho, played by Rosario Dawson and Devon Aoki), the law (Lucille, played by Carla Gugino), and the victim (Nancy and Shellie, played by Jessica Alba and Brittany Murphy). Each woman executes her role perfectly, and showcases Frank Miller’s astounding understanding of film noir themes and character types. The most important femme fatale in the story is the exotic dancer Nancy. Just as in the comic book, she lingers in the background of every chapter, her seductive lasso tying Sin City in knots.

Sin City Gail and Dwight

Gail and Dwight via

Film Noir Sin City Nancy and Hartigan

Nancy and Hartigan via

Film Noir Sin City Lucille and Marv

Lucille and Marv via

4) Misogyny

One aspect of the plot that was wrought by old-school noir misogyny occurred when the women in “Old Town” needed Dwight to save them. Some would argue that the women of “Old Town” are a great symbol of empowered femininity, but if examined closely you’ll see that it is not as empowering as initially perceived. First, they dress like prostitutes (which is pandering to a man’s desires). Second, as soon as they accidently kill a cop, they need Dwight (a man) to save them. Finally, they’re entire way of life is male defined. They were allowed to grow powerful in “Old Town” by the mob men and cops who condoned the event. Not nearly as female-forward as many would think.

5) Redemption

Every single plot-line revolves around the noir theme of redemption; Dwight must redeem “Old Town,” Hartigan must save Nancy from the Yellow Bastard and redeem the broken legal system in Sin City, and Marv must take vengeance on Goldie’s killer. Redemption as a story motivator always works (and it works WELL in this film noir).

6) Loss of Innocence

Loss of innocence as a theme definitely plays a role in Sin City. Nancy is almost molested as a little girl by the Yellow Bastard (Nick Stahl), and it’s revealed that he has raped and killed hundreds of young girls. Also, Kevin (Elijah Wood), plays a psychopathic killer who eats the women he kills and mounts their heads on his wall. Coincidentally, he’s also an avid reader of the Holy Bible. How’s that for a loss of innocence?

Film Noir Sin City Goldie

Goldie via

Film Noir Sin City Yellow Bastard

Yellow Bastard via

Film Noir Sin City Kevin

Kevin via

7) Eroticism

Sin City is buoyed up by some of the most riveting portrayals of eroticism I have ever seen. The nudity may appear wanton, but the passion evoked by the Marv and Goldie sex scene, and the dancing of the singularly clothed Nancy, ignite the pulse of this entire film noir. Those with more modest sensibilities should avoid Sin City; Even though nudity is very openly displayed, there are never any genitals shown(unless you count Hartigan tearing an individuals manhood off in a grotesque clump).

8 ) Blaxploitation

Gail (Rosario Dawson) is basically the “madam” of “Old Town,” and she rules it with an iron fist (or a sharpened stilleto). Also, Manute (Michael Clark Duncan) shows up as muscle for the mob. Race is never brought up as far as I can remember.

9) Smoke

The opening scene and the closing scene are both centered on a cigarette. It’s as if Sin City offers you a smoke before and after it passionately makes love to you. Breathtaking film noir. Pick it up now on blu-ray or dvd at

by Chad de Lisle

PostScript: Rumor has it that the script for Sin City 2 has just been completed. I’m drooling with anticipation.



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Film Noir | Anime: Rin – Daughters of Mnemosyne

Film Noir Anime Rin Daughters of Mnemosyne


The film noir anime Rin- Daughters of Mnenosyne is a six episode animated Japanese series that was produced to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the AT-X network (which it originally aired on). I viewed this series some time ago, near the beginning of the summer I think, but am just now getting around to reviewing it. The six episodes  had the unusual effect of producing a duality of feelings/opinions within me; applause and abhorrence. As ever, the Japanese creative team (with lead writer Hiroshi Onogi) effectively push the boundaries of the genre and toy with social ideas and gender roles in such a way as to create controversy. Here is how Rin- Daughters of Mnenosyne measured up to my noir definition:

1) Seedy Underworld

More digital than seedy, the six episodes of film noir anime play out in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district in the modern/near-future. The setting is forgettable.

2) The Anti-Hero

Rin Asogi is an immortal female private investigator. She runs a private investigation agency, and her cases range from everyday mundane to insanely bizarre. By placing the traditional male lead in the hands of a very feminine character, the classic complications created by gender roles in the noir genre are torqued in intriguing ways. And then further heaped on top of the pile is the fact that Rin can never die. The ripples caused by this casting choice alone shake the foundation of accepted noir thought.

3) The Femme Fatale

Many different females fit the femme fatale archetype in Rin- Daughters of Mnenosyne. You would think that because the lead is being played by a female private eye, that a male would logically played the role of homme fatale. Wrong. Rin Asogi is a lesbian, and from what I saw in the series an extremely active one. (The homme fatale role IS represented, but in a more blatant and monstrous way than a traditional femme fatale is. See “angels” below).

Femme Fatale Rin Asogi

possibly the perfect mix between anti-hero and femme fatale? (via

4) Misogyny

Further complications are raised because of Rin’s sexual orientation (or I should say the portrayal of her sexual orientation), because it seems that the story is pandering to a male audience. Instead of empowering women, it debases them for the gratification of drooling male viewers. Another facet of the storyline that reeks of misogyny is the unequal duality of males and females in the story. It’s explained that Rin has been granted her immortality because she is in possession of a “time spore.” This spore is what grants her the ability to regenerate any wounds (even when they have resulted in her death) and it yields her youth and beauty for eternity. Contrarily, when a male obtains a “time spore,” he becomes what is known as an “angel”; a savage who surrenders almost instantly to his uncontrollable primal desires. Central to these desires is an irresistible need to feed on and copulate with females who possess time spores. The horrible caveat is that these females find the “angels” completely and utterly sexually desirable; such that they are often eaten in the process of surrendering themselves sexually to their attackers.Yikes. Thus the script is filled with a surprising amount of violence perpetrated against the female characters; more to come in the eroticism section of the noir definition.

Film Noir Anime Rin Daughters of Mnemosyne Time Spores

one of many violent endings (via

5) Redemption

The fact that Rin Asogi is immortal, and that her dark past seems to be constantly haunting her, very pleasingly utilizes the noir theme of redemption. After only a few episodes it becomes clear that redemption will never be attained by Rin, and we as an audience will never understand the nature of her desired redemption. My only peeve is this: Why is it that every anime is so fraught with flashbacks and confusing plot twists? It’s like a story teller having Attention Deficit Disorder.

6) Eroticism

I was appalled by the overly stylized and overt attempts to sexualize the series. Bondage, sexual torture, sexual extortion, molestation, and lesbian encounters anchor this film noir anime script in a realm of unreality and disgust. Many scenes were simply designed to raise the hackles or titillate the viewer (or some awkward combination of both). I felt these efforts cheapened the story and thwarted many of the beautiful differences that would have made Rin- Daughters of Mnenosyne a stand-out in the film noir anime genre.

7) Loss of Innocence

The Loss of Innocence portion of this film noir anime includes several perverse scenes of sexual extortion, torture, and molestation I don’t wish to dwell upon. So I won’t.

Film Noir Anime Rin Asogi


8 ) Blaxploitation/Racism

Not any that I can remember (not that it wasn’t there).

9)  Smoke

I’m certain there was smoking in the show, but I don’t actually remember if it was Rin or not. Either way, it was there.

Ultimately, I can see some of the things that Hiroshi Onogi was driving at, but I felt that his story suffered from poor execution. The author seems to desire an awakening in his audience to the mismatch/inequality of gender roles in modern society. I also believe that he was trying to highlight the horrendous power and consequence of human (especially male) desires. Unfortunately, in this film noir anime, his message is lost in juvenile “fanservice” and pointless sexuality. Close but no cigar.

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Film Noir | Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Film Noir Reservoir Dogs Cover

I need one of these suits.

Okay. I know that I am outrageously behind the times, but I had never seen Quentin Tarantino’s film noir debut Reservoir Dogs until yesterday. Like many of the Tarantino films I have seen before, Reservoir Dogs is laden with profanity and gratuitous violence. BUT, as far as innovation in the crime/ film noir genre, this film may be without equal (that is until Pulp Fiction arrives on the scene two years later). The director’s storytelling style is very heavy on flashback sequences (which for some reason feels very Anime, you may or may not know what I mean), and he unravels the plot a single thread at a time. I’ve found that this method keeps the audience hanging on every line, because so much focus is needed to keep the story straight. So you will either applaud it as a masterpiece, or you weren’t able to follow the plot.

Film Noir Reservoir Dogs Opening Scene

Iconic film noir opening

The cast is packed with heavy hitters, and the acting was a perfect balance of over-the-top drama and natural rhythm. Harvey Keitel (Mr. White), Tim Roth (Mr. Orange), Steve Buscemi (Mr. Pink), Chris Penn, and Michael Madsen make up the “core” cast of actors. But the real star of the film is the dialogue. Tarantino delivers a sarcastic wit that is unmatched in the film noir genre, truly remarkable. From the first scene to the last I was riveted by the unfolding personalities portrayed through dialogue.

Nice Guy Eddie: C’mon, throw in a buck!
Mr. Pink: Uh-uh, I don’t tip.
Nice Guy Eddie: You don’t tip?
Mr. Pink: Nah, I don’t believe in it.

Film Noir Reservoir Dogs Mr. Pink Mr. White


Here is how it looks next to our noir definition:

1. The Seedy Underworld

A low-lit diner in the beginning, and an abandoned warehouse for the remainder of the film noir.

Mr. Blonde: Hey Joe, you want me to shoot this guy?
Mr. White: [laughs] Shit… You shoot me in a dream, you better wake up and apologize.

2. The Anti-Hero

I really had to do some thinking on this one, I would have to say it was Mr. Orange. He was the undercover cop and the unfortunate victim of a painful gunshot wound to the belly. He was the only “good guy” in the film, but he was far from perfect.

Film Noir Reservoir Dogs Mr. Orange

an unlikely anti-hero

3. The Femme Fatale

Wha? none to speak of. I guess if we were really analyzing we could say that the diamonds were actually the femme fatale.

Mr. Blonde: Are you gonna bark all day, little doggy, or are you gonna bite?
Mr. White: What was that? I’m sorry, I didn’t catch it. Would you repeat it?
Mr. Blonde: Are you gonna bark all day, little doggy, or are you gonna bite?

4. Misogyny

Lots of crude dialogue about women, but no female characters present to be offended.

Mr. Brown: Let me tell you what ‘Like a Virgin’ is about. It’s all about a girl who digs a guy with a big dick. The entire song. It’s a metaphor for big dicks.

5. Redemption

One of the main driving themes to the film is redemption. These crooks are trying to redeem their failed “job” by trying to sniff out the rat in their group that tipped off the cops.

Mr. Pink: Somebody’s shoved a red-hot poker up our ass, and I want to know whose name is on the handle!

Film Noir Reservoir Dogs Mr. Blonde Mr. White Mr. Pink

a cop in the trunk

6. Eroticism

No sex or nudity, but there is a torture scene where Mr. Blonde cuts a cop’s ear off. The way it is portrayed, it’s easy to construe a sexual connotation from Mr. Blonde’s reaction: “Was it good for you too?”

7. Loss of Innocence

Mr. Orange shoots and kills a civilian while undercover. The look on his face says it all. Innocence right out the window.

I really enjoyed this film noir.

The film contains 272 uses of the “f” word. 96% on

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Film Noir | The Third Man (1949)

This weekend my wife and I had a wonderful experience watching the film noir classic: The Third Man. One of the most highly acclaimed British film noir masterpieces, The Third Man was written by Graham Greene and directed by Carol Reed. Starring Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, and Orson Welles, the powerhouse cast carries the script to new heights in the genre. The chilling score was composed by Anton Karas, and exclusively utilizes the zither (the following year The Third Man‘s title cut topped all of the international music charts).

If you’ve been to noirWHALE before, then you know that our next step will be holding this film noir classic up to our pre-determined noir definition. In this way we can systematically evaluate each piece in the noir genre in a similar way. Please try to keep up:

Film Noir The Third Man Vienna Seedy Underworld

Amazing Cinematography

1) The Seedy Underworld

Vienna, post World War II. Disheveled locals shuffle with broken spirits from alley to alley while allied forces police the city like a military zone. The incomparable graininess and darkness of the cinematography lends a foreboding weight to each scene.

Film Noir The Third Man Holly Martins Joseph Cotten Anti-Hero

Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten)

2) The Anti-Hero

Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten), a pulp western writer from America, visits Vienna at the request of his long-time best friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles). Harry has assured Holly that he has a wealth of opportunities in the post-war city. Upon arriving, Holly discovers that his best friend has recently been killed in a freak accident, and instead of warm hands and friendly faces Holly finds himself at a graveside service in a city of strangers. We can drop the “anti” prefix and simplify our understanding of Holly by calling him “hero,” because his only failing appears to be that he isn’t a particularly good writer.

Film Noir The Third Man Anna Schmidt Alida Valli Femme Fatale

Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli)

3) The Femme Fatale

Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli) is an actress on the Vienna stage, and Harry Lime’s lover/girlfriend. Holly sees her at his friend’s graveside and eventually makes inquiries after her. Through meeting her and discussing Harry’s death, Holly begins to suspect that it was certainly not a freak accident. As he and Anna investigate further into the death they find that there is much more at stake than murder. Anna is a powerful plot device as Holly quickly develops feelings for her that drive him to make his decisions based upon her interests. She is unwaveringly committed to the deceased Harry though, and Holly’s advances are for naught.

4) Misogyny

Late in the film noir, when you discover that the “third man” is Harry, and that he is very much alive, you begin to see the theme of misogyny manifest itself. Harry seems to care nothing for Anna, viewing her as a mere plaything. He even uses her later to distract attention from himself by attempting to get her deported from Vienna. Not a very nice way to treat such a devoted woman.

Film Noir The Third Man Holly Anna

Anna and Holly

5) Redemption

Holly wishes to redeem the memory of his lost best friend by discovering the identity of his killer. The only problem is the fact that Harry is alive, and has faked his own death by killing someone else. Therein lies the magic of this screenplay, for Holly’s (and the audience’s) perception of the villain changes entirely in one short scene. Holly shifts from redeeming his friend Harry from a killer, to redeeming his friend Harry from himself. The most poignant scene is in the sewer stairwell at the end of the film noir, when the dying Harry looks with a pleading regret at his best friend who uses a gun to end his misery.

6) Loss of Innocence

Harry’s racket was watering down penicillin so he could sell more of it to the hospitals of war-torn Vienna. As a result he maimed many that would have been saved, especially children and the elderly. Holly learns of Harry’s disgusting scheme and is shocked that he has been blind to the wicked nature of someone so close to him for so long.

7) Eroticism

The only hint of eroticism within the entire film noir The Third Man is the fact that Harry and Anna are lovers. There are also two scenes where it is implied that Anna changes in the room but the audience never sees so much as a bare shoulder…. so I wouldn’t really classify it as erotic.

Film Noir The Third Man Harry Lime Orson Welles

Harry Lime (Orson Welles)

Amazingly well done, The Third Man is a classic film noir masterpiece that I am happy to have watched. Almost forgot! The last scene is incredible, because Holly misses his plane in order to patch things up with Anna (she is furious with him for betraying Harry), and she refuses to speak with him. The audience is given NO CLOSURE! I loved it. (ps, if you didn’t watch the youtube vid embedded at the top you are really missing out because it is unbelievably awesome).


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Film Noir | Anime: Darker Than Black

On the recommendation of one of my very good friends (Brandon D.), I looked up the anime Darker Than Black on Netflix. He told me that as he had watched he felt that there were many noir elements that deserved a closer look. Yesterday I completed four full episodes of the film noir anime, and to be honest it left me with mixed feelings. It was very sci-fi film noir/anime action in genre, with a bit of ne0-noir peppered on top. Here is the groundwork:

Film Noir Anime Darker Than Black

homme fatale?

Contractors are post-humans with super powers (gravity control, matter disruption, etc.). The only caveat to their power is that they must complete some compulsory action each time they wish to exercise their abilities. These can range from breaking their own fingers, folding every page of every book they touch, singing a certain tune, or eating large amounts of food.

Dolls are psychic mediums or hollow personality-less vessels. They are always depicted as females who lack pupils in their eyes. By submerging one of their body parts in water, they are able to sense with great clarity anywhere else that has an abundance of water. Hence, in the rain they can see every happening in the city simultaneously.

Moratoriums  are neither Dolls nor Contractors. Uncontrolled power courses through them recklessly and endangers the lives of all those around them. After a short period of power expenditure and destruction, Moratoriums lose their abilities and become comatose Dolls. The reason they are so feared is twofold: 1) they have no control over their power, and 2) they don’t have to pay any price to use it like Contractors must.

Film Noir Anime Darker Than Black Chiaki

femme fatale?

I absolutely loved the first two episodes of Darker Than Black. They certainly had a large dose of science fiction, but the noir elements were undeniable. Femme fatale is in trouble, an anti-hero loner is her only hope, and feelings of love develop quickly between the two that plunge them into deeper trouble. The most fascinating noir element I felt was the homme fatale factor. The main character uses his charm and confidence to coerce and influence even his enemies. He puts up the front of a trustworthy ally, when inwardly he is a ruthless Contractor who cannot be trusted. Very homme fatale.

By the fourth episode, I was bored. I may watch some more in the future because the idea was intriguing and the art was superb, but I felt that it was grasping at noir without fully gripping it. It couldn’t measure up to our noir definition. You can watch the whole series on Youtube as well as Netflix. (Click here for Darker Than Black videos).

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Film Noir | The Venture Brothers “Everybody Comes to Hank’s”

The Venture Brothers has long been my very favorite cartoon, and I couldn’t resist posting this episode where they do a film noir parody!! I hope you enjoy this as much as I did! (Just an FYI, the film noir parody doesn’t begin until a mystery presents itself to Hank, so you have to get into it several minutes before you get the switch to black & white shots).

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Film Noir | Pulp Fiction (1994)

I had never seen the film noir Pulp Fiction until this week and let me just say that I am blown away. Truth be told, the hype level for this film has been through the roof for the last several years, but I had never gotten around to watching it. Now I feel like a fool. Quentin Tarantino’s snappy dialogue and witty banter is as hilarious as it is entertaining, and he seems to break cleanly with the cliches of film noir history. I don’t wish to do a typical review where I dissect the plot-line and events of the film because there is already such a wealth of reviews out there. Instead, I will just highlight some of the features of this film noir that stuck out to me in phenomenal ways.

1) No Cops
One aspect of Pulp Fiction that was most refreshing to me was the fact that a police officer never makes an appearance. This may seem small, but it seems that in every crime film noir there is always a bevy of cops to thwart the robbers, and this is a tapped-out plot device. By removing the police from the plot, a host of different issues crop up and keep the action fully centered on the characters of the criminal underworld and how they relate to one another.

Film Noir Pulp Fiction Vincent and Jules

Text Book Anti-Heroes from our noir definition

2) Jules and Vincent
The banter between Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent (John Travolta) is nearly perfect in its execution. There is a chemistry between the two that is akin to a buddy cop film gone wrong. I couldn’t stop laughing at their argumentative debates and harrowing scenarios. Royale Burgers, foot massages, and cleaning up bits of brain matter, three cheers for their dialogue; it was the slow burning diesel that lit up this film noir.

3) What cliche?
I sensed a purposeful rebellion against the cliches of film noir in Pulp Fiction. One the the most obvious has already been mentioned: No Cops. But another that sharply stands out is during Vincent’s play-date with his boss’ wife Mia (Uma Thurman). During their entire date, I fully expected them to sleep together. The drama and tension between the two seems to build steadily in that direction to the point that we find Vincent in Mia’s bathroom giving himself a pep talk to just leave and not have sex with her. And then the lightning fast plot-shift when she overdoses on some drugs that she finds in his coat. Their night changes from untapped sexual tension to desperation and preservation as Vincent rushes to save her life. Potent film noir drama.

Film Noir Pulp Fiction Poster

perfect femme fatale for this film noir

4) Humor
“The Bonnie Situation” was one of the funniest sequences in any film noir that I have ever seen. Simply because the whole plot revolved around a bloody mishap and helping a friend avoid a divorce. It was a great change of pace in the film, and it injected an element of humor in an otherwise grim scenario. I also thought that the very first scene was magical, simply because it went so quickly from pledges of love and devotion between a couple to a violent language dripping robbery. It’s in the contrasts that this film becomes a classic.

5) Dislikes
Yuck. There were only two parts of the film that I didn’t enjoy. Although no nudity is shown, the rape scene was really hard to stomach. I think this is because the scene was so dark and depraved, and the whole time you want so badly to deny that any human being could do such a thing. Also, this is really minor, but Quentin Tarantino actually plays a role in the film, and I felt that his character was the least believable. I mean, there was a scene where he was yelling the “N-word” dozens of times at Samuel L. Jackson and I had a hard time believing that Jules would put up with that. I don’t know, maybe I’m being nit-picky but the scene felt strange.

All in all, this film noir was amazing. Easily in my top five favorite crime films. Everything was so stylized and dramatic from the camera angles to the soundtrack. And any film that can pull off extended dance scenes in a natural and memorable way is solid. Cheers to the cast and crew. Pulp Fiction will go down in the annals of history as one of the greatest films ever made.

Won the Oscar for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Quentin Taratino & Roger Avary)

Rotten Tomatoes gives it: 94%

264 “F” words.


Filed under Crime Movies, Film Noir

Film Noir: Max Payne (2008)

Late last night I watched the 2008 film noir Max Payne (directed by John Moore, starring Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, and Beau Bridges). It was the third time that I have seen the film, and I seem to like it more and more with each consecutive viewing. While I enjoyed certain aspects of the film initially, I felt it had some glaring faults as a film noir and as a tribute to one of my favorite video games. My arguments were many and varied, and I had trouble pinpointing what peeved me the most, but now that I have had some years to digest I am ready to tell the world what I think of the film noir Max Payne.

Film Noir Max Payne

Max and Mona in the derelict druggy district

Let us begin with that which was lacking:

Max Payne needs his pain killers! I couldn’t believe that there was not one single reference to painkillers in the entire film (and believe me there was ample opportunity). Also, Mila Kunis needs a different make-up artist, because she is a sexy and vibrant young woman who they have managed to make look like a goblin in the first few scenes. Now, I admit that the first time I saw this film noir I thought she looked even worse (this most recent time I realized its not as bad as I remembered it), but she was not the femme fatale that she could have been. Had I been in charge I would have eased up on the eye-liner and given her some bright red lipstick. Next, The film noir needed at least two more dark monologues. They start with a bang, (which I will talk about later) and then they never come back to the Max Payne defining inner monologue. This lack of narrative was a gross oversight on the part of the screenwriter, because this script could have been magical. And finally, Jack Lupino needed more character development and less wordless looming. In the video game, Lupino is so scary because you learn that he is a Satan worshiping psychopath who believes he is immortal. In the film, they try to make him scary by having him stand on cold rooftops without his shirt on (not very effective). With all the time that they wasted on showing him loom over the city scape, they could have been developing his character by giving him lines.

Film Noir Max Payne Blu Ray

Bullet time.

things they did right:

The first monologue was chilling, and Mark Wahlberg was a great choice for Max Payne. I was absolutely blown away by the opening lines of the film noir, but when they never came back to the same overly stylized Max Payne scripting I was utterly disappointed. I think that they were afraid that the script would be too cheesy if they mirrored the level of drama in the video game, but that’s the point! The heavy handed drama is what makes Max Payne who he is! Next, Olga Kurylenko was an excellent femme fatale. Her part is short lived, but she tip-toes on the edge of lust and danger with deadly skill. Also, the drug Valkyr was portrayed in a way that far surpassed the video game noir series. The ‘snowflake to embers’ effect was unbelievably cool, and the valkyries themselves in all their demonesque glory were amazing. Lastly, all of the action sequences were top notch in your face violent. The sets and special effects were all blu-ray worthy, amen.

Film Noir Mona Sax Max Payne Femme Fatale

Mila Kunis never looks this good in the film, this is not a screenshot.

“There’s an army of bodies under this river, people who ran out of time, out of friends. I could feel the dead down there, reaching up to welcome me as one of their own. It was an easy mistake to make.” -Mark Wahlberg as Max Payne

Some interesting noir definition moments:

This film noir has two femme fatales: Mona Sax and her sister Natasha. Mona plays the partner/equal/confidant role in the story, where Natasha plays the sexy/lusty/dangerous role. Interesting choice on the part of the film makers, because normally the femme fatale in any noir would have all of these attributes (and in the game, Mona and Natasha are identical twins so go figure). Also, Max Payne has a classic Redemption Theme. Max is attempting to redeem the irredeemable, for even if he successfully finds and punishes their killer, his wife and child will remain dead (and thus beyond his power to redeem). But the power of his story lies in the idea that if he can obtain revenge, that vengeance will redeem their memory and bring him closure. Max Payne is a classic film noir. (I purchased my blu-ray from (also, Max Payne got 16% on and that is where I got these film noir images).

Film Noir Natasha Sax Max Payne Femme Fatale

Olga Kurylenko as one sister of the femme fatale pair

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Filed under Film Noir