Tag Archives: Femme Fatale

Femme Fatales | Lauren Bacall

The “Femme Fatale” segment on NoirWhale.com is designed to highlight the life and merits of exceptional film noir actresses. These women are the embodiment of the femme fatale archetype, and propel possibly the most recognizable and integral theme in the noir genre.

Femme Fatale Lauren Bacall

Lauren Bacall 1924-Present (via nakedmonkey.tumblr.com)

“I wish Frank Sinatra would just shut up and sing.”

Lauren Bacall was born to be a film noir femme fatale actress. Her trademark husky voice and sultry looks ignited the stage and screen of yesteryear, earning her high praise in every circle of film and high art. Born Betty Joan Perske in 1924, she first made a splash in the industry co-starring opposite Humphrey Bogart in To Have and Have Not (1944). She was so well received that she continued in the noir genre for many years, starring in such films as: The Big Sleep (1946), Dark Passage (1947), How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) with Marilyn Monroe, and Designing Woman (1957) with Gregory Peck. Here is a wonderful anecdote from LaurenBacall.com:

“During screen tests for To Have and Have Not (1944), Bacall was nervous. To minimize her quivering, she pressed her chin against her chest and to face the camera, tilted her eyes upward. This effect became known as “The Look”, Bacall’s trademark.”

It was during the filming of To Have and Have Not that Lauren began her relationship with Bogie, who was then still married to Mayo Methot. (Torrid affairs and femme fatales are inseparable). In the end Humphrey married Lauren at Malabar Farm in Ohio.  She was 20, he was 45. They became bosom friends of Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy during the filming of African Queen (1951). Before Bogie died from esophageal cancer in 1957, he and Lauren had two children together: Stephen and Leslie. Shortly after Bogart’s death, Lauren had a relationship with Frank Sinatra (which he ended after a scandal), and Lauren has written two autobiographies: Lauren Bacall By Myself (1978) and Now (1994).

In 1999, Bacall was ranked #20 of the 25 actresses on the 100 Years 100 Stars list by the American Film Institute. In 2009, she was selected by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to receive an Academy Honorary Award “in recognition of her central place in the Golden Age of motion pictures.”

Lauren Bacall has set the standard in the noir industry for the femme fatale archetype. Its invention is as much credited to her as it is to Dashiell Hammett.

“I think your whole life shows in your face and you should be proud of that.” 

Femme Fatale Lauren Bacall

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Femme Fatale Lauren Bacall

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Femme Fatale Lauren Bacall

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Femme Fatale Lauren Bacall

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Femme Fatale Lauren Bacall

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Femme Fatale Lauren Bacall

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Femme Fatale Lauren Bacall

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Femme Fatale Lauren Bacall

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Femme Fatale Lauren Bacall Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe and Lauren Bacall (via theconstantbuzz.tumblr.com)

Film Noir Lauren Bacall Humphrey Bogart

Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart (via madelinen.tumblr.com)

Femme Fatale Lauren Bacall The Look

The Look (via thisdayandaige.tumblr.com)

Femme Fatale Lauren Bacall Smoking

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She’s the priceless centerpiece of the film noir genre, and as of March 10th 2012 she’s still alive.

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Film Noir | The Graduate (1967)

Film Noir The Graduate Film Poster

The Graduate (1967)(via fatdudedigsflicks.tumblr.com)

First off, The Graduate is NOT film noir. Anne Bancroft’s role as the femme fatale Mrs. Robinson is the sole reason that I am writing this article. Yes, Dustin Hoffman did an amazing job, but Anne leaves the lingering impact. A synopsis to explain my feelings:

Femme Fatale Anne Bancroft The Graduate

Anne Bancroft as Mrs. Robinson

Ben Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) has just graduated from college. He’s moved home for the summer before future endeavors to live with proud (yet overbearing) parents. They bestow a beautiful sports car on him, and celebrate his triumphs with their rather large circle of friends. Yet Ben is unhappy. He’s overwhelmed with the amount of attention and simultaneous pressure placed on his future decisions. His moods are fickle and unpredictable. In the midst of this tumult, Mrs. Robinson appears. She’s the beautiful wife of Ben’s father’s business partner.

Femme Fatales Anne Bancroft Dustin Hoffman

Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft (via biltonbillz.tumblr.com)

The subtlety of her manipulative behavior is masterful. She begins her seduction by simply intruding on Ben while he hides from his own party in his room. She claims she was merely looking for the bathroom. Ben repeatedly explains that he wants to be alone, but she completely ignores his objections and demands that he give her a ride home. Not wanting to mistreat someone so important to his father, Ben reluctantly agrees.

As they arrive at the house, she asks if Ben will please come inside with her because she “doesn’t like coming home to a dark house.” She feigns fear and vulnerability, and once again Ben cedes her desires. As they enter the home and turn the lights on, Mrs. Robinson asks if Ben will wait with her for her husband to come home. Ben clearly wants to leave, but she’s persistent. She says that she is afraid to wait alone in an empty house. He reluctantly agrees again.

Film Noir The Graduate Mrs. Robinson Seduction

Iconic Imagery (intotthewild.tumblr.com)

Femme Fatales Anne Bancroft Dustin Hoffman

Iconic Imagery 2 (via crashingthisplane.tumblr.com)

“Mrs. Robinson, are you trying to seduce me?”

She begins to make a drink next, and desires him to have one as well. He refuses initially, but lets her win again. And thus it continues. She makes a demand, he makes an excuse. She overcomes his objection with reasonable justifications, and he does what she wants. She invites him up to her daughter’s old room to look at a portrait, then she asks him to unzip her dress. Then he tries to escape (even making it down the stairs) but she asks him to bring her purse back up to her before he leaves for good. When he goes to leave it on the dresser in the daughter’s room, Mrs. Robinson runs in naked and shuts the door behind her. She then finally reveals that she wants to have sex with him, and that he can have her whenever he desires. They hear her husband’s car door outside and Ben uses this interruption as the final means of retreat.

“Benjamin, I’m not trying to seduce you. I wish you’d–”

“I know that. But please Mrs. Robinson. This is difficult for me.”

“Why is it?”

“Because I am confused about things. I can’t tell what I’m imagining. I can’t tell what’s real. I can’t–”

“Would you like me to seduce you?”

“What?”

“Is that what you’re trying to tell me?”

Ben may have escaped the first encounter with Mrs. Robinson, but the seed was planted in his mind. And it ate at him until he finally called her and arranged their first meeting at a motel.

Femme Fatales Anne Bancroft Dustin Hoffman

(via sittingonwinbutlersface.tumblr.com)

This first segment of The Graduate was one of the best scripted femme fatale seductions I’ve ever seen. It was textbook film noir, in a non-noir setting. The classic Joseph and Potiphar’s wife brought to the contemporary age. What a memorable lesson: If you give the devil an inch, SHE’LL take a mile.

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Femme Fatales | Carole Lombard

The “Femme Fatale” segment on NoirWhale.com is designed to highlight the life and merits of exceptional film noir actresses. These women are the embodiment of the femme fatale archetype, and propel possibly the most recognizable and integral theme in the noir genre.

Femme Fatale Carole Lombard

Carole Lombard 1908-1942 (via ponponbunny.tumblr.com)

“Personally, I resent being tagged ‘glamour girl.’ It’s such an absurd, extravagant label. It implies so much that I’m not.”

Carole Lombard may seem an odd choice for our first femme fatale because of her heavy involvement in screwball comedies, a far-cry indeed from the musty darkness of the film noir cinema. Yet, her image has become iconic, and the fiery magnetism of her photos exude the femme fatale vitality. She was born Jane Alice Peters in Fort Wayne, Indiana on October 6th 1908. She made her film debut in Los Angeles at the age of 12, and rose to become the highest paid star in Hollywood by the late 1930’s (earning nearly $500,000 dollars per year). She is considered the “Queen of the Screwball Comedies” that were so popular during the Great Depression era.

“Platinum blonde, with a heart-shaped face, delicate, impish features and a figure made to be swathed in silver lamé.”

-Grahame Greene

She conducted a notorious affair with Clark Gable (while they were both still married), which eventually led to their own wedding in March of 1939. She died tragically in a plane crash on January 16th 1942. Said biographer Dina-Marie Kulzer in Carole Lombard: Lovable Madcap:

“When the US entered World War II at the end of 1941, Lombard traveled to her home state of Indiana for a war bond rally with her mother, Bess Peters, and Clark Gable’s press agent, Otto Winkler. After raising over $2 million in defense bonds, Lombard addressed her fans, saying: “Before I say goodbye to you all, come on and join me in a big cheer! V for Victory!” Lombard, anxious to return home to husband Clark Gable, wanted to take a plane instead of a train. Her mother and Winkler were both afraid of flying. They begged her to take the train. Lombard said they would flip a coin, heads the train, tails the plane. The coin came up tails.”

Some of her closest friends included: Alfred Hitchcock, Marion Davies, William Haines, Jean Harlow, Fred MacMurray, Cary Grant, Jack Benny, Jorge Negrete, William Powell, and Lucille Ball.

Femme Fatale Carole Lombard

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Femme Fatale Carole Lombard

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Femme Fatale Carole Lombard

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Femme Fatale Carole Lombard

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Femme Fatale Carole Lombard

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Femme Fatale Carole Lombard

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Femme Fatale Carole Lombard Shirley Grey Virtue 1932

Carole Lombard and Shirley Grey, Virtue (1932) (via classicfilmheroines.tumblr.com)

Femme Fatale Carole Lombard Clark Gable

Carole Lombard and Clark Gable (via sylviascarlett.tumblr.com)

Film Noir Mr. and Mrs. Smith 1941 Carole Lombard Alfred Hitchcock

Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941) (via deforest.tumblr.com)

Her death at age 33 cut short a wonderful career and robbed the world of a beautiful femme fatale.

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Noir Art | Ernest Chiriaka

Noir Art Ernest Chiriaka Jealous Paul Daniels

Pulp Cover from Ernest Chiriaka (via pulpart.tumblr.com)

Anastassios Kyriakakos was born to Greek immigrant parents in New York City May 11th, 1913. Adopting the more American name of Ernest Chiriaka, he was raised in the ghetto of the Lower East Side. One cannot conceivably imagine the hardships young Ernest must have faced as his father struggled to find work and his mother sacrificed to raise he and his five siblings. Out of humble beginnings and intense suffering came one of the most talented American noir artists of our time.

Liberty Magazine was the first to purchase cover art from Ernest (known as a “slick”) in July of 1950. Sadly, the magazine suddenly closed their doors before Ernest’s August cover hit newsstands. Said Ernest,

“I thought, ‘Hey, Holy Cow! I’m on the cover of Liberty! That’s great news.’ And they folded, right then and there, with my cover. It never came out! Gr-r-r! That was a dirty deal! My first slick, and it folds up!”

Chiriaka’s first real success didn’t arrive until 1952, when he was commissioned to paint two pin-ups for the Esquire calender. He apparently made waves with his work, because the following year he was asked to paint all twelve lovely ladies. He continued working for magazines and pulp publishers (doing book covers) for many years afterward.

Ernest Chiriaka died on April 27th, 2010 at the age of 96. His noir art stands as a pillar in the genre.

Noir Art Ernest Chiriaka

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Noir Art Ernest Chiriaka

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Noir Art Ernest Chiriaka

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Noir Art Ernest Chiriaka

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Noir Art Ernest Chiriaka

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Noir Art Ernest Chiriaka

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Noir Art Ernest Chiriaka

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Noir Art Ernest Chiriaka

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Noir Art Ernest Chiriaka

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Noir Comics | Scarlet by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev

Noir Comics Scarlet Bendis Maleev

my hardcover copy of the first volume

Scarlet by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev is a very interesting noir comic. It takes the classic inner-monologue approach of pulp fame and turns it conversational. The lead character, Scarlet, a twenty-something anarchist bent on revenge speaks directly to the reader for the majority of the comic. She places the reader in the scene beside her, and simultaneously explains her actions and confesses her sins. She seems compelled to defend herself, and even more compelled to convince the reader that her intentions are noble. The first scene: she kills a cop.

Noir Comics Scarlet by Bendis and Maleev

Speaking directly to the reader

Scarlet recounts her tragic history, and slowly reveals the events that led her to her current authority-figure murdering state. We learn that she and her friends were singled out by a drug-addled policemen with horrid intentions, and that when her boyfriend Gabriel resisted arrest he and Scarlet were gunned down. Weeks later, Scarlet wakes on a cot in a hospital ward to the news that Gabriel didn’t survive and his killer is being heralded as a hero. Turns out the police department planted evidence on her boyfriend after they killed him, and made it look like an amazing bust for Officer Gary Dunes.

Noir Comics Scarlet by Bendis and Maleev Head Shot

Gary Dunes shoots Scarlet in the head

1) The Seedy Underworld

Beautiful Portland Oregon. City streets, dark booze-halls, and picturesque rooftops.

2) The Anti-Hero

Scarlet is the anti-hero of this noir comic. She will not allow Detective Gary Dunes to get away with the murder of her love, and she has the entire Portland Police Department in her cross-hairs.

Noir Comics Scarlet by Bendis and Maleev Femme Fatale

utilizing her assets

3) The Femme Fatale

She is also the femme fatale of the story. Scarlet is very conscious of her sexuality and charisma and is unafraid of using both to accomplish her ends. At one point in the comic she puts her flesh on display at Dunes’ local haunt and waits for him to take the bait. He’s sorry he did.

4) Misogyny

A moderate amount of misogyny exists in the story. Scarlet is completely under-estimated because she is a young female. Like most male-created female protagonists she is sexy and dresses to embellish her more flattering features. Also, the fact that the entire story is born out of the death of a man seems a touch male-centric (as if a woman’s life is over if she loses her man).

Noir Comics Scarlet by Bendis and Maleev Gary Dunes

Detective Dunes caught in Scarlet's web

5) Redemption

Scarlet is nothing more than a redemption story. Its timing is fascinating, because the last year has seen a vast increase in the number of protests and revolutions throughout the world. This story re-imagines the peaceful gathering as a violent force that cannot be stopped, and looks at current   governmental authority as more than a modicum of tyranny. Initially, Scarlet wants to redeem the murder of the only man she ever loved. She fights selfishly, and unintentionally her cause becomes selfless as she begins to target the corrupted core of the government for the good of the common people.

6) Eroticism

Just a touch of sexuality throughout. Nothing I would consider erotic.

Noir Comics Scarlet by Bendis and Maleev

Among her Followers

7) Loss of Innocence

Scarlet’s world is shattered when she discovers that the police are not “the good guys.” Her world view up to that point then becomes entirely suspect, and her trajectory is altered forever.

8 ) Racism

None.

Femme Fatale Scarlet by Bendis and Maleev

Scarlet (via comiclist.com)

9) Smoke

An afterthought.

10) Emasculation

Because the main character is a female, she is untouched by this theme. I could say that her actions emasculate the mayor, the current police force, and the government as a whole but that feels like a stretch.

In conclusion I will say that I am looking forward to book 2 of Scarlet. My only problem with the story is the fact that she spends so much of her time talking to the reader. It’s unsettling, and really made me uncomfortable at points….maybe that was the idea all along. Scarlet is another great addition to the noir comics genre.

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Noir Music | “Joy Ride” by The Killers


“Joy Ride” off of The Killers album Day and Age is an excellent example of noir music. The presence of a femme fatale at a seedy hotel makes it all the sweeter.

here are the lyrics:

It’s getting close to sundown
Over the Sierra
Stranded on the heat wave
Burning with desire
She was on the sidewalk
Looking for a nightlife
Talked about the real thing
And drove into the fire
Headlights on the highway
The desert wind is howling
Rattlesnakes and romance
Are spilling with the rain
Candy apple red dress
Bleeding when she kissed me
Heaven in a ragtop
Takes away my pain

When your chips are down
When your highs are low
Joy ride
(Joy ride)
Move across the night like a separate wind
(Joy ride)

Pulled up to a motel
Vacancy was buzzing
Pink and dirty neon
Settled on the hood
Wrapped her arms around me
Come a little closer
Stumbled in the twilight
And fell onto the floor of the Mona Lisa
Dreaming of the free world
Lipstick on the nightstand
And demons at the door

When your chips are down
When your highs are low
Joy ride
(Joy ride)
Move across the night like a separate wind
(Joy ride)

When your hopes and dreams
Lose the will to go
Joy ride
Reaching for the light
More than we can win
And something in the distance
A glorious existence
A simple celebration
A place you never went before
(Why don’t you kiss me
And tell me that you want it?)
Reaching for the light
More than we can win
When your chips are down
(When your chips are down)
When your highs are low
Joy ride
(Joy ride)
All your hopes and dreams
All you need to know
Joy ride

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Noir Crime Fiction | The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Noir Crime Fiction The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

my copy from Amazon

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson has been on the receiving end of some serious press lately. For the most part this coincides with the release of the much-anticipated film noir adaptation starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara, but this post will deal exclusively with the noir crime fiction. I’m one of those geeks that everyone despises because I refuse to see a film before I’ve read the book (as if doing so would burgle my imagination of something delicious). Thus I’m going to give the novel the full review treatment while avoiding all possible spoilers (especially the big ones).

Simple stated, the story revolves around the unsolved disappearance of Harriet Vanger, the niece of a powerful industrialist. Mikael Blomkvist is given unlimited access to all records surrounding the case as well as incentive to discover the truth.

As is my custom, I’ll be looking at this noir crime fiction in light of the ten aspects of my pre-constructed noir definition:

1) The Seedy Underworld

The majority of this thriller takes place in scenic Hedestad, a small island outside of Stockholm. Very few of the locations described within the text have the “seedy” quality which one would expect; as a result nearly every wicked scenario is even more dubious because the villainy is hidden beneath a veneer of normalcy.

2) The Anti-Hero

Our anti-hero is Mikael Blomkvist, a mid-aged financial journalist with a penchant for moral causes and the courage to voice them. He is an attractive, level-headed man who has many loyal friends and old enemies. He makes a gambit at the head of the biggest corporation in Sweden, Wennerstrom, and fails to prove suspected corruption. This leaves him dejected, hollow, and furious and simultaneously opens a door to the biggest/strangest opportunity of his life. He is an ideal anti-hero because he has nothing to lose and everything to prove, and his self-worth has been shaken to the core by his failings.

3) The Femme Fatale

Lisbeth Salander, a tattooed chopstick of a woman who is always a hairsbreadth from violence is the femme fatale. She is young, odd, socially defunct, and an absolute genius. Throughout the course of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, she dishes as well as receives a great deal of violence, both sexual and non-sexual and none of it is easy to digest. She represents every woman who has ever been the victim of extortion and sexual abuse, and she shatters the shackles and norms associated with this blight through cruel vengeance. She is one of the most powerful femme fatale characters that I’ve ever read. Instead of being male defined, she is completely outside of their framework; essentially a male’s worst nightmare. She is an angel of vengeance.

4) Misogyny

While a frightening amount of misogyny exists in the novel, Mikael Blomkvist is wonderfully free of this ill. If even half of the statistics that Stieg Larsson quotes are true, then every woman in Sweden needs to get the hell out of dodge ASAP.  They are seen as sexual objects that need plundering, and that a male’s power is only a means of funneling  women to his libido.

“Thirteen percent of the women in Sweden have been subjected to aggravated sexual assault outside of a sexual relationship”

5) Redemption

Blomkvist is driven by the insatiable urge to redeem himself from his failed attack on Wennerstrom. This urge is what ultimately chains him in the service of Henrik Vanger on Hedestad, working to solve a mystery 40 years in the making. Although Blomkvist is not the only individual who craves redemption, nearly every main character desires the same.

Noir Crime Fiction Stieg Larsson

Stieg Larsson (via planetadelibros.com)

6) Eroticism

A hefty amount of eroticism exists in this noir crime fiction. Sexual torture based on bondage and S&M practices is a permeating theme in the book, and is balanced by an obvious presence of seduction and casual (though respectful) sex. Additionally there are bisexual encounters, rape, incest, and molestation present as well. The reason for such strong sexual themes in this novel is clearly the critique of the current climate of sexual violence and abuse in Sweden. The book is a harrowing look at hidden behaviors beneath the surface of clean streets and modern homes. This approach as an author of a crime fiction reeks of James Cain; the more bizarre and unacceptable the behavior, the more intriguing the book.

“Ninety-two percent of women in Sweden who have been subjected to sexual assault have not reported the most recent violent incident to the police.”

7) The Loss of Innocence

Possibly the most permeating consequence in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is the loss of innocence that accompanies sexual abuse. One scene in particular is the molten core of the entire novel, and it ignites an uncomfortable sizzle from cover to cover. Scarring invariably occurs as a result of this scene, both in the lives of the characters and in the mind of the reader. It won’t be comfortable, but you’ll be changed by it.

8 ) Racism

A surprising amount of Nazism is present in the novel as well as ‘Aryan’ themes. Antisemitism is peppered throughout.

9) Smoke

Blomkvist is hopelessly trying to quit smoking from the first chapter to the end. It represents a chink in his armor of self control, and dismisses his the illusions of his ability to cope.

10) Emasculation

Henrik Vanger seems to represent the greatest sufferer of emasculation within The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. His failure to solve the mystery of his niece’s murder for 40 years is the ultimate stroke of impotence in his otherwise successful life. This failure pervades all aspects of his existence, first derailing his business and eventually his health. He’s consumed by his inadequacy, and he takes on responsibility for her demise as if he himself dealt the final blow. He cannot surrender to the unknown and fears that he will die without knowing what happened. He believes that the knowledge will set him free and restore what manhood has been stolen from him.

A methodical thriller, an intellectual masterpiece, and a frightening social commentary, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a superb example of a modern noir crime fiction.

Here are some images promoting the film noir adaptation:

Film Noir The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo Film Poster

Film Poster

Film Noir The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo Daniel Craig Mikael Blomkvist

Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkvist on a financial magazine cover from the novel (Blomkvist works for Millenium) (via mouth-taped-shut.com)

Film Noir The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo Rooney Mara Lisbeth Salander

Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander. A hardcore femme fatale (via starcasm.net)

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Noir Art | Robert McGinnis

Noir Art Breakfast at Tiffany's Film Poster Robert McGinnis

His First Film Noir Poster

Robert McGinnis was born in 1926 in Cincinnati, Ohio. He’s left an indelible mark upon the noir crime fiction and film noir industries with his illustration skills; clocking in over 1200 paperback cover illustrations and over 40 movie poster illustrations. One of his most famous is his Breakfast at Tiffany’s movie poster which was (oddly enough) his first film poster assignment. I was so excited to learn that he is still alive, and since 2004 he has been doing paperback covers for the noir crime fiction group “Hard Case Crime.” Robert McGinnis is truly a noir art living legend.

Noir Art Robert McGinnis

(a femme fatale thrashing) via comicsalliance.com

Noir Art Robert McGinnis

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Noir Art Robert McGinnis

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Noir Art Robert McGinnis

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Noir Art Robert McGinnis

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Noir Art Robert McGinnis

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Noir Art Robert McGinnis

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Noir Art Robert McGinnis

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Noir Art Robert McGinnis

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Noir Art Robert McGinnis

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More noir art to come…

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Film Noir | Night and the City (1950)

Film Noir Night and the City Movie Poster

via impawards.com

Night and the City is an extremely famous film noir from 1950. I actually watched it several months ago when I was cultivating a bromance with my best friend Zach. Needless to say we were both impressed with the overall bleakness of the film, as well as the strong characterization present in the script. There are many very high quality reviews out there pertaining to this particular film noir, and so I am perplexed as to what I might add…so I’m going to stick to the stuff that I felt like they didn’t say.

Film Noir Night and the City Richard Widmark

Richard Widmark via cinemademerde.com

Film Noir Night and the City Gene Tierney

Gene Tierney via focus.levif.be

First off, the film makes Americans look ridiculous (as if we needed any help). Harry Fabian (Richard Widmark) is an American hustler living in London whose dead-end schemes have made a mess of all of his personal relationships. He risks all that he has left on a gambit against the mob boss Kristo, who is sitting atop the world of wrestling promoting (think Vince McMahon in the 1940s). Fabian uses Kristo’s father, the retired wrestling phenom Gregorius, in an attempt to edge out the mob’s lucrative seat. Harry is reckless, quick-witted, wild, and insatiably greedy- and throughout Night and the City he goes morally as well as financially bankrupt.

The film noir’s director, Jules Dassin, had plenty of motivation for portraying Americans this way; He had just been exiled from America for alleged communist politics. Here a a snippet of a review from 1950:

“[Dassin’s] evident talent has been spent upon a pointless, trashy yarn, and the best that he has accomplished is a turgid pictorial grotesque…he tried to bluff it with a very poor script—and failed…[the screenplay] is without any real dramatic virtue, reason or valid story-line…little more than a melange of maggoty episodes having to do with the devious endeavors of a cheap London night-club tout to corner the wrestling racket—an ambition in which he fails. And there is only one character in it for whom a decent, respectable person can give a hoot.” –Bosley Crowther, The New York Times

Film Noir Night and the City Richard Widmark Gene Tierney

Mary Bristol and Harry Fabian via twentyfourframes.wordpress.com

Harry’s lust for wealth and power has no limits, and in true anti-hero fashion he destroys his relationship with his fiancé Mary Bristol (Gene Tierney). At one point he even pawns her engagement ring. It seems that his character believes that redemption can only be bought by wealth and success, and not by love and forgiveness. Fabian is in a dead sprint the entire film noir to his inevitable conclusion.

Also present in the screenplay are heavy themes of masculinity vs. emasculation. In this era (and much in our own) the quality of “manliness” is inexorably tied with the ability to provide for one’s family. As Fabian repeatedly fails in his attempts to do so, he is shamefully stripped of his manhood. This theft of masculinity drives him to more and more desperate ends, and bears witness to the dark skew of societal expectations and gender roles.

This film noir’s charm is in its atmospheric setting. Night and the City is bleak, moody, and remorseless. The sharply contrasting shadows create a playground for villainous behaviors and a haven for racketeers. The entirety of the plot takes place outside the reach of “johnny-law,” and the criminal underworld rises up to devour the overreaching Fabian. The most poignant scenes occur during his mad scramble for safe harbor, when he finally concludes that he is truly friendless and devoid of hope. He is forced to cry repentance to his love Mary, but he is too late. His ending is pitiful, his death ignominious.

Adam Dunne: Harry is an artist without an art.
Mary Bristol: What does that mean?
Adam Dunne: Well, that is something that could make a man very unhappy, Mary, groping for the right level, the means with which to express himself.
Mary Bristol: Yes, he is that. Is he not? I like that, Adam. It is a very nice thought.
Adam Dunne: Yes, but it can be dangerous.

Truly an amazing piece of film noir, the genre is made more potent as a result.

Film Noir Night and the City Harry Fabian

Richard Widmark as Harry Fabian via fadedvideolabels.blogspot.com

Interesting tidbits:

In an interview appearing on The Criterion Collection DVD release, Dassin recalls that the casting of Tierney was in response to a request by Darryl Zanuck, who was concerned that personal problems had rendered the actress “suicidal,” and hoped that work would improve her state of mind.

Jules Dassin has stated that he did not read the novel “Night and the City” (which the film noir is based upon) until after the film was completed.

by Chad de Lisle

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Video Game Noir | Batman Arkham City


The video game noir Batman Arkham City was released this week, and my pre-ordered copy arrived like an angel in xbox 360 green.  Within the first five minutes I had goosebumps from the perfect timbre of Dr. Hugo Strange’s voice and the early appearance of the femme fatale Catwoman. The main story is a lightning paced buffet of the memorable villains and mainstays of the Gothamverse; brilliantly counterpointed by the new “side mission” system that truly introduces you to the basest elements of Arkham City. Within 72 hours I had beaten the main story arc, and was well on my way into the delectable extras unlocked by the accomplishment. Now, I eagerly divulge the noir elements of this noir comics staple turned video game noir- Batman Arkham City according to the noir definition:

1) The Seedy Underworld

Arkham City is a sprawling piece of old Gotham turned penitentiary by the twisted mind of Hugo Strange. All of the inmates from Arkham Asylum and Blackgate Prison have been inserted into the walled island, and told to fend for themselves. Derelict buildings, the frothing sea-front, and abandoned subways frame this haven of crime. This seedy underworld is absolutely noir.

Video Game Noir Batman Arkham City

via wccftech.com

2) The Anti-Hero

Batman, the dark knight himself, is the anti-hero of this video game noir. He is known as “the world’s greatest detective” and is referred to as such several times throughout the game. The character archetype of Batman is absolutely founded in the private eye/gumshoe detectives of the old noir crime fiction and film noir genres: Batman Arkham City is no exception. As a player, much of your time is spent piecing together clues and following the trail of events to their final (inevitable) conclusion.

3) The Femme Fatale

You would think Catwoman was the femme fatale, but she didn’t fit this role exactly. She seemed to be bored of Batman and he was utterly uninterested in her. Talia Al Ghul was more fittingly cast; she refers to Bruce as her “beloved” and she was identified as the only woman that he ever truly loved. The fact that he chases her around the plot is motivated to save and protect her in spite of her failings makes her the femme fatale.

Video Game Noir Batman Arkham City Catwoman

via digitaltrends.com

4) Misogyny

Every female character in the game is crafted by male defined sexual desire. Talia Al Ghul, Catwoman, Harley Quinn, and Poison Ivy are scantily clad vixens who exude sexuality. To their credit, each of these female characters have redeeming attributes: Talia Al Ghul is violent and powerful, Catwoman has a well developed personality, Harley Quinn becomes a villain in her own right, and Poison Ivy is a petrarchan monolith (cold and utterly unobtainable). The tragedy in these characters is that they are still wholly male defined.

5) Redemption

The entire Batman mythos is founded upon the pillar of redemption. Bruce must redeem himself from not the guilt of allowing his parents to be killed. Also, as a detective, he “redeems” each crime by exercising intellectual control over it: knowing how it happened. Thus, even though he was unable to stop the initial crime from happening, knowing the details of its execution and punishing its perpetrators spiritually redeems him. Herein lies the tragedy of Bruce Wayne’s story, for he will never be redeemed. Without dropping any spoilers, I would argue that Batman Arkham City is the story of the Joker’s redemption. As you play, ask yourself, “How important is the Joker to the story of Batman?”

Video Game Noir Batman Arkham City Riddler

via gamingexaminer.com

6) Loss of Innocence

The Riddler’s little game with the lives of several hostages comes across as very sick and twisted. Batman finds himself in “riddler rooms” whose chief purpose is to force the dark knight to cause the death of the captive. These deaths are sadistically engineered, and the penalties for Batman’s failure as swift and irreversible. Listening to one captive be blow torched alive was enough to place the Riddler in this “loss of innocence” category.

7) Eroticism

The only instances of eroticism within this video game noir are as follows: Talia Al Ghul bares her middriff, Poison Ivy doesn’t wear any pants (just little green panties), Harley Quinn’s thong is whale-tailing, and Catwoman’s suit exposes her deep cleavage. Selina Kyle’s catsuit becomes more sensual and erotic the longer that you play, because a multitude of snags and tears reveal the delicate skin beneath by degrees.

Video Game Noir Batman Arkham City Harley Quinn

via attackofthefanboy.com

8 ) Blaxploitation

The only black characters are the inmates that Batman pounds in the streets.

9) Smoke

The Penguin enjoys a stogie and several inmates often talk of their desire for “a smoke.”

Batman Arkham City is one of the best video game noir examples on the market. Get it at Amazon.com.

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