CATHERINE KRUMMEY: Binging on film noir in TCM's 'Summer of Darkness'

Like many who are movie-obsessed, I keep track of all of the films I watch via monthly lists. Usually, I average right around 30, or one a day. Last month, I hit 70. That's right, 70 movies in 30 days while still managing to work, help plan my mo...

Like many who are movie-obsessed, I keep track of all of the films I watch via monthly lists. Usually, I average right around 30, or one a day.

Last month, I hit 70. That's right, 70 movies in 30 days while still managing to work, help plan my mom's surprise 60th birthday festivities and otherwise live my life. (To minimize it a little, three of them were short films.)

This can be attributed to the onslaught of must-see summer movies ("Jurassic World," "Inside Out," etc.), an HBO/Cinemax free preview weekend and-last but not least-TCM's "Summer of Darkness" lineup, featuring an array of both classic and modern film noir for 24 hours every Friday from the beginning of June through the end of July.

Next to coming-of-age films and musicals, film noir is one of my favorite movie genres (I've even dressed up as a "deadly dame" for Halloween), so I've been jumping on the chance to rewatch some of my favorites and see other classics for the first time.



Before going into TCM's impressive lineup, which includes these five films, these were my favorites (and they still are):

"Out of the Past" (1947): Robert Mitchum was born to be a noir star. He has the right amount of gruff masculinity but isn't immune to the charms of a deadly dame or two. Mitchum is at the top of his game as Jeff, a small-town gas station attendant whose mysterious past as a private detective catches up with him.

"M" (1931): Filmmaker Fritz Lang is a master of darkness, and it's never been more apparent than in this gorgeously shot noir about a citywide manhunt for a murderer.

"The Third Man" (1949): Beware the haunting score, which is bound to get stuck in your head after watching the mysterious masterpiece tied up in the whereabouts of Harry Lime (Orson Welles).

"The Postman Always Rings Twice" (1946): It doesn't get better than John Garfield and Lana Turner. Their sizzling chemistry provides for one of the most intriguing love affairs in all of noir.

"The Maltese Falcon" (1941): Private detective Phillip Marlowe is a key figure both in film noir and pulp novels, and Humphrey Bogart turns in a star-making performance as the lead a year before he was paired with Ingrid Bergman in "Casablanca."


A little over a month into the Summer of Darkness, here are the five films that have caught my attention and are worthy of tracking down:


"Nightmare Alley" (1947): This starring vehicle for Tyrone Power came the closest to bumping its way into my top five. Power plays the ambitious Stan Carlisle, an assistant to a mentalist in a carnival sideshow. "Nightmare Alley" tracks every minute of his scheming as he becomes a renowned act of his own.

"Tomorrow Is Another Day" (1951): The title sounds like a bad James Bond film, and I went in to this one not expecting a whole lot, just wanting to watch it as part of the TCM series. But I was glued to the edge of my seat as I watched all the details of "Tomorrow Is Another Day" unfold, starting with the protagonist's release from prison after spending his teens and twenties there on a murder wrap.

"The Killers" (1946): Actor Burt Lancaster may be best known for his role in "From Here to Eternity," but he is absolutely marvelous as the criminal anti-hero in this noir. He blew me away. Ava Gardner also lights up the screen as Kitty Collins, Lancaster's Ole "Swede" Anderson's former flame.

"Murder, My Sweet" (1944): Phillip Marlowe turns up again, this time surprisingly well-played by Dick Powell as he's on a case to track down an ex-con's former girlfriend.

"Crack-Up" (1946): Another film where I didn't have super high expectations going in, "Crack-Up" opens on a seemingly drunk and/or disoriented man breaking into an art gallery. When his account of the night's events doesn't match up with what everyone around him witnessed, his friends and colleagues think he's gone mad, setting him on a relentless journey to prove he's telling the truth.

What to watch

Of the upcoming films TCM is airing in its Summer of Darkness, these are the ones to watch out for:

"Side Street" (1950): Farley Granger is absolutely riveting as the struggling protagonist of this finely crafted noir from director Anthony Mann. Worried about his impending fatherhood, Granger's Joe Norson impulsively decides to steal some money to provide for his family, not knowing just how sharp the consequences would be (July 10).


"Strangers on a Train" (1951): Filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock is known as the master of suspense, and he doesn't disappoint with this edge-of-your-seat noir (July 17).

"Clash by Night" (1952): Fritz Lang is at again, this time with an all-star cast including Barbara Stanwyck and Marilyn Monroe in a story of small-town restlessness (July 24).
"His Kind of Woman" (1951): Robert Mitchum is back in top form alongside Jane Russell as a gambler at a Mexican resort who gets caught up in a deported gangster's plot to get back to the U.S. Mitchum and Russell also paired up for 1952's "Macao," and their chemistry is one of the best parts of both films (July 24).

"Brute Force" (1947): After seeing Burt Lancaster's brilliant turn in "The Killers," I can't wait to see him try noir again as he plans a rebellion behind bars in "Brute Force" (July 31).

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