Shadows of Film Noir will unearth some of the treasures known as film noir, so dubbed by the French after the ravages of WWII. In America, it was not so much a genre as a mood, as soldiers returned home and the enthusiasm of victory wore off. It was not easy to return to normal life, and sometimes men became discouraged, morose, and tempted. The fear and paranoia they might have felt was not reflected in Hollywood musicals and comedies. In most stories of film noir, a man finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sometimes this predicament is of his own making, and sometimes it's just bad luck. He must make a decision, and inevitably, it's the wrong one. Sometimes this decision has to do with a female, or sometimes the promise of wealth or fame. Or sometimes it's just the promise of simple survival. It's what I like to term the "lure of the underworld," where the hero will spend the rest of the film, sometimes escaping at the end, most of the time not.

This week's film is Out of the Past (1947).

Behind the Scenes

Out of the Past is sometimes considered a prototype of the film noir genre, with all of its most typical elements firmly in place, but also one of its sturdiest examples. It was made at my favorite studio, RKO, and released in November of 1947. It was based on a novel called "Build My Gallows High" by "Geoffrey Homes," who was really Daniel Mainwaring, a journalist-turned-screenwriter and mystery novelist. Mainwaring brilliantly adapted his own novel into the film's screenplay, and was later hired to write Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956).
categories Columns, Cinematical