Street of Chance (1942)

Street of Chance (1942) is an early noir cycle amnesia noir that with Burgess Meredith and Claire Trevor which beautifully captures so many of the elements that would go on to make the full fat noir formula.

Burgess Meredith takes a little accident downtown and the fantasy world of Street of Chance has begun. You find a few full on readies in the early 1940s, where pretence to realism is only in the way, and every idea can be playful run.

Here is the hapless man who becomes film noir's solid centre stage staple. Here is a descent into an opposing world that this heel has experienced. He carries with him too a seeker female hero in Claire Trevor and it's going to be a helluva ride. There is domestic routine, without which any early noir would lose its bindings and be entirely wild.

Moonrise (1948)

Moonrise (1948) is a rural redemption murder and forgiveness film noir crime film directed by Frank Borzage starring Dane Clark, Gail Russell and Ethel Barrymore.

Atypical in the classic film noir canon, Moonrise is a small-town story of bullying and fate — of how the sins of one man reflect upon his son, and ruin and determine his son's life. 

What is remarkable about Moonrise is how true it is to some regular film nor themes —  most surely of all those of fate and paranoia, and the haunting effect of the past — combined with a story that presses hard into notions of redemption and transcendence.

The Racket (1951)

The Racket (1951) is a tough-guy crooked cop corporate crime thriller noir which pits cop against mobster in a classic tale of urban violence, corporate criminality and corruption which may in fact go all the way to the to the top — a great new flavour of wickedness for the 1950s, as the more fantastical and psychological elements of personal corruption are left in the shadowy fun of the 1940s.

As an exercise in casting, The Racket (1951) is a film noir which pulls together so many favourite actors and even directors, that it might appear hard to miss. You'll maybe want to know why The Racket ain't a classic film noir — given that it features Robert Ryan, Robert Mitchum and Lizabeth Scott, supported by William Conrad and William Talman, and with direction from not just the credited John Cromwell, but from Nicholas Ray and Tay Garnett also.

Beware, My Lovely (1952)

Beware, My Lovely (1952) is a home invasion amnesia Christmas-themed paranoid delusional maniac film noir starring Ida Lupino and Robert Ryan, two of noir's greatest acting talents.

Robert Ryan plays a strange kinda killer in this low-key film noir which takes something of a path of its own off of the main noir highway, and which yet complies with many of film noir's best tropes.

Most clearly of all, Beware, My Lovely (1952) is suburban noir and is the kind of noir that was becoming increasingly popular in the early 1950s — the type of noir which dealt the goods not on the streets and criminal dives of the 1940s, but directly within the super-vulnerable domestic bliss of the 1950s.

The Phenix City Story (1955)

The Phenix City Story (1955) is a violent semi-documentary true-life film classic film noir story set in the super-corrupt Alabama town of Phenix City.

The film depicts the real-life 1954 assassination of Albert Patterson, who was nominated as the Democratic candidate for Alabama Attorney General on a platform of cleaning up Phenix City, a city controlled by organized crime. 

Patterson was murdered in Phenix City, and the subsequent outcry resulted in the imposition of martial law by the state government. Full length prints of the film include a 13-minute newsreel-style preface which stars newsman Clete Roberts interviewing many of the actual participants.

Odd Man Out (1947)

Odd Man Out (1947) by Carol Reed and starring James Mason is a classic British film noir set largely on the streets of Belfast, Northern Ireland, following one man's episodic flight in the night, as he evades the law, while partially aided in his delirious and wounded state, by a variety of comrades, sympathetic locals and other colourful characters.

The noir chops of this outstanding thriller are evident first in the central character of Johnny McQueen, who is a sympathetic villain — almost a double villain if this is a permissible description.

As a handsome and wounded hero pulling off a passable Irish accent, James Mason is fully sympathetic despite his being both an armed robber and a terrorist — the latter at least in the eyes of the state.

The noir feel is further evident in the photography which is stunning in its use of shadows and light on the streets, corners and alleyways. These in fact do presage the similar, more famous and more elaborate work done by Carol Reed in the film The Third Man (1949), which was filmed two years later than this. 

The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)

The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) is a science fiction film directed by Jack Arnold based on Richard Matheson's 1956 novel The Shrinking Man. The film stars Grant Williams as Scott and Randy Stuart as Scott's wife Louise. 

Not a film noir, The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) is a noir era view of paranoia, and while classic era noir offers style, theme and technique to both horror and science fiction, The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) is also a great period exploration of masculinity —  or in fact it's an exploration of masculinity for all time.

Best appreciated for the complex and brilliant effects, The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) is one of the decade's major artworks. 

Alias Nick Beal (1947)

Alias Nick Beal (1947) is a fantasy-mystery film noir with occasionally spiritual overtones, which tries in its way to re-tell the Faust myth, setting it in the milieu of American state and domestic politics.

Although Thomas Mitchell receives third billing in Alias Nick Beal (1947), he is the central character, whose rather erratic journey we follow, as he discovers that politics is messier than he thought, and that simply wanting to clean up the city, is never going to be enough.

Supporting this journey are Ray Milland who plays the eponymous Nick Beal, who is in fact none other the Lucifer himself, at work on the city streets and in the salons of offices of 1940s America.

At the very least, the appearance of the devil in Faustian form, in a fedora and in the guise of Ray Milland, makes for a new and effective take on the film noir punishment and redemption motif. 

The Window (1949)

The Window (1949) is a modest voyeur murder witness classic film noir period child endagerment noir thriller set within the confines of a crummy New York apartment block, which stars child actor Bobby Driscoll as a kid who witnesses a murder one hot night.

Because of his tendency to make stories up however, this poor kid is not believed by his parents and then by the cops, when he does the right thing and reports the crime.

Soon the murderous couple, played by Ruth Roman and Paul Stewart are on to the kid and attempting to psychologically squeeze him, creating a beautifully urban noir aura of paranoia.

There is no doubt that young Bobby Driscoll is the star that holds this picture together, and without him, it might be a mess. This was felt too Howard Hughes.

The Prowler (1951)

The Prowler (1951) is a modest and excitingly unpredictable doomed-love-affair obsessional-voyeur and adulterer crooked-cop film noir starring Van Heflin and Evelyn Keyes as two lovers who find themselves in an evil mess of murderous ill happenings after starting an affair that is set from the off to go badly wrong, premised as it is on prowling, envy, lust and a crooked copper's cravings.

Although The Prowler promises voyeurism and terror, it is not exactly this type of film, and spends its time following cop Van Heflin as he pushes his way into this victim's life.

Van Heflin is excellent at this character, Webb Garwood, who is unhappy in his job and just simply can't get why some people have got rich houses and classy women, when all he has is his crummy boarding house room and for company, his sharp shooting targets.

White Heat (1949)

White Heat (1949) is the ultimate white hot gangster semi-documentary heist prison movie in the entirety of the classic film noir canon.

Super hot action and direction from Raoul Walsh flings James Cagney, Edmond O'Brien and Virginia Mayo into some of the best acting of their lives, elegantly supported by Steve Cochran

This explosive exploitation noir comes in at a huge length of nearly two hours.

White Heat (1949) is a multiple set of movies, seeming to smash them together at high speed, very much like the train which kicks the picture off, emerging from the tunnel to be robbed by the gang.

The Maze (1953)

The Maze (1953) is not film noir but an odd offbeat horror from the era, shot in 3-DIMENSIONS by William Cameron Menzies, and starring Richard Carlson, Veronica Hurst and Hillary Brooke. 

Despite its intentions and odd style at times, those times being when you forget you may or should be watching a three-dimensional movie, The Maze  (1953) does amply demonstrate what classic film noir began to offer horror.

Horror films in the film noir era certainly began to use the techniques of darkness, shadows and psychological suspense in ways that had worked well for film noir.

Gaslight (1944)

Gaslight (1944) is an historical psychological and ever topical film noir drama by George Cukor, starring Ingrid Bergman, and based on a play by writer Patrick Hamilton.

While an engaging and massively popular item of historical drama, Gaslight (1944) is probably most remarkable as a cultural point of reference for the denominalisation of its title — to become the term 'gaslighting' — an aspect of psychological abuse generally within couples such as this — an abusive and controlling male.

To serve it its proper definition and coinage, gaslighting proper is a form of psychological abuse in which a person or group causes someone to question their own sanity, memories, or perception of reality. And this is, to quote the film's period poster: (the) strange drama of a captive sweetheart!

People who experience gaslighting will feel confused, anxious, or as though they cannot trust themselves, exactly as Ingrid Bergman portrays in this movie.

Bury Me Dead (1947)

Bury Me Dead (1947) is a mystery noir with comic and fantasy elements, directed by Bernard Vorhaus and starring Cathy O'Donnell, Sonia Darrin, June Lockhart, Hugh Beaumont and Mark Daniels.

Made by Eagle-Lion films, this entertaining if slight and lightweight film noir is a straightforward whodunnit, with more of a who-tried-to-do-it feel, as the murder victim survives the attempt on her life, and must then sleuth out the would-be killer from the cast of friends and family.

When the remains of a woman's body are found after a fire consumes the stables on the estate of wealthy Barbara Carlin, it is assumed that the body is hers, especially since the body is found Barbara's diamond necklace. 

Classic noir mystery weirdness kicks off the action however, with the mourning victim on the way to her own funeral in a taxi — an event rich in an almost goofball flavour of black comedy.

Psycho (1960)

Psycho (1960) by Alfred Hitchcock is a noir-fuelled summation of thirty years of graphic and exploitative cinema, not just signalling the end of the classic film noir era, but bringing on many new types of film — the psycho-serial-killer horror film — the slasher —  the film that you see from beginning to end — the sight of a brassiere — jump scares shocks and a surprise ending. And a flushing toilet Code-lovers.

There is much to signal the changing of the era in Psycho, beginning with Hitchcock's inspired choice to make the film in black and white. For one Hollywood Golden Age fan at least, Psycho is the end of the line.

Psycho is not just the end of The Golden Age of Hollywood but for all its genius and for the sheer of its enjoyment and our never tiring of its technique and merits —  for all these things and more Psycho also heralds the opening of the age of disgust.

Johnny Eager (1941)

Johnny Eager (1941) is a delightful and fast-moving early period classic film noir, starring Robert Taylor and Lana Turner as two compromised and heartless individuals working against their better natures as they slide fatefully into separate dooms.

Directed by Mervin LeRoy and also starring Van Heflin and Paul Stewart, Johnny Eager is a cynical entertainment showing criminal hubris as only the gangster films of the era can.

Lana Turner plays her role almost without anyone appreciating her full star power, and she is certainly no femme fatale, but rather a femme who is fated, almost lost between two worlds, represented by the gangster she falls in with in the form of Johnny Eager —  and her stepfather, who is the District Attorney who imprisoned him.

Gilda (1946)

Gilda (1946) is a classic film noir love triangle murder mystery directed by Charles Vidor, which in many ways represents the fantastical apogee of the noir style with its romantic mystery, intense and strange relationships, and its obsessive characters, unsure of themselves in the mazes of deceit, crime and love in which they find themselves.

Gilda is less of a love story than many a similar film noir from the era, and in fact its characters often talks of hate. 

The star of the film is the gloriously cinematic Rita Hayworth in the title role, perhaps one of her best ever roles, and certainly one in which she seems to powerfully upstage and out-perform everyone around her.

Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)

Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) is a fun Pre-Code horror pre-Noir classic from Michael Curtiz, starring Glenda Farrell and Fay Wray.

This is a horror picture from the filmic age of innocence when in theory anything went before the Film Production Code cracked down on everybody and made morality great again, probably and incidentally creating the film noir of the 1940s and 1950s as it did so.

When sculptor Ivan Igor's London wax museum is burned down by his treacherous partner, he is left devastated. 

Ten years later in the then-present day New York, Igor opens a new museum, with more lifelike statues than ever before. Something mysterious and evil is behind his genius for wax likeness, but what could it be!

Horror films of the 1930s are an interesting prospect. Horror films of this time don't really lay bare the cultural zeitgeist, but usually looked at how science, crime and the supernatural intersected.

The Sound of Fury (1950)

The Sound of Fury (1950) is a hard hittin' tale of narcissism, sensational journalism, criminality and mob violence from the very heart of film noir and a classic of its kind.

It's a film that fires on all cylinders and one of the few from the era that still has the power to shock — the full on shocks coming in the final scenes, when a mob gathers to hit a jailhouse. 

In the long build up to this however, there is a full film noir panoply of crime, saps, weak males, money-minded females, a brutal murder that is just as gratuitous and frightening as the justice it inspires, and classic spiral-into-alcoholism that is every bit the quintessential sign of public failure — wrapped up in a hard hittin' tale of crime, punishment and yellow journalism.

The dramatic set up for The Sound of Fury (also known as Try and Get Me!) is a classic of its kind. Frank Lovejoy is the honest family man who is out of work and getting dissed like a jerk wherever he goes. Back home he's got an honest family life in the form of a wife and kid to support  — but there is still a sense there that he is going to crack.

Highway 301 (1950)

Highway 301 (1950) is gang-on-the-run moralising action film noir with police procedural action on top, and starring Steve Cochran as a bold-knuckled psychopathic gang leader, who leads a mini-mob of five violent thieves and three women, who terrorise the banks and payrolls in North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland.

Supposedly modelled on the real life 'Tri-State Gang', this film noir, very much in the style of White Heat (1949) takes the criminal viewpoint for the most part, showing the exciting and sadistic execution of the robberies, the escapes and the life on the run that the criminals face. 

This is cut with elements of police procedural although the real glue of the movie is the voiceover, which in this instance is delivered by the chief investigating police officer.

The Big Sleep (1946)

The Big Sleep (1946) is a superlative complex classic film noir sizzler of a private detection crime film starring Lauren Bacall and noir's ever faithful ace — Humphrey Bogart.

Directed by Howard Hawks, an apogee of the 1940s expression of crime, sexuality, and everything that film noir stands for, The Big Sleep almost defies description in terms of its script, perhaps down to the fact that no final script was truly ever available during its initial shooting, and then the film was delayed, due to a backlog of war related films which needed to be released and out of the way.

Between principal work in 1945 and release in 1946 footage was condensed, altered and eliminated and new footage had been added. The film was released to capitalise on the publicity already generated by the Hollywood romance between Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart — the She and He of film noir and one of Hollywood's most celebrated couples.

Angels With Dirty Faces (1938)

Angels With Dirty Faces (1938) is the great post-code gangster film. 

The fun truth that is constant about film noir, is that at its heart it does talk about morality. 

Angels With Dirty Faces (1938) directed by Michael Curtiz for Warner Brothers, and starring James Cagney, Pat O'Brien, The Dead End Kids, Humphrey Bogart, Ann Sheridan, and George Bancroft, makes at a stab at futurity and morality, the twin pins that the production is based on.

This is flat out morality with as much gangsterism as could be squeezed on to the screen, while Catholicism beckons from the sidelines, filtered through the rough-housing rough antics of a real juvenile delinquent squad of tearaways, who wreck the movie, much as the real life juvenile actors behaved true to type and wrecked the studio. 

This is an irony because film noir was brought about itself by the imposition of a moral code on cinema production, and film noir became an artistic way to discuss this code and frame its requirements in the most interesting ways possible.

Vertigo (1958)

Vertigo (1958) one of the greatest and best known of Alfred Hitchcock's films is also at its heart in the classic film noir tradition.

This psychological fantasy in full colour is probably one of the greatest and more ravishing Technicolor films ever produced, and so it does not perhaps fit the full film noir bill with its vibrant shades of rose and green.

The paranoia is real as is the preposterous fantasy elements, which if anything work against Vertigo because full-on colour like this, and most especially in its many splendid exteriors, are suggestive of a more real milieu.

The story is one of murder and madness, of weakness and psychological manipulation, and as often with Hitchcock, the ongoing manipulation and cruelty to women, who are judged poorly by men - - and it is all wrapped up in suspenseful storytelling and mystery.

The full whack of the psychological thriller film directed and produced by Alfred Hitchcock has become immortal in this picture. 

Pete Kelly's Blues (1955)

Pete Kelly's Blues (1955) is a music drama film starring and directed by Jack Webb which has film noir overtones.

It's the movie of the radio series of the same name - - the motion picture event no less! Taken to the screen by its creator Jack Webb.

Instead of firing up the tropes and tiring displays of middle of the road standard-as-you-go methods of storytelling, Pete Kelly's Blues delivers the tropes cold and plays them by the book, making for a strange and slight story that is easy in the telling, but doesn't deliver big on surprise, despite there being a bundle of muscle gunplay and murder throughout.

Jack Webb as Pete Kelly barely smiles as this colourful crime drama unfolds, although there is not much to smile about, aside from when he is rejecting Janet Leigh's frolicking advances.

Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)

Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) is a color film noir classic with a neo-Western setting, offering a thrilling paranoiac small-town murder story in which Spencer Tracy roughs up against some brilliantly played rough and tough local talent in a desert town.

Directed by John Sturges and starring Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine, Bad Day at Black Rock is the sure-fire best deepest and most entertaining colour film noir of the era — if indeed we are classifying it as such!

The film was based on a short story called Bad Time at Honda by Howard Breslin, published by The American Magazine in January 1947. Filming began in July 1954 and the movie went on national release in January 1955. It was a box office success and was nominated for three Academy Awards in 1956. In 2018, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant"

The bad-ass desert town-dwellers, led by film noir's own Robert Ryan are as immortal immoral crew as cinema ever created. They would be great with their own mini-series, Thugs of Black Rock, or similar.

The Amazing Mr. X (1948)

The Amazing Mr. X (1948) is a 1948 American horror thriller film noir directed by Bernard Vorhaus with cinematography by John Alton. It is also known as The Spiritualist, which is just as well, because nobody in it is called Mr X, or referred top as Mr X, although it's true that it does make a fairly sensational title.

The film tells the story of a phony spiritualist racket, which is rather excellently described with the various tricks of the trade merrily on display, much as they are in fairground noir Nightmare Alley (1947), which also reveals some of the tricks of the trickster's trade in all their shabby glory. 

The film is prominently featured in Alton's book on cinematography Painting with Light (1949) and , the photography does certainly have a full-on film noir feel, with its massive plays of dark and light around doorways and stairways and other architectural corners — including an interesting and repeated shot of the spiritualists at work via the crystal ball — shot from below. Some of the most memorably and recognisable film noir photography on the block.

Another of the stranger angles places the viewer inside a sink.

The Sniper (1952)

The Sniper is a 1952 psycho assassin deranged youth sex-pest film noir, directed by Edward Dmytryk, written by Harry Brown and based on a story by Edna and Edward Anhalt. 

The story is one of psychotic misogyny and the possibility of reform, as the police psychologist played by Richard Kiley, argues for treatment over incarceration and the death sentence.

The killer is an arch anti-woman boy with issues galore, a difficult thing to express on screen in 1952. That it is achieved soberly and without camp or cliché is testament to the cast and crew of The Sniper.

The film features Adolphe Menjou, Arthur Franz, Gerald Mohr and Marie Windsor, and is most notable of all perhaps for its fine San Francisco setting and photography.

The police have snipers too, and two decades before the rooftops of San Francisco became the hunting grounds of Dirty Harry Callaghan they are focused here on a mixture of police procedural, sensational woman-hating, and urban surveillance by both police forces and forces of psychopathy.

While The City Sleeps (1956)

While The City Sleeps (1956) by Fritz Lang is late enough in the cycle to be classed as knowing-noir - an almost self-aware example of the medium, that has mastered the tropes, themes, acting style and drama of the film noir phenomenon - enough to package up the groove and bottle it. 

While still a classic of the film noir style, many of the more significant tropes which formed the medium in the 1940s are curiously absent. While The City Sleeps is not a film of shadows, and neither is it a production heavy with cigarette smoke, hoods in hats and of course femmes fatales.

Still however, While The City Sleeps is considered by many to be a fine example of classic film noir.

It certainly has an A-list of film noir graduate class of 1956 noir as they come actors in it, including Ida Lupino, Dana Andrews, Thomas Mitchell and Howard Duff.

What makes this journalistic story of a psychopathic killer being caught by the press in concert with the cops a classic of film noir then? Perhaps it is because the story it tells of this killer loose in New York, as told by Fritz Lang, simply in and of itself contains enough material to be a Grade A example of the style, as it stood, towards the end of the cycle.

The Crimson Kimono (1959)

The Crimson Kimono (1959) is a brave bold and swingin Samuel Fuller race relations cop buddy noir with James Shigeta, Glenn Corbett and Victoria Shaw talkin and walkin the truth of Japanese American living on the West Coast in the late 1950s.

Amid a racial tolerance plea and a complicated love story that blossoms and battles its truthful way to a happy and promising conclusion, there is amid this and lurking there somewhere to be found a murder melodrama too. 

In one mouthful cheap and cheerful buddy noir when buddy noir was not really a thing — nobody should trust anybody in film noir — least of all your partner.

Odds Against Tomorrow (1959)

Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) is a late noir cycle race-relations civil-rights and jazz-fuelled minor heist film noir movie produced and directed by Robert Wise, starring Harry Belafonte, Robert Ryan, Ed Begley, Shelley Winters and Gloria Grahame. 

Odds Against Tomorrow is one of the last films to appear in the classic noir cycle, and is notable for a plot which features a serious commentary on racism.

If there were to be such a sub-genre as arthouse-noir from the late 1950s, Odds Against Tomorrow would qualify. The score is by The Modern Jazz Quartet, so it would be hard to groove harder than that in the late-noir groove-yard of arthouse heist noir.

As well as the most solid of noir tropes, such as the ex-soldier turned to crime, and the massive dose of 'one last job' which everybody seems to be on, there are also dramatic shots of birds in flight, city landscapes and children at play, all set to that arty jazz soundtrack by John Lewis —  and even some experimental infra-red photography.

You and Me (1938)

You and Me (1938) starring George Raft and Silvia Sidney is an early film noir from Fritz Lang, set in a department store which is staffed by criminals on parole.

Delightful within You and Me is the German expressionist sensibility which is quite apparent in the photographic style, but which the American audiences may not have been quite ready for. 

Most especially in the scenes where the large criminal gang are together, there is a certain flavour of the director's earlier film M (1931), stylised at times by the actors facing directly into the camera to achieve an arresting effect — as well as powerful and small touches which carry great weight.

Likely the most memorable of these describes the relationship between the two young lovers George Raft and Sylvia Sidney, whose hands touch as they pass on an escalator. The way this shot is managed speaks volumes, and in the midst of a chaotic crime caper, which to be fair has as many romantic and screwball aspects to it as it does full film noir flavour, it's among the most powerful of moments.

Moontide (1942)

Moontide (1942) with Ida Lupino, Thomas Mitchell, Jean Gabin and Claude Reins is a wacky tale of dockside folks getting up to all sorts of bumps, drunken maudlin dive haunting, flagon tanking, and trying to kill oneself in the waves.

Romantic drama noir takes a love story and mystifies it with crime elements one way or another, and here bathing in the moontide, a sense of sentimental shack dwelling darkness, adds some criminality while we witness the love of two misfits

This dockside light noir was directed by Archie Mayo and written by John O'Hara and an uncredited Nunnally Johnson, based on the novel Moon Tide by Willard Robertson.

Key to the production is the solid comic manliness of Jean Gabin, trans-Atlantically transported to an indeterminate American location where he gets up to all sorts of larks, most of which is not entirely noir but all of which are band-wagonning him quite well into the American heart. Daft docks drama noir at its best — and this is even before we have seen the antic disposition of Ida Lupino — something she was quite good at.

Mystery Street (1950)

Mystery Street (1950) is a classic murderous cat and mouse police procedural and sporadically violent film noir thriller.

It's known as one of the first films to be shot on and around location in the Boston and Cape Code area.

In the story by Leonard Spigelgass, a married, upper-class super-bounder James Joshua Harkley, played by Edmon Ryan, shoots dead his pregnant girlfriend Vivian Heldon (Jan Sterling), discards the naked body in the sea and sinks her stolen car in a muddy pond. 

When the car owner Henry Shanway (Marshall Thompson) is arrested, super-smiley police lieutenant Peter Moralas (Ricardo Montalban) and never-smiling Harvard doctor Dr McAdoo (Bruce Bennett) set out to investigate.

Walk Softly, Stranger (1950)

Walk Softly Stranger (1950) is a romantic drama with leanings into the film noir style. Perhaps also it is a film noir tale, with leanings towards the medium of romantic drama.

Either way, these are some quite unbearble tensions to place beside each other. Can love succeed against noir? Can noir defeat love and make a man abandon a loving partner, when offered a hat, cigarette, pistol and a package of money?

The idea in Walk Softly, Stranger may be to combine the two. The film dips into film noir territory in moments then swoops into romantic scenery on balconies, around extravagant Christmas trees and on the verandas of the rich.  The evil of the story is carried entirely by Paul Stewart who finds everything amusing and irritating, has a short temper and can't really follow the plan like the classic film noir weaker-willed heist partner who won't stick to da plan.

Among The Living (1941)

Melodramatic and at times oddly crazed Southern Gothic meets film noir in the effective 69 minute suspense thriller Among The Living (1941).

Among The Living stars Albert Dekker in twin roles as John and Paul Raden, one of whom is a successfully sane and moral social actor, while the other is a dark half, locked away in a basement room of the family home for 25 years, confined to madness, solitude, and a perpetual infancy which sees him often landed in a straitjacket.

The set-up is as follows: twenty years ago, the town's founder discovered that one of his twin sons was insane. He has the doctor fake a death certificate, had an old servant from the house made to care for him, and then moved the other son and himself into the town's best hotel. 

Caught (1949)

Caught (1949) is a film noir melodrama from Max Ophüls starring Barbara Bel Geddes, Robert Ryan and James Mason, laying bare the perils of middle class marriage and the bullying and controlling which waits any eager young bride, keen to live the fantasy life which the magazines of the time were selling.

Caught is a film which appears more vicious the closer we look at it. 

To kick off, we have some young women who are planning to live their lives through catalogues, an excellent introduction to the mating game as America enters the 1950s.

It is stressed over and over again, in fact. Young model Maude, who changes her name to a more charming 'Leonora', played by Barbara Bel Geddes is seen with her friend and flatmate Dorothy (played by Natalie Shafer) constructing the fantasy life she shall lead via the pages of the many magazines and lifestyle publications that occupy their evenings in their rather downbeat and crummy digs.

Castle on The Hudson (1940)

Castle on the Hudson (1940) is an early classic film noir high drama morality-guided prison movie with several differences. 

Hubris-powered hood John Garfield has ambitions to be The King of New York. 

He's young and good-looking, and filled with the kind of confidence that was popularised by the full-on gangsters of the 1930s.

He owns the night clubs and he owns the streets and he's just the sort of hero we have seen emerging over the last decade, out of the pre-Code era and into the fully coded sort of productions as Castle on the Hudson represents.

Working his way up from the streets, the hoods and mobsters of the 1940s were a special kind of gift to the world. American cinema offered more than a taste of evil, but a full on immersion into the lifestyles of the rich and criminally infamous.

Raw Deal (1948)

Raw Deal (1948) is a classic of on the lam noir film-making starring Dennis O'Keefe, Claire Trevor and Marsha Hunt.

Prison convict Joe Sullivan has not only taken the fall for an unspecified crime, but he sports the classic film noir overcoat in this film, and runs desperately from hideout to hideout, trekking down the West Coast of the USA on a collision course with revenge.

Best of all, his run is made with two women at his side, Pat and Ann, dames established from the off as the good and bad side of femininity, both of whom are of course sweet on him, in their separate ways.

Pat is the more traditional gangster's moll, who helps Joe with the breakout, and is as tough as the leather which this film noir is made from; contrasted with Ann, the good gal who is her foil and love rival, and is actually Joe's case-worker, who has against her own will fallen for the convict.

Kiss of Death (1947)

Kiss of Death (1947) is a psychopathic traumatic sttol-pigeon crime procedural film noir, featuring Victor Mature as a troubled ex-con; Brian Donlevy as a firm, fair and forgiving Assistant DA; Richard Widmark as a crazed psychopath; and Collen Gray as a sweet and innocent goody-two-shoes, the type of woman in fact beloved of all film noir scenarios, the guiding angel flying in the fateful face of sexual lust and loose living.

An all-American woman perhaps, certainly offering morality and everything else in line with the cinematic Code of operation.

The semiotic valuations which lead to the promotion of one family ideal, and the extinction of African American life in the process, was a bold attempt by Hollywood to attempt to mythify the American way of life into a set of values that all would adopt.

While similarly in this case being spooked up to high heaven by the emerging figure of the psychopath. And that with one of the greatest psychopath's in film history. Noir is its own set of cultures and ideas, and is roughly speaking, a set of conventions defining perception in limited and predictable ways within just about any picture of American life you might care to inject it into.

The Breaking Point (1950)

The Breaking Point (1950) is a swell of a smart film noir drama that falls sweetly across the boundary between 1040s and 1950s cinema.

The movie stars John Garfield, who plays the otherwise moral captain of a charter boat who becomes financially strapped and is drawn into illegal activities in order to keep up payments on his boat.

Across the varieties of film noir, there are many flavours, and this includes the tragic drama that has elements of film noir, as here in The Breaking Point.

Although not complex, the story is interesting because of the realism brought to the characters, an exchange made in favour of dropping the more familiar and fantastical elements of film noir.

One of the most common themes and juxtapositions in film noir, is made between domestic life and the life of crime, or at least the life 'out there' in the city of danger.

Man Bait (1952)

Man Bait (1952) is an exceptionally literal title for a film that appeared with several different titles  none of which were any cop in the film noir title stakes. 

With every passing year, as film grew in popularity as a method of impregnating global minds with ideas of sexuality, more morality for girls was forged on the screen.

Sexuality was in the air, and film noir tells of its dangers, the dangers of crime and crime's links to sexuality; it tells of of sexuality and sexuality's links to crime; noir tells of sexuality's exposure of male morals to catastrophically attractive female beauty, and everybody's inability to cope with the results.

This is in fact what film noir does best; it destroys the surface currents which pull us a long, dragging hapless males and sexualised females to the bottom of a vortex from where no one will emerge happily married.

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) is classic style film noir murder femme fatale courtroom death row take-out diner of doom powered by lust, fatality and fortune, played out to the death as a classic film noir must do.

In terms of film noir street cred, it packs a bagful. Considered too immoral to be filmed for many a year, with its themes of adultery and murder, The Postman Always Rings Twice was hastened into production after the success of the film Double Indemnity (1944), which was also adapted from a novel by James M. Cain.

The real themes of the movie are sexual dynamics however, and the tension between the man as drifter, working his way across the land with no particular goal or ambition, and the woman as the more rooted character, seeking to set up home. This is not just a tension played out in the sexual relationship, but in the society as a whole, with drifters being increasingly considered an anti-social element.

T-Men (1947)

T-Men (1947) is a tough and exciting undercover semi-documentary style film noir directed by Anthony Mann, starring Dennis O'Keefe in his breakthrough film noir role.

This classic film noir from 1947 follows two Treasury Department agents, Dennis O'Brien and Tony Genaro, as they go undercover to break up a counterfeiting ring. The film provides a glimpse into the post-World War II era of the United States and speaks to several aspects of 1940s American society.

One of the main themes of the film is the idea that the American dream is attainable through hard work and honesty. This idea is represented in the characters of O'Brien and Genaro, who are portrayed as hard-working and dedicated agents who are willing to risk their lives to protect their country. The film also portrays a strong sense of patriotism, which was common in the post-World War II era.

Another theme of the film is the idea that crime does not pay, which is a common message in many film noir movies. The counterfeiting ring that O'Brien and Genaro are trying to bust is shown to be ruthless and violent, and the film suggests that their criminal enterprise is ultimately doomed to fail.

Manpower (1941)

Manpower (1941) starring George Raft, Marlene Dietrich and Edward G. Robinson is deserving of an honourable mention on classic film noir, for the habits it portrays and social directions  it takes.

While likely classifiable as a dramatic film with comic elements, Manpower still has something to relate to noir audiences. 

The story is about two friends and their supportive relationship, and essentially portrays the bonds between working men and their women. 

The slapstick jollity of the era is well captured and has certainly, as comedy usually does, aged poorly. Edward G. Robinson's character in hospital is styled as an 'octopus' because of the way his hands grab the nurses. And this is the least of it. 

They Drive By Night (1940)

A box office hit in its day, They Drive By Night (1940), with George Raft, Ida Lupino, Ann Sheridan and Humphrey Bogart is a film noir trucker movie, which opens on the embattled lives of some West Coast fruit hauliers, and closes on murder, madness and corporate corruption ― as obsession and madness destroy femme fatale Ida Lupino’s life.

The rub is that director Raoul Walsh had a flair for subverting genres, and really only made what you might call “Raoul Walsh pictures” whatever the basic  genre ― and this one is about as Raoul Walsh as you can get.

It’s a trucker movie, it’s a comedy, it’s a romance and it’s a thriller. It’s a picture about class relationships and the cutthroat nature of business; and it’s a picture about madness and the little guy rising to the top.

Raoul Walsh ― who also made the following film noir favourites ― High Sierra (1941); Pursued (1947); and White Heat (1949) ― had a feeling feeling for regular people, informal surroundings, and he portrays the hustle and bustle of working life very well.

They Won't Believe Me (1947)

They Won't Believe Me (1947) is a note-perfect melodramatic film noir from the later 1940s.

Within the paranoid marriages of the era, there was according to the classic film noir canon, a good deal of secrecy, murder, and madness. 

Given the amount of times that film noir discusses such marriages, and their eerie contents, one wonders what was happening to men and women in that decade.

It is perhaps as if the women were coming out of the darkness and forging a place for themselves in the future homes and relationships of the 1950s, and beyond. In the 1940s marriages were fearful and secret places, where women remained prisoners in mysterious gilded cages.

Seven Thieves (1960)

Seven Thieves (1960) seems too good a film noir to miss, with Edward G. Robinson, Rod Steiger, Eli Wallach and Joan Collins, all in one tidy package of heist.

Instead, Seven Thieves maybe demonstrates what the style had lost by 1960, and the ways in which production and vision had altered, to knock classic film noir on the head.

With the odour of a caper movie, it's maybe a shame that Seven Thieves is not film in colour. Certainly VistaVision and other widescreen techniques do leave some directors offering large empty spaces on screen, especially in the shots of single individuals.

The Killing (1956)

The Killing (1956) by Stanley Kubrick is like a graduation class for many of the best stars and tropes of the classic film noir style.

As well as a cast including many of the styles favourites, from Sterling Hayden and Elisha Cook Jnr, through Marie Windsor and Jay C. Flippen, to Ted de Corsia and Joe Sawyer, The Killing is a kind of celebration of the style like no other.

It was in fact possible by 1956 to make almost consciously film noir pictures. The themes of robbery, lust and anti-social activity are there, and like some truly epic expressions of the style, there are no good people to talk of in here.

In fact possibly the only good character is the wife of one of the villains, portrayed as unwell and blind, and the reason for this man's turning to crime.

Nora Prentiss (1947)

Nora Prentiss (1947) and starring Ann Sheridan may not make it on to the major league lists of the great film noirs, but it could still teach us more about the style than many other flicks.

As an object lesson in the behaviours of the femme fatale, Nora Prentiss is an elevated example of that great noir trope - the family man falling foul of the femme fatale. 

What we learn is maybe unintentionally revealed. But the classic figure of the femme fatale represents much more than the dangers of sex, or living loose on the rough side of the city. She represents female emancipation and this being Hollywood and the manners of middle America, that can only be a bad thing. 

Kent Smith plays the mild mannered and successful family man who has it all, and is about to find out the hard way, what it means to lose it, by falling for the wrong woman. That in essence is the straightforward moral and the quick plot summary here, but this is film noir, and the waters run deep.

First is the exciting opening of the movie, featuring a strange shrouded character who is being led to trial, and who will neither speak nor reveal their true identity.

Appointment with Danger (1950)

Appointment with Danger (1950) is a modestly fun film noir from the lesser regions of the canon, telling the exciting story of a postal inspector who goes undercover to break a crime gang that is planning a heist.

Beginning with the only clue that he has, a nun as a witness, Alan Ladd (playing postal cop Al Goddard) proves a tenacious force, driving his way from clue to clue until he has tracked down the gang.

When he has finally got the gang in his sights, he then poses as a corrupt postal cop in order to infiltrate the gang and foil the crime. 

Although things go reasonably well, we're invited to take a look at Al's character as agent of authority, which is established early on. Al, it appears, is driven only by one thing, and that is his work. Even his colleagues are bemused in fact by Al's attitude. He foregoes everything, and lives in a kind of existential isolation, with only his work, which even in itself does not appear to be enough for him.