Moldy Oldie Movie Introduction

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I'm starting to watch a bunch of old movies. For the great old ones, there's no need to start a new category. They can be judged by today's standards.

But, there are those "others" that are pretty lame by today's movie going public interest criterion. These movies frequently aren't "bad" but they do appeal to a niche rather than everyone as a whole.

So how does one come to be commented upon in this category? Well, black and white is a starting point. If a movie has been filmed in black and white, it may be in this category. Color movies can qualify, but they're exceptions.

Generally, movies that were released prior to 1955 are also candidates. Why 1955? I could say that 1955 marks the end of the baby boom, or it's because that when Beatniks and bikers popped onto the scene, but in reality the reason I chose 1955 is because it's personal.

If a movie can, even loosely be categorized as "film noir" it's a candidate as well. What's film noir? For starters, film noir or "black film"is not about race. It's about attitude. A black film always involves someone in trouble with the police, the mob, an insurance company, the FBI, their wife, their neighbor...somebody.

Death is always involved. It doesn't have to be physical death. It can be the death of the soul. A wife has her sane husband committed to a mental institution. That's possible film noir.

So far in my description, The Whole Nine Yards could be film noir. It's got someone in trouble and there's death, but it isn't film noir. It's a comedy. How about Yojimbo or Fistful of Dollars? Interesting. There's no rule that says a Samurai movie or a Western can't be film noir.

Tragedy befalling the protagonist is always involved. Dying counts as a tragedy if the death is meaningless. In both Yojimbo and Fistful of Dollars tragedy strikes the hero. (They're nearly identical movies, so of course if it happened in Yojimbo it's going to happen in Fistful of Dollars.) But yet, neither movie is really a film noir.

There has to be something else. Villains need to be unscrupulous for a film noir but that's not enough to disqualify our two candidates. I mean, there are two warring factions that burn, kill, and rape in these movies. I think that counts as unscrupulous.

The only good people are the bystanders. Everyone involved in the main plot is some shade of grey, with the possible exception of a damsel in distress. In movies like The Maltese Falcon, the damsel in distress is anything but. Still, Yojimbo and Fistful of Dollars are still with us.

The hero keeps on going no matter what, sort of like Fox Mulder in the X-Files. Only death or insanity will stop a good film noir hero from finishing his monomaniacal pursuit to an unsatisfying resolution. And it never more than one person who can be redeemed. Maybe others are affected by the climax, but there is always just one person who suffers the most as their reward.

Which brings us to the fact that in a film noir, the ending is unsatisfying. There! Let's try that one on. In both Yojimbo and Fistful of Dollars I was happy when the protagonist won. I was left with a feeling of fulfillment. I didn't think, "You won, but at what cost?"

So, Yojimbo and Fistful of Dollars aren't examples of film noir. You didn't really think that they were, did you? Well, the novel that they're based upon is noir. A man with tunnel vision tears a town apart so that he can have satisfaction. People die because of his single-mindedness. The hero of Red Harvest is practically pathological. He's as bad as any of the villains he goes up against. But the movies add the damsel in distress that the hero saves and poof! the hero is no longer a film noir protagonist or anti-hero.

Is Escape from New York film noir? It's close, but no cigar. If Snake hadn't simply destroyed the tape, then maybe. If Snake had gotten the tape instead of Cabbie, then maybe. But Escape is only close to being film noir.

Typical plots from film noir:

Examples of film noir:

Real close to film noir:

NOT film noir even though they have detectives, cops, or dangerous women in them:


Moldy Oldie List

Not all of these are film noir, some are just old. I've flagged the ones that are dark.

The Big Sleep- Not Shabby (noir)
The Black Cat - At Least Once
Bulldog Drummond Escapes - Torn and Frayed
Fear in the Night - Torn and Frayed (noir)
Fog Island - Under a Rock
The Fountainhead - At Least Once
The Great Flamarion - Torn and Frayed (noir)
Great Guy - Torn and Frayed
High Sierra- Not Shabby (noir)
The Hoodlum - Not Shabby (noir)
Kansas City Confidential - Torn and Frayed (noir)
The Kennel Murder Case - Not Shabby
Lady in the Lake- Torn and Frayed (noir)
Murder My Sweet- At Least Once (noir)
Never Give a Sucker an Even Break - Not Shabby
The Old Fashioned Way - Torn and Frayed
The Pay-Off - Torn and Frayed (noir)
Quicksand - Torn and Frayed (noir)
The Red House - Torn and Frayed (noir)
Scarlet Street - Torn and Frayed
The Stranger - Not Shabby (noir-ish)
The Strange Woman - Not Shabby
Topper Returns - Torn and Frayed
Ten Minutes to Live - Torn and Frayed
Trapped - Under a Rock

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