Lee Marvin

Editor’s Note: Max Allan Collins has written over 50 novels and 17 movie tie-in books. He’s also the author of the Road to Perdition graphic novel, off which the film was based. With his new Mickey Spillane collaboration “Lady, Go Die” in great bookstores everywhere, we thought it would be fun to ask him for his ten best films noir. In true noir fashion, we bit off more than we could handle… We have to begin with a definition of noir, which is tricky, because nobody agrees on one. The historical roots are in French film criticism, borrowing the term noir (black) from the black-covered paperbacks in publisher Gallimard’s Serie Noire, which in 1945 began reprinting American crime writers such as Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain, Raymond Chandler, Chester Himes, Horace McCoy, Jim Thompson, Mickey Spillane, W.R. Burnett and many others. The films the term was first applied to were low-budget American crime thrillers made during the war and not seen in France till after it. The expressionistic lighting techniques of those films had as much to do with hiding low production values as setting mood. In publishing circles, the term has come to replace “hardboiled” because it sounds hipper and not old-fashioned. I tend to look at dark themes and expressionistic cinematography when I’m making such lists, which usually means black-and-white only; but three color films are represented below, all beyond the unofficial cut-off of the first noir cycle (Kiss Me Deadly, 1955). Mystery genre expert Otto Penzler has […]

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Burt Lancaster. Lee Marvin. Robert Ryan. Woody Strode. Jack Palance. Ralph Bellamy. Claudia Cardinale. An incredible line-up was utilized to the fullest degree possible (117 degrees in the desert heat) in Richard Brooks’s The Professionals. It’s a stellar men-on-a-mission story where a group with 100 proof women, 90 proof whiskey and 14 carat gold on its mind gets rounded up to save a young wife from the marauder that’s taken her across the border into Mexico.

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John Ford did Westerns the way Michael Bay does explosions. With a remarkable amount of power and skill. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance unites John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Vera Miles and Lee Marvin all under the directing prowess of the master, and the result is a hell of a ride through a dry gulch with one bullet left in the chamber. Is it a fantastic movie? Yes. But it’s also notable for being the first time that John Wayne ever calls someone “Pilgrim,” on screen, and that’s reason enough to celebrate right there.

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Your weekly fix of great movies made before you were born that you should check out before you die. This week’s Old Ass Movie goes line for gritty line down the Western Genre Rules and twists them all up with a one-armed stranger, a Japanese farmer, a conspiracy, and a handful of deadly secrets. It’s Noir in the desert. Director John Sturges takes all of it and works it into a sweat out in the southwest at the tail end of WWII. As a silent, enigmatic man gets off a train that never runs, everyone is in for a Bad Day at Black Rock.

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Every day, come rain or shine or internet tubes breaking, Film School Rejects showcases a trailer from the past. In the Western tradition, a stranger comes to town. In the Noir tradition, he’s snooping around to find answers and wearing a black suit with a skinny tie. In the tradition of 127 Hours and The Fugitive, he only has one arm. The townsfolk are in for a bad day, ensured by director John Sturges and star Spencer Tracy, in this 1955 spin on dusty conventions. Think you know what it is? Check the trailer out for yourself:

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For 36 days straight, we’ll be exploring the famous 36 Dramatic Situations by examining a film that exemplifies each one. From family killing family to prisoners in need of asylum, we brush off the 19th century list in order to remember that it’s still incredibly relevant today. Whether you’re seeking a degree in Literature, love movies, or just love seeing things explode, our feature should have something for everyone. If it doesn’t, please don’t get a posse of famous actors together to hunt us down in Mexico. Part 5 of the 36-part series takes a look at “Daring Enterprise” with one of the best Westerns ever made, The Professionals.

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