Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Brit Noir Update

One of the pleasures of the Film Forum’s Brit Noir series is the scenery. I’ve seen films set in Manchester, Liverpool, Cardiff, Newcastle, and, of course, Old Smoke itself. Lots of brick industrial wastelands, reminding us of the years of grim (they were still on WWII rations into the early 1970s for some things!) alternating with windswept moorland, and in The Clouded Yellow, the Lake Country. In Tiger Bay, the Newport Transporter Bridge is highlighted; I’ve never seen such a thing: it uses a suspended ferry platform to shuttle passengers and vehicles back and forth over the River Usk. Pretty damn cool, although Wikipedia tells us it’s no longer in use.

Victim was probably the best film of the seven I’ve seen so far. This 1961 Dirk Bogarde number was evidently the first English-language film to use the word “homosexuality,” then a criminal act in Britain. Bogarde, of course, had been draping starlet beards over his arm for years before this, but he took the role after many had declined. The movie was initially banned in this Puritan outpost, so long under the sway of the Church militant.

Next up in my favor would be The Clouded Yellow, (named after a butterfly), 1951, in which Trevor Howard finally shaves his awful mustache while rescuing Jean Simmons. Simmons also needed help in So Long At The Fair, 1950, and it’s Dirk Bogarde to the rescue there, again. In this costumer, the perfidious French, at the 1889 Universal Exposition, have a terrible secret, which was a little disappointing after all the lead-up. Simmons, however, looks extremely yummy in a hooded cloak, and Bogarde, eleven years before being so much more serious and mature in Victim, shows why he made all the girls swoon. Honor Blackman, later Pussy Galore in Goldfinger, is also in Fair. Interestingly, both of the Simmons films were produced by a Betty E. Box. I can think of no American woman producer of that era. Can you?

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