Monday, June 13, 2011

The Dark Corner (1946)

"I'm backed up in a dark corner
and I don't know who's hitting me"

- Not always the first film thought of when considering the film noir genre, The Dark Corner is nonetheless a terrific film noir from big time director Henry Hathaway.

Bradford Galt is a private detective; well, o.k. not really - but he's trying to be. Having newly moved to San Francisco, Brad is trying to start a new and "by the book" life after an unfortunate and unforgettable incident in New York. But just as soon as Brad gets his feet wet in his new life in San Fran, some nasty old acquaintances and familiar situations return to make things miserable for him again.

The story for The Dark Corner is very absorbing with great dialogue, suspense, and characters, but what sticks out to me as the best piece of the film is its absolutely incredible look. The film has a very dangerous black-and-white appearance to be short but each every pitch-black shadow and smoke-filled room has a sort of  dazzling quality, which separates it from other films in the genre. The Dark Corner is definitely, in my opinion, one of the best *looking* films noir.

The acting found throughout this film is also great. Lucille Ball is of course known best for her wacky shtick in "I Love Lucy" and the subsequent spin-offs, but she steals every scene here in The Dark Corner in a serious role. Ball really is excellent, you may go into this film expecting to see some variation of "Lucy Ricardo" but your attitude quickly changes as you see her exert a whole lot of charm, beauty, intelligence (no really), and real personality into Brad's loyal secretary Kathleen who is always "playing for keeps."

Though Ball walks away with the show, the rest of the cast is memorable in their own right. Getting fourth billing in the starring role, Mark Stevens makes the real tough but in-over-his-head Brad Galt role work with a certain ease, giving a sense of being stuck between a rock and hard place that you can really feel. Also, William Bendix is in familiar film noir territory as the bulk heavy and Clifton Webb really just plays a less mysterious version of his Waldo Lydecker character from Laura (1944) but they both work well in the film.

The finale might not give the film the closing it deserves but The Dark Corner remains a sleeping classic 40s film noir; an entertaining mystery with memorable characters and a visual presentation that the rest of the genre looks up to.

CBC Rating: 9/10

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