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Author Topic: Born to Kill (1947)  (Read 993 times)
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« on: April 27, 2017, 11:41:16 AM »

It's one of those stories where the characters  change personality from scene to scene (I'm referring especially to Trevor and Tierney, of course) sometime for mere plot reasons, sometime for the sake of the scene itself, giving the impression of character complexity, while it is only a matter of lack of a general design. So Tierney might very well  be a psycho killer but he also proves to be an able schemer, making the grade (funny the scene where Long shows embarrassment while dancing: must have felt his hard-on).  So  why does he kill Cook before Cook kills the old lady? And then just because he's been a couple of minutes in Trevor's room? And the Trevor's character is simply absurd, see the last 5 minutes in which she changes personality a dozen times. Not talking about her looks, not those of a femme fatale but of an ageing matron.   The movie is entertaining for the first half (the whole Reno episode is excellent), but after that it doesn't know which road to take. I give it a 7/10 because I like Tierney and because Cook ( Trevor taking him in her home makes no sense if not to provide Tierney for a weak reason for murdering him) plays a different character from usual.

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« Reply #1 on: April 27, 2017, 12:20:00 PM »

I Liked it much more

Born To Kill (1947) Director, Robert Wise with Claire Trevor, Lawrence Tierney, Walter Slezak, Phillip Terry, Audrey Long, Elisha Cook Jr., Isabel Jewell, and Esther Howard. Part of the Film Noir Classic's Collection #2. This one is great with a good cast who aside from Elisha Cook Jr., I was pretty unfamiliar with. Trevor plays a high society divorcee in Reno finalizing the divorce, who befriends beer swilling  landlady Ester Howard, in a great performance, and next door cutie Isabel Jewel who two times ladykiller hood Tierney as a way to keep him in line. Loose cannon Tierney who is in a sort of "Of Mice And Men" relationship with Elisha Cook Jr. (though not retarded as in the Steinbeck book, just dangerously impulsive) surprises Jewel & date in her house and kills them both. Trevor discovers the bodies but says nothing and leaves Reno on the train to San Fransisco with Tierney (who she met and becomes infatuated with in a casino while he was shadowing Jewel & her date), not knowing that he was the murderer. Walter Slezak is spot on in a classic characterization of a sleazy detective hired by Landlady Howard to find Jewel's killer.

Trevor is living with her wealth stepsister Audry Long and is engaged to a man with wealth Phillip Terry, the divorce paving the way for their marriage but she is now drawn fatally to Tierney who upon meeting Long projects his uncanny attraction to women and immediately focuses his attentions on Long to Trevor's dismay.

This is a good one, entertaining, with many twists, some great interior and location shots, all around great performances by the whole cast 10/10 I also liked Esther Howard character, she was the diner waitress in Detour.

« Last Edit: April 27, 2017, 12:26:22 PM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: April 27, 2017, 03:36:09 PM »

I like it very much too, but would have to rewatch before I write something about it . Didn't think the characters were absurd, but this wouldn't bother me too much anyway.

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« Reply #3 on: April 29, 2017, 02:49:11 AM »

Lawrence Tierney is a brute in this. In some ways I think there is a gender twist as it is a male character in noir who is often compromised between a good woman and a bad one. And then he makes the wrong choice. That role is reversed in this one. Walter Slezak is great as the Bible-quoting corrupt detective.

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« Reply #4 on: April 29, 2017, 08:33:43 AM »

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That role is reversed in this one.

Yes, Tierney is definitively the homme fatale here. Though you could say you have both here. The homme fatale and the femme fatale trying to play each other.

Another homme fatale would be Van Heflin in The Prowler and maybe even Dennis O'Keefe in Raw Deal.

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« Reply #5 on: May 02, 2017, 03:19:49 AM »

I'll look out for more of those homme fatale films Jessica. I must say that 'Born To Kill' is the first time that I have seen this gender twist done in noir. I always manage to feel sorry for Claire Trevor in these movies no matter what type of character she is playing.

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« Reply #6 on: May 02, 2017, 10:02:44 AM »

I'll look out for more of those homme fatale films Jessica. I must say that 'Born To Kill' is the first time that I have seen this gender twist done in noir. I always manage to feel sorry for Claire Trevor in these movies no matter what type of character she is playing.

If you go by the original French sense of "film noir" (i.e. when “Port of Shadows” won the Grand Prix National du Cinéma Français in 1939. An editorial in Petit-journal read, “It is distressing to see the most official of French film prizes, the Prix du Ministère, awarded to a film — full of artistic qualities, certainly — but of a very special type. A film noir, an immoral and demoralizing film, whose effect on the public could only be harmful.”)

Most people don't think of of it as a Film Noir but I've always thought that A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) definitely is. Watch it, it's a very Noir-ishly lit film, has a very dark subject matter with the same sort of archetypal Noir role reversal i.e. Stanley being the self destructive "Homme Fatale" to Blanche.


« Last Edit: May 02, 2017, 10:05:30 AM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: May 02, 2017, 10:26:46 AM »

Interesting quote. "Immoral and demoralizing?" This complaint sounds more like the Breen Office, not a French publication.

Stanley Kowalski could be called an homme fatale. Let's add Charles Boyer in Gaslight (though more Gothic than Noir) and Mitchum in Night of the Hunter to the list. And if James Bond were the villain and not the hero, you'd have another one.

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« Reply #8 on: May 02, 2017, 12:02:24 PM »

Interesting quote. "Immoral and demoralizing?" This complaint sounds more like the Breen Office, not a French publication.

Stanley Kowalski could be called an homme fatale. Let's add Charles Boyer in Gaslight (though more Gothic than Noir) and Mitchum in Night of the Hunter to the list. And if James Bond were the villain and not the hero, you'd have another one.

It's also interesting to note that what the French critics in 1946 considered the “film noir” Hollywood films when they finally saw them after the Nazi occupation, that one of them was not about crime but about addiction The Lost Weekend. So theoretically all films about addictions, drug, gambling, sex, alcohol, etc., etc. are potential Noir if filmed with Noir stylistics.

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« Reply #9 on: May 03, 2017, 06:16:03 AM »

I will check Marlon Brando's homme fatale character in 'A Streetcar Named Desire' Cigar Joe. That sounds a great cast in that now I've just checked it out on Wiki.

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« Reply #10 on: August 15, 2017, 01:20:31 AM »

This movie played TCM Noir Alley a couple of weeks ago – the final noir in July – but I have nopt yet gotten around to posting Eddie Muller's opening/closing comments – I'll do so as soon as I can, Jessica  Wink

I think this movie is crap. 5.5/10 Lawrence Tierney is crap. My favorite role of his is as Elaine's father in "The Jacket" episode of Seinfeld.

Claire Trevor is hit or miss for me. In this movie it's a big fat miss. Esther Howard is annoying as hell. Elisha Cook is always good. In this movie, there's no "sub" to the gay text. Cook is a queer, plain and simple. You can argue over whether Tierney is reciprocating, or whether Cook's love goes unrequited.

One line that Esther Howard says to Claire Trevor can be like the anthem of noir: "You're the coldest iceberg of a woman I ever saw. The rottenest inside. I've seen plenty, too."

I'm sure CJ and Jessica loved that.

But they probably love this crappy movie, too Roll Eyes

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« Reply #11 on: August 15, 2017, 07:23:49 AM »

Great film >

Turnip Man and Iceberg Woman.

Lady of Deceit (AKA: Born to Kill) is directed by Robert Wise and adapted to screenplay by Eve Greene and Richard Macaulay from the novel Deadlier than the Male written by James Gunn. It stars Claire Trevor, Lawrence Tierney, Walter Slezak, Elisha Cook Jr., Audrey Long, Isabel Jewell and Esther Howard. Music is by Paul Sawtell and cinematography by Robert De Grasse.

Trevor plays conniving divorcée Helen Brent, who risks her chances at the wealth and security she craves with the man she doesn't love by falling for hotheaded murderer Sam Wild (Tierney), who, with his own agenda, is soon to marry her foster sister.

I wouldn't trade places with you if they sliced me into little pieces.

Hard-bitten noir of some substance that pits two of noir's most unlikable characters against each other. Tierney's psychotic machismo and Trevor's calculating sex-bomb go head to head in a deliriously distorted romance that will only go one way once their inner pursuit of glory comes to the fore.

And he who falls beneath her spell has need of God's mercy.

The plot is a bit hard to take, but when in noirville it sometimes helps to stop off for a bite to eat at the fantastique café. It's a grim tale of pathological persons and it's superbly directed by Wise in what was his first foray into straight edged film noir. Slezak adds some seedy quality as a bible quoting P.I., Cook Junior does what he does best and Jewell inputs the naive sexy glamour.

Voluptuous violence and mad love in the shadows. Hooray! 8/10

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« Reply #12 on: August 15, 2017, 08:50:00 AM »

Spike, Hooray indeed. This is a very good noir. Supposedly Tierney thought Esther Howard stole the movie, and in a way she did with her somewhat over-the-top performance. But who cares, it was such fun to watch her. And, as usual, Cook was excellent. Topped off with a generous serving of atmosphere, Born To Kill is a real treat.

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Jessica Rabbit
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« Reply #13 on: August 15, 2017, 09:44:28 AM »

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I'm sure CJ and Jessica loved that.
D & D, Jessica certainly does and I'm sure so does CJ. And as you can see more people.  Afro
You must have your taste buds checked at some time.  Tongue

But please upload Eddie's opinion.

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Jessica Rabbit
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« Reply #14 on: August 16, 2017, 05:41:13 PM »

D & D, Jessica certainly does and I'm sure so does CJ. And as you can see more people.  Afro
You must have your taste buds checked at some time.  Tongue

But please upload Eddie's opinion.

 Afro

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