Neo-Noir With Ben and Eddie

June 22, 2021
Neo-Noir With Ben And Eddie

Fridays in July / 15 Movies

The term “neo-noir” has been defined as a style in which more contemporary directors knowingly reflect the noir style of the 1940s and ’50s. The newer films are often shot in color as opposed to the glittering black-and-white of the classic era. But these newer films often retain the unusual angles, provocative use of light and shadow and, above all, a prevailing mood of anxiety and alienation. Eddie Muller, TCM’s resident film noir expert, has said of neo-noir: “I think you see filmmakers paying homage to the earlier films, but they’re excited about the possibility of doing it in a freer and more open way without the constraints that were placed on the filmmakers back in the classic era.”

In promotion of Muller’s latest book, a revised and expanded edition of Dark City (released this month by Running Press), the author joins TCM host Ben Mankiewicz in discussions of the evolution of noir. The duo will trace the form from its post-War origins into the neo-noir films of the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. Included in our lineup of films are 15 important neo-noir classics spanning from 1966 into the 1980s, with five being shown as TCM premieres. All five are in color.

Body Heat (1981), written and directed by Lawrence Kasdan, is a witty update of Billy Wilder’s 1944 noir Double Indemnity. Kathleen Turner plays a dissatisfied Florida wife who persuades a none-too-bright lawyer (William Hurt) to murder her wealthy husband. The film, which made a star of Turner, has been described as “the first conscious neo-noir.”

Cutter’s Way (1981), directed by Ivan Passer, stars Jeff Bridges as a man who thinks he’s witnessed the brutal murder of a young girl. John Heard plays his friend Alex Cutter, a Vietnam vet who is compelled to investigate the case. Early critical reception of the film was negative, but it later earned glowing reviews and was eventually hailed as a “neo-noir masterpiece.”

Blade Runner (1982), directed by Ridley Scott, is a legendary sci-fi cult favorite set in a futuristic Los Angeles. Harrison Ford stars as a “blade runner,” or cop whose job it is to hunt down “replicants” – synthetic humans prowling the streets of the city. The Guardian placed this neo-noir among the “top ten sci-fi movies of all time.”   

To Live and Die in L.A. (1985), directed and co-written by William Friedkin, is an edgy action film starring William Petersen as a Secret Service agent determined to nab the counterfeiter (Willem Dafoe) who killed his partner. Writers and editors at the Los Angeles Times voted this neo-noir to be one of the 20 best films set in L.A. in the past 25 years.

Tequila Sunrise (1988), written and directed by Robert Towne, is a colorful cocktail of a romantic thriller spinning a story of two longtime friends on opposite sides of the law. Mel Gibson plays a drug dealer and Kurt Russell is the narcotics officer who knows too much about his old pal. A very glamorous Michelle Pfeiffer is the woman who comes between them. Conrad Hall was Oscar-nominated for his evocative cinematography.

Other titles appearing in our showcase include: Harper (1966) starring Paul Newman; Point Blank (1967) starring Lee Marvin; Warning Shot (1967) starring David Janssen; Get Carter (1971) and Pulp (1972) both starring Michael Caine; The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973) starring Robert Mitchum, whose turn as Jeff Bailey in 1947’s Out of the Past made him a film noir icon; Chinatown (1974), starring Jack Nicholson in an Oscar-nominated Best Actor performance; The Coen Brother’s feature film debut Blood Simple (1984); Night Moves (1975) starring Gene Hackman; and Mona Lisa (1986) starring Bob Hoskins.