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Posted by martinteller on November 1, 2010

I wanted to kick off “Noir-vember” with something from the “250 Quintessential Noirs” list, but Netflix had other plans for me.  Ah well, a noir is a noir, checklist be damned.  Jean Gabin stars as a freewheeling dockworker who rescues a suicidal girl (Ida Lupino) and starts to fall for her… but his old “friend” (Thomas Mitchell, who will always be “Uncle Billy” to me) holds a dark secret over his head.  It reminded me of both another Fritz Lang movie, Clash by Night, and another Lupino movie, Road House.  Also, shades of 7th Heaven.  All this makes for a rather disjointed experience.  Much of it feels superfluous and out of place, especially the 8-minute wedding scene.  “Disjointed” is to be expected, however, as Lang quit the film midway through and Archie Mayo took over.  And I got the feeling that they were really bending over backwards to appease the production code, more than they had to.  Still, there are a number of highlights.  Gabin, in his first American role after a great string of French hits, fits nicely into the role, which is comparable to his work in Pepe le Moko.  Lupino and Mitchell are both very good as well, and there’s a delightful supporting performance by Claude Rains.  The darker sequences are spectacular, with incredibly evocative lighting and a real sinister edge for both Mitchell and Gabin.  There’s also a wild phantasmagorical drunk sequence early in the film, inspired by Dali.  Some people see hints of homosexuality in the Mitchell character, and I agree there might be something there, but I also think there’s evidence against that argument.  Overall, more good than bad, but too much mediocre to make a strong impact.  Great climax, though.  Rating: 7


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