Wednesday, June 07, 2006

I Wake Up Screaming

Gary Giddins has a wonderful column on the DVD release of the movie I Wake Up Screaming. It's part of Fox's film noir series, and outshines a lot of the better-known titles in that series.

I Wake Up Screaming is a truly strange movie for a lot of reasons. First of all, it was made in 1941 but much of it has the look of a post-war film noir, with all the shadows, cigarettes and hats you'd expect from a noir, plus the occasional tilted camera angles and strange lighting tricks. Unlike The Maltese Falcon from the same year, which is considered an early noir but doesn't really have a lot of the noir visual style, I Wake Up Screaming looks like a movie from a later period; it's as if somebody had made Risky Business in 1978.

The other odd thing about it is that it's an early noir, full of murder, perverse obsession and a complicated flashback structure, made mostly by people who were associated with musicals: Betty Grable (though her part is overshadowed by others), director Bruce Humberstone, and writer Dwight Taylor. It's not quite as much of a mis-match as it seems at first glance, because Humberstone had directed a bunch of Charlie Chan films for Fox, and there always was a certain amount of stylistic connection between the noir and the B-movie mystery film, particularly since most noir movies were made on relatively small budgets. The film noir doesn't have the gloss of an "A" picture, though it's less simplistic and more polished than a "B" picture; it is, let's say, a "B+" picture, and that's what I Wake Up Screaming is: a really good, absorbing, inventive "B+."

Here are some screen captures which show off the beautiful noir-ish photography that Giddins talks about:

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Anonymous said...

Carole Landis - WOW!

Andrew S said...

I Wake Up Screaming was made by Fox people who usually made musicals, because it was intended to be a musical. At some point, the producers decided to cut out the songs.