Header

UZH-Logo

Maintenance Infos

Dead fathers and other detours: Ulmer’s noir


Loren, Scott (2008). Dead fathers and other detours: Ulmer’s noir. In: Rhodes, Gary. Edgar G. Ulmer: detour on poverty row. Lanham [Md.]: Lexington Books, 61-96.

Abstract

Released the same year as Raymond Borde and Etienne Chaumeton’s seminal Panorama du film noir américain 1941–1953 (A Panorama of American Film Noir), one is tempted to speculate that as a film noir, Murder Is My Beat (1955) has something of the intentional to it. As a crime-thriller, Murder bears all the markings of what had come to characterize the “tough detective” noir by the mid-1950s. And although the core noir films made by this point were mostly made without directors knowledge that they were contributing to a distinctive genre (film noir was defined in retrospect—whether or not it constitutes a genre still continues to be a heated dispute), in 1955 there would have been some talk of it in critic circles. There also certainly would have been widespread recognition of the collection of crime-thriller tough detective films, many based on hardboiled fiction, that had been made up to this point and that share various characteristic elements. I point this out not because I’m particularly interested in whether Ulmer might have been aware of the term noir by 1955, but because he would have been aware that he was contributing to a style of film that had come to populate the cinematic landscape of the previous ten years. It is from this perspective that one might consider Murder an intentional, Ulmer’s only intentional, noir. In retrospect, this is interesting as the particular mood of the film doesn’t hold up as a noir as strongly as Detour, a rather early film noir whose noir status in no way could have been intentional. Although Murder is a crime-thriller about illicit sexual relations, deception and murder (all characteristics of noir), the mood of despair so essential to noir and the utter breakdown of social institutions are lacking. Partially contributing to this is the happy ending, of course but there are also some absent technical points making the difference as well: the heavy play of shadows, the long shot, tight framing, all of which supplement the gravity of Detour’s narrative, are missing here. As a result, the claustrophobic atmosphere of noir is lacking somewhat. This is not in any way to suggest that Murder doesn’t belong to the category of film noir. It does. Rather, what I’d like to point out is that it is more than mere plot conventions and chiaroscuro lighting that constitute film noir. The narrative content, the mood, the application of certain cinematic techniques, and the kind of social commentary a film makes all contribute to whether or not a film is effective as a film noir. Whether or not to classify a film as noir often comes down to a question of how many noir indices it contains. Of the films I’ve chosen as representing Ulmer’s films noirs, four of them are commonly included in critical registries of the noir style. They are Detour, Strange Illusion, Ruthless, and Murder Is My Beat. I have also included two additional films that contain various key noir indices, but nevertheless do not properly belong to the noir genre. For our purposes here, we’ll consider them accomplices.

Abstract

Released the same year as Raymond Borde and Etienne Chaumeton’s seminal Panorama du film noir américain 1941–1953 (A Panorama of American Film Noir), one is tempted to speculate that as a film noir, Murder Is My Beat (1955) has something of the intentional to it. As a crime-thriller, Murder bears all the markings of what had come to characterize the “tough detective” noir by the mid-1950s. And although the core noir films made by this point were mostly made without directors knowledge that they were contributing to a distinctive genre (film noir was defined in retrospect—whether or not it constitutes a genre still continues to be a heated dispute), in 1955 there would have been some talk of it in critic circles. There also certainly would have been widespread recognition of the collection of crime-thriller tough detective films, many based on hardboiled fiction, that had been made up to this point and that share various characteristic elements. I point this out not because I’m particularly interested in whether Ulmer might have been aware of the term noir by 1955, but because he would have been aware that he was contributing to a style of film that had come to populate the cinematic landscape of the previous ten years. It is from this perspective that one might consider Murder an intentional, Ulmer’s only intentional, noir. In retrospect, this is interesting as the particular mood of the film doesn’t hold up as a noir as strongly as Detour, a rather early film noir whose noir status in no way could have been intentional. Although Murder is a crime-thriller about illicit sexual relations, deception and murder (all characteristics of noir), the mood of despair so essential to noir and the utter breakdown of social institutions are lacking. Partially contributing to this is the happy ending, of course but there are also some absent technical points making the difference as well: the heavy play of shadows, the long shot, tight framing, all of which supplement the gravity of Detour’s narrative, are missing here. As a result, the claustrophobic atmosphere of noir is lacking somewhat. This is not in any way to suggest that Murder doesn’t belong to the category of film noir. It does. Rather, what I’d like to point out is that it is more than mere plot conventions and chiaroscuro lighting that constitute film noir. The narrative content, the mood, the application of certain cinematic techniques, and the kind of social commentary a film makes all contribute to whether or not a film is effective as a film noir. Whether or not to classify a film as noir often comes down to a question of how many noir indices it contains. Of the films I’ve chosen as representing Ulmer’s films noirs, four of them are commonly included in critical registries of the noir style. They are Detour, Strange Illusion, Ruthless, and Murder Is My Beat. I have also included two additional films that contain various key noir indices, but nevertheless do not properly belong to the noir genre. For our purposes here, we’ll consider them accomplices.

Statistics

Altmetrics

Downloads

1 download since deposited on 10 Sep 2018
1 download since 12 months
Detailed statistics

Additional indexing

Item Type:Book Section, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > English Department
Dewey Decimal Classification:820 English & Old English literatures
Uncontrolled Keywords:Edgar Ulmer, Film Noir, Detour, Strange Illusion, Ruthless, Murder Is My Beat, Bluebeard, The Strange Woman
Language:English
Date:2008
Deposited On:10 Sep 2018 09:22
Last Modified:10 Sep 2018 09:22
Publisher:Lexington Books
ISBN:978-0-7391-2567-0
OA Status:Closed
Related URLs:https://www.alexandria.unisg.ch/43513/ (Organisation)
https://rowman.com/ISBN/9780739125687/Edgar-G-Ulmer-Detour-on-Poverty-Row (Publisher)
https://www.recherche-portal.ch/primo-explore/fulldisplay?docid=ebi01_prod005643199&context=L&vid=ZAD&search_scope=default_scope&tab=default_tab&lang=de_DE (Library Catalogue)

Download

Content: Published Version
Language: English
Filetype: PDF - Registered users only
Size: 203kB
Get full-text in a library