The Rules of Film Noir, amiably presented by Matthew Sweet, offered a useful tour around the genre, with the assistance of plenty of clips and contributions from talking heads such as the notable American crime writer George Pelecanos.
Sweet pointed out that, although we tend to think of film noir as American, and the stories of the films often came from pulp fiction, the success of this dark brand of movie owed much to European influences. For example, Sweet and others pointed out that many of the finest directors, men like Wilder, Tourneur, and Siodmak, originated from Europe and some of the cinematographic effects had their roots in German expressionism. Similarly, there was a European style to some of the music used in the films, and due tribute was paid to the work of the great Miklos Rozsa.
Some of the clips came from films I know well, but I’ve never got round to watching either The Big Combo or Murder My Sweet. Two marvellous films based on James M. Cain classics, Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice, were among those featured, but I was surprised that D.O.A., Phantom Lady and Detour didn’t get a mention. But there is a limit to how much ground you can cover in an hour.
It was said that Touch of Evil (1958) was the last true film noir. But, of course, movies in the film noir tradition continued to be made. And it was surprising, given that the programme ended on this note, that no mention was made of that modern classic in the tradition, Body Heat. Especially since John Barry’s brilliant jazzy theme for Body Heat opened the programme!