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Robert Murphy

British film noir. William K. Everson’s two essays in Films in Review in 1987 set out the ground, arguing that: British film noir is particularly fascinating, not only because it has never been officially acknowledged to exist, but because its peak period parallels that of American noir, but does so with several major differences, the key one being

in European film noir
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Editor: Andrew Spicer

This book aims to provide an overview of the history and development of film noir and neo-noir in five major European cinemas, France, Britain, Germany, Spain and Italy, written by leading authorities in their respective fields. It contains a bibliography and extensive filmography. The book describes the distinctiveness of film noir or neo-noir within its respective national cinema at particular moments, but also discusses its interaction with American film noir and neo-noir. It commences with a reflection on the significant similarities and differences that emerge in these accounts of the various European film noirs, and on the nature of this dialogue, which suggests the need to understand film noir as a transnational cultural phenomenon. The problems of defining film noir and the reasons why it has almost always been regarded solely as an American form are discussed. Because British film noir had never received critical recognition, Andrew Spicer argues that British neo-noir had to reinvent itself anew, with little, if any, explicit continuity with its predecessors. The book also explores the changes in the French polar after 1968: the paranoia of the political thriller and the violence of the postmodern and naturalistic thriller. That new noir sensibility is different enough, and dark enough, from what preceded it, for us to call it 'hyper-noir'. British neo-noirs are highly intertextual and allusive, both thematically and visually. The book also discusses German neo-noir, Spanish film noir and neo-noir, and the Italian film noir.

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‘Do push off, there’s a good chap’
Andrew Roberts

The chapter commences with an overview as to how John Mills did not accord with the standard image of the post-war male film star and how his popularity derived from his apparent ‘ordinariness’. The sheer scale of the actor’s career is discussed, together with how he achieved major stardom as the archetypal ‘Everyman’ during the Second World War. The October Man is considered in terms of post-war British film noir and showcasing Mills’s talent for conveying barely suppressed angst. By the 1950s Mills was frequently cast as officers and towards the end of the decade Town on Trial and Ice Cold in Alex displayed his authority figures as flawed, complex individuals. Tunes of Glory is evaluated as possibly the actor’s definitive performance and the chapter ends with When the Wind Blows, as an ironic reflection of Mills’s wartime pictures.

in Idols of the Odeons
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Andrew Spicer

disorientating, ‘adult and knowing fairy tales’ (p. 76), that have only a passing relationship to American cinema. British cinema is often accused of being a pale reflection of American cinema, but Robert Murphy reveals a British film noir that is ‘tantalisingly similar but fundamentally different from [its] American counterpart’ (p. 103). As in France, British noir also began to develop before the war, drawing on

in European film noir
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Imagining private visions of home
Hollie Price

modernism. Jo Collins and John Jervis refer to ‘a reflexive “defamiliarisation”’ in modernism’s ‘programmes for artistic reinvention and renewal: “making the world strange” prepares the way for its inevitable return in disturbing, unrecognised form, in turn a central theme in Surrealism, along with its fascination with dream, poised uncertainly between sleeping and waking’. 88 Studies of film noir similarly suggest that a slippage between film noir and gothic influences, including Victorian melodramas of the 1930s, illustrates the hybrid nature of British film noir’s

in Picturing home
Open Access (free)
The early British films of Joseph Losey
Neil Sinyard

from drowning, drags her down to the depths with him when he realises she wants to run off with her lover: the impulses of love and hate there murderously intertwined. Blind Date offered something of a generic departure for Losey: the opportunity to make a British film noir . Classically, the story is told mostly in flashback, a journey into a past dominated by a deadly female, and the action hinges

in British cinema of the 1950s
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The talented Mr Skikne
Andrew Roberts

’s performance as the heartless and menacing Rave makes his domination over three allegedly honest men appear the more improbable’ (Review 1954 : 52), but The Good Die Young now seems a fascinating example of the British film noir. C. A. Lejeune praised Harvey’s ‘smooth, smiling, unguent study of an incompletely written character’ ( 1954 : 11), the actor’s immaculately modulated tones hinting at evenings in Mayfair’s finest niteries, departing in a polished Jaguar Mk VII, with possibly a crate of black-market gin in the boot. It was a world that the young Withnail (Richard

in Idols of the Odeons
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Brian McFarlane

general tendency to depict men damaged, most often by war, in the British film noirs of the later 1940s. Not a great deal has been written about The Night Has Eyes, but it is worth noting for its own merits and as a progenitor of two different strands of British film-making. At least one reviewer at the time enjoyed it, praising it for ‘[f]orthright direction, powerful leading portrayal, plenty of light relief’,7 though another felt that: ‘The direction and production of this film are too stagey to get the most out of quite a good plot.’8 Tony Williams, meanwhile

in Four from the forties
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Tom Ryall

with John Boulting directing instead of Asquith.60 The Woman in Question was produced by Teddy Baird, a long standing colleague of Asquith’s from his British Instructional days. Baird had been Assistant Director on a number of Asquith’s 1930s films including Pygmalion and French Without Tears and Associate Producer on both While the Sun Shines and The Winslow Boy. The Woman in Question, a thriller centred on the murder of a young woman, has been seen as part of a British film noir cycle along with films such as Odd Man Out (Carol Reed, 1947) and Brighton Rock (John

in Anthony Asquith
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Brian McFarlane and Anthony Slide

Featuring more than 6,500 articles, including over 350 new entries, this fifth edition of The Encyclopedia of British Film is an invaluable reference guide to the British film industry. It is the most authoritative volume yet, stretching from the inception of the industry to the present day, with detailed listings of the producers, directors, actors and studios behind a century or so of great British cinema.

Brian McFarlane's meticulously researched guide is the definitive companion for anyone interested in the world of film. Previous editions have sold many thousands of copies, and this fifth instalment will be an essential work of reference for universities, libraries and enthusiasts of British cinema.

in The Encyclopedia of British Film