1948, Warner Bros., 81 min, USA, Dir: Fred Zinnemann

A dark masterpiece made during the Metro tenure of producer Dore Schary, this is emblematic film noir. Psychically scarred Robert Ryan stalks war hero Van Heflin from sylvan Big Bear Lake to the nocturnal underbelly of postwar downtown L.A. Robert Surtees’ stunning cinematography captures the dark side of the postwar boom, as well as superb performances from the entire cast, including a jaw-droppingly gorgeous 20-year-old Janet Leigh and a revelatory Mary Astor as a blowsy, street-wise hooker. Director Fred Zinnemann’s only foray into film noir is one of the best of the classic era.

1951, Park Circus, 75 min, USA, Dir: Joseph Losey

George LeMain (John Barrymore Jr.) “celebrates” his 16th birthday by witnessing his father (Preston Foster) stoically absorb a dreadful beating from a mysterious local operator. The youngster seeks answers - and revenge - during an all night odyssey through downtown L.A., making this a truly noir coming-of-age tale. Losey abandoned the film during editing, fleeing to England after being subpoenaed by HUAC; co-screenwriters Hugo Butler and Ring Lardner Jr. adapted Stanley Ellin’s novel Dreadful Summit but were denied credit and blacklisted (along with supporting players Dorothy Comingore and Howland Chamberlain).

1951, Crystal Pictures, 92 min, USA, Dir: Joseph Losey

A perverse, provocative film about a corrupt cop (Van Heflin) who sexually dominates a married woman (Evelyn Keyes) for material gain. Oh yeah, he murders her husband in the process - then marries her. And she ends up giving birth in a Nevada ghost town. Hands down, Keyes’ best performance. Heflin’s desperate pursuit of his skewed vision of the American Dream lingers in the memory – potent, haunting and disturbingly similar to today’s headline news. A rediscovered masterpiece not to be missed!

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