Roads to Perdition: Lecture 1

The Dark Allure of Film Noir

The following list of recommended titles is intended to supplement the first in a series of 5 lectures by critic, broadcaster and writer Kevin Courrier on the topic of Film Noir. The lecture series takes place at the Revue Cinema (400 Roncesvalles Ave) starting on Tuesday January 18th at 7:00pm with the first lecture entitled Detours in the Road.

Roads to Perdition: The Dark Allure of Film Noir series continues with Mr Courrier’s second lecture, The Wrong Man on Tuesday, February 15th at 7:00pm. Ticket and series information can be found on the Revue website here

Lecture #1: Detours in the Road

Elements of film noir trace well back into the silent era and carry on to this day. There is an agreed upon “classic era” of film noir that runs from approximately 1944 to 1958. This is the period that most people are referring to when they discuss film noir. The noirish films that fall before this “classic” period are referred to in some circles as “proto-noirs”. These include a wide array of related works from American and European studios in both the silent and sound eras. Neo-noir is the name given to films that follow the “classic” period and is a term still in use today.

Recommended Proto-noirs 1927 to 1943


Underworld (1927)

Directed by Josef von Sternberg

The 1927 silent Underworld starring George Bancroft is amongst the earliest examples of the modern crime film and its hard-boiled exterior, murky urban setting, dark corners, unnatural shadows and unusual camera angles would greatly influence film noir in later years.  FBW Cat# 75162

Fury (1936)

Directed by Fritz Lang

Spencer Tracy as a man wrongly imprisoned in a small town and surrounded by fired-up locals intent on his lynching. They burn down the jail and leave Tracy for dead, but he survives and works behind the scenes to bring the whole town to trial for murder.  FBW Cat#65952

The Letter (1940)

Directed by William Wyler

Bette Davis stars, in this early example of a femme fatale, as the wife of a rubber plantation owner in Malaya. In a justifiably-famous opening tracking shot, the quiet evening is shattered by gun shots coming from a bungalow in the jungle.  FBW Cat# 66731

Stranger on the Third Floor (1940)

Directed by Boris Ingster

Called by some the first pure film noir, this low-budget quicky from RKO stars a couple of actors who would come to shape several film noir archetypes and characterizations during the classic period, Peter Lorre and Elisha Cook Jr. While not a great film by any stretch, Stranger on the Third Floor finds the noir coalescing into a definable style.  FBW Cat# 50334BV

The Seventh Victim (1943)

Directed by Mark Robson

A woman in search of her missing sister uncovers a Satanic cult in New York’s Greenwich Village and finds that they may have something to do with her sibling’s random disappearance. More horror than noir perhaps, but infused with expressionistic cinematography and noirish themes.  FBW Cat# 68662

The Early Classic Period. Recommended films from 1944 to 1946


Double Indemnity (1944)

Directed by Billy Wilder

An insurance rep lets himself be talked into a murder/insurance fraud scheme that arouses an insurance investigator’s suspicions. FBW Catalog #63857, #63858

The Woman in the Window (1944)

Directed by Fritz Lang

A conservative middle-aged professor who engages in a minor dalliance with a young woman, is plunged into a nightmare of blackmail and murder. FBW Catalog #70832

Laura (1944)

Directed by Otto Preminger

A detective investigating the death of a woman, falls in love with the victim. Part way through his inquiries, a bizarre occurrence forces him to rethink the entire case. FBW Catalog #61108

Murder, My Sweet (1944)

Directed by Edward Dmytryk

The second adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely starring Dick Powell at Marlowe. FBW Catalog #62600

To Have and Have Not (1945)

Directed by Howard Hawks

Bogie plays the owner-operator of a charter boat in wartime Martinique who, against his better judgment, accepts a job transporting an important underground resistance leader in his flight from the Nazis. FBW Catalog #63445

Other Recommended Early Noirs

Journey into Fear (1943) Cat #50161BV

Phantom Lady (1944) Cat #51535BV

The Whistler (1944) Cat #51436BV (includes all 6 Whistler Films)

Christmas Holiday (1944) Cat #50100BV

Guest in the House (1944) Cat #50139BV

Hangover Square (1945) Cat#64924

Detour ( 1945) Cat#63459

Fallen Angel ( 1945) Cat#64826

Scarlet Street (1945) Cat#63252

Gilda (1946) Cat#62680 (also part of Rita Hayworth box set #91088)

The Killers (  1946) Cat#71651

Nocturne ( 1946) Cat#50188BV

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) Cat#63866

Somewhere in the Night (1946) Cat#65970


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