Une Balle dans le Canon (1958)

vt A Bullet in the Gun Barrel; vt Slug in the Heater
France / 69 minutes / bw / Filmatec, Les Films Corona Dir: Charles Gérard, Michel Deville Pr: Michel et François Sweerts Scr: Albert Simonin, Charles Gérard Story: Albert Simonin Cine: Claude Lecomte Cast: Pierre Vaneck, Mijanou Bardot, Paul Frankeur, Roger Hanin, Hazel Scott, Gérard Buhr, Colette Duval, Don Ziegler, Robert Le Béal, Yves Arcanel, Jean Rochefort, Mario David, Pierre Cordier, Roger Desmare, Michael Lonsdale, Jean-Pierre Moutier, Albert Simonin

A thoroughly enjoyable slice of French noir that I missed, alas, when writing A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir. Its co-director, Michel Deville, would go on to greater things, including a few movies of noirish interest—see below.

Back in Saigon during the French war in Indochina, paratroopers Antoine “Tony” Rossi (Vaneck) and his pal Dick (Hanin) met up with a shady figure called Boris Shivara (Ziegler), generally known in crime circles as Le Maltais (“The Maltese”). He gave them 25 million francs to smuggle into France on their return from service, plus a bonus of two million as commission. They soon enough blew the two million but, when Le Maltais failed to turn up and they assumed he was an ex-Maltais, pining for the fjords, invested the 25 million in a nightclub, the Tip-Tap. After all, the guy who sold it to them, Alberto (Buhr), promised that if need be he’d buy it back from them at the purchase price should they ever need the 25 million in a hurry—i.e., should Le Maltais ever turn up.

Pierre Vaneck as Antoine ‘Tony’ Rossi

The Tip-Tap, alas, loses money hand over fist, and then Le Maltais arrives in town demanding his money pronto or blood will be shed. Alberto is oddly forgetful about Continue reading

Des Gens Sans Importance (1956)

vt People of No Importance
France / 99 minutes / bw / Cocinor, Chaillot, Ardennes-Films de René Lafuite Dir: Henri Verneuil Pr: René Lafuite Scr: Henri Verneuil, François Boyer Story: Des Gens Sans Importance (1949) by Serge Groussard Cine: Louis Page Cast: Jean Gabin, Françoise Arnoul, Pierre Mondy, Yvette Etiévant, Dany Carrel, Nane Germon, Jacques Mann, André Dalibert, Pierre Fromont, Alain Bouvette, Ardisson, Nina Myral, Max Mégy, Gérard Darrieu, Lila Kedrova, Robert Dalban, Héléna Manson, Paul Frankeur.

Christmas Eve, and long-distance trucker Jean Viard (Gabin) and his co-driver Pierrot Berty (Mondy), veterans of the Paris–Bordeaux run, stop at a roadside diner, La Caravane, to grab a couple of hours’ sleep. La Caravane’s one-legged owner, their old friend Émile Barchandeau (Frankeur), has hired a new waitress, Clotilde “Clo” Brachet (Arnoul); even though she’s not much older than Jean’s wannabe-sexpot 17-year-old daughter Jacqueline (Carrel), she and Jean strike a spark.

I’m not going to be too worried about spoilers: first because Des Gens Sans Importance isn’t the kind of movie you watch waiting for the plot twists and second because most of the accounts of this movie you’ll come across will go into far greater detail about the plot than I will here. What I want to do is give a barest-of-bones outline so I can talk about other aspects of the movie.

Jean Gabin as Jean.

Despite the disparity of their ages and even though she knows he’s been married for years to Solange (Etiévant), Clo eventually seduces Jean. Five months into the affair, Continue reading

Moontide (1942)

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Ida Lupino and Jean Gabin (and Claude Rains and Thomas Mitchell!) in a strange piece of borderline noirishness!
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US / 95 minutes / bw / TCF Dir: Archie Mayo, Fritz Lang (uncredited) Pr: Mark Hellinger Scr: John O’Hara, Nunnally Johnson (uncredited) Story: Moon Tide (1940) by Willard Robertson Cine: Charles Clarke, Lucien Ballard (uncredited) Cast: Jean Gabin, Ida Lupino, Thomas Mitchell, Claude Rains, Jerome Cowan, Helene Reynolds, Ralph Byrd, William Halligan, Victor Sen Yung, Chester Gan, Robin Raymond, Arthur Aylesworth, Arthur Hohl, John Kelly, Ralph Dunn, Tully Marshall, Vera Lewis, Tom Dugan.

On Amazon.co.uk a commenter called Now Zoltan (I assume that’s not his real name) has complained that I omitted this movie, which he regards as quintessential to the genre (“a cornerstone noir, one of my favourites”), from my A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir. He also complained about a typo as if it were an error of fact, which I thought was a bit unfair: 675,000 words of information-dense text? Of course you can expect a few typos—though hopefully not very many!

Anyway, I checked my entry for this movie in my personal catalogue and saw that I’d given it the NSH (noirish) rather than the NOIR classification. Since it stars Lupino, Gabin and Rains, three of my all-time favorite actors, and since Fritz Lang was involved, in the ordinary way I’d have bent over backward to include it in the book—i.e., to persuade myself it was sufficiently noir that it oughter go in.

An enigma on the back of a conundrum, and puzzling too.

It had been yonks since last I’d watched the movie, and to be honest I could remember little about it, so I decided to give it another whirl to see if I could work out why I’d decided to omit it. Here goes.

Jean Gabin as Bobo.

Bobo (Gabin) is a longshoreman, and ostensibly a good one, but he has a penchant for hard drinking. Tonight in the saloon called The Red Dot he’s well and truly hammered, to the dismay of his sidekick Tiny (Mitchell), who wants to Continue reading