It’s an innocent question! Film Noir and the Private Eye

A monthly, three-film series running February-April 2015. Programmed by Bucknell Senior Will Fierman.

Monday, February 16 at 7pm – FREE

The Killers

Directed by Robert Siodmak (U.S. 1946) 97 min. 35MM. With Burt Lancaster, Ava Gardner, Edmond O’Brien

Based upon a 1927 short story of the same name by Ernest Hemingway, The Killers is as archetypal a piece of classic Hollywood Film Noir as one can hope to find. It’s all here: gangsters, a slick private eye, a wicked femme fatale (Gardner), and a textbook example of the film noir visual style. When two hired guns arrive in a small town to kill “the Swede” – played by Burt Lancaster in his film debut – they are surprised to find that their target makes no attempt to flee. Life insurance Investigator Jim Reardon (O’Brien) uncovers the Swede’s gritty past through a series of flashbacks. More suspense than thriller, The Killers’ winding story begins with Hemingway’s masterful opening scene and moves breathlessly toward a stunning climax. Print courtesy of the Library of Congress.



Wednesday, March 18 at 7pm – FREE


Directed by Roman Polanski (U.S. 1974) 131 min. 35MM. With Jack Nicholson, Fay Dunaway, John Huston

“Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown…” Conceived with Jack Nicholson in mind by acclaimed screenwriter Robert Towne, Chinatown is a mammoth combination of Chandler-inspired detective drama and environmental allegory, based upon the “Water Wars” of 1930’s Los Angeles. Uncouth private eye Jake Gittes, (Nicholson) is fooled into exposing the extramarital affair of the head of the L.A. water department by a woman claiming to be his wife. Attempting to find out why he was set-up, Gittes stumbles into a conspiracy of massive proportion. Featuring innovative cinematography, a haunting score by Jerry Goldsmith, and a memorable cameo by a knife-wielding Roman Polanski, Chinatown is a masterpiece of both the neo-noir style and Hollywood cinema in general. Print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive.

Chinatown was seen as a neo-noir when it was released – an update on an old genre. Now years have passed and film history blurs a little, and it seems to settle easily beside the original noirs. That is a compliment.” – Roger Ebert

Wednesday, April 22 at 7pm – FREE

Out of the Past

Directed by Jacques Tourneur (U.S. 1947) 97 min. 35MM. With Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, Kirk Douglas.

Another quintessential noir title, Out of the Past is a dark, dark film. Crafted by the vision of cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca, who would also shoot the influential horror film Cat People (1942) for Tourneur, Out of the Past is a performance in shadows. Former private detective Jeff Bailey (Mitchum) attempts to hide from his difficult past by working as a gas station attendant in a small California town. Unfortunately, his former employer (Douglas) tracks him down, and through a beautifully-noir flashback we see their shared past, which revolves around devastating femme fatale Kathie Moffat (Greer). Library of Congress Preservation Print.

Out of the Past is more than just an exemplary noir. It exceeds its genre even as it typifies it.” – Christopher Orr, The Atlantic