films seen
average score
Alive and kicking


The Spiral Staircase

1946 / 83m - USA
Thriller, Mystery
The Spiral Staircase poster

An old thriller that could be cataloged as either horror or noir, depending on how you're willing to shift the boundaries of genres throughout the years. Either way, it's a rather tepid affair that failed to get me fully engaged, though there is some inspired black-and-white cinematography.

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Helen works in a large mansion, where she cares for an old woman. When word goes around that a maniac is on the loose, killing women with various afflictions, Helen doesn't feel safe anymore. And she's right to be worried because a man has broken into the mansion and he's got his eyes on Helen.

The setting is appropriate and thanks to the clever use of black-and-white some scenes manage to build up tension, but many endless conversations immediately tear it down again. The plot is weak, the horror elements are unimpressive and the somewhat cheesy finale left me wanting. Not great, but if you consider this a noir, it's not even all that bad.

People on Sunday

Menschen am Sonntag
1930 / 73m - Germany
People on Sunday poster

A narrative film with amateur actors, set up as a passion project of the 5 directors involved. The story behind it is probably a bit more interesting than the final result, but it's not all bad and the more natural feel (some call it a semi-documentary, but that's stretching it a bit) is indeed quite novel for its time.

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The title of the film is spot on. After a week of hard work, people like to relax on their weekends. Two couples end up at a lake near Berlin, to escape the city's bustle. They get acquainted and have a blast together before they have to return to the city to face another 5 days of hellish pressure.

Talk about a film that is still relevant in this day and age. The thing is that not all that much happens, and while the acting is quite natural for its time, it's hardly realistic. It's a short film though and the pacing is pretty decent, the light tone certainly helps too. Not a great film, but like most German films of their time, better than many of the alternatives.

Criss Cross

1949 / 84m - USA
Crime, Thriller
Criss Cross poster

One of the endless number of noirs that was made in the 40s. The more I watch, the more boring they get. Criss Cross doesn't stand out in any way, which is perfectly fine when you're a genre aficionado, personally I'm a bit surprised these very basic genre films have such a dedicated following.

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Steve is a bit of a sucker. When he returns to Los Angeles to get his ex-wife back, she talks him into a pretty devious scheme. Steve is a truck driver, with the help of some shady figures he is about to rob his own vehicle. This sounds like a good plan, but the people he is dealing with are not to be trusted.

Like most of these films, the plot sounds interesting enough, but the film is basically a lot (and I mean a lot) of talking, with maybe a short, crummy action scene at the beginning or end (the latter applies here). The performances are bland, the pacing is slow, crime elements dull and badly developed. Not a fan.

The Killers

1946 / 103m - USA
Crime, Thriller
The Killers poster

Disappointing. The Killers started off very promising. Heavily contrasting black & white cinematography, a solid pace, a simple but intriguing premise. Everything was present to turn this into an entertaining film, except the will to keep it going. After the introduction, it gets duller by the minute.

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Two killers for hire murder a gas station clerk. An insurance claims specialist is interested in the case and starts an investigation. Through a series of flashbacks we learn that the clerk is an ex-boxer whose glory has faded over the years. The deeper they dig, the more it looks like there's a hidden angle to the murder.

The intro is moody, the rest of the film is just people talking and narratives unfolding. Endless conversations between rather bland characters that reveal the true nature of the murder, which isn't interesting in the least. It's a shame to see the potential go to waste, looking at the first 10 minutes this could've been a decent classic.

Phantom Lady

1944 / 87m - USA
Crime, Thriller
Phantom Lady poster

Back when one simple plot twist was enough to warrant an entire movie. Phantom Lady is one of those dialogue-heavy noirs, a film that has a pretty decent mystery setup but does very little with it. Instead, you get endless conversations between people who have cardboard personalities.

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When Scott goes out for a drink, he meets a woman with a peculiar head and spends the evening chatting with her. When he comes back home he finds his wife strangled to death. Scott pleads guilty and wishes to use the woman he chatted with as an alibi, but nobody seems to remember her.

Much of the film feels like watching a play adapted to the screen. People talk in barren rooms and try to solve a riddle that hinges on a rather tepid finale. Though the poster promises one of the most talked-about mysteries in a decade, I assume it's much like the scariest-ever horror promos nowadays. Much ado about nothing.