Chicago Reader review of Thieves' Highway:
Perhaps the most unjustly neglected of Jules Dassin's preblacklist Hollywood pictures, and one of the best noirs ever made, this 1949 release is a terrific, fast-moving thriller about the corruption of the California fruit market business. Adapted by A.I. Bezzerides (Kiss Me Deadly, Track of the Cat) from his own novel, it has a pretty exciting cast as well: Richard Conte, Valentina Cortese (in her American debut), Lee J. Cobb (in a role anticipating his part in On the Waterfront), Barbara Lawrence, Jack Oakie, and Millard Mitchell.
Chicago Reader review of Rififi:
It's one of the enduring mysteries of the Hollywood blacklist that directors such as Joseph Losey and Cy Endfield had to hide behind fronts or pseudonyms, whereas Jules Dassin was able to direct this atmospheric 1955 French thriller under his own name and still get it shown in the U.S., where it was something of an art-house hit. (Oddly, as a cast member he uses the name “Perlo Vita.”) Shot in Paris and its environs and adapted from an Auguste le Breton novel with the author's assistance, this is a familiar but effective parable of honor among thieves, and though it may not be as ideologically meaningful as the juicy noirs Dassin made for Hollywood—The Naked City (1947), Thieves' Highway (1949), and Night and the City (1950)—it's probably more influential, above all for its half-hour sequence without dialogue that meticulously shows the whole process of an elaborate jewelry heist.
Here (and above) is the trailer for Rififi.
No2: The Lady From Shanghai (Welles, 1947): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 2pm
This superb Orson Welles film noir is on an extended run at BFI Southbank. Full details here.
I have written a feature about the drama both on and off the screen involving this brilliant movie here at the Guardian Film website.
Chicago Reader review:
The weirdest great movie ever made (1948), which is somehow always summed up for me by the image of Glenn Anders cackling "Target practice! Target practice!" with unbalanced, malignant glee. Orson Welles directs and stars as an innocent Irish sailor who's drafted into a bizarre plot involving crippled criminal lawyer Everett Sloane and his icily seductive wife Rita Hayworth. Hayworth tells Welles he "knows nothing about wickedness" and proceeds to teach him, though he's an imperfect student. The film moves between Candide-like farce and a deeply disturbing apprehension of a world in grotesque, irreversible decay—it's the only true film noir comedy. The script, adapted from a novel by Sherwood King, is credited solely to Welles, but it's the work of many hands, including Welles, William Castle, Charles Lederer, and Fletcher Markle.
Here (and above) is the trailer.