Archive for May 17, 2010

Iron Noir

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , on May 17, 2010 by dcairns

William Wellman’s THE IRON CURTAIN is a brazen propaganda flick about a Russian agent (Dana Andrews) who tries to defect in Canada. What with Wellman’s latter-day shift to the right, the film’s subject matter, and the ever-so-slight miscasting of Andrews and Gene Tierney as Russians, I wasn’t expecting great things.

The film has one of those stentorian voice-overs, like T-MEN, that always gives me a bit of a pain, and it’s rather comically scored with Russian classical music for that toney upscale espionage feeling. But the cinematography is FANTASTIC — Wellman treats it as noir all the way, with the Russians as gangsters (and I’m not so much a lefty that I can’t see the justice of that in this case) and the Canadian settings give it a wintry splendour. Charles G Clarke also shot MOONTIDE, and he has a real feeling for the shadows…

So, if the drama is wooden and one-note — and completely humourless — it’s still pretty watchable, just for the imagery. And we have the sneering villainy of Berry Kroeger, a sort of more-sybaritic Orson Welles figure, whom I’ve previously enjoyed in CRY OF THE CITY (venal mob lawyer), GUN CRAZY (sleazy carny), and many others. Berry K is one of the few actors who can simultaneously emit oil and poison from every pore, a skill which guaranteed he was never out of work at the studios, although he did have to bring his own mop.