A few quick movie notes:
Reign of Terror (1949) On Bastille Day this year, I noticed that Turner Classic had an "all French Revolution" lineup of movies, so I noted the names and put a few on my Netflix queue. I don't always remember to arrange my queue before movies go out to me, though, so when "Reign of Terror" arrived, I was disappointed; I was in no mood to watch some overstuffed, big technicolor costume drama that was too heavy on romance and too light on history. Imagine my surprise, then, when the movie started, and I found myself watching what seemed like a film noir in every way--pacing, dialogue, lighting, tightly shot and oddly composed scenes--except for the French Revolution era costumes. The film was so dark that I thought they must either have not had the budget for lights or didn't have money for sets and were trying to hide that. All of the above turned out to be true: the movie is an early film by director Anthony Mann, and it was filmed on a minimal budget--so minimal that they used leftover sets from the recently filmed Ingrid Bergman version of "Joan of Arc." With so little to work with, Mann made what's got to be the only period film noir, emulating the style of the film noirs turned out by the small "Poverty Row" studios (it is one of the great jokes of film history that many of the low-budget "B" or "C" pictures of Hollywood's Golden Age are considered classics while the big, glossy "A" pictures are the one forgotten). "Reign," also known as "The Black Book" is lean, suspenseful, and worth your time.