THE MALTESE FALCON (1941)
Director: John Huston
The noir movement started here, in a studio version of San Francisco, with Humphrey Bogart’s insouciant portrayal of Dashiell Hammett’s influential private eye Sam Spade.
DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944)
Director: Billy Wilder
No film better expressed how boredom and ennui, even in paradise, can fester into homicidal pathology. The ne plus ultra of noir, imitated but never equaled.
CRISS CROSS (1949)
Director: Robert Siodmak
A masterpiece of amour fou with an unmatched feel for the sensual and sinister side of Southern California. Downtown L.A.’s Bunker Hill features prominently.
WOMAN ON THE RUN (1950)
Director: Norman Foster
A nearly forgotten gem that makes exceptional use of San Francisco locations to tell a suspenseful and poignant tale of love lost and regained.
THE PROWLER (1951)
Director: Joseph Losey
Dalton Trumbo’s provocative script tracks the spiral of a sociopathic cop from the affluence of Los Angeles to the abandoned Calico ghost town in Yermo, California.
KISS ME DEADLY (1955)
Director: Robert Aldrich
Screenwriter A.I. Bezzerides subverts Mickey Spillane’s thuggish novel, relocating it from NYC to L.A. and warning about demagogues amok in places high and low—including the “hero.”
POINT BLANK (1967)
Director: John Boorman
This super-stylish rampage through 1960s California has Lee Marvin mercilessly hunting his betrayers in an adaptation of The Hunter by Richard Stark (a.k.a. Donald W. Westlake).
Director: Roman Polanski
Robert Towne’s script masterfully blends the Owens Valley water scandal into an airtight detective story about one man’s soul corruption infecting society at large. Perfection.
Read more from Alta‘s Fall 2020 Noir Special Section.