“Film Noir” (“black films”) usually refers to the stylized dark crime films of the 1940’s, usually made by German directors who came to the United States to escape the Nazis. Their cynicism, sense of dread and loss, and themes of betrayal, obsession, and sin gave their stories of crime and mystery an archetypal feeling. Two of the best can now be seen for free.
A neglected gem from Orson Welles, “The Stranger” is the story of an investigator (Edward G. Robinson) who is tracking down a Nazi war criminal (Welles), now living a quiet life as a professor and married to a woman (Loretta Young) who knows nothing of his past. The climax in a church belfry tower is brilliantly staged.
Edward G. Robinson also appears in the less characteristic role of a mild-mannered professor who gets caught up in a web of deception and betrayal in “The Woman in the Window.” The ending is a disappointment, but the direction by Fritz Lang is a masterpiece of noir mood.