Bad Girls of Film Noir, Vols. 1 & 2

Film
2 out of 5 stars
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Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

This two-volume collection of B movies includes eight films from the 1940s and ’50s, amply filled with images of a bygone age when broads wore tight sweaters over conical bras, all the cops were Irish and doctors smoked during tricky intestinal surgery. The title is a misnomer, though, as the girls aren’t so bad; they’re just misunderstood.

“I believe you’d use your grandmother’s bones to pry open a cash register,” says one suffering boyfriend to his platinum-haired squeeze (noir staple Cleo Moore) in Over-Exposed (1956). Her crime isn’t larcenous, however; she just values her photography career over getting hitched. The antiheroine of Bad for Each Other (1953) seduces military doctor Tom (Charlton Heston) into starting his own private practice—hardly the stuff of pure evil.

Perhaps the boys are badder? Suicide blond Sheila (Evelyn Keyes) might be running diamonds—and, unwittingly, an infectious disease—in from Cuba in The Killer That Stalked New York (1950), but her dimple-chinned boyfriend is the murderous mastermind behind the whole operation. In The Glass Wall (1953), lovable Gloria Grahame (The Big Heat) steals a coat and half a doughnut from a diner, while sadistic male bureaucrats put the screws to a European death-camp escapee. The inclusion of these latter two films is actually the set’s saving grace, not just for supplying the schlocky fun you expect, but because of their relevance to modern-day tropes of terror: an epidemic in Manhattan and America’s broken immigration system. Women’s Prison (1955), on the other hand, is possibly the only movie ever made about a female penitentiary that doesn’t include the slightest whiff of lesbian shenanigans. Too bad.—Anna King

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