6 Melodrama/Noir Double Features to Stream


The 1940s noir-adjacent film at its best (or even second-best: so many great “B” noir films) offers a bountiful set of variations and ambiguity. There are so many I’ve seen and yet so many remain to watch that it’s hard to begin to pinpoint which are the most worthy of attention or which aspects to highlight. In the meantime, here are ten I highly recommend that are currently available on Youtube (but worth finding elsewhere regardless).

Wild Noirs With Sultry Brunettes: Secret Beyond the Door (Fritz Lang, 1947) and Crepusculo (Julio Bracho, 1945)

The foundational Gothic “Bluebeard” reference is made explicit in Fritz Lang’s eccentric Secret Beyond the Door. Although largely panned at the time, the film has a slowly developed a cult fanbase for its cinematography and unusual structuring of time, anchored by a fantastic Joan Bennett performance. Crepusculo is another wild noir, this time from Mexico. The film’s headily sensual scenes surround a notable trajectory for one of my favorite femme fatales.

The Jennifer Jones Showcase: Gone to Earth (Powell & Pressburger, 1950) and Portrait of Jennie (William Dieterle, 1948)

Both of these films showcase the lively, exuberant type of character perfected by one of the most interesting actresses of the era, Jennifer Jones.

Period Pieces Sympathetic to Questionable Femme Fatales: The Wicked Lady (Leslie Arliss, 1945) and My Cousin Rachel (Henry Koster, 1952)

The Wicked Lady has secret corridors, horse-drawn carriages and chemistry-laden performances from Margaret Lockwood and James Mason. Another mischevious period piece, My Cousin Rachel, gives Olivia de Havilland one of her juiciest roles. Adapted from a Daphne du Maurier novel, the story is unique for its time in how baldly it depicts the way men project onto women.

Gothic/Noir Hybridities: The Spiral Staircase (Robert Siodmak, 1946) and My Name is Julia Ross (Joseph H. Lewis, 1945)

The Spiral Staircase and My Name is Julia Ross exemplify the more gothic side of the noir melodrama.

Mysterious Paintings: The Dark Corner (Henry Hathaway, 1946) and The Madonna’s Secret (Wilhelm Thiele, 1946)

These films I’ve recommended previously as part of the subsect of the “gothic noir” subgenre that center on a meaningful painting.

Bright Technicolor Becomes Uneasy: Leave Her to Heaven (John M. Stahl, 1945) and I’ve Always Loved You (Frank Borzage, 1946)

Two melodramas that use color in an almost frightening intensity to mirror their emotional turmoil, they are currently on youtube in gorgeous transfers.


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