Just saw these two noir classics last night at the Castro Theatre. Alton's studio work is always an inspiration.
One technique that I had noticed before, but had sort of "again, for the first time" feel was the literal painting OF light in his films.
The very first scene of "Reign of Terror" is an overhead shot in what looks like a jail cell. There's light coming in through the bars at an angle and it looks gorgeous. But then when a character opens the door and enters, he blocks the light that was shining in, and we can clearly see that white pain has been employed on the floor to accentuate and sharpen the edge and shadow. In the same scene we can see a square of light in the background of the scene, seemingly coming from a window, but if you look real hard, you can see a white square has been painted on the wall. The cool thing is, it worked. I couldn't see it working with color, but in b&w it looked great.
"Reign of Terror" was a great film and a weird mix of genres. It's basically a period film of the French Revolution, told in the noir style. "Border Incident" is a classic with a fine performance from a young Ricardo Montalban. Kind of makes me wonder why he wasn't cast in "Touch of Evil", instead of Charleton Heston.
One thing I did notice in both filims. Alton seemed to have quite a bit of trouble shooting some exteriors. You can see sometimes where he was basically just sick and tired of the heat or something and just decided to blast the scene with a single focused reflector or something.
"Reign of Terror" and "Border Incident" at Noir City
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