Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Nightmare Alley

We made a fantastic discovery this weekend and I thought I'd pass it along to my reader. As I was channel surfing on Saturday night looking for something watchable, I discovered that I have access to a channel called "Retroplex". Apparently these guys show older films - '80's and prior - and the one for that night caught my eye.

Nightmare Alley.

I happen to be a sucker for noirish movies, and this was that kind of film. Typically this categorization calls up images of gun molls, Bogey, Peter Loire and others, but the description for Nightmare seemed a bit different. First, it was about carney's, as in carnival workers who performed on the midway.

Now I'm not typically one to watch a film about carneys, but this had Tyrone Powers in it and the summary described Nightmare as "gritty".

Total understatement.

Nightmare turned out to be a raw, sordid look at what happens to a man and his woman when he is destined for ruin. One of the film's first lines is "how does a man sink so low", and it is also one of its last. Because of this, the ultimate story arc is not hard to figure out, which really doesn't matter since Nightmare is gut wrenching in the way that the character's slide to their obvious oblivion is presented. As far as I know, the raw degradation of the Power's character is unparalleled in any other movie of the period. Don't get me wrong, this is a psychological presentation, not a visual one. As with all good movies of the time, the director manages to show so much, while exhibiting very little.

I watched Nightmare with both Mrs. P and PD1 (PD2 was out at a dance), and occasionally I would look over to see if they were into it as much as I was. Their silence should have told me all I needed to know, but their rapt stares were confirmation that I was not alone. PD1 had to miss the last 20 minutes of the film, and the next morning her first words were, "what happened in the end". Anytime a 15 year old has this reaction to a black and white film from the '40's you know it is good.

I don't know if Blockbuster or Netflix has this one, but if they do get it and you too will be haunted by the words, "how does a man sink so low".

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