In my last post for the Film Noir Foundation Blogathon‘s Fundraiser. I wanted to spotlight the excellent cinematography of Leo Tover. He’s somewhat of an underrated Noir veteran, having filmed several minor classics like Dead Reckoning, I Walk Alone, and The Woman on the Beach. Today though, I’m going to look at his work in two genuine cinematic classics : The Snake Pit and The Day the Earth Stood Still—Noir hybrids that use its visual style to paint their stories in a more disturbing light.
The Snake Pit is a dreamlike melodrama that’s a cross between a Woman’s Picture and a Film Noir. Tover portrays the inmates and walls of Victoria Cunningham’s prison—Juniper Hill Asylum—as full of an unknowable evil. The confusion of her mind is caught on camera many times, and the movie has a unique subjective perspective. Sometimes she’ll seem extremely lucid, and everyone else will seem horrific. Shots will pile up, though, and her insanity will bloom on screen.
The Day the Earth Stood Still is a beloved Science Fiction movie that I rarely ever hear referred to as Noir, although in many ways its an archetypal example of the Sci Fi/Noir that later grew into Alphaville and then things like Blade Runner. The corrupt world that Klaatu comes to save from itself is the shadow world of Film Noir. The quaint family dynamic established in a handful of scenes is always shrouded in the paranoid terror of humanity’s limitless capacity for suspicion and panic.
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