Actually last weekend's viewing, that's how behind I am in posting.
Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944)
A couple of months ago, we watched Wilder's Sunset Boulevard in my film-nerd discussion group, and I liked it but felt perhaps a little let down given its reputation. Maybe my expectations for this one were tempered a bit, then, but I really enjoyed it. It's your basic pitch-black noir, but it's got great, snappy dialogue and really effective performances. Fred MacMurray is great as the tortured hero, and he's got more personality than many bland 1940s leading men. Edward G. Robinson provides sharp comedy, and Barbara Stanwyck is an excellent femme fatale. I love the darkness of this story and the way it maintains its sense of bitter irony throughout.
The Lady from Shanghai (Orson Welles, 1947)
This one, however, did not work for me. Welles sports this completely ridiculous Irish accent, and the noir plot is muddled with some silly courtroom drama and a general lack of empathy (forget likeability) for any of the characters. Glenn Anders gives a thoroughly bizarre performance as a fey lawyer who's part of the scheme to frame Welles' character, but the absurdity mixes awkwardly with the serious noir tone. Welles' post-Citizen Kane career is littered with films whose final cuts were taken away from him, and this is no exception, so maybe his original 155-minute cut is a better film. The actual film does at least have one impressive element, which is an elaborate finale in a funhouse that is a surreal visual wonder. Allegedly much of that sequence was cut, but unless it made up the entire movie, I'm not sure it would have made that much of a difference.