With “Nightmare Alley”, Guillermo del Toro abandons fantasy and signs a pure film noir. And he returned to ten of his influences with Collider.
Four years after winning the Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director for The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro is back on the big screen. And there is change in his cinema. Because Nightmare Alley is a pure film noir, devoid of any supernatural element, which is a great first for the Mexican filmmaker.
Certainly, the fact that the first half of the story takes place in a carnival in the middle of fairground monsters allows it to stay in familiar waters and create an atmosphere on the edge of the fantastic. But then everything changes when the charismatic Stanton Carlisle (Bradley Cooper) leaves his adopted family to join the New York elite of the 1940s, and try to swindle a rich man.
With this thriller also led by Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara and Willem Dafoe, Guillermo del Toro draws on other references and pays homage to one of the major genres of Hollywood’s golden age. At the microphone of Collider, he looks back on ten feature films that inspired him when it came to giving birth to Nightmare Alley.
GUILLERMO DEL TORO AND THE FILM NOIR IN 10 REFERENCES
CRIME OF PASSION (1945)
What is it about ? – When he arrives in the small town of Walton, Eric Stanton is penniless. He meets Stella, a hauntingly beautiful cafe waitress. While falling in love with the latter, Eric seduces June Ellis, whom everything opposes to the first. An arranged marriage could get him out of trouble but Stella is found dead…
The opinion of Guillermo del Toro – “[Le film] was directed by Otto Preminger after Laura. I love it so much that I indirectly reference it in Nightmare Alley, when the character played by Richard Jenkins talks about how Alice Faye got bored and let it all go once and for all. Because it was really the film that made her decide to leave the industry.”
“[Crime passionnel] and Nightmare Alley have many indirect connections. The main character’s first name is Stanton [nom de famille de celui joué par Dana Andrews en 1945, ndlr]. And there’s an element of the carnival seer who looks like John Carradine.”
What is it about ? – Ray and Polly Cutler are staying in Niagara Falls. They meet George and Rose Loomis, a couple on the verge of breaking up. Rose announces the disappearance of her husband to the Cutlers and has the unpleasant surprise of recognizing the corpse of her lover in the morgue…
The opinion of Guillermo del Toro – “One of the most beautiful films to watch. The color is stunning. A very important part of the genesis of Marilyn Monroe. It plays with desire and the question of gender roles, in an incredibly strange and psychosexual story. [Niagara] would make a perfect double bill with Cold Sweats.”
THE NEW YORK SHALLOWS (1961)
What is it about ? – A safe breaker who witnessed the murder of his father as a child, finds the opportunity to avenge him.
The opinion of Guillermo del Toro – “A truly relentless film noir from Samuel Fuller. Highly energetic. It’s about a boy obsessed with writing about his past and the menacing father figure that hangs over him. Most film noir characters , when faced with incredible odds, bet on one side or another. Whether they’re right or wrong, they go all out. And there’s this uncompromising side here.”
THE ULTIMATE RAZZIA (1956)
What is it about ? – A gang of gangsters organize the heist of the betting box during a horse race…
The opinion of Guillermo del Toro – “One of Stanley Kubrick’s masterpieces. Sometimes in a film noir you have a scene in which money, which has become an icon, loses its meaning. And the mother of all these neolistic feelings , it’s The Ultimate Raid. Sterling Hayden is perfect as this hardcore badass from start to finish. His last line in the film is fantastic.”
What is it about ? – A bar pianist will, in spite of himself, take the identity of a motorist who picked him up but died suddenly. The motorist in question is the heir of a dying millionaire whom his family has not seen for years…
The opinion of Guillermo del Toro – “Edgar G. Ulmer was a very quick director, perfect for a B-movie economy. There’s a scene[de Détour] with Tom Neal in which he commits manslaughter with a telephone wire. And I echo it in a scene [de Nightmare Alley] between Lilith and Stan. It’s a little quote. This…