Public domain collection of film noir at

The Killing

Earlier this week I remarked on Twitter how much I enjoyed Stanley Kubrik's 1956 movie about a race track heist, The Killing. Jack Shafer replied, "Okay, now you're ready for Detour (Edgar G. Ulmer). It will change your life."

I checked Netflix and learned that Detour isn't available there. But I remembered that has a large collection of public domain movies, so I looked there and lo and behold, they had it. I downloaded the highest resolution version watched it. The quality was quite good, aside from a couple of wobbly parts and a second of missing dialogue.


Jack steered me straight. This 1946 black-and-white film is as grim, hard-boiled, and twisty as any film noir title I've ever seen. Al (Tom Neal) plays a talented pianist stuck in cheap joint in New York. He's got an attitude to match the atmosphere (when a patron gives him a ten-dollar tip after he plays an insanely complex piece, he remarks that it's just "a piece of paper crawling with germs.")

Naturally, Al falls for the house singer, but she won't marry him because he doesn't have enough money. When she goes to Hollywood to try to become an actress, Al quits his job and starts hitchhiking across the country to be with her. He doesn't know it, but when a flashy loudmouth in a big car picks him up, Al's fate is sealed. Ann Savage, playing a femme fatale who seethes with bitter poison, is a show stealer.

It turns out that has a collection of 43 film noir titles. If you've seen any of them, I'd appreciate it if you added your recommendations in the comments.'s Welcome to Film Noir: expressionistic crime dramas of the 40s and 50s: tough cops and private eyes, femme fatales, mean city streets and deserted backroads, bags of loot and dirty double-crossers.


  1. DOA is quite fun in which a man discovers that he has been poisoned and must solve his own murder before he dies.

    Scarlet Street is excellent as well, directed by the great Fritz Lang and starring one of my favorite actors from the period, Edward G. Robinson.

    I also remember liking the Strange Life of Martha Ivers, but I don’t remember much about it.

    Unfortunately, Detour is the best of the bunch (one of my favorite noirs) and you have already seen that one.

  2. I just watched “Beat the Devil.” Great script (John Huston and Truman Capote), Great Cast. Not really noir, but worth watching.

  3. Dick Powell in Murder My Sweet (Farewell My Lovely). I could, and have, watched countless times.

  4. Definitely DOA and Scarlett Street. The others on the list I’ve seen (Kansas City Confidential, He Walked By Night) were forgettable.

  5. Another vote for “D.O.A.”

    And, though it’s less of what people think as film noir, “Suddenly” is a real treat, wherein we get to watch Frank Sinatra as a psychopathic killer out to assassinate the President.

  6. DOA is brilliant. Scarlett Street is pretty good. I personally like He Walked By Night but many don’t. Too Late for Tears is also pretty good. The rest that I’ve seen, including Beat the Devil, are junk, in my opinion, although I haven’t seen all of them so there could be some hidden gems in there.

  7. While Detour is great, especially with the budget they had to work with, I found The Killing to be more enjoyable as the plot feels much more developed. Though both are great and if you haven’t seen them, you really should.

  8. Also, as a recommendation, if you enjoyed Detour you’ll probably like Cat People.

  9. DOA is quite good.

    “Beat the Devil” is fantastic, although it only qualifies as “noir” because someone thought Bogart’s presence made it so.

    Entertaining none-the-less. Great characters and great situations to put them thru the wringer.

  10. “The Killing” is Kubrick, so of course it’s good. “The Killers” (1946 – Burt Lancaster, Ava Gardner, Edmund O’Brien) is by Hemingway, but I won’t hold that against it. Sometimes simple writing is good. And Ava is just gorgeous.

    See also: “Where the Sidewalk Ends” and my personal fave “Kiss of Death” with Richard Widmark as giggling psycopath Tommy Udo.

  11. also has “Lady in the death house,” which is a terrible B-noir; it’s also one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

  12. Watched Detour in my Film Noir class… wow, could I sound more college?

    Anyways, I love that film so much. Thanks for linking this.

  13. I went to download Detour at and saw that one of the preview thumbnails that flips through on the download page was the The End title card, so it’s good to know that this movie does, in fact, end. In case you were worried.

    Also, has The Stranger with Orson Welles and Edward G Robinson, which is pretty decent.

  14. Kansas City Confidential is one of my favorite movies ever made. It’s truly a masterful thriller and worth the watch.

  15. Detour is good, but I think that “Out of the Past” is the king of all noir films

    And one that I don’t see here that’s a close second is “Kiss Me Deadly” based on the Spillane novel.

    Kubrick’s “The Killing” is good, but more like a try at a genre film to break into the business which he and his then production partner James Harris were trying to do. And it worked, but it’s not really that great a noir film.

  16. Detour is actually available at Netflix. Its title is listed as “Film Noir Collection: Detour.” Its been in my (long) queue for a bit – maybe I’ll move it to the top.

  17. ‘Martha Ivers’ is a wonderful movie. It’s full of great actors and writing and was Kirk Douglas’ first movie, something you’ll never believe when you see him in it.

    I’ve read ‘Detour’ and thought it wonderful.

    ‘Suddenly’ is very good and you can see why Sinatra was considered a good actor.

    ‘Murder, My Sweet’ was considered by Raymond Chandler to have the best portrayal of Philip Marlowe. Yes, better than Bogart.

    Looks like I should brew some coffee. I won’t be sleeping for a few nights. :-)

  18. Is there any way to post up either documentary:

    1) The Rules of Film Noir by Matthew Sweet
    2) The Best of Film Noir

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