Five Noirs You Might've Missed
A Life in the Balance (1950) - In this weird little thriller, Lee Marvin plays a religious fanatic who turns to serial killing in Mexico. Based on the Georges Simenon novel Sept petites croix dans un carnet, and co-directed by Harry Horner and Rafael Portillo, the film casts Ricardo Montalban as a man falsely accused of Marvin’s murders. José Pérez plays Paco, Montalban’s scrappy son, who sets out to clear his father’s name. As you’d expect, Marvin really sinks his teeth into the role of the fanatical killer. (I’m punishing people, he tells Paco. God punishes people, and I’m helping him.) Best of all, master cinematographer Manuel Gómez Urquiza, making the most of the location night shoots, paints the film in gorgeous shadows and light, making this one of the few films of the era that turns the streets of Mexico City into a noir landscape on par with New York or Los Angeles.