Summer is a sunny season already. So who needs bright and cheery movies? Escape, instead, to the haunted antihero, beguiled by the furtive woman holding both secrets and a gun. They operate in eerie black-and-white geometry -- sunlight streaked through Venetian blinds, moonlight shimmered off wet pavement.
Welcome to Turner Classic Movies' most welcome Summer of Darkness, a full-day film-noir festival, each Friday through June and July. Starting this week, TCM unreels more than 100 films from the iconic genre of deceit and ethical ambiguity.
They're all here, great performers then and now. Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and Orson Welles. Veronica Lake to Kim Basinger. John Garfield to Russell Crowe.
They provide a particularly adult kind of escapism, in counterpoint to movie theaters' mindless summer special-effects extravaganzas aimed at adolescents. TCM's domain of Darkness delves deep into moral dilemmas. Its protagonists don't end up on a reckless joy ride but a soul-probing journey, with transgressions less confronted than considered and chosen.
And who expresses this better than noir's emblematic leading man? Just as Humphrey Bogart's world weariness helped define the genre in its 1940s and '50s heyday, he defines TCM's Darkness this first Friday in the two 1941 films that staked his stardom. Bogart plays a heist-planning ex-con opposite young Ida Lupino in director Raoul Walsh's "High Sierra" (12:45 p.m.), then inhabits author Dashiell Hammett's gumshoe Sam Spade in director John Huston's "stuff that dreams are made of" masterpiece, "The Maltese Falcon" (2:30 p.m.). That night, Bogie is back, with by-then-wife Lauren Bacall, in 1947's find-the-real-killer thriller "Dark Passage" (11:45 p.m.).
In between, this Friday's prime-time spotlight shines on underrated ''40s tough-cookie Ann Sheridan, in "Nora Prentiss" (8 p.m.) and "Woman on the Run" (10:15 p.m.). And continuing your DVR's off-hours workout, TCM overnight spans a half-century of hallmark noir, as 1947's "Born to Kill" (1:45 a.m.), featuring cult favorites Lawrence Tierney and Claire Trevor, is followed by 1997 throwback "L.A. Confidential" (3:30 a.m.), with Crowe and Basinger.
Later, TCM Darkness must-sees include B-film archetypes "Detour" and "Gun Crazy" (June 12), Robert Montgomery's subjective-camera curio "Lady in the Lake" and David Lynch's 1986 creepfest "Blue Velvet" (June 26), James Cagney's nut-job gem "White Heat" and director Robert Altman's angsty '70s Hollywood sketch "The Long Goodbye" (July 3), and concluding night tough-guy Burt Lancaster in "Criss Cross" and "Brute Force" (July 31).
TCM is even sponsoring the free multimedia online course "Into the Darkness: Investigating Film Noir." Details on this and all the flicks at tcm.com/summerofdarkness