Sunday mornings are about to get a lot darker on Turner Classic Movies.
Starting on March 5 at 10 a.m., the vintage movie channel will premiere “Noir Alley,” a weekly foray into a shadowy cinematic world populated by tough guys, femmes fatales and assorted thugs and slugs. The films may be black and white, but the characters sure aren’t.
Hosting the series is Eddie Muller, the “Czar of Noir” who has written numerous books on the genre and has been a leading proponent of film restoration. “Noir Alley” is essentially a weekly spinoff of the “Summer of Darkness” film noir retrospective that Muller hosted in 2015 and proved popular with viewers.
“It’s high style. It’s the epitome of everything we love about classic Hollywood,” Muller says of film noir. “Except they’re darker stories. They’re timeless stories about people making wrong decisions and the consequences that they face for these wrong decisions.”
Film noir’s sordid elements, frequently sleazy settings and cynical world outlooks are also a draw to younger audiences, Muller says: “Kids have a natural tendency not to accept so readily that old Hollywood premise that everything ends happily ever. I have said many times that film noir is like the gateway drug to classic cinema, because young people will watch a film noir and then say ‘what else did this person do?’ whether it’s an actor or a director.”
Kicking off “Noir Alley” will be the movie many cineastes regard as the first true film noir, John Huston’s “The Maltese Falcon” (1941), starring Humphrey Bogart as Dashiell Hammett’s hard-boiled detective Sam Spade. Also coming up on March 12 are “Detour” (1945), a low-budget cult classic about a hitchhiker (Tom Neal) embroiled in murder and blackmail; Fred Zinneman’s “Act of Violence” (1949) on March 19 starring Van Heflin as a former POW being stalked by the Army buddy (Robert Ryan) he betrayed; and “Tension” (1949) featuring a tour de force performance by Audrey Totter as the two-timing wife of a milquetoast pharmacist (Richard Basehart) on March 26. Muller will also share back stories on the movies during his introductions and closing segments that will bookend each film.
The series will also include staples of the genre like Fritz Lang’s “Scarlet Street” (1945) on April 9 and “Out of the Past” (1947) with Robert Mitchum on June 4; rarities such as John Garfield’s final film “He Ran All the Way” (1951) on June 18; and Muller’s favorite film, Nicholas Ray’s “In a Lonely Place” (1950) starring Bogart as a self-destructive screenwriter, in September.
For the full schedule, go to noiralley.tcm.com