Murder Most Formative: The Brattle Screens ‘75 Years of Film Noir’

This week marks the launch of Brattle’s year-long love letter to the hardboiled cinematic genre.

Film still from Fritz Lang's M.

Film still from Fritz Lang’s M.

The hard-nosed gumshoe, the duplicitous dame, the criminal who slinks through dark alleys and gritty, rain-soaked streets—by now, the tropes of film noir are deeply encoded into modern cinematic DNA. But where did they come from? This month, Harvard Square’s Brattle Theatre is offering an education in the roots of the genre. “Depending on who you ask, it is the 75th anniversary of film noir,” Brattle creative director Ned Hinkle told us, when we spoke to him about the theater’s fall 2015 lineup earlier this year. “So we’re kicking that off in October with a series of proto-noir movies—films that influenced the style of noir—we’ll be doing some kind of noir-related program on every calendar for the next year.”

In “75 Years of Film Noir, Part 1: Proto-Noir,” running October 7-14, you can see the origins of the femme fatale (with Marlene Dietrich raising hell in The Devil Is a Woman). And everyone’s favorite hard-drinking, wisecracking, crime-solving couple Nick and Nora—characters created by Dashiell Hammett—get in on the action, too, with The Thin Man. The Brattle notes: “Though there is very little overtly noir-ish about The Thin Man, the whipsmart dialogue and sheer amount of booze consumed—let alone the involvement of Hammett—make this a clear precursor to the genre.”

But first, a little trip through German Expressionism, as we explore The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (October 8) and Fritz Lang’s M (October 7), in which Peter Lorre creeped the hell out of international audiences for the first time.

Here’s the rundown of the series’ October schedule:

October 7
M (1931)

October 8
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

October 9
The Mummy (1932); The Invisible Man (1933)

October 10
Underworld (1927); Little Caesar (1931)

October 11
The Devil Is a Woman (1935); Shanghai Express (1932)

October 12
The Thin Man (1934); The Kennel Murder Case (1933)

October 13
Sabotage (1936); You and Me (1938)

October 14
They Drive by Night (1940)

All films screen at the Brattle Theatre, 40 Brattle St., Cambridge, 617-876-6837,