Joseph Lewis. New York born Lewis made over 40 features, all of them B-movies, but many were destroyed or are permanently lost so there aren’t a ton available today. He ended his career in the mid-1960’s making television shows but around that time he was discovered by the New Wave critics—Gun Crazy a bellwether film, and clearly Lewis’ crowning achievement—but The Big Combo proves he’s no one-hit wonder.
Best film: Gun Crazy. There is not a lot separating Lewis’ Gun Crazy and Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde in quality. The 1967 masterpiece has the bravura montage finale but Lewis’ work shows off Lewis’ penchant for oblique angles and of course has one of the great oner long-take tracking shots- certainly among the best in the era before Welles’ Touch of Evil.
total archiveable films: 4
top 100 films: 0
top 500 films: 1 (Gun Crazy)
top 100 films of the decade: 1 (Gun Crazy)
most overrated: None. Lewis’ Gun Crazy is the only film that finds its way on the TSPDT consensus top 2000 and it sits right now at #668—so it is underrated.
most underrated : The Big Combo should be around 1000-1200 and can’t find a spot in the TSPDT top 2000 sadly- it’s a bit surprising as there are so many noir genre enthusiasts. You would have figured this one would’ve been rediscovered by now.
gem I want to spotlight : The Big Combo– expressive lighting is a trademark of the genre—but few did it better than Lewis in The Big Combo
- Gun Crazy’s oner long-take tracking shot is a famous one for good reason, it had to wow the New Wave how he would pick up and move the camera
- Creativity in the angles, he clearly made his films with little to no studio supervision (these were ultra-inexpensive B-films)
- Pervading nihilism, violence
- It is mentioned above but The Big Combo specifically is a modest triumph of cinematic illumination
- Gun Crazy
- The Big Combo
- So Dark the Night
- The Cry of the Hunted
By year and grades
|1946- So Dark the Night
|1950- Gun Crazy
|1953- The Cry of the Hunted
|1955- The Big Combo
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives