July 26, 2012

Warner Bros. Long History Of Violent Movies

The mass shooting at a Colorado movie theatre last week was an awful tragedy. But whenever this sort of madness erupts, there is always a great deal of national handwringing over the role that violence in the movies plays in shootings like these. Are these madmen inspired by the movies? Or are they just people who would do the same thing without the examples presented in Hollywood's films.

The NY Times today ran a interesting article on the topic from a broader perspective; that of Warner Bros. studios long-history of violent, crime-ridden films that have often been controversial.  In the 1940s and 1950s, as a bit of theatrical counterprograming, Warners specialized in gritty B/W films filled with criminals and, in some cases, based on real life crimes. The films were so violent and extreme, compared to the sunny & singing studio output of MGM and Columbia, that when the French got to see them after WWII ended they coined the term "Film Noir".

Though studios "brands" don't really exist now the way they used to in the olden days, it is interesting to note that Warners is the studio behind THE DARK KNIGHT trilogy. These three films are darker than any noir (even though they are shot in a faded, washed out color) in their twisted stories, psychologically disturbed characters, and deranged criminals, namely Heath Ledger's mad Joker who may have inspired the Colorado shooter. Nolan's trilogy already had caused a great deal of debate, even before the shooting last week. Other Warners films that have caused cultural consternation are THE MATRIX, DIRTY HARRY, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, BONNIE & CLYDE and, way back in '32, I AM A FUGITIVE ON THE CHAIN GANG. However, unlike a lot of those films, the great irony in the case of THE DARK KNIGHT is that the film's hero doesn't even use a gun.

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