Curt Siodmak, Noir, Neo-Noir and Hauser's Memory (1970)
Posted by Solomon on 7/21/2018, 9:12 am
Watching Hauser's Memory last night, I was struck by its neo-noir character. After all, 1970 is early to see such a thorough exposition of a man losing his identity. In this case David McCallum plays that man, a scientist, who takes the deceased Hauser's RNA (or whatever) into his system intentionally to extract the secret formula that Hauser was working on. The plot hangs strongly on a spy skeleton, but plot-wise it's mainly a variant of a detective story as McCallum discovers Hauser and as his memories and drives take over McCallum, leading him to various people in his once-life. Noir-wise, we go through the psychological wringer with McCallum as he loses control of himself to the alien Hauser.
If critics want an early neo-noir example, this is one for sure. Boris Sagal directed, drawing upon his vast experience, mostly in TV episodes and movies, to provide the disorienting camera angles, closeups and montages that support the concept.
Curt Siodmak wrote Hauser's Memory. The films that this Siodmak wrote usually become noirs or noir-imbued when filmed and directed by others, which is quite amazing. Go down the list of his screenplays, starting way back with People on Sunday (1930) and Der Mann, der seinen Mörder sucht (1931), moving on to Transatlantic Tunnel (1935) and Non-Stop New York (1937). Then comes the 1940 Black Friday, in which Stanley Ridges gets taken over partially by the implanted gangster character.
Siodmak reworked and updated this kind of thing in Hauser's Memory and he presented another variant of it in Donovan's Brain. His The Wolf Man provides yet another variant from his pen. Francis Dee begins to act strangely under the influence of external forces in Jacques Tourneur's I Walked with a Zombie. The Lady and the Monster is another one of Siodmak's creations involving the mind being taken over, this time by telepathy of a preserved brain. It's Donovan's Brain (1953) in 1944. How about The Beast with Five Fingers, in which a severed hand takes over?
There's something very noir about losing control of one's will. Being estranged from one's self is a case of self-alienation.
Re: Curt Siodmak, Noir, Neo-Noir and Hauser's Memory (1970)
Posted by Don Malcolm on 7/23/2018, 7:57 am, in reply to "Curt Siodmak, Noir, Neo-Noir and Hauser's Memory (1970)"
Interesting stuff--leads to issues of mind control, which can come from many outside sources. It would be useful if you had time to catalogue some of those.
This is an intersection of particular psychological states, many of which are found in the pages of DSM, with the added twist of sinister outside forces or a Svengali-like character either actively or indirectly initiating "loss of (free) will" in the victim-protagonist.
Categorizing these films in such a fashion could show where the boundaries exist between more overt "genre" films (some people treat noir this way, some do not--but 95% of folks DO treat sci-fi this way) and those that seem to exist in a nether realm between genres.
Of course Curt began writing in support of his brother, but they parted creative company early on. The key to the other Siodmak's career is located in his French years prior to Hollywood, which paved the way for the films everyone knows.