Puppets and Film Noir

I’ve always been a big fan of film noir – the genre of film [mostly American] of the 1940’s to the 50’s which could be defined as films that portrayed darker themes and reflected darker elements of the inner psyche of humanity. This inner darkness was also represented in the moody lighting and offbeat shot selection of these films.

Two of my favorite films of this genre are The Third Man and Double Indemnity. Some of the aspects of these films were an influence on Puppets Who Kill and were a touchstone for how we did certain episodes of the series.

Carol Reed’s Third Man is an extraordinary film – Beautifully shot with odd and jarring angles, full of great performances from a roster of European character actors…and a remarkable script by Graham Greene – the way he can reveal character with a few lines of dialogue is masterful. The movie is haunting….depicting a lopsided world where nothing is quite right and one can never feel comfortable. One of Joseph Cotton’s finest performances….and Orson Welles also puts in a performance for the ages – The ferris wheel scene is one of my favorite in all of film.

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I recently re-watched Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity and was reminded what an incredible film it is – One of the great films in all of American Cinema in my opinion. A fine script by Wilder and the incomparable Raymond Chandler, the dialogue crackles and is full of so many fine nuances – and stunning performances from all 3 leads Fred Macmurray, Barbara Stanwyck and Edward G. Robinson. They make it look easy, but one need only look at the clunky 1970s remake that comes with the DVD now to see how difficult it is to do.

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Puppets Who Kill did several homages to black and white film in our 4 seasons.

Our first was The Payback in season one – a faithful black and white film with a 1940s score and a grainy film quality added to make it true to the period. We stayed true to the noir themes of a world upside down, a dark shadowy world where nothing made sense and threats seemed to come from all directions. We were faithful to the genre in the shot selection….lots of angles and shadows and pools of light.

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We followed that up with a distinctly disturbing Twilight Zone tribute in season 2 called The Twilight Place – where the puppets are haunted by a disturbing TV set – the gifted Canadian actor Don Francks nailed the Twilight Zone vibe as a shady junk shop dealer.

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We followed that up by a noir-ish show in Season 4 – Mr. Big. This show was kind of an homage to the great American ‘B’ movies, with a bit of a tip of the hat to The Maltese Falcon. Once again, it was a depiction of a troubled world of mobsters, crooks and murderers who terrorise Dan and his puppet charges.

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Our last noir-ish show was actually shot in colour – but was once again a film noir in all other respects. This was our episode called The Joyride which begins with the stealing of a car, and all the unfortunate circumstances which follow that.

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We always tried to work in different styles in Puppets Who Kill….and working with the rich world of film noir allowed us to stretch into some areas where you might not expect to find puppet shows going.

We hope you enjoy our excursions into noir on Puppets Who Kill.

John Pattison
Producer, writer and founding creator