Friday, March 22, 2013

Felix E. Feist: The Factory Worker

I think I'm safe in saying that I'm the world's authority on the film noir career of Felix E. Feist. Frankly, I'm not really sure how this happened. Feist was a little known studio director in the classic era--one of many, many studio directors who never became a big name. Even a lot of noir geeks have never heard of him.

Quite by chance, though, I saw THE DEVIL THUMBS A RIDE around the time I made the conscious decision to start studying film noir as a form. It was good film with which to begin a serious interest in noir because it hits all the essential beats: it is dark, it is fast, and its message, ultimately, is the futility of human effort and intention.

Feist wrote and directed the film (adapted from the Robert Du Soe novel of the same name--not a particularly strong book, in my opinion). I tracked down more of his noir work: THE THREAT, THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF, TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY. What I found was the work of a director who was a wonderfully efficient craftsman.

A few years later I happened to attend a screening of one of his films and heard a well-known noir scholar refer to Feist as "pretty much just a hack" which struck me as an invitation to do something about a director that I really admired. 

I've now written more about him than (I think) anyone else. I published a biographical overview of his life and work in the film journal NOIR CITY, and I wrote (I think) the first scholarly piece on his films for the book FILM NOIR: THE DIRECTORS.

Now I have a short introductory piece on his work over at Criminal Element. This will probably be my final word on ol' Felix. I hope it helps bring attention to his movies.       

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