• The Big Combo

Tomorrow night, the University of Chicago’s Doc Films will screen the Joseph H. Lewis noir Gun Crazy, one of the major works of classic B cinema and one of the most radical and thoroughly entertaining movies in American film history, period. Prior to a renewed interest in expressionistic style during the 1970s, Lewis was considered a simple B movie director in the United States. (That wasn’t the case elsewhere, of course—the staff of Cahiers du Cinema sang his praises while his career was still ongoing.) Known for their brazen style, his films often dealt with sensational themes, such as sexual obsession, ethical/moral dilemmas, and hereditary or otherwise inescapable criminal behavior. But beneath the surface, one can detect Lewis’s deep curiosity of human behavior as well as a particular affinity for film form.

Gun Crazy is obviously his foremost masterwork—Dave Kehr eloquently called it “One of the most distinguished works of art to emerge from the B movie swamp”—but his filmography features many exuberant and highly personal films. You can catch my five favorite after the jump.