A Historical Overview of Crime Thrillers. Henry Akakpo. Origins and Earliest Examples.
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The Maltese Falconis the first and earliest successful crime thriller. It was made in 1941 and was nominated for 3 awards. Its also said to be on of the best films of all time. The story is about a San Francisco private detective's encounters with three immoral and corrupt adventurers in competition to obtain a jewel-encrusted statuette of a falcon. The Maltese Falcon has been named as one of the greatest films of all time by Entertainment Weekly.
Another film example is Kiss Me Deadly, where a tough L.A. private eye Mike Hammer finds a girl running along a road one night. Thugs attack him following their meeting and attempt to murder the two. After hearing that the girl dies he embarks on a journey with numerous twists and turns to find out who killed her and why. Through this investigation he meets new characters with different agendas. This was one of the pioneering films to exploit the use of twists to improve the plot. The film had an impact on its audience as the movie was said to spur the controversy around radionuclide substances and Hydrogen bombs during the 50’s.
Harper (1966) is based on a cynical private eye with the same name. In search of a friends husband he gets involved with a variety of corrupt characters and a smuggling ring.
As more and more crime thrillers were released, subgenres began to take centre stage as an increasing number of directors began to add their own twist to the genre.
More action orientated films like Heat had a large impact on the film industry. Heat was written and directed by Michael Mann, a well known director. It stars Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, and Val Kilmer. The plot of the film about the experiences of an almost obsessive homicide detective in pursuit of a professional burglar. Even though the film was a remake of a 1989 television film, the film gained major success and went on to make $187 million in the box office.
Street Kings is also another box office hit. It was directed by David Ayers, a less known director was also a film which follows a more action oriented plot. Street Kings is also a thriller about a LAPD police haunted by the death of his wife. When he is framed for the murder of a police officer, he is forced to turn againt the police culture he knows in a desperate attempt to prove himself. This film was not as huge a success in comparison to Heat, but was critically acclaimed for the twists in the plot.
Inside Man on the other hand kept to the suspenseful themes held in early crime thrillers. It follows a tough cop who matches wits with a clever bank robber. The film is a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse. However, there is a catch, A power broker with a hidden agenda. The film was deemed a success and gained £184 million worldwide.