Genre Films that Extend the Genre
S 2020


Genre films require suspension of disbelief, and we viewers love them for that.  Westerns: we are riveted as men face each other drawing six guns.  Film noir: bad guys looking great in fedoras are done in by sexy dames.  Musicals:  we enjoy characters interrupting dialog to break into those wonderful song and dance routines.  But, sometimes, the suspension of disbelief we bring to genre films lets us see and feel more than we can in “reality” films.  In this SDG we will watch films that are more than simple genre, they extend the genre in ways that are touching, that are powerful.    

In the western The Oxbow Incident, men in anger have to make moral choices.  In True Confessions are cops and murder and corruption, but none of that is what we care about.  In Seconds we wonder if we can begin a second life, and if we do, then who are we?  Pennies from Heaven is a musical that dares us to accept absurdity, and to accept both death and life when neither should be.  Watching The Last Wave we ask, when is a fantasy profoundly religious, and when is a fantasy too true?  Join this SDG and w
atch these films—all available on Netflix or youtube--with your disbelief suspended as the more-than-genre films take you away.

Weekly Topics

Except for the film discussions of the first two weeks lead by the coordinator and co-coordinator, all films and their dates of discussions will be picked at the pre-meetings.  The films need not and likely will not be discussed in the order below.



The Oxbow Incident 1942; Some men make moral choices, some don’t, and some make peace with their inevitable death.

The Hanging Tree 1959; Yes, a western with Gary Cooper and horses and six guns and men shot down, but why is this like a wonderful Douglas Sirk heroine film?

Johnny Guitar 1954; Strong men with revolvers, yes but in this over-the-top lush colored film the final showdown is between whom?

Film noir/who-done-it

True Confessions 1981; A crime is committed, corruption is rampant.  Yet the crime solution and the corruption confronted are not what’s important to the lead characters or to us.

Cutter’s Way 1981; In the guise of a did-he-do-it, this post-Vietnam war film is about who controls power, what can we do about it, and what that means to us.

The Letter 1940; Film noir dramatization of white evil in Malaysia from which there is no escape.


Pennies from Heaven 1981; What is a musical, what is living a dream, and can the audience accept absurdity, can you?

Gospel at Colonus 1983; Is it a tragedy, or a musical, or a modern take on a famous play? Yes. 

The Red Shoes 1948; It is a musical—two beautiful star crossed lovers, music and dancing, but what dancing, what music and what beauty!

Science Fiction/ Fantasy:

Portrait of Jennie 1948; Love over time and space that is impossible and beautiful.

Seconds 1966; Could you live a second life after a first life?  But then how can you live it, and who are you?

The Last Wave, 1977; When is a fantasy religious?  And, what if it is all too true?


Day of the Locust 1975; Hollywood make believe becomes surreal and all too intense. 

In a Lonely Place 1950; Is this a Hollywood story, a love story, a who-done-it?   Gloria Grahame has to decide, and decide again.


No core book.