Tuesday, January 8, 2008

No Happy Endings

Noir City 6 Preview
January 25th- February 3rd, 2008
Castro Theatre, San Francisco

SIFF Cinema, Seattle
February 15- 21st, 2008

San Francisco's historic Castro Theatre once again morphs into Noir City from January 25th to February 3rd. Noir City, now in its sixth year, is an annual film festival devoted to showcasing film noirs- the taut, existential and usually low budget crime thrillers of the 40s and 50s. (For a further discussion of the film noir genre please see Wikipedia's extensive article, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Film_noir or my highly opinionated article http://www.siffblog.com/reviews/the_greatest_film_noirs_003776.html) The Film Noir Foundation produces the festival which serves to highlight their mission not just to preserve and restore film noir prints but also to make them available for theatrical screenings. This year's event boasts an eclectic variety of films many of which are not available on DVD, an array of special guests and even a world premiere. (The films that are available on DVD have their releasing company noted next to their titles.)

Joan Leslie and Ida Lupino in The Hard Way
The opening night of the festival features a tribute to actress Joan Leslie who will be interviewed live on stage in between screenings of Repeat Performance (1947) and The Hard Way (1943). Joan Leslie started her career as a child actress and went on to have a long career as a studio player at Warner Brothers. She is probably most famous for her turn as Velma the maddeningly ungrateful "good girl" in High Sierra (1941). Neither of the films being screened at her tribute is available on DVD. There are no existing 35mm prints of Repeat Performance; Films Around the World will be providing the festival with a 16mm print for the screening. Similarly Wade Williams will provide a 16mm print of D.O.A (1950)(Image Entertainment) on Thursday night. This film will be doubled with a brand new 35mm print of The Story of Molly X (1949) another rarely seen film noir.
Original Movie Poster for The Prowler
The second night of the festival honors screenwriter Dalton Trumbo who wrote the legendary anti-war novel Johnny Got His Gun as well as the screenplays of A Guy Named Joe (1943), Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944)(Warner Home Video) and Tender Comrades (1943). The third film brought him personal disaster several years after the film was made. The House Committee on Un-American Activities cited it as an example of the communist propaganda allegedly being interjected into Hollywood films by left wingers. After being blacklisted in Hollywood, Trumbo moved to Mexico and continued to write screenplays for which he was paid but did not receive screen credit. Both films in his tribute The Prowler (1951) and Gun Crazy (1950)(WHV) are from this period. The print for the The Prowler is is a newly restored 35mm print. The 7:00 pm screening will be introduced by prominent crime writer James Ellroy. The world premier of The Grand Inquisitor (2008) a new short film written and directed by Film Noir Foundation founder Eddie Muller, and starring 90 year old formerly blacklisted actress Marsha Hunt, precedes the evening screening of Gun Crazy.
Gail Russell and Dane Clark in Moonrise
The next evening commemorates actress Gail Russell with a screening of an archival print of Frank Borzage's Moonrise (1948) courtesy of the UCLA Film and Television Archive as well as a new 35 mm print of Night Has 1000 Eyes (1948) which was struck by Universal Pictures exclusively for Noir City. Neither film is available on DVD. Gail Russell is probably best known for her role as John Wayne's love interest in Angel and the Badman(1947)(Delta). Her career was cut short due to a tragic and ultimately unwon battle with alcoholism. Other films screening at the festival which are not available on DVD are Woman In Hiding (1950) doubled with Jeopardy (1953)(WHV) on Monday the 28th; Conflict (1945) paired with fellow rarity The Suspect (1944) on Friday the 1st, The 3rd Voice (1960) partnered with the equally unavailable The Face Behind the Mask (1941) on Saturday, and finally, on the closing night of the festival, Roadhouse (1948). This last rarity is teamed up with Jules Dassin's Night and the City (1950)(Criterion Collection) in honor of the actor Richard Widmark. The festival's program notes described the print as "stunning". This double feature demonstrates the range of Widmark's acting and proves that there is more to him then his iconic turn as the giggling psychopath who ties an old lady to her wheelchair and proceeds to shove her and the chair down a staircase in Kiss of Death (1947)(20th Century Fox)
A Fed about to meet a nasty end in Borderline
Two nights of the festival are devoted to films available on DVD but still well worth seeing in the theater. On Wednesday the 30th there will be a tribute to actor and perpetual heavy Charles McGraw. Alan Rode the author of Charles McGraw: Biography of a Film Noir Tough Guy will be signing his book prior to the screening of two Anthony Mann films that feature McGraw, Reign of Terror (1949)(Reel Classic Films) and Border Incident (1949)(WHV). The screening the prior night, Tuesday the 29th, salutes 20th Century Fox's commitment to releasing film noirs for the home market. Both Hangover Square (1945) and Dangerous Crossing (1953) have been released on DVD as part of Fox's film noir collection. This evening also illustrates the FNF's stated mission to serve "as a conduit between film companies and repertory cinemas still eager to screen these films in 35mm. Revenues generated by ticket sales encourage studios film archives to strike new prints of films that are at risk of disappearing from public view, either through neglect or scarcity." (http://filmnoirfoundation.com)
Bogie admires Ida Lupino's grit in High Sierra
For a complete list of screenings, guests, and book signings at the festival, as well as ticket information, go to http://www.noircity.com/noircity.html A more compact version of Noir City will invade Rain City's SIFFCinema February 15th-21st and will be co-presented by Scarecrow Video and the FNF. Eddie Muller will be on hand to host the event which will benefit FNF. For program and ticket information go to http://www.seattlefilm.org/events/detail.aspx?FID=91 Most of the films are one's playing at the San Francisco event, however, you lucky dogs in Seattle get a screening of the Raoul Walsh classic High Sierra (1941)(Warner Home Video) which helped propel Humphrey Bogart into stardom.

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