You know you’ve got it bad when you find yourself standing outside the Castro Theatre, home of Noir City 16, six hours before the festival’s opening. If you’ve ever attended even one screening at any Noir City festival, you understand how easily someone can fall under the Noir City spell. That spell is strengthened by the attendees wearing 1940s and 50s outfits, the regal ambience of the Castro Theatre itself, and certainly the films. Yet at 1:30pm on the first day of Noir City, those things were only hinted at as I looked up at the marquee. Still, I felt like Walter Neff standing outside Phillis Dietrichson’s house; it was only a matter of time.
It’s almost here… Noir City 16, that is. Although I’ll only be able to attend the first half of the festival, I’m so excited I probably won’t be able to sleep tonight (which may work to my advantage, since my flight is super early tomorrow morning). When I return, I plan on reporting back on the films I saw, the places I went, and the people I hope to reconnect with as well as those I hope to meet for the first time. But on to the films:
Today at 10am EST on TCM’s Noir Alley, hosted by Eddie Muller:
The Strange Love of Martha IversThe Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946) Lewis Milestone
Nearly two decades after the death of her rich aunt, Martha Ivers (Barbara Stanwyck) has married Walter (Kirk Douglas, in his very first role), a district attorney whom Martha doesn’t love, but the marriage is one of convenience. Martha’s former friend Sam (Van Heflin) drifts into town, meets a sultry woman named Toni (Lizabeth Scott), who’s on parole, and tries to convince Martha to use her influence to keep Toni out of the joint. Nice film noir that tiptoes along that thin line separating noir from melodrama, but the cast is out of sight. Although uncredited, Byron Haskin directed at least part of the film since Lewis Milestone was away from the film for a considerable time adding his support to a set decorators’ strike. Although available on Blu-ray from Film Chest, the reviews are not good. This is another excellent noir that deserves a better restoration.
Gary “Gal” Dove (Ray Winstone) has had a good run as a safe-cracker, so good that he and his wife DeeDee (Amanda Redman) can afford to retire from London bank jobs and relax at their Spanish villa. All is well until an old associate named Don Logan (Ben Kingsley) demands that Gal pull one more heist for London crime boss Teddy Bass (Ian McShane). If you’re a fan of classic film noir, you’ll recognize this as the basic set-up from Out of the Past (1947), but the similarities pretty much end there.
Although Noir City DC 2017 has come to an end, I’m still working my way thorough my notes and hope to report the films I haven’t already discussed. One of the highlights of the festival was seeing one of my all-time favorites on the big screen for the first time: Jacques Tourneur’s Out of the Past, which marked not only the film’s 70th anniversary, but also the Robert Mitchum Centennial.
Film Noir Foundation President Eddie Muller congratulated Todd Hitchcock, the AFI Silver’s Director of Programming, for finding a 35mm print of a film Muller wanted to show at Noir City 15 back in January, Any Number Can Win (Mélodie en sous-sol), the second film in Saturday’s Alain Delon double feature. Muller treated us to a Walter Matthau double feature on Friday, so here’s an Alain Delon double feature, which caused Muller to joke, “Walter Matthau, Alain Delon… They’re like brothers, right?”
I ask you, how many times in your life have you ever read or heard the words “Walter Matthau Double Feature”? You can’t exactly envision people lining up and down the block for such a double bill, but I’d say the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center brought in well over 100 people for both The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) and Charley Varrick (1973) last night.
Noir City Annual 2015 – Eddie Muller, editor
Film Noir Foundation, 2016
Paperback, 271 pages
If you’ve ever watched one of Eddie Muller’s introductions on TCM’s Noir Alley (every Sunday at 10am EST, by the way) or FilmStruck, listened to one of his DVD commentaries, or heard him introduce a film in person, you know that Muller’s love of film noir is personal, passionate, and boundless. Now imagine a book filled with men and women just like Muller who share his passion for film noir. That’s what you get when you pick up any Noir City annual.
“Tell the Truth.” That’s the text of the framed needlepoint hanging in the office of the Albuquerque Sun-Bulletin where Chuck Tatum (Kirk Douglas) is seeking to make his comeback, looking for a return ticket to the big city newspapers who wouldn’t put up with his style of “extreme sport” journalism. The audience at last night’s showing of Ace in the Hole – part of The Great Movies series at the Severna Park Library – met Tatum last night and if you want me to tell the truth, I don’t think Tatum made many friends. But then again, maybe he did.
When first looking over the Noir City schedule, you might come away disappointed, not in the selection of titles, but in the number of films shown per day. With the exception of Saturdays, Noir City features two films a day, generally showing around 7:15pm and 9:00pm or thereabout. (The two Sunday films are repeated later in the day.) But remember, you’re in San Francisco, one of the most fascinating cities on the planet, so go explore it! In the two years I’ve attended Noir City, I have also gone on a wine tour, an “Alfred Hitchcock’s San Francisco” walking tour, visited the Museum of Modern Art, Alcatraz, a Japanese garden, John’s Grill, ran a 5K, spent time in Chinatown, and much more.