Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

Guard your back:
'Noir City' returns


Joseph Cotton scripted and starred in Journey Into Fear (1943), part of Noir City 12.
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Don't let this year's mild weather fool you – winter in urban areas is a bitter, grim time. Noir City 12 at the Castro Theatre (Jan. 24-Feb. 2) proves that point with Hollywood rarities and foreign language films (all with English subtitles) showing the influence this quintessentially American genre had internationally.

Scene from Sir Carol Reed's magnificent The Third Man (1949), part of Noir City 12.

Journey Into Fear (1943) was scripted by Joseph Cotton from Eric Ambler's novel. Cotton plays an American engineer being hunted by the Nazis. With Orson Welles, beautiful Dolores Del Rio – returning to Hollywood after establishing herself in her native Mexico – Agnes Moorehead, and reptilian Evert Sloane. Officially directed by Norman Foster, it has Welles' unmistakable imprint throughout. Welles doesn't appear in Sir Carol Reed's magnificent The Third Man (1949) until the second half, but he dominates this masterpiece set in a frightening post-WWII Vienna, divided into American, Russian, French, and British zones. Pulp novelist Holly Martens (Cotton) is investigating the death of old friend Harry Limes (Welles). What he finds is unforgettable. With the striking Alida Valli and Trevor Howard. Screenplay by Graham Greene. Anton Karas wrote the celebrated score. (Fri., 1/24)

Director Anthony Mann specialized in Westerns and epics, but as Border Incident (1949) shows, he was adept with noirs. U.S. and Mexican agents team up to capture a gang exploiting migrant workers. With handsome Ricardo Montalban (before TV's Fantasy Island) and future California Senator George Murphy. The Golden Age of Mexican Cinema (ca. 1936-69) is noted for melodramas, but it also produced some interesting noirs. In the Palm of Your Hand (1951) has a con man seducing a wealthy widow, only to discover she and her lover murdered her husband. Is he at risk? With Arturo de Cordova. The terrific Cuban-born Ninon Sevilla, one of the most popular divas of the era, stars as a dancer/hooker who rescues an abandoned baby in Victims of Sin (1951). She insists on keeping the infant, despite threats from her pimp. This is an amazing combination of music and noir melodrama. (Sat., 1/25, matinee)

Long thought lost in 35mm, Too Late for Tears (1949) has been gloriously restored. A satchel of stolen cash is accidentally tossed into a convertible belonging to a nice suburban couple, Jane and Alan Palmer (luscious Lizabeth Scott, Arthur Kennedy). He wants to do the right thing, but she doesn't. Guess who prevails? The consequences are deadly. With creepy Dan Duryea and Don DeFore, years before TV's Hazel. Directed by Byron Haskin, written by Roy Huggins. Scott (b. 1922), one of the era's great beauties, was brought to Hollywood in 1946 by producer Hal Wallis and foolishly promoted as a rival to Lauren Bacall. She sometimes played warm "girls," but was at her best as a treacherous dame. Her career may have ended prematurely because, in the early 1950s, Confidential magazine suggested she was a lesbian. Sexy, whiskey-voiced Ida Lupino, a fine actress, was also a good director, as evidenced by The Hitchhiker (1953). William Talman (before TV's Perry Mason) gets help from Robert Ryan and Frank Lovejoy, then plans to kill them. Scary. Lupino and Collier Young wrote the script. (Sat., 1/25, evening)

Actor Toshiro Mifune and director Akira Kurasawa, who made international movie history in Japanese films, were first paired in Drunken Angel (1948), a tale of an alcoholic doctor who saves the life of a gangster. The explosive, virile star and director were reunited for another noir, Stray Dog (1949), about a policeman disgraced when his gun is stolen in a subway. He and a veteran cop hunt the culprit through the labyrinth of underground Tokyo. (Sun., 1/26, matinee & evening)

The Murderers Among Us (1946) is the first German film to look at the consequences of the Fascist regime. A doctor and ex-Nazi falls in love with a concentration camp survivor. He must also avenge himself on his commanding officer. With Hildegarde Nef and Wilhelm Borchert. Elegant, beautiful Merle Oberon and tough Robert Ryan are passengers on the Berlin Express (1948), heading for a UN Conference. Also onboard is German scientist Paul Lukas, who is fleeing assassins. Will he reach safety? Partially filmed on location. Directed by Jacques Tourneur. (Mon., 1/27, evening)

Death of a Cyclist (1955) is a Spanish noir about a wealthy socialite (Lucia Bose) and her college professor lover (Alberto Closas). They run down a bicyclist after a tryst and leave him to die – a big mistake. Directed by Juan Antonio Bardem, uncle of Javier. Norwegian director Edith Carlmar breathes new life into the familiar tale of a hunky mechanic, engaged to be married, seduced by a wealthy older woman. The sex is great, but he soon learns that Death Is a Caress (1949). (Tues., Jan. 28, evening)

England's class system has been fertile grounds for noir, and It Always Rains on Sunday (1947) is a fine example. Googie Withers, once a barmaid, is the matriarch of an impoverished family living in public housing. She hides her former lover, now a fugitive, threatening what little security the family has. A good, early example of British "Kitchen Sink" drama. Brighton Rock (1947) is regarded as one of the greatest English films ever made. Gay Terence Rattigan adapted Grahame Greene's novel about a young hoodlum (Richard Attenborough) and the troubles he brings to a beach resort trying to heal from the trauma of WWII. John Boulting directed. (Wed., Jan. 29, evening)


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