Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 12 / 22 March 2018

Dark forecast


Noir City plays the Castro Theatre

Scene from Fly by Night.
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January is the month for resolutions, so make one to attend Eddie Muller's acclaimed annual Noir City film festival, which plays the Castro Theatre Jan. 22-31. Most of this year's titles are not on DVD.

In Andre de Toth's Pitfall (1948), Dick Powell plays a suburban husband who commits adultery with gorgeous Lizabeth Scott, a model down on her luck. Scott is memorable, and it's easy to understand Powell's transgression, which has scary and unimaginable repercussions. Jane Wyatt (years before Father Knows Best ) is Powell's bewildered wife. Gay character actor Raymond Burr is an obsessive and scary private detective. He would later transform himself as television's brilliant Perry Mason. Very atmospheric and realistic. Hunky, buffed John Payne and creepy Dan Duryea are golfing buddies determined to commit Larceny against rich war-widow Joan Caulfield (48). Shelley Winters, at her cheapest and flashiest, is the dangerous dame they both want. Fast direction by George Sherman. (1/22)

Veteran noir director Robert Siodmark piloted Fly by Night (42), starring Richard Carlson as an innocent bystander who gets caught in a bizarre intrigue that includes foreign spies and murder. To save himself, he goes into hiding. Nancy Kelly (later Rhoda's dimwitted mother in The Bad Seed) is a delightful romantic foil. This is an odd combination of noir and comedy. Real-life gangster Lucky Luciano was Deported (50), and his story is the basis for this Siodmark rarity, starring handsome, virile, closeted cross-dresser Jeff Chandler. Filmed in Italy. Luciano, an admirer of Siodmark's The Killers (46), demanded a cameo in this film. (1/23, matinee only.)

Dick Powell is an ex-con who wants to clear a pal unjustly jailed, but is forced to Cry Danger (51) for his altruism. The ravishing Rhonda Fleming, his friend's trailer-park wife, isn't in any hurry to have hubby come home. Powell winds up getting framed for murder. With William Conrad (later TV's Cannon ). Directorial debut of Robert Parrish. Parrish helmed The Mob (51), with Broderick Crawford going undercover to investigate waterfront crime and corruption. Ernest Borgnine is one of the many uglies he encounters. A very young Charles Bronson has an uncredited bit. (1/23, evening.)

Posters for Niagara (53) compared Marilyn Monroe to the famous waterfalls – and she won. In her last unsympathetic part, she's married to Joseph Cotton, but wants her lover to get rid of him. Monroe shows a surprising hardness and little of the vulnerability she was often credited with having. With Jean Peters (later Mrs. Howard Hughes). A few years earlier, John Huston displayed a cool, greedy Monroe as gangster Louis Calhern's mistress in The Asphalt Jungle (50), a superb, suspenseful heist movie. Her part is small, but Monroe made the most of it. With Sterling Hayden and Jean Hagen, who's nothing like her Lina Lamont in Singin' in the Rain. (1/24)

English figure skater Belita's film career was brief and unexpected, but she made two seldom seen noirs. She creates Suspense (46) opposite Barry Sullivan in this skating-set story of lust and betrayal. Directed by veteran Frank Tuttle. Sullivan is The Gangster (48), a petty hood who loses his mind when his ambitious, dishonest plans go awry. Belita is a society girl whose slumming makes him even crazier. (1/25)

John Garfield's beefy, proletarian sex appeal made him Tennessee Williams' first choice for Stanley in Streetcar Named Desire, but he declined, and Marlon Brando became a star. Garfield's magnetism is on full display opposite Lana Turner in Tay Garnett's The Postman Always Rings Twice (46). Hollywood had been trying to film James M. Cain's incendiary novel for over a decade. The successful versions of Cain's Double Indemnity (44) and Mildred Pierce (45) inspired MGM to make this memorable adaptation. The steamy Turner is married to Cecil Kellaway. They run a roadside diner. Garfield shows up, and she knows she deserves a better life, and isn't above murder to get it. Little goes as planned. A perfectly cast Turner gives a superb performance, one a more talented actress couldn't match. Garfield was moving in his last film, the suspenseful He Ran All the Way (51). He's a desperate small-time hood who plans one final robbery, but accidentally shoots a cop. Sympathetic Shelley Winters brings him home to meet the family. Trouble is another, uninvited guest. (1/26)

Cleo Moore, one of many cheap blonde copies of Monroe, offers One Girl's Confession (53), director Hugo Haas' tawdry, sado-masochistic look at female temptation and pulchritude. Women's Prison (55) tells "the real, raw truth about man-smuggling behind bars." The wonderful Ida Lupino chews up the scenery as a berserk warden whose horny charges include Moore, Jan Sterling and Audrey Totter. Plenty of cat-fights. With Howard Duff (Lupino's husband), Warren Stevens, and, as a prison matron, Mae Clark (who survived a grapefruit in the face from James Cagney in Public Enemy). A camp classic. (1/27)


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