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Where Film Noir Lives...Too!

The FNF Noir City Returns To Chicago in late August...23-29, 2013...[As Dan in the MW...recounts the happening at Noir City 5 in Chicago]

Defying media reports about the demise of repertory cinema and 35-millimeter film, the latest edition of NOIR CITY: Chicago, coming to the Music Box Theatre August 23–29, presents another astounding lineup of classic films noir—including the three brand new 35mm restorations funded by the Film Noir Foundation, which joins forces each year with the Music Box to present NOIR CITY: Chicago. As always, NOIR CITY features both celebrated classics and wonderful rarities: some newly rescued from extinction and presented in glorious new film prints, others screening for the first time in gorgeous digital restorations.

 

 

NOIR CITY: Chicago celebrates its 5th anniversary with the Chicago premieres of the FNF's latest film restoration projects: Try and Get Me! (1951), Repeat Performance (1947) and High Tide (1947).

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Tags: city, dan, digital, eddie, film, foundation, in, midwest, muller, noir, More…restoraton, the

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Comment by Darkness To Light... on August 30, 2013 at 5:46pm

Eddie Muller chats about the upcoming NOIR CITY Chicago & the F...

Noir City: Chicago 5 (Closing Night)

The week long festival came to its appointed end. Seventeen films in one week with only five titles screened twice. Owing to schedule conflicts, I only managed to see fifteen of the films in their entirety. I missed out on "It Always Rains on Sunday" and "Sleep, My Love," from start to finish, but I did see the concluding reels of each picture. I was sufficiently intrigued by both and will make an effort to seek out the films elsewhere at another time.

The climax of "Sleep, My Love" suggested that this Douglas Sirk production was a keeper. It was surprising to see Don Ameche cast as a villain who menaces Claudette Colbert. I am most certainly going to try to find this movie to see it from the beginning.

After so many engrossing pictures, I was overdue for a let down. I finally saw "Street of Chance" which is important for being one of the first successful screen adaptations of Cornell Woolrich's darker works. Despite its fine cast, the film's plot was too lightweight for me. Garrett Fort, a screenwriter who helped launch the horror cycle at Universal Pictures, where he worked on the scripts of "Dracula" and "Frankenstein," never fully explored the paranoid themes inherent in Woolrich's "The Black Curtain." Burgess Meredith played a recovering amnesiac who was trying to unravel not only the unexplained loss of his memory for a full year, which he spent living under a different identity, but to solve a murder mystery in which his alter ego is the prime suspect as well.

The obvious noir potential of such a plot should have made for a great film, but "Street of Chance" pulls some of its punches and never fully delivers. After Meredith's character recovers his memory as the result of being struck on the head by falling construction debris from a building demolition site, he locates his wife (Louise Platt) who accepts him back almost immediately. He returns to his former place of employment and the boss reassigns him to his position with virtually no questions asked. Overall, the movie was not bad, but certainly not great. Claire Trevor plays the femme fatale, but her character is no match for the hard edged dames that she portrayed in "Murder, My Sweet" or "Born to Kill."

I was familiar with "The Black Curtain" because I had previously seen its television adaptation on "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour" which starred Richard Basehart. The episode was directed by Sydney Pollack. This 1962 version is far darker than the love and kisses dished up in the Paramount feature film. As for which version more closely resembles Woolrich's vision, I would have to find the book to tell you. If I was to place a wager, I would bet on the Richard Basehart version. "Street of Chance" never developed an atmosphere of dread or impending doom. It certainly did not measure up to the other Woolrich inspired feature that was shown in the same theater twenty-four hours earlier, "Night Has a Thousand Eyes."

While I do not have access to actual box office figures, it seemed as if Noir City: Chicago 5 was fairly well attended. No, in all likelihood, the crowds did not approach the full capacity audiences packing the Castro Theater in San Francisco, but that experience is probably sui generis and it should be noted that the Castro is a much larger venue than the Music Box. I will also add that during the screening of "Desert Fury" the audience did not talk back to the screen as if they were attending a midnight showing of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."

My nominee for the best film noir discovery (rescued and restored by the Film Noir Foundation) from this year's festival would be "Repeat Performance." The best double feature would probably be "Night Has a Thousand Eyes" paired with "Alias Nick Beal." Fun fact: the Nick Beal character was revived for an episode of "Father Knows Best" in 1954, but John Williams played the part.

It was great fun and it was a pleasure to see both Eddie Muller and Alan K. Rode again. The audiences really appreciated their introductions to the films.

Comment by Darkness To Light... on August 29, 2013 at 2:02pm

Noir City: Chicago 5 (Night 6)

The festival is winding down. Tonight featured two John Farrow films that featured the fantastic and the supernatural, so someone asked "Is that really film noir?" I would argue "Yes!" Film Noir is as much about style as it is about substance.
Seeing "Night Has a Thousand Eyes" in a vintage theater with twinkling stars in the ceiling and rolling clouds seemed wholly appropriate. Many of the Film Noir Foundation guests are as committed to literature as they are to the films and it came as no surprise to listen to the introduction that preceded the movie as Alan K. Rode tried to summarize the career of the well paid, but exceedingly strange Cornell Woolrich.

The film adaptation captures the essentials from Woolrich's novel, but the screenplay had to rework the material somewhat in order to make the movie palatable to theater goers. I have read the original book and, while it is an especially good read, it would not have been a likely candidate for approval by the Breen Office censors and I also doubt that it would have been a commercial success if it faithfully followed the novel. As such, significant changes were made to the script. It is nonetheless a most worthwhile movie.

The fact that "Alias Nick Beal" is not available for home entertainment purchasers boggles the mind. It is a clever film and Ray Milland delivers one of his finest performances. It was good to see George Macready cast against type as a clergyman rather than a villain. John Seitz, not John Alton, handled the camera work, but the movie is visually striking.

Tomorrow is the final night. Don't develop a sudden case of amnesia!

Comment by Darkness To Light... on August 29, 2013 at 11:25am

Tony D'Ambra, Looks at "Night In The City" as only he could do...Honest, and without mincing words...Here--->Night And the City (1950): A Near Perfect Noir Read more: http://fi...

FILMNOIR.NET IS A CC LICENSED AND COPY-RIGHTED @WEBSITE

Comment by Darkness To Light... on August 29, 2013 at 11:13am
Comment by Darkness To Light... on August 29, 2013 at 11:10am

Noir City: Chicago 5 (Night 5)

An abbreviated post is all that I can managed tonight. I was not able to see both features. I missed a significant portion of "It Always Rains on Sunday." I only arrived in time to see the last reel. The climactic sequence took place in a railroad yard and it seemed quite good, but other patrons complained that the film was more of a melodrama than an example of film noir. Someday, I will have to see the film in its entirety.

What I can add is that Robert Hamer was a talented director. His finest effort may be the Ealing comedy "Kind Hearts and Coronets." Hamer's father, Gerald Hamer, may be familiar to some readers. He was a supporting player who was featured in five "Sherlock Holmes" movies opposite Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. He also appeared in "Lured."

"Night and the City" is a singular production. Harry Fabian, an artist without an art, had it all, but wound up a dead man. This is one of the least sentimental noirs and, perhaps the best directed by Jules Dassin. The point can be argued, but it is like comparing Rizzutto to Reese. Fabian is a club tout who gets in over his head. He worked harder than any other ten men, he had drive and ambition, but he always pursued the wrong things. It is interesting to see so many confidence men operating in London simultaneously. The movie is one of Richard Widmark's best.

Comment by Darkness To Light... on August 24, 2013 at 4:02pm

Noir City: Chicago 5 (Opening Night)

WRITER DAN IN THE MIDWEST, NIGHTLY, RE-COUNT Of  THE SCREENING OF NOIR FILMS AT NOIR CITY...

For the first time since the inaugural Noir City festival in Chicago, which was held five years ago, Eddie Muller, the Czar of Noir, returned to the scene of the crime. Muller acted as the master of ceremonies on opening night and will introduce films throughout the weekend.

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Corruption in the freight hauling industry has been a staple for film noir screenwriters such as Buzz Bezzerides. Although “The Hell Drivers” contained sufficient plot elements to make a full blown noir expose' of British teamsters, the end result is more of an action picture. The potential noir themes were not totally developed. The movie is a solid effort nonetheless with a marvelous cast including Peggy Cummins (“Gun Crazy”), Stanley Baker, and several actors best remembered from television imports, Patrick McGoohan (“Secret Agent Man” and “The Prisoner”) and William Hartnell (the original “Doctor Who”). Sean Connery, David McCallum, Herbert Lom, Sid James and Alfie Bass round out the cast. Endfield's script was nominated for Best Screenplay in the 1957 British Academy of Film and Television Arts competition.

The Film Noir Foundation screened an earlier Endfield production that the organization’s fundraising efforts helped to restore, “Try and Get Me!” (alternately known as “The Sound of Fury”), which is based in part upon an actual 1933 kidnapping and murder case that ended with a mob of vigilantes storming a California jail and lynching two criminal suspects. Having seen the film years ago, I can vouch for its quality. Journeyman actor Frank Lovejoy stars opposite Lloyd Bridges and Irish actress Kathleen Ryan (her signature performance was in Carol Reed’s “Odd Man Out”).

Endfield was subsequently blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee for his past Communist Party affiliations. Unable to work in Hollywood, he relocated to Great Britain. For a few years he used pseudonyms in film credits to allow his movies to be released in the United States. He achieved his greatest success in adapting the story of the 1879 Battle of Rorke’s Drift into the major motion picture “Zulu.” It is hard to envision Endfield as full blown Communist in light of the nationalist themes in "Zulu."

One of Eddie Muller's best anecdotes about "Try and Get Me!" concerned his screening the film for the family of the late Lloyd Bridges. The film was so obscure and difficult to see that many of them were aware of it only by reputation.

Tomorrow will be the longest day. There will a be a total of four feature films shown and not a "B" programmer or second feature in the bunch. All four movies are big budget productions with running times of ninety minutes or longer.

Comment by Darkness To Light... on August 21, 2013 at 9:03am

Noir City: Chicago 5 (Night 2) "A Long Day's Journey Into Noir"

ACCORDING TO DAN IN THE MIDWEST...

"Whoa! Nine hours of almost non-stop Noir with only a few pauses for brief intermissions. I thought last year's triple feature was something, but that line up included one "B" film with a short running time. Yesterday, we watched four feature length "A" quality films.

While film noir is virtually synonymous with glorious black and white cinematography, Saturday’s marathon series of four, count’em, four, feature length movies which highlighted examples of film noir style pictures made in Technicolor. Three of the four films featured actresses who became prominent during the Forties and early Fifties.

"Niagara Falls! Slowly, I turned, step by step. . ." Imagine turning a comedy sketch into a full length noir! To think that Oscar Wilde once suggested that viewing Niagara Falls was the second biggest disappointment in a newlywed bride's married life!

After a series of progressively more important supporting roles, Marilyn Monroe achieved stardom as the deceitful and scheming Rose, a former beer garden waitress who plots to murder her psychologically damaged ex-serviceman husband (Joseph Cotten) in “Niagara.” Significant portions of the movie were shot on location primarily utilizing the Canadian side of the falls. Jean Peters scores big time as well as the heroine of the film since MM checked out early.

“Desert Fury” continues to defy description. The cast included Mary Astor, Wendell Corey, John Hodiak, Burt Lancaster, and, the iconic film noir actress, Lizabeth Scott. The lavish Hal Wallis production reeks of perverse subtexts. The production ought never have been passed by the Breen Office, but the censors never had a clue. Lizabeth Scott was made for Technicolor, but this is one of the handful of films where she was not photographed in black and white.

“Leave Her to Heaven” served as a showcase for Gene Tierney, a Hollywood beauty who was romantically linked with U.S. Representative John F. Kennedy before he married Jacqueline Bouvier. In this film, Tierney is a jealous and possessive woman with an Electra complex who will not be ignored.

“Violent Saturday” starred Victor Mature as a local hero battling a gang of bank robbers following a bank heist in a small town. Richard Fleischer directed. Fleischer, the son of cartoonist and animator, Max Fleischer, who was most famous for the “Betty Boop” and “Popeye” cartoons, had a long a varied career. He began directing film noir pictures, including the celebrated “Narrow Margin” and “Armored Car Robbery,” graduated to historical epics and true crime films, and, ultimately helped advance the career of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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[NOTE:

One welcome addition to this festival is that Eddie Muller brought along some of the short subject specialty films that have been a staple of the festivals held in San Francisco. As often as I have watched "Endless Night: A Valentine to Film Noir" online, it was a revelation to see on the big screen and to learn about the talented teenager who assembled it on her computer. It is quite a distillation.

Another fascinating anecdote shared with the audience members from the stage and in conversations in the theater lobby was the lengthy quest to secure the film elements needed to restore Byron Haskins' "Too Late for Tears." It was an epic saga not unlike the hunt for the white whale. For years, there were false starts and rumors of the project gaining momentum. An attempt to access a complete nitrate stock print (a combustible and unstable medium) from a private collector came tantalizing close to succeeding, but the owner refused to ship the volatile reels during the Summer months. The individual subsequently died and the estate representative could not have cared less about film restoration. Eventually, a European print of the film with French subtitles was located. Perhaps the film was hiding in plain sight because the French version of the film had been renamed "The Tigress." In the USA, the same film was reissued with the new title "Killer Bait" six years after its initial theatrical release.

Why so much fuss about a public domain title that is available in so many cheap dvd and bootleg versions? Well, for openers, the film was adapted from a magazine serial by Roy Huggins, the script had some excellent hard boiled dialogue, the movie featured some outstanding location shooting in Hollywood and Los Angeles and the cast members gave some top flight noir performances. It was also fairly clear that from the dodgy prints available that someone had butchered the film while editing picture for television: characters halt speeches in mid-sentence and appear to fly across the sets when entering or exiting rooms. Even the opening credits and end titles are not fully intact in many versions. The compromised, spliced and scratchy prints also contained strong suggestions that there was missing footage.

In addition to restoring and preserving theater quality 35 mm prints, the work of the Film Noir Foundation pays added dividends for cinephiles: frequently, new and improved DVDs are issued once the FNF has a classic title remastered. Witness the collector's edition of "The Prowler." Once a presumably lost film, "The Prowler" was sitting uncatalogued in a film archive warehouse before it was rescued. Chicago festival goers were encouraged by the suggestion that "Try and Get Me!" may be available for home entertainment purchasers next year..."

Thanks, Dan in the MW...For the additional information about why the work [great] work that the Film noir Foundation do and is continuing to do is so very important to fan Of not only film noir, but films in general... too ! ]

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Noir City: Chicago 5 (Night 3) Auld Lang Syne...

ACCORDING TO DAN IN THE MIDWEST...

There were only three screenings today and two of the features had more compact running times. During the intermission periods, there was more time to engage in conversations and renew acquaintances with the festival hosts (both Eddie Muller and Alan K. Rode were present) and other film noir fans. Some Blackboard readers and contributors were in the audience. I had great fun. The audience members are not only enthusiasts, many are well read and know their film trivia also.

It was gratifying to see the consistently larger audiences at the screenings. The evening and night time screenings have been substantial. The earliest matinee showings have been a trifle smaller, but quite respectable. The theater organist, Dennis Scott performed during the intermissions and played medleys of hit songs related to the years in which the various films were released.
"Sunset Boulevard" is a certifiable classic. I enjoyed it again after not having seen it for many years. I was struck at how much material in the film reflected upon the careers of Gloria Swanson and Erich von Stroheim. During a break, I saw a bulletin board posting about a prior screening of "Beyond the Rocks" held at the Music Box Theater. This silent movie was directed by Sam Wood, a protege' of Cecil B. De Mille, and it starred Swanson and Valentino.
It was presumed to have been lost until some reels were found in a private collection and European archivists rose to the challenge and found more missing material and eventually restored the entire film, not unlike the FNF. In "Sunset Boulevard," Swanson's Norma Desmond character speaks about dancing with Valentino.

Billy Wilder made good use of Erich von Stroheim in this film and "Five Graves to Cairo." I have also enjoyed the actor in "The Great Flamarion" and "The Mask of Dijon." Footage of Swanson in "Queen Kelly" which was directed by Erich von Stroheim was seamlessly incorporated into the film. It also occurred to me that William Holden successfully appeared in movies that exposed the hypocrisy and cynicism of both the movie ("Sunset Boulevard") and television industries ("Network"). It is amazing that Gloria Swanson (a Chicago native) made this film after an almost decade long absence from the screen. Apart from a single role in 1941, Swanson had not worked regularly since the early Thirties.

I was pleasantly surprised with the low budget Hugo Haas/Cleo Moore entry, "The Other Woman" (1954). My expectations were low since I had found fault with "One Girl's Confession" another movie utilizing the same two stars that was made one year earlier. Reportedly, "The Other Woman" had not been shown in almost a quarter of a century before the festival programmers revived the movie.

"Repeat Performance" was well attended and received. I had eagerly looked forward to seeing it on account of the movie being Richard Basehart's film debut. His important supporting role in the New Year's Eve themed movie preceded his highly successful performance in "He Walked By Night." I was not disappointed in "Repeat Performance." It lived up to its billing. Eagle Lion Studios had a knack for making these type of films, but so much of the studio library has fallen into the public domain or complete obscurity. The Film Noir Foundation has managed to rescue several Eagle Lion titles. I was not familiar with Joan Leslie beforehand. Louis Heyward and Tom Conway were also in the cast. I believe an uncredited John Ireland narrated the introduction. The motto of the short lived Eagle Lion Studios was "Sic Pro Optima." Noirheads would heartily agree that the studio oftentimes lived up to this credo.

Both "Try and Get Me!" and "Repeat Performance" were restored by the Film Noir Foundation, but the latter film intrigued me more because I had actually seen a VHS copy of the first title some years ago.

Eddie Muller concluded his portion of the festival today; Alan K. Rode takes the stage tomorrow.

Comment by Darkness To Light... on July 28, 2013 at 10:12am

 

Join us for the 5th sensational edition of NOIR CITY: CHICAGO as the Music Box teams up with the Film Noir Foundation for a festival that combines extraordinary rarities with revivals of recognized classics!

Comment by Darkness To Light... on July 28, 2013 at 10:12am

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