FILM NOIR FESTIVAL – At the Castro Theatre, 1/21–30

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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

Afraid you might be crazy? Isn’t everybody? This year’s edition of the world’s greatest film noir festival invites you to mix and mingle with NOIR CITY’s most damaged and disturbed denizens. Here you’ll find all kinds of crazy – born crazy, driven crazy, and not as crazy as they seem – in 24 fantastic films over 10 deranged days.

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NOIR CITY 9 returns to its usual majestic venue, the Castro Theatre, from January 21-30, 2011 with ”Who’s Crazy Now?” a lineup of twenty-four tales of madness, ranging from the legendary Oscar-winning performances by Ingrid Bergman (Gaslight) and Ronald Colman (A Double Life), to obscure rarities, The films are presented as originally intended – in glorious 35mm celluloid, in a movie palace, before an appreciative audience.

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INGRID BERGMAN. Gaslight, 1947

Fans of Noir City will see the ultimate payoff from their loyal patronage: three brand new 35 mm prints funded by the Film Noir Foundation: Curtis Bernhardt’s High Wall (1947); Harold D. Schuster’s Loophole (1954); and Jack Bernhard’s The Hunted (1948). All proceeds from the festival always directly fund film preservation efforts. When patrons attend NOIR CITY, they not only have a great time, they help ensure that lesser-known films will be preserved and available, in their original 35mm format, for future generations to enjoy.

Along with the programming excellence audiences have come to expect from Anita Monga and Eddie Muller, moviegoers will be treated to special surprises and guest appearances during the festival. Screenings will include rarely shown trailers and unique, unannounced short films. The bewitching Ms. NOIR CITY 2011, Angela Rocconi (aka “The Notorious Ang”) will be adding to the excitement, and keeping host Muller in line.

THE FESTIVAL PROGRAM

FRIDAY, January 21st
7:30 PM: HIGH WALL,1947.
Warner Brothers, 99 minutes. Director, Curtis Bernhardt
Quintessential postwar noir, resurrected in a new 35-mm print by the Film Noir Foundation! Brain-damaged vet Robert Taylor confesses to murdering his unfaithful wife and is sentenced to a sanitarium. His doctor (sexy Audrey Totter) gradually realizes he might not be guilty. Taylor gives his best performance ever in this neglected gem, which glistens with director Curtis Bernhardt’s feverish rain-soaked noirscapes.

9:30 PM: STRANGER ON THE THIRD FLOOR, 1940.
Warner Brothers, 64 minutes. Director, Boris Ingster
Considered by critical consensus the first American film noir! Peter Lorre is the Stranger, haunting a reporter whose testimony sentenced a possibly innocent man to death. Can the writer’s girlfriend (Margaret Tallichet) uncover the truth in time? A revelatory burst of hallucinatory cinema, featuring a prolonged dream sequence that was the initial injection of noir expressionism into Hollywood’s bloodstream. Archival print from the Library of Congress!

SATURDAY, January 22nd
1:00 & 4:40 pm: STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT, 1944
Republic. 56 minutes. Director, Anthony Mann
Brand new 35mm print restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive! A World War II veteran comes to a California town to meet the woman who was his cherished wartime pen pal. The girl’s peculiar mother claims she’s away — perhaps far, far away. This highly atmospheric, slightly daft “B” was the sixth low-budget wonder for the esteemed noir director Anthony Mann (T-Men, Raw Deal), featuring a jaw-dropping performance by the Austrian actress Helen Thimig.

2:20 PM: GASLIGHT, 1944.
MGM. 114 minutes. Director, Anthony Mann
Ingrid Bergman’s Oscar-winning performance dominates this Victorian-era thriller, one of the greatest suspense films ever made. After 10 years abroad, Paula Alquist (Bergman) returns with her groom (Charles Boyer) to the house where her aunt was murdered. The unsolved crime haunts her to the edge of madness. Nominated for all the major Oscars, including best picture, best actor, best supporting actress, and best screenplay, it remains a timeless touchstone of 1940s cinema.

7:30 pm: THEY WON’T BELIEVE ME, 1947.
RKO. 95 minutes. Director, Irving Pichel
Robert Young is brilliantly cast against type as a married man whose sex addiction leads to murder. Director Irving Pichel elicits superb, nuanced performances from Susan Hayward, Jane Greer, and Rita Johnson as the seduced and deceived women, all full-blooded characters in Jonathan Latimer’s sharp-edged screenplay. Produced by Hitchcock protege Joan Harrison, it’s one of the most unjustly obscure films of the 1940s.

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9:30 PM: DON’T BOTHER TO KNOCK, 1952.
20th Century–Fox. 76 min. Director, Roy Ward Baker
Marilyn Monroe gives the finest performance of her fledgling career as a mentally unbalanced babysitter (in sheer negligee!) hired by a couple visiting Manhattan. All hell breaks loose when she entices randy airline pilot Richard Widmark in for a layover. A claustrophic, unsettling drama scripted by Daniel Taradash, from the novel Mischief by Charlotte Armstrong. Featuring Anne Bancroft and Elisha Cook Jr. in supporting roles. Directed by Roy Ward Baker.

SUNDAY, January 23rd
1:00, 4:15, 7:45 PM: A DOUBLE LIFE, 1947.
Universal. 104 minutes. Director, George Cukor.
In this extraordinary film, Ronald Colman delivers an Oscar-winning performance as Anthony John, a Broadway actor who discovers madness in his Method. Tackling his greatest role as “Othello,” John can longer distinguish his art from his life and begins acting out the character’s murderous jealousy. George Cukor brilliantly directs the acerbic script by Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin. An undisputed classic, presented in an archival print courtesy the UCLA Film and Television Archive. Preservation funded by the Film Foundation.

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3:00, 6:15 PM: AMONG THE LIVING, 1941.
Paramount. 67 minutes. Director, Stuart Heisler
Albert Dekker stars as identical twins, one a brain-damaged psychopath who stirs up a Gothic whirlwind of insanity, family skeletons, and murder in a small town paralyzed by fear. Stuart Heisler directs Lester Cole’s baroque script with fabulously lurid intensity. Costarring a lushly nubile Susan Hayward, venerable Harry Carey, and pre-tragedy Frances Farmer. This rarely screened horror-noir hybrid is one of the most requested films in NOIR CITY history, finally presented in a glorious 35mm print.

MONDAY, January 24th
7:30 PM: THE LADY GAMBLES, 1949.
Universal. 99 minutes. Director, Michael Gordon
Barbara Stanwyck delivers another great performance as a woman whose appetite for gambling destroys her marriage and threatens her life.  The on-location scenes of early Las Vegas are great fun, but things turn harrowing as Stanwyck spirals into addiction. Writer Roy Huggins and director Michael Gordon are surprisingly frank and brutal for the time, especially when Stanwyck is caught cheating at back-alley craps.

9:30 PM: SORRY, WRONG NUMBER, 1948.
Paramount. 89 minutes. Director, Anatole Litvak
Barbara Stanwyck gives a tour-de-force performance (Oscar-nominated) as a bedridden woman who, through crossed phone wires, overhears a murder being planned. This engrossing extension of the legendary 22-minute radio drama is pure noir, tracking an ill-fated romance that spirals into deceit, despair, and death. Featuring Burt Lancaster in one of his earliest roles, mesmerizing direction by Anatole Litvak, and richly atmospheric camerawork by the great Sol Polito. Famous, yet still underrated!

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TUESDAY, January 25th
7:30 PM: THE DARK MIRROR, 1949.
Universal. 99 minutes. Director, Robert Siodmak
Witnesses place Ruth Collins (Olivia de Havilland) at the scene of a grisly murder. When it’s discovered she has a twin, Dr. Elliot (Lew Ayres) is brought in to psychologically evaluate them both. When the doc falls for one of them, the other becomes murderously jealous. Noir master Robert Siodmak deftly directs this Oscar-nominated original story, guiding de Havilland through two sensational performances, as the sisters both sweet and sinister. Preservation funded by the Film Foundation.

9:30 PM: CRACK-UP, 1947.
RKO. 93 minutes. Director, Irving Reis
A museum curator (Pat O’Brien) survives a massive train wreck, but wakes up an amnesiac. It gets worse. Seems the accident never happened, and now everyone is convinced he’s losing his mind. Frederic Brown’s ingenious short story “Madman’s Holiday” is inventively realized by Irving Reis and enacted by a top-flight cast, including suave, sinister Herbert Marshall and sartorially splendid Claire Trevor.

WEDNESDAY, January 26th
7:30 PM THE WOMAN ON THE BEACH, 1947.
RKO. 95 minutes. Director, Jean Renoir
Despite this noir-stained psychodrama being drastically cut prior to release, it remains a mesmerizing tale of dementia, desperation, and lust. The legendary French director Jean Renoir elicits compelling performances from the triangle of Robert Ryan, Joan Bennett, and Charles Bickford, the latter as a famous painter blinded by his beautiful wife. A rare chance to see this maimed masterpiece-that-might-have-been on the big screen!

9:00 PM: BEWARE MY LOVELY, 1952.
RKO. 77 minutes. Director, Henry Horner
The great Ida Lupino plays a lonely war widow who employs a drifter (Robert Ryan) as a household handyman, only to learn —- too late —- precisely why he has no references on his resume. Lupino and Ryan, a pair of noir heavyweights, battle through a “day without end” to an unexpected climax. Mel Dinelli’s suspensful script is adapted from his hit stage play The Man.

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THURSDAY, January 27th
7:30 PM: THE TWO MRS. CARROLLS, 1947.
Warner Brothers. 99 minutes. Director, Peter Godfrey
Humphrey Bogart gives one of his strongest—if barely known—performances as a mentally disturbed painter whose second wife (sensational Barbara Stanwyck) gradually realizes her husband’s preferred medium is… murder! Released at the height of public fascination with the Bogart-Bacall romance, the film flopped, and rarely has it been revived in recent decades. Here’s a chance to see Bogart at his most deliciously villainous, opposite the greatest actress in Hollywood history.

9:30 PM: MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS, 1945.
Columbia. 65 minutes. Director, Joseph H. Lewis
Unemployed Julia (Nina Foch) gets a dream job working for a wealthy widower, only to awaken in a nightmare—living with a schizo husband and a scheming mother-in-law (George Macready and Dame May Whitty), neither of whom she’s ever seen before! Director Joseph H. (Gun Crazy) Lewis made his mark in Hollywood with this incredibly tense and well-acted mystery thriller, one of the best B-films of the era.

SATURDAY, January 29th
1:00 & 4:30 PM: BLIND ALLEY, 1939.
Columbia. 69 minutes. Director, Charles Vidor
An escaped convict (Chester Morris) and his moll (Ann Dvorak) hold a dinner party hostage while waiting for their boat to freedom. During the long night, a psychiatrist (Ralph Bellamy) persistently probes for the root of the crook’s psychopathy — with shattering results. Remade several times, the first version remains the freshest, thanks to Charles (Gilda) Vidor’s canny direction, including dream sequences using startling camera techniques rare for the era.

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CHESTER MORRIS and ANN DVORAK. Blind Alley, 1939
JOAN BENNETT and MICHAEL REDGRAVE. Secret Beyond the Door, 1948

2:30 PM: SECRET BEYOND THE DOOR, 1948.
Universal. 99 minutes. Director, Fritz Lang
A NOIR CITY tradition is to show one incomprehensible film each year — and this is it! Director Fritz Lang jumped (with abandon) onto the 1940’s Freudian bandwagon with this wildly symbolic cinematic fright-ride. On a pre-wedding holiday Joan Bennett meets the real man of her dreams (Michael Redgrave), who sweeps her off her feet and into a nightmarish honeymoon that’s a cross between Rebecca and Bluebeard. Ridiculous but visually stunning, and loving restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive. Preservation funded by the Film Foundation.

7:30 PM: THE STRANGE AFFAIR OF UNCLE HARRY, 1945.
Universal. 80 minutes. Director, Robert Siodmak
Small-town designer Harry Quincey (George Sanders) finally meets the right woman (Ella Raines), but his possessive and possibly insane sister Lettie (Geraldine Fitzgerald) has no intention of letting him go. How will Harry get free of her incestuous clutches? A dark and mordant psycho-sexual drama (with lots of spicy wit) in which director Robert Siodmak creatively undermines the Hollywood Production Code. Fitzgerald is at her stark, raving, sexy best.

9:30 PM: SO EVIL MY LOVE, 1948.
Paramount. 112 minutes. Director, Lewis Allen
Inspired by a true-life, never-solved murder, this is one of the great undiscovered gothic-noir dramas of the 1940s. A devout missionary (Ann Todd) falls under the spell of a charming rogue (Ray Milland) and can’t resist aiding him in the commission of his crimes. Milland is at his caddish best, but the real standouts are Todd and costar Geraldine Fitzgerald. Based on the novel by Marjorie Bowen, who wrote under the pseudonym Joseph Shearing.

SUNDAY, January 30th
1:00, 5:00, and 9:00 PM: ANGEL FACE, 1952.
RKO. 91 minutes. Director, Otto Preminger
Jean Simmons is simultaneously sexy and creepy as a Los Angeles heiress who will do anything to get the man she wants. In this case, it’s ultimate noir hero-chump Robert Mitchum, who blithely believes he can handle his unhinged paramour’s Electra-fying passion. Otto Preminger directs this doomed romance with an almost suffocating precision, creating what Jean-Luc Godard hailed as one of the ten best films ever made in Hollywood.

3:00 and 7:00: THE HUNTED, 1948.
Allied Artists. 88 minutes. Director, Jack Bernhard
More buried treasure unearthed! Steve Fisher’s original screenplay for this bargain-basement B-film offers a clever twist on the typical femme fatale. Laura Mead (Belita) has served her time for robbery and still claims her innocence. She returns to the city where her former cop lover (Preston Foster) sent her up. Was she guilty—or was he just jealous? Is she back for a fresh start—or revenge? A strange, hypnotic noir from Poverty Row director Jack (Decoy) Bernhard, resurrected in a new 35mm print by the Film Noir Foundation.

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ROBERT MITCHUM and JEAN SIMMONS

The $100 NOIR CITY PASSPORT 2011 is your key to all NOIR CITY 9 events at the Castro Theatre, from opening night on Friday, January 21st until the lights dim on Sunday, January 30th. Festival goers who wish to buy passports are strongly encouraged to purchase them in advance as availability will be limited after the festival begins. Passports are non-transferable. The passport also comes with the following perks:
- Early admission to the theater
- Discount over buying 12 individual double-feature tickets
- Separate entrance to the theater (bypass those long lines out front — and possibly the rain — and walk right in!)
Passports will be available at will-call at the Castro Theatre starting Friday evening, January 21st. Arrive early!
Click here to order on-line: NOIR CITY PASSPORT 2011.

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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.

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