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

Be afraid: Noir City 11


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San Francisco's winter weather is the perfect backdrop for Eddie Muller's 11th annual Noir City film festival at the Castro Theatre, running Jan. 25-Feb. 3. Opening night features the must-be-seen-to-be-believed Gun Crazy (1950), originally titled Deadly Is the Female. Barton Tare (gay John Dall) likes guns, but discovers he's an amateur after falling for sharpshooter Annie Laurie Starr (an unforgettable Peggy Cummins). She takes him on a violent, sexually charged rampage. With Russ Tamblyn, then 16, playing the young Dall. Written by the blacklisted Dalton Trumbo, but officially credited to Millard Kaufman. Joseph L. Lewis directed. Muller will interview Cummins onstage following the showing. (Fri., 1/25, pre-show entertainment 7 p.m., screens 8 p.m.)

In Curse of the Demon (1957), American psychologist John Holden (Dana Andrews) goes to London to expose phony cult leader Dr. Julian Karswell (Niall MacGinnis). Karswell's hospitality makes him question his beliefs. Nervy schoolteacher Joanna Harrington (Cummins) thinks Karswell is responsible for her father's death. She's determined to help Holden. Directed by Jacques Tourner. Tough ex-con Stanley Baker hopes to reclaim his life as one of the competitive Helldrivers (1957), but a death foils his plans. Cummins is the knowing, flirtatious secretary. With a young Sean Connery, pre-Man from U.N.C.L.E David McCallum, Gordon Jackson (Hudson on the original Upstairs, Downstairs), Patrick McGoohan (The Prisoner), Jill Ireland (later Mrs. Charles Bronson) and Herbert Lom. Directed by the blacklisted Cy Endfield. (Sat., 1/26, matinee)

Try and Get Me! (1951) was inspired by a 1934 San Jose kidnapping. Ex-GI Howard Tyler (Frank Lovejoy) has little money but a family to support. Slick Jerry Slocum (sexy Lloyd Bridges, father of Jeff and Beau) tempts him with a lucrative scheme. Things get complicated when they hold a rich man's son hostage. With Richard Carlson. Directed by Endfield. Originally released as The Sound of Fury. Fully restored by the Film Noir Foundation. Sadistic Lawrence Tierney is The Hoodlum (1951) terrifying his family and everyone else. Grim, but barely an hour long. (Sat., 1/26, evening)

Broadway star Sheila Page (Joan Leslie) begins the new year by shooting husband Barney (bisexual Louis Hayward). She confesses to poet William Williams (Richard Basehart), but at the scene of the crime, they discover it's one year earlier. Will she redeem herself, or is she fated to give a Repeat Performance (1947)? Lots of juicy backstage bitchiness. With Natalie Schaefer, long before Gilligan's Island. Alfred L. Werker directed. This rarity has also been fully restored by the Film Noir Foundation. Few movies reveal the corrosive effects of fame as powerfully as Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard (1950). Gloria Swanson, once one of the biggest names in silents and early talkies, returned to movies as Norma Desmond, "the greatest star of them all." Writer Joe Gillis (hunky William Holden), fleeing creditors, finds refuge in her decaying, memory-haunted mansion, where she's attended by faithful butler Max von Mayerling (Erich von Strohiem). Norma is plotting her return to the screen as Salome. With Nancy Olson, Fred Clark, Jack Webb, and as themselves, Cecil B. DeMille, Hedda Hopper and Buster Keaton. Nominated for 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Director, Actress (Swanson), and Actor (Holden). Wilder, Charles Brackett, and D.M. Marshman, Jr., won for Best Original Screenplay, as did Franz Waxman's Original Score. The film also won for Best Set Decoration. (Sun., 1/ 27, matinee & evening)

William Wyler, one of classic Hollywood's most acclaimed directors, won three Oscars and earned nine other nominations. He helmed A House Divided (1931). Widower Walter Huston (father of John, grandfather of Angelica) welcomes his mail-order bride Helen Chandler (Dracula), but she prefers the charms of his son, Douglass Montgomery. Set on a steamy South Pacific island. In The Kiss Before the Mirror (1933), gay director James Whale (Frankenstein ) shows what happens when an attorney (Frank Morgan, years before The Wizard of Oz) defends a client accused of murdering his wife, then wonders if he is being cuckolded. With bisexual Walter Pidgeon, Nancy Carroll, Gloria Stuart and Paul Lukas. During the 30s, Pat O'Brien usually played good guys, often opposite James Cagney's gangsters. In Laugher in Hell (1933), however, he's convicted of killing his unfaithful wife and her lover, and sentenced to a life of hard labor in prison. With Stuart. These pre-code rarities show how adventurous the studios were before censorship took over. None are available on DVD. (Mon., 1/28)

African-American writer Richard Wright plays Bigger Thomas in the rarely seen 1951 adaptation of his landmark 1940 novel, Native Son , a scathing look at racism in America. Thomas is an accidental killer. Filmed in Buenos Aires, which stood in for Chicago, by French director Pierre Chenal and Argentine producer Jaime Prades. No Hollywood studio would touch the explosive story. Clarence Brown's version of William Faulkner's Intruder in the Dust (1949) features the great Juano Hernandez as a defiant Mississippi African-American unjustly charged with killing a white man. David Brian is the attorney who won't defend him. Young Claude Jarman, Jr., knows what really happened. With gay Will Geer (decades before The Waltons ). (Tues,, 1/29)

Edward Dmytryk's The Sniper (1952) is an early look at a serial killer. With the normally meek Arthur Franz, right-wing actor Adolphe Menjou, noir regular Marie Windsor, and Richard Kiley before Broadway stardom. San Francisco locations include Pacific Heights, North Beach, and an industrial China Basin. They document the city that once was. A fully restored Experiment in Terror (1962) is also set in Baghdad by the Bay. FBI agent Glenn Ford tries to save Lee Remick's sister (Stephanie Powers), being held for ransom by one of the creepiest villains in movie history (Ross Martin). The sensational climax takes place at then-new Candlestick Park. Blake Edwards directed. (Wed., 1/30)

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