The TCM Classic Film Festival didn't officially open until Thursday, April 10th, yet in some ways I felt that the festival started the preceding Sunday, April 6th.
My friend Aurora arrived in town early for the TCM Festival, and along with my husband we spent an interesting and educational afternoon exploring two of the cemeteries where many classic era filmmakers are buried.
That was followed by a wonderful dinner at the Pig 'n Whistle with Robby and his lovely wife. Having enjoyed and admired Robby's Dear Old Hollywood blog for so many years, it was wonderful to have the chance to meet in person at last!
Lindsay for the closing night of the Noir City Film Festival, a double bill of M (1951), directed by Joseph Losey, and THE HITCH-HIKER (1953), directed by Ida Lupino.
There was another TCM tie-in with one of the films, as a significant percentage of M was filmed in the historic Bradbury Building, which was one of the stops on the TCM Los Angeles Movie Locations Bus Tour.
M is a remake of Fritz Lang's 1931 film of the same name. Despite the 1931 version's status as a revered classic, I've always been leery of watching it because of the subject matter; the villain of the piece is a serial killer whose victims are children. Having braved the remake and found it to be an interesting story, I'm now more open to checking out the original, which stars Peter Lorre.
It may have helped in that I didn't have the original film to compare it to, but I thought the 1951 version was terrific. David Wayne is out-and-out creepy as a mentally disturbed man who compulsively kills little girls. This aspect of the film was handled as tastefully as possible or the film would not have been watchable for me.
The police, headed by Inspector Carney (Howard Da Silva) and Lt. Becker (Steve Brodie), make very slow headway in catching the killer. Crime boss Charlie Marshall (Martin Gabel) decides for various reasons that having a serial killer on the loose is bad for business and marshals his own forces to track the murderer down.
I thought the concept made for a terrific story, with a bunch of bad guys temporarily becoming antiheroes as they go after an even worse bad guy. With great actors like Raymond Burr and Norman Lloyd as the criminals on the case, it makes for an extremely compelling film.
My only quibble with this 93-minute movie was its overly drawn-out, talky ending, which was anticlimactic. Other than that, it's a movie very much worth seeing.
I, THE JURY (1953), but M showed it even more extensively. Simply spending so much time in that historic building made the movie worthwhile.
The movie is a must for anyone interested in the old Downtown Los Angeles, as it also features Bunker Hill, the Angels' Flight Railway, and the 2nd Street Tunnel. I especially enjoyed seeing locations I'd recently seen on the TCM tour in the movie.
A fun anecdote: The Film Noir Foundation's Alan K. Rode mentioned that he had once asked Norman Lloyd about his scene stealing in the movie, with bits of business such as getting on a scale and weighing himself while other actors are talking. He said Lloyd responded "A good actor must do what a good actor must do!"
The girls in the film are played by Janine Perreau (sister of Gigi), Frances Karath (sister of Kym), Sherry Jackson, and Robin Fletcher. Karen Morley has a small role as the mother of one of the victims. The cast also includes Luther Adler, Glenn Anders, Walter Burke, Roy Engel, Jim Backus, Virginia Farmer, Madge Blake, and William Schallert.
This film does not appear to have been released on VHS or DVD. With its fine performances and fascinating visual record of mid-century Los Angeles, it deserves to be more widely seen.
Coming soon: A review of the last of the 13 films I saw at the Noir City Film Festival, THE HITCH-HIKER (1953).
May 2015 Update: I had a wonderful experience seeing this film again on a big screen at the 2015 Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival.