2015 UCLA Festival of Preservation! There was a packed house on hand to enjoy a 35mm film noir double bill hosted by Alan K. Rode of the Film Noir Foundation.
It was great to visit with friends and see a pair of entertaining films. I had seen the first film on the double bill, TOO LATE FOR TEARS (1949), almost exactly one year ago, at the Noir City Film Festival. I was very glad to enjoy it once more with an appreciative audience. Lizabeth Scott's machinations and Dan Duryea's sarcastic lines were just as much fun the second time around, and I also really like the film's "good guys," Don DeFore and Kristine Miller. TOO LATE FOR TEARS was my favorite of the evening's films.
THE GUILTY (1947) was a new film for me. It was a low, low budget Monogram film based on a story by Cornell Woolrich, whose writing inspired so many other titles in the genre. The screenplay of this 71-minute film was by Robert Presnell Sr., with John Reinhardt directing and photography by Henry Sharp. The movie was produced by Jack Wrather, who married star Bonita Granville the year this film was released.
Granville plays a dual role, starring as good twin Linda and bad twin Estelle. As Mike Carr (Don Castle) prepares to meet Estelle in a bar for the first time in several months, he tells the story of her sister Linda's shocking murder, which is investigated by Detective Heller (Regis Toomey).
I'll leave the synopsis at that, as the story has a number of turns, including unexpected suspects who won't be named here. The somber storyline and twisting plot worked against the film to some extent; it was absorbing, yet I wouldn't class it as a favorite noir. That said, I'm hoping to see it again at the Noir City Film Festival next month, as I would like to watch it again knowing the ending; I want to see if I can follow along and it all makes better sense the second time!
The movie's strongest point is its outstanding noir look; it might have been made on a shoestring, with a limited number of sets, but it has terrific visuals, with lots of shadows and rainy streets.
The film became creepier as it went along, between the grisly description of the murder and an attempted suicide; the final sequence before the murderer was revealed was genuinely spooky. You have to admire what the filmmakers pulled off stylistically.
I thought Granville was quite effective depicting two very different women; you could almost tell just from her expressions which sister was which, beatific Linda or snarly, snarky Estelle.
HIGH TIDE (1947), seen at the 2013 festival, longtime Wrather associate Don Castle is perfectly fine, if not especially memorable. Castle just missed out on that indefinable extra dose of charisma which makes someone a bigger star. As I described in my post on HIGH TIDE, Castle later transitioned to working behind the scenes, including serving as an associate producer on Wrather's LASSIE TV series.
Toomey, on the other hand, is always terrific, and he's simply wonderful as the detective; he didn't have that many scenes but he made the most of them. I'm always glad to see him on screen, and this film was no exception. This would make a great Toomey double bill paired with another film in which he played a cop, CRY DANGER (1951).
Again this year there was a beautiful glossy program created for the festival, seen here.
The Festival of Preservation is off to a great start this weekend! I'll have more coverage very soon.