Sunday, November 05, 2006

Tonight's Movie: Call Northside 777 (1948)

This weekend I caught James Stewart's CALL NORTHSIDE 777 for the first time. Stewart plays a journalist looking into whether a man was wrongly convicted of murder 11 years previously. The film was based on a true story and filmed in semi-documentary style at many of the actual locations in Illinois.

The movie reminded me of another film I recently enjoyed, Richard Widmark's PANIC IN THE STREETS. In each film someone outside the police force is unexpectedly thrust into the role of detective and finds himself hunting for critical witnesses in an unsavory part of town. Each was filmed on location in realistic settings, and each featured non-actors in small roles. The polygraph examiner in CALL NORTHSIDE 777, for instance, plays himself.

The movie provides an interesting peek into the time it was made, particularly in its focus on technology such as polygraph testing, miniature cameras, and wire transmittal of photographs. Stewart's wife, played by Helen Walker, smoking in her (twin) bed in the middle of the night was another brief moment particularly reflective of the film's era.

James Stewart is always a pleasure to watch, and this film was no exception. He was supported by Lee J. Cobb as his editor and Richard Conte as the convicted murderer. The movie was directed by Henry Hathaway. It was filmed in black and white and has a running time of 111 minutes.

CALL NORTHSIDE 777 is available on DVD as No. 2 in the Fox Film Noir series. Extras on the DVD include a commentary track along with a trailer and newsreel about the film's premiere.

This film is also available on video; the trailer and premiere newsreel are included on the video.


Blogger J.C. Loophole said...

Yes, this is a great film (I own the DVD- I bought it along with Laura , which came out the same day). This film along with the one you mentioned, He Walked by Night, and to a lesser degree White Heat- marked a different kind of Film Noir that produced Dragnet. A focus on how the game of cops and robbers was played for real (at least Hollywood style) by emphasizing the then-advanced technology and techniques. It's an interesting genre within a genre. Call Northside 777 is a very under-appreciated James Stewart film. This film makes an excellent partner with Anatomy of a Murder (of which we did a bargain bin review) as an excellent Double Feature. His performances in those films were exceptional. Definitely Shelf Approved! One day I'll trademark that line- insert mischievous laughter here.

6:35 AM  
Blogger Wolf Flywheel said...

Great film! My wife and I watched it a few weeks ago and enjoyed every minute. Definately Shelf Approved! (Trademark or no, I can use the phrase too. That's a perk of being a Shelf amployee.)

1:00 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Love hearing each of your feedback on this movie. It was a really interesting film. I will have to check out HE WALKED BY NIGHT, which is in my dad's collection. (My daughter just saw WHITE HEAT in her college film class last week!) The "procedural" type movie of that era is interesting, especially for the peek into what's changed and what's remained the same. I'm going to borrow my dad's DVD of NORTHSIDE 777 and check out the commentary.

Love ANATOMY OF A MURDER, I saw that for the first time when the DVD was released a few years back. And the LAURA DVD was a great release!

Always great to "talk movies" with fellow fans. :)

Best wishes, Laura

3:44 PM  
Blogger J.C. Loophole said...

I think that it is pretty neat your daughter is in Casper's film class. And how appropriate she should see White Heat in his class. He was one of the commentators on the documentary on the DVD release and did the great audio commentary. I have to admit I am somewhat envious. I hope she is truly taking it all in and enjoying it while she can. Tell her some poor shlubs, like old Loophole, have to be content just read and watch their insights- and not get to ask questions! Best of Luck to her in the class!

7:01 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

She was thrilled last week when Dr. Casper said he wanted them to continue watching movies in 35mm and invited them to drop in on his screenings next semester and in future. She is going to be meeting with him this week to get the schedule and *hopes* she can schedule her spring classes around at least one of his courses so she can sit in. Pretty cool to get to sit in on one of his classes even if you don't have the units to take more as an elective. :)

I hadn't planned to get the Warners Gangsters set, but she is interested to hear his WHITE HEAT commentary so we may end up getting that yet. (This weekend she watched JEZEBEL and the special he's in. Said it's kind of strange but fun seeing him on DVDs.) She is very, very lucky. I've had his books on Minnelli and Donen for years. I pump her for info every week on what they watched and his lectures.

Her first week on campus she walked past Leonard Maltin outside the campus theater -- he teaches there too! She's hoping she can catch his class at some point. Or one with Richard Jewell --


7:57 PM  
Blogger J.C. Loophole said...

Casper and Maltin are the two I would make sure I never missed.
I can whole heartedly recommend the Warners Gangster Collection! I love all of the films (I am a Cagney fan) and Angels with Dirty Faces is one of the best of the set! Dr. Casper is in several of the extras.

6:31 AM  

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