Thursday, March 30, 2017

Tonight's Movie: The Accused (1949) at the Noir City Film Festival

The Noir City Film Festival has made this a great -- if busy! -- week filled with new discoveries and old favorites.

Wednesday night's double bill paired THE ACCUSED (1949), starring Loretta Young, Robert Cummings, and Wendell Corey, with an old favorite, THE HUNTED (1948), starring Preston Foster and Belita.

I reviewed THE HUNTED after seeing it for the first time at Noir City in 2011, and I also reviewed the 2014 DVD. Please visit those posts to learn more about a terrific "B" film which I've now enjoyed on multiple occasions.

THE ACCUSED was screened in a beautiful 35mm print from the Library of Congress. It's an engrossing film about a psychology professor, Wilma Tuttle (Young), who is physically attacked by one of her students (Douglas Dick) in an isolated Malibu beach area. She fights him off by hitting him with a pipe, but accidentally kills him.

Panic-stricken Wilma pushes the body off a cliff into the ocean so it will hopefully look like a diving accident...then is so stressed out she promptly collapses with pneumonia and is hospitalized for several days. (This was one of a couple aspects which stretched credulity, but the movie's so interesting I just went along with it.) When she's released she gradually develops a romantic relationship with her late student's uncle (Cummings), a defense attorney. Meanwhile a police detective (Corey) keeps finding bits of evidence that don't quite add up...and, curiously, keep leading back to the professor.

Young is stuck playing the cliche of the repressed career woman who finally lets loose a little when she falls in love. (She also "lets her hair down" trying to put distance between the description of her in a paper written by the dead man, hoping the police won't connect it with her.) I might also criticize the abrupt ending, which seemed to wrap things up a little too neatly after the viewer has become so invested.

However, accepting the story as it is, it's quite well scripted and acted. Young is always very good, and while it would have been so much easier if her character just went to the police, she successfully puts across Wilma's fears -- of lack of understanding, notoriety, the loss of her career. One can also accept that, although a smart woman, she was so distraught she might not have counted on a truck driver or a carhop remembering seeing her the night of the death.

I found the two male leads especially well written. I liked the way it gradually dawns on Cummings that the woman he's come to love must have killed his nephew -- and the way he reacts when almost simultaneously he realizes that the detective is closing in.

Corey is excellent as the compassionate but dedicated cop who's attracted to Wilma himself but also has a job to do. (For a woman who's lived without love in her life, there's some irony in tragedy bringing not one but two very eligible and interested bachelors into her life.) The scene where he confronts her, as the attorney tries to fend him off, is gripping.

My quibbles with some of the plot choices didn't detract from my overall enjoyment, and all in all I thought this was an excellent 101 minutes spent with three terrific actors.

THE ACCUSED was directed by William Dieterle and filmed in black and white by Milton Krasner.

The supporting cast includes Sara Allgood, Sam Jaffe, Suzanne Dalbert, Mickey Knox, and Ann Doran. Look for Bess Flowers as a prison matron in the final courtroom scene. Henry Travers (IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE) has a small role as Jaffe's assistant; he made only one more film before retiring.

THE ACCUSED is available on DVD in the Universal Vault series. There's a review of the disc at DVD Beaver.

Coming soon: Reviews of CHICAGO DEADLINE (1949) and I WAS A SHOPLIFTER (1949)...along with a look at TCM in April and a preview of the TCM Classic Film Festival!

August 2021 Update: THE ACCUSED will be released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber Studio Classics in November 2021. Update: My review of the Blu-ray is here.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Backlash (1947) at the Noir City Film Festival

I'm having a terrific time at the Noir City Film Festival, and tonight's double bill is a great example of why I'm enjoying it so much.

The evening kicked off with Alan Ladd and Gail Russell in a brand-new digital print of CALCUTTA (1947).

I enjoyed CALCUTTA when I saw it six years ago, but this was a film which definitely improved upon further acquaintance. Seeing it glowing on a big screen in a dark theater, in pristine condition, I was thoroughly entertained. And Alan As I wrote in 2011, he was really something to watch!

The evening's "B" movie was a 66-minute film from 20th Century-Fox, BACKLASH (1947). The large cast might not be household names, but they were familiar faces; the best-known cast member was probably Jean Rogers of the FLASH GORDON serial. It was nice knowing that Stephanie Shayne, the daughter of cast member Robert Shayne, was in the audience tonight.

A body found in a car wreck is believed to be criminal defense attorney John Morland (John Eldredge). The first interesting piece of news is that the crash didn't kill him; there's a bullet in his heart.

As a pair of detectives (Larry J. Blake and Richard Benedict) investigate, the story gets curiouser and curiouser; in flashbacks, we see various witnesses give their stories about Morland, which aren't always true. Morland's wife (Rogers) is a suspect... And then some x-rays turn up in the interesting news that the body isn't Morland at all!

The interplay between the detectives is fun, and the many plot twists and turns in a little over an hour keep things interesting. (And a sequence involving poison and a cat gets downright nutty.) All in all in was a fun hour.

Oddly, during both the opening credits and at "The End" there was no writing on the screen, just a plain background accompanied by music. It would be interesting to know where the printing disappeared to! (Update: It turns out the print had been intended for overseas exhibition and the backgrounds were plain in order for foreign language titles to be inserted. But the print was never sent overseas and has been sitting in the vault ever since.)

BACKLASH was directed by Eugene Forde and filmed in black and white by Benjamin Kline. The cast also includes Douglas Fowley, Leonard Strong, Louise Currie, Sara Berner, Frank Dae, Wynne Larke, Susan Klimist, Michael Chapin, and Gary and Billy Gray.

BACKLASH has no relationship to the 1956 Richard Widmark Western of the same name.

Incidentally, although the Egyptian Theatre website said BACKLASH has not been released on DVD, Amazon indicates it came out in the Fox Cinema Archives MOD line in 2013.

Tomorrow night I'm excited to finally see Loretta Young in THE ACCUSED (1947), costarring Bob Cummings and Wendell Corey, along with a favorite "B" film, THE HUNTED (1947) starring Preston Foster and Belita.

Tonight's Movie: Our Dancing Daughters (1928) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Joan Crawford and Johnny Mack Brown star in the silent film OUR DANCING DAUGHTERS (1928), available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

This was the first of an informal OUR... trilogy starring Crawford and Anita Page; it continued with another silent, OUR MODERN MAIDENS (1929), and wrapped up with the talkie OUR BLUSHING BRIDES (1930). All three films are available from the Warner Archive.

OUR DANCING DAUGHTERS is a Jazz Age melodrama in which Joan stars as party-loving Diana, who crushes on Ben (Brown), a handsome millionaire newly arrived in town from Alabama.

Ben's pursued by gold-digger Ann (Page), who puts on an innocent act but only wants his money, planning to live a life of "freedom" after snaring a wedding ring.

Meanwhile quiet Beatrice (Dorothy Sebastian) loves Norman (Nils Asther), but she has a "past" which complicates her decision to marry him. Can he forgive and forget?

This was a highly entertaining depiction of the Roaring '20s society scene; early on there's an iconic shot of balloons in a party sequence which is a real "wow."

Crawford's wild child character is rather like Colleen Moore's in WHY BE GOOD? (1929); she puts on an act to draw attention and popularity but is a "good girl" at heart.

Ben, however, doesn't understand this and falls for Ann's lines about wanting to be "worthy" of a husband and their babies. He quickly regrets the marriage once his eyes are opened to Ann's true nature -- and Diana's. Having seen Brown in a number of Westerns from the late '40s and early '50s, it's fun to see him in this as young, handsome matinee idol. He and Crawford were reunited the following year in MONTANA MOON (1930).

Some of the film's attitudes may seem antiquated to modern viewers, yet looking at the issue honestly, one can understand the awkwardness Norman feels over his beloved having been intimate with other members of their "crowd." However, he knew that going into the marriage so his tantrums after that point make him seem churlish.

Also, Diana claims that she values living a life of truth and not lies, but wasn't her party girl behavior rather a lie in and of itself? Questions like this are part of what makes the film so entertaining, though; besides being a fast-moving, interesting, and eye-catching melodrama, the film raises some thought-provoking issues. I really enjoyed it.

OUR DANCING DAUGHTERS runs 84 minutes. It was directed by Harry Beaumont and filmed by George Barnes.

The supporting cast includes Kathlyn Williams, Edward J. Nugent, Dorothy Cumming, Huntley Gordon, and Mary Gordon.

The print is fairly rough at times, with some faded scenes and lots of scratches, but I suspect this is as good as it gets for this 1928 film, and it's entirely watchable despite not being a pristine picture. Happily the synchronized music and sound effects track sounds great.

There are no extras.

2023 Update: This film has now been released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive.  My review is here.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at Amazon.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Behind Green Lights (1946) at the Noir City Film Festival

Tonight's Noir City Film Festival double bill was a pair of films from 20th Century-Fox: THE DARK CORNER (1946) followed by BEHIND GREEN LIGHTS (1946).

It had been a few years since I last saw THE DARK CORNER, and it's simply a terrific film noir. What a delight to see it on a big screen for the first time, in a gorgeous print! There are so many aspects I enjoy, from Mark Stevens and Lucille Ball in the leads to spotting John Russell as a cop to the great background score, and much more besides. A really delightful experience.

The BEHIND GREEN LIGHTS print was also outstanding. The movie was an oddball 64-minute crime film, reminiscent at times of HIS GIRL FRIDAY (1940), with a bunch of shenanigans in the police station press room.

Carole Landis plays Janet Bradley, a politician's daughter who lands in hot water when a man who was blackmailing her turns up dead...right in front of the police station!

Police detective Lt. Sam Carson (William Gargan) holds Janet in a conference room overnight at the police station while he tries to determine whether or not she's a serious suspect. He and Detective Oppenheimer (John Ireland) sift through various possibilities; meanwhile, their own medical examiner (Don Beddoe) is acting very strangely.

This 64-minute film was sort of hit and miss for me. I loved the setting in the wee hours at a police station and I enjoyed some of the cast, but Landis was sadly wasted being stuck behind closed doors for much of the movie, waiting out being cleared.

Some of the more absurd "comic" bits with reporters and a flower saleswoman (Mabel Paige) were tiresome, and the story with the medical examiner was fairly strange as mysteries go.

But then Gargan, Landis, or the young Ireland (recently seen in OPEN SECRET) would come on screen and my interest would perk up again. It was a treat to have John Ireland Jr. in the audience tonight watching with us!

The movie looked great, and all in all, it's a film I mildly enjoyed "hanging out with," but while I have a real love for "B" mysteries, I've seen many which were more interesting.

The supporting cast included Mary Anderson, Richard Crane, Charles Russell, Roy Roberts, Charles Tannen, Stanley Prager, Charles Arnt, J. Farrell MacDonald, Lane Chandler, and Larry J. Blake.

BEHIND GREEN LIGHTS was directed by Otto Brower and filmed in black and white by Joseph MacDonald.

Next up at Noir City: Alan Ladd and Gail Russell in CALCUTTA (1947) paired with Jean Rogers and Richard Travis in BACKLASH (1947).

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Escape in the Fog (1945) at the Noir City Film Festival

Sunday evening was another great night at the Noir City Film Festival!

Tonight was a double bill of films from 1945, starting off with LADY ON A TRAIN (1945) and concluding with ESCAPE IN THE FOG (1945).

Regular readers know how much I love Deanna Durbin, and LADY ON A TRAIN is one of my top favorites of her films; thanks to Christmastime viewings, I've seen it more than any of her other movies. This was my very first chance to see a Durbin film on the big screen. What a treat!

Before the movie, in response to a question from Eddie Muller, a significant number of people in the audience raised their hands to indicate they weren't familiar with Durbin (below right). LADY ON THE TRAIN is a great introduction! Deanna simply glows, and LADY ON A TRAIN gives her the chance to show off her comedic talents along with her singing ability.

The audience responded appreciatively to the film's many well-delivered lines and funny situations; granted, there were some giggles when she began singing "Silent Night," as I don't think the usual noir crowd was expecting her to sing it into the telephone, but they then settled down. And of course, who would blame anyone being amused who also noticed the speed with which Deanna makes hairstyle and costume changes, even when her life may be in danger! That's part of the movie's charm.

There was a very nice round of applause at the end of the movie, and I hope that more L.A. filmgoers now appreciate both Deanna and the film. Indeed, one Tweet after the film said "What a cast and what a fun movie!" while another said "I don't know why the movie is not more well known. Such an entertaining movie!"

ESCAPE IN THE FOG is a 65-minute Columbia programmer from fairly early in the directing career of Oscar "Budd" Boetticher. It's a wild story, but it's also entertaining.

As the movie begins, Eilene Carr (Nina Foch) screams as she sees an attempted murder taking place on the Golden Gate Bridge. It's soon revealed that it's a dream when she's awakened in her hotel room by guests and employees including a federal agent, Barry Malcolm (William Wright, who's reminiscent of James Craig).

Eilene is a military nurse recovering from a traumatic wartime experience. She and Barry fall for each other, but he's got to go off on a mission with an all-important top secret packet of information. Eilene realizes his life is in danger and goes to his boss (Otto Kruger), but when he won't admit to knowing Barry, Eilene does the only other thing possible...she goes for a walk on the foggy Golden Gate Bridge -- where the attempted murder of Barry replays in front of her just as it was in her dream, and she's able to stop it!

There's no explanation for this other than the dream must have been a premonition; it would have been nice if writer Aubrey Wisberg had done more with this unique plot point. Instead the story simply moves on, as the packet is lost in the scuffle at the Golden Gate, so Barry and Eilene must find it and bring those who tried to kill him to justice.

It's all a little bit silly, including an easily duped plainclothes officer; if the packet was as important as believed, why were the protections for it so weak? And why did someone running a spy ring allow an unvetted repairman into his home to work on his clock? And so on.

The film had various moments like that, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. What the movie lacks in logic, it makes up for in mood!

I enjoyed seeing the pretty Foch early in her career, the same year she made the "B" classic MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS (1945). I wasn't familiar with Wright, though I've seen him in a couple things, and was sorry to learn he died of cancer in 1949.

Fun moments included Shelley Winters popping up as a taxi driver. I'm so used to seeing Kruger as nasty bad guys that I kept expecting it to be revealed that he was a double agent, but he really was a good guy!

The movie was filmed in black and white by George Meehan.

ESCAPE IN THE FOG is available on DVD-R from Sony Choice.

Next up at Noir City: Mark Stevens and Lucille Ball in THE DARK CORNER (1946), paired with Carole Landis and William Gargan in BEHIND GREEN LIGHTS (1946). Can't wait!

May 2019 Update: This film is now available on Blu-ray in the Noir Archive 9-Film Collection.

Tonight's Movie: September Storm (1960) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Mark Stevens and Joanne Dru star in SEPTEMBER STORM (1960), released this week on Blu-ray and DVD by Kino Lorber.

SEPTEMBER STORM was a 3-D film released several years after the 3-D craze hit its peak and quickly died out in the mid '50s. It's been restored by the 3-D Film Archive. The Blu-ray includes the option of watching the film in 3-D or flat; I reviewed the flat version.

The movie has some very interesting names behind the scenes; director Byron Haskin also made the sci-fi classic THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (1953), while screenwriter W.R. Burnett was behind such crime film classics as HIGH SIERRA (1941) and THE ASPHALT JUNGLE (1950). The screenplay was based on a story by Steve Fisher, who had some interesting screenwriting credits himself, including LADY IN THE LAKE (1947) and WOMAN THEY ALMOST LYNCHED (1953).

The movie was shot in CinemaScope by Lamar Boren and Jorge Stahl. According to Kino Lorber, it was the first film to feature underwater color 3-D footage.

For an adventure film, SEPTEMBER STORM is quite a leisurely 99 minutes. Dru plays Anne, a model vacationing in Majorca. She's romanced by young Manuel (Asher Dann), who tries to impress her by claiming that the yacht he maintains for playboy businessman LeClerc (Jean-Pierre Kerien) is his.

Joe (Stevens) is an adventurer short on funds who quickly figures out that Manuel doesn't own the boat. He agrees not to tell Anne, but in return he wants to use the yacht to hunt for some gold treasure.

Accompanied by Joe's sidekick Ernie (Robert Strauss), the quartet set sail to go after the gold. They run into problems ranging from a violent storm to one of the group being attacked by a man o' war to Manuel and Ernie making heavy moves on Anne...and then there's the problem of LeClerc finding out what they've been up to with his yacht.

The film is a pleasant enough Sunday afternoon time-passer but there's really not much to the movie, which is rather disappointing with the likeable Dru and Stevens as leads, along with the credentials of those behind the camera.

Dru looks stunning and does a lot to make the movie watchable, keeping her character smart and sympathetic despite her willingness to hang out with what are, in essence, a trio of dubious characters.

As I've commented before, at this stage in his career the skinny Stevens, with his thinning hair, wasn't your typical leading man material, yet I find something quite compelling about his personality, and I'm always glad to see him. This week I'm looking forward to revisiting his excellent film noir THE DARK CORNER (1946) at the Noir City Film Festival.

Dann and Strauss aren't very interesting, with Strauss's character somewhat inexplicably shifting from comic relief to violent molester over the course of the film. Kerien's opening narration gets the movie off to a slow start but he's a little more interesting as the film goes on.

The Blu-ray picture looks stunning at times, particularly the opening credits and the Intermission card; Majorca looks beautiful, and I particularly enjoyed the underwater scenes. There are some problems with how the film was originally shot which do detract at times from the film's overall look; most egregiously, some fine flamenco dancers (Charito Leon and Ernesto Lapena) are frequently shown with their feet cut off.

The plentiful Blu-ray extras include a 2016 interview with costar Asher Dann; a trailer for the "flat" release and a TV ad for the 1960 3-D release; THE ADVENTURES OF SAM SPACE, a 3-D short originally released with September Storm; HARMONY LANE (1953), a British short once believed lost; and an interview with Lewis Gilbert, director of HARMONY LANE.

Kudos to Kino Lorber for bringing out this footnote in 3-D movie history in such a nice edition.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Address Unknown (1944) at the Noir City Film Festival

World War II collided with film noir in tonight's double bill of "A" and "B" films from 1944 at the Noir City Film Festival.

The evening began with director Fritz Lang's very entertaining MINISTRY OF FEAR (1944), starring Ray Milland. It had been half a dozen years since I last saw it, and I thoroughly enjoyed my return visit.

Though of course Lang was a notable director in his own right, for me MINISTRY OF FEAR has a strongly Hitchcockian feel -- and that's a compliment. Like so many Hitchcock films, it's a "man on the run" tale with a series of marvelous set pieces, beginning with a mysterious cake and a train trip with a blind man...who's not actually blind.

Dan Duryea has a brief but memorable role; I love the way he wields a pair of large scissors in his final scene. Another of my favorite bits comes in the final minutes, as Carla (Marjorie Reynolds) stands in a dark room and fires a gun through a door, with the small circle of light coming through the hole the only light on the screen.

All in all, a very enjoyable film which should be better known. For more information on MINISTRY OF FEAR, please visit my 2011 review.

ADDRESS UNKNOWN (1944) is the somber tale of Martin Schulz (Paul Lukas) who in 1930s Germany betrays family and close friends in order to ingratiate himself with the Nazis.

Martin's business partner Max (Morris Carnovsky) is a Jewish man living in San Francisco. When Max experiences the ultimate betrayal at the hands of Martin, he begins sending a series of letters to Martin in Germany designed to, shall we say, "complicate" Martin's life when the letters are read by censors.

ADDRESS UNKNOWN was directed by famed production designer William Cameron Menzies and filmed by the stylish Rudolph Mate, so it's no surprise that the film has many striking shots.

K.T. Stevens plays Max's daughter Griselle, who loves Martin's son Heinrich (Peter Van Eyck). Stevens was the daughter of the film's producer, Sam Wood; himself a director, Wood had worked with Menzies on parts of GONE WITH THE WIND (1939).

Stevens was born Gloria Wood and acted briefly under the name Katharine Stevens before adopting the name K.T. Stevens with this film. She's solid as a young woman who has misguided faith in 1930s German tolerance for artistic and religious freedom, and her confidence in her fiance's father is also sadly misplaced.

Stevens' last scene reminded me strongly of a sequence in Val Lewton and Jacques Tourner's LEOPARD MAN (1943), released the previous year.

This was a well made but rather depressing movie which fortunately ran only 75 minutes. It's thought-provoking, and viewing it also provided interesting insight into how the Nazis and anti-Semitism were handled in a film made during WWII, but because it was so sad I don't envision wanting to see it a second time.

Incidentally, the movie would make an interesting double bill with THE MAN I MARRIED (1940), a Joan Bennett film with similar themes. I liked THE MAN I MARRIED better, though, thanks to Bennett and Lloyd Nolan.

One of the things I enjoy about older films is being reminded of the ins and outs of daily living decades ago, comparing the similarities and differences with today. Given the speed at which we can communicate via the internet and cell phones, it was rather fascinating being taken back to a time when news traveled more slowly, by letter or perhaps a cablegram, and the daily arrival of the mailman was anxiously awaited. (And of course, back then it was a mailman, not a mail carrier...)

As an aside, I was mildly curious that the film has Lukas and Mady Christians become parents of their sixth child in the course of the story. Christians was in her early 50s and appears grandmotherly in the film, but it would have been possible if her character were meant to be a bit younger.

The cast also includes Carl Esmond, Emory Parnell, Mary Young, Gary Gray, Frank Faylen, and Charles Halton.

Sunday night I'll be return to Noir City for a pair of films from 1945, Deanna Durbin in LADY ON A TRAIN (1945) and Nina Foch in ESCAPE IN THE FOG (1945). LADY ON THE TRAIN is one of my favorite Durbin films, and I'm especially excited at the prospect of seeing a Durbin film on a big screen for the first time ever.

May 2019 Update: This film is now available on Blu-ray in the Noir Archive 9-Film Collection.

Lola Albright, 1924-2017

Lovely, multitalented Lola Albright has passed away at the age of 92.

The singer-actress, perhaps best known for playing nightclub singer Edie Hart on the PETER GUNN TV series, passed away in Toluca Lake on Thursday, March 23rd. The story broke in the Akron Beacon Journal, Albright's hometown newspaper. The obituary has wonderful background stories on Albright.

Additional obituaries have been published in The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, People, and the Washington Post.

Albright's movie career began in bit parts in MGM films such as THE PIRATE (1948) and EASTER PARADE (1948). (Variety erroneously notes that Albright "starred with Judy Garland in EASTER PARADE"...not exactly!) She quickly moved into eye-catching roles such as Evelyn Keyes' sister in THE KILLER THAT STALKED NEW YORK (1950), which happens to screen in the Noir City Hollywood festival on March 31st.

I especially enjoyed her in a pair of films she made with Wayne Morris, SIERRA PASSAGE (1951) and ARCTIC FLIGHT (1952), and in the sci-fi film THE MONOLITH MONSTERS (1957), seen below.

She released two albums recorded with Henry Mancini, LOLA WANTS YOU and DREAMSVILLE.

Albright was married to Jack Carson for a few years in the '50s, and was later married to Bill Chadney, who played her pianist on PETER GUNN.

Farewell to a beautiful lady who added something special to everything in which she appeared.

Lola Albright films reviewed at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings: JULIA MISBEHAVES (1948), THE GIRL FROM JONES BEACH (1949), THE KILLER THAT STALKED NEW YORK (1950), SIERRA PASSAGE (1951), ARCTIC FLIGHT (1952), THE SILVER WHIP (1953), THE TENDER TRAP (1955), TREASURE OF RUBY HILLS (1955), THE MONOLITH MONSTERS (1957), and OREGON PASSAGE (1957).

Friday, March 24, 2017

A Visit to the 19th Annual Noir City Film Festival

It's that time of year again when cops and criminals take over the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood...

...which means it's time for the 19th Annual Noir City Film Festival!

Noir City will play for ten consecutive days at the Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, concluding on Sunday, April 2nd. My look at each date on the schedule may be found here.

All but three films in the festival will be screened in 35mm, and many are not available on DVD.

This was the seventh year in a row I've attended the festival's opening night, and the eighth year I've attended overall. As I wrote in my festival preview, if I can withstand the rigors of the freeway traffic, I'm hoping to be there every night this year!

As we have often done in the past, my husband and I began our opening night with dinner at the historic Pig 'N Whistle next door to the Egyptian. Given that Leonard Maltin, his wife and friends were seated a couple tables over from us, it was clearly the happening place to be!

The Masters of Noir Darkness, Alan K. Rode and Eddie Muller of the Film Noir Foundation:

There was a celebratory cocktail party in the Egyptian courtyard between the opening night 75th anniversary screenings of THIS GUN FOR HIRE (1942) and QUIET PLEASE - MURDER (1942). Leonard and Alice Maltin can be glimpsed in the crowd, chatting with Michael Schlesinger in the top photo:

The Egyptian Theatre has undergone a terrific restoration thanks to the Hollywoood Foreign Press Association. There's an informative video on YouTube about all the work that was done, including fixing a leaky roof, restoring the courtyard murals, new carpet and seat upholstery, and the new nitrate projection booth, which made possible the CASABLANCA (1942) screening I enjoyed last November. The brand-new concession stand will hopefully open soon!

As always, this introductory post to the Noir City Festival will be regularly updated with review links for all films seen at the festival. It's going to be a very busy week so some reviews may take a bit to post. As the saying goes, watch this space!

New reviews of films seen at the 2017 Noir City Film Festival: ADDRESS UNKNOWN (1944), ESCAPE IN THE FOG (1945), BEHIND GREEN LIGHTS (1946), BACKLASH (1947), THE ACCUSED (1949), CHICAGO DEADLINE (1949), I WAS A SHOPLIFTER (1950), WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS (1950), THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF (1950), IRON MAN (1951), THE BIG HEAT (1953), WICKED WOMAN (1953).

Previously reviewed films seen at this year's festival: THIS GUN FOR HIRE (1942), QUIET PLEASE - MURDER (1942), MINISTRY OF FEAR (1944), LADY ON A TRAIN (1945), THE DARK CORNER (1946), CALCUTTA (1947), THE HUNTED (1948) (also here), THE KILLER THAT STALKED NEW YORK (1950).

Posts on past Noir City Festivals which contain review links for all films seen each year: A Visit to the 18th Annual Noir City Film Festival (2016); A Visit to the 17th Annual Noir City Film Festival (2015); A Visit to the 16th Annual Noir City Film Festival (2014); A Visit to the 15th Annual Noir City Film Festival (2013); A Visit to the 14th Annual Noir City Film Festival (2012); A Visit to the 13th Noir City Film Festival (2011); A Visit to the Noir City Film Festival (2010).

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Jamaica Inn (1939) at the Pacific Design Center

I was honored to attend a very special screening last night hosted by Los Angeles television station KCET, BAFTA Los Angeles, and Cohen Film Classics.

The occasion was the screening of a restored print of Alfred Hitchcock's final British film, JAMAICA INN (1939), starring Charles Laughton and Maureen O'Hara.

The event took place at the Silver Screen Theater in the Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles. In a nice touch, an exhibit of Hitchcock photos provided by the Academy were on display in the theater lobby.

I attended along with several other bloggers, including (left to right), Karie, Kimberly, Danny, and Kim.

Below, Kim and Danny with Beth Ann:

Charles Cohen of KCET's Cohen Film Classics served as host, moderating a short pre-film discussion with actor Norman Lloyd (second from left) and two of Alfred Hitchcock's granddaughters, Katie Fiala (second from right) and Tere Carrubba (right):

The ladies related that time with their grandfather tended to focus more on family than his work. They were raised to be low-key and modest about their famous relative, with their mother Patricia emphasizing that while their grandfather did special work, other people's grandfathers did too...and besides, they said, their classmates were much more impressed by John Wayne's granddaughter!

I've had the privilege of hearing Norman Lloyd speak on a few occasions in recent years, and it's always a treat. He's now a remarkably spry 102, and it's rather amazing to contemplate all the legendary people he has worked with.

Lloyd related a couple favorite Hitchcock stories, such as how Alma Reville Hitchcock was the only one to spot Janet Leigh swallowing when she was supposed to be dead in a pre-release print of PYSCHO (1960) and how he fell off the Statue of Liberty in SABOTEUR (1942). He joked that he likes to say he "bounced back" from that!

Additional photos of the evening are available at the Getty photo site.

JAMAICA INN is something of an oddity among Hitchcock films, a fairly dark, ghoulish adventure film set along the coast of Cornwall. It might sound funny to say something ghoulish is atypical Hitchcock, but it's hard to think of any other Hitchcock film I've seen which has the same tone.

The screenplay by Sidney Gilliat and Joan Harrison was based on the novel by Daphne DuMaurier. The following year another DuMaurier book, REBECCA, would provide the basis for Hitchcock's first American film, which incidentally won the Best Picture Oscar.

While JAMAICA INN was Hitchcock's last British film, it provided significant "firsts" for Maureen O'Hara; she had been recently discovered by star Charles Laughton, and it was her first starring role and her first film under the name Maureen O'Hara. Previously she had appeared in a pair of small roles as Maureen FitzSimons.

In JAMAICA INN O'Hara plays Mary Yellan, a recently orphaned Irish girl who arrives in Cornwall to stay with her Aunt Patience (Marie Ney) at the inn of the title.

Mary is immediately thrown into a tumultuous 48 hours or so, as her Uncle Joss (Leslie Banks) is the ringleader of a gang of murderous wreckers who meet at the inn. The men lure ships to their doom by removing warning beacons on the coastline, then kill the crews and steal the cargo.

Mary also discovers that nothing is quite as it first seems, whether it's Jem Trehearne (Robert Newton) being one of the gang of cutthroats or rich neighbor Sir Humphrey Pengalian (Laughton) being kindly and helpful.

Mary is quickly tossed from one bizarre incident to the next, as she rescues Jem from being hung in her uncle's basement (!), then must flee with him to avoid being killed herself. And that's only the start of a series of life-threatening adventures. It's quite a violent film for the era! Nothing is graphic, but the ease with which the gang kills is disturbing nonetheless.

While on the surface the story itself doesn't seem very "Hitchcock," the out-and-out sustained creepiness must be attributed to the master of suspense. I found the film lower-tier Hitchcock in the sense that I don't think it has much "rewatch" value due to its unpleasant story -- yet even "lesser" Hitchcock is well-crafted, compelling viewing.

O'Hara is the perfect choice for a nervy character who doesn't let fear stop her from putting her life on the line to do what she believes is right. She was a strong, striking film personality from the start of her career, and the camera loves her.

The supporting cast includes Mervyn Johns, Basil Radford, Emlyn Williams, Aubrey Mather, and Horace Hodges.

The movie was shot by Bernard Knowles and Harry Stradling (Sr.).

Over the years some ghastly prints of JAMAICA INN have been in circulation; I was once given a VHS tape which was so dark that after attempting to watch it I had to throw it away. Consequently I'd never seen the film until last night! This new print was a revelation, crisp and clear. What a treat to be able to see the film as it was meant to be seen.

JAMAICA INN is scheduled to be shown on KCET this Friday night, March 24th, as part of the Cohen Film Classics series.

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