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.


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