Here at Escape and Suspense!we are taking a break from our normal programming to attend the annual San Francisco Film Noir Festival. All of the proceeds from the festival go towards restoration of noir films, so we like to support the cause. Many of these rarely-screened movies include performances by our favorite radio actors.
Another part of the fun is being able to watch these films at the Castro Theatre, a 1400 seat movie palace built in 1922. Although, parking around the Castro can be as desperate and hellish as anything seen in a noir film.
The festival opened on Friday to a huge crowd. Lots of folks arrived in 1940's attire, and "vending vixens" went up and down the aisles hawking souvenir programs. Outside, the weather was cold and rainy, but inside, folks were settling in for the first double-feature as a fine cloud of popcorn haze filled the interior of the theatre....and stayed there.
The festival started with an entertaining movie filled with one-liners and clever dialogue called Pitfall (1948). Dick Powell and Lizabeth Scott starred in this film about adultery, and Raymond Burr played the menacing bad guy who tries to ruin their lives.
After that, there was a movie called Larceny (1948) which was memorable primarily because of Shelly Winters' performance. I noticed several people around me, including myself, nodding off during that one.
The next day, things got off to a great start with an 86 minute gem of a film called Fly-By-Night (1942). This light-hearted noir moves quickly, goes in unexpected directions, and entertains you all along the way. It was a definite crowd-pleaser.
The second part of the matinee was Deported (1950) starring Jeff Chandler and Marta Toren. I didn't love this movie, but I was interested in it. However, the ticking clock in this noir was the parking meter outside. I had to leave the film twice to go out to the street and feed the meter. My copy editor watched the whole thing, but was overly annoyed by Jeff Chandler's inability to manufacture more than one or two facial expressions. So, I don't know what to tell you about Deported.
Before the evening double-feature, we found a more cooperative parking spot.
The evening double-feature opened with the newly restored version of Cry Danger (1951). Proceeds from last year's festival helped fund the restoration, which was undertaken by the UCLA Film & Television Archive. Dick Powell and Rhonda Fleming starred in this story about an ex-con out for revenge on the men who framed him. William Conrad co-starred as the bad guy, and he received a nice round of applause from the audience when he appeared on the screen. Another familiar performer from Escape in this film was Joan Banks, who got the biggest laughs of the evening for her seductive glances towards Dick Powell. Hy Averback showed up briefly as Harry the bookie. Before the film, Eddie Mueller read a letter of support from Rhonda Fleming, and afterward, actor Richard Erdman was interviewed on stage.
After that, Broderick Crawford starred in The Mob(1951), an excellent film about an undercover cop investigating the Los Angeles waterfront. Escape actor Lawrence Dobkin turns up in a bit part as a doctor, and Paul Dubov appears in an even tinier bit part.
The next day was a Marilyn Monroe double-feature starting with Niagara. Having only seen this movie on a 19" tv, all I can say is that it was much more impressive on the big screen. It is a film meant for the theatre. Suspense's Lurene Tuttle pops up in this film as Mrs. Kettering.
The second movie of the day was The Asphalt Jungle, but having just seen that very recently, we decided not to stay.
So, that is all for now. Next up, Suspense (1946)!