Here at Escape and Suspense!, once a year we take a break from our normal schedule for the Noir City Film Festival, which runs for ten days at the end of January. We originally began attending the festival because some of these rarely-screened film noirs have well known old time radio stars in bit parts or co-starring roles, but also because radio noir is an important part of the Suspense catalog of work.
So, on a cold and rainy Friday night my copyeditor (a.k.a - Mom) and I arrived at the Castro Theatre in plenty of time, but it was already so crowded that we had to hike up to the balcony for seats. There was a lovely reception on the mezzanine for festival pass holders, which gave me an opportunity to try a shot of Fireball Cinnamon Whisky (hot!) and to have look at all of the people who came in 1940's clothing. I wasn't together enough to get a picture of all that--but below is a nice picture of the stage from our spot in the balcony and the organist who entertains the crowd before the show.
The festival began with Dark Passage (1947), which isn't a rarity, but it was a lot fun to see on the big screen. The film broke down a couple of times but that just added to the authenticity of the experience.
Of course, Bogart and Bacall are billed as the stars of Dark Passage, but old time radio fans know that the real star of that movie is "First Lady of Suspense" Agnes Moorehead.
Now, what I didn't like about the show was the people in the audience who hissed at the villains. Not to give away but the plot, but Agnes Moorehead was hissed at...and Agnes Moorehead must never be hissed at. Never ever ever.
So, the next film of the night was The House on Telegraph Hill (1951) and before it started, noir expert and festival promoter, Eddie Muller filmed a short video message to the film's star Valentina Cortesa from the crowd of 1400 people in the theatre. (I don't remember the whole thing, but it was something like "Ciao Valentina, San Francisco loves you..." or something like that.)
Anyhow, The House of Telegraph Hill is not a rarity either, but a lot of fun to see in the theatre. I've only ever seen it on DVD, and that really doesn't do justice to the film.
For the Saturday matinee, there were two exceptionally good pre-code 1930's films. The first, Okay, America (1932) was based on the life and radio show of Walter Winchell. The second matinee film was Afraid to Talk (1932), which also goes by the name Merry-Go-Round. There wasn't a dull moment in eithor of these films, that's all I can say. You can't go wrong with either one, but old time radio fans, will be more interested in Okay, America.
(Another film that was based on a radio show, that I wrote about back during Noir City 7, is Night Editor (1946), which was based on the radio series of the same name that ran from 1934 to 1948. If I didn't already mention this, it was released on dvd last year and can be found in the Bad Girls of Film Noir Collection. Night Editor is wonderfully trashy and still one of my favorites.)
Below is the trailer for Dark Passage.