Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Rare Film Noir Week 1: Pushover and Nightfall

Rested Monday evening by watching the ballgame, but was back on the two-movies-a-night horse on Tuesday, as the Brattle started its summer "vertical" calendar wtih the first week of their "rare film noir" series, which they're pitching on the calendar as all-new 35mm prints. The two shown last night did look pretty darn good. Only two of the nine films in this series are available on video, and though I'd normally look at a bunch of new prints and say, well, they've got to be coming soon, right?, tonight's were from Columbia, and Sony really doesn't seem to be interested in exploiting their catalog like Warner does.

Pity; these are fun little crime movies. I don't know if there's really a place for movies like these two any more; they're designed to be part of a double bill, and are neither prestige pictures or event movies. They're simple crime stories, under ninety minutes, with a pretty girl and a definite conclusion. They're really almost too simple for today's film or TV, but they're an enjoyable watch.

Worth mentioning: This was the most crowded I've seen the Brattle for a "regular" series in a long time; as much as I love it when they have old movies, those generally don't seem to pay the bills nearly as well as the weekend special features or festivals. Last night, though, was pretty close to packed - I had people in one of the seats next to me and had to mill around to find a seat I liked. I don't know whether that's a result of it being ridiculously hot and the place having air conditioning or whether something not being available on video is a big draw. At any rate, good show.


* * * (out of four)
Seen 18 July 2006 at the Brattle Theater (Rare Film Noir)

A nicely twisty story of a cop (Fred MacMurray) who falls for the woman he and his team are investigating as being connected to a bank robbery that left a guard dead. The crook barely appears; instead, we get Kim Novak in her first big role doing the femme fatale thing, corrupting MacMurray's detective to the point of murder.

The weird thing: The good cop working with MacMurray's Paul Sheridan, played by Philip Carey, winds up as the hero but he and the other cops watching Novak's apartment from across the way have their binoculars wander into other apartments an awful lot, particularly that of Dorothy Malone's neighbor. I imagine it must happen, although nowadays you'd probably use a stationary camera hooked up to a VCR and not leave a record of your peeping. Also, cell phones would completely destroy this plot, as I imagine they would for a lot of old suspense stories.

Full review at HBS.


* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 18 July 2006 at the Brattle Theater (Rare Film Noir)

There's something almost caper-y about this one, at least in a segment where Anne Bancroft, playing a model Aldo Ray's fugitive meets in Los Angeles, tries to warn him of imminent danger during a fashion show. Ray's a likeable protagonist, on the run from both the police and the hoods who killed his best friend and framed him for both that murder and a bank robbery; only Bancroft's Marie and James Gregory's insurance investigator seem to think he might be innocent, while Brian Keith and Rudy Bond are menacing as the men chasing him.

Unlike a lot of noirs, this one spends a fair amount of time in the "blanc", as the final sequence takes place in Wyoming, with the road just plowed enough for all the characters to find the stolen loot at an ice-fishing shed. This scene also features a potentially gruesome use of a snowplow, and I have to admit, a week and a half of modern genre film at Fantasia had me slightly confused when blood and guts weren't splattered all over the place.

Full review at HBS.

Speaking of Fantasia...

Reviews for The Woods and Tape 31 are up at HBS/EFC (the corresponding blog entries have been expanded a bit, too). So including the two movies above, I've got 17 Fantasia films and 5 "others" before I'm caught up.

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