Rockstar Recommends: Rare California-Set Films of the 13th Annual Los Angeles Festival of Film Noir
One week from this Friday, on April 1st, the 13th Annual Los Angeles Festival of Film Noir kicks off at the historic Egyptian Theater (an LA landmark that itself makes an appearance during a case in L.A. Noire).
Not just a one weekend event, the festival spans across three long weekends in a row with 28 films in total, the vast majority of which are gems not available on DVD and virtually impossible to see otherwise. We definitely recommend checking it out if you’re lucky enough to be in southern California this April, and of course if you’re very lucky enough to be the grand prize winner in our Los Angeles Noire Weekend Sweepstakes – part of which means getting free passes to check out the movies at the Egyptian that weekend.
In the meantime, you can check out the full lineup of festival programming at their Facebook page here.
Given that we’re in such a west coast noir state of mind – here’s some of the rare films featured during the event that are also notably set in California…
“Strangers in the Night” (1944; Anthony Mann)
Playing Friday April 1st
Anthony Mann was one of film noir’s most venerable directors, responsible for classics like “T-Men”, “Side Street”, “Raw Deal” and others. Mann also went on later in his career to direct some of the most highly regarded westerns like “Winchester ‘73” and “Cimarron”, imparting the influences of noir style into that genre to help redefine it during its key 1950’s heyday. “Strangers in the Night” is a true rarity from very early on in Mann’s career. In it, a WWII marine stationed in the South Pacific returns home to the states and travels to a California town in search of a woman named Rosemary whom he’s never met – but who had been writing to him as a pen pal while he was at war. Rosemary’s mother, a mysterious and crippled old woman, tells him that Rosemary has moved away – but all is not what it seems – in true noir fashion.
“The Threat” (1949; Felix E. Feist)
Playing Thursday April 7th
In this crime thriller, Red Kluger, a vicious ex-con, busts out of prison intent on exacting revenge on the three people who sent him up – a D.A., a detective, and the woman who betrayed him – lounge club singer Carol (played by b-movie starlet Virginia Grey who also appears in “Strangers in the Night”). Kluger and his henchmen kidnap all three, taking them to a remote hideout in California’s Mojave Desert. As the hostages await their fate, and the gangsters await their getaway plane – all does not go as planned…
“Loophole” (1954; Harold D. Schuster)
Playing Saturday April 9th
An innocent Los Angeles bank teller takes the fall for a missing $50,000 from his bank drawer – the police, the bank, the insurance company, and local public opinion all convinced of his guilt. In the gut-wrenching tradition of noirs like “Detour”, this unassuming nice guy winds up spiraling into a living hell that only gets worse and worse. Check out a great write-up of the film at the Noir of the Week blog including a rare clip on YouTube.
“Female on the Beach” (1955; Joseph Pevney)
Playing Wednesday April 13th
It’s hard to imagine a Joan Crawford film released by Universal being such a rarity, but this dark noir melodrama with shades of “Mildred Pierce” (a noir that is one of Crawford’s most acclaimed films, currently being remade as a mini-series by HBO) is among the hard to find entries not currently available on DVD. In it, Crawford plays Lynn Markham, a widow who moves into a Malibu beach house on the LA coastline – a rental property owned by her late husband. She discovers that a previous tenant, Eloise Crandall, died under mysterious circumstances. Adding to the intrigue, Lynn meets and falls head over heels for an attractive and charming local ‘beach bum’ who she soon marries. As she learns more of her new husband and his shady friends, the truth of Eloise Crandall’s death and much more come to light. You can see an interesting TV promo spot for the film posted on YouTube here.
“Framed” (1947; Richard Wallace)
“Mr. Soft Touch” (1949; Gordon Douglas & Henry Levin)
A double feature of Glenn-Ford-starring, California-set crime thrillers on the very weekend that the winner of the Los Angeles Noire Sweepstakes will be in town. In “Framed”, Ford plays a truck driver who breaks down in a small town only to fall under the spell of a seductive and manipulative femme fatale played by the stunning Janis Carter. Soon he’s embroiled in a web of murder, robbery, and betrayal. You can read a nice write-up of “Framed” at the noir blog, The Night Editor. In “Mr. Soft Touch”, Ford plays a returning WWII vet who discovers that the San Francisco nightclub he owns is now controlled by the mob, his business partner murdered as part of the hostile takeover. In revenge, Ford steals $100,000 from the nightclub and goes on the lam, planning to skip town for good with the looted cash and the mob on his trail.
Previous Rockstar Recommends:
The Naked City | He Walked By Night | Chinatown | Scarlet Street | Detour