Sunday, February 1, 2009

Taking Inventory as of January 31

January was a very busy movie going month for me. I saw 33 films in January; most of the films were from Noir City and PFA's Josef von Sternberg retrospective.


Noir City ended February 1 but I skipped the final day's films since I had already seen them and was burnt out after 9 days of double bills. The final day, they screened two Burt Lancaster films that I enjoy: The Killers (1946) and Sweet Smell of Success (1957).

Noir City had a new wrinkle this year, they had a different afternoon double feature on the first Saturday. I had other commitments that day so I only caught the evening double bill. The other two films I missed were Blind Spot (1947) and Chicago Deadline (1949).

Out of the 22 films screened at Noir City, I saw 18 of them. One of the films, Night Editor, screened at Noir City a few years ago. I might have seen a few of the films on TV years ago. I couldn't remember the full plot but a few scenes seemed familiar.

I bought a festival passport for $103.49.

Arlene Dahl was the Guest of Honor this year. Her son Lorenzo Lamas was in the audience.

Noir City Founder Eddie Muller and Miguel Pendás (San Francisco Film Society) announced they were planning an international film noir festival. They didn't announce a firm date(s) but hinted at a summer festival. Muller mentioned he had traveled to Argentina over the holidays and discovered a Spanish language noir in a Buenos Aires film vault.

Noir City

Deadline-U.S.A. starring Humphrey Bogart; (1952)
Scandal Sheet starring Broderick Crawford, John Derek and Donna Reed; directed by Phil Karlson; based on a novel by Sam Fuller; (1952)
Wicked as They Come starring Arlene Dahl; (1956)
Slightly Scarlet starring John Payne, Rhonda Fleming and Arlene Dahl; based on a novel by James Cain; (1956)
Cry of the Hunted starring Barry Sullivan and William Conrad; (1953)
Ace in the Hole starring Kirk Douglas; directed by Billy Wilder; (1951)
Alias Nick Beal starring Ray Milland; (1952)
Night Editor; (1946)
The Harder They Fall starring Humphrey Bogart and Rod Steiger; (1956)
Johnny Stool Pigeon starring Howard Duff, Dan Duryea and Shelley Winters; (1949)
While the City Sleeps starring Dana Andrews, Rhonda Fleming, Howard Duff, Vincent Price and Ida Lupino; directed by Fritz Lang; (1956)
Shakedown starring Howard Duff and Brian Donlevy; (1950)
The Big Clock starring Ray Milland, Charles Laughton and Maureen O'Sullivan; (1948)
Strange Triangle; (1946)
The Unsuspected starring Claude Rains; (1947)
Desperate starring Raymond Burr; directed by Anthony Mann; (1947)
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt starring Dana Andrew and Joan Fontaine; directed by Fritz Lang; (1956)
Two O'Clock Courage directed by Anthony Mann; (1945)

My favorites were Wicked as They Come, Ace in the Hole, Johnny Stool Pigeon, Shakedown and Desperate. Tony Curtis (billed as Anthony) had a significant but non-speaking role in Johnny Stool Pigeon as the mute assassin. I suspect it was because he had such a strong Brooklyn accent at that point in his career. The Big Clock must have been the inspiration for No Way Out with Kevin Costner and Gene Hackman.

Unlike other film festivals were it is almost assured that the film will be released on DVD or the internet, one of Noir City's selling points is that some of their offerings have not been released on DVD. In some instance, they were released on VHS but not DVD. Films not on DVD make me feel like a saw something special. However, just because the film isn't available on DVD doesn't mean it won't be shown television (AMC or TCM).

The films that are not available on DVD (according to the program guide) are Deadline-U.S.A., Scandal Sheet, Wicked as They Come, Cry of the Hunted, Alias Nick Beal, Night Editor, Johnny Stool Pigeon, While the City Sleeps, Shakedown, Strange Triangle, The Unsuspected, Desperate, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt and Two O'Clock Courage.

I noticed something else. Towards the end of his life, Humphrey Bogart wore bow ties exclusively (at least on screen) - Deadline-U.S.A. (1952), The Harder They Fall (1956 - his final film), Sabrina (1954), The Barefoot Contessa (1954) and I'm sure there are other films I'm not aware of.

The crowds were very large for all the screenings I attended. All screenings were at the Castro.


I saw three programs at Berlin and Beyond on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Berlin and Beyond

Hollywood Speaks German; lecture by Stefan Droessler
The Blue Angel starring Marlene Dietrich and Emil Jannings; directed by Josef von Sternberg; (1930)
12 Winters; German with subtitles; (2008)

Hollywood Speaks German was not a film but a series excerpts from several films. When "talkies" came into being, it presented a challenge for studios. In the silent era, films could easily be exported to foreign countries. The intertitles were edited from English to the language of the country it was being screened. Dubbing and subtitling technology were not available in early talkies. The options were narrowed to two - film the movie with multiple sets of actors speaking foreign languages and teaching movie stars to speak foreign languages. The silent stars drew worldwide audiences (like today) so it was not feasible to recast their roles with foreign speaking actors.

Weimar Republic era Germany was a big market for films so there was a lot of interest in filming in German. Stefan Droessler of the Munich Film Museum, provided commentary before each clip which included the German and English versions of the film. Edward G. Robinson, Laurel and Hardy and Greta Garbo were among the stars who spoke German (at least phonetically). Droessler had an interesting bonus clip of Laurel and Hardy speaking Spanish. Another notable clip was John Wayne's first starring role in The Big Trail (1930). This film (which was a financial disappointment) was one of the most ambitious films of the era. It was filmed in 5 different version - 35 MM, 70 MM, Spanish, German and French. The foreign language versions recast Wayne's character since he wasn't a big enough star to draw foreign audiences.

Another sidenote is that foreign language films were not subject to the same self-imposed censorhip rules (this was pre-Hays Code) so the dialog was not strictly a word-for-word translation. Foreign audiences (or standards) were less prudish so adultery and pregnancy could be more openly discussed in alternate language films.

Within a few years, technology advanced far enough to allow dubbing so the era of Hollywood Speaks German only lasted 3 or 4 years.

All in all, it was a very educational and entertaining lecture.

After Hollywood Speaks German, they showed the rarely screened English version of The Blue Angel which was filmed in English and German. Dietrich and Jannings accents were so heavy that it was difficult to understand them at times. I think I would have preferred the German language version with subtitles. In conjunction with this screening, PFA screened the German language version (Der Blaue Engel) on February 1 as part of its von Sternberg series. I couldn't attend that screening because I was at ACTwatching Rich and Famous.

12 Winters was an highly engaging police procedural about two calculating bank robbers and the cops that track them down.


The Josef von Sternberg retrospective continues at the PFA through most of February.

Josef von Sternberg retrospective

Underworld starring George Bancroft and Evelyn Brent; silent with intertitles; (1927)
The Last Command starring Emil Jannings and William Powell; silent with intertitles; (1928)
Children of Divorce starring Clara Bow and Gary Cooper; silent with intertitles; (1927)
Thunderbolt starring George Bancroft and Fay Wray; (1929)

The silent films were accompanied by Judith Rosenberg on piano.


I caught two films at the Red Vic.

Fallen Angels starring Takeshi Kaneshiro; directed by Kar Wai Wong; Cantonese with subtitles; (1995)
Vivre sa vie starring Anna Karina; directed by Jean-Luc Godard; (1962)


I saw two general release film and one art house release.

Gran Torino starring and directed by Clint Eastwood; (2008) - Official Website
Frost/Nixon starring Frank Langella and Michael Sheen; directed by Ron Howard; (2008) - Official Website
JCVD starring Jean-Claude Van Damme; French and English with subtitles; (2008) - Official Site


As I wrote, I caught the Midnites for Maniacs screening of

The Candy Snatchers; (1973)


Through January 31, my average cost per movie is $6.11.

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