Sunday, May 22, 2016

Noir City Austin - Day 3: The Dark Corner (1946)/ Night Editor (1946)

Due to work-related needs, I only attended the first double-bill of the day the Noir City Austin 2016.

I want to thank the Film Noir Foundation, Alamo Drafthouse Ritz and Austin Film Society for making this year something I wish I had planned for much, much better.  Because what I was able to attend was absolutely fantastic, well planned and curated.

And, of course, once again thank Eddie Muller for being such a terrific host and guide through the world of film noir, film history and fantastic historian in his own right.  People will be relying on his work for decades to come.

The two films they showed at mid-day were pure film noir, and as had been programmed in the double-bills all series, an A and B picture.  I was a big fan of both of these films, neither of which I'd seen before.  And that's much of the fun of Noir City.  Yesterday I was talking to the guy sitting next to me when he asked if I was a fan of film noir or classic film.  And I said "well, yeah, but, honestly, I hate to claim any expertise.  I feel like no matter how much I've seen, there's an endless amount of content I haven't seen."

The Dark Corner (1946) is a just-post-war private dick film, starring Mark Stevens as a clear nod to the Philip Marlowe type, a sort of rusted Galahad in a fedora who maybe gets too personally involved in his cases.   His Gal Friday is played by a pre-comedienne Lucille Ball, and she's actually sharply witty in this movie, and steals a lot of spotlight from her co-star.  But, as I may have mentioned before, I find "sultry Lucy" kind of an odd concept after spending a lifetime thinking of her as Mrs. Ricardo, but there it is.

The movie also features Clifton Webb, whom you will remember from Laura.  But it also has one of my favorite people in film, William Bendix, playing William Bendix, which is my favorite way to see William Bendix.

The story is nigh-Chandler-worthy as private detective Bradford Gant takes up residence in New York City, hoping to start fresh after a bad stint in California.  But his past seems to be catching up with him as he finds himself tailed by another private detective (Bendix) hired by Jardine, his ex-partner from San Francisco, who is now living it up in New York high society.

I don't want to give too much away, because the execution of the film is pretty fantastic.  And, really, I was literally kept guessing until the last minute of the film as to how this puzzle could wrap itself up.  So, yes, highly recommended.

Night Editor (1946) was the second picture, and not half-bad.  It had a few story issues (they keep insisting the lead character is likable, but we never see him do anything likable), and was hurting for a compelling male lead (I'm guessing a lot of those guys were still getting done with war-time activities).  But it features maybe the purest form femme fatale I'd ever seen in a movie, short Stanwyck in Double Indemnity.  She's the emobidment of the Chandler-esque femme fatale of " smooth shiny girls, hardboiled and loaded with sin."

Police Lt. Tony Cochrane is married with a child, but he's carrying on with sexy socialite Jill Merrill.  While parked for some private smoochy sexy time, the two witness a murder, but Tony can't stop it or catch the killer without blowing up his marriage and maybe ruining his career.  And, to complicate matters, turns out Jill finds the blood and murder sexy fun.

Of course, Tony is one of many cops assigned to solve the crime.  Noir ensues.

It's maybe not a top-20 noir film, but it was certainly interesting, and I found actress Janis Carter extremely interesting in her role.  And, the ending wasn't half-bad when they could have slouched their way to the finish.

The movie has an odd framing device as the film was, according to Muller, meant to be one of a series based on a radio program.  A night editor is relating the tale to his news-crew as they while away the hours.  And so the movie has an odd naming convention as the titular night editor is really just the narrator.  But, it basically works, and would have meant more to audiences in a wartime-era America.  It's just a little odd of a naming convention in 2016.


J.S. said...

Sorry I missed it this year. Maybe next year I can make it. I'm by no means an expert on classic films or anything, but these noir films are usually just a lot of fun. I missed the experience of sitting in the dark, eating popcorn, and watching the mess unfold on the screen. Always such a good time to watch the character development and see how things play out...

The League said...

There's no question that part of the joy of the festival is that Eddie Muller assumes you know very little in his opening and closing remarks, all while contextualizing the movies. It's a very non-threatening atmosphere, not aimed at hipsters but rather folks eager to enjoy and learn a bit of film history along the way.