Perhaps it’s the hard times in which we find ourselves, but the temptation to take refuge within a well-constructed fatalistic yarn is increasingly enticing. After a successful initial run, the California-based Film Noir Foundation has curated a second installment of NOIR CITY DC, promising the genre’s requisite cheap thrills, tough talk, and poor decision-making skills. Here are some highlights:
GUN CRAZY (1950)
Tagline: SHE BELIEVES IN TWO THINGS… love and violence!
The Skinny: An honest man’s (John Dall) love of firearms becomes problematic after he falls for a sassy sideshow shooter (Peggy Cummins) whose taste for the good life is offset only by her appreciation of wanton violence and armed robbery.
ALIAS NICK BEAL (1949)
Tagline: No man ever held more terrible power over women than this tall dark handsome stranger from nowhere!
The Skinny: D.A. Joseph Foster (Thomas Mitchell), a justice crusader-type, makes an informal Faustian plea bargain with a smooth talker named Nick Beal (Ray Milland) who miraculously makes his political dreams a reality…but at what cost? At what cost!
Tagline: His camera was more deadly than a gangster’s gun!
The Skinny: Similar to Ace in the Hole’s vision of journalism as morally bankrupt opportunism, Jake Early (Howard Duff) works all the angles as a photographer who consistently finds himself in the right place at the wrong time.
OUT OF THE PAST (1947)
Tagline: A guy without a fortune! A girl with too much past!
The Skinny: One of the heavyweights of the genre, Out of the Past has it all: shadowy pasts, forbidden love and long shots at redemption. The film was eventually remade as Against All Odds in 1984—a remake for which Phil Collins alone is eternally grateful.
THE KILLERS (1946)
Tagline: Every kiss carved his name on another bullet
The Skinny: The first of two film adaptations of Ernest Hemingway’s The Killers, the 1946 version stars a young Burt Lancaster as The Swede and Ava Gardner as Kitty Collins, a name almost as dubious as her intentions.
ACE IN THE HOLE (1951)
Tagline: seemingly without one
The Skinny: In the 50+ years since its release, director Billy Wilder’s once wildly unpopular examination of the media has shown itself to be a shockingly astute commentary on the state of contemporary journalism. Chuck “20 minute-boiled” Tatum (Kirk Douglas) gives an oversized performance as an ethically compromised reporter while Jan Sterling schemes and bats her doe eyes with equal parts longing and revulsion.
HALLOW TRIUMPH (1948)
Tagline: His scar marked them BOTH!
The Skinny: Perhaps the most elaborate plot of the festival’s selections, Hallow Triumph is the story of perpetual con man John Muller (Paul Henreid) who attempts to knock off and assume the identity of look-alike psychiatrist Dr. Bartok (also Henreid). Surely someone will recognize that Muller has mistakenly placed the good doctor’s scar on the wrong side of his face, won’t they?
The festival runs from October 24 through November 4th at the AFI Theatre in Silver Spring.