Thursday, December 15, 2011

Jason celebrates a Noir City Xmas

Up at the Castro last night for a double feature of Christmas Noir (how many can there possibly be?), which was also a double feature of Deanna Durbin movies.

But first, a preview of schedule for Noir City X. Great looking lineup. A little odd that they're playing THE KILLERS (1964) after the Roxie played it at their Not Necessarily Noir festival, but that's forgiven since they'll have Angie Dickinson in person! And just lots of great stuff, check it out.

Now for the movies, starting with LADY ON A TRAIN (1945), which can best be described as "slapstick noir." Deanna Durbin is Nikki Collins. She's riding a train (San Francisco to New York) and reading a trashy crime novel, when she looks out the window and witnessed someone beating an old man to death with a crowbar. She goes to the police, who think she's crazy and just obsessed with crime novels. They tell her to go get the author to help her--so she does. Or at least she tries. He's not very cooperative, and her unannounced visits really upset his fiancee. But through a bit of luck she learns the identity of the victim and gets more and more entangled in a series of wacky twists (mostly around the key piece of evidence--a pair of bloody slippers). Ultimately, she ends up masquerading as a nightclub singer (which gives her a chance to show off her musical talents) and even gets sent to prison before everything is resolved (or not, why should I spoil it?) Very funny, and with a great cast that includes Ralph Bellamy, David Bruce, Dan Duryea, and Edward Everett Horton.

As funny as LADY ON A TRAIN is, the second half of the double feature was just as depressing. CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY (1944) should win an award for the most misleading title. Technically, it is about what happens when a soldier goes on leave over the holidays. Lt. Charles Mason (Dean Harens) is on leave for a week, and plans to fly to San Francisco (a big cheer in the Castro when he insists it's San Francisco and not "Frisco") and marry his sweetheart. But his plans get waylaid twice--first when he gets a telegram saying she already married someone else, second when his plane (he decided to go and confront her anyway) is diverted due to weather and he spends a night in New Orleans. There--in a house of ill repute that he gets dragged to--he meets and learns the sad tale of Jackie Lamont/Abigail Martin (Deanna Durbin. Another coincidence, both movies had Deanna's character using two names). Seems she married a guy who turned out to A) have mommy issues, B) have a gambling problem, and C) have a slightly bigger murdering problem. Her husband, Robert Manette, is in prison for murder, but she (for some reason) still professes her love for him. That's all fine and good until he breaks out of prison and wants a little payback for the rumors he has heard about her (for some reason, he thinks she's a whore just because she worked as a prostitute to make ends meet). Oh yeah, and her psychotic husband? Played by Gene Kelly. That was weird.

And that was Noir City Xmas, 2011. Looking forward to the full week of Noir City in January.

Total Running Time: 187 minutes
My Total Minutes: 259,775
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