Thursday, February 5, 2015

Jason goes to Noir City--Day 9

A huge marathon, 5-movie Saturday

The first three were a tribute to married filmmaking couple Andrew and Virginia Stone (real noir fans think of them when they say "The Stones," not Mick and Keith)

THE STEEL TRAP (1952): Joseph Cotton is excellent as a bank teller who hatches a plan to steal $1 million from his bank on Friday and escape to Brazil (no extradition treaty) before it opens on Monday. Getting his wife and daughter to come with him without them knowing why might be trouble. And he stupidly rushes his plan because the bank switches to being open on Saturday during the winter (why he didn't wait until next year is kind of beyond me.) The tension of getting a flight, getting their passports and visas, and dealing with delays from the weather is all delicious (when a connecting flight is grounded due to a storm, I almost leaped out of my seat and cheered knowing he was thwarted by risk management!) But when his wife finds out and leaves him, he has a moral reckoning and the plot turns to a race to replace the money before the bank opens. Equally thrilling, adding up to a great movie.

JULIE (1956): Doris Day shows her considerable strength in this story of escaping the abusive husband from hell (Louis Jourdan.) She eventually escapes him in Carmel by hitchhiking and relying on a friend in San Francisco. There she takes a job as a stewardess on an airline, which mercifully keeps her out of town most of the time. Until one time she has a layover in San Francisco again, and her insane husband sneaks aboard with the ultimate "If I can't have her..." psychotic plan. Fun fact, there's a scene in there that will be immediately recognized by fans of AIRPLANE! And in the thrilling finale, I believed Doris Day really could fly and land an airplane...because I believed she could do anything.

CRY TERROR! (1958): What a cast in this one. James Mason plays a humble engineer. Inger Stevens his wife. Rod Steiger as the villainous criminal mastermind that has framed him for an insane bombing/ransom plot. His crew includes Jack Klugman, Angie Dickinson, and a super-creepy Neville Brand. The plot is absolutely insane. The mastermind tricked the engineer into building an ingeniously strong but small bomb, promising a major defense contract. Instead, he's using it for a ransom plot, threatening to blow up an airplane. And he kipnaps the engineer, his wife, and his daughter and threatens them into playing along. The FBI has their best agents on it, and it all climaxes in a frantic chase through the subways (original title, THE THIRD RAIL)

I find it very interesting that the three films that had some of the strongest female characters in the whole festival were created by a husband/wife team.

Then after a break and a little dinner, onto the final double bill of foreign masterpieces.

OSSESSIONE (1943): The Italian neo-realist version of The Postman Always Rings Twice. Luchino Visconti was encouraged to make this movie by Jean Renoir, and the story of it's creation is as infamous as the content of the film. Banned by the fascists, reviled by the Catholics, wasn't officially released outside of Italy for over 30 years due to copyright issues...it's a masterpiece. A drifter, a bored housewife and her husband. Lots of drinking, an affair, murder...all the best things in life.

LES DIABOLIQUES (1955): Hitchcock is known as the master of suspense, but he's got nothing on Henri-Georges Clouzot (whose THE WAGES OF FEAR was my favorite Noir City film last year.) Dripping in conspiratorial lesbian undertones, the wife and mistress of an abusive school principal conspire to murder him. It's a perfect plan--they go out of town for the break. They drug and drown him. Then hide his body and dump it in the school pool, which has grown dark with algae. Since they were far away at the time of death, they can't possibly be suspected. With a bit of tension, things go off without a hitch. All that remains is to drain the pool and find the body. And when that happens...there's no body there! And now one of the school boys is insisting he saw the principal. And the two women quickly come unhinged as they can't figure out what's happening. And the ending...I can't tell you about the ending. Seriously, it ends with instructions to the audience to not give away the surprise. And this is a 60 year old spoiler I'm inclined to keep. Brilliant!

Total Running Time: 536 minutes
My Total Minutes: 381,232

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