Sunday, February 11, 2018

Jason goes to Noir City--Closing Day

Not closing night, since I caught the matinee shows, but let's jump right into them.

WICKED WOMAN (1953): I started with the B picture, because that's just how I roll. Billie Nash (Beverly Michaels) rolls into town on a bus. With barely any money she rents a room in a boarding house and immediately starts looking for a job. Her neighbor Charlie (Percy Helton) is clearly taken with her, and she simultaneously rebuffs and takes advantage of that. She does get a job as a waitress in a bar where she catches the eye of the bartender/owner Matt Bannister (Richard Egan.) Too bad he's married. But good thing that his wife Dora (Evelyn Scott) is a raging alcoholic and Matt doesn't approve. So they start a little affair, with the end goal being to dump his wife, sell the bar, and run away to Mexico (where, presumably, she will dump Matt and live off his money.) One little wrinkle, they need Dora's signature to sell the bar, and it's too much of a sentimental cause for her (it belonged to her father.) So the plan gets more elaborate, until it's cracking at the seams. What could be a super-sleazy story is elevated a great deal by Beverly Michaels, who plays Billie not just as a scheming woman, but one who is desperate and finding her way to survive however she can. It's the world that was wicked before this woman was.

THE BIG HEAT (1953): And then I ended the festival on a high note with this Fritz Lang classic. It starts with the suicide of a cop, Tom Duncan. Honest cop Dave Bannion (Glenn Ford) investigates, and it's an open-and-shut case of suicide until the mistress (Dorothy Green) claims otherwise. Investigating further, it seems Duncan had a significant second source of income, but the guys upstairs are quick to but a stop to any investigation of corruption (because, of course, the corruption goes all the way to the top.) He doesn't heed any warnings to drop it, and when a car bomb that's intended for him instead gets his wife, he's on a personal mission to nail the bastards who did it. A twisting tale of revenge and justice, with Glenn Ford as the upright hero, the wonderfully vile Lee Marvin as the second in command baddie, and Gloria Grahame as his ditzy girl and occasional punching bag who fights back at just the right time (to huge applause from the audience.) A great way to end another great Noir City festival. 

Total Running Time: 167 minutes
My Total Minutes: 468,015
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