Friday, February 1, 2013

Jason goes to Noir City--Day 7

Is it just me, or have women been treated really badly in the films this week? Misogyny is a common feature of film noir, but last night (Thursday, or T-HERS-day) was the traditional day that women get even--it was Bad Girls Night at Noir City.

THE OTHER WOMAN (1954): After introducing me to the work of Hugo Haas with PICKUP last year, Noir City Bad Girls Night has become something of a Hugo Haas celebration. This more or less overlooked filmmaker is even enjoying (or, would be, if he were still alive) a resurgence in his homeland, the Czech Republic. He's often been accused of making the same movie over and over again--he plays the male lead who is tormented by some blond bombshell. Personally, that doesn't sound like too bad of a career. This time, he plays filmmaker Walter Darman (in a semi-autobiographical turn, he was hot stuff back in his home country and now making B-pictures in America.) The blond bombshell is model Sherry Steward (Cleo Moore.) Needing a fill-in for a minor role with just three lines, he gives Sherry her big chance. And she promptly blows it, embarrassing herself in front of everyone on set. Faced with the crushing humiliation of not being a brilliant actress in her first attempt, she decides to do the only sensible thing--seek revenge on the man who did this to her! Setups, blackmail, etc. I don't want to give away any spoilers, but I'll just say I loved how he mirrored the opening and closing shots. So if you do get a chance to see it, you kind of know how it will end based on the very first scene.

THE COME ON (1956): And then we had an extremely rare print (as in, the only 35 mm print known in existence) of this independently produced Sterling Hayden/Anne Baxter flick. Eddie described director Russell Birdwell as a filmmaker with practically no style. I beg to differ--the scene where the private detective practically fucks the mail slot with his blackmail letter has a definite, very specific sense of style...but maybe that's just a blind squirrel finding a nut. In any case, I'm getting ahead of myself. The movie opens with Rita (Anne Baxter) walking out of the ocean while Dave Arnold (Sterling Hayden) watches her. He approaches her, they talk, she offers him a cigarette, he rips the filter know, film noir flirtation. The only problem--as we find out soon enough--is that she's married. Bigger problem--her husband (John Hoyt) is an abusive alcoholic. Bigger bigger problem [and SPOILER, so highlight to read] he's not really her husband, they're a con team [End Spoiler.] What fun!

The only other thing I wanted to say is that this was an example of a degraded, warped, "bad" film print (still, the only one of this film in existence.) Well, first let me give a big shout-out to the hard-working projectionist who did an admirable job keeping this warped print in focus through constant adjustments. Second, a few days ago, in my write-up of SUNSET BLVD, I made a challenge that the debate of "film vs. digital" should be expanded to "good film vs. bad film vs. good digital vs. bad digital." Now I've seen much worse damaged film than this before--mostly in either private collections or really old (i.e., silent era) films which are really badly damaged. But for the quality of this film, I'd still rather see it than a bad digital projection. A good (4K restoration) digital projection would in my mind be better, but good luck on that ever happening with this obscurity.

BTW, [HUGE SPOILER ALERT!!! Highlight to read.] I started by claiming this was the night for the girls to get even. But, in fact, both Bad Girls ended up murdered in their respective movies. So much for that, I guess misogyny still rules the day at Noir City. [End Spoiler.]

Total Running Time: 164 minutes
My Total Minutes: 312,674

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