Saturday, January 21, 2017

Jason goes to Noir City--Opening Night

The best thing about Jan 20th, 2017 is that as far as I could tell, absolutely nothing happened in the world except for opening night of Noir City 15. In our gorgeous sanctuary cinema, in the hands of Czar of Noir Eddie Muller, starting 10 days of heist capers, I knew our biggest heist--stealing our sanity back from an insane world--would go off without a hitch. Especially starting with a couple of classics.

CRISS CROSS (1949): Steve Thompson (Burt Lancaster) has just blown back into town. Ostensibly to take care of his mom and the family home. But everybody knows he's looking to bump into his ex-wife Anna (Yvonne De Carlo.) And he does, and they're pleasant enough to each other. But she's on the arm of gangster Slim Dundee (Dan Duryea) and he's kind of the jealous type. Especially after they get married. But Steve will do anything just to be around her. Like planning a heist of the armored car company he works for. But like the title suggests, there's quite a bit of double-crossing, and this being during the production code era, no heist can ever be successful. Fantastic acting, great cinematography, just an absolute classic. 

THE ASPHALT JUNGLE (1950): And then the prototypical heist classic. First, what a cast. Sterling Hayden as smarter-than-he-looks hooligan Dix Handley. Jean Hagen as his loyal girl Doll. Sam Jaffe as Doc Riedenschneider, aka "The Professor." Louis Calhern as wealthy lawyer Emmerich. Marilyn Monroe in a bit part as his girl on the side who is rapidly making him not so wealthy. And that's just the start. Doc is just out of prison, and he's got a fool-proof plan to rob a jewelry store. He knows the system, he knows how to defeat it. He just needs a safe-cracker, a driver, a hooligan, and a little bankroll to get it all started. Oh, and some luck. That's the part that's tricky. Everyone will need luck. The first time I saw this was at Noir City back in 2010, as part of a Marilyn Monroe double feature. So my review focused on Marilyn's small but absolutely stunning part. This time, set up as the beginning of a week and a half of heists, my attention focused more on Doc (although Dix Handley is still the main character.) I just loved Sam Jaffe's portrayal. A small man, but smart. He knows how to get things done, but he also knows when he's beat and how to surrender peacefully. He doesn't touch booze (okay, I can't get behind that) and he doesn't carry a gun. Because if you carry a gun, you might shoot a cop, and that's really bad. But if you're unarmed, you surrender and get a lighter sentence. Odd thinking for a career criminal, and that's why I like it.

Okay, now here's to 9 more days of heists!

Total Running Time: 200 minutes
My Total Minutes: 440,238

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