Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Further light on British Noir

Night and the City

Will be posting a photo shot of the Third Man

French film scholars
coined the term Film Noir to describe a particular cycle of American films
dealing with dark themes (crime, betrayal, fatalism, and general post-war
malaise) often imbued with a signature shadowy visual style. Though less well
known, and with their own distinct sensibilities and variations, British
filmmakers also made some fascinating contributions to this enigmatic genre. Our selection includes vaunted masterworks like Carol Reed's
The Third Man (1949), as well as rarities like the notorious No Orchids for Miss
Blandish (St. John L. Clowes, 1948)–what’s more, this program provides the
opportunity to see many rare archival prints which are being shipped in from the
UK. Shot in locales from London to the Lake District and beyond, this program
aims to shine a light on the darkness from across the pond.

Saturday October 17 2009, 7:30PM ( Online
Ticket Sales Ended
Directed by
Carol Reed
Graham Greene’s first
screenplay unspools against the backdrop of a post WWII Vienna still under
control of the Allied authorities
. Joseph Cotten stars as a beleaguered pulp
novelist unwittingly embroiled in a vast conspiracy. Orson Welles famously plays
the amoral Harry Lime, a charismatic racketeer haunting the back alleys and
underground sewers of the ruined city.
Greene’s world-weary script is
brilliantly enhanced by Carol Reed’s expressionistic visual style, not to
mention Anton Karas’ indelible zither score. A commercial and critical success
on its initial release, The Third Man is now widely recognized as a masterpiece
of film noir and a high point in the history of British cinema.
Based on the
story by Graham Greene. Screenplay: Graham Greene. Cinematographer: Robert Krasker. Editor: Oswald Hafenrichter. Cast: Joseph Cotten, Orson Welles, Alida Valli, Trevor Howard. 35mm, B/W, 100 min.
NIGHT AND THE CITY(1950) Directed by Jules Dassin
Richard Widmark’s
trademark combination of sleazy glibness and sweaty desperation finds its ideal
expression in the role of London club tout and compulsive striver Harry Fabian.
Described by a rival as "an artist without an art," Fabian attempts to make his
mark as a promoter in the Greco-Roman wrestling racket, a sport that takes
brutality to the level of art both in and out of the ring. With its chiaroscuro
cinematography and stylized portrayals of underworld characters—Francis L.
Sullivan as a grotesque club owner, Googie Withers as his ambitious wife,
Herbert Lom as a vicious racketeer, Polish champion wrestler Stanislaus Zbyszko
as "Gregorius the Great"—the film sketches a place that is nominally London but
really a realm of fevered urban imagination.
The recurring image is of Fabian
scrambling through dark alleys, trying and failing to get ahead of his fate—an
appropriate motif for director Jules Dassin, who made the film while in exile
from McCarthy-era Hollywood. —Juliet Clark, Pacific Film Archive.
Century Fox. Based on the novel by Gerald Kersh. Producer:
Darryl F. Zanuck. Screenplay: Jo Eisinger. Cinematographer: Max Greene. Cast: Richard Widmark, Gene Tierney, Googie Withers, Hugh Marlowe, Francis L. Sullivan. 35mm, B/W, 95

Sunday October 18 2009, 7:00PM* ( Online
Ticket Sales Ended
Directed by
Arthur B. Woods
Just released from
prison, small-time hustler Shorty Matthews (Emlyn Williams) pays a visit to an
old girlfriend–only to find her murdered in her room. Assuming the cops will
finger him for the crime, he hits the road, finding refuge with long haul
truckers, and later with a dance hall hostess (Konstam) and a sex crime
fetishist (Ernest Thesiger, in a memorable performance). Not to be confused with
the American film starring Humphrey Bogart, this British proto-noir is
unapologetically gritty. "An exceptional thriller with fine feeling for
locale–seedy dance halls, rain-swept highways, shabby pubs." – Elliot Stein
(adapted from a note from Film Forum).
Based on the novel by J. Curtis.
Producer: Jerome Jackson. Screenplay: James Curtis, Paul Gengelin, Derek Twist. Cinematographer: Basil Emmott. Cast: Emlyn Williams, Ernest Thesiger, Anna Konstam, Allan Jeayes. 35mm, 84 min.
ON THE NIGHT OF THE FIRE(1939) Directed by Brian Desmond Hurst
Richardson stars as Kobling, an upwardly mobile barber desperate to escape the
crushing poverty of his grubby neighborhood. When his status-conscious wife
racks up debts at the local department store, Kobling pays the proprietor with
stolen Pounds Sterling. When the cops trace the store’s bank deposit to stolen
bills, the proprietor threatens Kobling with blackmail. What begins as a petty
theft soon turns to murder and a frightening witch-hunt by the townspeople. With
noir-ish elements, this frank and fatalistic drama paints a nightmarish vision
of working class Britain.

Based on the novel by F.L. Green. Producer: Jeff Somlo. Screenplay: Brian Desmond Hurst, Patrick Kirwan, Terence Young. Cinematographer: G√ľnther Krampf. Cast: Ralph Richardson, Diana Wynyard, Romney Brent. 35mm, 84 min.
Please note the early start time.

October 23 2009, 7:30PM ( Online
Ticket Sales Ended
New Print!THE LONG
HAUL(1957) Directed by
Ken Hughes
Racketeering is the
principal cargo in this well-tuned tale about a trucker in trouble. Victor
Mature (in a role intended for Marlon Brando) plays Harry Miller, a deactivated
G.I. stranded in England with his Liverpudlian wife. Harry signs on as a driver
for a lorry combine only to find that mobsters rule the road. Joe Easy (Patrick
Allen), the ruthless thug who runs Easy Hauling, plays it fast and loose with
his freight, but not as loose as his curvaceous cohort Lynn (Diana Dors, the
British Monroe). Once Harry catches sight of her, Dors becomes the soft shoulder
on a road to nowhere. Though Hell Drivers emphasizes rivalry among the drivers
themselves, both of these big wheelers saw the hauling biz as a shiftless world
of lowballers and hijackers. Caught up in the momentum, Harry must choose
between a pedestrian life with wife and child and the felonious fast lane.The
Long Haul offers no rest stop for the wicked. ––Steve Seid, Pacific Film
Based on the novel by Mervyn Mills. Producer:
Maxwell Setton. Screenwriter: Ken Hughes. Cinematographer: Basil Emmott. Editor: Raymond Poulton. Cast: Victor Mature, Diana Dors, Gene Anderson. 35mm, B/W, 88 min.
HELL DRIVERS(1957) Directed by Cy Endfield
Cy Endfield
, another
of this series’ refugees from the Hollywood blacklist, delivers a raw critique
of capitalist exploitation in the form of a full-throttle thriller. Stanley
Baker plays an ex-con who drifts into a job hauling gravel for Hawlett’s, a
trucking company where only the desperate need apply. Spurred on by openly
ruthless management, marginal men—including pious, naive "Italian" Herbert Lom
and a young Sean Connery—vie to beat the pace set by the unhinged Irishman at
the wheel of truck Number 1: Patrick McGoohan, before he was The Prisoner’s
Number 6. There’s plenty of action in the rattle and roar of trucks careening
along country roads, but the film’s suspense comes from social pressures rather
than speed as the rivalry between Baker and McGoohan becomes increasingly
explosive. The ultimate use of all those rocks is never mentioned; hauling
endless tons of cargo in a race none of them can ever really win, the drivers
are embodiments of labor as a road to nowhere. —Juliet Clark, Pacific Film
Based on a story by J. Kruse. Screenplay:
Cy Endfield, John Kruse. Cinematographer: Geoffrey Unsworth. Cast: Stanley Baker, Herbert Lom, Peggy Cummins, Patrick McGoohan, William Hartnell. 35mm, B/W, 108 min.

Saturday October 24 2009, 7:30PM ( Online
Ticket Sales Ended
Directed by
Ralph Thomas
When British secret
service agent (Trevor Howard) gets the axe, he finds a job cataloging
butterflies for an eccentric family, the Fentons, on a remote English estate.
But this seemingly benign business is fraught with danger once he falls for his
boss’s niece Sophie (Jean Simmons), a troubled young woman who is accused of
murdering a local farmhand. Determined to prove her innocence before the cops
can arrest her, the pair embark on a thrilling chase across Britain’s Lake
District. With echoes of both Gaslight and Hitchcock, The Clouded Yellow is a
thoroughly entertaining thriller.
Based on the story by J. Green. Producer: Betty E. Box. Screenplay: Janet Green. Cinematographer: Geoffrey Unsworth. Editor: Gordon Hales. Cast: Trevor Howard, Jean Simmons, Sonia Dresdel, Barry Jones. 35mm, B/W, 95 min.
THE OCTOBER MAN(1947) Directed by Roy Ward Baker
"I couldn’t have
done it . . . could I?" In a twist on the wrong-man theme, this hybrid of
playful murder mystery and psychological melodrama stars John Mills as an
innocent man whose own self-doubt makes him a suspect.
After a bus accident
kills a child in his care and leaves him with a fractured skull and troubled
mind, Mills seeks refuge in a small hotel whose very proper residents greet him
with a mixture of curiosity and condescension. When an attractive lodger goes
out to post a letter and doesn’t return, the neighbors, the police, and Mills
himself all begin to wonder whether he might be responsible. Erwin Hillier’s
cinematography shrouds the action in an atmosphere of misty, pervasive
melancholia, and Mills brings an otherworldly, fretful presence to Eric Ambler’s
alternately sardonic and empathetic scenario, which hints at the struggles of
men shattered not by accident but by the recent war.
—Juliet Clark, Pacific Film
Based on the novel by E. Ambler. Producer: Eric Ambler. Screenplay: Eric Ambler. Cinematographer: Erwin Hillier. Cast: John Mills, Joan Greenwood, Edward Chapman. 35mm, B/W, 110 min.

Monday October 26 2009, 7:30PM ( Online
Ticket Sales Ended
BLANDISH(1948) Directed by
St. John L. Clowes
"It has all the
morals of an alley cat and the sweetness of a sewer!" blared a contemporary
review of this controversial 1948 noir. No Orchids bubbled forth from the depths
of British Poverty Row studio Renown to shock the English nation with its casual
brutality (multiple murders in cold blood in the opening reel, another killing
involving a grandfatherly innocent bystander) and leering perversion ("I don’t
have ta drink ta want you," opines one ruthless Romeo).
The film concerns a
hard-partying society dame who falls for her vicious kidnapper, a crime
syndicate overlord. Simultaneously revolting and revolutionary, its Z-grade
budget, inexpressive cast, and total disregard for bourgeois sensibility make No
Orchids play like some unholy alliance of Ed Wood and Georges Bataille, a
Poverty Row Grand Guignol. Monthly Film Bulletin declared it "the most sickening
exhibition of brutality, perversion, sex and sadism ever to be shown on a cinema
screen"—in other words, unmissable. —Jason Sanders, Pacific Film Archive.
Based on the novel by James Hadley Chase. Producer: George Minter. Screenplay: St. John L. Clowes. Cinematographer: Gerald Gibbs. Cast: Jack La Rue, Linden Travers, Hugh McDermott. 35mm, B/W, 102 min.
NOOSE(a.k.a. The Silk Noose)(1948) Directed by Edmond T. Greville
"We don’t have
any gangsters here," claims a London newspaper editor to his hot-to-trot
reporter from Chicago at the beginning of this energetic programmer, a
fascinating combination of American noir aesthetics with British slang, style,
and location. Yankee fashion hound Linda Medbury (Carole Landis, who died
tragically after the film was made) quickly proves her boss wrong, uncovering a
ruthless London crime ring led by the fast-talking Bar Gorman and the slick
Sugiani, neither of whom will stop at killing women to keep their empire going.
Fortunately Linda’s got her British hubby on her side, an ex-commando who’s
organized a gang of his own (complete with Chelsea jerseys) to help smash the
syndicate. A John Alton–esque sense of light and shadow, as well as director
Edmond Greville’s impressive visual flourishes, provide a flair that’s pure
Hollywood noir, but the zippy insults, class concerns, and seedy postwar
settings are as British as they come
. —Jason Sanders, Pacific Film Archive.
Producer: Edward Dryhurst. Screenplay: Richard Llewellyn. Cinematographer: Hone Glendining. Cast: Carole Landis, Derek Farr, Joseph Calleia, Nigel Patrick, Stanley Holloway. 35mm, B/W, 95 min.

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