Sunday, June 11, 2006

A Dose of Film Noir

I spent Sunday getting a dose of film noir at the Seattle Film Festival, screening a couple of rarely seen archival presentations at the Egyptian Theater. They were presented by Eddie Muller of the Film Noir Foundation, a non-profit group dedicated to the preservation and restoration of this most American motion picture genre.

Muller pointed out that there are a number of movies which are in danger of vanishing or have disappeared altogether. Period negatives and prints from our film heritage have been misplaced or in some cases are simply disintegrating. Muller introduced two films that his organization has helped bring back from the brink of oblivion.

The first was a film that has not been screened in more than fifty years, the 1950 thriller The Man Who Cheated Himself starring Lee J. Cobb and Jane Wyatt. Shot on location in San Francisco, this dark tale of a cop who protects his mistress after she murders her husband was taut and well received by our Seattle audience.

The Window, released in 1949, stars Disney regular Bobby Driscoll as the boy who cried wolf. In this case, the nine-year-old teller of tall tales cannot convince his parents or the police that he witnessed a murder through a window outside his New York apartment. The film received the Edgar Award for best picture, 1950, and was nominated for a Writer's Guild Award for best American drama. The screenplay was based on a short story by Cornell Woolrich. Coincidentally, Woolrich wrote a similarly themed story that became Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window.

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