If you haven’t found your way over to the Egyptian Theatre to partake of the perfectly pulpy fun of the 15th annual Festival of Film Noir, it is not too late. One of my favorites is there Friday night as part of the double feature package of film based on just two of some 30-plus novels and stories from crime fiction maestro Cornell Woolrich that would make it to the big screen. Some like “Rear Window” would become classics. Few, though, have made it to DVD.
That’s what makes Friday night’s noir lineup -- a cooperative effort between the American Cinematheque and Film Noir Foundation -- such a rare treat. The night starts at 7:30 p.m. with “Street of Chance.” The 1942 film stars a very young Burgess Meredith as a man who’s forgotten an entire life when a bump on the head changes everything. It’s a tangled web of former wife, present girlfriend and an unsolved murder that he might be responsible for. There is a silent blinking grandma, money is at stake, Meredith is confused and director Jack Hively keeps us guessing, but not really enough. “Street of Chance” is an entertaining amusement, but not a classic.
For that, you have to wait for the second feature -- “Night Has a Thousand Eyes.” Directed by John Farrow and adapted by Barre Lyndon and Jonathan Latimer, it stars Edward G. Robinson in one of his more contemplative roles.
He’s a different kind of dark in “Eyes.” Rather than the wise guy he was best known for, Robinson plays John Triton, a down-on-his luck mentalist whose life changed years ago when the mind-reading charades he was pulling on carnival patrons started being interrupted by dangerous premonitions. He could suddenly see the future, and it wasn’t pretty.
The film starts with a beautiful young girl. The night is dark. Passing trains send up clouds of steam as the beauty clings to a bridge above them. So, a perfect place for a noir to begin.
A handsome man intervenes just in time, but the danger is far from over. Soon they are tableside with Robinson, and his Mr. Triton is ready to tell them his tale of fears, fate and psychic visions.
It is mesmerizing to watch Robinson move between portraying the younger, more hopeful Triton and the weary -- and wary -- older one. Meanwhile, there are all sorts of hidden ties between Triton and that young beauty played by Gail Russell. Her beau (John Lund) is a skeptic, but a decent sort.
There is a fortune in oil on the line and a terrific shot of L.A. back in the day when Angels Flight was for transportation, not tourists, and a couple of bucks would rent you an apartment overlooking it.
The foundation’s new 35mm prints bring out the best in the black and white, and Robinson reminds you in every scene why he brought so much more to the party than that signature cigar.
P.S.: If you want to completely immerse yourself in noir, consider the festival’s final party on April 21, where you can drink, dress and party like it’s 1934.
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