|Femmes Fatales||Feb 11 2015|
|Intl. Notebook||Jan 16 2015|
Today, once again, the U.S.’s premier film noir festival begins in San Francisco. Well, we aren’t impartial—we used to live in Berkeley, just across the Bay, and San Fran was our nocturnal playground—but we think the Noir City Film Festival is the best, that its locale the Castro Theatre is awesome, and that San Francisco, with its iconic hills, clanking cable cars, and rogue fogs, is the also the best possible host city. This year the art produced for the festival in its thirteenth year references worn pulp paperbacks, which we can appreciate, and we also love the festival line-up.
The extravaganza opens with Woman on the Run, a film we discussed recently. Apparently the last known print burned in a fire, and this year’s showing represents the culmination of years of restoration work. Since the film was in the public domain, we imagine some secondary sources existed and needed to be tracked down and cobbled together. Other classics to be screened include Clash By Night, The Thin Man, Shockproof, Cry Terror!, and twenty others. Hopefully a few of our Bay Area friends will attend the festival and report back. And to Pulp Intl. readers in that part of the world, this is your official reminder—any chance to see film noir on a big screen is an opportunity not to be wasted.
|Vintage Pulp||Nov 29 2014|
General consensus on this public domain film is that it’s better than expected and we watched it and agree. It isn’t about a woman on the run but rather the woman’s husband. She’s looking for him, though, and that’s what the movie revolves around. There’s a very effective rollercoaster sequence at the climax, but otherwise the movie has two main pleasures—Ann Sheridan’s jaded wife character that softens by the end of the film, and the extensive location shooting. In fact, there’s so much external scenery that the film doubles as a tour of mid-century San Francisco, which might be enough reason alone to watch it. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1950.
|Modern Pulp||Nov 27 2014|
|Intl. Notebook||Jan 24 2014|
|Vintage Pulp||Jan 30 2013|
A few days ago we mentioned the Noir City Film Festival and waxed nostalgic about San Francisco. The festival schedule reminded us of noirs we haven’t seen in a while, and revealed others we’ve never seen. On the Noir City bill this evening is a film from the latter category, Edward Dmytryk’s 1952 thriller The Sniper. We watched it last night and it more than deserves a slot in a prestigious festival like Noir City. The film was shot in San Francisco, and stars Arthur Franz as a former mental patient named Eddie Miller who is gripped by murderous impulses. Perching in windows and on rooftops, he uses a carbine and scope to target unsuspecting victims. As yet the gun isn’t loaded, but his sexual feelings for a female acquaintance catalyze his urges. The expert marksman begins killing, ultimately slaying four women (that’s not a spoiler, given the four scoped targets on the poster art). Eddie Miller treads similar ground as hundreds of other cinematic lost souls, but film historians say he was first—American film’s first serial killer. This one is worth it both for the movie and for its usage of San Francisco exteriors, which are so expertly and extensively intergrated into the production, we have a feeling Bay Area audiences will marvel over that more than the actual plot. But they should pay close attention to both. Dmytryk is the same director who gave the world Murder, My Sweet and Crossfire. This is top tier filmmaking.
|Intl. Notebook||Jan 25 2013|
The most popular film noir festival in the world launches its eleventh edition tonight in San Francisco when the Noir City Film Festival returns to the Castro Theatre. It runs until February 3, and screens 27 films, including three new 35mm restorations. Some of the movies on the slate this year include 1950’s Try and Get Me!, 1949’s Repeat Performance, 1948’s High Tide, 1950’s Sunset Boulevard, and 1962’s Experiment in Terror. Along with the films, the festival features guest of honor Peggy Cummins, who played the unforgettable character Annie Laurie Starr in 1950's Gun Crazy. There’s also a noir themed nightclub with live music, torch singers, burlesque and more. Although we love living overseas, events like this are a reminder of why the Bay area lifestyle is so wonderful. If we ever return to the U.S., it’ll be straight back to the Bay. The festival poster above is just the latest in a long series, and we’ve uploaded all the predecessors below. You can find out more about the Noir City Film Festival at the festival website.
|Vintage Pulp | Sex Files||Apr 2 2012|
In December 1965 in Essex County, New Jersey, local police raided a large home on 850 Lake Street in suburban Newark where they suspected illegal sexual activity was taking place. A detective entered first and met the house’s owner, a Dutch-born former nurse named Monique Von Cleef. The two had reached the point where she had donned a leather jumpsuit and he had stripped to his boxer shorts. At that moment the cops that had been waiting outside stormed into the house. They found that the entire three-story building had been set-up to service practitioners of sado-masochism. Von Cleef had been running the place for years, and had made a nice business out of punishing submissives—among them doctors, local officials, and many New York businessmen. According to court documents, her file cabinet contained 2,000 names.
The story exploded across America—virtually nobody had ever imagined a bdsm lifestyle existed in the U.S. The house on Lake Street was given several nicknames by the media, but “House of Pain” is the one that stuck. When the above April 1966 issue of Confidential appeared, Monique Von Cleef was facing trial and staring a prison sentence in the face. However to prosecutors’ chagrin, she couldn’t be brought up for prostitution, so they opted for a raft of charges related to lewd conduct, and one charge of possessing obscene materials. Von Cleef was convicted, but saw the decision overturned on appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court. Many accounts of the legal proceedings suggest thatpowerful men on her client list of 2,000 (or 10,000, if you believe Confidential) exerted influence on her behalf. The truth is her conviction was overturned after justices noted that the police had neglected to obtain a search warrant. The fact that previous appeals had glossed over this fact is actually indicative of how much influence was arrayed against Von Cleef. In any case, the Supreme Court decision made every piece of evidence police had obtained inadmissible. Without those items there was no proof of lewd conduct on the premises, and Von Cleef had never touched the detective.
Von Cleef had been free during this process, using her notoriety to financial advantage. In San Francisco, billed as the Queen of Humliation, she had been giving onstage orations/performances about sado-masochism at a North Beach nightclub called Coke’s. As her case was reaching the Supreme Court, U.S. Immigration was working to deport her—a threat of which Von Cleef was well aware. Thus when she won her appeal and the order came through shortly thereafter to ship her back to her native Netherlands, she had already left the U.S. illegally. Some claim that influential former clients were involved in her deportation, wanting her out of the States where she could do them no harm. That’s possible, but telephones, teletypes, and televisions reached all the way to Holland back then, which meant that if she had wanted to expose her clients she could just as easily have done it from there. She was deported because that’s what U.S. authorities have always done to alien felons. In Von Cleef’s case, though she had won her appeal, she had overstayed her visa.
American tabloids soon moved on to other diversions, and American society followed suit, but Von Cleef maintained a high profile internationally. She opened another dungeon, became a Baroness, wrote a book, appeared in a documentary, and traveled the world promoting her lifestyle. She died in Antwerp, Belgium in 2005, a woman who had gone from nurse to dominatrix, underground to overexposed, and ridden the crazy carousel of American jurisprudence, yet in the end survived and even thrived. One might ask how it was possible, but it seems clear that within her community she was revered from almost the moment she entered it, and she probably enjoyed copious moral and financial support through all her travails. The website dominafiles.com explains best how loyal Von Cleef’s followers were: “What her antagonists didn’t realize was that once an affluent masochist heard about Monique, no matter how, he would travel almost anywhere to see her.”
|Vintage Pulp||Mar 16 2012|
You really can’t discuss pulp and San Francisco without mentioning The Maltese Falcon. Written by San Fran resident Dashiell Hammet and published by Knopf in 1930, the book’s protagonist San Spade became the archetypal private eye as he haunted the Bay area trying to solve his partner’s murder. The first edition has since become one of the Holy Grails of book collectors, which probably explains why the international auction house Sotheby’s sold a copy of the novel’s first pressing for $75,000. Before you say, “You’re shitting me,” we’ll add that 75K was actually lower than their upper end estimate of $90,000. The 1941 film version of The Maltese Falcon starring Humphrey Bogart and directed by John Huston is considered by most cinema experts to be the first real film noir, and Bogart said it best when asked in the movie exactly what the falcon was. His answer: “The stuff that dreams are made of.”
|Vintage Pulp||Jul 7 2011|
Humphrey Bogart rose to unparalleled heights as a mid-century movie star, but even he has a few films that could be considered underappreciated. 1947’s Dark Passage probably fits the bill. It’s a polarizing movie, long admired by critics and noir aficionados, but off-putting to casual cinema fans. The first hour is shot from first person perspective, which means we don’t see Bogart at all except when he happens to pass by a mirror. What we glimpse when he does is a head wrapped in bandages, for he has gone under the plastic surgeon’s knife in an effort to change his identity and elude the law. Assisting him in his desperate plan is Lauren Bacall, who dazzled with Bogie in To Have and Have Not and Key Largo. Unfortunately, the romantic sparks don’t quite fly between the real life spouses here the way they did in those collaborations but, as constructed, perhaps that was never the intention. Just the same, we recommend Dark Passage for its taut atmosphere and clever camera work. Plus, for the historically oriented, a bonus is a detailed look at post-WWII San Francisco, beautifully shot by director Delmer Daves and cinematographer Sidney Hickox. Above you see the movie’s French promo art, created for its release as Les passagers de la nuit today in 1948.