[Noir City 5]

We learned a number of lessons at Noir City 5. We learned that it really is best for doctors not to get involved with patients, we learned that one twin is always evil, we learned about caffeine intake and anger management, and we learned what happens when felons don’t learn about Stop, Drop, and Roll. See? Film can be very educational.

I love the series for the films, of course, but also for Eddie Muller’s introductions. The world of classic noir intersects with the creative challenges of the Hays Code, the personal and professional tragedies of the Hollywood blacklist, and the current race against time that is film preservation, and Muller does a fantastic job of bringing that all to us.

The series brings me back to the good bits of junior high: watching commercial-free black-and-whites on AMC in the early 90s, with introductions by Nick Clooney & Bob Dorian. Looking at my life now, they have a lot to answer for!

I made it to thirteen of the fourteen features, which is a new record for me. My favorite feature this year, unsurprisingly enough, was Don’t Bother to Knock, starring Marilyn Monroe as a babysitter with a tenuous grasp on reality, and classic noir lead Richard Widmark as a pilot looking for a little distraction. Bonus: a gorgeous young Anne Bancroft (in her first film role!) as the lounge singer who’s just dumped Widmark.

All of the action takes place within a hotel, and more-or-less in real time, both of which add to the terrifically claustrophobic noir feel. It’s available on DVD, and is one of the better introductions to noir from this year’s series.

Other notable features:

* Angel Face, with Robert Mitchum as the ambulance driver-turned-chauffeur who gets caught in Jean Simmons’ web.

* High Wall, where Audrey Totter is a doctor convinced of Robert Taylor’s innocence and commits several ethical violations to prove it.

* Loophole, your classic story of an average-Joe getting caught up in the underworld; in this case, being framed for a bank robbery. Other viewers seemed frustrated by a lot of bad decisions he made, but it made sense to me. When you don’t have a devious mind yourself, it’s hard to anticipate what folks with devious minds will do.

* The Dark Mirror, featuring brilliant performances from Olivia de Havilland as the sisters, some unfortunate pop psychology, and a few more ethical violations; and Among the Living, which is an entertaining (granted, ridiculous) flick featuring bloodthirsty villager-types in what might easily be Brooklyn or Queens, and a barely legal Susan Hayward setting her cap for the murderous twin. Of course.

I already can’t wait for next year, fourth row center with my Americano from Caffe Zingaro. Bring it on.

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