No Happy Endings in Noir City


Conflict; courtesy of Warner Brothers

Greetings film nerds and nerdettes … Now that holiday playtime is over and every gift hound in the USA has put away all their Christmas Cheer, it’s officially winter malaise season here in The City where dreary skies and an even drearier (new) movie lineup can turn bushy-tailed film lovers into hibernating American Idol-obsessed butt cracks

Since yours truly would rather play Russian Roulette with John Rambo’s loaded bazookey than sit through Idol or new release steamers like The Bucket List or Rambo Part XXX, it’s going to take some old fashioned detective work this week to track down a MRF-alicious dish for you gourmet film lovers. Luckily, you’ve got a gumshoe on the case who works real hard for fifty bucks in this racket ...*

Sent From: MRF’s Wireless Handheld Device (1:28 a.m.) 1/21/2008: 

Geary and Blake: Whilst pounding the pavement, I turned over every gin joint and cinematheque in town till I met this cabbie that looked like Reverend Jim Ignatowsi. He told me to check out a new hot spot called Noir City if I was into hard-boiled celluloid action that was darker than a black steer’s tookus on a moonless prairie night …* Um, not sure I’m into all that, but hard-hitting investigative reporters gotta follow their nose so, to Noir City we go—step on it Ignatowski!

Christopher Lloyd
my trusty cabbie's doppleganger

Castro and 17th St:  When Iggy dropped me at the Castro Theater I knew I’d found me some cinematic heaven. For all you hibernating couch potatoes, here’s where you need to be starting Friday—Noir City for the Sixth Annual San Francisco Film Noir Fest where the organizers promise 10 days, 20 films and no happy endings. I said no happy endings, Junior. This ain’t no slap shack so wear pants, will you? 

What is Film Noir?

What is film noir? Oh brother … let me explain:  I have a friend who’s got a funny theory.  He says when two people commit a murder they’re kind of on a trolley car, and one can’t get off without the other. They’re stuck with each other. They have to go on riding clear to the end of the line and, the last stop is the cemetery …* That’s film noir in a nutshell. 

Created as a gritty alternative to the “all is well” MGM musicals and comedies of the 1940s and ’50s, film noir is the genre of impending doom where everyone dies in the end, happy endings are non-existent and fair maidens are always brandishing ice picks beneath their petticoats. In sum, the story of my life …  But don’t let the bleak specter of my hellish existence kill your buzz, take a peek at two of my favorites films from this year’s Noir City line-up to whet your appetite for self-destruction. Then check out the entire festival line-up at

D.O.A. (Dir. Mate: 1/31)

Featuring one of the best noir set-ups ever, D.O.A. begins with a man (Edmund O’Brien) staggering into a San Francisco Police Station to report a murder—his own … Like so many tourists who visit Fisherman’s Wharf, D.O.A.’s dying hero was mysteriously slipped poison at a swinging Pier 23 jazz club. Like so few tourists who visit S.F., he’s hell bent on finding out why.  

The rub is he’s only got a few hours to live so our sweaty protagonist tears ass around town like a crazed, reckless dead man (which he is), shaking down suspects while taking the audience on a noir tour of SF (and LA) that can’t be found in any tour map unless it’s covered with blood. Told with the frenetic energy of a dying man’s last hurrah, D.O.A. is killer noir for your movie palate.

Conflict; courtesy of Warner Brothers

Conflict (Dir. Bernhardt: 2/1)

A lost bijou from the oeuvre of Humphrey Bogart, who “kills” playing against type as a slug who’s so horny for his wife’s younger sister (Alexis Smith), he fiendishly plots to kill the old ball-and-chain. Sure Bogie gets away with it, but can he live with his burning conscience?

Not helping his murderous cause is smooth-talking fat man Sidney Greenstreet, a psychologist friend of the family who gets into Bogie’s head by suggesting his wife may still be alive. Driven to the brink of madness, will Bogie crack like Raskolnikov? That’s for you to find out. Curiously evocative of Bogart’s long-standing real life love triangle with his troll wife Mayo Methot and hot girlfriend Lauren Bacall, Conflict is a wild ride inside the guilty mind of a killer who goes mad to the beating of a Telltale Heart

And scene. No longer just a genre for cigarette smoking French existentialists, in 2008, film noir is Rated G fun for the whole family. So feel free to pack your little bloodthirsty urchins into the back of your hipster bus and come on down to Noir City. You can find me in the back row. Until next time, this is MRF signing off, be bad and get into trouble baby …*

Volume 48 Footnotes
•    “I was in disguise, in disguise, in disguise. You work hard for fifty bucks in this racket.” – Murder By Death (1976): Peter Falk (as Sam Diamond)
•    “Darkness warshed over the Dude – darker’n a black steer’s tookus on a moonless prairie night. There was no bottom.” – The Big Lebowksi (1998): Gravel-throated cowboy Sam Elliot narrates the film noir comedy classic from the Coen Brothers.
•    “I have a friend who’s got a funny theory.  He says when two people commit a murder they’re kind of on a trolley car, and one can’t get off without the other.  They’re stuck with each other. They have to go on riding clear to the end of the line.  And the last stop is the cemetery…” – Double Indemnity (1944): Fred MacMurray plays verbal tennis with Edward G. Robinson in the Billy Wilder noir classic.
•    “Let’s get into trouble baby.” – Tapeheads (1988): Soul Train host Don Cornelius (as Hollywood Producer Mo Fuzz) to upstart filmmakers Tim Robbins and John Cusack.