March 12 The Man Who Cheated Himself (1950, 81 min.)
San Francisco Homicide Inspector Lee J. Cobb is having a rough day: his kid brother (John Dall) has just joined the department and is looking to his big brother for guidance and inspiration. Unfortunately, Cobb has the bad fortune to show up at the mansion of his married mistress (Jane Wyatt, in a bizarre bit of casting) just as she is shooting her husband. Immediately deciding on the wrong course of action (after all, this IS a film noir), Cobb agrees to dispose of the body and cover up the crime—a situation which becomes untenable when his kid brother becomes interested in the case and decides to investigate it himself. Despite a criminally low budget, THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF is quintessential noir, with innovative use of S.F. locations (including Fort Point, years before Hitchcock used it in VERTIGO) and a fatalistic script that pits brotherly love versus illicit lust. If you know your noir, you already know who wins that battle!
March 20 SHOCK! (1946, 70 min.)
The late, great Vincent Price had his first star billing in this entertaining 'B' mystery-thriller that unexpectedly turned into one of 20th Century Fox's biggest hits of the year. Waiting for her soldier husband (Frank Latimore) to return from overseas, fragile young Anabel Shaw checks into a high-rise San Francisco hotel. Hearing angry voices, she walks out onto her balcony just in time to see a stranger (Vincent Price) brutally murder his wife in an adjacent suite. Shaw promptly goes into shock, and when the hotel summons a physician to help her, the doctor who responds is—yes, you guessed it—Vincent Price. He's not about to let her wake up and spill the beans, of course, so he quickly decides to transfer her to his clinic in Marin where he and his femme fatale mistress (Lynn Bari) can plot a suitably devious and plausible way to silence her—permanently. A low budget and a rushed conclusion can't stop SHOCK! from being an enjoyable albeit minor entry in the San Francisco Noir canon.
March 27 My Favorite Brunette (1947, 87 min.)
One of Bob Hope's all-time funniest comedies is also one of the best satires of film noir ever produced—and yes, it even has scenes that were filmed in San Francisco! Hope plays a bumbling S.F. baby photographer who's mistaken by damsel-in-distress Dorothy Lamour for a hard-boiled private eye. Before you can say “Sam Spade,” our inept hero is entangled in an international conspiracy by a ruthless spy ring determined to get their mitts on a priceless South American uranium mine and who'll stop at nothing to eliminate anyone—including wisecracking San Francisco gumshoes—who get in their way. A first-class supporting cast (including Peter Lorre as a sadistic knife-throwing gunsel and Lon Chaney Jr. in a send-up of his dimwitted OF MICE AND MEN role) and some striking on-location cinematography (including a sequence filmed on the Carmel coast) make MY FAVORITE BRUNETTE required viewing for all noir completists.
April 3 THE MIDNIGHT STORY (1957, 89 min.)
No star's career of the 1950s deserves a major reassessment more than Tony Curtis, who starred in a variety of excellent, little-known, rarely-revived films during the decade. Chief among these is THE MIDNIGHT STORY, a little noir gem that deserves to be seen more frequently. Curtis plays a San Francisco North Beach beat cop who is shocked when a local priest (David Leonard), who was practically a surrogate father to him, is brutally beaten to death. Barred by his superiors from investigating the crime, Curtis quits the department and sets out on his own to bring the murderer to justice—a vendetta which leads him to a suspect who is the last person on Earth that Curtis wants to harm. Atmospheric on-location widescreen cinematography and taut direction by Joseph Pevney (who also directed Curtis in SIX BRIDGES TO CROSS and FLESH AND FURY) make THE MIDNIGHT STORY a 'must-see' for Tony Curtis fans and noir buffs alike.