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The Film Noir Foundation will premiere two new restorations at NOIR CITY 18, both little-known 1950s noir gems from Argentine director Román Viñoly Barreto: La bestia debe morir (1952) and El vampiro negro (1953). Both restorations were completed in 2019 by the FNF's preservation partner, UCLA Film & Television Archive, with support provided from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's Charitable Trust (The HFPA Trust).
La bestia debe morir is an adaptation of Nicholas Blake's celebrated 1938 novel The Beast Must Die. Blake was actually a pseudonym of Irish poet laureate Cecil Day-Lewis, father of actor Daniel Day-Lewis. The book was noted for an unusual structure combining a first-person narrative of murderous revenge with a whodunit plot more familiar to fans of Blake's Sherlockian British detective, Nigel Strangeways.
The Argentine film, adapted for the screen by Viñoly Barreto and actor Narciso Ibáñez Menta, relegates Strangeways to a bit part, moving the noir-revenge narrative front and center. Spanish-born Ibáñez Menta was renowned in the '40s and '50s for horror and fantasy films, but in this full-fledged noir he portrays a writer hell-bent on uncovering the identity of the hit-and-run driver who killed his son … and murdering him.
"Until this discovery, most cinephiles believed that Claude Chabrol had made the first adaptation of Blake's novel in 1969," said FNF president Eddie Muller. "But largely thanks to my colleague Fernando Martín Peña, who introduced me to the film, this version of The Beast Must Die will now be recognized as the first—and with all due respect to Chabrol—the best screen version of the novel. It certainly has all the elements of a classic noir, and Viñoly Barreto directs it with great storytelling skill and visual style."
El vampiro negro (The Black Vampire) is an inspired reimagining of Fritz Lang's classic M, transposed from Berlin to Buenos Aires. It was made by essentially the same creative team that made La bestia debe morir a year earlier, including cinematographer Alberto Etchebehere, who not only provides spectacular imagery that may surpass the nocturnal style of Lang's original and the 1951 American remake directed by Joseph Losey—but he co-wrote the script with Viñoly Barreto. Famed actress Olga Zubarry, known as the "Argentine Marilyn Monroe," stars as a cabaret performer whose child is kidnapped by the murderer (Nathán Pinzón) preying on the city's children.
The FNF previously funded a preservation print of El vampiro negro that screened at several NOIR CITY festivals in 2014, but according to Muller, "We realized the film was so unique, and so compelling, it had to be completely restored, including fixes to the damaged original negative."
Both restorations debut opening night of NOIR CITY 18, January 24, as a double bill of lost classics from Argentina.
The restorations of La bestia debe morir and El vampiro negro will be screened nationally as part of the FNF's NOIR CITY film festival programs in 2020, as well as on the international film festival circuit.
Love our film reviews in the NOIR CITY e-magazine? Get you noir-tinged movie and streaming news faster from our newly added NOW PLAYING area. Contributors include syndicated newspaper columnist Sean Axmaker; the East Bay Express' chief film reviewer Kelly Vance and Nathalie Atkinson, a columnist for The Globe and Mail and the creator and host of the popular film series Designing the Movies.
You can now own your own copy of the FNF funded restoration on Trapped (1949), available from Flicker Alley in a Blu-ray/DVD combo. In Richard Fleischer's 1949 noir, T-Men investigating a flood of phony $20s spring convicted counterfeiter Tris Stewart (Lloyd Bridges) from the joint to use as an undercover operative. But Tris is only stringing the Feds along until he makes a score and scoots to Mexico with his red-hot squeeze, Meg (Barbara Payton). The double- and triple-crosses come fast and furious, as no one's sure who's a crook and who's a copper. A hasty and hard-edged B with exceptional camerawork by DP Guy Roe.
The preservation of this nearly lost classic noir has been accomplished through the long-standing partnership of the FNF and UCLA Film & Television Archive. Additional funding assistance for Trapped was provided through a grant from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's Charitable Trust (The HFPA Trust).
Trapped Blu-Ray/DVD bonus materials include:
✽ "Freeing Trapped" — A documentary on the film's creation and history, featuring interviews with Eddie Muller, Donna Lethal, and others.
✽ "A Sedulous Cinderella: Richard Fleischer Remembered" — A remembrance of the man, the director, and the father, by his son Mark Fleischer.
✽ Audio Commentary Track — Featuring author and FNF board member Alan K. Rode and film historian Julie Kirgo.
✽ 24-Page Souvenir Booklet — Featuring rare photographs, poster art, and commentary by FNF president Eddie Muller.
The Film Noir Foundation is proud to announce the recipient of this year's $5,000 FNF/Nancy Mysel Legacy Grant—Aparna Subramanian of NYU. Ms. Aparna will receive her MA in Moving Image Archiving and Preservation in 2021 from the Department of Cinema Studies, Tisch School of the Arts, New York.
The FNF's charitable grant, funded by the Mysel family in honor of the late film preservationist Nancy Mysel who supervised FNF restorations of The Prowler and Cry Danger, grants funding to students enrolled in film restoration and preservation studies. The 2020 grant announcement was made Saturday night, February 1, at NOIR CITY 18 by festival host Eddie Muller, with a thoughtful video by Ms. Subramanian screened for the San Francisco audience. Details on how to apply for the grant are available here.
The WORLD OF FILM NOIR was created in black and white, but its intrigue and passion was sold worldwide by movie posters -- in vivid color -- that enticed audiences into this sinister and sensual demimonde. Nowhere on earth was the come-on more colorful than in Belgium, where the nation's standardly sized posters (a mere 14" x 22") virtually exploded with the danger and desire at the heart of cinema's most alluring and durable genre. Small posters from a small country--but packed with more lust and larceny than Hollywood would dare.
NOW, EXCLUSIVELY FROM BLACK POOL PRODUCTIONS—Eddie Muller, "The Czar of Noir," presents 24 glorious Belgian cinema posters from his personal collection, reproduced as 5-1/4" x 7" cards, each complete with his terse and tangy commentary highlighting what made these films—and this artwork--so magical and memorable. $20 + tax/shipping at BlackPoolProductions.com.
Gun Crazy caused barely a ripple in public consciousness when it hit movie screens in 1950. Yet over time it would prove to be the most innovative and provocative motion picture of its era—a simple genre film, but packed with so much cinematic bravura and timeless symbolism, its power has spanned decades, crossed oceans, and influenced countless filmmakers.
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The death of a mysterious woman, a cynical crime-beat reporter, and a tangle of family secrets and political intrigue form the core of Budapest Noir. The eagerly awaited second feature by award-winning director and editor Eva Gardos is now available for at-home viewing on iTunes, Amazon, Verizon, and more. Our rave review of Budapest Noir initially appeared in the NOIR CITY e-magazine Issue 25 (November 2018) and was reprinted in the NOIR CITY Annual #12 (2020), along with an in-depth interview with Gardos detailing her creative process and inspiration for the film. Budapest Noir is currently available on select cable outlets and has been released on DVD and Blu-ray. For more details, visit the Menemsha Films website.
Following the NOIR CITY Hollywood screening at the Aero Theatre of a sparkling 35mm print of House of Games (1987), FNF president Eddie Muller introduced David Mamet as "America's greatest living storyteller and then made a surprise presentation of the FNF's Modern Noir Master Award. Muller noted the glass award was designed by Samuel Fuller's daughter Samantha which delighted Mamet.
The rollicking interview began with Mamet's discovery of noir, especially West Coast crime writers, and his early film education at Chicago's 24-hour Clark Theater, a legendary "grindhouse." Muller commented on how beyond the visual style of film noir, there's also the language and noted the "Mamet speak" of House of Games and how the language of that film, Glengarry Glen Ross "and so many of the things that you've done, the language reminds me of noir because it has this rhythm and this whole style."
The insightful and acerbic Mamet replied, "To me, the most important thing in noir is not having enough money. The things that got me started with film noir was The Killing (1956) with Sterling Hayden by Kubrick and Kubrick was very much influenced by a previous film called Crime Wave (1953) directed by Andre De Toth which had the same cast as The Killing. Somebody asked De Toth how'd you make such a good movie? And he said, 'because they said 'I'll give you two-hundred grand,' He said, 'I'll do it for a hundred grand. They said I'll give you twenty days. I said 'I'll give it to you in eleven days.' So, he shot it in eleven days. The thing about film noir is you don't have any money which means you don't have any time which means you don't have any time or money to shoot stuff you're not going to use. Right? So, if you're not going to shoot stuff you're not going to use, you'd better think real hard about what you're going to shoot which makes for a great movie. And the other thing is they didn't have any money for special effects so that's why they're shooting on Mulholland Drive and the PCH in the middle of the night."
MidCentury Production's latest series at San Francisco's Roxie theatre, SIMENON 2020 salutes master French crime novelist Georges Simenon. Matinee double features will screen through October 2020. While best known for his novels featuring the brilliant but down to earth Inspector Jules Maigre—which have been adapted hundreds of times and in multiple countries on the big and small screen—his canon extends well beyond those tales. His darker stand alone novels plumbed the depths of the human mind and were also extensively adapted for film and television. SIMENON 2020 comprises French, English and American films, as well as TV episodes from various Maigret series. Sreenings have been postponed due to the Roxie's temporary closure. Check the Roxie website for further updates.
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NOIR CITY E-MAG
At left, the cover of NOIR CITY® — the Film Noir Foundation's latest e-magazine issue. For access to the best writing on noir available today, and to enjoy one of the most cutting-edge interactive multimedia cinema publications in the world, subscribe to NOIR CITY. Start by adding your name to our mailing list and then making a donation to the FNF of $20 or more. View the Table of Contents for the current issue here.
Keep us posted on noir news and events in your area! Email Anne Hockens, Film Noir Foundation news and events editor.