For several years now, the Roxie has hosted an annual film noir festival called I Wake Up Dreaming. This year, like everyone else, they’re doing something different.
Instead, they’re running a series called I Wake Up Streaming, from October 13 to November 24. (Why am I calling it a series and not a festival? A festival offers many films in a relatively short time. A series offers fewer films a week over many weeks.)
For six Tuesday evenings (skipping election night), you can take part on a Zoom discussion on two classic noirs per week, with a suggested donation of $5 – $20. Of course, you want to see the movies before the discussion, but these are all available streaming on the Internet.
Surprisingly, I haven’t seen most of these movies. But I can tell you about the ones I’ve seen.
B+ Scarlet Street (1945), discussion October 13
If you’re lonely, bored, professionally unfulfilled, and stuck in a bad marriage, beware of a beautiful woman who takes an interest in you–especially if you look like Edward G. Robinson. You’re likely to fall for a dame and before you know it, you’ll be stealing from your boss and letting the dame take credit for your suddenly successful paintings. It won’t end well. Double-billed with:
B+ Detour (1945), discussion October 13
One of noir’s strengths is that it doesn’t need an extravagant budget; and this quick cheapie proved that the genre didn’t need production values to make a great flick. Tom Neal plays a broke musician who hitchhikes across the country and runs into some very, very bad luck. So bad, in fact, that a wicked woman (Ann Savage–what a name for an actress playing a femme fatale) can blackmail him for murder. Short, quick, and deeply disturbing, Detour provides 67 minutes of dark entertainment.
A M (1951), discussion October 27
I didn’t think a remake of Fritz Lang’s masterpiece could be as good as the original. And yet, Joseph Losey’s version just might be an improvement. The killer seems more like a normal person rather than Peter Lorre, which of course makes him scarier. Losey spends more time on the grieving parents, creating greater urgency. And at least some of the organized criminals who search for the killer are well fleshed-out – especially the alcoholic lawyer. The camerawork and sound effects make Los Angeles look like a very sick place. Double billed with Open Secret.
A The Hitch-Hiker (1953), November 17
This three-person tale, directed by Ida Lupino, grabs you by the gut. Two men on a fishing vacation pick up a hitchhiker who turns out to be a psychotic killer wanted by the police. Holding them at gunpoint, he forces his prisoners to drive into Baja California, where he hopes to cover his tracks and be safe forever. They know quite well that he only intends to keep them alive until he no longer needs them. William Talman doesn’t bring nuance to the killer, but he brings a menace that could curdle water. Read my Blu-ray review. Double-billed with D.O.A., which I saw and loved too long ago for me to write about it now.