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Friday, September 28, 2012

CRIME & THE CITY SOLUTION: Dangerous Desire, Week 3

It's a big weekend at the NW Film Center, with the last batch of "Dangerous Desires: Film Noir Classics." I haven't seen the Friday and Sunday selections, but I definitely want to catch Max Ophüls' Caught and Jerry Hopper's The Naked Alibi.

I did, however, watch Saturday's films for my festival overview at the Portland Mercury. My longer reviews are posted here.

HIGH WALL (1948), dir. Curtis Bernhardt

A veteran (Robert Taylor) fresh back in the U.S. is accused of killing his wife. Only he can't remember and he has some sort of brain condition that may be making him crazy. In the asylum, a kind doctor (Audrey Totter) helps him regain his memory, and gets further tangled in his mess when he escapes to try to catch the real killer. Pretty standard stuff, though the sequence where he starts to remember the night of the murder has some great POV shots of him reaching for his wife's throat. Otherwise, not much in terms of a distinctive style, and lacking the snappy writing of the best noir.

[Screening Saturday, September 29, 7pm]

99 RIVER STREET (1949), dir. Phil Karlson

This taut, multi-layered thriller is a real treat. John Payne plays Ernie Driscoll, a boxer whose last fight was his real last fight. A bad beating has permanently damaged his eye, and now he drives a cab. His wife (Peggie Castle) is fed up with the drab life, and Ernie is at his wit's end. Unfortunately for him, his night is about to go horribly wrong. Discovering that his wife is cheating on him with a jewel thief (Brad Dexter) is just the start. Before morning, Ernie will be framed for murder, wanted for beating up a theatre troop, and blind to the love that's right in front of him, the caring actress Linda (Evelyn Keyes). Lots of criss-crossing lines tighten a web around Ernie, leading an exciting foot chase and a chance at hand-to-hand redemption. Director Phil Karlson keeps a steady hand throughout, never losing control of his plot. 99 River Street's cynical streak gives way to romance and an affirmation that folks can be good and decent and still survive. A noir with a well-earned happy ending.

[Screening Saturday, September 29, 9:15pm]

Current Soundtrack: The xx, Coexist

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All text (c) 2012 Jamie S. Rich

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