On the Big Screen, Noir Tales From the Cold, Hard Streets

Lee J. Cobb and Jane Wyatt in 'The Man Who Cheated Himself.' (Noir City)

One of our favorite events in San Francisco is an annual celebration of mystery and intrigue: the Noir City festival, getting underway this year on Jan. 26 at the Castro Theater. This year's lineup of film noir includes The Big Heat with Glenn Ford & Gloria Grahame; The Underworld Story, about a small-town newspaper; and Veronica Lake and Alan Ladd in a terrific pair of films, Blue Dahlia and This Gun for Hire.

Noir City is one of those festivals that you almost can’t go to just once. The screenings are full of backstory and context from presenters, and there are always movies that even the most hardcore film buff hasn’t ever seen. Of course, the familiar movies are fun to watch too; I love Shadow of a Doubt, filmed in my hometown, Santa Rosa, in the 1940s. With so many changes going on in Santa Rosa lately — the Courthouse Square reunification, the SMART Train, and of course the fires — it’s a fantastic capture of what the city used to be like in 1943, dark underbelly and all.

But Noir City is really all about the obscure noir films that slipped through the cracks - the festival organizers even fund restorations of 35mm prints. This year brings the debut of a restoration of The Man Who Cheated Himself, with Lee J. Cobb and Jane Wyatt, from 1950 (above). The 16th annual Noir City Festival runs Jan. 26–Feb. 4 at the Castro Theatre. Details here.

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