The stink of ink

This year's Noir City fest is full of lurid news

Film noir doesn't fuck around. It gives you tough-taking characters, gunshots, stiff drinks, and outrage, all within 90 minutes (frequently less). The seventh Noir City, programmed by Anita Monga and Eddie Muller, is stacked with double-features focused on "Newspaper Noir," the inkiest of subgenres. The fest kicks off with Humphrey Bogart in Deadline USA (1952), a crackling newsroom thriller from Richard Brooks (1955's The Blackboard Jungle, 1967's In Cold Blood). Rapid-fire pacing is the only way this film crams in so much exciting stuff: a storied newspaper, The Day, that's on the verge of being sold; a mysterious blonde, found dead and wearing only a fur coat; a gangster-about-town who's got his fingerprints on City Hall; a courtroom battle; and a murder that literally stops the presses. Bogart ("Newspaperman is the best profession in the world!") is aces as a soon-to-be-unemployed editor who makes a last stand by exposing the gangster's crimes on his front page. He also has a nice subplot trying to woo back his ex-wife (future Planet of the Apes-er Kim Hunter) and barks plenty of wisdom about the state of the news biz, some of it oddly prophetic: "It's not enough anymore to give 'em just news — they want comics, contests, puzzles ..." Ethel Barrymore adds Old Hollywood class as the widow of Bogie's boss, while Gilligan's Island's Jim Backus pops up as a Day reporter.

But not all newspapermen are as heroic as Deadline USA's scum-busting bunch; opening night concludes with 1952's Scandal Sheet, based on a Sam Fuller novel. The film's New York Express lives for a lurid mix of "thrills, escape, and news," with a special talent for manufacturing the latter. But editor Mark Chapman (Broderick Crawford) is as sleazy as his paper. When a secret from his past threatens his position, he commits a murder that becomes the obsession of the Express's top reporter (John Derek) — and the end result is dramatic irony at its juiciest.


Jan. 23-Feb. 1, double features $10

Castro Theatre, 429 Castro, SF

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