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