Tuesday, August 27, 2013

HIGH TIDE (1947) and CHICAGO CALLING (1951)

NOIR CITY 5
Music Box Theatre (Chicago, IL)
Monday, August 26th, 2013


For reasons that escape me, I have failed to attend any of the great NOIR CITY presentations of recent years. I vowed this year would be different, and made it for an entertaining two features last night, both directed by John Reinhardt. The Film Noir Foundation's Alan Rode was present to introduce each film.

Lee Tracy and Don Castle face HIGH TIDE

HIGH TIDE (1947) was a special treat to see resurrected in 35mm thanks to the combined efforts of The Film Noir Foundation, UCLA Film & Television Archive, and The British Film Institute. The 74-minute B-picture opens at the scene of an automobile accident, where Hugh Fresney (Lee Tracy, BOMBSHELL) and Tim Slade (Don Castle) appear to be doomed. Most of the remaining film unfolds via flashback, and we learn that Slade was brought in by the hard-nosed news editor Fresney as a little protection against a mobster (Anthony Warde) Fresney has been investigating. Things get awkward quickly since Fresney’s boss has a wife (Julie Bishop, SANDS OF IWO JIMA) anxious to resume her past romance with Slade. What transpires only can be described as one of the nastiest double-crosses the wonderful world of noir has to offer. Let’s hope this worthy little Monogram Pictures title eventually finds its way onto DVD.


The other presentation, CHICAGO CALLING (1951), already is available for purchase at the Warner Archive (CHICAGO CALLING DVD). The lone Arrowhead Pictures production, this 75-minute docudrama is typical of early '50s noir, filmed on location. William Cannon (Dan Duryea, SCARLET STREET, WINCHESTER '73) is a photographer turned drunk, and his wife Mary (Mary Anderson, LIFEBOAT) has had it. She packs her bags and leaves town with the couple’s young daughter Nancy (Melinda Plowman). After getting some tough news, Cannon realizes he must come up with some cash quickly to keep his phone from getting disconnected. He finds some unlikely help from a boy named Bobby (Gordon Gebert). This is a memorable story of redemption, tragedy, and a hard-earned second chance. In non bitch-slapping mode, this may be Duryea at his most sympathetic. According to Rode, Duryea agreed to take the part without salary other than profit sharing (which never materialized).

Dan Duryea is fit to be tied in CHICAGO CALLING

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