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Noir City Draws Dark Days to the Castro Theatre


Photo Courtesy of Noir City

Noir City Founder and Promoter Eddie Muller (center) is the face behind the festival.

By Jonathan Farrell

Film Noir aficionados were delighted by the mini film festival that sold out at the Castro Theatre on Dec. 14. Founder and promoter Eddie Muller hopes to make this "prelude" to the upcoming Noir City Film Festival in January a holiday tradition in San Francisco.

This is the 2nd annual Noir City Christmas screening and we hope to continue to bring this to you each year as a precursor to our Noir City Film Festival which will be celebrating its 10th year," said Muller as he addressed the crowd that Wednesday night.

Dozens of people donned some form of 1940's style apparel. And, perhaps the only really welcomed opportunity for a necktie. Patrons were pleased to dress up a bit for the double-feature event.

Even before the lights dimmed, the enthusiasm for all things Film Noir filled the air. Applause and cheers went out as a "slide-show" montage of old movie posters and stills from some of the well-known films like "The Maltese Falcon" appeared upon the screen greeting patrons as they walked in.

Lines formed in front of the theater an hour in advance. Among those in line were Jenifer Strickland and Morgan Von Rueden. Both are long-time attendees of the Noir City Film Festival and this mini festival was a treat for both of them. "Last year for the Noir City Christmas it was a Barbara Stanwyck feature," said Von Rueden. Naming a few of the many movies from the Film Noir period (which reached its zenith from 1940 to the late ‘50s), Von Rueden said, "to say which one is my favorite? That's so hard because I love so many."

Strickland said that as far as movies are concerned, "Old movies are my favorite. "I always had a love for the classic movies, I love the ‘retro style' I love old things," she said. Strickland noted that the clothes, the decor and even the dialogue of the script in a classic movie has more wit and charm than contemporary movies today.

I have never seen a film noir movie with Deanna Durbin," said Strickland. Both she and Von Rueden were intrigued. Muller explained that Durbin who perhaps is best known as the girl with the operatic voice made her film debut in 1936 singing along side Judy Garland.

Durbin had been a box office win for Universal Studios. "Durbin's girl-next-door persona and her musicals saved Universal from bankruptcy," said Muller.

Lady on a Train" (1945) and "Christmas Holiday" (1944) were not well received by the public upon initial release. Still, Muller considers them classics. "Lady on a Train" is a who-done-it style mystery with plenty of suspense, comedy, romance and of course music mixed in.

Muller explained that upon achieving success for Universal, Durbin was eager to venture into more mature and challenging roles as she out-grew that girl-next-door persona.

Muller mentioned to this reporter during intermission that while "everyone's favorite holiday movie, "It's A Wonderful Life," does have a film noir element to it, "I think these two movies have more film noir quality to them than [that movie]," he said.

Besides he exclaimed to the audience while on stage, "Christmas can get depressing, so why not indulge in some film noir."

Proceeds from the ticket sales for this double feature go to our film preservation efforts," said Anne Hockens, communications director for Noir City Film Festival.

Muller with the help of Hockens, his staff and Noir City, fans is eager to feature little known or forgotten film noir classics to a new generation. "what people don't realize is that just because a film is transferred to DVD or Blue Ray doesn't really guarantee that it is completely preserved," he said. "The original film negative must be restored and then create a new negative," he said. "Only by making a new negative can we really ensure that a classic film is preserved," said he.

Muller also pointed out that because technology keeps changing, having "an original film negative to refer to will help to ensure that when new technological formats emerge, classic movies are transferred from an original restored negative and not a copy of a copy."

Muller and his crew it seems can make one feel as if film noir was invented in San Francisco And, perhaps just for a moment, the audience revels in that, which reiterates that saying, "only in San Francisco."

The Film Noir Foundation presents NOIR CITY X, twenty-six film noir classics over ten days beginning on Friday, January 20 to Sunday, January 29, 2012. For details visit: