More Noir! "I Wake Up Dreaming" Stays Extra 6 Days!


The B Noir festival is a hit! It's always a delight to hear about retrospective programming doing well. There are still people out there interested in and trying out old movies in theaters. Or maybe the San Francisco noir crowd is just that strong. I'd written about "I Wake Up Dreaming" a couple of weeks back (read it here); I have since went and saw some of the movies they're playing.

If you're in the Bay Area and you haven't spared the time, there's good news. The festival was supposed to end this Thursday, but I have just been informed that since it is selling out so well, they've decided to add another week of showings!

The list of extra screenings is at the bottom, but before that, I want to recommend trying to get to this Friday's showing of The Devil Thumbs a Ride, which I managed to catch on the fest's opening night.

It was made in 1952, a time when many of the B-grade films made were violent and provocative noir films that provide cheap thrills, many adapted from pulp crime novels. The Devil Thumbs a Ride was no exception, and it is in fact an exemplary representation of its ilk. It’s funny, it’s trashy, it’s suspenseful, and it’s just a barrel of fun.

Working off a very simple premise and trading the usual bleakness of fugitive-on-the-run stories for humor, you can’t help but curse its modest 62 minute length, hoping for something longer. It starts with a simple stick-up at an ATM in a small Californian town, which turns into a murder. The perp—dubbed “the devil” in the film’s title—is a man named Steve Morgan played by Lawrence Tierney, who quickly and easily thumbs a ride from Jimmy Ferguson, a husband on his way home to LA from a party in San Diego. Along the way, Morgan tricks Ferguson into making numerous pit stops, give ride to a couple of dames, avoiding police stops and generally delaying Ferguson’s return home—much to the dismay of Ferguson’s wife, whom he has to keep calling to explain the situation.

Tierney is a blast in the role, the kind of dangerous criminal he reportedly hated playing yet is so good at (which might have something to do with being a drunken tough guy offscreen). Most people from my generation probably know him best as the ruff old bastard in Reservoir Dogs. This movie has plenty of great pithy lines coming out of him. It's almost a laugh-our-loud kind of thriller, infectious in its steamy wit. There’s a great deal of fun and admiration in seeing the smart-thinking Morgan outwit one complication after another to stay a free man, but we’re never given a cause to root for him because not only is he a total scumbag, we’re also sympathetic to Ferguson’s mistreated innocence.

Unfortunately, this film is not available on DVD yet (save for the ever reliable bootleggers, of course). RKO Pictures did put it out on VHS some years ago, but good luck finding a copy of it, but TCM does play it sometimes, so keep an eye out for it in their listings. Better yet, clear your schedule and get to the Roxie this Friday.

Remember, it's all $10 for 2 movies.


Friday, May 29
THE DEVIL THUMBS A RIDE An innocent young dupe gives a ride to a vicious criminal and unleashes a nightmare of violence and depravity! One of the most blatantly nasty B films of all time, with a singularly fierce central performance from its legendary dark star, Lawrence Tierney. Co-starring Ted North, Nan Leslie, Betty Lawford. Directed by Felix Feist. 62 mins. 1947.    8:00

FRAMED A down-on-his-luck drifter falls into the clutches of a scheming woman who has constructed an elaborate frame designed to net her and her bank robber boyfriend a cool quarter million in cash. All they need to do is put the drifter in the frame. Excellent unsung B noir! Starring Glenn Ford, Janis Carter, Barry Sullivan. Directed by Richard Wallace.  82 mins. 1947.   6:20 & 9:35

Saturday, May 30
ALL NIGHT LONG This darkly penetrating film is a modern retelling of Shakespeare's OTHELLO, set in the freewheeling underworld of London's swinging jazz scene. The film stars Patrick McGoohan, Keith Michell, Betsy Blair, Richard Attenborough and features on-screen performances by Dave Brubeck, Charles Mingus, Johnny Dankworth and many other great jazz musicians. Directed by Basil Dearden. 85 mins.   (2:10), 5:05, 8:00

THE HOODLUM  Lawrence Tierney returns as the eponymous title character of this unheralded poverty row noir about an unrepentant sociopath, bent on bringing doom and destruction to everyone in his path! Rarely have an actor and his role meshed so perfectly. Also starring Allene Roberts, Marjorie Riordan, Edward Tierney (the star’s real-life brother). Directed by Max Nosseck.  61 mins. 1951.   3:50, 6:45 & 9:40

Sunday, May 31
NEW YORK CONFIDENTIAL  Organized crime gets the film noir treatment in this sensational expose of the murderous racketeers who once held a mighty metropolis in its evil iron-clad grip! B noir seldom got as heady as this rarely seen exciting opus! Starring Broderick Crawford, Richard Conte, Anne Bancroft, Marilyn Maxwell, J. Carroll Naish. Directed by Russell Rouse.  87 mins. 1955.   (1:35), 4:45, 8:00

PRIVATE HELL 36  From the director of the mind-blowing “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” comes this sharply drawn crime drama about a pair of cops who abscond with a cache of stolen loot. In typical noir fashion, the gravity of their deed drives them to the edge of panic! Starring Ida Lupino, Steve Cochran, Howard Duff, Dorothy Malone, Dean Jagger. Directed by Don Siegel.  81 mins. 1954.   3:15, 6:25, 9:45

Monday, June 1
ALLOTMENT WIVES  Former Hollywood superstar Kay Francis made a final stop at poverty row to star in (and produce) this sadly neglected B noir! She plays a socialite who secretly heads a nasty gang of women who prey on returning WWII servicemen. Violence, blackmail and murder highlight this sordid tale of shame! With Paul Kelly, Otto Kruger, Gertrude Michael. Directed by William Nigh.  83 mins. 1945.   8:00

PORT OF 40 THIEVES  A cunning femme fatale with a penchant for murder has devised a foolproof scheme that could net her a fabulous fortune! Or has she? A sublimely perverse and very rarely seen poverty row noir with a mind-boggling myriad of twists and turns! Starring Stephanie Bachelor, Tom Keene, Lynne Roberts. Directed by John English.  60 mins. 1944.   6:45 & 9:35

Tuesday, June 2
THE LAST CROOKED MILE  Even though she’ll always be best remembered as the demonic Vera in “Detour,” Ann Savage turns in a great performance as a slinky cabaret singer in this energetic B noir about the frantic chase for $300,000 in stolen loot, culminating in a wild scene at a sleazy carnival. Also in the cast are Don “Red” Barry, Sheldon Leonard, Adele Mara, John Dehner. Directed by Phil Ford.  67 mins. 1946.   8:00

THE GUILTY  Twin sisters—one good, the other bad—dangerously hold a man’s fate in their hands. But which one is which? This rare poverty row gem is one of the eeriest and most disturbing of the many fine films adapted from the obsessively demented Cornell Woolrich’s provocative pulp fiction. Starring Bonita Granville, Don Castle, Regis Toomey. Directed by John Reinhardt.  70 mins.  1947.   6:35 & 9:15

Wednesday, June 3
THE SPECTER OF THE ROSE  A fascinating foray into the darkly demented world of dancers, in which at least one of whom might (or might not) be a psychotic murderer! Very strange, this is a noir of an entirely different stripe; all on a B budget! Excellent cinematography by Lee Garmes. Starring Judith Anderson, Michael Chekhov, Ivan Kirov, Lionel Stander. Written and directed by Ben Hecht.  90 mins. 1946.   8:00

THE MADONNA'S SECRET  The masterful John Alton provides some astonishing camerawork for this strangely hypnotic noir mystery about a famous painter who can’t seem to get the image of his dead fiancée out of his mind. When his models, one by one, start turning up dead, he becomes Prime Suspect #1. Starring Frances Lederer, Gail Patrick, Ann Rutherford, Linda Stirling. Directed by William Thiele. 79 mins. 1946. 6:25 & 9:45

Arya Ponto • Contributor

As former Editor of JPP, Arya likes to entertain peeps with his thoughts on pop culture, when he's not busy watching Battle Royale for the 200th time. He lives in Brooklyn with a comic book collection that's always the most daunting thing to move with, and writes for Artboiled.com.


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