Just the facts, ma’am.
Despite the clear warning on this poster, there was a very large family in the theater last night, with kids ranging from toddler to pre-teen. As much as I dislike kids, I have to say they didn’t bother me nearly as much as the adults at this screening. But I’ll get to that in a minute.
First, the DRAGNET movie.
A synopsis is hardly needed here. Criminals do crimes. Sgt. Joe Friday does cop stuff. What can I say? It’s DRAGNET.
I will say this. The brutal shotgun murder that opens this movie is fantastic, and surprising gory for the time. As is deadpan Friday’s response to the report. When his partner informs him that the first two shots tore the victim in half, he responds with “The second two turned him into a crowd.”
There’s tons of crackerjack dialog, cool vintage Los Angeles locations and even some surprising emotional moments, particularly in the scene where they question the victim’s traumatized alcoholic widow. I also liked the scenes with the reluctant witness in the Natural History museum. And, of course, there’s our guest of honor Ann Robinson as the beautiful undercover police woman. But over all, it feels heavily padded and gets mired in minute procedural detail to the detriment of the overall story, which is based on a true story and not all that interesting to start with.
Is it a great movie? Not really. Is it even Noir. Not by a long shot. But if police procedurals are your jam, or if you love Jack Webb and the TV show DRAGNET, you should definitely check this out.
But let’s get back to the aforementioned annoying adults in the audience.
It has been an ongoing mystery to me as to why large numbers of people laugh at the movies that get shown at Noir City. And I’m not just talking occasional nervous titters over especially un-PC moments, I’m talking full-throated belly laughs at almost every single line. It gets so bad sometimes, you’d think we were watching a Marx Brothers picture. Last night, the laughter was particularly uproarious and non-stop. To be fair, there were a few intentionally funny lines, in a deadpan, gallows-humor kind of way, Ann Robinson herself even mentioned in her midshow interview that she was surprised more people didn’t laugh at her line about needed to get her hair “marcelled.” So clearly, at least in the case of this particular film, there was some expectation of humor on the part of the filmmakers. But I still felt the audience response last night was far above and beyond.
I originally thought that the laughter was mostly coming from young people who just didn’t know how to react to old movies as anything other than “camp.” But we had a full class of high school students the other night and they watched like silent, earnest little churchmice. Meanwhile, the worst offenders from last night were a pair of guys maybe 10 years older than me who were yukking it up like howler monkeys the whole time. So, fuck, I got nothing. I just wish I could quietly enjoy these films without the laugh track.
Next up, LOOPHOLE.
So, this one really put me in the Wayback Machine. All the way back to motherfucking Live Journal. Which is where you can read my previous write up of this flick.
I guess it was inevitable, since I’ve been covering the festival for more than a decade now, that I’d start hitting multiple movies I’d not only already seen, but already written up.
However, I will reiterate that this film is wonderful and worth hunting down. Gratuitous happy ending notwithstanding, it’s got everything DRAGNET was missing in terms of classic Film Noir tropes. Desperate everyman on the run from a frame up? Check. Hot blonde femme fatale? Check. Charles McGraw at his flintiest? Check. Mistress Christa says check it out.
Tonight’s double bill is the show I’ve been the most excited for. Two flicks I’ve never seen, THE TURNING POINT and THE SCARLET HOUR.