This year’s Noir City film festival started off with a bang. Czar of Noir Eddie Muller likes to joke that casual Film Noir fans are all about big name stars like Bogey or Robert Mitchum, but the real hardcore nuts like us mark out for guys like Dan Duryea. Pair him with the sultry, whiskey-voiced Lizabeth Scott and I’m in Noir heaven.
First up, TOO LATE FOR TEARS.
Violently misogynistic poster notwithstanding, this is Lizabeth Scott’s movie from start to finish. She plays the ultimate femme fatale, motivated by greed and willing to do whatever it takes to get what she needs. The way she goes from ice cold killer to smoldering sex kitten and back again with the flick of an internal switch is amazing to watch. Young kids who think any pretty woman with a gun is automatically a femme fatale need someone to sit them down in front of this film so Lizabeth can show them how it’s done.
The film starts off with Lizabeth Scott’s character Jane and her hubby driving to a dinner party in the hills when a bag of cash is thrown into their car by mistake. As with any mysterious bag of money in Noir City, it immediately starts tearing the people who found it apart. Cue Dan Duryea, the bag’s rightful owner.
He’s a hot-tempered, bow tie sporting blackmailer who slaps Jane around but quickly learns who really has the upper hand in their relationship. It isn’t long before she’s got him covering up her ruthless crimes and helping her plan more. Needless to say, this isn’t going to work out so well for him. She’s a man-eating tiger and he knows it, but he just can’t leave her alone. He is, in classic Noir fashion, doomed by his own reckless desire.
There’s also a suspicious sister-in-law and the husband’s mysterious old army buddy who clearly isn’t what he seems, but like I said, this is Lizabeth’s movie. She owns every frame. She is mesmerizing, gorgeous and deadly with occasional moments of raw vulnerability. She can play kittenish to lure men in, but there is an overt, aggressive sexuality to her character that I adore. This film is a master class in what a real, old-school femme fatale should be.
All in all it’s a well-crafted plot that hits all my personal sweet spots. Of course it’s over-the-top at times and features the gratuitous last minute studio-mandated crime-doesn’t-pay punishment, but I don’t care. I just mentally edit out the final come-uppance and give Jane a LAST SEDUCTION style happy ending in my head.
If you haven’t seen this film, you need to seek it out. It’s a must see in my book.
Next up, LARCENY.
A couple of slick con artists try to run a number on a treacle-sweet war widow while competing for the carnal affections of a high maintenance, trouble-making bad girl. Needless to say, complications ensue.
Our boy Duryea plays the awesomely named Silky Randall, another hot-headed criminal who lets his dick drive. Opposite him is John Payne as a smooth talking ladies man who turns out to be a grifter with heart of gold.
A smart, snappy script by Bill Bowers and Noir City favorite Shelly Winters doing what she does best more than make up for Joan Caulfield’s unforgivably awful eyebrows. Not to mention we also get the smoking hot Dorothy Hart in cat’s eye glasses. Meow!
This double feature was a great kick off for the 16th (!!!) annual Noir City film festival and has whet my appetite for what looks to be a superb line up. And lucky you, Faustketeers, you get to vicariously enjoy the whole thing via my running ringside commentary right here on this blog.
Tonight, BORN TO BE BAD and IVY.
Of course, I do have to mention that opening night was more than a little bittersweet because the late Pop Faust couldn’t be there with me this year. Especially since I know he would have loved Duryea’s signature bow tie in TOO LATE FOR TEARS. But he was there in spirit, with my friend and fellow Noir City regular Joe Zilch carrying on the tradition by sporting one of my father’s orphaned bow ties.