NOIR CITY: The Guilty

Last night was the big closing party for the 17th annual LA Film Noir Festival. As usual, it was a blast, with everybody dressed to kill and all sorts of noir-related activities including drinking, gambling and burlesque. The dapper Dean Mora and his Swingtet provided the tunes and my favorite cosmetic company Besame provided the blood red lipstick that would be discovered on collars the following morning.

The movie that night was a newly restored print of THE GUILTY.


Host Eddie Muller introduced this one by saying that the more casual fans were going to wonder why in the hell they bothered to restore this film. It’s a fast and dirty adaptation of yet another Cornell Woolrich story and features a cynical veteran and his shell-shocked buddy who get mixed up in a murder when one of the twin sisters they’re tag-team dating turns up dead. It was made for a nickel with a couple of cheap sets and a gang of second rate actors, including Don Castle (the poor man’s Clark Gable) and former Nancy Drew star Bonita Granville, whose Femme Fatale stilettos are still a little too big for her. There’s even a ham-handed first person narration that reminded me of The Creeping Terror.

Now remember yesterday’s post, in which I talk about the unapologetic subjectivity of these write ups? Well you’re in for more of the same here, because I actually liked this one.

Is it a good movie? Hell no. It’s been ages since I read the original story, but I remember it being much simpler and more straight forward. The more convoluted plot twists and the thing with the twins and creepy male friend who lives with mom waiting for her daughters to get old enough to sexually harass without legal consequences were only added to fluff the running time.

So why did I like it? Because this film is bleak as fuck and full of terrible people with no way out. It’s cheapness makes it seem even more grim and hopeless, and I agree with Eddie that this is a very accurate translation of Woolrich’s dark, paranoid worldview. Not so much the plot itself, but the flavor and feel of a world where the downward spiral is inevitable and the only temporary relief is at the bottom of a bottle or in a desperate clinch with someone as rotten as you are. And I loved the notion of the murdered girl being stuffed down the incinerator chute while she was still alive. Because, as reading Woolrich ought to teach you, trying to cover up your mistakes only makes things worse.

I can’t recommend this one to the newbies or casual fans, but the hardcore junkies out there will want to check it out.

I hardly took any photos at the party, because I was far too busy hobnobbing with my fellow Noirhounds and enjoying scintillating, highbrow discussion on a variety of topics such as cat barf and whether or not penises look funny when they’re off duty. Just got this one blurry snap of me with a gentleman I met over dinner.


However, there were tons of people with nice cameras flitting around so I’m sure pictures will eventually appear on the interwebs. I’ll share any that I happen to come across and hope you guys will do the same.

Tonight is the last night of the festival and it’s a doozy. A proto-noir quadruple (!) feature: THE NINTH GUEST,  LET US LIVE,  HEAT LIGHTNING and SAFE IN HELL.

This entry was posted in Blog. Bookmark the permalink.