The night has a thousand eyes - Page 2

Elliot Lavine's "I Wake Up Dreaming" series returns with more rare noir

"The Gamine" takes a long, strange trip through downtown Los Angeles in near-forgotten 1955 oddity Dementia.

Barely releasable at 61 minutes, the completed film then found that threadbare length was the least of its problems. Shown to a succession of censorial boards, it was repeatedly deemed too unhealthy for public viewing, prompting critiques like "indecent, inhuman, lacking in moral and spiritual values, could incite to crime" and "grist for the Communist mill."

Finally after over two years and 11 screenings of different edits for New York State's board, it was cleared with an "adults only" stamp. Double-billed with a documentary about Picasso in A Unique Program of Psychology and Art, advertised as "the first American Freudian film," it opened on one 1955 Manhattan screen to little notice. (However Parker's friend, the great, soon-to-be late director Preston Sturges did call it "a work of art," strangely noting "it stirred my blood, purged my libido.")

Two years later Parker's producer sold the movie — now cut to 56 minutes, with pasted-on purple narration spoken in spookhouse tones by then-unknown Ed McMahon — for rerelease as Daughter of Horror. Again it flopped, although in 1958 it would gain pop culture footnote status when a clip was used as what the onscreen audience is watching when they're attacked by amorphous sci-fi monster The Blob.

It was as Daughter that the movie started gaining a little admiration in recent years, getting a boost from Re/Search's first Incredibly Strange Films volume and finally a DVD release (with both versions) from Kino. Taken as good, bad, or just daft, it remains unique.

Other highlights in the Roxie's "Dreaming" program include Dementia's co-feature, Robert Siodmak's terrific 1944 noir mystery Phantom Lady; actor director Robert Montgomery's 1947 Mexican anti-holiday Ride the Pink Horse, a sort of hard-boiled cinematic Under the Volcano; and a number of exceedingly rare lesser-known titles. Certainly the campiest of them are contained on May 23's bill: 1956's The Violent Years, a girl-gang movie featuring the inimitable dialogue stylings of the aforementioned Mssr. Ed D. Wood, and Dance Hall Racket, an unbelievably amateurish 1953 cheapie whose stars are none other than pre-fame Lenny Bruce and his stripper wife Honey. Inspirational line: "Big deal! I kill a guy and that makes me a criminal?!" 


May 13–26

Roxie Theater

3117 16th St., SF

(415) 863-1087


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