Tough guys rule at "I Wake Up Dreaming 2013" noir film fest
Some of "Screaming"'s bills are themed by director or performer. May 19 brings a double dose of 1950s Joan Crawford, with her eerie resemblance at the time to Mrs. Potatohead. Female on the Beach (1955) is a fun thriller in which she's a widow seduced and possibly menaced by Jeff Chandler, one of the era's several leading blond pin-up boys. But Robert Aldrich's 1956 Autumn Leaves is something else: a May-December romance that turns into a serious treatment of mental illness, as much-younger suitor Robertson turns out to be unstable in ways less conventionally scary than credibly pathetic. Unusually vulnerable — her nervously babbling curtain speech might be the finest acting she ever did — Crawford knew this was one of her best movies, and later paid due credit to Robertson's "stupendous" performance.
Another evening pays tribute to the fascinatingly odd oeuvre of longtime industry fringe-dweller Arch Obeler, who famously made the first 3D feature (1952's Bwana Devil), but is found in more intriguing form here with two earlier black and white cheapies. Bewitched (1945) is an offbeat thriller from the POV of a pretty schizophrenic (Phyllis Thaxter), though that term is never used. Its primitive psychoanalysis is bettered by the post-apocalyptic psychodrama of 1951's Five, whose titular quartet — including a pregnant woman, a kind African American war veteran, and a fascistic white supremacist — mysteriously survive nuclear disaster but may not survive each other's personalities. Politically progressive if sometimes dramaturgically simple, it's a fascinating obscurity.
Other highlights include quintessential cult object The Monster and The Girl (1941), in which a giant gorilla takes out various corrupt underworld types whilst "Skipper the Terrier" follows its trail; ultra-low-budget 1957 Mickey Spillane adaptation My Gun is Quick, with Robert Bray as a marginally less cretinous Mike Hammer than usual; the very cool 1961 British drama All Night Long, which transposes Othello into a jazzbo context (complete with Brubeck and Mingus); and last but possibly least, a double bill devoted to short-lived blonde bombshell Beverly Michaels. A hammer-voiced minor challenge to Monroe, Mansfield, and Van Doren, she was invariably cast as destructive man bait. But like Victor Mature, her performances in Pickup (1951) and Wicked Woman (1953) suggest a more alert, modern intelligence than she was given credit for.
I WAKE UP DREAMING 2013
May 10-23, $10
3117 16th St, SF