Wow! Two great unknown (to me) noirs at the 11th annual Film Noir Festival at the American Cinematheque (Egyptian Theater Branch). First up Alias Nick Beal a supernatural Noir Morality play that features a career best performance by Ray Milland and is cited by it’s director ( John Farrow, dad of Mia) as his best film! It is great, beautifully art directed and shot with a great Franz Waxman score, a terrific Audrey Totter turning in a wonderful portrayal as a washed up actress, now semi-hustler bar crawling, drink stealing lush, fighting other chicks in waterfront dives. Seduced by devilish Ray Milland in a part (to quote Eddie Mueller) he was born to play. This movie is rife with an ahead of it’s time savagery especially as directed at Audrey Totter! There is a scene of Milland coaching her for a romantic encounter with Good Guy Thomas Mitchell that has to be seen to be believed, it’s that good! Fog, waterfront dives, a Salvador Dali inspired apartment, all add up to an eerie ,unsettling atmosphere that works like gangbusters. Check this one out.
The second half of the double bill was the 75 minute
Fly By Night. This B movie has a 1930’s serial plot, involving spies, an insane asylum, a mad scientist, mistaken identity, a super weapon that the spies are after, etc. But it is so funny in such a natural unforced way, it rises way above the subject matter. Richard Carlson was never better and Nancy Kelly is super, a beautiful funny performance. Robert Siodmak’s talent is evident from the first frame to the last, this movie oozes a charm and sophistication that will seduce anyone and make them a fan. There is a car stunt, where the two on the run protagonists drive a car in reverse off a car carrier truck as it’s barreling down a highway ,it rocks! Also the finale involving the scientist and chief spy had the audience cheering. And kudos to the programmers for putting this fast paced funny film as the second half of a double bill,it made what could have been a long night extremely enjoyable.