Presented by the Music Box and the Film Noir Foundation, this week-long festival features 35-millimeter prints of film noir classics and rarities, showing as double features at the Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport, 773-871-6604. Noir scholars Alan K. Rode and Foster Hirsch will introduce films and lead discussions. Tickets are $10 per film or $12 for double features; festival passes, good for all films, are $50 at the theater box office or $40 in advance at brownpapertickets.com.
Cry Danger A superb, too-seldom-seen film noir from 1951. Director Robert Parrish junks the expressionist shadow play that usually goes with the genre, substituting a keen eye for gritty Los Angeles locations and a sharp handling of dialogue. Dick Powell is sent to prison on a trumped-up charge; finally released, he goes looking for the gang boss who set him up. With Rhonda Fleming and Richard Erdman. 79 min. —Dave Kehr
City That Never Sleeps Gig Young is a Chicago cop who gets mixed up with crooked lawyer Edward Arnold in this 1953 noir. John H. Auer directed; with Mala Powers, William Talman, and Chill Wills. 90 min.
Nightmare Alley This dark and determinedly sleazy 1947 film comes as quite a surprise from its director—Edmund Goulding, whose specialty through the 30s, in films like Grand Hotel and The Old Maid, was his inveterate tastefulness (although, come to think of it, the sleaze of Nightmare Alley has a suspicious gloss). Tyrone Power stars as a sideshow barker who successfully promotes himself as a mind reader, only to have his ruthlessness catch up with him in a finale that still seems shockingly draconian, particularly where a matinee idol like Power is concerned. A fascinating anomaly. With Colleen Gray and Joan Blondell; the screenplay, adapted from William Lindsay Gresham’s novel, is by Howard Hawks’s frequent collaborator Jules Furthman. 111 min. See Cliff Doerksen’s in-depth review. —Dave Kehr
Gun Crazy One of the most distinguished works of art to emerge from the B movie swamp, Joseph H. Lewis’s 1949 film is a proto-Bonnie and Clyde tale of an outlaw couple on the run. Lewis’s long takes and sure command of film noir staples (shadows, fog, rain-soaked streets) make this a stunning technical achievement, but it’s something more—a gangster film that explores the limits of the form with feeling and responsibility. With Peggy Cummins and John Dall. 86 min. —Dave Kehr
Drive a Crooked Road Auto mechanic Mickey Rooney wants to become a racing champ, but he falls for the wrong woman and gets mixed up with gangsters. Richard Quine directed this 1954 drama; with Kevin McCarthy. 82 min.
He Ran all the Way Shortly before he was driven into exile by the Hollywood blacklist, the talented and neglected John Berry made this 1951 film, the last of John Garfield, who died of a heart attack at 39 (many believe because of pressures related to his own blacklisting). It’s a fitting and powerful testament to the actor’s poignancy and power as a working-class punk. Here he plays a hoodlum fleeing a bungled robbery, falling for a young woman (Shelley Winters), and desperately holding her family hostage while oscillating wildly between mistrust and a desire to be part of this family circle. Enhanced by an effective script (adapted by Guy Endore and Hugh Butler from a Sam Ross novel), superb cinematography by James Wong Howe, and a keen sense of working-class manners, this is a highly affecting thriller that draws us relentlessly into its plangent moral tensions; with Wallace Ford, Selena Royale, Gladys George, and Norman Lloyd. 77 min. —Jonathan Rosenbaum
Drive a Crooked Road See Sunday.
Gun Crazy See Saturday.
Nightmare Alley See Saturday.
He Ran All the Way See Sunday.
Don’t Bother to Knock Unusually seedy and small-scale for a Fox picture of 1952, this black-and-white thriller is set over one evening exclusively inside a middle-class urban hotel and the adjoining bar. The bar’s singer (Anne Bancroft in her screen debut) breaks up with her sour pilot boyfriend (Richard Widmark), a hotel guest. He responds by flirting with a woman (Marilyn Monroe) in another room who’s babysitting a little girl (Donna Corcoran), but the babysitter turns out to be psychotic and potentially dangerous. Daniel Taradash’s script is contrived in spots, and the main virtue of Roy Ward Baker’s direction is its low-key plainness, yet Monroe—appearing here just before she became typecast as a gold-plated sex object—is frighteningly real as the confused babysitter, and the deglamorized setting is no less persuasive. With Jim Backus as the girl’s father and Elisha Cook Jr. as Monroe’s uncle, the hotel elevator operator. 76 min. —Jonathan Rosenbaum
Sudden Fear Gargoyle thriller from 1952, with Joan Crawford (in her high garish period) as an heiress who discovers her husband (Jack Palance, the perfect iconic match) is planning to kill her. The film was a product of RKO desperation and didn’t do especially well on first release; its anomalous success as a revival (in 1987, in 35-millimeter restoration) seemed largely a matter of fidelity to archetype (as a clear-lined suspenser) and kitschy iconographic tastes, though probably Charles Lang’s glossily noirish cinematography had something to do with it, too. With Gloria Grahame, Bruce Bennett, and Mike Connors; David Miller directed. 110 min. —Pat Graham
Cry of the City Atmosphere is everything in this 1948 remake of Manhattan Melodrama, with Victor Mature and Richard Conte replacing William Powell and Clark Gable as the two slum pals who grow up on opposite sides of the law. Director Robert Siodmak was in many ways the reference point for film noir in the 40s; his films may lack a lasting impact, but his style was one of the most striking and effective in the history of movies. 95 min. —Don Druker
Fly by Night Richard Carlson stars as a doctor who, framed for the murder of a scientist, goes after the Nazi spy ring that’s really responsible. Robert Siodmak directed this 1942 thriller. 74 min.