There are two Fridays the 13th this Semester – one in February (which just passed) and one in March. On Fridays I teach History of Film Noir, but on one of those Fridays I really felt I had to show a genre-blender – a Horror-Noir. I chose the 13th of March, since Valentine’s Day directly followed Feb. 13th, and the signals were too confusing. Kiss ‘em and kill ‘em… (Come to think of it, that sounds just like a Noir, but still…)
There were the usual suspects: CAT PEOPLE and THE SEVENTH VICTIM from RKO’s Val Lewton 1940s ‘B’ unit. Femme fatales, Nicholas Musuraca’s Expressionist cinematography, poison sex, Freudian shenanigans, etc., all supervised and stylized by Lewton’s hands-on-producer role.
There were the Laird Cregar/John Brahm serial killer morsels – THE LODGER and HANGOVER SQUARE. Not amused by his nick-name of ‘Lard’ Cregar, the massive actor went on a starvation diet for HANGOVER SQUARE, losing a hundred pounds on a self-enforced regimen, and died of a heart attack shortly before its release. He was only 31 years old.
Mary Lee has a poster for THE NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES in her sixth floor SVA web office, and that’s a lovely blend of noir and the supernatural. But it isn’t out on DVD yet.
I was leaning toward ANGEL HEART, a voodoo-noir set mainly in New Orleans, but first I decided to ask around.
I called Bill Lustig in LA. Bill has been a guest in my class several times (and he never fails to bawl out the students if they aren’t reading ‘Variety’). In the 70s he directed some classic horror exploiters such as MANIAC, MANIAC COP, and best of all – MANIAC COP 2. And he’s a true film lover.
“Hi Roy. I’m in the gym. Ya gotta make it quick.”
“Okay. My noir class this week falls on Friday the 13th; I wanna show a Horror-Noir. What’s a good Horror-Noir.”
Not a bad idea. But too strong for my Noir class. You see, they come with certain expectations. Like when I showed Peter Jackson’s over-the-top comedic gore-fest DEAD ALIVE last year on Halloween. I had two classes that day. My International Cinema class was at noon, and they adored it. They laughed, they shrieked, they groaned, they applauded. They got it. It was one of the best class reactions I’d had in my 36 years at SVA.
So it was a forgone certainty as I strode into my afternoon History of Comedy class that it would go over even better with this batch. Wasn’t I shocked and surprised then, that out of 50+ students, over thirty walked out! They’d signed up for comedy, and comedy it was. But they hadn’t signed up for the gore. By the time the lights came up I felt that the remaining dozen stalwart students deserved some kind of reward…
My next call was to Oren Shai. Oren graduated SVA after winning Best Director at the Dusty’s, and thanking Russ Meyer as his inspiration! His first feature film, THE FRONTIER, is about to screen at the SXSW Film Festival, and it’s a noir. Oren’s pick: “I’d have to say NIGHT OF THE HUNTER. I don’t know if I ever saw a film that scared me that much.”
Unfortunately NIGHT OF THE HUNTER was already screened this Semester in Mary Lee’s Film & Literature class. Terrific choice, however.
Next: David Guglielmo, who was my thesis student at SVA a few years back, and got to break a bottle over my head in a scene in his thesis film, DAMN YOUR EYES – a fine thank-you for all the hard work I put in as his advisor! David is halfway through filming his first feature, also a Film Noir, called NO WAY TO LIVE, and I’m flying out to the coast over the break to do a cameo in it (no bottles, please…). David’s choices: LOST HIGHWAY, FREAKS, THE UNKNOWN, KILL LIST (2011), SHUTTER ISLAND, DIABOLIQUE, SEVEN. “And wouldn’t you consider all the Giallos to be horror noir?”
As it stands now, I’m slowly circling the candidates, deliberating which one to choose. But I’m also opening it up to suggestions: which Horror-Noir do you think I should show on Friday, March 13th? Write in with your ideas. If I choose one of your suggestions, you’ll receive a handsome gift of a DVD (a noir, of course).