In spite of my promise to cut out the distractions and get back to work, I still managed to fuck off to the movies last night. I had a fantastic time last year doing the entire Film Noir Festival, but sadly, this year I just can’t spare the hours away from my desk. So I’m picking and choosing. One of my picks from this year’s crop was last nights rare proto-noir double bill of STRANGER ON THE THIRD FLOOR and THE FACE BEHIND THE MASK.

STRANGER has Lorre slinking around in the shadows with his EEEEEEEEEEE-vileness turned up to eleven. Even his hands are evil in this movie. In addition to the oh-so-evil Lorre and his villainous white scarf, this movie also features an over-the-top expressionistic dream sequence and a nice little foot fetish scene where the hero invites his girl up to his apartment and then asks her to take her shoes and stockings off so that he can “warm up” her feet. Hardly a brilliant film but still lots of fun, especially on the big screen.

MASK features a much more sympathetic Lorre as a hopeful immigrant who is forced into a life of crime after a hotel fire leaves him hideously disfigured and unable to find work. This film seems to have a strong homosexual subtext between Lorre and the man who saves him from suicide, the unfortunately named “Dinky.” There’s a love interest for Lorre, a pretty and clueless blind girl, but the real heart of the story is in the bond between the two men. About halfway through the story, Lorre gets a creepy rubber mask to cover his burned face and I have to say I was disappointed that the mask stayed on for the rest of the film. I guess I was expecting some kind of Phantom of the Opera moment where it would be torn off at some crucial climax in the plot. Still as silly as it can be at times, this is a weirdly sad and memorable movie.

The other thing that made the night worth the lost wordcount, (besides a repeat viewing of Muller’s short film and the Q and A with Marsha Hunt) was getting turned on to what has instantly become one of my new favorite blogs Sunset Gun by noir enthusiast and girl-after-my-own-black-heart Kim Morgan. Plus I got to reconnect with several old friends, including Kevin Burton Smith with whom I really need to sit down and talk Helen Nielsen, and Terrill Lee Lankford (who I’m still in fan-girl awe of every time I see him.)

So now, back to work until the 24th. Can’t miss NIGHT AND THE CITY on the big screen!

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Comment by ed goldberg on April 14, 2008 at 11:10am
I still think that "M" is Lorre's masterpiece.
Say hello to Kim. We are friends from her Portland days.

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