A Preview of UCLA Film and Television Archive's 2017 Festival of Preservation
February 23, 2017
At a UCLA Film and Television Archive nitrate screening of Road House (1948) this past January, I noticed the Archive's programming guides in the lobby only read January-February 2017, when they usually cover three calendar months. Odd. But then programmer Paul Malcolm brought up that topic too, explaining that the oversight wasn't actually one at all: a special occasion in March, the Festival of Preservation, would warrant a guide devoted entirely to that celebration. As one of my favorite events in the city, I can't imagine how I could have forgotten that it was time for the Festival of Preservation again...perhaps it's because March 2015 definitely does not feel like two years ago!
Comparable to my classic film predicament back in 2015, this Spring I'll also have three events to attend either (partly) simultaneously or right in a row: the UCLA Festival of Preservation runs from March 3-27, Noir City Hollywood takes place March 24-April 2, and then TCMFF #8 rolls into town April 6-9.
This Trouble in Paradise (1932) image from UCLA Film and Television Archive's site mirrors my film festival love-triangle over the next month. Sort of.
I waited weeks for the Archive to unveil their full schedule. They teased the public with select films in early February and then divulged a few more a week or so later before sharing the entire lineup last Friday. As usual, I haven't heard of most of the titles showing this year, which is what I love most about this event. I Take This Woman, The Lost Moment, She-Devil Island. Nope, nope, nope. But those pictures are, in order: a pre-Code, a film noir and a low budget "exploitation" flick, so yes, yes, yes to all three. Sadly (in terms of the festival, only), my parents and brother will be visiting from New Jersey during the middle of March, and I'll be out of town with them for a long weekend, which means I'll have to sit out a few screenings.
With that said, below are my top picks/almost everything screening at the 2017 UCLA Festival of Preservation, including the shows I'm still tortured over having to miss. Hopefully, some of the restorations I won't be able to see this time around will end up at other festivals in the future, like Noir City or TCMFF.
March 3 - I Take This Woman (1931)
Pre-Code. Carole Lombard. Gary Cooper. I can't imagine how a movie can get any more enticing than that.
March 4 (afternoon) - Tramp Strategy (1911), Peggy, Behave! (1922), Good References (1920) and The Poor Nut (1927)
This afternoon's program is a must-see for me, if only from reading the titles back-to-back. I mean, it should be a riotous time just by the looks of it, right? While it's definitely going to be a long, silent day (with accompaniment by Cliff Retalick), I'm excited for pioneering female director Alice Guy (The Tramp Strategy), a long-thought lost picture (Good References) and an early Jean Arthur film (The Poor Nut).
Love the "I'll fix you!" quote at the top of this Good References poster.
March 4 (evening) - Los Tallos Amargos (1956) and She-Devil Island (1936)
Since this is going to be an EPIC movie-going day, I may skip out on Los Tallos Amargos, which I saw at Noir City Hollywood last year. However, She-Devil Island, a "romantic Mexican drama released in the U.S. as an exploitation picture," is one I definitely need to see. She-Devil Island doesn't sound as off-kilter as Ouanga (1933/1935/1936/1941?), arguably the most ludicrous film I've seen at UCLA's Festival of Preservation (back in 2015), but something about it must have warranted the 'exploitation' angle. I hope to find out what.
March 5 (afternoon) - Our Kind of World: Show #6 (1967) and Play of the Week: "Seven Times Monday" (1960)
Our Kind of World is a "low-budget experiment in local public service television" set in a Denver housing project, which sounds incredible intriguing. I'm guessing many of these types of programs have probably been lost and/or forgotten by most, which makes preservations like this so important. The same goes for Play of the Week, a videotaped televised play that starred Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee.
March 6 – The Vampire Bat (1933) and Almost Married (1932)
I’ve seen The Vampire Bat, so I may pass on that one (but since it's so short, I probably won't, let’s be real). Almost Married is a pre-Code featuring Ralph Bellamy and directed by famed production designer William Cameron Menzies. Recently, I've come across Almost Married mentioned in a Production Code Administration (PCA) file alongside films such as Dracula (1931) and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), which is interesting, because by the title alone, I wouldn't assume it's a thriller. But I guess the below imagery proved that postulation wrong, and now I really want to watch Almost Married!
The cover of this book looks very similar to the only poster I could find for Almost Married, which was very small. "Will he kiss, or kill?" Only one way to find out...
March 9 – Stranded (1965)
I’ve never heard of Juleen Compton, the director of Stranded, but I’m always down for a rarely seen, female-directed indie from the 1960s. The Festival of Preservation usually includes one or two little-known indies, and the one I saw in 2015, Private Property (1960), certainly stood out.
March 10 – Open Secret (1948)
Open Secret is described as a “lost” noir, yet another Festival of Preservation entry unknown to me. The film deals with anti-Semitism, which was being explored in several films around this time, like Gentleman's Agreement (1947) and Crossfire (1947). Definitely curious about this title.
March 11 (afternoon) – The Mad Game (1933) and 365 Nights in Hollywood (1934)
The Mad Game is a pre-Code starring Spencer Tracy as a gangster, which reminds me of another Tracy pre-Code I saw at 2015’s Festival of Preservation, 1934’s Now I’ll Tell. Like Now I'll Tell, The Mad Game is a Fox film, and Fox pre-Codes are generally hard to come by (except at the Festival of Preservation, that is). 365 Nights in Hollywood is another picture I want to see solely based on the title. Throw in a shady acting school and an art deco musical number, both of which are promised in the summary, and I’m sold.
March 12 - S.O.S. Tidal Wave (1939) and False Faces (1932)
S.O.S. Tidal Wave is a Republic picture, which means it’s a B-movie, which means I shouldn’t pass it up (see also: the advertisement below). False Faces is also a lower budget production, this time made during the pre-Code era, which is a no-brainer for me.
I have no idea what those objects in the center are. Robots, maybe?
March 18 (evening) – Mamba (1930) and Cheer Up and Smile (1930)
Mamba's re-discovery story is quite fascinating: a two-color Technicolor nitrate print was found in Australia; however, the movie was initially screened in the country accompanied by Vitaphone sound discs instead of sound on film, and select discs were missing. Luckily, a set of the discs had survived at UCLA, along with two reels of nitrate, to boot. The fact that the soundtrack was reunited with the picture - and so many decades after its initial release, too - is more than enough to warrant a viewing, but unfortunately I’ll be in Newport Beach with my family this weekend. As for Cheer Up and Smile, again, I always hate to miss pre-Codes. Especially ones featuring uncredited appearances by the future John Wayne.
Between the image in the middle and the party line below the title, I have no idea what Mamba would have delivered.
March 19 – God’s Step Children (1938) and She Devil (1934)
Oscar Micheaux was a pioneering African-American director, and it pains me to say I've never seen any of his work. An opportune time to fix that with God's Step Children, no? Sadly, I’ll still be out of town this evening. She Devil is another movie I’m devastated to miss. There’s no way I’d (willingly, if I were in LA) pass up a picture that’s also known as Drums O’Voodoo, come on! I really hope I’ll have the chance to catch both of these titles in the near future.
Just leaving these two posters here, because I'm still a bit sad I have to miss them.
March 20 – Infernal Machine (1933) and Sleepers East (1934)
I’ll still be in Newport Beach this Monday, but I’m 99.5% sure I’m going to have to take off a bit early to make this double feature. Infernal Machine is touted as a “pre-Code comedy thriller” starring Chester Morris and Genevieve Tobin, one of French director Marcel Varnel’s three Hollywood films. That’s more than enough reason for me. Sleepers East is a Fox pre-Code, and as I stated above, those are often rarely screened...except here. This version also hasn’t been publicly seen in over 80 years, so… that’s a definite yes.
March 22 – River of Grass (1994)
Other than seeing - and enjoying - Kelly Reichardt's latest film, Certain Women (2016), I don't know much about her work. But I know at least one big fan of hers, and the quote online: “A road movie without the road, a love story without love, and a crime story without the crime” sounds right up my alley.
I think I'm going to like this movie.
March 27 – The Lost Moment (1947)
What the heck is that ghostly looking figure on the poster?! Must find out. (This imagery also emits Strangers in the Night  vibes, for some reason. Maybe it's the spooky mansion.) Plus, the cast includes Robert Cummings, Susan Hayward and Agnes Moorehead - what a trio! However, this closing night screening is pitted against a Noir City Hollywood double feature. It will be a tough call, but either way it’s guaranteed I’ll get to watch a film noir (or two) this evening, which makes me very happy.
Is that a ghost beneath Susan Hayward?
I just bought my fest pass, and I'm very excited to kick off a whole movie-going month with the 2017 Festival of Preservation. Anyone else attending this year? If so, what are you looking forward to?