what the... wednesdays
Obviously, both culture and filmmaking have come a long way since the Golden Age of Hollywood. Sometimes a movie, specific scene, or even an actor stands out vividly to me, most likely due, either socially, culturally or technically, to the period in which the film or actor comes from. Good, bad, shocking, or downright crazy, I found myself saying—in my head or out loud—what the what?!? to these flicks.
November 2, 2022
The 42nd annual Pordenone Silent Film Festival wrapped last month. I was fortunate to catch most of the features screened virtually. As usual, the event introduced me to a slate of rarely seen international silent fare, which is always a joy to behold. Below is a recap of the features I saw and the one German short I am now obsessed with.
September 16, 2020
Following suit with all other major festivals the past six months, Cinecon 2020 was all virtual this year. While I missed watching classic movies for hours on end from the balcony of the Egyptian Theater, I am thankful the Cinecon team was still able to bring fans together in the spirit of rare and underappreciated cinema.
A Conversation with Viviana Garcia Besne on Santo vs. the Evil Brain, the Permanencia Voluntaria Archive and More
April 10, 2019
One of the two movies playing for TCMFF’s late-night crowd this year is 1961’s Santo contra el cerebro del mal (Santo vs. the Evil Brain). TCM has brought in two special guests for this screening, film archivists/restorationists Viviana Garcia Besne and Peter Conheim, both of whom worked to restore the movie. I had the opportunity to ask Besne some questions, not only about this film and the Santo series, but also about the archive she founded, Permanencia Voluntaria.
February 27, 2019
And just like that, UCLA Film and Television Archive’s Festival of Preservation is over. Attendees were treated to a marathon of 23 blocks of programming across a three-day span, and while my body generally rebels against epic day-long film events like this, I was pleased to attend nine screenings. Click below to read my highlights from the fest.
November 7, 2018
Welcome to part 2 of my Noir City Hollywood 20 recap!
Two weeks ago I covered the movies I thought were fine and dandy. Now comes the ultra-fun part: This week I’m re-visiting the inexplicable/weird/wacky selections. And they didn’t disappoint.
Latin American Cinema in Los Angeles at the UCLA Film and Television Archive: La otra and El vampiro
January 24, 2018
Welcome to part 2 of my recap from UCLA Film and Television Archive's series Recuerdos de un cine en español: Latin American Cinema in Los Angeles, 1930-1960. Last week, in addition to marveling at the fact that downtown Los Angeles was the center of a booming Spanish-language cinema culture from the 1930s-1950s, I explored two daring titles from the series, both from 1934: La mujer del puerto (Mexico) and Nada más que una mujer (US). This week I continue the dark streak with two suspenseful Mexican productions, La otra (1946) and El vampiro (1957).
November 22, 2017
Welcome to part 2 of my UCLA Festival of Preservation 2017 review! Last week, I covered the good. This week, I'll tackle the ugly, which ranges from strange to disappointing to WTF and beyond. Regrettably, this edition failed to uncover a gem as outlandish as 2015 entry Ouanga (1933/35/36/41?), but I will say, some of these movies come close to rivaling Ouanga's ludicrous tale.
Before we begin, catch up with part 1 of my recap. Then brace yourselves for something sort of different...
November 23, 2016
From January-March 2016, the UCLA Film and Television Archive hosted "Out of the Ether: Radio Mysteries and Thrillers on Screen." Classic thrillers are a rather beloved genre of mine, but the radio mysteries part - that really intrigued me. As explained on UCLA's site: "Lesser known is the movement of radio programs to film," a statement I certainly agree with.
March 9, 2016
Lately, I've found myself looking back at UCLA Film and Television Archive's 2015 Festival of Preservation, which took place one year ago this month. I must say, I made pretty good use of my pass last year, spending about 9 or 10 evenings at the Billy Wilder Theater watching over 15 features and TV movies on the big screen.
By far one of the rarest and most astounding selections programmed was 1960's ultra indie Private Property, the directional debut of Leslie Stevens (later of The Outer Limits fame), which, astonishingly for its age, was thought lost until recently.
January 13, 2016
Disclosure: Peggy Cummins has mesmerized me since I first watched her in Gun Crazy (1950) years ago. Her role in that film is so entrenched in my mind that it's almost difficult to accept her in a comedy or any role where she doesn't portray a hot-blooded femme fatale.
This picture, 1957's Hell Drivers, comes kind of close to Gun Crazy. Sub trucks for guns and keep the violence and you've got a similarity. A British production from blacklisted writer/director Cy Endfield, Hell Drivers can be pretty accurately summed up by the poster to the left. Men, trucks, recklessness, and ferocity.
December 2, 2015
So questions Kay Johnson as the film's title character.
Answer: I do, I do!
And so did a large number of people in Los Angeles, judging by the attendance at a screening at the Egyptian Theater.
October 28, 2015
In honor of Halloween this weekend, here's a real horror story: a movie most people probably haven't heard of, Ouanga, aka The Love Wanga, aka one of the craziest and most tragic productions in cinema history.
The film screened as part of UCLA Film and Television Archive's 2015 Festival of Preservation earlier this year. A few months ago, I shared one of my favorites from the same festival, 1932's Bachelor's Affairs, a luminous, rarely screened pre-Code comedy. Well, Ouanga, an equally rare and incredibly bizarre indie horror flick, falls on the opposite end of the spectrum.
September 23, 2015
Two years ago this month, the World 3-D Film Expo took place over 10 days at the Egyptian Theater. I volunteer at the Egyptian regularly, and I love film festivals, so helping out with this one was a no-brainer.
Luckily, my schedule allowed me to catch several screenings, including I, The Jury (1953) and Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). While I got a kick out of all the movies I saw - some admittedly more for their campiness - by far the zaniest was Robot Monster (1953). That's a title I simply can't take seriously, which naturally compelled me to watch. (It also turns out it's a movie you can't take seriously either. One peek at the poster confirms this.)
Born to Be Bad in More Ways Than One: The Film and Its Battle with the Production Code Administration
August 26, 2015
The 16th edition of Noir City: Hollywood in 2014 featured a tribute to Joan Fontaine, who has long been one of my favorites. Included in the lineup was Fontaine's semi-film noir soap Born to Be Bad (1950), which celebrates its 65th anniversary in 2015. As a special treat, the event also marked the big screen debut (I believe) of the film's 'alternate' ending, which was shown after the movie.
"A Sci-Fi Experience That Will Blow Your Mind!" (If You Can Figure It Out): Arch Oboler's Restored 3D Classic The Bubble
June 10, 2015
This past January, the Aero Theatre hosted the West Coast re-premiere of Arch Oboler's 1966 3D Sci-Fi classic The Bubble. This Thursday, June 11, the Aero will be hosting a free screening of the film at 9:30pm as part of the American Cinematheque's "The Golden Age of 3D" series. For more information on the screening and the series, please visit their website.
June 3, 2015
Welcome to part 2 of Noir Hollywood 17's Proto Noir wrap-up! The first two films that screened, The Ninth Guest (1934) and Let Us Live (1939), were posted last week here. Below are the two movies that rounded out the quadruplet: pre-codes Heat Lightning (1934) and Safe in Hell (1931).
And yes, they both live up to their scorching titles.
May 27, 2015
"Proto Noir" was the title of the closing evening program of Noir City Hollywood 17. I only know that because I tore hundreds of tickets labeled as such that day as a volunteer at the American Cinematheque.
An appropriately epic sendoff for the festival, the closing night featured not one, not two, not three, but FOUR films screened in a row. As did several of the selections that year, while some of these movies bordered on film noir, others were simply darker suspense tales or dramas leaning heavily on the melodramatic side.
January 7, 2015
“As you all probably know, I was a Communist," Norma Barzman stated matter-of-factly. Silence. "Well, I thought you all knew!"
Not me. I actually knew nothing of Norma Barzman before she took the stage at the UCLA Film and Television Archive in September 2014, but that's not the case anymore.
The writer was in attendance to discuss The Locket, the 1946 movie she penned the story for with the help of her husband, screenwriter Ben Barzman.
"Hidden Love! Hidden Hate! Hidden Fear!" and an Acid Bath in Obsession, Formerly Known as The Hidden Room
November 12, 2014
The brief one line synopsis of 1949's Obsession (aka The Hidden Room) on TCM.com is as follows: A jealous husband plots to dispose of his wife's lover in an acid bath.
If a logline ever prompted a must-see movie in my mind, this was it. Acid bath? How deliciously twisted! (Warning: Spoilers abound)
September 10, 2014
Choosing to watch The Unholy Night (1929) had 100% to do with the title and nothing else.
I did not notice that Lionel Barrymore directed it. I did not know it was an early horror/suspense talkie with sci-fi and comedy twists. Nor did I know Boris Karloff would crash the party. Of course, given these facts, I would've totally watched the movie regardless, because it sounded like a rollicking good time.
August 20, 2014
I'm a sucker for crazy movie storylines and/or titles, and once again, the UCLA Film and Television Archive delivered during their "Dark City, Open Country: The Films of Anthony Mann" retrospective. The director's film noir-ish drama, 1946's Strange Impersonation, played on February 21, 2014 and promised a "wacky and frenzied plot," according to UCLA's synopsis. "Wacky and frenzied" may be a bit of an understatement.
"Oh dear, is this another war picture?" In a Way, Yes: Hidden Gem On Approval at the TCM Classic Film Festival
May 28, 2014
When I read the following phrase in On Approval's description on the TCM Classic Film Festival website: "the escapades of two couples sharing a platonic trial marriage to see if they’re suited to each other," and I saw the year (1944), I was sold. On Approval - whatever that was - instantly earned must-see status.
May 14, 2014
The Strangers in the Night screening at the Billy Wilder Theater I attended on February 5 of this year took me by surprise - I found out the film was playing hours before as part of UCLA Film and Television Archive's Dark City, Open Country: The Films of Anthony Mann retrospective.UCLA's summary of the film, featuring the words "inky noir style" and "deadly psychological nightmare," was on point, and with a brisk 56 minute runtime, Strangers in the Night did not let down.
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I See a Dark Theater is a website dedicated to classic movie-going—and loving—in the City of Angels. Whether it's coverage on screenings, special presentations, or Q&As around Los Angeles that you're looking for, or commentary on the wonderful and sometimes wacky world of classic cinema, you've come to the right place for a variety of pieces written with zeal, awe, and (occasionally) wit. Enjoy.