THERE DOESN'T NEED to be a particular reason to smoosh a bunch of film noirs into a mini-fest, as the NW Film Center's done. Luckily, they found some good films—you can't really go wrong with any of them. The weekend opens with Orson Welles' The Stranger (screening Fri Nov 28). He considered it his worst movie, but it's still pretty great, with Welles as a Nazi posing as a teacher at a Connecticut prep school, and Edward G. Robinson hot on his tail. The clock-tower imagery is great, as is the dizzying espionage sequence that opens the movie, all shadows and half-faces.
Niagara (Sat Nov 29) is Technicolor noir, making the most of Marilyn Monroe's assets—and Jean Peters', too. Adultery, a murder plot, another clock tower, and a big-ass waterfall provide the backdrop for seamy, scintillating melodrama. Meanwhile, I Wake Up Screaming (Sat Nov 29) is pure Hollywood bubble bath, and it's fantastic: Gorgeous, doomed Carole Landis plays a gorgeous, doomed society girl, Betty Grable's her sister, and Victor Mature's the murder suspect-slash-love interest. The movie's a fast-talkin', wise-crackin' joy.
The opening scenes of Dark Passage (Sun Nov 30) are a marvel, too, shot from the perspective of Humphrey Bogart as he escapes from San Quentin. The rest of Dark Passage crumbles a little—Bogie, with the help of Lauren Bacall, has to figure out who framed him for murder—but the early sequences work wonderfully.
Meanwhile, the stakes of Jules Dassin's Thieves' Highway (Sun Nov 30) seem laughably low: A truck driver (Richard Conte) has to outwit a shady produce wholesaler (Lee J. Cobb). But this is a glimpse at a pre-Big Ag America, only a few short years removed from the Depression and Tom Joad. It's remarkable, and the only genuinely dark movie of the weekend, which otherwise is full of giddily suspenseful fun.