Saturday, November 01, 2014

San Francisco in the Movies: More Wonderful Black and Whites

These from a 1952 noir flick, The Sniper, directed by Edward Dmytryk.  Not very good, except for  ex-con Eddie Miller, played sensitively by Arthur Fran\z, drawing rare sympathy (he did from me).  He's described as a psycho who is unable to connect with brunettes and, in retaliation, believes he must kill them all.  Besides Franz's superb acting, the evocative San Francisco settings make it a little worth watching.

There is something about San Francisco's hilly climbs and its dark asymmetrical streets that makes it, for my eyes, the ideal setting for film noir.   Drop me into a movie made in this town, and I will almost immediately know where I am.

Not sure why Los Angeles noir writers claim the City of Angels  to be THE perfect noir set.  Yes, by night, it has been deviously photographed to appear so glamorously sinister.  But for shadowy hills,  twisted streets, fog and mist, waterfront  ambiance and creepy old Victorian apartment houses, I don't think you can top San Francisco. 

I used to walk up those steps of Telegraph Hill, below, often.  I've told you I stopped walking across the city every week because I was nearly run over twice.   Amazing that, after all these years, I have finally considered that, unlike other great U.S. cities, New York and New Orleans, and Chicago,  San Francisco's hills truly make it unique.  Perhaps, that is the greatest tourist draw.  

Some of the hills are so steep, it feels like mountain climbing.

In my last San Francisco posting, I was telling you how the city was once a real town, with working class families, produce and industry, and shipping.  So much more gritty than now, which made it infinitely more interesting a place to walk.

The cable cars preserve the city's more authentic charm, except that they, too, so swamped with long lines of takers, come off looking like another Disneyland attraction.  Indeed, the city has become a theme park of itself.  And, yes, I should stop writing that same rant over and over.

They -- locals and movie makers -- ironically favor the Bay Bridge as background over world famous Golden Gate Bridge.

Really, the story struck me as rather flat and one dimensional. They make the guy out to be a dangerous sex criminal, but we never once seem him intimate with a single woman he pines for.  I wonder if they had massage parlors back then?

Going home to no where, in a hotel room. It's a city of loners, more than ever. Even the hotel rooms give off a distinctive worn down used-up end-of-the line San Francisco feel.  In the end, our serial killer leaves clues, wanting to be caught, wanting to be apprehended and protected from himself.

And in the end, Franz got me in some abstract amoral way.  I've never quite felt so sorry for a lethal predator.  

Off axis on dangerous land fill.  Experts warn that, despite all good measures taken to retrofit old buildings and hold newer ones accountable to  far stricter building codes, a big quake could reap catastrophic devastation on Noir City, North.  (L.A, you are South).


Kathy said...

I too believe you cannot top San Francisco. I grew up close to San Francisco in the "50's". What a wonderful, exciting city it was then. I so looked forward to going to the city from a little town nearby whenever possible....and especially at this time of year when there were so many wonderful Christmas scenes in the department store was like a fairy tale land.....and what kid doesn't love that! There is so much more I could say about what has happened to that wonderful, exciting city today, but I will just hold on to my most wonderful memories.

Showbiz David said...

Hi Kathy,

Yes, we have such rich memories. I'm now enjoying looking for movies set it the city of our birth.

In The Sniper, there is a scene at an amusement park that some may assume to be Playland-at-the-Beach. Not so, and how I wished it had been. The Laugh in the Dark ride, so unlike the real Playland version, is a dead give away.

Those scenes were filmed down in the L.A. area, probably Long Beach. How I wish there was a movie out there set in SF that gives more than a passing "pan" of the camera to the midway of our childhood!

Kathy said...

Please keep looking David!