Sinister San Francisco
The great movie noirs make their mysterious, threatening urban settings as vital to the action as the lurid stories and shady characters they present. San Francisco has been a major player; think of Delmer Daves’s Dark Passage and Jacques Tourneur’s Out of the Past (both 1947), Orson Welles’s The Lady from Shanghai (1948), Jules Dassin’s Thieves Highway (1949), Robert Wise’s Born to Be Bad (1950) and The House on Telegraph Hill (1951), Don Siegel’s The Lineup (1958), Blake Edwards’ Experiment in Terror (1962, a sold-out Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray title) and David Fincher’s Zodiac (2007) as a few prime examples among many shot there which transformed the normally inviting City by the Bay into a metropolis of menace. One recent recovery, in danger of being lost to the ravages of blinkered copyright ownership and destruction of original film elements, has been reinstated to the ranks of top-tier Frisco noir, thanks to a detective squad consisting of the Film Noir Foundation, the UCLA Film & Television Archive, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and the British Film Institute. Woman on the Run (1950), tautly directed by Norman Foster (Journey into Fear, Kiss the Blood Off My Hands) and beautifully shot on location in lustrous black-and-white by two-time Academy Award® winner Hal Mohr, stars the terrific Ann Sheridan in the title role as a wife determined to find her missing husband (Ross Elliott), who has gone into hiding after witnessing a murder tied to a powerful crime kingpin. There’s no love lost between the spouses, yet she defiantly won’t become a passive pawn in his detection amid the conflicting schemes of the police (led by Robert Keith) and the killer (a deceptive reporter played craftily by noir favorite Dennis O’Keefe) seeking her husband’s whereabouts. Along steep city byways and winding through the scenic attractions of Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Embarcadero, Union Square and North Beach, she charts her own dangerous course in seeking answers without betraying her mate, all the while unexpectedly putting her own life on the line. Danger stalked this movie, the only surviving American print of which perished in a 2008 fire, but an extensive worldwide search for scattered original print and negative materials resulted in a nearly immaculate restoration that rescued this neglected gem from an unworthy oblivion. For a marvelous time-capsule view of mid-century San Francisco and a gripping exemplar of noir practitioners in peak form, run with Flicker Alley’s lavishly outfitted Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack of Woman on the Run, available here: http://www.twilighttimemovies.com/woman-on-the-run-blu-ray-dvd-combo/.