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Streets of No Return: The Dark Cinema of David Goodis

Thursday, August 7, 2008
6:30 p.m. Nightfall
Jacques Tourneur (U.S., 1957)

Introduced by Eddie Muller

Eddie Muller is director of the Noir City film festival, a novelist, and a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Art Rayburn (Aldo Ray) is an ordinary guy, a commercial artist from Chicago on a hunting trip in the wilds of Wyoming. When he encounters bank robbers fleeing after a big-time heist, Rayburn is mistakenly implicated in the crime and takes it on the lam. Landing in L.A., he changes his name to James Vanning and melts into the crowd. Working with a no-nonsense script by Stirling Silliphant, Tourneur (Out of the Past) guides us through this paranoid portrait using flashbacks to unravel the repressed past. Vanning, played with rough-edged warmth by Ray, is like a typical fifties fella seeking refuge in big-city anonymity. When he returns to the stark expanse of Wyoming with his skirt (a surprisingly seductive Anne Bancroft) in tow, Vanning discovers the wintry landscape is rife with danger. What haunted Vanning in Goodis’s novel was “regressive amnesia”; in Tourneur’s taut thriller, it’s the menace of unbridled (human) nature.

—Steve Seid

• Written by Stirling Silliphant, based on the novel by David Goodis. Photographed by Burnett Guffey. With Aldo Ray, Anne Bancroft, Brian Keith, Jocelyn Brando. (78 mins, B&W, 35mm, From Sony Pictures)