Orpheum screens 'Phantom Lady' Noir: Director Robert Siodmak's dark murder mystery is among the best of the genre


July 10, 1998|By Ann Hornaday | Ann Hornaday,SUN FILM CRITIC

"The Phantom Lady" (1944) isn't one of the better-known films by director Robert Siodmak, who is more famous for such film noir classics as "The Killers" and "Criss Cross," both of which starred Burt Lancaster. But "The Phantom Lady," which stars Franchot Tone, Ella Raines and Alan Curtis as three people involved in a murder mystery, shimmers with velvety black and white photography (by Woody Bredell), evocative sexual subtext and glamour that characterizes the best of the genre.

"The Phantom Lady" will play alongside "Gilda" for a terrific double-feature at the Orpheum in Fells Point, Monday through July 19.

It's the first time Orpheum owner George Figgs has brought "The Phantom Lady" to the venerable revival house. "It's archly studio noir," he explained. "It's that controlled, atmospheric studio noir as opposed to 'The Killers,' which was street noir."

Figgs noted that although Siodmak was born in Tennessee, he was raised in Germany. "His artistic temperament is German, very continental and dark."

Tricky trailers

Sun reader Don Dobrow called recently with a question: In a trailer for "Godzilla," there was a scene of a group of schoolchildren being led through a museum of natural history; as the kids gaped at the dinosaur skeletons, Godzilla's great big foot crashed through the skylight, crushing Tyrannosaurus Rex's scrawny frame. Great sight gag, but why wasn't it in the movie?

The filmmakers behind "Godzilla," Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich, are famous for shooting trailers for their films long before they begin the actual movies -- after all, the earlier the trailer is finished, the quicker it can get into theaters and build audience awareness. They did the same thing with their last film, "Independence Day," filming the White House exploding months before they began principal photography. The museum scene was filmed a full year before "Godzilla" was to be released, according to Dennis Higgins, senior vice president of North American publicity for TriStar Pictures.

In fact, movie companies have filmed additional material for their promotional campaigns for years; in 1945, for its trailers for "The Big Sleep," Warner Brothers filmed additional scenes featuring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall -- scenes that weren't in the movie -- to capitalize on their new popularity as a screen couple.

Trailers for movies "can happen several ways," says Jon Bloom, president of Bloomfilm, a Los Angeles company that produces trailers. "Sometimes there will be a scene that's perfect for the trailer in the movie. We had a scene like that from 'Throw Momma From the Train.' It was a great scene that was in the movie, and it capsulized what we wanted to say.

"Other times, you'll shoot something and filmmakers like it so much they'll put it in the movie," says Bloom, who points to "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" as a case in point. The shot of an arrow hitting a tree from the arrow's point of view was initially filmed as a stand-alone trailer for the film, but "it was so good, and became such an icon for the movie, that they worked it into the film," he says.

Finally, there's the grim reality of the cutting-room floor. Trailer producers usually work from a two-and-a-half to three-hour cut of a film, and often a scene used in a trailer will have been cut by the time the movie hits the screens.

See the stars, see the films

There's still time to attend Fan- ex 12, the Horror and Fantasy Film Society's annual festival of horror, science fiction and fantasy movies at the Hunt Valley Inn.

This year's guests include Kevin McCarthy ("Invasion of the Body Snatchers"), Karolyn Grimes ("It's a Wonderful Life," "Mother Wore Tights") and Dee Wallace-Stone ("E.T."), and as it does every year, Fanex will run loads of movies, today from 4 p.m. until 2 a.m., tomorrow from 10 a.m. until 2 a.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. Weekend tickets are available at the door for $40 and tickets for individual days cost $15 (today), $20 (tomorrow) and $10 (Sunday). For more information, call 410-665-1198.

Shocked, shocked!

The Charles Theatre continues its B-Films series tomorrow with "Shock Corridor" (1963), Samuel Fuller's classic tale of a reporter who goes undercover into an insane asylum, then is driven crazy by the inhumane practices he discovers there. With Peter Breck, Constance Towers, Gene Evans and James Best. Tomorrow'sshow begins at 11: 30 a.m. and repeats Monday at 7: 30 p.m.

Fuller's "Park Row," which was supposed to play June 27 as a replacement for "I Married a Monster from Outer Space," has been re-scheduled for July 18 and 20.

And, back by popular demand, the Oscar-nominated "Waco: The lTC Rules of Engagement." The documentary about the 1993 standoff between David Koresh and federal agents was so well-attended over the July 4 weekend that the Charles is bringing it back for two more Sunday matinees. "Waco" will be shown on Sunday at noon. For more information, call 410-727-FILM.

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