September 20, 2017 Film Noir and Horror at the Packard Campus in October

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Carl Reiner’s 1982 comedy “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid,” both a parody of and homage to 1940s film noir and detective movies, serves as the catalyst for a film series the first two weeks in October at the Library of Congress Packard Theater. In Reiner’s film, private investigator Rigby Reardon (Steve Martin) is surrounded by a supporting cast of stars from the past, including Humphrey Bogart, Burt Lancaster, Lana Turner, Ava Gardner and Kirk Douglas, as scenes from 18 classic detective/film noir thrillers are interwoven into the narrative. Seven of those films, including four from the National Film Registry (“White Heat,” “The Big Sleep,” “The Killers” and “In a Lonely Place”), will be screened, with “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” shown as both the first and last film of the series.

Five horror films round out the month, ranging from two psychological thrillers starring Bette Davis (“What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” and “Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte”) to the 1970 Hammer Horror picture “Taste the Blood of Dracula,” and Disney’s “Hocus Pocus.”

Programs are free and open to the public, but children 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult. Seating at the screenings is on a first-come, first-served basis unless otherwise noted. For general Packard Campus Theater information, call (540) 827-1079 ext. 79994 or (202) 707-9994. For further information on the theater and film series, visit the Packard Campus Theater website. ( In case of inclement weather, call the theater information line no more than three hours before showtime to confirm cancellations.

The Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation is a state-of-the-art facility funded as a gift to the nation by the Packard Humanities Institute. The Packard Campus is the site where the nation’s library acquires, preserves and provides access to the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of motion pictures, television programs, radio broadcasts and sound recordings ( The Packard Campus is home to more than 7 million collection items. It provides staff support for the Library of Congress National Film Preservation Board (, the National Recording Preservation Board ( and the national registries for film and recorded sound.

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Library of Congress Packard Campus Theater Schedule

Thursday, Oct. 5 (7:30 p.m.)
“Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid”
 (Universal, 1982)
Director Carl Reiner and Steve Martin collaborated on this film noir parody with Martin playing private detective Rigby Reardon, who is trying to solve the murder of a scientist while falling in love with the victim’s daughter (Rachel Ward). The likes of Barbara Stanwyck, Ray Milland, Lana Turner, Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner and Humphrey Bogart interact with the detective via black-and-white footage shot by Reiner and cinematographer Michael Chapman, matched to vintage clips from 1940s movies. Eight-time Academy Award winner Edith Head in her final film credit designed the costumes (Head was the costume designer for six of the films featured within the picture), while Miklós Rózsa, in his role as musical composer, also added to the authenticity of the production. A film veteran, he had composed scores for four of the films used in “Dead Men.” Seven of the 18 classic detective/film noir thrillers featured in the movie will be shown at the Packard Campus Theater the first two weeks of October, bookended by screenings of “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid.”

Thursday, Oct. 12 (7:30 p.m.)
“Johnny Eager”
(MGM, 1941)
Robert Taylor plays Johnny Eager, a parolee who is pretending to go straight as a cabdriver but is still connected to the mob. Through his parole officer, Eager meets sociology student Lisbeth Bard (Lana Turner), who as, it turns out, is the stepdaughter of the district attorney responsible for sending him to the prison. While Lisbeth falls for Eager, the DA is on to his latest crime scheme. Van Heflin won an Oscar for his portrayal as Taylor’s alcoholic, intellectual best friend.

Friday, Oct. 13 (7:30 p.m.)
“White Heat”
 (Warner Bros., 1949)
This pulsating gangster film was directed by Raoul Walsh and stars James Cagney as a mother-obsessed, psychopathic gangster exiting the world with the legendary “Made it, Ma. Top of the world” ending. One of the toughest and most brilliant crime films ever made, "White Heat" marked a breakthrough in the explicitly psychological depiction of screen bad guys. The film was added to the National Film Registry in 2003.

Saturday, Oct. 14 (2 p.m.)
“Sorry, Wrong Number”
 (Paramount, 1948)
Barbara Stanwyck won an Oscar nomination for her bravura performance as a neurotic invalid who accidentally overhears a phone conversation plotting her own murder. The story was expanded and adapted by Lucille Fletcher from her famous radio drama. First broadcast on May 25, 1943, on "Suspense," starring Agnes Moorehead, it proved so popular that the series restaged it seven times through 1960. Anatole Litvak directed this suspense thriller that also stars Burt Lancaster.

Saturday, Oct. 14 (7:30 p.m.)
“The Big Sleep”
(Warner Bros., 1946)
Private detective Humphrey Bogart trails a blackmailer who’s vexing socialite sisters Lauren Bacall and Martha Vickers. Director Howard Hawks’ powerful adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s dystopian novel turns the tables repeatedly, constructing a universe where victims soon become suspects, and vice versa. Hawks and his writers attempted to untangle the threads of Chandler’s complicated plot, which caused frequent production delays. Sterling direction, crackling dialogue and the fortuitous teaming of real-life lovers Bogart and Bacall render the film an indispensable noir classic. The film was added to the National Film Registry in 1997. This 35mm restoration print is on loan from the UCLA Film and Television Archive.

Thursday, Oct. 19 (7:30 p.m.)
“The Killers”
(Universal, 1946)
Director Robert Siodmak and screenwriter Anthony Veiller, both nominated for an Oscar, took the original Ernest Hemingway short story as the film's opening point and developed it with an elaborate series of flashbacks, creating a classic example of film noir. Two killers shatter a small town's quiet before an insurance investigator (Edmond O'Brien) digs up crime, betrayal and a glamorous woman (Ava Gardner) behind the death of an ex-fighter (Burt Lancaster in his electrifying film debut). The noir aesthetic is heightened by the Miklós Rózsa score and Arthur Hilton’s editing, both of which were nominated for Academy Awards. “The Killers” was added to the National Film Registry in 2008.

Friday, Oct. 20 (7:30 p.m.)
“The Postman Always Rings Twice”
(MGM, 1946)
Drifter Frank Chambers (John Garfield) takes a job at a roadhouse run by slovenly but likeable Nick Smith (Cecil Kellaway). Nick's sexy young wife Cora (Lana Turner) takes an immediate liking to Frank, but he senses that she's trouble and he keeps his distance — for a while. MGM bought the rights to pulp novelist James M. Cain's hard-bitten murder romance, “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” in 1934, but it took 12 years to make it to the screen. Writer-producer Carey Wilson adapted a script that passed by the censorious Hays Administration, and director Tay Garnett turned out an electrifying drama enhanced by the charismatic performances of the two leads.

Saturday, Oct. 21 (7:30 p.m.)
Film Noir Double Feature
“In a Lonely Place”
(Columbia, 1950)
Humphrey Bogart portrays Hollywood screenwriter Dixon Steele. Brilliant at his craft yet prone to living with his fists, Steele undergoes scrutiny as a murder suspect while romancing insouciant starlet Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame). With jaded passion and paranoid force of character, Bogart perfectly plays the talented but psychologically unstable artist who will not accept his society, proving it with periodic violent, self-destructive confrontations. Director Nicholas Ray’s scathing Hollywood satire "In a Lonely Place" was added to the National Film Registry in 2007.

“Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” (Universal, 1982)
The second half of this double feature will be an encore screening of director Carl Reiner’s film noir parody “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid,” closing out the series of seven of the films featured in the movie. For more details, see the Oct. 5 listing.

Thursday, Oct. 26 (7:30 p.m.)
“What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?”
(Warner Bros., 1962)
Bette Davis stars as Jane Hudson, a demented and aging former movie star who holds her paraplegic sister Blanche (Joan Crawford) captive in a decaying Hollywood mansion. Directed by Robert Aldrich, the part macabre psychological thriller, part black comedy and part camp “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” quickly entered into the American pop cultural lexicon. The perceived and perhaps exaggerated rivalry between the two stars in their only film together was, at least in part, responsible for the film’s success and it inspired highly rated the 2017 FX miniseries “Feud.”

Friday, Oct. 27 (7:30 p.m.)
Hammer Horror Double Feature
“Taste the Blood of Dracula”
(Hammer Films/Warner Bros., 1970, R-rated *)
Christopher Lee reprises his role for the fourth time as Count Dracula, now seeking to take revenge on the businessmen who killed his faithful servant. A sequel to the highly successful “Dracula Has Risen from the Grave,” this film begins with the climactic scenes from the 1968 feature and picks up from there. Weary of the role, Lee demanded and got a higher salary from Hammer Films and even went on to play the count twice more. First time feature director Peter Sasdy handled the film's high production values well despite a fairly low budget, with attractive sets and cinematography injecting style. James Bernard's score supplied an additionally lush and even romantic feel. * No one under the age of 17 will be admitted without a parent or guardian.

“Crescendo” (Hammer Films/Warner Bros., 1970)
Stefanie Powers stars in this British psychological thriller as an American girl who goes to the south of France to do her thesis research on a recently deceased composer. Directed by Alan Gibson, the film also stars James Olson and Margaretta Scott. The film was originally released in a double bill with “Taste the Blood of Dracula.”

Saturday, Oct. 28 (2 p.m.)
“Hocus Pocus”
 (Disney/Buena Vista, 1993)
Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy star as three sister witches who are resurrected in Salem, Massachusetts, on Halloween night. Kenny Ortega directed this PG-rated fantasy comedy. The film was nominated for five Saturn Awards, including best fantasy film and best actress for Midler. “Hocus Pocus” has achieved cult status over the years due to annual record-breaking showings on the Disney Channel ABC Family's 13 Nights of Halloween.

Saturday, Oct. 28 (7:30 p.m.)
“Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte”
 (20th Century-Fox, 1964)
Following the success of “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” (1962), director Robert Aldrich looked for another property in the same vein for the stars of that film, Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. He found it in a short story by Henry Farrell who had also written “Baby Jane.” Davis was cast as Charlotte Hollis, an aging, reclusive Southern belle who is plagued by a horrifying family secret. A visit from Miriam, a cousin she hadn’t seen in years, becomes the impetus for Charlotte’s descent into madness. The famous feud between the two stars soon led to Crawford not showing up on the set. She was fired, and Davis suggested her good friend Olivia de Havilland for the part. After much cajoling from Aldrich, de Havilland agreed. “Hush …Hush, Sweet Charlotte” was another box-office hit and received seven Oscar nominations.


PR 17-127
ISSN 0731-3527