Noir Films Set in San Francisco 

Ah, the holidays are over, no more false cheer and shiny baubles, life is back to “noirmal.”

Instead of glad rags and magpie trinkets, I got this great book: San Francisco Noir by Nathaniel Rich. Published in 2005 by The Little Bookworm, New York. More about the book.

There are over 40 movies to choose from in this book, some are filmed entirely in San Francisco, some partially. Enough shades of grey and dark alleys on celluloid here to fulfill any noir craving.  The popular big name films are of course included, Vertigo, which I never thought of as a noir film, but hey, what do I know, The Lady from Shanghai with a blond Rita Hayworth, and my number one recommendation to see, Dark Passage. In all its crisp black and white magic, harsh close-ups, long night shots, and the ubiquitous ride in a car through the city with a shady driver, it is the epitome of noir.

Plastic surgery was a breeze in the 40s. Suspension of disbelief is sometimes needed when watching vintage movies.

I’ve already watched a few which were new to me. Woman on the Run was a roller-coaster of a good time. A lot of street scenes and shots of places that have long since been knocked down like Playland at Ocean Beach.

Chinatown at Midnight is an early police procedural, interesting in a formulaic way. There are lingering shots of the town throughout and the Chinatown Telephone Exchange is featured.

I’m a vintage, more than contemporary, film fan, but I do like many of the neo-noir titles listed. The Dirty Harry series, Basic Instinct, and The Game are entertaining.

Then there are two fun but terrible films, in my opinion, that made it into the book as noir, Pacific Heights and Twisted. These are so bad they’re good. If you want to have some light albeit annoying entertainment, watch these movies.

Matthew Modine and Melanie Griffith play morons. Please let the psychopath take their house, just let it end.
In Twisted, Ashley Judd is a young female cop who mysteriously falls unconscious over and over again and finds dead men, draped like boneless chickens, in her apartment.

If you love noir like I do, the San Francisco Noir Film Festival is coming in a few weeks. Go to SF Noir Film Festival for details. The festival runs from January 26th – February 4th.

Keep it Noirmal, Empress Norma

3 thoughts on “Noir Films Set in San Francisco 

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  1. This brought to mind an amazing TV series I just watched here in the UK called “Feud”, about Bette Davies and Joan Crawford. If you can get it in the States it’s well worth a look. Meanwhile “Gaslight” is my favourite noir, set in London.


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