Eddie Muller, prime mover of Noir City 6, his annual mid-winter saturnalia of film noir, says, “I’m astounded at what people applaud and enjoy.” But the San Francisco-native novelist-film historian-showman is probably just being coy. He’s got a better idea than just about anyone what noir fans crave.
That’s how he came to be the reigning nabob of noir — author of three books on film noir plus two atmospheric San Francisco crime-and-boxing novels, co-founder and host of San Francisco’s Noir City festival and similar fests, and the go-to guy for tales of jinxed wise guys and tilted dames with nowhere to run.
Right about now, they’re running to the Castro Theatre, where Noir City is setting up its knuckles-and-bourbon act for a 10-day run beginning Friday with a double feature of “Repeat Performance” and “The Hard Way” — both starring Joan Leslie, who appears in person.
It’s perfect programming for the darkest, dankest time of year by the Bay.
This year’s festival boasts a distinctly literary sheen. On Jan. 26, New Yorker MeganAbbott presents her short story collection, “A Hell of a Woman: An Anthology of Female Film Noir,” at a reception honoring the writers.
On Jan. 30, Los Angeles author Alan Rode signs copies of his book, “Charles McGraw: Biography of a Film Noir Tough Guy,” alongside a twin bill of hardboiled McGraw features, “Reign of Terror” and “Border Incident” — both directed by Anthony Mann.
Muller also mixes it up as a filmmaker. His new movie “The Grand Inquisitor,” a 20-minute short starring original noir heroine Marsha Hunt (“Raw Deal”) receives its world premiere Jan. 26, with Hunt in attendance.
Muller’s father, also named Eddie Muller, was The Examiner’s daily boxing columnist during the sport’s Bay Area heyday from the 1940s through the ’70s, so he knows his right cross from his left uppercut. For him, noir is more than entertainment.
“I don’t see noir the way some people do — as museum pieces from another era,” he says from his Alameda office. “I see the films from the classic era as the high water mark of a particular kind of dark storytelling.”
He’s especially proud of his festival’s role in rescuing neglected films, whether or not they fit the strict definition of “noir.”
“I’ll gladly admit that the increased interest in noir, due to festivals and DVDs, has led to the resurrection of many films that might never have resurfaced if they didn’t fit into a broad definition of the genre.”
IF YOU GO
Noir City 6
Where: Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., San Francisco
When: Friday through Feb. 3
Contact: (415) 621-6120 or www.noircity.com