Noir City Detroit festival puts city in spotlight

Erica Hobbs
Special to The Detroit news

Detroit is not only hosting a film noir festival this weekend but is starring in it as well. The Redford Theatre’s 5th annual Noir City Detroit festival, presented in partnership with the Film Noir Foundation, returns with eight films shown over three days Sept. 23-25. Among those films is 1947’s “T-Men,” that is set and filmed in Detroit and is allegedly based on real events.

Short for “treasury men,” the film follows U.S. treasury agents who go undercover to infiltrate a gang of counterfeiters in Detroit. The film is directed by Anthony Mann and stars Dennis O’Keefe, Wallace Ford and Alfred Ryder.

Festival programmer John Monaghan said a Detroit-based film noir movie is rare and most films in this genre are set in big cities like Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.

1947's "T-Men" was set and filmed in Detroit and will be featured at the Redford Theatre's 5th annual Noir City Detroit festival.

“[‘T-Men’s] got scenes at Scott Fountain at Belle Isle, and a pretty lengthy scene at the main branch of the Detroit Public Library off Woodward, so it’s kind of cool,” he said.

Featuring men with guns and trench coats and a femme fatale, film noir traditionally categorizes the black-and-white crime dramas of the 1940s and 1950s, often parodied in later films.

“[It’s about] people are tripped up by their own weaknesses,” said Daryl Sparks, promotional director for the Film Noir Foundation. “They know better, but they can’t help themselves.”

Other highlights of the weekend include “In a Lonely Place,” considered a film masterpiece, which stars Humphrey Bogart and is about a Hollywood screenwriter who becomes the prime suspect in the brutal murder of a young woman.

Alfred Ryder and Dennis O'Keefe star in "T-Men," which was filmed and set in Detroit in 1947.

The line-up also includes the original version of “Nightmare Alley,” which Guillermo del Toro remade last year, about a carny roustabout who connives his way to the big-time as a “mentalist.” Both Monaghan and Sparks agree the original is the far superior of the two.

“The old one is far more interesting and more nuanced,” Monaghan said. “It makes more sense too.”

Attendees can also experience the newly-restored version of “The Argyle Secrets,” which Sparks said they chose because it was director Cy Endfield’s first foray into his own filmmaking. The movie is a tongue-in-cheek parody of “The Maltese Falcon” and follows a newspaper reporter on a hunt for a book with names of American traitors during World War II. 

“It’s fun, it’s nothing deep, but it’s good to have it back in circulation just so people can see where Cy Enfield started,” Sparks said.

The festival is organized into four double-feature sets, with a familiar film paired with one that is less well-known.

The full schedule includes:

Friday, Sept. 23: 8 p.m.

  • “In a Lonely Place”
  • “Southside 1-1000”

Saturday, Sept. 24: 2 p.m.:

  • “T-Men”
  • “The Argyle Secrets”

Saturday, Sept. 24: 8 p.m.:

  • “Nightmare Alley”
  • “The Spiritualist”

Sunday, Sept. 25: 2 p.m.

  • “Phantom Lady”
  • “Fly-By-Night”

Turner Classic Movie host Eddie Muller curated the weekend with Monaghan and was scheduled to present the films but had to cancel due to health issues. “In a Lonely Place” – Muller’s favorite – will include a video introduction from him.

Sparks said the festival is a way to see these films on the big screen as they were meant to be experienced, with themes that are relevant today.

“The stories are still contemporary,” she said. “They’re just told in a more attractive way.”

Noir City Detroit


Redford Theatre

17360 Lahser, Detroit

Tickets: $10 per double feature