Leona Stevenson (Barbara Stanwyck) is a waspish, whiny woman, confined to bed (or so she insists) and getting most of her communication through the telephone. One night, she's alone in the house when a screwy phone connection leads to her overhearing a murder plot. She desperately tries to track down her husband (Burt Lancaster), but she soon learns he's not quite the man she imagined. Leona is in grave danger, but will anybody listen to her increasingly hysterical cries for help?
It is a testament to the enduring power of Lucille Fletcher's painfully tense radio play that critics generally agree that Anatole Litvak's 1948 film, while quite potent in its own right, falls short of the original. The radio version is masterfully claustrophobic, as we follow Leona's descent into hysteria in real time; the film version inevitably loses some of that focus as Litvak opens up the story for flashbacks revealing how Leona came to be such a sorry creature, but what it lacks in concision it makes up for superb direction and in Stanwyck's performance (she was nominated for an Oscar). Stanwyck effectively takes Leona from the conniving, confident seductress of the flashbacks to the desperate, clinging wretch of the present, keeping our attention riveted on her right up to the film's shocking conclusion. Local film authority Arthur Taussig hosts the screening and discussion afterward. Orange Coast College, Fine Arts Bldg., Room 116, 2701 Fairview Rd., Costa Mesa, (714) 432-5599. Fri., 6:30 p.m. $5-$6.
Bridget Jones' Diary. Renee Zellweger proves she can eat all the Twinkies she likes and still look hot in a Playboy bunny costume. That's not something everybody can say, ladies. Mission Viejo Library, 200 Civic Center, Mission Viejo, (949) 830-7100, ext. 4019; www.cmvl.org. Sat., 6:30 p.m. Free.
Casablanca. A pretty good script, skilled direction, gorgeous photography and flawless casting come together to create a masterpiece far greater than the sum of its parts. The film's dark look was highly influential on the film-noir thrillers that came along a few years later, and its story has since "influenced" dozens of movies, everything from Woody Allen's Play It Again, Sam (a line Bogie never actually said, by the way) to that infamous Pamela Anderson bomb Barb Wire. This is your chance to see this true classic on the big screen. Go. Edwards Rancho Santa Margarita, 30632 Santa Margarita Pkwy., Rancho Santa Margarita, (949) 888-3340. Tues., 8 p.m. $6; Edwards South Coast Village, 1561 W. Sunflower Ave., Santa Ana, (714) 540-1970. Wed., 8 p.m. $7.
A Clockwork Orange. Stanley Kubrick's classic, blackly funny sci-fi shocker stars a young, splendidly nasty Malcolm Macdowell as Alex, a Beethoven-worshiping thug who leads a gang of "droogs" on nightly sprees of "ultraviolence" through the blighted countryside of a futuristic England. Bay Theatre, 340 Main St., Seal Beach, (562) 431-9988. Fri., 10:30 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; Mon., 8 p.m. $6-$8.
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From the Land of Silence. Saman Salur's 2004 drama about two brothers who eke out a sleazy, impoverished existence, until they meet a depressed man and get a new perspective on life. It's the concluding film in UC Irvine's Persian film series. UCI, Humanities Instruction Bldg., Room 100, Campus & W. Peltason drs., Irvine, (949) 824-7418; www.humanities.uci.edu/fvc. Thurs., April 20, 7 p.m. $3-$5.
El Mago. A street magician (Erando Gonzlez) learns he's dying and sets out to make peace with people from his past in Jaime Aparicio's 2004 Mexican drama. It's the debut picture in the Latin American Film Festival, which continues through the end of May. UCI, Humanities Instruction Bldg., Room 100, Campus & W. Peltason drs., Irvine, (949) 824-7418;www.humanities.uci.edu/fvc.Thurs., April 27, 7 p.m. $3-$5.
2006 Newport Beach Film Festival. See the film stories in this issue for more details. Then visit www.newportbeachfilmfest.com for full schedule and pricing info, or call 866-NBFF-TIX.
Mail your press releases (and a videotape, if available) to Special Screenings,OC Weekly, 1666 N. Main St., Ste. 500, Santa Ana, CA 92701-7417. Or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. All materials must be received at least two weeks before the screening.