Friday, Dec. 8
The American Cinematheque is indulging in some classic counterprogramming for the Christmas season. Celebrate the Yuletide with a holiday horror triple feature starting with Silent Night, Deadly Night, the notorious — but by no means the first — slasher flick to feature a murderous Santa Claus. Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out!, directed by counterculture icon Monte Hellman, remains the creative high point of the series. Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker features Mickey Rooney as the titular psycho, and for that reason alone justifies guilty-pleasure viewing. Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; Fri., Dec. 8, 7:30 p.m.; $15. (323) 466-3456, americancinemathequecalendar.com.
Saturday, Dec. 9
Billy Wilder's long, eclectic career in Hollywood traversed multiple genres, but his exercises in noir rank among his most enduring. The Aero is celebrating a "Winter Wilder Land" with Double Indemnity and The Lost Weekend — neither of which has much to do with Christmas. In the former, insurance salesman Fred MacMurray is charmed into committing murder by a coquettish Barbara Stanwyck. In the latter, Oscar winner Ray Milland stares into the abyss as a dipsomaniac writer. Each offers a penetratingly seamy glimpse into the dark side of the American character, issued by a master director equally adept at comedy. Aero Theatre, 1328 Montana Ave., Santa Monica; Sat., Dec. 9, 7:30 p.m.; $12. (323) 466-3456, americancinemathequecalendar.com.
If Dracula were born south of the border and lived in a hacienda, he would probably look a lot like Germán Robles in El vampiro, the classic Mexican horror film that added Count Karol de Lavud to the vampire canon. Shot on a modest budget, the film benefits enormously from the atmospheric direction of Fernando Méndez, who whips up a somber, funereal mood from the basic ingredients of fog, crypts and cobwebs. The film also merits a special place in horror history for being the first major film to show the bloodsucker's bare fangs, beating out Hammer's Dracula by a year. A screening of a 35mm print will be followed by a DCP of Sombra verde, a 1954 jungle thriller starring Ricardo Montalbán. UCLA's Billy Wilder Theater, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood; Sat., Dec. 9, 7:30 p.m.; $10. (310) 206-8013, cinema.ucla.edu.
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Tuesday, Dec. 12
LACMA's trusty Tuesday Matinees series will air a rare print of Nocturne, an intriguing 1946 caper directed by Edwin L. Marin. A police detective (George Raft, in one of his best performances) investigates the death of a composer high in the Hollywood Hills. The plot is smoothly handled and packs a few surprises, but it's the slyly self-deprecating tone that disarms. LACMA, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Mid-Wilshire; Tue., Dec. 12, 1 p.m.; $4. (323) 857-6000, lacma.org.
Thursday, Dec. 14
CSUN's thorough Buster Keaton retrospective concludes with a screening of the silent comedian's most anomalous project: a short film scripted by modernist playwright Samuel Beckett and commissioned by controversial American publishing house the Grove Press. Film, hailed by Andrew Sarris as the most pretentious title in all of cinema, is an intellectual experiment in which Keaton plays a man trying to evade observation by an apparently omniscient camera eye. It premiered in the U.S. less than a month before Keaton's death, and provides a poignant coda to a distinguished career. CSUN (Armer Theater), 18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge; Thu., Dec. 16, 6:45 p.m.; free. (818) 677-1200, csun.edu/mike-curb-arts-media-communication/cinema-television-arts/cinematheque.