Sinister Cinema: Cheese Theatre

In only ten more days anyone lucky enough to attend Noir City — playing in the Castro Theatre from January 21-30 — will once again thrill to the dulcet tones of Bill Arney, the Voice of Noir, as he announces the opening of one bleak bullet-ridden double-bill after another. People in The Hammett Know remember Bill as the legendary Keeper of the Shrine, Sam Spade’s apartment in 891 Post Street — his stint at the stick remains unsurpassed. But he has moved on, taking with him an idea germinated in late night drinking sessions with pals in the building where Hammett created The Maltese Falcon. Yes, Bill has started up Cheese Theatre!

The first episode — featuring Lady Frankenstein — aired on a Marin County public access station on August 6, 2010, and since then every Friday at the stroke of midnight Bill pulls something out of his top hat. I’ve sat in as a guest a couple of times, once trying unsuccessfully to explain to Bill how damned great Dwight Frye was as we hosted Dead Men Walk, and again blurbing one of my favorite noir films, D.O.A. — I was pleased to see the episode with D.O.A. replayed beginning Christmas Eve at midnight and into the early hours of Christmas Day. Really, nothing says Christmas like a case of luminous toxin poisoning, right?

Eddie Muller has sat in on several shows (he and Bill gave Detour the ending it deserves in the editing room), sometimes other guests appear, sometimes it is just Bill holding down the fort. Better technological minds than mine have been unable to figure out a way to download the show to watch later — you have to stream it on your computer at midnight Friday Maltese Falcon country time or be sitting in front of the tube nearby in Marin County.

But Bill does have a plan to maybe move Cheese over to a more commercial local network, meaning he needs sponsors. Injury lawyers, car painters, voodoo magic shops — anyone who runs ads about 3a.m. ought to shoot Bill a note and contribute to the pop culture. And to prove we’re kind of serious, here’s Bill:

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