Posts Tagged With: Film Noir

Watching The Detectives (& The Goddam Commies)… Indicator’s Fourth COLUMBIA NOIR Box Reviewed.

BD. Powerhouse. Region B. 12.

WALK A CROOKED MILE (Gordon Douglas, 1948)
WALK EAST ON BEACON! (Alfred Werker, 1952)
PUSHOVER (Richard Quine, 1954)
A BULLET IS WAITING (John Farrow, 1954)
CHICAGO SYNDICATE (Fred F Sears, 1955)
THE BROTHERS RICO (Phil Karlson, 1957)

And still they keep on coming… Indicator’s fourth sampling of Film Noir according to Harry Cohen’s Columbia kicks in at the point where the genre (though as previously discussed, there those who would dispute that “Noir” is a genre) became contaminated with Cold War paranoia (scant years after Hollywood was lionising Uncle Joe and our Russian allies in the War against Fascism). Shoring up an older alliance, as if in compensation, Walk A Crooked Mile prioritises America’s allegedly special relationship with the Brits, importing Scotland Yard man Philip “Scotty” Greyson (Louis Hayward) to help Federal Bureau Investigator Daniel F. O’Hara (Dennis O’Keefe) nail the source of atomic secrets leaking from the Lakeview Research Centre. Danny Boy (pictured above with Scotty and screaming broad) probably needs all the help he can get, given that one of his agents discounts one suspect as a possible spy / murderer because he was wearing a dog collar when bumping off one of their leads. Surely they can’t miss perpetual hovering heavy Raymond Burr in his cute little Lenin beard, though…

Released the same year as Jules Dassin’s The Naked City, Walk A Crooked Mile makes similarly telling use of its (San Francisco rather than New York) locations and also deploys a voice over narrator (in this case Reed Hadley) and “cast study”approach , devices that feature again in Walk East On Beacon! (and what better trajectory to take after you’ve walked that crooked mile?) The Commie sleeper cell in this one (who’ve kidnapped the son of missile scientist Finlay Currie) is located in Boston and Jim Belden (George Murphy) is the Fed charged with busting their nefarious activities wide open. The performances here are a little more pedestrian and veteran Alfred Werker’s direction is, er, workmanlike throughout (which is to say that his picture is a significantly less compelling proposition than Gordon Douglas’s) and over reliant on endless voice over / caption reminders that J. Edgar Hoover is the only thing standing between law abiding American patriots and the Reds under their beds. We even get stock footage of Hoover thrown in at apposite moments. Maybe it’s not Werker’s fault… I mean, who wrote this thing? (* checks IMDB *)… Jeez, Hoover even gets a co-writing credit. Maybe the filmmakers figured that, like LBJ, they’d be happier with ol’ J. Edgar “inside the tent pissing out rather than outside, pissing in”.

We’re back on more familiar, indeed textbook Noir turf with Pushover… nary a Bolshevik in sight but Kim Novak (in her first credited screen role, as Lona McLane) provides more than adequate recompense. Fred MacMurray has been here before, of course (in Billy Wilder’s classic Double Indemnity, 1944) but obviously didn’t learn his lesson… a pushover indeed, once again embarking upon the primrose path to perdition at the behest of a femme fatale. Oh what a tangled web Fred’s Detective Paul Sheridan weaves as he tries to make off with both Lona and the proceeds of a bungled bank heist. Philip Carey plays Rick McAllister, the cop colleague on his case. Moral ambiguity has always fuelled the finest Noir and Pushover provides it in spades. Roy Huggins’ screenplay was fashioned from two separate novels (Thomas Walsh’s The Night Watch and Bill S. Ballinger’s Rafferty) so hey, they didn’t even require any script input from J Edgar Hoover on this one.

The boundaries of Noir are again being tested in A Bullet Is Waiting, a film that deviates from the classic template in terms of its plotting, rural setting and most disoreintatingly, Franz Planer’s colour cinematography. We’re thrown straight into the action, the aftermath of a plane crash which strands Sheriff Munson (Stephen McNally) and Ed Stone (Rory Calhoun), the alleged murderer he was transporting to custody, in a remote wilderness. There they encounter sassy, androgynous Cally Canham (Jean Simmons), whose father David (absent for much of the picture but played, when he does turn up, by Brian Aherne) has brought her out here on some kind of Walden Pond kick. As the plot thickens, Cally’s struggle to work out whose side she should be on coincides with her blossoming from tom boy into beautiful young woman… you really couldn’t get away with stuff like that these days!

Things are firmly back in the Noir groove with Chicago Syndicate, with its hectoring voice over and city locations transplanted from The Naked City to the Windy City. Dennis O’Keefe is back (but this time with no plucky Limey sidekick) as mild mannered account Barry Amsterdam (!), whom the Feds want to help them bring down crime kingpin Arnie Valent in the same way they got Al Capone. Though initially reluctant, Bazza takes to his dangerous mission like a duck to water… I guess you can’t help being dynamic, growing up with a name like Barry Amsterdam! Allison (Fifty Foot Woman) Hayes and exotic nightclub chanteuse Abbe Lane (fronting Xavier Cugat’s hot mambo combo) keep things simmering nicely and Joseph Hoffman’s dialogue frequently crackles. If you think Jimmy Cagney’s Cody Jarrett in White Heat (1949) is the final cinematic word on mother-fixated gangsters, watch the climax of this one and think again. All it’s missing is Al Jolson singing Mammy…

Just two years later, director Fred Sears would be making The Giant Claw!

Richard Conte’s Eddie Rico (above, left) is another mob accountant (or formerly was), now living the straight life, only to be drawn back in by the exploits of his brothers Gino and Johnny (Paul Picerni and James Darren, above) in The Brothers Rico. It’s easy to see how the moral shadings of this one (its story courtesy of Georges “Maigret” Simenon) appealed so much to Martin Scorsese (who provides a brief introduction to the picture), also fascinating to observe how Karlson’s direction pushes at the limits of the Hays Code with its depictions of both violence and Eddie’s passion for his wife Alice (Dianne Foster)… conducted across separate beds! The film’s “happy”, righteous ending seems to indicate that Hays had the upper hand for the time being, though Otto Preminger was already in the process of demolishing it. Ace Noir cinematographer Burnett Guffey shot The Brothers Rico.

All the films look and sound just spanky in their remastered World BD premieres. With the exception of Walk A Crooked Mile, they come with commentary tracks (from Frank Krutnik, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas / Josh Nelson, Barry Forshaw / Kim Newman, Toby Roan and Jason Ney respectively). Douglas’s film is complimented with the 1946 short Routine Job: A Story Of Scotland Yard (1946) and March of Time episodes have also been selected for their thematic links with the main features. Likewise the Three Stooges shorts that we have now come to expect in this series. If you’ve ever struggled to get your head around the concept of Fake Shempery, check out here how 1949s Dunked in the Deep mutated into Commotion On The Ocean, seven years later (makes those “Bela Lugosi” scenes in Plan Nine From Outer Space look like a smooth piece of work!) All of the films are complimented by image galleries and half of them (Pushover, A Bullet Is Waiting and The Brothers Rico) with their original theatrical trailers. In further featurettes, Glenn Kenny examines the collaborations of director Richard Quine and Kim Novak,
Josephine Botting discusses Jean Simmons’ transition from British actress to Hollywood Star and Nick Pinkerton appraises the two-fisted directorial style of Phil Karlson. The limited (to 6,000 numbered units) edition of this box packs an exclusive 120-page collector’s book comprising new essays by Beth Ann Gallagher, Bob Herzberg, Sophie Monks Kaufman, Omar Ahmed, Jen Johans, Monica Castillo and Jeff Billington, archival articles and interviews plus full film credits.

Categories: Blu-ray / DVD Reviews | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Taking The Rough With The Smooth… JAGGED EDGE Reviewed.

BD. Indicator. Region B. 18.

Screen writer Joe Eszterhas has made a highly successful career for himself out of sexing up long established Hollywood formulae. Paul Verhoeven’s Basic Instinct (1992) and Showgirls (1995) respectively pimp out the femme fatale-driven Noir and Busby Berkeley chorus line extravaganza with contemporary slick production values and enough schlocky smut and violence to set Will H. Hays rotating in his casket. Richard Marquand’s Jagged Edge (1985) takes the Courtroom Drama to places where Jimmy Stewart and Hank Fonda might have feared to tread, all prefaced with a scene of sexualised murder that, if not actually delivering the “blood and hair on the wall” promised / threatened by Eszterhas, would certainly look more at home in a giallo (or one of the many stalk’n’slash pictures delivered by Bava and Argento’s American indie disciples) than it does here in mainstream Tinseltown product.

Jack Forrester (Jeff Bridges) is a whizz kid newspaper executive but his wife Page (Maria Mayenzet) owns all the shares, so when she’s tied to her luxury bed and carved up by a balaclava wearing nutzoid, Golden Boy Jack becomes prime suspect. Effectively retired, for reasons that become apparent as the narrative progresses, ace Attorney Teddy Barnes (Glenn Close, who improbably became the Queen of ’80s Erotic Thrillers after her appearances in the likes of this and Adrian Lyne’s Fatal Attraction, two years later) is persuaded, against her better judgement, to take on Forrester’s defence. It’s not long before she’s also sharing his bed. After all, nobody that blandly cute could perpetrate such a vicious murder, right? Right?

That’s the $64,000 question which Teddy and Prosecutor / former colleague Thomas Krasny (Peter Coyote) kick around in court for the balance of the picture, as a series of revelations (about the private and professional lives of not just Forrester, also Teddy and Krasny) and the introduction of another violently misogynistic candidate for the commission of the crime skilfully skew the viewer’s suspicions this way and that. A verdict is duly arrived at, but is it correct? Suffice to say that the individual who’s been sending out “helpful” typed clues had never watched Prick Up Your Ears. I know, I know, that film was only released after this one. They could / should have read the book, though…

And so to the climactic unveiling of the actual culprit, the face behind the balaclava revealed as… Forrester? The other, misogynist suspect I just mentioned? Some viewers have even suggested it’s Krasny… hey, maybe it’s that guy from the Go Compare ads? Now, Richard Marquand was an accomplished director… George Lucas entrusted him (below) with the megabucks invested in Return Of The Jedi (1983), no less. So how could it be that he fluffed the big reveal so clumsily? Or maybe he knew exactly what he was doing. Panned by critics, Jagged Edge became a substantial hit via word-of-mouth. Maybe Marquand actually intended people to keep talking up all this balaclava palaver and indeed here we are, 36 years after the event, still talking about Jagged Edge…

Eszterhas and editor Sean Barton also talk about it (and other aspects of their respective careers) among the fearutettes on this disc. There’s an hour of audio from Geoff Andrew’s interview with Bridges at the NFT in 1990 and David Huckvale digs deep into John Barry’s score. For this, its UK BD premiere, Marquand’s film has been remastered in HD with a choice of original stereo or 5.1 surround audio. The expected trailer, radio and image galley are present and correct. The limited (to 3,000 units) edition comes with an exclusive 36-page booklet comprising a new essay by Maitland McDonagh, extracts from archival interviews with director Richard Marquand, a look at the making of the film, an overview of contemporary critical responses and full film credits.

Categories: Blu-ray / DVD Reviews | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Something For You To Watch Over Several Days… Indicator’s COLUMBIA NOIR #3 & SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME Reviewed.

COLUMBIA NOIR #3. BD. Indicator. Region B. 15. International BD Premiere
SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME. BD. Indicator. Region B. 15. UK BD Premiere

Indicator continue to dish up the Film Noir goodies with a third selection of Columbia’s finest hours in that field. The box kicks off with Robert Rossen’s directorial debut Johnny O’Clock (1947). Dick Powell in the title role demonstrates how far he had come since his juvenile lead days in Busby Berkeley musicals and his versatility serves him well in the role of a cynical gambling house operator, staying on just about the right side of The Law. The murder of hat check girl Harriet Hobson (Nina Foch) sparks in him a crisis of conscience / moral awakening comparable to that undergone by Bogart’s Rick in Casablanca (1942). It’s a nicely nuanced performance, in which Powell is solidly supported by an able cast… special mention for sexy Ellen Drew (below) as spurned gangster’s moll Nelle Marchettis. Hell hath no fury…

Nina Foch gets her turn as bad girl in Rudolph Maté’s The Dark Past (1948), a “home invasion” effort which anticipates the plot of William Wyler’s more celebrated The Desperate Hours (another Bogart vehicle), released seven years later. Psychotic prison escapee Al Walker (William Holden), his girl Betty (Foch) and criminal entourage billet themselves on unwilling hosts the Collins family. Unfortunately for Al (and anyone in the audience with an aversion to simplistic, would-be Freudian insights) Doctor Collins (Lee J. Cobb) is a pipe-sucking Professor of Psychiatry who adeptly diagnoses Walker’s personal problems and dilutes his threat by treating them… just like that! Similarly pat psychoanalytical conceits played a significant and regrettable part in the plot of Hitchcock’s Spellbound three years earlier, so we can’t lay all the blame at the door of erstwhile cinematographer Maté, who made his most impactful contribution to the Noir canon with the superior D.O.A. in ’49. Foch, who also appeared in Budd Boetticher’s Escape In The Fog (1945) among others, is the subject of an informative career appraisal by Pamela Hutchinson on this disc.

If you start experiencing a pronounced sense of deja vu while watching Henry Levin’s Convicted (1950), that’s because this is yet another Columbia screen adaptation of Martin Flavin’s stage play The Criminal Code, perhaps most notably filmed under that title by Howard Hawks in 1930 (from which Levin has recycled budget-saving footage of discontent among the yardbirds). A useful featurette deploys split screen techniques to point up the similarities and discrepancies between several film renderings of the Flavin yarn. This time out Glenn Ford takes the role of the inadvertent Homicide bunged up in jail, trying to keep his nose clean and win the heart of Dorothy Malone, daughter of warden Broderick Crawford, before his dreams of rehabilitation are clouded by the murder of a snitch and his unwillingness to break the criminals’ code of silence. The strength of Flavin’s source material and sheer calibre of the cast assembled here make for a pretty compelling picture, though it suffers in comparison with the Hawks version from 20 years earlier, for which Phillips Holmes, Constance Cummings and Walter Huston just seem like better casting choices… Jeez, Hawks even had Boris Karloff in a scene stealing supporting role!

The term Film Noir only caught on widely, of course, after the style had largely run its course. These films were categorised in their day as “Crime Melodramas”, a description which certainly fits Between Midnight And Dawn, directed by Gordon Douglas in 1950. During a bonus appreciation of Douglas’s variable career on this disc, Kim Newman claims that his James Cagney vehicle Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye from the same year is only marginally inferior to Raoul Walsh’s White Heat (1949)… high praise indeed! BM&D certainly can’t be bracketed with those but it’s solid, entertaining stuff. Wisecracking patrol car duo Dan Purvis (Edmond O’Brien) and Rocky Barnes (Mark Stevens) compete for the affections of radio operative Kate Mallory (Gale Storm) but Kate, remembering how her Mom was widowed, doesn’t fancy a relationship with either of them or any other cop. When she does finally fall for Rocky, her darkest misgivings turn out to be all too well founded. Thereafter she and Dan are on the trail of his killer, the unhinged hood Ritchie Garris (Donald Buka)…

Director Edward Dmytryk was one of the Hollywood Ten, threatened with jail on account of their non co-operation with Joe McCarthy’s Senate Committee on Un-American Activities. He subsequently flip-flopped and fingered several former Lefty associates, ultimately queering his pitch on both sides of the argument. Nevertheless his The Sniper (1952) is highly regarded in certain quarters, not least by Martin Scorsese who gives it an enthusiastic introduction here. Aside from a few oblique hints, neither Dmytryk nor co-writers Harry Brown and Edna and Edward Anhalt waste much time on explaining the misogyny of title character Edward Miller (Arthur Franz), sidesztepping the kind of wannabe psychological profunidty that hamstrings e.g. The Dark Past. Franz gives a strong central performance as a serial killer who desperately wants the police to stop him from further venting his irrational obsessions and Dmytryk handles the film’s suspenseful set pieces with aplomb. This is yet another Noir that makes the most of San Francisco’s unique cityscape… and you might well think that Hitchcock saw it and took note of its extraordinary closing shots before discussing the title sequence for Vertigo (1958) with Saul Bass.

Snipers and spree shooters provoke urban anxieties to this day, though dwarfed now by existential threats such as the one at the centre of Irving Lerner’s City Of Fear (1959), which closes the box with a bang. Psychotic San Quentin escapee Vince Ryker (Vince Edwards from Lerner’s Murder By Contract, 1958 and Kubrick’s The Killing, 1956) thinks he’s made off with a pound of “snow” (here signifying heroin) but is frustrated by his inability to open the canister that contains it… a lucky break for everybody else in LA because, as a freaked out nuclear scientist explains, that canister is actually stuff to the brim with “Cobalt 60 in granular form… the deadliest thing in existence!” As Ryker physically degenerates under the accelerating effects of radiation poisoning, the authorities desperately attempt to track him down before he can unleash the contents of Pandora’s box on The City of Angels. No doubt you’re thinking that this one would make a great double bill with Robert Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly (1955) and you’d be right. As an extra treat, Jerry Goldsmith racked up one of his earliest OST credits here.

All of the films have been restored / remastered in Hi-Def and in addition to the extras we’ve already mentioned there are audio commentaries from the likes of Jim Hemphill, Eloise Ross, Bryan Reesman, Eddie Muller, Adrian Martin and the dynamic duo of Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson. Complimenting these are shorts made by the core crew of many a Columbia Noir, a radio adaptation of the James Warwick play upon which The Dark Past is based and Christopher Nolan on the abiding influence of Noir plus the mandatory trailers and image galleries. A limited edition, exclusive 120-page collectors’ book comprises new essays by Peter Stanfield, David Cairns, Michał Oleszczyk, Adam Scovell, Fintan McDonagh, Andrew Nette, Jeff Billington and Ramsey Campbell, plus archival articles / interviews and full film credits…

… all this plus the Stooges shorts we’ve come to expect with these sets: Curly, Larry and Moe in Whoops, I’m An Indian (1936), So Long Mr. Chumps (1941), Dizzy Detectives (1943) and Three Pests In A Mess (1945); 1948’s Shivering Sherlocks (with Shemp replacing Curly) and Oil’s Well That Ends Well, a 1958 effort featuring Joe Besser as third man. N’yuk, n’yuk, n’yuk!

Larry, Moe and co get a most unexpected mention in Ridley Scott’s Someone To Watch Over Me (1987), the film where that director reacted against the FX-heavy orientation of Alien (1979), Legend (1985) and indeed the most neon infused (and biggest money losing) Neo Noir of them all, Blade Runner (1982). His stated intention was for the actors rather than the technicians to be vying for Oscars. Said thesps include Tom Berenger as the Queens cop detailed to protect Manhattan socialite Mimi Rogers (the only witness to a murder) and Lorraine Bracco as his wife, who’s not too impressed by the developing relationship between the uptown, uptempo woman and her downtown, down beat guy. Scott’s faith in his cast is repaid in spades with some fine ensemble playing but inevitably it’s once again the technical stuff that lingers in the mind as, between them, Scott, DP Steven Poster and production designer Jim Bissell contrive a 106 minute Chanel commercial vision of Noir (looking fine here in a 2K restoration) for the same studio celebrated in the above mentioned box set, making a fascinating exercise in compare and contrast with the classic Noir look so often rendered by Burnett Guffey.


Poster discusses how closely he collaborated with Scott in a bonus featurette disc and there’s another one in which we hear from screen writer Howard Franklin. Jim Hemphill kicks in with an audio commentary, you get the original theatrical trailer plus an image gallery of promotional and publicity materials, plus a limited edition exclusive 32-page booklet comprising new essay by Jamie Graham, archival interviews with Steven Poster and actor Mimi Rogers, an overview of contemporary critical responses and film credits.


One of the things I most enjoyed about STWOM is that Scott managed to coax a cameo appearance out of the legendary Nina Simone. Elsewhere the Gershwin standard that gave this film its name is performed by Sting. Talk about “from the sublime to the ridiculous”…

Categories: Blu-ray / DVD Reviews | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

All The Colours Of Chiaroscuro… Indicator’s COLUMBIA NOIR #2 Box Set Reviewed.

BD. Indicator. Region B. PG.
Limited Edition (6,000 units)

FRAMED (Richard Wallace, 1947) UK BD Premiere
711 OCEAN DRIVE (Joseph M Newman, 1950) UK BD Premiere
THE MOB (Robert Parrish, 1951) World BD Premiere
AFFAIR IN TRINIDAD (Vincent Sherman, 1952) UK BD Premiere
TIGHT SPOT (Phil Karlson, 1955) World BD Premiere
MURDER BY CONTRACT (Irving Lerner, 1958) World BD Premiere

Following hard on the shit heels (*) of Indicator’s Columbia Noir #1 set, what we have here (predictably enough but no less welcome for that) is another six disc sampling of deadpan dicks, duplicitous dames, deadly frames, double crosses, crime bosses, relative morality and all the rest of it. So don your trench coat, light up a Lucky Strike, set your venetian blinds to maximum Expressionist effect and let’s check out the lineup…

(* “Shit heel”: pulp fictional variant on the term “gum shoe”, denoting a private investigator… but you knew that, right?)

Mike Lambert (Glenn Ford) makes one hell of an entrance in Richard Wallace’s Framed (aka Paula, 1947), the brakes on a crappy lorry supplied to him by his stop gap employers having failed. If he looks more like a mining engineer than a truck driver that’s because he is a mining engineer, looking for an opportunity to ply his trade. As luck would have it, old prospector Jeff Cunningham (Edgar Buchanan) is looking for a mining engineer to help him work a new seam of silver he’s just discovered. Just to make it unanimous, blonde bombshell Paula Craig (Janis Carter) is looking for a sap whose charred remains will pass for those of her smoothy boyfriend Steve Price (Barry Sullivan) after they’ve cleaned out the Savings & Loans where Steve works. Lambert’s exactly what she’s been looking for and although he wonders what such a swell broad is doing behind the bar in a shabby drinking dive (Jeez, this burg could do with a decent careers office!) he’s too dazzled by her alleged beauty to join up the dots. But can Paula follow through with the plan when she starts falling for Mike? And could he stand to see an innocent man take the fall for her ? It’s taken as read that Ford is irresistible to the opposite sex but there are plenty of other plot contrivances (courtesy of Ben Maddow, who adapted John Patrick’s original story to the screen) that will require you to spend your disbelief from a great height… if you can manage that, you’ll enjoy Framed just fine.

Gorgeous Glenn’s back (as Steve Emery) in Vincent Sherman’s Affair In Trinidad (1952) but he’s barely off the plane before he’s walked into another frame-up. The brother he came to visit has “committed suicide” and Chris, the sister-in-law he never knew he had (Rita Hayworth, previously romantically teamed with Ford in Charles Vidor’s The Lady In Question, 1940, Gilda, 1946 and The Loves of Carmen, 1948) hasn’t allowed so much as a respectful interlude to pass before she’s cozying up to smarmy socialite Max Fabian (Alexander Scourby). Steve’s a much brusquer fella than Mike Lambert was and responds to this breach of etiquette by handing Chris a slap.

What she’s not allowed to tell him, unfortunately, is that she’s been working undercover for the cops to dig up dirt on Fabian and his connections with sinister foreign agents (though every so often she takes time out of from this important mission to perform a sexy song and dance routine). Nor does Chris feel at liberty to convey to Steve (you guessed) her growing feelings for him. No prizes for guessing that all these romantic complications are ultimately resolved along with that sinister foreign agents’ fiendish plot… which turns out to be an alarming anticipation of the Cuban Missile Crisis, a full decade before it actually unfolded!

Edmond O’Brien’s Noir star eclipses even that of Ford, given his appearances in the likes of Robert Siodmak’s The Killers (1946), Rudolph Maté’s D.O.A. and (alongside Jimmy Cagney) Raoul Walsh’s astonishing White Heat (both 1949). In Joseph M Newman’s gripping 711 Ocean Drive (1950) his character Mal Granger makes the transition, via his telecommunication skills, from a working stiff who enjoys placing an illegal bet here and there to a big wheel in a horse racing racket. His story, told in flashback by a member of Uncle Sam’s “Gangster Squad”, demonstrates in no uncertain terms the slippery slope that inexorably led him from minor peccadilloes to brutal amorality and begins with a caption claiming that the actors and crew needed police protection from gangland elements intent on disrupting this film’s shoot. That must have taken some doing during the dramatic Boulder Dam finale (a sequence worthy of Hitchcock) where Mal finally succumbs to his fatal character flaw, a fondness for a rival mobster’s woman. Femmes fatales inevitably spell doom for would be wise guys, a motif we see again and again in annals of Noir and elsewhere on this box set.

There’s crime film Royalty (Ford, O’Brien et al) and then there’s Edward G. Robinson… from chewing the scenery as Mervyn LeRoy’s Little Caesar (1931) to pursuing a dodgy insurance claim with proto-Columbo doggedness in Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity (1944), Robinson’s impact on this genre has probably only ever been surpassed by that of Cagney himself. In Phil Karlson’s Tight Spot (1955) he’s District Attorney Lloyd Hallett, trying to convince flibbertigibbet jailbird Sherry Conley (Ginger Rogers) to take the stand against Benjamin Costaine (Lorne Greene) her Mr Big former boyfriend… all this based, by some accounts, on Senator Estes Kefauver’s efforts to secure Virginia Hill’s testimony against her mob associates. Sherry’s going to take a lot of convincing, given the recent heavy lead intake of other prospective witnesses. Maybe the romantic attentions of her protection detail Vince Striker (Brian Keith, living up to that hunky handle) will prevail where the DA’s civic duty lectures failed? But Vince is concealing a thing or two himself… Proving (as if their wasn’t abundant other proof on her resume) that she wasn’t “just” Hollywood’s greatest female Hoofer, Rogers steals the show here with a sassy, spirited screwball performance.

Johnny Damico: he uncovers the waterfront…

Robert Parrish’s compelling The Mob (1951) begins with off duty cop Johnny Damico (Broderick Crawford) trying to buy a wedding ring for his girl when he stumbles onto a crime scene and makes a complete hash of it, allowing a murderer posing as another cop to get away scot free. Johnny’s suspended from the force, only to be secretly deployed (under a new alias) on NYC’s docks, to gather info on gangland interests in that crucial economic sector. Mean streets, mean docks… Johnny can’t trust anyone, the existential angst and all pervading paranoia hitting Philip K. Dicklike levels when the Mob hires Johnny to carry out a hit on himself! The ultimate revelation of the big cheese’s identity is kind of “corny” (to quote the character himself) but the suspenseful, hospital based climax concludes things in satisfying style. There’s a great supporting cast in this one, including up-and-comers Ernest Borgnine and Neville Brand… Charles Bronson (who gets a couple of lines but no screen credit)… and Jean Alexander (no, not THAT Jean Alexander!) The Mob and Affair in Trinidad were both shot by multiple Oscar nominee Joseph Walker. Two time Academy Award winner (for From Here To Eternity, 1953 and Bonnie And Clyde (1967) Burnett Guffey served as Cinematographer on Framed, Tight Spot and Joseph H. Lewis’s The Undercover Man (1949) and perusal of their collected work across existing and pending Columbia boxes (which also highlight the OST contributions of George Dunning) provide useful insights into the essence (which had always been more about a vibe than an adherence to any hard and fast rules) of High Noir…

By 1958 the movement was dissolving in waves of cross-genre contamination and few films illustrate this tendency better than Irving Lerner’s Murder By Contract (1958). Vince Edwards plays Claude, an upwardly mobile dude who covets a des res and calmly figures that the quickest way to accumulate the necessary readies is to become a hit man. We follow his monastic preparation and rapid rise through the ranks, until he is flown to LA to rub out a heavily guarded witness on the eve of a major trial. His Zen-like approach to the job winds up Marc (Phillip Pine) and amuses George (Herschel Bernardi) but Claude, who has flipped from taciturnity to rambling expositions of his Nietzschean personal philosophy, completely loses his cool when he learns that his target is a woman. He rationalises his reservations along “deadlier than the male” lines but when obliged to see the job through, he bungles it via apparently Oedipal apprehensions and (spoiler alert!) dies in a drain. Memorable for a nifty jazz guitar accompaniment (courtesy of Bing Crosby’s long time musical director, Perry Botkin) and a firm favourite of Martin Scorsese, Murder By Contract is nicely posed on the cusps of Noir and Nouvelle Vague, anticipating much American “underground” Cinema of the 1960s with its satire on the American business ethic and the blunt black comedic edge to its violence…

… speaking of which, Indicator continue the admirable practice here of beefing up their Columbia boxes with Three Stooges mayhem… and that’s got to be better than a poke in the eye. Each disc contains a Stooges short, selected for some affinity to the film it supports. Violent Is the Word for Curly (1938), for instance, affords an early DP credit to the prolific Lucien Ballard, who later shot Murder by Contract. Nor is it too hard to work out the thematic pertinence of Three Sappy People, Saved by the Belle (both 1939), Idiots Deluxe (1945), Up in Daisy’s Penthouse (1953) and Hot Stuff (1956) to their respective main features. Any chance, I wonder, of a Stooges box (or series of boxes) from Indicator?

While we’re waiting and hoping for that, let’s consider the other extras on this set. Alongside the expected trailers and image galleries, audio commentaries come courtesy of Imogen Sara Smith, Glenn Kenny, Gina Telaroli, Lee Gambin, Nora Fiore and Farran Smith Nehme. The Steps of Age is a short 1951 docudrama written and directed by Framed writer Ben Maddow, depicting the challenges of ageing through of the eyes of a retired widow. Joseph M Newman’s 1945 short Diary of a Sergeant tells the story of Harold Russell, a soldier who lost his hands during World War II and subsequently won an Oscar for his performance in William Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). You get two interviews with Ernest Borgnine and one in which Peter Ford discusses the life and career of his father Glenn. Caribbean (1951) is a Crown Film Unit short depicting life and culture in the West Indies, British Guiana, and British Honduras. Irving Lerner’s Oscar-nominated Swedes In America (1943), presented by Ingrid Bergman, concerns the life of… well, work it out for yourself. Martin Scorsese contributes an enthusiastic review to Murder By Contract. If you enjoyed the excerpts from Joe Valachi’s Senate subcommittee testimony on Indicator’s recent release of The Valachi Papers, no doubt you’ll appreciate (on the Tight Spot disc) an hour or so’s worth of extracts from unedited telerecordings of another (1951) Senate hearing into organised crime, originally compiled by the British Film Institute and presented in four parts, including footage of the aforementioned Virginia Hill. Limited edition includes a 120 page book.

Like its predecessor, this box showcases many different aspects of the multi-faceted Film Noir phenomenon… and box 3 is in preparation! Bring it on.

Categories: Blu-ray / DVD Reviews | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Not Quite Hitchcock (*), Not Quite Hammett… ROADGAMES And DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS Reviewed

Roadgames. BD. Indicator. Region B. 15.

(* Well, it was either that or “North By New South Wales”…)

Typically of his film making generation, Richard Franklin (1948-2007) grew up (in Melbourne) in the thrall of Hitchcock, Psycho (1960) and the TV series Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955-61) leaving particularly vivid impressions on his precocious creativity. He was directing his own 8mm efforts, aged 10 and subsequently worked as an assistant cameraman on TV commercials. In 1967, Franklin relocated to The States to study film at the University of Southern California. To paraphrase the immortal words of Homer J. Simpson, he was tired of being a wannabe Hitchcock acolyte… he wanted to be a Hitchcock acolyte! To this end he invited the great man to introduce a screening of Rope (1948) and answer questions from an audience of fellow students. Sir Alfred reciprocated by hosting Franklin on the sets of Topaz (1969) and his swan song feature, Family Plot (1976). RF’s “Hitchcock acolyte” status would be clinched when he directed Psycho II in 1983 and turned a property with high fiasco potential into a witty and worthwhile effort that riffed cleverly on its illustrious predecessor and certainly did it no harm at all (showing the fruit cellar door to Robert Bloch’s then recent and identically titled literary attempt to continue the franchise). But we’re getting ahead of ourselves…

After graduating USC in 1969, Franklin returned down under to direct 11 episodes of Oz cop show Homicide (197) and the 1973 short …And His Ghost May Be Heard, the latter included among the bonus materials on this set. Bawdy comedies The True Story Of Eskimo Nell (aka Dick Down Under) and Fantasm (directed under the pseudonym “Richard Bruce”) followed in 1975 and 1976 respectively. Franklin really started to get noticed with the Avoriaz and Sitges garlanded Patrick (1978), in which Robert Thompson’s comatose title character uses his telekinetic powers to do away with troublesome medics and pursue sexy nurse Susan Penhaligon. Quickly but skilfully assembled to cash in on Jack Gold’s The Medusa Touch from earlier that year, Patrick did particularly well (with Brian May’s OST replaced by Goblin outtakes and a couple of original themes from Simonetti and co) at Italian box offices, predictably inspiring a mini wave of spaghetti knock offs. Nobody who’s ever seen Mario Landi’s truly hysterical Patrick Still Lives (1980) is ever likely to forget it, although Lucio Fulci’s Aenigma (1987) is among the less memorable entries on that particular Horror maestro’s increasingly variable filmography.

It was Roadgames (1981), though, that earned Franklin his stab at Psycho II. The film is at once a meditation on the awe-inspiring landscape of the Australian continent (c.f. Nic Roeg’s Walkabout, 1971 and Peter Weir’s Picnic At Hanging Rock, 1975), a road movie and, you guessed, an hommage to Hitchcock. Specifically, it emerged from co-director Everett De Roche’s musings about a kind of anti-Rear Window (1954), in which the protagonist who thinks he’s seen a murder is not stuck in his apartment, rather ranging freely across the Australian desert even while he’s confined to the cab of his HGV, the windscreen dimensions of which approximate those of Jimmy Stewart’s rear window and generate similar reflections on the experience of immersing oneself in a thriller on the big screen. Or you can choose to see it as “that moment” in North By Northwest (1959) magnified to feature length. Either way is good.

Franklin and De Roche wrote the part of eccentric loner Pat Quid (catchphrase: “Just because I drive trucks doesn’t make me a truck driver”) for Sean Connery but although Roadgames became the biggest budgeted Australian film of the early 80s, that proposed casting would have amounted to a wage bill too far and ultimately they settled for Stacy Keach (still possibly choking on the memory of how human flesh tasted in Sergio Martino’s Prisoner Of The Cannibal God, 1978). As the hiker he picks up, whose boring secret identity is revealed towards the film’s conclusion, but whom Quid dubs (d’oh!) “Hitch”, we get Jamie Lee Curtis, keen by that point to climb out of what she perceived as the “scream queen” ghetto but crucially for Franklin, carrying some of her mother Janet Leigh’s Psycho cachet (she also offers oblique observations about her Dad, Tony Curtis, during Road Games).

Their cat and mouse games with suspected sex killer “Smith or Jones” (Grant Page from Mad Max, among many other credits, who also co-ordinated the stunts on Roadgames) makes for suspensful stuff, plentiful plot twists and a handful of satisfying hi-tech action set-pieces… all this plus a coda that “owes much” to the closing frames of Friday The 13th (1980). Franklin’s film, consequently, did tidy domestic and international business, though not everybody involved in the contemporary renaissance of the Australian film industry was pleased about that. There were predictable quibbles about the casting of American rather than Aussie leads, regardless of how well the obvious chemistry between Keach and Curtis enhances its pleasing mix of adventure, suspense, romance and comedy. Nor was it felt, in certain rarified quarters, that such a commercially orientated production was quite the done thing. So much for Mad Max (whose director George Miller was a major supporter and champion of Franklin’s endeavours). So much, indeed, for Hitchcock. Because you’re reading House Of Freudstein rather than Cahiers Du Cinema (or its Australian equivalent), I assume that you’ll take Roadgames for the rollicking good thriller fun it undoubtedly is, even more appealing in this brand new 4k restoration by Powerhouse Films, the limited edition running to 5,000 copies for its UK BD Premiere.

Additional extras include not one but three audio commentaries, one by Franklin and film historian Perry Martin, another with film pundits Anna Bogutskaya and Olivia Howe and yet another involving cinematographer Vincent Monton, costume designer Aphrodite Kondos, production secretary Helen Watts and filmmaker Mark Hartley. There’s over an hour of interview out takes (with Franklin, Keach, Curtis, Grant Page, De Roche and assistant director Tom Burstall) from Hartley’s Not Quite Hollywood documentary and separate interviews (some of them in audio format) with Franklin, Keach and Page. Kangaroo Hitchcock is a 20 minute mini doc on the making of the film and there’s over two hours of a college lecture given by Franklin, co-producer Barbi Taylor and composer Brian May. You also get nearly two hours of pre-production read-through from Franklin, Keach and Marion Edward… even five minutes of May’s music demos, alongside the expected trailers and image galleries. Neil Sinyard’s appraisal of the film is a predictable standout… if this guy had a rugged profile, quiffy hair do and fashionable clothes he’d be all over TV, even if he was nowhere near as good as he invariably is. The limited edition also packs an exclusive 80-page book with original essay by Lee Gambin, archival interviews with Franklin, Keach and Curtis, Franklin’s Hitchcock obituary, an overview of contemporary critical responses, Mark Hartley on …And His Ghost May Be Heard, full film credits and an exclusive double-sided poster.

Quid’s in…

Devil In A Blue Dress. BD. Indicator. Region B. 15.

Writer / director Carl Franklin learned a thing or two about Genre, coming up in the school of Roger Corman. His Devil In A Blue Dress (1995) typifies that strain of Neo Noir which eschews the original article’s reliance on German Expressionism’s bag of visual tricks (forced perspective, broken up black and white, Dutch angles, et al) to play up the sunshine, swimming pools and orange groves found in the pages of Raymond Chandler and his hard boiled buddies. Adapted (in cahoots with the author) from a novel by Walter Mosley (Bill Clinton’s favourite writer, apparently) DIABD also filters its vision of post-WWII LA through the experience of its black characters. It’s a perfectly honourable undertaking to shift paradigm along racial lines, though recently it hasn’t always reaped the artistic dividends that might have been expected. I’m thinking of Warner TV’s Lovecraft Country (which started strongly but collapsed into incoherence) and Jordan Peele’s disappointing Twilight Zone reboot.

Franklin’s film, by contrast, is a very assured piece of work indeed (the school of Corman never did turn out too many duds), which regrettably didn’t stop it from underperforming in box office terms. Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins (Denzel Washington) is a black guy with aspirations to something more than American society has allotted him but after being laid off from the aircraft factory, he’s struggling to pay his mortgage. Against his better judgement, he accepts a job from the slick (and as becomes increasingly evident, psychopathic) Dewitt Albright (Tom Sizemore), who wants him to track down the missing Daphne Monet (Jennifer Beals), runaway fiancee of Todd Carter (Terry Kinney), who has just pulled out of the LA Mayoral race. Daphne has an unfortunate, for some, penchant for the company of gentlemen of colour and it doesn’t take much sniffing around Central Avenue’s juke joints for Easy to pick up her trail. But who’s really tying to track her down and why? And as the plot uglifies (casual racism is the least of Easy’s worries as he struggles to stay out of the frame for the multiplying murders that pepper his investigation) our man attempts to square his conscience with the much needed nice little earner he’s signed up to.

Franklin’s accomplished direction throughout is nicely complimented by an Elmer Bernstein score. The casting of Beals makes sense in terms of the secret that her character’s concealing (though frankly that’s not particularly difficult to guess) but as a femme fatale? Well, she hardly lives up to her billing in the film’s title… Washington’s every bit as good as you’d expect but Don Cheadle as Raymond “Mouse” Alexander, the rather “excitable” friend Easy is obliged to call on, steals every scene that they share. One quibble… how long could the recklessly violent Mouse realistically remain free / alive in an America that has always been and continues to be (as a cursory glance at current headlines would confirm) unrelentingly harsh on its black offenders?

Cheadle’s screen test is the jewel in the crown of extras adorning this limited (to 3,000 units) edition UK BD Premiere, a 2K restoration with 5.1 surround and stereo audio options. Accompanying it there’s an audio commentary from Franklin and and an archival interview with the writer / director, conducted by the Film Noir Foundation’s Eddie Muller at a screening of Devil in a Blue Dress. Yeah, you get image galleries and a trailer plus, if you’re quick enough, an exclusive 36-page booklet with new essay by Keith M Harris, archival interview with Carl Franklin from Positif magazine, extract from Walter Mosley’s source novel, an overview of contemporary critical responses and full film credits.



Categories: Blu-ray / DVD Reviews | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

You Never Can Tell What Will Walk Out Of The Fog… Indicator’s COLUMBIA NOIR #1 Box Reviewed

Foch & Wright’s brush with The Uncanny saves the world for Democracy…

BD. Indicator. Region B. 12.

ESCAPE IN THE FOG (Budd Boetticher, 1945)
THE UNDERCOVER MAN (Joseph H Lewis, 1949)
DRIVE A CROOKED ROAD (Richard Quine, 1954)
5 AGAINST THE HOUSE (Phil Karlson, 1955)
THE GARMENT JUNGLE (Vincent Sherman and Robert Aldrich, 1957)
THE LINEUP (Don Siegel, 1958)

Indicator’s characteristically lush inaugural trawl through Columbia’s Noir and Noirish output makes for an eclectic and immersive box set experience.

Escape In The Fog (directed by Budd Boetticher before he carved out a comfortable niche for himself in Western territory) is a “B” movie in the truest sense of the term, a second feature clocking in at scarcely more than an hour and consequently rattling along at a fair old lick so that Boetticher and writer Aubrey Wisberg can pack their tale of WWII espionage with nasty Nazis, snappy guys, sexy dames tied up in cellars, dirty double crosses and a surprise supernatural element…. all this plus a “blink and you’ll miss her” appearance by the young Shelley Winters.

The MacGuffin that drives this one along is an unspecified “special plan” to end hostilities early (and just four months after Boetticher’s film hit American cinemas, the Enola Gay released its payload over Hiroshima) but the plot turns on the ineffable moment in which recuperating army nurse Eileen Carr (Nina Foch), out for an insomniac stroll across the Golden Gate Bridge, witnesses Barry Malcolm (Willian Wright) being duffed up by some German agents, which turns out to be a (very fortuitous) premonition of something which hasn’t happened yet. As an inquisitive cop tells her: “You never can tell what will walk out of the fog”. What never emerges from that nebulous bridge, however, is any attempt at an explanation for this rum turn of events, which all the participants just seem to take in their stride. Perhaps we’re meant to infer that Divine Providence really was rooting for the Allies or maybe Boetticher was just copping himself a bit of the then-voguish “inner sanctum” action (a mystery series that has continued to exert its influence as recently and controversially as in Brian De Palma’s Femme Fatale, 2002). EITF’s moody meditation on death and destiny, played out in San Francisco, might even have been on Hitchcock’s mind when he shot Vertigo in that city, 13 years later…

Nina Foch fanciers are further served in this box by the Dutch actress’s appearance in The Undercover Man. Here she’s Judith, devoted wife of dedicated IRS agent Frank Warren (Glenn Ford), who’s aiming to bring down Chicago’s “Big Fellow”, after all else has failed, by establishing tax evasion. Although the film never makes this explicit (beyond its vague prologue paean to the unsung heroes of crime cracking), the allusion to the real life and crime story of a certain Alphonse Capone is unmistakable. The principle obstacle to Warren and his tenacious team (below) getting at the truth, of course, is the understandable reluctance of those involved in the numbers, protection and various other rackets to break their silence but ultimately it’s a plucky little granny from the old country who speaks up to settle the crime lord’s hash.

The characterisations in Lewis’s morality play are perhaps more cut and dried, black and white, than is customary in this genre, but the art direction of Walter Holscher, Burnett Guffey’s compositions and low angle photography, plus the slick montages of editor Al Clark, are all out of the Classic Noir playbook. Just who is that “undercover man”, though? Warren whips his warrant card out and starts waving it around at the drop of a hat. Maybe the title character is actually “The Big Fellow”, who conducts his nefarious activities so clandestinely that we never get to see him or even hear his real name.

Glenn Ford played Frank Warren-type roles more times than Posh Spice has had hot dinners but in Drive A Crooked Road (co-written with director Quine by Blake Edwards) we find Mickey Rooney trying to bust out of his goofy nice guy straightjacket and succeeding admirably in the role of Eddie Shannon, a short arsed nobody of a car mechanic who just happens to drive like the clappers. Identifying him as the guy they need to beat police roadblocks after the bank heist they’re planning, cynical hipsters Steve Norris (Kevin McCarthy) and Harold Baker (Jack Kelly) lure the hapless schmuck into their scheme, using sexy Barbara Mathews (Dianne Foster) as the bait in their honey trap. When Babs’ conscience starts troubling her, murderous complications arise. Owing much to the plot of Robert Siodmak’s seminal The Killers (1946), DACR emerges as a strong slice of Noir in its own right and gets an enthusiastic introduction here from Martin Scorsese…

… presumably the director of Casino (1995) is also well aware of 5 Against The House. Phil Karlson’s heist movie features the oldest college students seen on cinema screens until Grease (hang on, they’re Korean War veterans studying on the G.I. Bill… still looking a bit to old to fit even that chronology though, if you ask me) including hunky Al Mercer (Guy Madison), his post traumatic stress-disordered former comrade in arms Brick (Brian Keith) and smart alec Ronnie (Kerwin Mathews), who comes up with the whimsical student wheeze of robbing a casino, just for the fun of it and returning the money. What could possibly go wrong? Enough, potentially, for Al to pull out but he tags along anyway so he can marry his girl Kay (Kim Novak, on the verge of the big time) in Reno. Unfortunately the increasingly deranged Brick won’t stand for anybody punking out and he has no intention of returning any money. Bang bang goes Al and Kay’s honeymoon…

The ensemble acting in this one is pretty strong, though the constant would-be wise cracks from debutant screen-writer Stirling Silliphant quickly wear out their welcome. Never mind (as we’ll shortly see), Silliphant went on to pen some sterling stuff. Kerwin Mathews also gets his first big screen credit, after an anonymous earlier 1955 appearance in Fred Sears’ Cell 2455, Death Row, a thinly veiled dramatisation of the notorious Caryl Chessman / “Red Light Bandit” case. Watch out for a pre-“Cannon” William Conrad too, handling the money in that casino.

Kerwin Mathews is back as Alan Mitchell (above left), another Korean War vet, in The Garment Jungle, returning to take his place in the family fashion business but finding it scarcely less of a battlefield. His father Walter (Lee J. Cobb) has become embroiled with the mob (personified by Richard Boone’s aptly named Artie Ravidge) in an attempt to keep the union out of his shop and takes an eternity to figure out that this attempted cure is actually way more harmful than the perceived illness. He doesn’t seem unduly concerned about union supporting employees being roughed up, organiser Tulio Renata (Robert Loggia) being murdered, nor even his partner / best mate dying in an elevator “accident” but Alan eventually… finally… opens his eyes and takes on the hoods while simultaneously romancing Renata’s widow Theresa (the silver screen’s sexiest Sicilian scouser, Gia Scala). This is another forceful effort, with exactly the level of performances you’d expect from such a standout cast. The script was adapted by Harry Kleiner from newspaper articles in which Lester Velie documented the real life struggles of sweatshop workers. As detailed by Tony Rayns in a bonus featurette, Robert Aldrich shot much of the picture but left it to be completed by Vincent Sherman when his desire to emphasise the Jewish experience in Manhattan’s rag trade was thwarted… by producer Harry Cohn (go figure!) As evidenced by the poster below, Columbia would ultimately take a very different tack in the marketing of the film…

Indicator save the best till last on this set, with the great Don Siegel’s The Lineup, on which the aforementioned Stirling Silliphant proved that he had developed into a film writing force to be reckoned with. The action kicks off at San Francisco International Airport, where an apparently bog standard luggage theft escalates into a shootout that leaves a cop and a taxi driver dead. The police discover that a statuette in the purloined case contains heroin, but recognising that its owner is an unwitting dupe, release it back to him, with an innocuous powder substituted for the skag, while they wait to see who tries to pick it up. Enter the intense Dancer (Eli Wallach), his cynical handler Julian (Robert Keith) and their alcoholic driver, collecting from their unwitting mules until they discover that a cute little girl has used all the dope secreted in her dolly as face powder for it, at which point the brown stuff really hits the fan…

As amply demonstrated here (and Anthony Hopkins, please take note) it’s not necessary to chew on the scenery when playing a psychopath. Wallach’s portrayal of the madness simmering away just below his character’s stone cold surface is masterly stuff and when he finally does blow… oh boy!

As underlined in a short accompanying video essay, Siegel’s film makes exemplary use of its locations (many still standing, some of them long gone). But again, why is it called The Lineup? There is a police lineup in it (more than one, actually) but also plenty more noteworthy stuff, including a climactic car chase that (even without the participation of Mickey Rooney) makes for truly thrilling stuff and predates the more celebrated one in Bullitt by a full decade.

All six films are handsomely presented here, for the first time on UK Blu-ray (with The Undercover Man and Drive a Crooked Road making their world Blu-ray premieres). This set also boasts a 120-page book, and is strictly limited to 6,000 numbered units. There are audio commentaries from the likes of Pamela Hutchinson, Tony Rayns, Nick Pinkerton and David Jenkins. On The Lineup you get a choice of two commentary tracks (or you could spoil yourself and listen to both), one courtesy of legendary crime writer James Ellroy with the Film Noir Foundation’s Eddie Muller and a more recent one featuring film historian David Del Valle and author / screenwriter C Courtney Joyner. Supporting the main feature on each disc you’ll find apposite bonus materials such as Boetticher’s The Fleet That Came To Stay, compiled from original combat footage captured during the Battle of Okinawa and released shortly after Escape in the Fog; Joseph H Lewis’s 1945 short Man on a Bus, a PR job for the fledgling state of Israel starring Walter Brennan, Broderick Crawford, Ruth Roman and yes, Lassie. There are also archival interviews of various vintage with Kim Novak, Robert Loggia and Mickey Rooney (also a brief bit of publicity puff in which Rooney watches an earlier bit of publicity puff, featuring his childhood self, with a couple of his Columbia pals!) Director and Noir buff Christopher Nolan delivers a quickfire appreciation of the genre. You also get three half hour episodes of the early fifties radio series The Lineup: The Case Of Frankie And Joyce, The Candy Store Murder (written by Blake Edwards) and The Harrowing Haggada Handball Case (co-written by Edwards and Richard Quine).

The expected Image galleries and trailers are present and correct but what really puts the cherry on this cake is that Indicator have taken it as the pretext to trot out a bunch of their Three Stooges acquisitions from the Columbia vault, each amusingly reflecting the subject matter of the main feature whose disc they share. Titles are You Nazty Spy (1940), Higher Than A Kite (1943), Rip, Sew And Stitch and Tricky Dicks (both 1953), Income Tax Sappy (1954) and the decidedly odd (atypically so) Sweet And Hot (1958). Plenty there for fans of Larry, Moe, Curly, Shemp and, er, Joe.

Categories: Blu-ray / DVD Reviews | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

“Inhuman & Indecent”… The Ongoing Enigma Of DEMENTIA.

BD / DVD. BFI. Region B. 12.

The first time you watched Eraserhead (1977) or maybe Carnival Of Souls (1962), did you think to yourself: “I’ve never seen anything quite like that before?” If you did, you probably hadn’t seen Dementia (made in 1953, finally released in 1955) though I’d be prepared to wager that David Lynch and Herk Hervey did, before taking up their cameras. This singular cinematic oddity has exerted an unacknowledged influence over countless films, arguably encompassing Polanski’s Repulsion (1965) and offerings as recent as David Slade’s contribution (This Way To Egress) to the 2018 portmanteau effort Nightmare Cinema (2018)… and you know what? I’m even starting to wonder about the opening shots of Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960)…

Of course the most maddening thing about this visual record of one psychotic woman (Adrienne Barrett) and her long day’s journey into night is how very little we know (doodly squat, to be precise) about Dementia’s elusive writer / director John Parker. He isn’t even granted either of those credits on any print (“a John Parker production” is as far as it goes) and although Parker family money apparently underwrote the picture, some commentators detect the veiled auteurial hand of associate producer Bruno VeSota, who lent his imposing (Orson Welles-like) physical presence to the casts of such exploitation classics as Tell-Tale Heart (his 1947 screen debut), The Wild One (1953), The Fast And The Furious (1954), The Undead and Rock All Night (both 1957), War Of The Satellites, The Cry Baby Killer and Hot Car Girl (all 1958) and the crucial 1959 quartet of I Mobster, The Wasp Woman, A Bucket Of Blood and Attack Of The Giant Leeches. Then there was Invasion Of The Star Creatures and The Violent And The Damned (both 1962), Attack Of The Mayan Mummy (1964), Curse Of The Stone Hand and Creature Of The Walking Dead (both 1965), The Wild World Of Batwoman aka She Was A Hippy Vampire (1966) and Hell’s Angels On Wheels (1967). Yeah, Bruno got around…

Here he plays “Rich Man”, the sugar daddy who picks up “The Gamin” (Barrett), with the pandering assistance of Richard Barron’s “Evil One”… I think the word “pimp” was probably banned by the Hays Code or something (God knows what Pastor Hays and his office made of the Bunuelian severed hand that scuttles through several scenes of Dementia). As it is, the New York Censorship Board rejected the film for two years on the grounds of its “inhumanity and indecency” (!)

Rescuing “The Gamin” from skid row street hassles and pursuit by a cop who recalls her abusive father (both played by Ben Roseman), “Rich Man” takes her on a date from Hell, culminating in a beatnik jazz club session that describes a queasy crescendo recalling the climax to the mother of all portmanteau horror movies, 1945’s Dead Of Night, resolving itself (or failing to so so) in similarly unsettling fashion.

While Curtis Harrington’s Night Tide (another film in which VeSota appeared) renders similar Venice Beach locations as vaguely menacing, this one goes the whole Nightmare Noir bit with distorted Expressionist shots and compositions courtesy of William C. Thompson (raising the barely credible possibility that Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space might not even qualify as the most offbeat item on this one eyed cinematographer’s CV). Special mention for the after dark, Dickensian restaging of the protagonist’s abuse / neglectful upbringing in a cemetery.

In retrospect, despite the glowing testimonial of Preston Sturges (yes, the Preston Sturges, who declared Dementia “a Film To Purge Your Libido & Permeate Your Idioplasm!”) it’s hardly surprising that such an avant garde (and dialogue free) effort struggled to find mainstream distribution. The widest (fragmentary) exposure it’s received up till now undoubtedly came via its inclusion as the film-within-a-film in The Blob! (1958), though that movie’s producer Jack H. Harris also released Dementia in an alternative cut retitled Daughter Of Horror (available among the extras here) in 1957.

Harris also tacked on a truly hysterical voice over track, delivered by the young Ed McMahon, whose most impactful contribution on popular culture has been with the infinitely pithier and punchier “Heeeere’s Johnny!” introduction to Johnny Carson’s long running American chat show. Hey, I wonder if that could be worked into a film about somebody slowly losing their marbles…

Other extras, aside from the expected image gallery and trailers (plus Joe Dante’s trailer micro-appraisal) include a short compare compare-and-contrast exercise underlining the extraordinary care the Cohen Film Collection applied in its restoration of such a niche property and (stop me if you’ve heard these words before) a newly recorded audio commentary by Kat Ellinger. There’s also Alone With The Monsters, a kindred spirit, sixteen minute short in which Nazli Nour explores the dying thoughts of a demented woman. In the first pressing only, you’ll also discover a fully illustrated collectors’ booklet with new essays by Ian Schultz and the BFI’s William Fowler and Vic Pratt.

Sit down, make yourself uncomfortable and “enjoy” Dementia…

Categories: Blu-ray / DVD Reviews | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Let Sleeping Corpses Lie… Antonioni’s STORY OF A LOVE AFFAIR Reviewed.

tumblr_mxs66ozgTM1rat02ao1_400.jpg

BD. Region Free. CultFilms. PG

Enrico Fontana (Ferdinando Sarmi) is a Milanese industrial magnate, doing very well for himself, but his wife Paola (Lucia Bosè), whom he married after a whirlwind romance in 1943, remains a beautiful, remote mystery to him. Intrigued by the discovery of photos she’s kept from her apparently carefree youth in Ferrara, he enlists private detective Carloni (Gino Rossi) to fill in some of the gaps from her biography.

tumblr_o7llfrTPl61qaihw2o5_500.jpg

The problem is, there’s an obscure incident that occurred just before Paola met Enrico, which she would very much like to remain that way… as would her former lover Guido (Massimo Girotti). Obliged to reconnect in an attempt to thwart Carloni’s investigations, they rekindle their earlier passion. Somebody who previously came between them has already died in unexplained circumstances… will boring Enrico go the same way?

index.jpg

Those “post car sex” blues will get you every time…

Neorealism served Italian Cinema and society very well in the immediate post War period (expiating guilt for both the excesses of Fascism and the ridiculous, Mussolini approved  “White Telephone” films) but the writing was on the tenement wall after the 1950 feature debuts of two diverse talents. Federico Fellini clocked in with Lights Of Variety (Luci Del Varietà) and Michelangelo Antonioni, after making documentaries, writing film criticism and teaching at Centro Cinematografia Sperimentale (where one of his “livelier” students was a certain Lucio Fulci) directed Chronicle Of A Love Affair (Cronaca Di Un Amore).

ossessione-01-1-g.jpg

As well as being an eminently watchable and artful thriller (proto giallo, anyone?), the latter is a crucially transitional film, as can be best understood by contrasting its approach with that of Visconti’s similarly Noirish 1943 effort Ossessione (above), both of course owing much to James M. Cain’s novel The Postman Always Rings Twice and both starring Girotti. Yes, Antonioni honoured the NR tradition of casting non-actors… Bosè’s career trajectory (from soda jerk to beauty queen, Antonioni’s lover and – at Visconti’s insistence – the star of this film) was almost as unconventional as that of the character she plays (and plays very well, her apprehension of looming Nemesis almost palpable). Ditto coutourier and one shot thespian Ferdinando Sarmi, who also provides the film’s set decoration and sumptuous costume design, at a time when Milan was just starting to challenge Paris in the High Fashion stakes.

29.jpg

While Visconti, though, got down with the dispossessed (in a way Antonioni would still be echoing  three years later in his short doc People Of The Po Valley), Story Of A Love Affair flips the Neorealist coin by portraying the lives of the well to do, but in a far less flattering light than that afforded them in any amount of Telefono Bianco drivel.

Bellentani.jpg

Antonioni and his co-writers based Story Of A Love Affair on the notorious Countess Bellentani case (principals pictured above) of 1948, just as the similarly scandalous Fenaroli case, ten years later, influenced the plotting of several gialli out of the Martino stable and their imitators, from Romolo Guerrieri’s Sweet Body Of Deborah (1968), the films Umberto Lenzi subsequently made starring Carroll Baker and Sergio Martino’s Strange Vice Of Mrs Wardh (1971).

LenziBakerCollection-500x585.jpg

All of those were in a determinedly populist tradition (and nothing wrong with that, it was precisely such box office hits that underwrote production of the supposedly “worthier” stuff) but in beginning to shrug off the proletarian prescriptions of classic Neorealism, Antonioni was taking the first step in a personal cinematic journey of a thousand miles that would turn him into the Quintessential “Arthouse Director”, the Silver Screen’s most potent purveyor of existential alienation.

tumblr_m57uxrMMgf1qg8i40.jpg

Alienation’s a very old word… it’s been around since Richard III.

This release, an international Blu-Ray debut, is based on a 2k restoration from 15 years ago (Story Of A Love Affair was one of the first films to undergo such treatment, under the supervision of Giuseppe Rotunno, no less) and does full justice to the magisterial monochrome photograpy of Enzo Serafin and Aldo Scavara’s camera operation through some long, fluid takes. Special mention too for Giovanni Fusco’s disquieting score, with its strangulated woodwind.

CULT313 Story of a Love Affair 2D packshot.jpg

Extras include assorted scholarly appraisals of the film’s status, the reminiscences of co-writer / assistant director Francesco Maselli (the sheer chutzpah by which Marco Ferreri kickstarted and nursemaided the production emerging as a consistent theme) and a featurette on the restoration process. Most engaging of all is a visual record of the restoration’s Premiere screening with the director and Bosè, plus guest attendees including the likes of Giuseppe Tornatore, ’60s / ’70s sex symbol Zeudi Araya (now a producer, still looking mind bogglingly fine) and Dario Argento. Argento hails Antonioni as the guv’nor (“the greatest Italian director”) and while it isn’t too hard to spot the influence on his Deep Red (1975) of 1966’s Blow Up (another Antonioni picture in which a forensic investigation ultimately obfuscates more than it illuminates), first time viewers of SOALA might acquire a new perspective on the conclusion to Argento’s own masterpiece, in which the hero watches somebody die in a lift mechanism. Sins of omission, of course, are one small step away from acquiescence … from sins of collaboration… and as in much of the finest Cinema that Italy produced in the second half of the Twentieth Century (from Pasolini, overtly, to more oblique offerings such as Pupi Avati’s The House With Laughing Windows), Story Of A Love Affair touches on that touchiest of questions for a whole Italian generation: “What did you do in the War?”

Chronaca1.jpg

The most moving image on this set is that of Antonioni at the aforementioned Premiere, feted by his peers but immobile and unresponsive, locked in by the stroke which blighted the last quarter Century or so of his life, simultaneously sad and appropriate for (a good line, they say, is worth repeating) the Silver Screen’s most potent purveyor of existential alienation.

zabriskie-point-1970-002-00m-swr-antonioni-in-canyon.jpg

Categories: Blu-ray / DVD Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Back In Black… Arrow Academy’s FOUR FILM NOIR CLASSICS Box Set Reviewed

bc2.jpg

Cornel Wilde endures the Siren’s song in Joseph H. Lewis’s The Big Combo…

BD / DVD Combi. Regions B/2. Arrow Academy. PG.

Labels make things easier. Sometimes too easy. Especially when applied retrospectively. In his seminal 1973 tome A Heritage Of Horror: The English Gothic Cinema 1946-1972, David Pirie labelled three films that had been released almost a decade-and-a-half earlier (Horrors Of The Black Museum, Circus Of Horrors and Peeping Tom) as “Anglo-Amalgamated’s Sadean Trilogy”. While effectively differentiating these films from the Gothic Horrors of Hammer and their imitators, this appellation managed to misleadingly elide the simple-minded (albeit inventive) gory thrills of the first two with Michael Powell’s masterly analysis of scopophilia. Donning my music hack head here for a moment, nor have I ever been entirely convinced that such a thing as “the UK Freakbeat Scene” (diagnosed by Phil Smee almost twenty years after the alleged event) ever actually existed.

And so it is with Film Noir… although coined by Nino Frank as early as 1946, this term for b/w Hollywood crime epics of the ’40s and 50’s (that were more commonly known, in their day, as “melodramas”) didn’t really catch on in critical circles until the 1970s and again, the nomenclature covers a bewilderingly disparate collection of titles and scenarios, from stirring tales of two-fisted dicks (though never, sadly, the converse) tangling with The Syndicate and assorted femmes fatales to more sophisticated efforts that presented their proverbially pulpy, Chandler, Hammett and Woolrich-patented anti-heroes in Expressionist compositions and confronted them with Freudian conundrums… in a further refinement, the films gris took it upon themselves to critique The American Way itself.

Arrow Academy’s box set is a useful sampler of this cinematic phenomenon (it would really be pushing it to describe film noir as a “movement”), comprising four pictures that illustrate its length (the earliest was made just after the end of WWII, the latest mid-way through the ‘ 50s) and breadth (in stylistic and thematic terms).

olivia-de-havilland_the-dark-mirror_6.jpg

Robert Siodmak’s The Dark Mirror was made in 1946, the year in which its director also managed The Spiral Staircase and The Killers…. boy, they used to knock ’em out in those days! Olivia de Havilland turns in a tour de force performance or two in this one, starring as the identical Collins twins Terry and Ruth, one of whom has murdered a former lover and one of whom is covering up for her sibling. Without the latter’s co-operation, Lt. Stevenson (Thomas Mitchell) can’t pin the kill on either of them and in exasperation he calls in Dr. Scott Elliott (Lew Ayres), renowned psychiatrist and expert on twins, to see if he can distinguish the psycho from her over-loyal counterpart. The doc falls in love with Ruth (or is it Terry?) and both of them take a shine to him. Given that it was precisely this triangular arrangement which aroused the emotions that led to the original murder (of another eligible doctor), the closer Elliott gets to the truth the shorter his life expectancy starts looking…

2e20e58a850b5017c4131d1dd154c2a0--lew-film-noir.jpg

Psychiatrist Scott Elliott gets in over his head with Ruth (or is it Terry?) in The Dark Mirror.

With the aid of some nifty process shots, Siodmak and screen writer Nunnally Johnson adeptly keep the viewer guessing as to who’s who in the sisterly configuration and what each of them is up to. Engaging stuff, for which you’ll have to keep your wits about you… and a clear influence on the subsequent likes of Basic Instinct (1992).

0263_SECRET_BEYOND_THE_DOOR_01.jpg

If Siodmak’s picture dabbles a toe in the waters of aberrant psychology, Fritz Lang’s Secret Beyond The Door (1947) jumps straight in there, right up to its impeccable Expressionist arse. While Lang exerted an undeniable influence over much of Hitchcock’s output, SBTD is a pretty blatant rip of Sir Alfred’s Rebecca (1940) albeit with hysteria levels ramped up to (at least) 11.

Slumming it in Mexico, bored heiress Celia (Joan Bennett) undergoes a whirlwind wooing at the hands of charismatic chancer Mark Lamphere (the perennially troubled and troubling Michael Redgrave) and before you can say “spot the loony” she’s married him. Talk about “marry in haste, repent at leisure:… on arriving chez Lamphere, Celia finds it inhabited by the intense Lamphere Jr, her snotty new sister-in-law and a jealous governess who’s pretending to be facially scarred (as you do). The joint is also (metaphorically) haunted by the spectre of Mark’s deceased first wife. Just to put the tin hat on her newfound domestic bliss, Mark (whose moods swing more energetically than Hugh Hefner) has taken the “man cave” thing to extremes, turning six rooms in the place over to commemorations of infamous wife-killings. A seventh room is locked against all comers and of course instead of legging it, Celia resolves to stick around and find out to whose upcoming murder it is has been consecrated… well, duh!

Although Celia laughingly slights psychoanalysis at one point, this film ultimately puts more faith in the instantaneous curative power of catharsis than Freud himself ever did.. Certainly Celia does, confident that the truth about a childhood trauma will stop Mark in his murderous tracks…

600full-secret-beyond-the-door-screenshot.jpg

“Calm down, calm down…”

… though the suggestion that something as trivial as said incident, when revealed in all its banality, could have driven Mark to the brink of murderous madness makes you doubt that the film’s happy ending is going to stick. This is psychoanalytical schtick pitched scarcely higher than in any run-of-the-mill giallo (e.g. the guy in Lamberto Bava’s Blade In The Dark who develops a pathological fear of hearing ping-pong balls bouncing in the night, or whatever it is). *

Predating Men Are from Mars, Women Are From Venus and its imitators, there has been an honourable (well, sometimes) tradition of couching the proverbial battle of the sexes in violently metaphorical terms that can be traced back through the likes of Pedro Almodóvar’s Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1989), Piero Schivazapa’s The Frightened Woman (1969), … even unto The Taming Of The Shrew (1590-92). Crossing the line that delineates finely-wrought from overwrought, The Secret Beyond The Door rapidly drifts way out of its psychological depth but is consistently difficult to tear your eyes off, pitched, as it is, camper than a row of tents.

SecretBeyondtheDoorBook.jpgForce of Evil.jpg

A theme that emerges at several points in the supplementary materials on this box is that many of the seminal noir directors were dissenting refugees from Nazi Germany and that this background lent the films much of their dark edge. Abraham Polonsky, whose  family escaped earlier Russian pogroms, emerged in his as turn as a stalwart of left-wing intellectual New York Jewry. His first significant venture into film noir was writing Robert Rossen’s Body And Soul (1947), in which an ambitious but principled up-and-coming boxer (played by John Garfield, “the Jewish Brando”) faces his toughest fight outside the ring, struggling to maintain his integrity in the face of professional pugilism’s shadier side. That film’s influence over Raging Bull (1980) is signified here by a Martin Scorsese introduction to the third film in this collection, Polonsky’s directorial debut Force Of Evil (1948).

Garfield stars again as Joe Morse, an ambitious mob lawyer attempting to square his conscience by looking out for his brother Leo (Thomas Gomez), whose small time numbers racket is being swallowed up by The Syndicate, his efforts only serving to open up a further succession of ethical worm cans. The temptation to cite these moral complexities and Garfield’s anguished weighing of them as “Shakespearian” is only intensified by Polonsky and cowriter Ira Wolfert’s decision to render their dialogue as blank verse. The “my brother’s keeper” theme serves as another pre-echo of Raging Bull and admirers of The Godfather might also detect shades of Force Of Evil in Coppola’s 1972 biggie. Nor are the film’s closing shots from under the Brooklyn bridge entirely dissimilar from ones featuring the Golden Gate bridge in Hitchcock’s masterful Vertigo, made ten years after Force Of Evil.

Force-of-Evil-4.jpg

force_of_evil_08.JPG

View from the bridge… John Garfield’s moment of moral awakening in Force Of Evil.

By having Joe turn his back on his former life and prepare (we are led to believe) to spill the beans to the The Law, Polonsky satisfied the Hays Office’s Motion Picture Production Code while slipping through a sly screen parable in which Capitalism is explicitly identified with gangsterism, as the small time numbers runner grind out a living in the shadow of Wall Street. No prizes for guessing that he would fall foul of McCarthyism and the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1951 after being ratted out by Sterling Hayden. Resolutely refusing (as did Garfield) to follow suit and point the finger at others (earning himself the description of “a very dangerous citizen” by Illinois Congressman Harold Velde), Polonsky was blacklisted for decades, writing subsequent pictures (e..g. Robert Wise’s Odds Against Tomorrow, 1959) only with the aid of a “front” and directing a mere handful of further films after HUAC had itself fallen into disrepute.

film-noir-the-big-combo-poster1.jpgBy the mid-fifties artists of the calibre of Lang, Siodmak and Polonsky had, for their various reasons, vacated (or been obliged to vacate) the noir stage, leaving it to more, er, workmanlike types such as Joseph H. Lewis. Although he’d directed The Bowery Boys, Bela Lugosi during the fallen Horror Great’s Monogram period and some other real dross, Lewis clearly picked up a bit of technique along the way (even if much of it could be considered “idiosyncratic” to say the least… his habit of breaking up the foreground of shots in his formulaic Westerns earned him the moniker “Wagon Wheel Joe”) and his Gun Crazy (1950) attained a brief vogue, a few years ago. His best film, though, is probably the one that rounds out this box, 1955’s The Big Combo.

Cornel Wilde’s intense Police Lt. Leonard Diamond (rough Diamond, right?) obsessively pursues Richard Conte’s stone-cold psycho hoodlum Mr Brown (Hm, wonder if Quentin Tarantino ever saw this one?), his moral mission complicated by his equally driven desire for the bad guy’s girl Susan (Jean Wallace). But is this infatuation itself driven by an unconscious desire to have what Brown has… to be what he is? The Big Combo could easily have turned into formulaic stuff but Wilde’s undercharismatised performance and Wallace’s wet Nelly screen non-presence are amply made up for by the brilliance of the bad guys.

Conte proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that once your character has been established as a dangerous psycho, there’s no need for you to chew the scenery (a lesson Anthony Hopkins could have learned from him, if not from Brian Cox). What does Susan see in this guy? Well, as Helena Stanton’s Rita, her showgirl rival for Diamond’s affections, puts it: “A woman doesn’t care how her man makes his money… just how he makes love” and there’s a scene in this film during which we can only infer that Mr Brown is performing cunnilingus on Susan. As if Lewis hadn’t already steered sufficiently close to the wind with that, there are other Production Code-testing scenes in which the dialogue and body language between Mr Brown’s favoured hit men Fante (Lee Van Cleef) and Mingo (Earl Holliman) strongly suggest that they are in a committed homosexual relationship. Mingo seems to address Fante as “Fanny” and is told by him at one point that “the cops will be looking for us in every closet”. When not perpetrating such mischief, Lewis can be found – in cahoots with influential noir cinematographer John Alton – subverting the climax of Casablanca (1942)…

noir-film-pic.jpg

… or supplementing his visual tricks with such audio devices as the final “favour” that Brown does for turncoat henchman Joe McClure (Brian Donlevy, in the same year as he debuted as Hammer’s Quatermass). The Big Combo benefits further from a sleazy big band jazz OST, courtesy of David Rasksin.

Arrow have stuffed this set with attractive extras. Each of the main features gets the commentary track treatment from an interested expert and is accompanied by featurettes, trailers and image galleries. Best of all, three of them are accompanied by contemporary radio productions… an audio rendering of The Dark Mirror, in which John Dehner stars alongside Olivia De Havilland… in honour of its folk tale inspiration, Secret Beyond The Door is paired with a moralistic adaptation of Bluebeard, geared towards a juvenile audience… for Force Of Evil, Arrow wheel out a radio version of Body And Soul (in which Garfield plays opposite the original Mrs Ronald Reagan, Jane Wyman) and Hollywood Fights Back, in which Charles Boyer hosts 40 plus tinsel town titans, denouncing the poison of McCarthyism.

This is an excellent primer / incitement to further studies in the field of film noir, a vibe which has continued to resonate on screens as recently as this year’s Blade Runner 2049. Other noir box sets are available and hopefully Arrow have got a few more up their sleeve, too.

Lee-Van-Cleef-Jean-Wallace-Earl-Holliman-in-The-Big-Combo-1955.jpg

Buy the box or Fante and Mingo will be having a word with you…

* Much has been made of the influence Lang exerted over the look of Dario Argento’s Four Flies On Grey Velvet (1971) but for his far from run-of-the-mill giallo (sic) Suspiria (1977) Argento pinched Joan Bennett, flowers with a secret significance, hidden levels in an imposing building and a fiery climactic conflagration from Secret Beyond The Door.

Categories: Blu-ray / DVD Reviews | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: