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4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars

VINE VOICEon 1 September 2007
This is another installment from Warner Bros. of Film Noir classics although lesser known and perhaps less appreciated. The set of ten films is presented as double features with two films to a disc (DL-DVD). As always the transfers are of respectable quality with all films featuring audio commentaries by film historians. This is brilliant value for money.

*****Act of Violence (MGM, 1949)*****

Director: Fred Zinnemann (High Noon,1952; From Here To Eternity, 1953)

An excellent film noir tackling the popular noir theme of a man haunted by the past, in this case survivor's guilt. Excellent chiaroscuro lighting and strong performances all round, but specially from Van Heflin. I thought it was wonderfully well paced tracking the central character's slow downward spiral into guilt with a lack of resistance to his fate that is similar in many ways to "The Killers" (Siodmak, 1946)
Van Heflin (Shane, 1953)
Robert Ryan (Crossfire,1947; Bad Day At Black Rock, 1955)
Janet Leigh (Psycho,1960; Touch of Evil,1958)
Mary Astor (The Maltese Falcon,1941)

Cinematography: Robert Surtees (The Bad and the Beautiful,1952; ; The Graduate,1967, The Last Picture Show,1971)
Screenwriter: Robert L Richards (Winchester '73, 1950)

*****Mystery Street (MGM, 1950)*****

Director: John Sturges (Bad Day At Black Rock, 1955)

"Mystery Street" starts out like a typical noir then moves into docu-noir territory with a CSI type investigation. The highlight of the film though is the cinematography by John Alton (The Big Combo, Raw Deal, T-Men) who really defines the noir look. Strong performances also from two actors, notably Jan Sterling (Ace in the Hole, 1951) whom we don't see enough of and Elsa Lanchester (The Bride Of Frankenstein,1935). Overall a good crime thriller.

*****Crime Wave (Warner Bros., 1954)*****

Director: Andre de Toth

Great lesser known noir with some really great performances, most notably Gene Nelson, and location shooting which lends it a certain amount of realism. A real highlight of the set.

Sterling Hayden (Asphalt Jungle, 1950; The Killing, 1956; Johnny Guitar, 1954)
Gene Nelson (Oklahoma, 1955)
Cinematography: Bert Glennon (The Scarlett Empress, 1934; Stagecoach, 1939)

*****Decoy (Monogram, 1946)

Director: Jack Bernhard

This film is a genuine B-Noir which allows it to be a bit more outrageous that most A-Noir especially which it comes to the femme fatale character played by English actress Jean Gillie. Wonderfully entertaining to watch.

Cinematography: Lewis William O'Connell (Scarface, 1932)

*****Where Danger Lives (RKO Radio Pictures, 1950)*****

Director: John Farrow (The Big Clock, 1948)

This really is another highlight of the set with superb direction, cinematography and acting most notably from Robert Mitchum and Claude Raines (eve though he's only in it briefly). An upstanding doctor is suck into the whirlpool of the noir world by a woman. Always a popular theme in Film Noir.

Robert Mitchum (Out of the Past, 1947; Angel Face,1953; Night of the Hunter, 1955)
Faith Domergue (This Island Earth, 1955)

Screenwriter: Charles Bennett (Blackmail,1929; The 39 Steps, 1939)
Cinematography: Nick Musuraca (Cat People, 1942; The Spiral Staircase,1946; Out Of The Past, 1947)

*****Tension (MGM, 1949)*****

Director: John Berry

This film contains one of the great film noir performances of a femme fatale with a plot you're never quite sure where it's going. Excellent cinematography.
Audrey Totter (The Postman Always Rings Twice,1946)
Richard Basehart (The House On Telegraph Hill, 1951; La Strada,1954)

Screenwriter: Alan Rivkin (Dead Reckoning, 1947)
Cinematography: Harry Stradling (A Streetcar Named Desire,1951; Angel Face,1953; A Face In The Crowd, 1957)

*****Illegal (Warner Bros., 1955)*****

Director: Lewis Allen (Suddenly,1954)

Not really a noir but more a courtroom melodama, yet still quite good and definitely recommended for Robinson fans. "Illegal" also features a debut performance from Jane Mansfield.

Edward G Robinson (Little Caesar,1930; Double Indemnity,1944)
Nina Foch (An American In Paris, 1951)

Cinematography: J Peveral Marley (The Ten Commandments,1956; The Spirit Of St Louis,1957)
Screenwriter: WR Burnett (Little Caesar, 1930; Scarface, 1932; The Asphalt Jungle, 1950)

*****The Big Steal (RKO Pictures, 1949)*****

Director: Don Siegel (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1956; Dirty Harry, 1971)

Early Siegel picture that is a kind of screwball romantic-comedy chase-movie with elements of noir. The reteaming of Mitchum and Greer after the success of "Out of the Past" is always going to be the highlight. The Big Steal struck me as being something Howard Hawks could have made.

Robert Mitchum (Out of the Past, 1947; Angel Face,1953; Night of the Hunter, 1955)
Jane Greer (Out of the Past,1947)
William Bendix(Blue Dahlia, 1946;The Glass Key,1942)

Cinematography: Harry J Wild (The Magnificent Ambersons, 1942; Murder, My Sweet, 1944)

*****They Live By Night (RKO Pictures, 1949)*****

Director: Nicholas Ray (Rebel Without A Cause, 1955; Johnny Guitar, 1954; In A Lonely Place, 1950)

The first of several Ray masterpieces which is an innocent precursor to other similar films such as "Bonnie and Clyde"(1967), "Badlands" (1973), "Perroit le Fou"(1965) and "Natural Born Killers" (1994). Romantic noir.

Cathy O'Donnell (The Best Years Of Our Lives, 1946; The Man From Laramie, 1955; Ben-Hur,1955)
Farley Granger (Rope, 1948; Stranger on a Train,1951)

Cinematography: George E Diskant (The Narrow Margin,1952; The Bigamist,1953)

*****Side Street (MGM, 1950)*****

Director: Anthony Mann (T-Men, 1947; Raw Deal,1948)

Screenwriter: Sydney Boehm (The Big Heat,1953)
Cinematography: Joseph Ruttenberg (The Philadelphia Story,1940; Gaslight,1944)
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on 13 February 2008
Vol 4 of Warners Excellent noir series has it's moments but Warners are stretching their definition of noir as Mystery Street(Police procedural)IllegaL (courtroom drama)The Big Steal(crime melodrama)and Crimewave(hardboiled cop thriller)cannot be considered real noir.

Act Of Violence(1949)Tough noir(atypical of director Fred Zinnemann's later career)has Van Heflin as wartime coward pursued by crippled ex-comrade Robert Ryan who has a score to settle.Both stars are fine and the ending is excellent.

Mystery Street(1950)John Sturges directed this striking forensics based murder mystery with Boston Detective Ricardo Montalban on his first murder case struggling to make headway.Superior plotting,excellent script by Sidney Boehm and Richard Brooks and a subtle but unhinged performance by Elsa Lanchester highlight this sleeper.

Crime Wave(1954)Low budgeter from Andre De Toth has Sterling Hayden as tough street cop determined to steer ex-con Gene Nelson from trouble as well as get the bad guys.Okay as far as it goes with some great exterior work.

Decoy(1946)Long heralded shoestring noir features British actress Jean Gillie in a flamboyant performance as the femme fatale to end them all who arranges for her longtime lover to be resusitated after he gets the gas chamber so as to lead her to his hidden loot.However he won't play ball and....well you will have to watch the rest.Over-rated but undeniably(for a noir)great fun.

Illegal(1955)Edward G is the whole show as crusading D A who sends an innocent man to the chair,can't live with the guilt and ends up a defense attorney eventually defending his protege from the Da's office on a murder charge.Okay time filler.

The Big Steal(1949)Jane Greer and Robert Mitchum are reteamed for this Don Siegel thriller set down Mexico way with ex-pal of Mitchum's on the lam with a suitcase of money that he does not wish to share either with Mitchum or with his gal Greer.Fast moving and Greer and Mitchum are well matched as always.

They Live by Night(1949)Held over by 2 years by looney tunes RKO owner Howard Hughes,Nicholas Ray's shadowy youngsters on the lam noir is really a love story.Escaped con Farley Granger(never better)and Cathy O'Donnell try to evade police capture while remaining in the hold of two fellow escapees.Beautiful lighting,innovative camerawork and good performances highlight this stylish film.Foretaste of Ray's subsequent anti Hollywood and brilliant career(In a Lonely Place,Rebel Without A Cause,Bitter Victory etc).

Side Street(1949)Granger and O'donnell again this time as young marrieds who find their lives turned upside after Granger steals what he thinks are a few hundred dollars only to find it is $30 000 of mob money.When he tries to return it,that's when their troubles really begin.Okay but director Anthony Mann has made far better.

Where Danger Lives(1950)Robert Mitchum plays a doctor(!!!)who falls under the spell of grasping socialite Faith Domergue and after her husband is killed the pair go on the run.Unconvincing but watchable throughout but Domergue looks better than she acts and Mitchum lends the film a gravitas it scarcely deserves(as does Claude Rains in his one scene as the husband).

Tension(1949)Audrey Totter is superb as a two timing bucket of slime poured in a dress whose treatment of mild mannered husband Richard Basehart sends the poor fellow into Plan b mode(kill wife).However things don't go according to plan(do they ever)in this slightly overlong but well plotted noir from John Berry.

Good solid fare but no heavyweight standouts.Usual extras.
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