The Ultimate Film Noir Collection [DVD]
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Be warned - there is a persistent "Ultimate Film Noir Collection" logo displayed throughout all films positioned lower right, in my experience this is unique for a commercially released DVD and very undesirable.
SCARLET STREET (dreadful transfer) - so bad I didn't watch it.
DETOUR (Good transfer) - This excellent film noir was a B movie made in six days with only six sets, and although close scrutiny can detect evidence of rush it is a gripping film. Al Roberts (Tom Neal) is hitchhiking from New York to California and is offered a lift by shifty good natured Charles Haskell (Edmund MacDonald). When Haskell suddenly dies en route Al continues on his way using Haskell's car and when he gives a lift to Vera (Claudia Drake) his whole world starts collapsing around him.
STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS (highlights burned out otherwise acceptable transfer) - by accident three childhood friends find themselves reunited after eighteen years bound together by a childhood secret. Sam Masterson (Van Heflin) finds his childhood sweetheart Martha Ivers (Barbara Stanwyck) has married weak alcoholic Walter O'Neil (Kirk Douglas in his first film role) now DA. Toni (Lizabeth Scott in early Lauren Bacall look-alike sound-alike mode) as an early released ex con adds to the complications of the explosive reunion.
A complex and involving plot superbly acted out and directed.
WHISTLE STOP (Adequate transfer) - Mary (Ava Gardner just before she became a major star) returns to her small town home and tentatively resumes a fraught affair with Kenny Veetch (George Raft) and rekindles her interest and his rivalry with small time night club owner Lew Lentz (Tom Conway). A good plot, cast and direction that somehow fails to reach its full potential, possibly Ava Gardner is too much the screen goddess.
However taking into the account a very good performance by Victor McLaglen as Kenny's craggy bar tending friend it is a pretty good example of the genre.
HE WALKED BY NIGHT (Adequate except burned out highlights) - Cast your mind back to the TV series "DRAGNET" and you have "He Walked by Night", lots of voice over, except for bit parts, all male cast. A good but not outstanding thriller about a thief who steals high tech equipment and to protect himself starts a campaign of killing policemen. Jack Webb conceived the idea for "Dragnet" when he landed the role of Lee the ballistics expert in the film.
TRAPPED (Adequate except burned out highlights) - Near perfect counterfeit notes start circulating but the originator of the plates Tris Stewart (Lloyd Bridges) is in prison. The police attempt a deal with Stewart to find the plates in return for early parole. Bridges escapes from the police whilst being escorted on a bus and starts an involved plot of cross and double cross. Very enjoyable thriller noir.
IMPACT (Good transfer) - In reality a B-movie writ large. Irene Williams (Helen Walker) conspires with lover Jim Torrance (Tony Barrett) to kill her husband Walter (Brian Donlevy). Torrance is killed and burned beyond recognition after botching the killing of Walter who escapes and starts afresh as a motor mechanic working for war widow Marsha Peters (Ella Raines).
Plenty of twists and turns but the film tends to plod along a bit, and Donlevy is pretty stolid in his role of the deceived husband. Nice touches are a cameo for May Wong (exotic dancer from 30s films "Picadilly" etc) and Mae Marsh in the midst of her astonishing fifty five year film career.
D.O.A. (Good transfer) - "Homicide Captain: "Who was murdered?" ... Frank Bigelow: "I was."
This unforgettable exchange begins a superb film noir about Frank Bigelow (Edmond O'Brien) who discovers he has been slipped a slow acting poison for which there is no antidote whilst on a short holiday away from it all and trying to make his mind up about his relationship with Paula Gibson (Pamela Britton). The pace never slackens as Bigelow tries to find the reason for his murder, filmed in fine atmospheric black and white.
QUICKSAND (Very good transfer) - Quicksand is basically a feature length very good B-movie. Motor mechanic Dan Brady (Mickey Rooney) pursued by a former girl friend Helen (Barbara Bates) is attracted to bad girl Vera (Jeanne Cagney real life sister of James Cagney) and borrows $20 from the till of his employers and being unable to pay it back finds himself hurtled into a downward spiral of crime.
There is a total lack of chemistry between Rooney and the two women that prevents me getting involved in the very ingenious plot, which places me at odds with other critics that find it suspenseful, creepy and spine chilling. Sorry about it but we will have to disagree.
THE HITCHHIKER (Good transfer except for a few short bad patches) - Based on a true story and believed to be the only film noir directed by a woman Ida Lupino. Two friends Roy Collins (Edmond O'Brien) and Gilbert Bowen (Frank Lovejoy) are taking a short break from their families for a fishing holiday when they give a lift to psychopath Emmett Myers (William Talman).
Talman is superb as the unstable, dangerous and menacing Myers, tormenting and teasing his captives about when he will kill them. Although there are just the three main characters there are lots of events along the 500 mile journey to Mexico and the fine acting and direction ensures the tension never slackens.
FINALLY - So ten very fine films at an unbelievable price but considerable shortcomings on some of the transfers. The set is rounded out with a "Film Noir" featurette that is nothing more than a series of excerpts from theatrical trailers (some in truly atrocious transfers).
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