If you’re new to my monthly Film Noir Releases posts, welcome! My goal is to cover all the first-time releases to Blu-ray and DVD, usually passing over reissues unless there’s a good reason to include them. (I also tend to leave out more recent films.) Unless otherwise noted, the following are all North American Region A Blu-ray discs. I often use the terms “film noir,” “neo-noir,” and “noir-stained” rather loosely, so while you may quibble with some of my choices, I hope these are films you’ll at least consider. As always, if you know of any film noir, neo-noir, or noir-stained titles I’ve left out, please let me know in the comments below. And thanks for reading.
I also have a video version of my New Releases in Film Noir on my YouTube channel. I hope you’ll check it out:
Noirvember is here! After a month of horror dominating the new releases, it’s time to unleash a different kind of dark side, one filled with the messy elements of human nature: greed, desire, deception, betrayal, despair, and much more. I’ve got several good - and some great - releases for you, so let’s get started:
Flicker Alley has been responsible for several collaborations with the Film Noir Foundation and the UCLA Film and Television Archive, but this may be their greatest project yet: two film noir titles from Argentina. Also know that these releases come in Blu-ray and DVD formats in one package. Both releases are also region free.
The Beast Must Die (La bestia debe morir, 1952) Viñoly Barreto - Flicker Alley Blu-ray + DVD
In Spanish with English subtitles
Based on the 1936 novel by Nicholas Blake (pen name for Cecil Day-Lewis, father of Daniel Day-Lewis), The Beast Must Die finds mystery writer Felix Lane (Narciso Ibáñez Menta) mourning the death of his nine-year-old son, killed in a hit-and-run accident. Lane doesn’t even wait for the authorities to investigate. He changes his identity and searches for the killer himself. Yet Lane’s investigation takes him to some places he isn’t prepared for. This release includes an introduction by Eddie Muller, a conversation between Argentine film archivist and historian Fernando Martín Peña and Daniel Viñoly, son of visionary director Román Viñoly Barreto, a profile of actor Narciso Ibáñez Menta by film historian Fernando Martín Peña, an audio commentary by author and film historian Guido Segal, a souvenir booklet with an essay by Segal as well as rare, original photos, posters, lobby cards, and advertisements.
The Bitter Stems (Los Tallos Amargos, 1956) Fernando Ayala - Flicker Alley Blu-ray + DVD
In Spanish with English subtitles
The story behind this film is almost as compelling as the film itself. Los tallos Amargos won the Argentine Film Critics Association’s Silver Condor award (designating the country’s best film) in 1957 with Fernando Ayala picking up the Best Director award for the film. While lauded in Argentina, the film remained virtually unknown to the rest of the world for decades. Even Eddie Muller was unaware of the title until his friend and cinephile/collector Fernando Martín Peña showed him a 16mm print of the film. (If Peña’s name sounds familiar, it’s probably because he was responsible for discovering the complete version of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis a few years ago.)
Muller was knocked out by Los tallos amargos and even though he saw it without English subtitles, he knew he had to find a print of the film he could restore and share with the world. Thankfully, Peña found a deteriorating negative in a private residence outside Buenos Aires and the Film Noir Foundation went to work.
An Argentine newspaper reporter named Alfredo Gaspar teams up with a Hungarian immigrant named Liudas (Vassili Lambrinos) to run a journalism correspondence course scam. All I will tell you about the rest of the plot is this: one of the men starts to distrust the other, leading to tragedy.
American Cinematographer magazine honored Los tallos amargos in 2000 as one of the “Best Photographed Films of All-Time,” so clearly someone remembered the film. Once you see it, you’ll understand why. Los tallos amargos is filled with brilliant cinematography and innovation. The score by Ástor Piazzolla - recognized as the world’s foremost composer of tango music - is stunning and vibrant, incorporating both classical and jazz styles in a refreshingly powerful way.
As you can see, I can’t say enough about this film, which is easily in my All-Time Top 10 film noir titles. Extras include an introduction by Eddie Muller, a conversation with Fernando Martín Peña, a profile of composer Ástor Piazzolla by author and film historian Steven Smith, an audio commentary by Imogen Sara Smith, and a booklet featuring rare original photos, posters, lobby cards, ads, and an essay by film historian María Elena de las Carreras. This film is my highest recommendation of the month and probably of the entire year. Do not miss it.
Fury (1936) Fritz Lang - Warner Archive
Traveling through a small Midwestern town, gas station owner Joe Wilson (Spencer Tracy) is falsely accused of kidnapping a child. The town’s sheriff (Edward Ellis) begins to think Wilson is innocent, but a local rabble-rouser (Bruce Cabot) whips up the town into… well, a fury. I won’t tell you what happens when the inevitable lynch mob comes to deal with Wilson, but Fury is a film you won’t soon forget. Many other films have used this same premise (Try and Get Me from 1950 is one of the best), but Fury does it superbly. The picture also stars Sylvia Sydney, Walter Brennan, and stands as Fritz Lang’s first American film. The 2005 DVD featured an audio commentary by Peter Bogdanovich and interview excerpts of Fritz Lang, but it’s uncertain whether these will be ported over to the Blu-ray.
Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1948) John Farrow - Kino Lorber
Based on a novel by Cornell Woolrich, Night Has a Thousand Eyes features another collaboration between director John Farrow with screenwriter Jonathan Latimer (and Barré Lyndon). Like their later film Alias Nick Beal (1949), Night Has a Thousand Eyes features a supernatural element. Edward G. Robinson plays John Triton, a nightclub mentalist/fortune teller who has legitimate skills, but is helpless when it comes to preventing the deaths he sometimes foresees. When an heiress (Virginia Bruce) attempts suicide, her fiancée (John Lund) begins to doubt Triton’s prediction of her death, thinking something fishy is going on. Is it? This is a fun noir, and I never pass up a chance to see the great Edward G. Robinson. This release includes a new audio commentary by Imogen Sara Smith, whose commentaries I also never pass up.
The Accused (1949) William Dieterle - Kino Lorber
Loretta Young plays psychology professor Wilma Tuttle, whose student Bill Perry (Douglas Dick) tries to get a little too friendly with his teacher. While fighting off the student, Wilma accidentally kills him, then flees the scene, pretending nothing happened. Ah, but she’s a psychology professor with… wait for it… feelings of guilt. Things ratchet up even more when a homicide detective (Wendell Corey) starts asking questions as does the student’s guardian (Robert Cummings). Does Wilma stand a chance? A somewhat standard story, but the acting and direction are very good. The Accused includes a new audio commentary by film historian Eddy Von Mueller.
Among the Living (1941) Stuart Heisler - Kino Lorber
Albert Dekker stars in a dual role as twins: one a successful industrialist named Paul, the other his dangerously insane brother John, who has been (unbeknownst to Paul) hidden and sheltered by the family physician, Dr. Saunders (Harry Carey) since the boys were 10 years old. John soon escapes his attic prison and flees into the city, finding an alluring young woman named Millie (Susan Hayward) who doesn’t know she’s dealing with a madman. Theodor Sparkuhl’s cinematography combines traces of horror and Southern Gothic with the shadowy depths we’ve come to recognize from film noir. The sets and production values might look like a B picture, but director Stuart Heisler moves the story along at a rapid pace. It’s a short one at only 67 minutes, but this one does contain a new audio commentary by professor and film scholar Jason A. Ney.
Deported (1950) Robert Siodmak - Kino Lorber
The folks at Blu-ray.com categorize this picture as “film noir, romance, thriller, crime, drama.” This movie doesn’t know what it is! Loosely based on the deportation of Italian/American gangster Lucky Luciano from the U.S. to Italy , which you can read about here, Deported chronicles the deportation and its aftermath for the Luciano-like character named - and this is an exciting name - Vic Smith (Jeff Chandler). Vic discovers that, “Hey, I can work it in Italy just as well as I did in America!” Plus he falls for a rich contessa (Marta Toren), and there you have it. It’s probably better than it sounds, especially considering that the picture is directed by Robert Siodmak and shot by William H. Daniels. No word on extras.
Party Girl (1958) Nicholas Ray - Warner Archive
This color film noir from Nicholas Ray focuses on two people who want to abandon their underworld connections: mob lawyer Thomas Farrell (Robert Taylor) and chorus girl Vicki Gaye (Cyd Charisse). Mob boss and sadistic killer Cookie La Motte (Lee J. Cobb), however, isn’t having any of it. The use of color and CinemaScope improve what is basically a rather routine script, and Ray keeps things interesting, especially with showcase cinematography by Robert J. Bronner. Taylor does a good job while Charisse is very good (performing two impressive dance numbers). Cobb does well, but he’s played this type of role so many times, how could he not be good in it? I only saw this one once years ago, so I’m eager to revisit this one. No word on extras, which means there probably aren’t any.
So we don’t have a huge number of noir titles for November, but other than Fury, they all come from the classic film noir era. I hope you’ll consider adding some of these to your Noirvember viewing. Thanks for reading. Everyone be safe, take care, and watch some great film noir.