Film Noir New Releases for October 2021
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:
As you might expect, October is typically a horror-fest, but a few interesting noir and noir-related titles have found their way onto the calendar:
Targets (1968) Peter Bogdanovich - BFI Video (UK, Region B)
Let’s kick October off with some controversy right out of the gate. Targets, Peter Bogdanovich’s directorial debut, isn’t a film noir, but it’s an important enough picture that noir fans should at least know about it. A quiet, reserved Vietnam veteran named Bobby (Tim O’ Kelly) finally cracks, killing his wife and mother (as well as a delivery boy) before deciding to escalate his killing by going on a shooting rampage. One of Bobby’s stops is a drive-in movie theater, where horror movie star Byron Orlok (Boris Karloff) is appearing as part of a promotional visit. Targets has gained a following, not just for being Bogdanovich’s first film, but also for the relevance of the film’s themes. Know that Karloff’s screen time is limited, but powerful. This is the first time Targets has been available on Blu-ray, and a North American Region A release is probably coming at some point, but if you’re a fan of this one, don’t hesitate. No word yet on extras.
The Amazing Mr. X (aka The Spiritualist, 1948) Bernard Vorhaus - Film Detective
We’ve seen this setup before: a fake spiritualist named Alexis (Turhan Bey) attempts to fleece widow Christine Faber (Lynn Bari) out of her fortune through a series of séances with her deceased husband Paul (Donald Curtis). But Paul is still alive and very much wants his wife’s money for himself. Plus Christine’s fiancé (Richard Carlson) and her younger sister (Cathy O’Donnell) begin to believe there’s some shenanigans going on. Despite Cathy O’Donnell’s appearance as well as cinematography by the great John Alton, I’m not a huge fan of this one, but I would like to revisit it, especially to see the new 4K restoration. Extras include an audio commentary by film scholar Jason A. Ney, an original documentary from Ballyhoo Motion Pictures called “Mysteries Exposed: Inside the Cinematic World of Spiritualism,” and a full color booklet featuring the Don Stradley essay “The Amazing Mr. Bey.”
High Sierra (1941) Raoul Walsh - Criterion (2 BD set)
With the release of High Sierra (as well as The Maltese Falcon, both in 1941), Humphrey Bogart became a superstar. Bogart plays Mad Dog Roy Earle, a career criminal just released from prison who runs right back into lawbreaking shenanigans with gangster Big Mac (Donald MacBride) for a casino heist. Roy runs across the Goodhue family, which includes Velma (Joan Leslie), who captures Roy’s heart. But Roy’s new accomplices on the heist bring along a young woman named Marie (Ida Lupino), who falls in love with Roy. High Sierra marks a pivotal transition from gangster movies to themes of longing, desperation, and attempts to escape one’s past, all of which helped define noir for years to follow.
The extras on this release are impressive. First, the feature is struck from a new 4K digital transfer. Second, the release also includes Colorado Territory, director Raoul Walsh’s 1949 Western remake of High Sierra. What else? How about a new conversation on Walsh from film programmer/film historian Dave Kehr and film historian/critic Farran Smith Nehme, called The True Adventures of Raoul Walsh, a 2019 96-minute documentary by Marilyn Ann Moss, “Curtains for Roy Earle,” a 2003 featurette on the making of High Sierra, a 1997 hour-long documentary called Bogart: Here’s Looking at You, Kid from The South Bank Show, a new interview with film and media historian Miriam J. Petty about actor Willie Best, a new video essay with excerpts from a 1976 AFI interview with novelist and screenwriter W. R. Burnett, a radio adaptation of High Sierra from 1944, and an essay by Imogen Sara Smith. Whew, that’s a lot! Don’t miss this one!
Several of the films from the 2018 Indicator box set, Samuel Fuller at Columbia, 1937-1961 (now out of print), are now available individually or as part of a double feature.
And there’s a non-noir triple feature which includes It Happened in Hollywood (1937), Adventure in Sahara (1938) and Power of the Press (1943). Again, these are not film noir titles, and only Power of the Press may hold any interest for noir fans. But if you want ‘em, all three films are available on a single disc called Samuel Fuller: Storyteller, Volume One.
Samuel Fuller: Storyteller, Volume Two - Indicator (UK, Region Free)
Volume Two begins the real noir titles from the set. I previously reviewed Shockproof (1949)
and Scandal Sheet (1952).
The two other films are released as individual titles:
The Crimson Kimono (1959) Samuel Fuller - Indicator (UK, Region Free)
Underworld U.S.A. (1961) Samuel Fuller - Indicator (UK, Region Free)
I previously reviewed this film here.
Corridor of Mirrors (1948) Terence Young - Cohen Media Group
Introducing this film at Noir City DC in 2016, Eddie Muller called Corridor of Mirrors “probably the most unknown film on our schedule.” Muller also explained that British noir differs from American noir in several ways, particularly in the British artistic responses to World War II, which often included art, fantasy, and obsession as ways to cope with war. The film begins with Mifanwy Conway (Edana Romney) awakening to what appears to be a life of ease in a beautiful home with children, a loving husband, etc. But she’s keeping secret the fact that she’s going to travel to London to meet her lover at Madame Tussauds.
When Mifanwy arrives at the famous waxworks, we’re all awaiting the appearance of this mysterious lover when she stops before a wax statue of the murderous Paul Mangin, which also triggers noir’s best friend in any country, the flashback. At a nightclub, Mifanwy meets a mysterious, debonair man who is, yes, Paul Mangin (Eric Portman), who begins a relentless pursuit of Mifanwy, bringing her to his home, a breathtaking structure filled with elaborate art like you’d see in some of the finest French period films. It soon becomes clear that Mangin is obsessed with the finer things and Mifanwy in particular, but – as we know – there’s a secret here… I won’t tell you much more except you’ll see shades of Beauty and the Beast (1946) and Vertigo (1958) in the film. Also don’t miss Christopher Lee’s feature film debut, and only the second credited film for Lois Maxwell.
I know I’ve spent a lot of time on this film, but only because it is unknown to most audiences. Corridor of Mirrors is wonderfully atmospheric and visually stunning, a beautiful film to watch. Some will not call it noir at all. I’ll leave that for you to judge. Sadly, it appears that this release will have no special features other than trailers.
Maigret: The Complete Series (1960-1963) Network, 12 BD set (UK, Region B)
Back in August, Network released its limited edition of this set. You can see the details of that set, which sold out quickly. In October, Network will release a standard edition of the series without all the bells and whistles. Apparently those bells and whistles only accounted for £10, the price difference between the limited and standard editions of this set. At £75 (a little over $100), this is still a little more than I'm willing to shell out, and that price does not include international shipping. The Network website says that this set will be available only as long as supplies last, but I'm still going to wait for either a sale or a price drop, both of which seem unlikely for this set. We shall see.
Franco Noir (Rififi in the City (1963)/Death Whistles the Blues (1964) Jesús Franco - Severin Films
I’m not sure how much interest noir fans will have in this single disc double feature, but here it is. Although I’m certainly aware of him, I’ll admit to never having seen a Franco film, so I’m not entirely sure what to expect, at least at this point in his career. With Rififi in the City, we have an unnamed state in Central America on the night before a big election. A young police informer, seeking to uncover a corrupt senatorial candidate, is killed, while a young woman seeks revenge on the hoods who killed her boyfriend. The film is probably most famous as the movie Orson Welles saw before asking Franco to do second unit work on Chimes at Midnight. Some say that Death Whistles the Blues was the film that made the decision for Welles, which is just fine, because that’s my next point: Death Whistles the Blues finds Lina (Perla Cristal) searching for the men who killed her gunrunner husband. When she tells her current husband (Georges Rollin) what’s going on, Lina unwittingly sets into motion a complex chain of events.
Several Franco fans call both of these films some of Franco’s most coherent work, and since I’ve seen none of it, I’m only reporting here. Both films have been restored from the original camera negative, and the release includes an interview with Stephen Thrower, author of Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jesús Franco (out of print and going for wild and crazy prices).
That’s going to do it for October while the ghosts, ghouls, vampires, monsters, and all the others run around and do their thing. But Noirvember is coming… Thanks for reading.