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:
So get your wallets ready for September! I have many temptations for you…
Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962)/The Harder They Fall (1956) Umbrella Entertainment (Australia, Region B)
Australia’s Umbrella Entertainment pairs two boxing pictures on a single Blu-ray (Region B) disc, Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962) and The Harder They Fall (1956), Humphrey Bogart’s last picture. Requiem is more of a drama, but a terrific drama written by Rod Serling. This 1962 film is actually a remake of a 1956 episode of Playhouse 90, the famous anthology television show. In this theatrical version, Anthony Quinn plays Luis “Mountain” Rivera, who finds himself sounded defeated by another fighter (who is actually Cassius Clay, who would rename himself Mohammed Ali). Rivera’s manager (Jackie Gleason) convinces him to give up boxing and become a wrestler, which Rivera considers humiliating. It’s a tremendous story with great performances by Quinn, Gleason, and Mickey Rooney.
The Harder They Fall basically follows a similar theme: What to do when a fighter is washed up? Bogart plays Eddie Willis, a down-and-out newspaper reporter who reluctantly agrees to work for a corrupt fight-fixing promoter named Nick Benko (Rod Steiger). Benko is hyping his new fighter Toro Moreno (Mike Lane), a beast of a fighter with no real talent. Benko tells his fighter he can get him a shot at the title, and Toro isn’t savvy enough to know that this is all a sham, that his manager has been fixing all his fights. Of course Eddie realizes this almost immediately and struggles whether he should tell Toro or remain silent and keep his job. Deception, corruption, and the setting of the boxing world make this a good film noir, but it always saddens me to watch Bogart’s final performance.
It’s astonishing that neither of these films has ever been released on a North American Blu-ray, although The Harder They Fall has been available on Blu-ray in France for a few years. I’m going to wait for Region A releases of both of these films, hoping they will contain some extras, because it looks like this disc won’t have any.
A Life at Stake (1954) Paul Guilfoyle - Film Detective
Angela Lansbury as a femme fatale? Murder, She Wrote indeed… Keith Andes plays Edward, a architect who falls for his business partner’s wife Doris (Lansbury), who proposes what seems to be a lucrative building project. But when Doris and her husband Augustus insist Edward take out an enormous life insurance policy, Edward gets suspicious. And hey, what about the mysterious disappearance of Augustus’s former business partner? This release comes from a new 4K restoration from archival elements and contains an audio commentary from film noir scholar and critic Jason Ney, a featurette called “Hollywood Hitch-hikers: Inside the Filmmakers,” and an illustrated booklet with an essay by Jason Ney. I haven’t seen this one, but I’m eager to check it out.
Mr. Klein (1976) Joseph Losey - Studio Canal (UK, Region B)
Many critics consider Mr. Klein Joseph Losey’s best film and Alain Delon’s finest performance, yet the film tanked on its initial release. Delon plays Robert Klein, an art dealer in 1942 Paris. In desperation and hoping to have enough money to escape the Nazi oppression, several French Jews sell their art to Klein, who gives them only a fraction of the art’s true value. When a Jewish newspaper is delivered to his home, he reads that a man named Robert Klein, living in Paris, is a Jew being sought by the police. Is this an odd coincidence, or is Klein being targeted by someone? Klein’s investigations turn into a labyrinth worthy of Kafka. Now when I say the movie tanked upon its release, let me give you the numbers: Made for the equivalent of $3.5 million, the film earned less than $200K. Yet the film won several César Awards and was praised by most critics. This release is taken from a new 4K restoration and includes an introduction by film director, historian, and critic Jean-Baptiste Thoret, a featurette called “Mr. Klein Revisited” with critic Michel Ciment, and an interview with editor Henri Lanoe.
Mona Lisa (1986) Neil Jordan - Criterion
No doubt many of you know this terrific film, the story of a petty crook named George (Bob Hoskins) who gets released from prison and goes to work for his old employer, crime boss Denny Mortwell (Michael Caine). Mortwell’s job for George? To chauffeur a black hooker named Simone (Cathy Tyson). This film has been on Blu-ray before, but I mention it because it’s getting a Blu-ray upgrade from Criterion. This release does add a new conversation with director Neil Jordan and actor Cathy Tyson, moderated by critic Ryan Gilbey.
Rififi in Paris (1966) Denys de la Patellière - Kino Lorber
The original Rififi (1955) is a milestone of French cinema and film noir, but it created several imitators, and apparently none of them are very good. There’s Riff Raff Girls, Rififi in Tokyo, two different versions of Rififi in Amsterdam, and more, but here we have Rififi in Paris, or The Upper Hand, which features Jean Gabin and Gert Fröbe as gold smugglers. (I guess after getting sucked out of that airplane in Goldfinger, he just couldn’t stay away from the gold.) They recruit a man named Mike (Claudio Brook) to help them with a smuggling operation, unaware that he’s an American undercover agent. The film also stars George Raft in one of his final roles. I don’t really expect much from this, but I always enjoy watching Jean Gabin, so I might pick it up on sale. The disc includes a new audio commentary by filmmaker and historian Daniel Kremer and cinematographer Aaron Hollander.
Columbia Noir #4 - Indicator (UK, Region B)
I previewed this one in a video about a month ago, so here's that video:
But if you'd prefer to read it, here’s a rundown of the six films in this fourth Columbia Noir set from Indicator:
Walk a Crooked Mile (1948) Gordon Douglas
This is a fairly early entry into the subgenre of Red Scare or anti-Communist noir. At an atomic plant in California, authorities discover a security leak. Fearing that vital information may be channeled to a hostile nation, the plant calls in FBI Agent Daniel O’Hara (Dennis O’Keefe) and Scotland Yard detective Scotty Grayson (Louis Hayward. It’s pretty clear early on that the leaders of the Communist cells are Onslow Stevens and Raymond Burr (Are you surprised?), but who is leaking the information? This is a fun semi-documentary noir that I really enjoyed. It also costars actors you’ve seen in other noir pictures - Philip Van Zandt, Frank Ferguson, Reed Hadley, Gale Storm, and Ray Teal, who must’ve been standing by the set of nearly every film made in the ‘40s and ‘50s. Extras include a short 1949 film called “Policeman’s Holiday,” about an American detective coming to England to help out a Scotland Yard detective, and a short called “Routine Job: A Story of Scotland Yard” from 1946.
Walk East on Beacon! (1952) Alfred Werker
This one also has more spies, more Communists. It follows the semi-documentary template seen in Walk a Crooked Mile and earlier films like The House on 92nd Street (1945). In Walk East on Beacon, we have FBI Inspector “Jim” Belden (George Murphy), hot on the trail of a Communist spy ring, although the trail is growing cold. Someone at Project Falcon, a U.S. government defense project, is leaking information to the Russians. Falcon’s top mathematician, Dr. Albert Kafer (Finley Currie) discovers that his son has been kidnapped by the Communists and will be released only after Kafer has given up the project’s findings. Kafer wants to cooperate with the FBI, but is also desperate to save his son. Now the Communist spy element was very familiar to audiences by 1952. You know what you’re getting into: voiceover narration, an obligatory shot of J. Edgar Hoover, hidden cameras, and plenty of guys in lab coats milling around, looking into microscopes, guys enlarging documents, and pointing to spots on maps. Familiar stuff, but still, Walk East on Beacon is another fun Cold War noir.
Walk East on Beacon! contains a new audio commentary by Frank Krutnik, author of In a Lonely Street: Film Noir, Genre, Masculinity. There’s also two March of Time documentaries, G-Men Combat Saboteurs (1941) and G-Men at War (1942), focusing on the FBI’s efforts in nabbing spies, fifth columnists, and general all-around bad guys. And there could be more extras on this one.
Pushover (1954) Richard Quine
Paul Sheridan (Fred MacMurray) is a strait-laced cop who’s on a stakeout to find out if Lona McLane (Kim Novak) knows anything about a $200,000 bank haul that her boyfriend was involved in. Only one problem: Sheridan starts falling for Lona, who wants him to knock off the boyfriend so she and Sheridan can make off with the cash. Sounds a little like Double Indemnity and it stars Fred MacMurray, so many people dismiss Pushover, but I like it a lot. There’s some nice cinematography by Lester White, who also shot some of the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes pictures. Dorothy Malone also has a nice role as a brunette who lives next door to Lona. This was also Kim Novak’s first major role. Pushover contains a new audio commentary with film historians Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Josh Nelson. Author and critic Glenn Kenny also takes a look at the career of director Richard Quine.
A Bullet is Waiting (1954) John Farrow
Stephen McNally plays a sheriff taking handcuffed prisoner Rory Calhoun to stand trial for manslaughter, when their airplane crashes in the California wilderness. Calhoun knocks out McNally - no small feat - unlocks the cuffs, and takes off. Calhoun discovers a remote cabin, the home of a woman named Cally, played by Jean Simmons, who manages a sheep ranch. Meanwhile, McNally is in hot pursuit. I have not seen this one, but John Farrow made some good films, including three of my favorite, but very different noirs, The Big Clock, Where Danger Lives, and Alias Nick Beal. There’s an extra on the career of Jean Simmons, and more.
Chicago Syndicate (1955) Fred F. Sears
An accountant is ready to spill the beans to a reporter about Chicago businesses being infiltrated by the mob, gets bumped off. But the accountant gets bumped off. So the reporter recruits another accountant, played by Dennis O’Keefe, to infiltrate the syndicate run by mob boss Paul Stewart. It looks like O’Keefe may get some help from a woman already on the inside, played by Allison Hayes. This one will contain a new audio commentary from Toby Roan, and more.
The Brothers Rico (1957) Phil Karlson
It’s always great to see more Richard Conte on Blu-ray, and this is a good one. After leaving the mob three years earlier, Eddie Rico (Richard Conte) is happily married, has a thriving business in Florida, and couldn’t be happier. Then Eddie’s brother Gino calls to tell him he needs to leave the country; there’s a hit man after him. Eddie goes to straighten things out with the only mob connection he trusts, boss, played by Larry Gates, who tells Eddie things are even worse than you think, Eddie: your brother Johnny might be talking to the DA about the mob’s activities. Nothing is as it seems and Eddie’s life of domestic bliss is about to come to an abrupt end. This is a good transition film with more realism and authenticity than some of the noir/gangster films of the late ‘40s and early ‘50s, paving the way for films like The Godfather several years later. I really like this one and am glad to see it here. This has an archival intro by Martin Scorsese, and a new audio commentary from professor and film scholar Jason A. Ney.
With all of these Columbia Noir sets, you also get six comedy shorts from the Three Stooges, each one riffing on some aspect of the six films in this set. Now I’m not much of a Three Stooges fan, but I’ll watch ‘em, maybe even learn to love ‘em.
Columbia Noir #4 also includes a limited edition 120-page book with new essays from great writers such as Beth Ann Gallagher, Bob Herzberg, Sophie Monks Kaufman, Omar Ahmed, Jen Johans, and Monica Castillo. Like all the Columbia Noir box sets from Indicator, this one is Region B locked. Limited to 6,000 units.
Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982) Carl Reiner - Kino Lorber
If you’ve never seen it, you must see Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982), a unique Steve Martin comedy incorporating clips from famous film noir movies with appearances by Humphrey Bogart, Alan Ladd, Burt Lancaster, Fred MacMurray, and many more. Rachel Ward plays Juliet, a woman who hires private eye Rigby Reardon (Steve Martin) to investigate the death of Juliet’s father, a famous cheese maker whom Juliet thinks was murdered for his cheese recipes. The story is completely nuts, but it allows director Carl Reiner to assemble characters from classic film noir titles into the story. It’s more fun than effective, but I love it. Maybe you will, too.
This has been released on Blu-ray before, back in 2017 from Universal, but that disc had no special features. This one has a new audio commentary by filmmaker Allan Arkush and film historian/filmmaker Daniel Kremer. The release also includes 3 TV spots, 4 radio spots, a newly restored theatrical trailer, and a Buttometer Teaser Trailer. You’re going to buy it just to find out what that is, right? (You can actually find it on YouTube.)
The Window (1949) Ted Tetzlaff - Warner Archive
Our introduction to 10-year-old Tommy Woodry (Bobby Driscoll) doesn’t look right. He’s lying down on scattered piles of straw on the second floor of a ramshackle tenement house, but something’s wrong. He could be having an anxiety attack, grimacing, awkwardly trying to make himself comfortable. He reaches out and finds a pistol, turns, looks over the edge of the second floor, and sees a group of boys playing below. He points the pistol and fires. We’re relieved to discover the pistol’s a toy. “Hey guys!” Tommy yells, “I shot ya! Why don’t you die?”
In no time at all, we realize that Tommy has a problem: he likes telling stories, tall tales… lies. Not just any lies - grand-scale ones. Tommy’s an only child and falls prey to one particular condition that often faces kids with no siblings: making up stories to earn some attention. But when Tommy can’t get anyone to believe that he’s witnessed a murder in the neighborhood… Tommy’s got a big problem. Tetzlaff - a former cinematographer - creates an enormous sense of claustrophobia in the film, made even more so by having a child as his protagonist. The film also stars Arthur Kennedy and Barbara Hale as Tommy’s parents, as well as Ruth Roman, and one of my favorite noir character actors, Paul Stewart. The film is based on a Cornell Woolrich short story called “The Boy Who Cried Murder.” This is a terrific film and a big surprise for a Blu-ray appearance, but I’m delighted Warner Archive chose to upgrade this one. No word on extras, but I don’t care. This is a solid purchase.
Straight Time (1978) Ulu Grosbard - Warner Archive
Dustin Hoffman plays Max Dembo, a career criminal determined to go straight after being released from the joint, but… This is noir, or neo-noir, if you prefer. Theresa Russell is great as a woman Max meets from the employment office, as is M. Emmet Walsh as Max’s abusive parole officer. This is one of Dustin Hoffman’s greatest performances and not nearly enough people have seen it, so do pick this one up. You won’t be sorry. No word on extras.
Breakdown (1997) Jonathan Mostow - Paramount Presents
Here’s another one that doesn’t get enough attention, Breakdown from 1997 directed by Jonathan Mostow. Jeff and Amy Taylor (Kurt Russell and Kathleen Quinlan) are on a cross-country trip in their jeep when they have a breakdown. Not a marital breakdown, but a jeep breakdown. Amy accepts a ride from a friendly truck driver (J.T. Walsh) who promises to take her to the nearest phone, at the local diner, where she can call a garage. Meanwhile, Jeff discovers the jeep has been tampered with. When he finally makes it to the diner, Amy’s not there. In fact no one at the diner remembers her being there. And we’re off…
Hats off to Paramount Presents for releasing this all-but-forgotten noir thriller, struck from a new 4K remaster featuring all kinds of new special features including an audio commentary by director Jonathan Mostow and Kurt Russell, a Filmmaker Focus with Mostow, an interview with Kathleen Quinlan, an interview with coproducer Martha De Laurentiis, the film’s alternate opening with and without commentary by Mostow. There’s also an isolated score by Basil Poledouris, theatrical trailers, and a foldout of the movie’s theatrical poster. I’m definitely picking this one up.
Illustrious Corpses (Cadaveri Eccellenti, 1976) Francesco Rosi - Kino Lorber
The title comes from the expression for politicians or law enforcement planning to go up against the Mafia: they’ll soon be excellent corpses. It also refers to a game called Cadavre Exquis, which I’ll let you Google on your own. What’s important is that in Palermo, several judges and important lawyers are being murdered and Inspector Rogas (Lino Ventura) tries to solve the case. But as soon has Rogas starts working, two more judges are killed. This becomes a huge mystery with several layers. Fernando Rey and Max von Sydow have supporting roles. Other than trailers, we have one substantial extra, a new audio commentary from filmmaker Alex Cox, which should be interesting.
Okay, that’s a grand total of 17 films! if you have any money left in September after all that, I guess you could buy groceries. Or stock up now while we’re still in August. So thanks for watching and let me know what you’re planning to pick up. In the meantime, everybody take care, and I’ll talk to you soon.