Film Noir New Releases in April 2020
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.
Although it may seem odd to be talking about new releases right now, for many of us, movies are our way of dealing with the darkness and insanity surrounding us. Having said that, no one knows for sure whether the release dates below will be modified, delayed, or even cancelled. Add to this the problem of shipping that has become a challenge for some companies, even domestic ones. Regardless, this is the most current information I have on these releases.
Once again I’m sorry to say you’ll find very few titles from the classic film noir era being announced. Does that mean they’ve all been exhausted, that everything’s already been released? Not at all. There are more on the way, just not much for April. But hang in there, there’s some great stuff coming. That doesn’t mean there’s not some great stuff below! I've got some pretty good stuff for you, including a new announcement from a major studio. Let’s get started:
The Limey (1999) Steven Soderbergh - Lionsgate (UK, Region B)
Steven Soderbergh’s The Limey is one of my favorite films from the ‘90s and I still can’t believe we don’t have a domestic Blu-ray release, but at least we’re getting a Region B disc for now. The basic story: Terence Stamp plays Wilson, a British ex-con who travels across the pond to Los Angeles, seeking to take revenge on the man responsible for his daughter’s death. He believes that man to be a record producer named Valentine (Peter Fonda). One of the film’s greatest elements involves using actual footage of both Stamp and Fonda from their previous work, which makes for very believable flashback sequences. Although there’s no information on extras right now (and even though I already own the DVD), I’m tempted to pick this one up. Hardcore fans may want to do the same; others may wait for a US release. If you live in Europe, it’s absolutely a must-own.
Man on the Run (1949) Lawrence Huntington - Network (UK, Region B)
Army deserter Peter Burden (Derek Farr) thinks he’s found safety and anonymity working in a pub until an old army acquaintance named Newman (Kenneth More) recognizes him and demands hush money. As he goes to a pawn shop to sell his service revolver, Burden discovers he’s walked into the middle of an armed robbery. After a policeman is killed, the pawn shop owner claims Burden was in on the crime and thus becomes a (wait for it…) man on the run. This rarely-seen Brit noir also features Laurence Harvey in his second screen appearance. Extras are doubtful, but I’m planning on picking this one up anyway.
Army of Shadows (1969) Jean-Pierre Melville - Criterion
Some may say that Army of Shadows doesn’t belong on a list of film noir new releases, especially since this is actually a rerelease. (The original Criterion Blu-ray went out of print nearly 10 years ago.) It’s true that Army of Shadows is a WWII French Resistance story, but as John Grant states in his book, A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir: The Essential Reference Guide, the film is “a brave attempt to recast the gangster noir, with its themes of nothing-personal-just-business ruthlessness and skewed honor, in the the context of the French Resistance…”
Resistance network leader Philippe Gerbier (Lino Ventura), although acquitted for suspicion of resistance activity, is placed in a Nazi prison camp where he plans an escape. Gerbier is forced to come to grips with the idea that he’s been betrayed by someone inside the resistance, thus planning both an escape and payback on the informer. Army of Shadows is filled with the noir themes of paranoia, distrust, and revenge, and no one was better at portraying those themes than Jean-Pierre Melville. This reissue comes with the same impressive wealth of supplements as the 2011 release. Do not pass this one up.
Trapped (2002) Luis Mandoki - Mill Creek
Not to be confused with the 1949 Trapped starring Lloyd Bridges, released last year on a terrific disc from Flicker Alley, this 2002 edition stars Kevin Bacon, Courtney Love, and Priutt Taylor Vince as a trio of kidnappers who grab a young child (Dakota Fanning), hoping to pull off a quick ransom and vanish. No surprise to us, things go wrong, horribly wrong. The movie is based on a novel by a writer most people have never heard of, but should: Greg Iles. Full disclosure: Trapped is actually a re-release from Mill Creek, but I don’t think you can get the original disc anywhere. Is it worth it? We’ll see…
Série Noire (1979) Alain Corneau - Film Movement
(In French with English subtitles)
Based on the Jim Thompson novel A Hell of a Woman (1954), Série Noire has been hailed as one of the finest French crime films of all time and perhaps the best adaptation of a Thompson work. An average (at best) door-to-door salesman named Franck (Patrick Dewaere) comes across a potential client (Jeanne Herviale) who’s not remotely interested in what Franck’s selling, but she presents him with an offer: a good time with her niece Mona (Marie Trintignant) in exchange for goods. But Franck soon discovers Mona has murder on her mind. Mona wants Franck to help her kill her aunt for her money, which, of course, they’ll split down the middle. That’s assuming that everything goes according to plan (which, of course, it won’t).
Série Noire was nominated for Cannes’s Palme d’Or and five César Awards, and apparently the film really got inside the head of actor Dewaere, and not in a good way. (You can read more about the actor, but it’s not pretty.) This 4K restoration (in conjunction with StudioCanal) comes with the featurette “Série Noire: The Darkness of the Soul” and an interview with director Alain Corneau and Marie Trintignant, both of which I assume are in French with English subtitles. The disc also includes an illustrated booklet featuring a new essay by film critic/writer Nick Pinkerton.
Police Squad: The Complete Series (TV 1982) Paramount (single disc)
Film noir? No. Hilarious? Yes! (And we need laughter in times like these...) This spoof of police procedurals featuring Leslie Nielsen as Detective Frank Drebin ran for only six 25-minute episodes in 1982, but those few episodes have become precious gems to fans of Airplane! (1980) and The Naked Gun film series (From the Files of Police Squad! , The Smell of Fear , and The Final Insult ). If the extras are ported over from the DVD release, you’ll get an interview with Leslie Nielsen, a featurette titled “Behind the Freeze Frames,” a gag reel (Can you imagine?), casting tests of Ed Williams and Alan North, photo galleries, and production memo highlights. Although the retail price for the Blu-ray is $24.99, you can get the series and the three Naked Gun movies on DVD for around 15 bucks. Donut miss it. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
The Intruder (1953) Guy Hamilton - Network (UK, Region B)
London stockbroker Wolf Merton (Jack Hawkins) returns home one evening to discover a burglar, but not just any burglar. This man, Ginger Edwards (Michael Medwin), was part of a tank crew under Merton’s command in WWII. Merton asks him point blank, “I’d like to know what’s turned a good soldier into a thief,” but Edwards flees, leaving Merton to uncover Edwards and his motives. Merton makes a nice transition from former colonel to detective, interviewing other men from the unit, resulting in several uses of film noir’s best friend: the flashback. The Intruder is a very effective Brit noir that deserves to be rediscovered. If you’re part of the Region B community, you should definitely pick this one up.
Budapest Noir (2017) Éva Gárdos - Menemsha Films
(in Hungarian with English subtitles)
Although I don’t normally cover newer films in these posts, I am including Budapest Noir, especially for its wonderful period look. The time is 1936 and Hungry is on the brink of an alliance with Hitler. When a young prostitute is found beaten to death in a courtyard, no one shows the slightest interest except a crime reporter named Zsigmond Gordon (Krisztián Kolovratnik). The story is pretty conventional with few real surprises, but the performances and period detail are impressive. Apparently the only supplement for this release is a theatrical trailer. If you’re interested, you can watch the film now on Kanopy.
King Creole (1958) Michael Curtiz - Paramount Presents
Some consider King Creole totally noir, or more specifically a “noir musical," while others don’t consider it film noir at all. I would refer you to this excellent article by Elyce Rae Helford for a further discussion of this topic, but for now, here’s the set-up: Elvis Presley plays Danny Fisher, a 19-year-old New Orleans kid forced by his unemployed father (Dean Jagger) to start bringing in some money. But Dad also wants Danny to finish high school, which Danny detests, mostly thanks to an overbearing teacher (Helene Hatch) who’s got it in for him. Danny’s job working at a nightclub in the French Quarter will never bring in the money he and his dad need, but when the leader of a gang (Vic Morrow) offers him an opportunity for some real money, Danny has to stop and think about his future. Plus one of Danny’s friends boasts to the club’s arrogant owner Maxie Fields (Walter Matthau) that Danny can really sing if given a chance. But a rival club’s owner (Paul Stewart) is also interested in Danny’s talent. The film also stars the wonderful Carolyn Jones.
A couple of weeks ago, Paramount announced a new label called “Paramount Presents,” which incorporates “a curated selection of enduringly popular movies, as well as films that had a cultural impact upon their release. The label will also be used to bring classic films to select theaters for limited theatrical runs so audiences can experience them again on the big screen.”
This is pretty exciting stuff. According to the press release, each release is housed in collectible packaging and will include new supplemental material focused on the filmmakers, including interviews with the filmmakers and/or film historian Leonard Maltin. In addition to King Creole, the initial Paramount Presents lineup will include Fatal Attraction (1987) and To Catch a Thief (1955), also available on April 21. Other titles on the way include Flashdance, Airplane!, Ghost, Pretty in Pink, and The Golden Child. I’m a fan of King Creole, so I'm planning on picking up
The Strange One (aka End as a Man, 1957) Jack Garfein - Indicator (UK, Region B)
Here’s another “Noir or not?” film: Ben Gazzara stars as Cadet Staff Sergeant Jocko DeParis, a sadistic bully at a Southern military academy. Confident in his level of power at the school, Jocko frames a fellow cadet for an infraction that carries certain expulsion. If he can pull this off, Jocko believes there’s no limit to what he can do. The film features an impressive supporting cast, all very early in their careers, including Gazzara himself, George Peppard, Pat Hingle, and Clifton James. The disc includes two versions of the film: one with the US title sequence, the other with the UK End as a Man opening titles. Also included: a new audio commentary with Nick Pinkerton, a new featurette titled “Finding Direction” with director Jack Garfein discussing his directorial debut and work with the Actors Studio, an archival featurette called “Ben Gazzara Remembers The Strange One” (2009), an image gallery, a theatrical trailer, and a booklet (limited to the first 3,000 copies only) with a new essay by Brad Stevens, Gazzara on the film, an archival interview with Garfein, and an overview of contemporary critical reactions to the film.
That’s going to do it for April. Although there’s not a lot this time around (and again, even those releases may be delayed), I hope you’ll find something of interest here. Please let me know if I’ve missed any titles, and definitely stay safe.