Updated: Jan 21, 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.
Things are looking up from January, which gave us only a half-dozen titles, some of questionable noir credentials. In February we have a dozen titles, half of which come from one box set. It’s a good month and an even better one if you own a region-free Blu-ray player. Let's take a look:
The Parallax View (1974) Alan J. Pakula - Criterion Blu-ray
You can categorize The Parallax View in many ways, but “paranoia noir” seems to fit as well as anything. Warren Beatty plays Joe Frady, a reporter who begins to believe that a political (SENATORIAL?) assassination from three years earlier wasn’t carried out by just one crazed gunman. Digging deeper, Frady discovers a conspiracy with Byzantine levels. He can blow the lid off the story if he can stay alive. Taken from a new 4K restoration, The Parallax View contains a new introduction by filmmaker Alex Cox, a new program on cinematographer Gordon Willis featuring a Willis interview from 2004, a new interview with Jon Boorstin (director Alan J. Pakula’s assistant on the film), archival interviews with Pakula from 1974 and 1995, and an essay by critic Nathan Heller as well as a 1974 interview with Pakula. (I’m assuming this is a different interview from the previously mentioned one.)
So Evil My Love (1948) Lewis Allen - Kino Lorber Blu-ray
So Evil My Love delivers a period noir set in Victorian England with a nice reversal: an homme fatal attempting to dupe a young woman. On a ship sailing from the Caribbean to London, upstanding young widow Olivia Harwood (Ann Todd) meets and falls for Mark Bellis (Ray Milland), a charming thief and forger. Mark’s ideas of theft and blackmail - which once would’ve been abhorrent to Olivia - become concepts that now look attractive. But how far will she go when Mark attempts to swindle some of Olivia’s own friends? Fans have been waiting a long time for this title on Blu-ray, so Kino Lorber’s announcement comes as one of the early highlights of 2021. This 2K restoration contains only one supplement, but I know it will be a great one: an audio commentary by writer and critic Imogen Sara Smith.
The Suspect (1944) Robert Siodmak - Kino Lorber Blu-ray
Another period noir, this one set in 1902 with browbeaten London shopkeeper Philip Melville (Charles Laughton) constantly being harassed by his shrewish wife Cora (Rosalind Ivan). A ray of light enters Philip’s world in the form of lovely young Mary Gray (Ella Raines), an out-of-work stenographer looking for a job. A “friendship” develops, and Cora sets out to make Mary’s life a living hell (something she’s already perfected with Philip). It would be unfair to tell you more, but as this will no doubt come as no surprise to anyone reading, murder and blackmail follow. Like So Evil My Love, The Suspect arrives with a new 2K restoration and only one extra, an audio commentary by critic Troy Howarth.
Columbia Noir #2 - Indicator box set (UK, Region B), 6 BDs
The release of the Columbia Noir #2 box set is certainly cause for rejoicing, and perhaps a bit of frustration. Three of these titles have already been released in previous Blu-ray collections, but the Indicator offers some interesting supplements not found on the other releases. Three films are coming to Blu-ray for the first time. (Thanks to Carl S. on Twitter for pointing out that The Mob had a previous DVD release.) Each disc contains an audio commentary, a Three Stooges short (There’s a slight connection to each film), and at least one other supplement, all of which I’ll get into with the individual titles. Let’s dive right in:
Framed (1947) Richard Wallace (Imprint)
Glenn Ford plays Mike Lambert, a down-on-his-luck truck driver who finds himself looking for work in a small town where he meets Janis Carter and Barry Sullivan, both of whom seem to show a curious interest in him. This is a terrific picture that was also released late last year as part of a region free box set from the Australian label Imprint.
The Indicator disc includes an audio commentary by critic and film historian Imogen Sara Smith, “The Steps of Age” (1951), a 25-minute dramatized documentary written and directed by Ben Maddow, screenwriter of Framed, “Up in Daisy’s Penthouse” (1958), a Three Stooges short involving a murder plot, mistaken identity, and more, an image gallery and publicity material.
711 Ocean Drive (1950) Joseph M. Newman (Noir Archive Volume 1: 1944-1954)
Edmond O’Brien plays Mal Granger, a repairman for the telephone company who has a weakness for betting on the horses. Granger discovers an opportunity to put his electronics expertise to use by helping a local gangster (Barry Kelly) increase profits in his illegal racing wire operations. Then Granger starts to get greedy and power-hungry…
Whereas the Mill Creek release had zero extras, Indicator includes an audio commentary from critic Glenn Kenny, “Diary of a Sargent,” a 25-minute documentary of Harold Russell, who appeared in the 1946 classic The Best Years of Our Lives, “Three Sappy People” (1939), a short in which the Three Stooges play telephone repairmen, a theatrical trailer, an image gallery, and promotional material.
The Mob (1951) Robert Parrish - world premiere on Blu-ray
I’m so glad to see The Mob getting the Blu-ray treatment it deserves. You can read my brief review from Noirvember 2017 here.
Extras include an audio commentary by filmmaker and writer Gina Telaroli, The Guardian Interview with Ernest Borgnine (audio only, 79 min.) from 2001 at the National Film Theatre in London, “Ernest Borgnine in Conversation” (2009, 49 min.) with Adrian Wootton at the BFI Southbank, London, “Hot Stuff” (1956), a Three Stooges short, with the Stooges as going undercover to expose various criminal activities, an original theatrical trailer, image gallery, publicity and promotional materials.
Affair in Trinidad (1952) Vincent Sherman (Rita Hayworth: Ultimate Collection, Mill Creek box set)
Rita Hayworth stars as Chris Emery, a nightclub singer whose husband Neal has committed suicide, but the local police Inspector Smythe (Torin Thatcher) thinks it was murder. Smythe also believes Neal’s friend Max Fabian (Alexander Scourby) may have been involved, and encourages Chris to infiltrate Fabian’s circle of friends. Meanwhile, Neal’s brother Steve (Glenn Ford) is also looking to find his brother’s killer. Although Hayworth, Ford, and Steven Geray all reunite from their previous combo in Gilda (1946), Affair in Trinidad isn’t up to that standard, but is still an enjoyable spy/thriller/noir well worth owning.
Supplements include an audio commentary by film historian and author Lee Gamblin, “The End of the Affair” (2012, 24 min.), a discussion with Eddie Muller and Glenn Ford’s son Peter Ford, “Caribbean” (1951, 25 min.), a documentary depicting the life and culture of the West Indies, British Guiana, and British Honduras, “Saved by the Belle” (1939), a Three Stooges short directed by Charley Chase, set in a fictional South American country, an original theatrical trailer, image gallery, publicity and promotional materials.
Tight Spot (1955) Phil Karlson - world premiere on Blu-ray
Based on the 1953 play Dead Pigeon by Lenard Kantor, Tight Spot is another “protect the witness long enough for her to testify” picture, this time with female prison inmate/former model Sherry Conley (Ginger Rogers) willing to expose mobster Benjamin Costain (Lorne Greene) in front of a jury. Costain has successfully silenced other potential witnesses and looks to take care of Sherry in the same way, but this time U.S. attorney Lloyd Hallett (Edward G. Robinson) and police detective Lieutenant Vince Striker (Brian Keith) have Sherry safely stored away and guarded on the top floor of a downtown hotel. Or so they think.
Extras include an audio commentary from Nora Fiore (The Nitrate Diva), “The Senate Crime Investigations” (1951, 62 min.), scenes from unedited telerecording of the U.S. Senate committee’s hearings investigating organized crime, including footage of Virginia Hill, who partly inspired Tight Spot, “Idiots Deluxe” (1945), a Three Stooges short set in a courtroom, an original theatrical trailer, image gallery, publicity and promotional materials.
Murder by Contract (1958) Irving Lerner - world premiere on Blu-ray
In one of the disc’s supplements, Martin Scorsese talks about how Murder by Contract was influential on his film education, having seen it at the age 14 or 15. Vince Edwards plays Claude, a hit man who plays by his unique own set of rules, much to the displeasure of Marc (Phillip Pine) and George (Herschel Bernardi), two goons hired to make sure Claude carries out an important hit. Murder by Contract has something of a European feel, at least for the first section, supported by a Perry Botkin guitar soundtrack, which makes you think we’re walking along the Seine. An effective crime noir with comedic elements that don’t get in the way, Murder by Contract is long overdue for a good Blu-ray release.
Bonus material includes an audio commentary by film critic and writer Farran Smith Nehme, an introduction by Martin Scorsese from 2014, “Swedes in America” (1943, 18 min.), Irving Lerner’s Oscar-nominated short film, presented by Ingrid Bergman, focusing on Swedish immigrants in the U.S. and their influence, “Violence Is the Word for Curly” (1938), a Three Stooges short featuring early work by Murder by Contract cinematographer Lucien Ballard, a trailer commentary by Larry Karaszewski (3 min.), an original theatrical trailer, image gallery, publicity and promotional materials.
If you haven’t already, pre-order this set, jump on it now. And while you’re at it, pick up the Columbia Noir #1 box set as well. Indicator does not disappoint.
Bordertown: Season 2 (2019) Kino Lorber Blu-ray (3 BD set)
Here’s the scoop on Season 1 of the Icelandic noir Bordertown. The only extras on Season 2 are trailers.
The Underneath (1995) Steven Soderbergh - Kino Lorber Blu-ray
If you want to remake a heist film, why not remake one of the best? The Underneath, Steven Soderbergh’s remake of Criss Cross (1949) contains some interesting differences from the Robert Siodmak classic starring Burt Lancaster, Yvonne De Carlo, and Dan Duryea. Running away from his gambling debts, Michael Chambers (Peter Gallagher) returns to his Texas home for his mother’s wedding. There he discovers his ex-wife Rachel (Alison Elliott) is involved with a thuggish club owner named Tommy Dundee (William Fichtner). When Dundee catches Michael and Rachel “revisiting highlights from their marriage,” so to speak, Michael claims that they’re not involved anymore, but rather concocting a plan for a heist. Most critics and audiences agree The Underneath is a far cry from Criss Cross, but you may want to take a look if you can find it at a good price, especially if you’re a Soderbergh fan. (Just realize this is early Soderbergh.) Extras include an audio commentary by film historian and critic Peter Tonguette and a theatrical trailer. NOTE: The Underneath is currently playing on the Criterion Channel, but expires on January 31.
Sorry, Wrong Number (1948) Anatole Litvak - Imprint Blu-ray (Australia, Region B)
Sorry, Wrong Number was adapted from a popular Lucille Fletcher radio play about a bed-ridden invalid named Leona (Barbara Stanwyck, in an Oscar-nominated performance) whose the telephone is her only means of communication. It’s also her greatest fear when Leona overhears a conversation between two men discussing their plans to murder a certain person, which could be her. The film adds more characters to what was essentially a one-woman show (with Agnes Moorehead playing the lead in the radio production): Leona’s husband (Burt Lancaster), her father (Ed Begley), and others. It’s one of the most unique entries in the canon of film noir and not to be missed.
Back in May 2020, Imprint released a limited edition (1500 copies) of Sorry, Wrong Number. I missed reporting on that initial release, so I’m including it here. That edition included an audio commentary by film historian and writer Alan K. Rode, an Eddie Muller introduction, a featurette called “Hold the Phone: The Making of Sorry, Wrong Number,” two radio plays, photo gallery, and deluxe slipcase packaging with alternate art. This rerelease appears to be a standard edition with all the extras noted above excluding the slipcase and alternate art. This appears not to have been a restoration, but rather a transfer from the original elements. (There’s no indication of whether this was struck from the original negative or what.) In his review, Jeffrey Kauffman is not impressed with the video presentation, but that could be due to the shape of the source material. I’m a bit hesitant to purchase this one, since a U.S. company may eventually release it, but I certainly don’t want to miss the Alan K. Rode commentary. If you pick this one up (or picked up the limited edition from last year), let me know what you think.
NOTE: Blu-ray.com has the limited edition (now out of print) listed as region-free, yet the standard edition is labeled as Region B. I’ll see if I can find out anything definite about that and report back to you.
Barring any new titles that might slip in during the next few days, that’s going to do it for the February edition of new film noir releases. Everybody take care, be safe, and watch some great film noir!