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 we’re all hoping 2021 is going to be a better year than 2020 in every way imaginable, January looks like it’s going to be a slow start for film noir and noir-stained new releases on Blu-ray. (There's an awful lot of horror movies on Blu-ray in January, so maybe those companies know something we don't...) We may hear some last-minute news before the end of the year, but don’t count on it. There’s not much here, and even what I do report on below stretches the definitions of noir, so there’s my disclaimer. But I think you’ll find at least one or two titles to pique your interest. So here we go:
Thursday (1988) Skip Woods - Kino Lorber Blu-ray
Here’s one from the “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in” subgenre. Former L.A. drug dealer Casey Wells (Thomas Jane) left his former criminal life behind to become an architect in Houston with his wife Christine (Paula Marshall) when his former criminal partner Nick (Aaron Eckhart) stops by for a “visit.” Apparently writer/director Skip Woods thought the best way to make a neo-noir is to fill it with loads of violence, profanity, and sex. And this release features the unrated version, so look out. I don’t have very high hopes for this one, but your mileage may vary.
Light Sleeper (1991) Paul Schrader - Indicator Blu-ray (UK, Region B)
Willem Dafoe stars as John Le Tour, an upper-class drug dealer for upper-class clients. (Is January drug dealer month, or what?) John’s an addict himself, so I guess he knows the good stuff. He also knows that meeting his ex-girlfriend Marianne (Dana Delany) could lead to some much-needed redemption for himself, especially after John’s boss Ann (Susan Sarandon) informs him that she’s giving up the business. Yet when the investigation of a drug-related murder focuses on John, any hope of redemption seems worlds away. This one contains some nice extras, detailed here.
Gang Busters (1942) Noel M. Smith, Ray Taylor - VCI Cliffhanger Collection (1 BD)
Not strictly film noir, but a release with definite noir interest, Gang Busters is a 13-episode serial running for a total of 284 minutes (close to five hours). This Universal serial, based on the radio series of the same name, finds criminal mastermind Professor Mortis (Ralph Morgan) controlling a crime wave from a cavernous hideout underneath a city subway line. Police Detective Bill Bannister (Kent Taylor), seeking to avenge the murder of his brother, suspects Mortis, but finds that all the cases in the crime wave were somehow committed by men who died long ago. Journalist Vicki Logan (Irene Harvey) and her photographer “Happy” Haskins (Richard Davies) follow, waiting for the big scoop. Gang Busters is considered by several critics and fans to be one of the best-produced and most exciting serials from the era. I’m certainly going to take a chance on it.
The Man Upstairs (1958) Don Chaffey - Network (UK, Region B)
After blaming himself for an accident that killed his fiancee’s brother, Peter Watson (Richard Attenborough) hides out in a run-down boarding house where he quickly becomes unglued. No extras, unless you count an image gallery. (I don’t.)
After the Thin Man (1936) W. S. Van Dyke - Warner Archive Blu-ray
The second film in the Thin Man series featuring William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles is more in the vein of comedy and mystery, but most film noir fans embrace the series without hesitation. In this one, Nick investigates the disappearance of Nora’s cousin’s husband (Alan Marshall). The film also stars James Stewart; one more enticement to pick this one up. All of these films are great fun, and I hope that Warner Archive will eventually restore all six films for a nice box set. There’s no news on extras, but the 2019 Blu-ray release of The Thin Man (1934) included a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast, an episode of The Thin Man TV series (1957-59), and a theatrical trailer. We’ll see if that pattern is repeated for this release.
Bordertown: Season 1 (TV 2016) Miikko Oikkonen - Kino Lorber (3 BD set)
In Finnish with English subtitles
Nordic noir has been big for several years now, so it’s no surprise that book, movie, and television markets have been flooded with product. In the case of Bordertown, Detective Inspector Kari Sorjonen (Ville Virtanen), one of the most successful inspectors at Finland’s National Bureau of Investigation, moves to a small town near the Russian border to take care of his wife, a brain cancer survivor. At his new job, Sorjonen - who has Asperger’s - is paired with Lena Jaakkola (Anu Sinisalo), a former Russian security officer. The first season contains five story arcs, so it’s nice to have a show that covers more than one case per season. (Yet perhaps they're all connected?) This series is on Netflix right now if you want to check it out. As far as I can tell, the only extras here are trailers for the show.
Yep, that’s it. If anything changes, I’ll keep you posted. And, as always, if you know of any January titles I’ve missed, please let me know.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone! See you soon.