Updated: Feb 28, 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.
The new releases for March may stretch your definitions of film noir and neo-noir a bit, yet there’s plenty of great titles headed our way. We have a couple of classic titles coming to Blu-ray for the first time, a potential wallet-buster that looks totally worth it, and more. Let’s get started. (If you missed the new releases for February, you can find those right here.)
Romeo is Bleeding (1993) Peter Medak - BFI Video Blu-ray (UK, Region B)
The term “over the top” often comes to mind when discussing the films of Peter Medak, which include The Ruling Class (1972) and Zorro, The Gay Blade (1981) (yet his 1980 horror film The Changeling is both quite reserved and effective). Romeo is Bleeding fits right in, not only with “over the top” moments, but also some significant implausibility. NYPD homicide cop Jack Grimaldi (Gary Oldman) has been in the mob’s pocket for a long time, but when mobster Don Falcone (Roy Scheider) taps Grimaldi to take out a Russian hitwoman named Mona Demarkov (Lena Olin), things get complicated. Or crazy. Regardless of what critics think of the movie (which currently shows a 26% on Rotten Tomatoes), Oldman and Olin really deliver.
Romeo is Bleeding was released on a Region A Blu-ray from Twilight Time in 2016, but that disc is long gone. Apparently a big favorite in Germany, the film enjoyed five different releases or packaging choices. This new BFI Region B release includes several new extras including an interview with Medak on his career and his work on Romeo is Bleeding, “Medak on Medak,” a 43-minute interview with composer Mark Isham, and a new audio commentary by author and critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas. Also included: an isolated music and effects score, the original theatrical trailer, and an image gallery. For the first pressing only, you’ll be treated to a fully illustrated booklet with new essays by Lou Thomas, Rebecca Feasey, and Josephine Botting, along with full film credits.
Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974) Sam Peckinpah - Kino Lorber Blu-ray
You may not think of Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia as film noir, but it contains unmistakable elements of noir: obsession, alienation, desperation, an anti-hero, a hostile location, and more. Warren Oates plays Bennie, a piano-playing bartender who gets recruited to help hired killers find Alfredo Garcia, the man who impregnated the daughter of a wealthy Mexican land baron. If you’re familiar with the film, you know there’s much, much more going on here in one of Sam Peckinpah’s most gruesome and disturbing films, yet one that many consider a masterpiece.
Twilight Time released Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia twice on Blu-ray, once in 2014 and an Encore Edition in 2016. You can find plenty of European editions of the film, but thanks to Kino Lorber, it’s now back in a Region A format. This new Kino release contains these supplements, but if you have a region-free player, you’ll want to pick up the Arrow Limited Edition, which is absolutely packed with extras. For a comparison of the different versions, check out the DVD Beaver page on the film.
Positive I.D. (1987) Andy Anderson - Kino Lorber Blu-ray
One year after she was raped, Julie Kenner (Stephanie Rascoe) is still barely able to function as a wife and mother. When she discovers her rapist is about to be released on parole, Julie is determined to seek revenge. Positive I.D. moves with a slow, quiet pace that seems incompatible with a revenge story, but the film has many fans. A slim set of extras includes an audio commentary from journalist and author Bryan Reesman and a theatrical trailer.
Running Time (1997) Josh Becker - Synapse Films Blu-ray
Bruce Campbell and film noir? And in black-and-white? Count me in. Following in the footsteps of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (1948), Running Time has the appearance of being shot in a single take (but it wasn’t). Wasting no time after his release from jail, Carl (Campbell) plans a heist with his buddy Patrick (Jeremy Roberts), but the other team members are even more inept than either Carl or Patrick. I haven’t seen this one, but c’mon: it’s Bruce Campbell! This new 2K restoration release includes an audio commentary with writer/director Josh Becker and Bruce Campbell, a 22-minute featurette titled “Run and Gun with Bruce Campbell,” Q&A footage from the Freaky Film Festival Premiere at the University of Illinois, and an original trailer.
Nightmare Alley (1947) Edmund Goulding - Signal One Entertainment Blu-ray + DVD (UK, Region B)
I still shake my head at Signal One’s inability to bring this release to light, but it no longer matters, as you will see in a moment. Announced way back in April 2018 for an October 2018 release, Signal One is apparently going to release a limited edition Region B disc of Nightmare Alley on March 22. Who knows if this will actually happen? It’s been nearly three years since the initial announcement for one of the most anticipated Blu-ray releases of this classic film noir, and for whatever reason, we keep getting delay after delay. As of today, Feb. 24, 2021, you can go to the Signal One/Patriot Films website, search for "Nightmare Alley," and get nothing. I’ve waited this long, but I’m going to wait a little longer for the Criterion Region A release of the film on May 25, which contains a very nice slate of supplements.
World of Wong Kar Wai (1988-2004) Wong Kar Wai - Criterion 7-disc Blu-ray box set
The films in the box set - which includes two noir-stained titles - will no doubt eventually be released individually, but if you’re a fan of director Wong Kar Wai, you’ll want to pick up the entire package. But let’s take a look at the two noirish titles:
As Tears Go By (1988) Wong Kar-wai
From the Criterion website on As Tears Go By:
Wong Kar Wai’s scintillating debut feature is a kinetic, hypercool crime thriller graced with flashes of the impressionistic, daydream visual style for which he would become renowned. Set amid Hong Kong’s ruthless, neon-lit gangland underworld, this operatic saga of ambition, honor, and revenge stars Andy Lau Tak Wah as a small-time mob enforcer who finds himself torn between a burgeoning romance with his ailing cousin (Maggie Cheung Man Yuk, in the first of her iconic collaborations with the director) and his loyalty to his loose-cannon partner in crime (Jacky Cheung Hok Yau), whose reckless attempts to make a name for himself unleash a spiral of violence.
Fallen Angels (1995) Wong Kar-wai
Yet As Tears Go By is probably not as noir as Fallen Angels. Again, from the Criterion website:
Lost souls reach out for human connection amid a glimmering Hong Kong in Wong Kar Wai’s hallucinatory, neon-soaked nocturne. Originally conceived as a segment of Chungking Express (1994) only to spin off on its own woozy axis, Fallen Angels plays like the dark, moody flip side of its predecessor as it charts the subtly interlacing fates of a handful of urban loners, including a coolly detached hit man (Leon Lai Ming) looking to go straight; his business partner (Michelle Reis), who secretly yearns for him; and a mute delinquent (Takeshi Kaneshiro) who wreaks mischief by night. Swinging between hard-boiled noir and slapstick lunacy with giddy abandon, the film is both a dizzying, dazzling city symphony and a poignant meditation on love, loss, and longing in a metropolis that never sleeps.
If you’ve never seen any of Wong’s films, the $200 price tag for this seven-film set will no doubt be too much for a blind buy, but if you’ve seen the delightful Chungking Express or the gorgeous In the Mood for Love, you have a good idea what you’re getting into with this set. And you can always make that risk significantly less risky at during a Criterion or Barnes & Noble 50% off sale. Extras for the entire set are detailed here.
Tales From the Urban Jungle: Brute Force & The Naked City - Arrow Academy Blu-ray set (UK, Region B)
Now here’s a dilemma: Should I pick up these two classic noir titles if I already own the previous Arrow Region B releases? What if I have the Criterion Blu-rays? Good question. Let me see if I can sort some of this out.
Let’s start with Brute Force. The 2014 Arrow release contains these extras, all of which seem to be included on the Tales From the Urban Jungle release, plus a few others, including a new audio commentary from historian and critic Josh Nelson.
The Criterion Blu-ray (Region A) contains entirely different features.
The Arrow release of The Naked City (also from 2014) contains several excellent extras, yet the Tales From the Urban Jungle set keeps most of them, losing the commentary from writer Malvin Wald, but adding a couple of new extras, most notably “a unique new audio commentary by historian and critic David Cairns featuring actors Steven McNicoll and Francesca Dymond.”
With the Criterion, you pick up the Malvin Wald commentary, but the rest of the extras are completely different. (Details on both here)
You won’t want to hear this, but if you’re a fan of these movies, you’ll want to get both the Tales from the Urban Jungle edition and the Criterion releases. Both are struck from 4K remasters (unlike the earlier Arrow releases), so you can’t go wrong with the presentations of the films themselves. Tough choices…
Crossfire (1947) Edward Dmytryk - Warner Archive Blu-ray
I’m delighted to see Crossfire finally arriving on Blu-ray. Although many classify the film as drama rather than film noir, it really doesn’t matter; it’s a terrific film. When young Jewish war veteran Joesph Samuels (Sam Levene) is found beaten to death, investigator Capt. Finlay (Robert Young) suspects the killer is among a group of discharged soldiers who had been with Samuels at a bar the night of the murder. That’s all you really need to know. Just pick up this release, pop it in, and enjoy the stellar cast, including Robert Mitchum, Gloria Grahame (in an Oscar-nominated role), Paul Kelly, Steve Brodie, and Robert Ryan (also Oscar-nominated) in one of his finest performances in a career loaded with superb performances.
A Best Picture Oscar nominee, Crossfire was one of the first films to deal seriously with anti-Semitism, and the behind-the-scenes story is as compelling as the film itself. Let’s hope that aspect is explored on the disc’s two extras, an archival audio commentary by film historians and film noir experts Alain Silver and James Ursini (with audio interview excerpts of director Edward Dmytryk), and a featurette called “Crossfire: Hate Is Like a Gun.” Don’t miss this one.
Unless we get any last-minute announcements, that’s going to do it for March. I hope you’ll find something in this list to investigate. Stay tuned, stay safe, and watch some great movies.