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 know many of you are using this time at home to watch some good film noir, and I wish I could tell you there’s a wealth of it coming out on Blu-ray, but I’m afraid May promises very little. Due to the pandemic, these release dates are subject to change. Yet I hope you’ll find something of interest here. Here we go:
Brighton Rock (aka Young Scarface, 1947) John Boulting - Kino Lorber Blu-ray
Richard Attenborough is stunning as Pinkie Brown, a 17-year-old gang leader in charge of a protection racket in pre-WWII Brighton. Pinkie ruthlessly murders one of his own gang members, then marries a waitress named Rose (Carol Marsh), who witnessed the killing, since a wife can’t testify against her husband. Adapted from a novel by Graham Greene, Brighton Rock is a gritty noir loaded with double-crosses, deception, darkness, and violence very stark for its time. This Kino release marks the film’s North American Blu-ray debut. I haven’t seen any information on extras, but the 2011 Optimum Home Entertainment Region B release contains an interview with British screenwriter/director Rowan Joffé and a one-hour BFI interview from 1954 with the film’s director John Boulting and Richard Attenborough (audio only). Even if these supplements (or none at all) are included on the Kino release, Brighton Rock is a must-own Brit noir.
Pool of London (1951) Basil Dearden - Kino Lorber Blu-ray
Basil Dearden is always a director worth watching. Pool of London presents the story of two merchant sailors Dan (Bonar Colleano) and Johnny (Earl Cameron), all set for some shore leave after a long voyage. Dan already has some smuggled items he wants to sell and plans to clean up even more when he’s offered £100 to carry a small box to Rotterdam. I won’t go into particulars, but this simple task results in much regret for Dan, Johnny, and several others. Pool of London offers an unflinching look at postwar London as well as the ugliness of racism. (This actually might be a good double feature with Brighton Rock.) The film is currently streaming on Kanopy.
Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema II - Kino Lorber Blu-ray box set (3 BD)
Back in February, Kino released five more British film noir titles in its British Noir II collection, but with Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema II, the company trims the offerings down from the first set of noir titles to three films, some of which are questionable film noir movies at best.
The Female Animal (1958) Harry Keller
The Female Animal (produced by the infamous Albert Zugsmith, who also wrote the source material) can hardly be called a film noir since no real crime is committed (and hardly even suggested), unless you count it a crime that this movie stands as Hedy Lamarr’s final screen appearance. The film is far more drama than noir: Lamarr plays a Hollywood star whose adopted daughter (Jane Powell) falls for her mom’s live-in lover (George Nader). Believe it or not, this film was released as the “A” picture in a double-bill with Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil! Both films were produced by Zugsmith and both were shot by Russell Metty. If you own Touch of Evil, I guess you could screen your own double feature. Or not…
The Price of Fear (1956) Abner Biberman
Speaking of actresses who’ve fallen on hard times, I now present Merle Oberon as Jessica Warren, a businesswoman who commits a hit-and-run while drunk. Jessica figures she can frame a perfect stranger named Dave Barrett (Lex Barker), a dog track owner on the run from a hood (Phillip Pine) who’s working for a gang boss named Freddie Edare (Warren Stevens), who knows a guy who knows… You get the convoluted picture.
Thunder on the Hill (1951) Douglas Sirk
From what I’ve gathered, Thunder on the Hill certainly appears to be the best film in this set. Besides, who can resist a nun detective? Ann Blyth plays Valerie Carns, a convicted murderer who’s being transported to Norwich for her execution when a flood delays her arrival. Forced to temporarily stay at a convent hospital, a nun (Claudette Colbert) becomes certain Valerie’s not guilty and sets about trying to find the killer herself. It might sound goofy, but with Douglas Sirk directing and William Daniels’s cinematography, it’s got to be pretty good.
Other than trailers, the only disc that includes any real extras is The Female Animal, with an audio commentary by film historian David Del Valle. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to wait until this set gets a pretty substantial discount before picking it up. Kino may also eventually sell each of these titles separately if you're not interested in all of them.
Classic Crime Double Feature - Mill Creek Blu-ray (2 BD)
Look who’s coming around the corner: Mill Creek, who gave us three 9-film sets last year in their Noir Archive series with presentations that were surprisingly good. This Classic Crime Double Feature set (on two discs) would’ve been right at home among those films, but these titles are both directed by William Castle, who deserves his own place at the table (although certainly not at the head, unless there’s buzzer under his seat).
Hollywood Story (1951) William Castle
New York producer Larry O’Brien (Richard Conte) decides to relocate to Hollywood to start making pictures. After hearing the story of the unsolved murder of a famous silent film director nearly 20 years earlier, O’Brien realizes he has an idea for his first feature. Ah, but there are some people who don’t want the film made or O’Brien snooping around. Loosely based on the actual murder of director William Desmond Taylor, Hollywood Story also includes several former stars playing themselves, such as Francis X. Bushman, William Farnum, Helen Gibson, and more. And how about this supporting cast: Julia Adams, Richard Egan, Fred Clark, Jim Backus… I’m picking up this set for Hollywood Story alone.
New Orleans Uncensored (1955) William Castle
Discharged US Navy man Dan Corbett (Arthur Franz) looks for work and finds it - and trouble - on the New Orleans docks, filled with racketeers and corruption. When his buddy is murdered by a racketeer’s underling, Dan convinces the cops to allow him to go undercover and settle the score himself. Sure, we’ve seen this story before, but any film with Beverly Garland and noir favorite Mike Mazurki can’t be all bad. Note: Thanks to one of my Twitter followers for pointing out that New Orleans Uncensored has previously appeared on Mill Creek's Noir Archive Volume 2 set.
Mill Creek might as well have called this the William Castle Crime Double Feature, but more Castle is always a welcome announcement. Expecting extras from a Mill Creek release is like looking for a blizzard in Miami, but you never know.
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007) Sidney Lumet - Shout Factory Blu-ray
In director Sidney Lumet’s final film, two brothers, Andy (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Hank Hanson (Ethan Hawke) are so desperate for money they plan to rob the jewelry store owned by their parents. But it’s okay; the insurance will cover everything and no one will get hurt. Of course, things go wrong. Told out of sequence, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead begins firmly in noir territory, but also examines the kind of deception unique to families. I believe the previous 2008 Blu-ray release from Image is out of print and I don’t know if this new Shout Factory release will include any new extras, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to pick this one up.
In addition to the above titles, some companies are putting out some reissues:
On May 25, Indicator is reissuing some standard editions of their previous limited edition releases of The Big Heat (1953), The Lady from Shanghai (1947), and Dragonwyck (1946). These are "standard" editions in that they don’t include the booklet of essays and other writings/photos included in the limited editions. These are all Region B discs.
Warner Bros. is also getting into the reissue game, but mostly with gangster movies that should be of interest to noir fans. These are all DVD-only, but if you haven’t picked these up before, they’re worth your consideration: On May 12, look for The Mayor of Hell (1933), Smart Money (1931), “G” Men (1935), and Each Dawn I Die (1939). May 26 brings The Petrified Forest (1936), Kid Galahad (1937), The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1938), Bullets or Ballots (1936), and All Through the Night (1942).
Once again, there’s not much going on in May, but don’t despair - Hang in there! Everyone stay safe and watch lots of movies. See you soon.
Photos: Blu-ray.com, IMDb, Dread Central