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” and “neo-noir” 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 or “noir-stained” titles I’ve left out, please let me know in the comments below. And thanks for reading.
I can’t speak for other companies, but Kino Lorber certainly knows it’s Noirvember, releasing nine noir titles during the month! Although not many of the following titles fall into the classic era of film noir, there’s several nice movies waiting for you, some of them seeing their first North American release. So let’s get started!
Naked Alibi (1954) Jerry Hooper - Kino Lorber
Al Willis (Gene Barry) is not having a good day. First, he’s picked up by the cops for possible involvement in a local crime. Second, he’s drunk during the interrogation. Third, he punches one of the cops (Casey Adams), swearing he’ll get revenge. Later, Willis is released for lack of evidence, but the cop he threatened is found dead, making Willis the prime suspect. As far as Chief of Detectives Joe Conroy (Sterling Hayden) is concerned, Willis is not only the best suspect, he’s the only suspect. An obsessed Conroy follows Willis all the way to Border City, Mexico, where he discovers Willis is leading a double life, married to one woman (Marcia Henderson) while seeing another (Gloria Grahame). Written by Lawrence Roman (A Kiss Before Dying), the film also features Max Showalter, Billy Chapin, and Chuck Connors. Extras are slim, but we do get a new audio commentary by film historian Kat Ellinger and a theatrical trailer.
Woman in Hiding (1950) Michael Gordon - Kino Lorber
Woman in Hiding is rarely discussed in film noir circles since it seems a better fit in the melodrama and thriller categories, yet the film clearly contains noir elements and people frequently connected to noir. After her father dies in an accident, Deborah (Ida Lupino) falls in love with Seldon Clark (Stephen McNally), who managed her late father’s mill. On their honeymoon, Deborah discovers not only that Clark may have had a hand in her father’s death, he may also be trying to kill her. Fearing for her life, Deborah flees to another town and assumes a different identity, where she meets an ex-GI named Keith Ramsay (Howard Duff), who could turn out to be more dangerous than her husband. Extras include a new audio commentary by film historian Kat Ellinger and a theatrical trailer.
It Always Rains on Sunday (1947) Robert Hamer - Kino Lorber
Post WWII London provides the perfect backdrop for one of Britain’s finest film noir titles, one that more American noir fans should see. Two years after the war, Rose Sandigate (Googie Withers) has her hands full looking after her older husband George (Edward Chapman), their own son, and George’s two teenage stepdaughters, all trying to scrape together a living in the poverty-stricken East End. Rose’s former boyfriend Tommy Swann (John McCallum), on the run from the law, seeks out Rose, hoping she will agree to hide him for awhile. She knows she should say no, but Rose still has feelings for Swann. It Always Rains on Sunday offers lots of moving parts, including smaller stories from other characters that give the film an added layer of postwar struggles. This role, her last for Ealing Studios, is one of Googie Withers’s finest.
The film was previously released on a Region B disc from Studio Canal Vintage Classics in 2012, which included the featurette “Coming in From the Rain: Revisiting It Always Rains on Sunday” (16:30), another short on the film’s locations (6:30) and a theatrical trailer. The new Kino release includes the same extras as well as a new audio commentary by film historian Imogen Sara Smith.
The Man Between (1953) Carol Reed - Kino Lorber
You could say that director Carol Reed really painted himself into a corner. In the span of three years, he directed three classics, if not masterpieces: Odd Man Out (1947), The Fallen Idol (1948), and The Third Man (1949). His next project, Outcast of the Islands (1951), could only pale in comparison to such a powerful trio. Several critics considered Reed’s next film, The Man Between, even more of downward slide, but such assessments are unfair. More espionage then noir, The Man Between tracks a young woman named Susanne Mallison (Claire Bloom) who travels to Berlin after WWII to visit her newly-married brother Martin (Geoffrey Toone). While in Berlin, Susanne becomes drawn to an East German named Kern (James Mason), whose past is in question. Although not in the same category as Reed’s masterworks, The Man Between paves the way for later espionage films such as The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
The Kino release ports over the same features from the 2017 Studio Canal Vintage Classics release, including an interview with Claire Bloom (10:30), a 1967 BFI audio interview with James Mason (42:00), a featurette called “Carol Reed: A Gentle Eye” (44:00), and adds a new audio commentary by film critic and author Simon Abrams.
Charley Varrick (1973) Don Siegel - Kino Lorber
Charley Varrick (Walter Matthau) is the leader of a trio of robbers who think they’ve hit it big with their recent bank job until Charley realizes they’ve made off with mob money. Charley tries to keep it quiet, his partner Harman (Andy Robinson) wants to spend it, and mob boss Maynard Boyle (John Vernon) sends a hitman (Joe Don Baker) to find the robbers and grab the money. Both the Blu-ray cover and the first several minutes of the film may lead you to think this one’s going to be a straight comedy, but director Don Siegel has other ideas in mind and he nails them all.
Charley Varrick was released on a Region B Blu-ray in early 2018 from Indicator. If you’re a fan and purchased that edition, you might want to pick up this one as well since the supplements differ quite a bit. Both editions include the 72-min. documentary Last of the Independents: Don Siegel and the Making of ‘Charley Varrick’ (2015), a Trailers From Hell episode focusing on Charley Varrick (6 min.), and a theatrical trailer. Exclusive to the Kino edition is the featurette “Refracted Personae,” an examination of Don Siegel’s style and the film’s thematic elements by film historian Howard S. Berger, an audio commentary by film historian Toby Roan, and a limited edition booklet with an essay by Nick Pinkerton. PLUS the Kino is sourced from a new 4K master, which the Indicator is not. Fans of the movie will want to own both, and if you’ve never seen the film, trust me: This is a blind-buy you won’t regret.
Road Games (1981) Richard Franklin - Shout Factory
The few critics who saw Road Games referred to it as Rear Window on an Australian highway. A trucker named Pat Quid (Stacy Keach) believes the driver of a green van is murdering young women up and down the highway, disposing of their body parts in garbage bags. During one of these contemplations, Quid picks up a hitchhiker who, of course, calls herself “Hitch” (Jamie Lee Curtis). When the driver of the van decides to have a personal encounter with Quid and Hitch, the suspense ratchets up even more. I’ll simply refer you to the Shout Factory page for this title, since the supplements (at least 12 significant ones, four of which are brand new) are extensive.
Madigan (1968) Don Siegel - Kino Lorber
Man, the level of talent behind this movie runs deep. We’ve got Daniel Madigan (Richard Widmark) and Rocco Bonaro (Harry Guardino), two NYPD detectives who get out-maneuvered by a criminal named Benesch (Steve Ihnat) during a bust. In the process, the detectives lose their weapons to Benesch. (Oops…) Commissioner Anthony Russell (Henry Fonda) gives the officers 72 hours to get their guns back and bring in Benesch. That’s just one of the storylines going on in this documentary-style procedural that also stars Inger Stevens, James Whitmore, Susan Clark, Don Stroud, Sheree North, Warren Stevens, and Raymond St. Jacques. Need more convincing? The script was written by Abraham Polonsky (Body and Soul, Force of Evil) and Howard Rodman. How about the CinemaScope work by DP Russell Metty (Touch of Evil, The Stranger, Ride the Pink Horse)? And, of course, there’s Don Siegel directing. Unfortunately, other than a trailer, we get only one real extra, a commentary by film historians Howard S. Berger, Steve Mitchell, and Nathaniel Thompson. The film also led to a short-lived TV show of the same name (also starring Widmark) in 1972 as part of the NBC Wednesday Mystery Movie series.
The Complete PRC Michael Shayne Mystery Collection (1946-1947) ClassicFlix (DVD)
Starting in 1937, Davis Dresser (writing as Brett Halliday) published a novel titled Dividend on Death, about a fictional private detective named Michael “Mike” Shayne. Dresser (and several ghostwriters) continued writing the Mike Shayne novels for a total of 77 books. Mike Shayne fever must’ve been in the air. The character was featured in radio programs, TV shows, comic books, and a series of 12 feature films.
For three years (1940-1942), 20th Century Fox cranked out seven Shayne films starring Lloyd Nolan as the PI: Michael Shayne, Private Detective (1940), Sleepers West (1941), Dressed to Kill (1941), Blue, White and Perfect (1942), The Man Who Wouldn’t Die (1942), Just Off Broadway (1942), and Time to Kill (1942).
Skip ahead to 1946, when Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC) picked up the series with Hugh Beaumont (That’s right: Ward Cleaver) as Shayne. PRC cranked out five films - Murder is My Business (1946), Larceny in Her Heart (1946), Blonde for a Day (1946), Three on a Ticket (1947), Too Many Winners (1947) - all of which are included on a single DVD in this release from ClassicFlix. You can get the rundown on each of the titles (none of them running longer than 68 minutes) at the ClassicFlix website. If you aren’t familiar with ClassicFlix, they do a great job of restoring and releasing films that otherwise would probably never see the light of day after their initial appearances. At the ClassicFlix price of $14.99, this set is certainly worth taking a chance on, especially for fans of Hugh Beaumont and PRC. (I know you’re out there; I’m also a fan of both.)
Diabolically Yours (1967) Julien Duvivier - Kino Lorber
I’m not 100% sure Diabolically Yours qualifies as film noir, but when the people involved with the film include actor Alain Delon, director Julien Duvivier, and cinematographer Henri Decaë, I’m in. Plus, a major component of the film includes film noir’s greatest malady: amnesia. Delon stars as Georges Campo, the survivor of a car crash. Campo can’t remember anything, not even his wife Christiane (Senta Berger), who takes him to their home, a house he can’t remember. After hearing voices and experiencing nightmares, Campo wonders if he’s going mad. Or is there something else going on? (What do you think?) This was Duvivier’s final film. Extras include a theatrical trailer and a new audio commentary by film historians Howard S. Berger and Nathaniel Thompson.
Un Flic (aka Dirty Money, 1972) Jean-Pierre Melville - Kino Lorber
More Alain Delon? Don't mind if I do... In director Jean-Pierre Melville’s final film, Delon plays Coleman, a weary detective seeking to capture four crooks responsible for a bank heist in a coastal city. One of the men is wounded in the heist and taken to a hospital. The gang’s leader, Simon (Richard Crenna) sends his mistress Cathy (Catherine Deneuve), disguised as a nurse, to the hospital to keep the wounded man from talking. But Cathy is also seeing Coleman on the sly. Although we’re often treated to uncompromising bleakness from Melville, Un Flic also contains moments of humor.
Although this film has been available on Blu-ray in other countries, this marks the title’s first North American Region A release. Extras include a new audio commentary by film historian Samm Deighan (associate editor of Diabolique Magazine and cohost of the Daughters of Darkness podcast), 2004 interviews with Jean-Francois Delon (Alain’s brother) and Florence Gabin (Jean’s daughter), the documentary In the Mood for Melville (60 min.), and a theatrical trailer.
Someone Behind the Door (1971) Nicolas Gessner - Kino Lorber
Almost certainly more thriller than film noir, Someone Behind the Door stars Anthony Perkins as Laurence Jeffries, a neurosurgeon so focused on his career that he neglects his lovely wife Francis (Jill Ireland). Having had enough, Francis leaves Jeffries for another man, but the good (or maybe not-so-good) doctor has revenge on his mind. He convinces one of his amnesia (there it is again…) patients (Charles Bronson) into believing that Francis is his wife, taking his revenge on her new lover. Many consider this little-seen film one of Bronson’s finest performances. Other than a theatrical trailer and a radio spot, the only other extra consists of a new audio commentary by director Nicolas Gessner.
Personally, I wish they’d gone with the original theatrical poster on this one.
Scarface (1932) Howard Hawks - Universal Studios
I’m ending today’s post with a film that is not noir, but any fan of noir should see it at least once. In Chicago’s South Side, a low-level gangster named Tony Camonte (Paul Muni) has set his sights on the big time, including the position of current crime boss Johnny Lovo (Osgood Perkins), Lovo’s girl Poppy (Karen Morley), a North Side Irish mob, and if Tony has his way, he’ll control the entire city. Directed by Howard Hawks and produced by Howard Hughes, Scarface was one of the earliest sound gangster pictures and one of the most influential. In a way, it helped pave the way for some of the film noir styles that followed. No word yet on extras.
That should keep you busy for awhile. And even if you can’t afford all of these, you can always put them on your holiday wishlists (if you haven’t been naughty, that is). As always, if there are any titles I’ve missed, please let me know in the comments section. Enjoy!