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.
Let’s face it: October belongs to horror, so we typically see very few film noir releases amidst the slashers and thrillers. As far as I can tell, nothing from the classic era of film noir is on the horizon for October, but I do have a few items for you to ponder. Most of these are noir-stained or possibly of interest to noir fans, so I hope you’ll consider giving them a chance. If not, October will give you plenty of time to catch up on some of the titles you might’ve missed from previous months. So let’s begin our (very short) journey:
The Bloody Brood (1959) Julian Roffman - Kino Lorber
Canuxploitation your thing? I’ve got you covered. This Canadian film by Julian Roffman (who two years would later direct the 3-D film The Mask) stars Peter Falk as Nino, a psychotic dope dealer whose weird philosophy (or perhaps boredom) leads him to murder someone nobody would ever miss. When Nino and his acolyte Francis (Ron Hartmann) kill a young man by mixing pieces of glass into his hamburger, the victim’s brother Cliff (Jack Betts) decides to go after the killers himself.
I’ve never seen this one, but it seems to have potential for noir elements, and who can say no to Peter Falk’s first starring role (after a brief appearance in Nicholas Ray’s 1958 film Wind Across the Everglades)? If you need more convincing, consider that cinematographer Eugen Schüfftan would go on to win an Oscar in 1961 for The Hustler. Extras include an audio commentary by Paul Corupe of Canuxploitation.com and film historian Jason Pichonsky, the featurette “Beatniks and Broken Glass: Remembering The Bloody Brood” (2019, 16 min.), two short films: “FDR Hyde Park” (1949, 16 min.), directed by Julian Roffman with commentary by Roffman’s son, Peter Roffman, “Freedom to Read” (1954, 14 min.), directed by Julian Roffman, and a theatrical trailer.
Veronica Mars: The Complete First Season (Season 4, 2019) Warner Bros. 1 BR disc or 2-DVD set
The true first season of Veronica Mars (which aired in 2004 on UPN) was a witty, clever, and often snarky take on the noir detective with a smart and savvy high school student named Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell), who works for (and sometimes independently from) her father, PI Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni). That refreshingly original first season also paid homage to many noir tropes, all within the setting of a high school catering to the rich and privileged in the fictional town of Neptune, California. Filled with drama, suspense, romance, teen angst, and noir elements, the first season gathered a huge and dedicated fan base. Although the next two seasons followed Veronica through her senior year of high school and into college, they were not as well-received, and fans were disappointed when the show was cancelled after the third season. Yet that fan base came through with a successful Kickstarter campaign, resulting in the 2014 movie Veronica Mars, which takes place nine years after the end of the third season. The film, which felt like just a long (and fairly routine) TV episode, received mixed reviews. (Most of the positive reviews seemed to come from critics who had never seen the original series.)
This new Warner Archive release (available on both Blu-ray and DVD, but not together) is erroneously labeled “The Complete First Season,” but it’s actually the fourth, taking place after the events in the 2014 film. Originally airing on Hulu in July 2019, these eight episodes feature returning characters from the original show, as well as new ones. Veronica and her dad are still private investigators in Neptune, but Veronica is all grown-up. Or is she? Does Veronica’s character make a successful transition from a teenage detective to an adult PI? As with the 2014 film, reviews were mixed, but fans were largely disappointed. If you’ve never entered the Veronica Mars universe (no pun intended), my recommendation is to start with the true first season and after that, proceed with caution. As far as I can tell, the only extra on this release consists of the Veronica Mars San Diego Comic-Con panel from 2019.
Susana (1951) Luis Buñuel - Cinemateca DVD
Argentine actress Rosita Quintana plays Susana, a teenager who successfully escapes reform school and finds sanctuary in the home of the wealthy Don Guadalupe (Fernando Soler). Guadalupe’s wife Doña Carmen (Matide Palou) believes she can mentor Susana, putting her on a more honorable life path, but Susana soon begins to manipulate all the men around her, turning the respectable house into utter chaos. Although Buñuel considered this film nothing more than a potboiler, it touches on several of his regular themes: the hypocrisies of modern society, bourgeois family values, and the church. (While watching any Buñuel work, always keep in mind his favorite quote: “I’m an atheist, thank God.”) This appears to be a reissue of a DVD originally released by Cinemateca in 2007. If so, it contains no extras. In Spanish with English subtitles.
Time Without Pity (1957) Joseph Losey - Indicator (UK, region free)
Time Without Pity marks Joseph Losey’s first film made in the UK under his own name following the HUAC blacklist. Michael Redgrave (in a BAFTA-nominated performance) plays writer David Graham, a man wrecked by alcoholism who finds himself the only hope in saving his son Alec (Alec McCowen) from a death-row execution for murdering his girlfriend. Released from a sanatorium where he was drying out while the trail was taking place, Graham has only 24 hours to prove his son’s innocence before the death penalty is carried out. Can Graham find the strength to fight for his son without turning to the bottle?
Thanks to Indicator, many who missed this fine noir thriller on FilmStruck can now enjoy it on this region-free Blu-ray. The film is brilliantly photographed by the legendary Freddie Francis and features supporting performances by Ann Todd, Leo McKern, and Peter Cushing.
Time Without Pity makes its world premiere on Blu-ray with several appealing extras, including The John Player Lecture with Joseph Losey (1973, 80 min.), which features Losey in conversation with film critic Dilys Powell at London’s National Film Theatre (probably audio only), a new audio commentary with Neil Sinyard, co-author of British Cinema in the 1950s: A Celebration, the featurette “The Sins of the Father” (2019, 16 min.), with Losey’s son Gavrik Losey discussing the film, “Horlicks: Steven Turner” (1960, 1 min.), a vintage commercial for the malted milk drink, directed by Joseph Losey, and a limited edition (first 3,000 copies only) exclusive 40-page booklet with an essay by Robert Murphy, Joseph Losey on Time Without Pity, Jeff Billington on the MacMahonists and Time Without Pity, an overview of critical responses, and film credits.
I told you it was a slim month. With such paltry choices in October, you really should consider a trip to our nation’s capital for Noir City DC, October 11-24 at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in Silver Spring, Maryland. Join Eddie Muller and Foster Hirsch and many rabid noir fans (including yours truly) for some great film noir on the big screen.
And even if the above new releases don’t do it for you, and you can’t make it to Noir City DC, remember that Noirvember is coming…