Film Noir Releases in August 2018
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 from the last several years.) 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 neo-noir films I’ve left out, please let me know in the comments below. And thanks for reading.
August proves to be a very disappointing month with no new film noir releases from the classic era (1941-1958), but all is not lost. We do have some interesting neo-noir releases as well as one classic TV show returning to DVD after being out of print for several years.
Peter Gunn: The Complete Series (1958-1961) Shout Factory DVD (12-disc set)
Although this series is currently streaming on Amazon Prime, and this set is on DVD and not Blu-ray, I plan on picking it up. If you’re not familiar with the show, you’ve probably heard the Henry Mancini theme song countless times. What you probably don’t know is the set-up: Craig Stevens plays Los Angeles P.I. Peter Gunn, who uses a jazz club called Mother’s as his “office,” where he charges $1,000 per job. (Remember, this is 1958; a thousand bucks is quite a lot of money.) Mother’s is filled with several colorful recurring characters, but the focus is, of course, on Gunn, his cool cars (including one of the first TV car phones), his way with the ladies, and his top-notch detective skills. It also features one of my favorite actresses, Hope Emerson (in the first season only) as Mother, as well as episodes directed by Blake Edwards (also the show’s creator) and one episode directed by a young Robert Altman.
Peter Gunn was previously available on DVD from Timeless (acquired by Shout Factory), but that release has been out of print for some time. I’m sure this is the same edition without an upgrade or extras. (According to the Shout Factory product page, it doesn’t even have subtitles.) Although the set is listed on Amazon you can currently pre-order only from Shout Factory (for $55.97, from a retail price of $69.97).
Wild at Heart (1990) Shout Factory
Originally slated for a May release, David Lynch’s Wild at Heart has been delayed due to a manufacturing error. I previously discussed the release here.
The Hot Rock (1972) Twilight Time (Limited to 3,000 copies)
The Hot Rock is technically not a film noir, but it is a heist movie, and a really fun one, so I’m including it here. Based on the Donald Westlake novel, Robert Redford stars as John Archibald Dortmunder, a jewel thief just out of prison whose brother-in-law (George Segal) has the brilliant idea to steal a diamond from a Manhattan museum. Of course nothing (much) goes according to plan, yet The Hot Rock is mostly played for comedy and not noir. The film is directed by Peter Yates with a great supporting cast including Zero Mostel, Moses Gunn, Ron Leibman, and Paul Sand. (Look for Christopher Guest in a cameo as a policeman.) No details yet on extras for this film or the next one, also from Twilight Time:
Gloria (1980) Twilight Time (Limited to 3,000 copies)
Mob accountant Jack Dawn (Buck Henry) has been in the habit of giving himself a little extra cut of the mob's money and they've finally caught up with him. Dawn gets the word that mob enforcers are on their way to his NYC apartment wipe out not only him, but his entire family. Panicked, Dawn asks Gloria, the lady down the hall, to keep his six-year-old son Phil (John Adames) safe. (The boy also has the notebook containing the records of all the mob’s bribes, payoffs, and more.) When the goons catch on that Gloria’s protecting the boy, they come after her, not realizing that she isn’t just a middle-aged woman quietly living in an apartment, she’s the ex-girlfriend of a powerful mobster, thus knowing how to handle herself and a handgun.
For a film that John Cassavetes reportedly didn’t want to direct, Gloria turned out to be something really special. Cassavetes wrote the screenplay for the film, but when his wife Gena Rowlands got the lead, she asked Cassavetes to direct. In some ways, Gloria is an atypical film for Cassavetes, but for many it serves as a good entry point for the rest of his work. No word yet on supplements, but I know I’ll be picking this one up.
The Tie That Binds (1995) Kino Lorber
John and Leann Netherwood (Keith Carradine and Daryl Hannah, respectively) are criminals wanted for murder, but that doesn’t stop them from robbing and killing an elderly couple. After a police shootout, Leann and a wounded John escape, but are unable to grab their six-year-old daughter Janie (Julia Devin) before the police do. While John and Leann are on the run, they learn that little Janie has been put up for adoption. The couple quickly decide they’ll shoot through anyone and everyone to get their daughter back. The movie has its fans, but most of them aren’t critics, who excoriated the film. I haven’t seen it, but I'm a big Keith Carradine fan, so who knows, I might pick it up if the price is right. The disc includes an audio commentary by director Wesley Strick (moderated by film historian Jim Hemphill), a production story featurette, cast & crew soundbites, and a theatrical trailer. The film was previously released on Blu-ray through Mill Creek, but that edition had no supplements and apparently suffered from awful sound.
The Rich Man’s Wife (1996) Kino Lorber
Kino Lorber gives us another film that was lambasted by critics, yet seems to have many faithful supporters. Josie’s (Halle Berry) marriage to Hollywood producer Tony (Christopher McDonald) is just barely hanging on, mostly due to Tony’s drinking and obsession with work. During what should be a relaxing vacation, Tony keeps thinking about the studio and his deadlines. When Josie sends Tony home and stays on to enjoy the vacation alone, she’s approached by a man named Cole (Peter Greene), who spells big trouble… Somebody gets murdered and things get pretty convoluted, too much so for some viewers and critics. The film has been called a feminist answer to the previous year’s The Usual Suspects, but see what you think. The Rich Man’s Wife also stars Clive Owen and features cinematography by the great Haskell Wexler. No word yet on supplements.
That’s it for August, possibly the slimmest month we’ve had since I began posting new film noir releases three years ago. If, like me, you’re really bummed at the lack of classic era film noir on disc, know that there’s at least one important release coming next month and maybe more.
In the meantime, I just happen to know where you can see some excellent film noir in August, presented on the big screen with expert introductions. Noir City Chicago will be held at Chicago’s Music Box Theatre August 17-23. Find out more information here. All proceeds go to the Film Noir Foundation, a group of outstanding men and women responsible for the restoration and preservation of film noir. (Unfortunately I can’t make it to Chicago this year, but I am planning on Noir City DC in October and Noir City 17 in San Francisco in January 2019.) Support the Film Noir Foundation and discover some great movies in the process!