Film Noir Releases in December 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.) 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 titles I’ve left out, please let me know in the comments below. And thanks for reading.
I know, I know… December looks pretty slim, but rest assured there’s some great noir coming in early 2019, so prepare yourselves! In the meantime, I’ve got a few things for you to munch on:
Female on the Beach (1955) Kino Lorber
Joan Crawford stars as Lynn Markham, a recent widow who moves into a beach house where the previous owner died under mysterious circumstances. Lynn finds herself falling for beach bum Drummond Hall (Jeff Chandler), who may be hiding a mysterious past. The film also stars Jan Sterling, Cecil Kellaway, and Natalie Schafer (Mrs. Howell from Gilligan’s Island). It’s very possible that this disc’s special features were those ported over from the TCM Vault Collection DVD from a few years ago. With this release, you’ll get two audio commentaries: one from film historian Kat Ellinger, the other from film historian David Del Valle, moderated by filmmaker David DeCoteau.
Death from a Distance (1935) Hollywood Global Classics (DVD)
During a lecture from the famous Astronomer Ernst Einfeld (Lee Kohlmar) at the Forest Park Planetarium, a murder is committed as observers are all busy watching the stars. Add hardboiled detectives (Russell Hopton and Lew Kelly) and a sassy woman reporter (Lola Lane), and you’ve got mayhem. Actually I’m not sure how much mayhem you’ve really got in this pre-noir era movie, but it might be worth a look. If nothing else, the film has the distinction of being the first feature-length movie broadcast on commercial television in the U.S. in 1941.
Panique (1947) Criterion
Julien Duvivier’s first film after returning to France from Hollywood finds femme fatale Alice (Viviane Romance), just released from jail, meeting her lover Alfred (Paul Bernard), who’s recently murdered a woman in a Paris suburb. Believing that elderly Monsieur Hire (Michel Simon) witnessed the murder, Alice sets out to discover just how much he knows, but the elderly gentleman thinks she’s attracted to him. This 2K restoration promises to be a terrific release which includes a new short documentary by Bruce Goldstein, founder and co-president of Rialto Pictures, called “The Art of Subtitling,” a new interview with Pierre Simenon, son of the novelist Georges Simenon (who wrote the source material), a 2015 conversation between critics Guillemette Odicino and Eric Libiot about directior Duvivier and the film’s production history, and print essays by film scholar James Quandt and Duvivier expert Lenny Borger. Don’t miss this one.
The Cooler (2003) 101 Films, Limited Edition Blu-ray + DVD (UK, Region B)
This may be the sleeper of the month, maybe even of the year. Bernie Lootz (William H. Macy) just can’t get a break. Let’s face it: he’s a loser. His luck is so bad it infects everyone he’s around, including gamblers at the casino where he works. In fact the casino pays Bernie to “cool down” gamblers who are in danger of winning against the house. Bernie’s boss, casino owner Shelly Kaplow (Alec Baldwin), pays him well, but Bernie’s had enough; he’s ready to move on. When he meets a waitress named Natalie (Maria Bello), it looks like Bernie’s luck might change, but that spells trouble for Shelly.
Although Macy is brilliant and Baldwin received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination, The Cooler has largely faded into obscurity, which is too bad. It’s a terrific film that deserves to be discovered. The supplements also look impressive, which include few features Lady Luck: The Making of The Cooler, a 100 minute documentary on the making of the film, featuring director and writer Wayne Kramer, writer Frank Hannah, actors William H. Macy, Alec Baldwin, Arthur Nascarella and Shawn Hatosy, producers Michael A. Pierce and Elliot Lewis Rosenblatt, composer Mark Isham and costume designer Kristin M. Burke; and previously unreleased deleted scenes. Previously released features include two commentaries (director Wayne Kramer and composer Mark Isham, and a separate commentary with Kramer and cinematographer Jim Whitaker), a limited edition booklet, and more. Even though it’s a Region B-locked release from 101 Films (a company I know nothing about), I’m planning on picking it up.
So if you haven’t already done so, make your film noir wish lists, which may include some of these films or releases from previous months. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all!