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Film Noir Releases in February 2020

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.

As has been the case for the past few months, February offers very little in the form of film noir from the classic era (1941-1958), and absolutely no American film noir from that period, but not to worry; all is not lost. We’ve got some terrific European noir coming your way. Heck, February is practically French Invasion month: five of the new releases in February are French films, and six others are British, plus we have a few neo-noir and noir-stained titles for your consideration. Let’s get started!


February 10

Hôtel du Nord (1938) Marcel Carné - Arrow Academy (UK, Region B)

In French with English subtitles

Although Hôtel du Nord clearly predates the recognized classic film noir era, it contains more than enough noir elements to interest fans. Doomed lovers Renée (Annabella) and Pierre (Jean-Pierre Aumont) make a pact to end their lives together in the Parisian Hôtel du Nord, but after shooting Renée, Pierre loses his nerve and runs away, enlisting the help of a local criminal named Edmond (Louis Jouvet) and Edmond’s prostitute girlfriend Raymonde (Arletty). Although one of Carné’s most underrated films, Hôtel du Nord contains a wonderful ensemble cast and a compelling story. Extras include “Au cinéma ce soir: Marcel Carné on Hôtel du Nord,” an in-depth archival interview with Carné from 1972, an introduction to the film by film historian Paul Ryan, an original trailer, an image gallery, and a reversible sleeve featuring both original and newly commissioned artwork by Peter Strain. Arrow Academy often releases both UK and US editions, but (at least for now) this title is a UK Region B only disc.

February 11

No Mercy (1986) Richard Pearce - Mill Creek

Eddie (Richard Gere) and Joe (Gary Basaraba) are two off-the-rails cops posing as hitmen who show up when a hood named Deveneux (William Atherton) wants to silence a rival hood, the sadistic Losado (Jeroen Krabbé). Of course the plan gets all hosed up and Eddie finds himself tracking down Losado’s girl (Kim Basinger) in New Orleans, where he lands in all kinds of trouble, especially when he finds himself handcuffed to the girl, fleeing from Losado’s henchmen, who promise to show them (you guessed it) NO MERCY! Although it’s pretty standard fare, it’s much better than it sounds. It’s a Mill Creek release, so expect zero extras.

The Killing Time (1987) Rick King - Scorpion Releasing

For a sleepy little town like Santa Alba, there’s sure a lot of mayhem going on. For one thing, the town sheriff, Sam (Beau Bridges), believes his former girlfriend Laura (Camelia Kath) is in danger of being killed by her abusive husband Jake (Wayne Rogers). Sam and Laura plan to knock off Jake and set up the newly-arrived deputy Brian Mars (Kiefer Sutherland) to take the fall. But they don’t know that Brian is actually a dangerous killer who’s come to Santa Alba for a reason, and it’s not a career in law enforcement. The film also includes two always-interesting actors, Joe Don Baker and Michael Madsen, yet the reviews are mixed for this one, so you could literally be killing time with this one. The only extra: an original theatrical trailer.

February 18

The Criminal (aka Concrete Jungle, 1960) Joseph Losey - Kino Lorber

The Criminal is sort of a “Prison’s Greatest Hits” movie in that it covers many lockup themes and generally does it quite well. Stanley Baker plays Johnny Bannion, a prisoner at the top of the prison food chain who gets released, only to take part in a job that lands him back in the slammer, but that’s where the real fun starts. This one’s got everything: the prison lifestyle, prison hierarchy, police (and convict) brutality, prison politics, betrayal, gangs, snitches, and more. Perhaps it tries too hard to do too much, but you can’t beat the superb cinematography and Baker’s wonderful performance. The Criminal gets a 4K restoration, a new audio commentary by critic Kat Ellinger, and a theatrical trailer. I really enjoyed discovering this one last year and hope you will as well.

February 24

Endless Night (1972) Sidney Gilliat - Indicator (UK, Region B)

The words “Agatha Christie” and “noir” are like two distant cousins who have unmistakable connections, but have never attended the same family reunion. Based on Christie’s novel of the same name, Endless Night is more horror thriller than film noir, but it may be of interest to some of you. Drifter Michael (Hywel Bennett) and wealthy heiress Ellie (Hayley Mills) meet and fall in love, to the disapproval of Ellie’s parents. Undeterred, Michael and Ellie plan to build a dream house along the Devon coast. Even their architect (Per Oscarsson) is skeptical of the marriage, but hey, Ellie’s got the money, so let’s build this thing. Yet “Gypsy’s Acre,” the site the couple plans to build on, is said to be cursed. Indeed, strange things begin happening, including murder. The film also stars George Sanders and Britt Ekland, and was the final directorial effort from Sidney Gilliat (Green for Danger).

Endless Night is also being released by Kino Lorber in March, so if you’re in the US, you’ll have to wait another month (unless you have a region-free player). Although both releases come from a new 4K restoration of the film, the extras differ wildly. With the Kino, you’ll get a new audio commentary by film historians Howard S. Berger and Nathaniel Thompson, and a few trailers. If you go the Indicator region B route, you’ll miss out on the commentary, but you’ll get plenty of other extras which you can discover here.

February 25

Quai des Orfèvres (aka Jenny Lamour, 1947) Henri-Georges Clouzot - Kino Lorber

In French with English subtitles

Pianist Maurice (Bernard Blier) and singer Jenny (Suzy Delair) eek out a living playing in a music hall in post-WWII Paris. One night Maurice sees his wife getting a little too friendly with an older man named Brignon (Charles Dullin) and follows him to his home to settle the score. When Maurice arrives, he discovers Brignon’s already been killed by someone else. All this happens as Inspector Antoine (Louis Jouvet) decides he’s going to tackle one more case before he retires: this one. This disc comes from a new 4K restoration and includes a commentary by the always interesting Nick Pinkerton, interviews with director Clozot, actors Blier, Delair, and Simone Renant, all from the 1971 French TV program “Au Cinéma Ce Soir,” and a theatrical trailer. European readers may remember a Region B release back in 2018 from StudioCanal which does not include an audio commentary, but does a 30-minute documentary on the film (in French with English subtitles).

Max and the Junkmen (Max et les ferrailleurs, 1971) Claude Sautet - Kino Lorber

In French with English subtitles

Michel Piccoli plays Max, an ex-judge who becomes a police inspector in Paris. Frustrated with the rise of bank robbers in the city, Max hopes to compel a group of low-grade criminals to rob a bank so he can catch them in the act. To do this, Max has to find a way to convince the gang’s leader (Bernard Fresson) that a bank robbery is a good idea. How does he do this? By hiring the leader’s prostitute girlfriend Lily (Romy Schneider), not for sex, but for companionship, slowly earning her confidence (and, of course, that of the gang). Although it sounds completely untenable, the plan is brilliant. Yet the film is more about the characters of Max and Lily than the execution of the robbery. I discovered this amazing film on FilmStruck before it went under and have been wanting to see it ever since. Once you’ve seen it, you’ll want to see it again, too. The Kino Lorber release features a new audio commentary by critic Samm Deighan and a theatrical trailer.

And Hope to Die (La course du lièvre à travers les champs, 1972) René Clément - Kino Lorber

In French with English subtitles

Okay, just imagine this: You’ve got a movie directed by René Clément, based on a novel by David Goodis, with music by Francis Lai (best known for Love Story), starring Jean-Louis Trintignant, Robert Ryan, and Aldo Ray about gypsies and a criminal gang. (And no, it’s not a comedy.) Trintignant plays Tony Cardot, a man on the run from gypsies seeking revenge for the deaths of three children in an airplane crash, which they blame him for. But Cardot’s troubles run far deeper. He also witnesses the gang murder of a cop and gets kidnapped by the gang, led by a man named Charley (Ryan), whose girl (Lea Massari) falls for Cardot. There’s also a kidnapping, a suicide, and much more.

I don’t know how good this movie is, but I’m certainly enough of a Robert Ryan fan to check it out. This Kino Lorber release contains only the 99-minute American edition of the film, cut from the original French release of 135 minutes, which you can only see on a StudioCanal Region 2 DVD or a Japanese Blu-ray (in French with Japanese subtitles).

The Third Lover (L'oeil du malin, 1962) Claude Chabrol - Kino Lorber

In French with English subtitles

Frustrated French journalist Albin Mercier (Jacques Charrier) goes on assignment to Bavaria where he meets a highly-regarded writer named Andreas Hartman (Walter Reyer). He also meets Hartman’s gorgeous wife Hélène (Stéphane Audran), with whom Mercier becomes obsessed. Regretting that Hélène is far too faithful to her husband to consider an affair with him, Mercier discovers that she’s having an affair with another man. What does Mercier do? Take pictures of the couple to be used as blackmail, of course. But nothing in the film (or any film by Chabrol) is predictable, so look out. This release comes from a new 4K restoration and includes an audio commentary by critic Kat Ellinger.

Oops! I goofed last month. My apologies for missing a big release from January:

British Noir II: Five Film Collection (1949-1957) Kino Lorber - 2 DVD set

It’s been five years since the release of Kino Lorber’s first volume of British film noir, so this release is something of a surprise, albeit a welcome one. Like that set, this collection contains five films, but packed on two DVDs instead of giving each film its own separate disc as was the case with the 2015 collection.

Let’s take a brief look at each of the films in this second volume (images not taken from the DVDs):

The Interrupted Journey (1949) Daniel Birt

When promising young writer John North (Richard Todd) runs off with his publisher’s wife (Christine Norden), he soon begins to have second thoughts. While traveling together on a night train, a conscience-stricken North pulls the emergency cord, creating a horrible accident and places himself in the midst of a murder investigation. An online reviewer spoiled the movie for me in his opening sentence, (Thanks, dude…) but I won’t spoil it for you, other than to say that The Interrupted Journey employs my least favorite method of ending a movie. Yet the film has its share of fans and significant critical praise, so there you go.

Cosh Boy (1953) Lewis Gilbert

This movie is really making the rounds. It was recently released on Blu-ray in the US and the UK (see last month’s post).

Time is My Enemy (1954) Don Chaffey

After losing her first husband in the Blitz, Barbara (Renée Asherson) decides to remarry. But Barbara’s thrown for a loop when she discovers her former husband Martin (Dennis Price) faked his death and has returned to blackmail her. The film is directed by Don Chaffey, who gave us everything from Jason and the Argonauts (1963) to C.H.O.M.P.S. (1979), plus several Disney movies.

Time Lock (1957) Gerald Thomas

A thriller? Yes. A film noir? No. Time Lock features a six-year-old boy who accidentally gets locked inside a bank vault with less than 10 hours of oxygen remaining. Look for Sean "Blowtorch" Connery in an early role as a welder. (Looks like the James Bond films can't come soon enough...)

The Vicious Circle (1957) Gerald Thomas

Dr. Howard Latimer (John Mills) receives a phone call from an American friend asking him to pick up a German actress at the London Airport. He does so, then drops her off at her destination. Later the woman’s dead body is discovered in Latimer’s flat. Yet Latimer’s troubles are just beginning. In his excellent book, A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir, John Grant calls this one a “somewhat overplotted but well-made teaser.” The film also stars Derek Farr, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Noelle Middleton, Lionel Jeffries, and others. (This one’s also on Amazon Prime right now.)

We’ve still got over a week to go in January, so there may be a few other titles that slip into the February line-up. If so, I’ll be sure to revise this list. Although there’s no classic American film noir titles on this list, think of it as a way to explore some British and French titles you may have missed (or weren’t even aware of, perhaps). In the meantime, if you know of any February titles I’ve not included, just let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading.

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