Updated: Feb 22, 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” 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.
If you’ve been following my New Releases posts, you’ll know that the last few months of 2018 were pretty slim. From all indications, things are looking up, not only in January, but also in the following months of 2019. (Stay tuned for those announcements; there’s some really great stuff on the way!) Let’s see what the New Year holds for noir fanatics:
8MM (1999) Shout Factory
Oddly enough (or maybe not), 8MM has had, until now, its only Blu-ray release in Australia. Due to its content, many audiences are polarized by the film, yet others embrace it as a cult classic. Private investigator Tom Welles (Nicholas Cage) is hired by a wealthy widow (Myra Carter) to determine whether the snuff film found in her deceased husband’s belongings is the real thing. The film boasts a great supporting cast including Joaquin Phoenix, James Gandolfini, and more, but if you’ve never seen the film before, you may want to rent it first. Bonus features include a new interview with director/producer Joel Schumacher, and previously offered extras from the DVD including an audio commentary with Schumacher, a “Behind-the-Scenes” featurette, a theatrical trailer, TV spots, and a stills gallery.
Let the Corpses Tan (Laissez bronzer les cadavres) (2017) Kino Lorber
As I mentioned in my intro, I normally don’t cover more recent films, but I’m making an exception with Let the Corpses Tan. This amazing visual feast takes the noirishness of a heist and combines it with both a spaghetti Western and a ghost story as a group of thieves who’ve stolen 250 kg of gold hide out in an abandoned Mediterranean building in the mountains. The film plays with time, but it’s fairly easy to keep track of what’s happening when. What’s a little tougher is keeping track of who’s who, but it doesn’t matter. The wonderful visual style and energy of the film will pull you in. For those looking for something a little different, check out Let the Corpses Tan. In French with English subtitles. This Kino release includes an audio commentary by film critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Queensland Film Festival Director John Edmond and an original trailer. (Be aware that the French Blu-ray contains both English subtitles and far more extras.)
Laura (1944) Eureka/Masters of Cinema (UK, Region B)
Every film noir lover knows that Laura is one of the most iconic titles in film noir, but the real question could be whether or not to pick up the new Masters of Cinema Blu-ray of the film. (You can compare the presentation and extras from the 2013 Fox Studio Classics release to those on the Masters of Cinema release.) DVD Beaver has yet to include the MoC disc in their comparisons, but right now I really don’t see a huge advantage in moving away from the Fox release. Or if you want to hold out, many of the MoC releases have also ended up as Criterion releases, but that’s not something you can necessarily take to the bank.
Compare with previous editions
Notorious (1946) Criterion
Notorious presents us with another iconic film that’s also available in multiple releases. If you really need a synopsis, I’ll let you discover that on your own. I’d rather focus on whether or not you need this new Criterion release if you already own the MGM Blu-ray (and I think you probably already know the answer).
This new Criterion release includes the previous commentaries from the 2001 Criterion DVD release featuring film historian Rudy Behlmer and Hitchcock scholar Marian Keane, but you’ll be losing the MGM commentaries from Rick Jewell and Drew Casper, which (at least to me) are a bit of a disappointment and perhaps not a huge loss. With the new Criterion, you’ll also get a new interview with Hitchcock biographer Donald Spoto (21 min.), a new segment on the film’s visual style with cinematographer John Bailey (23 min.), a new scene analysis by film scholar David Bordwell (29 min.), a new feature about Hitchcock’s storyboarding and visualization process by filmmaker Daniel Raim (20 min.), as well as the 52-minute film Once Upon a Time… “Notorious,” a 2009 documentary made for the French DVD series Once Upon a Time, a Lux Radio Theatre production from 1948 with Ingrid Bergman, Joseph Cotten, Joseph Kearns, Gerald Mohr, and Janet Scott, four trailers, newsreel footage of Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman, and a printed essay by critic Angelica Jade Bastién. Oh, and this release was sourced from a new 4K remaster. Don’t miss this one.
Obsession (1976) Shout Factory
It would be far too easy to label Brian De Palma’s Obsession as simply his homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. The similarities may be there, but so also are the differences. Michael Courtland (Cliff Robertson) tries to get his wife (Geneviève Bujold) and daughter free from the hands of kidnappers when something goes terribly wrong and he loses both. Years later, Courtland falls for a woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to his dead wife. I’ll leave it up to you to decide how much De Palma imitates Hitchcock (De Palma also calls upon the skills of Bernard Herrmann for the musical score) and how much Obsession is a departure from Vertigo.
New extras include an audio commentary with Douglas Keesey, author of Brian De Palma’s Split-Screen: A Life in Film, an interview with producer George Litto, and an interview with editor Paul Hirsh. The release also includes a previously available interview with De Palma, Robertson, and Bujold, a theatrical trailer, radio spots, and a stills gallery. If you already have the 2011 Arrow UK edition, it appears the De Palma/Robertson/Bujold interview is the only double-dip. As far as I can tell, the Shout Factory release will not include the two De Palma short films from previous Arrow release, Woton’s Wake (1962) and The Responsive Eye (1966).
The Glass Key (1942) Shout Factory
Four months after they struck gold with This Gun for Hire, Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake returned in The Glass Key, adapted from the Dashiell Hammett novel of the same name. Corrupt political boss Paul Madvig (Brian Donlevy) relies on his right-hand man Ed Beaumont (Ladd) to keep him straight, which includes curbing Madvig’s infatuation for Janet Henry (Lake), daughter of his enemy, the gubernatorial reform candidate Ralph Henry (Moroni Olsen). When Madvig becomes the leading suspect in the murder of Janet’s brother, Beaumont runs to clear his friend’s name and keep Janet from vengeful actions toward Madvig.
The Glass Key had a nice UK Region B release from Arrow in 2016, which may have more special features, but the new Shout Factory release contains a new commentary by film historians Alan K. Rode and Steve Mitchell, which. Several weeks ago I spoke with Rode at Noir City DC where he said that his portion of the commentary covers several interesting discoveries he made while researching the film, including the debunking of a number of myths surrounding the film. Although it’s probably sourced from the same elements as the Arrow release, the new Rode/Mitchell commentary is more than enough reason for me to pick up this Shout Factory edition.
Mikey and Nicky (1976) Criterion
Mikey and Nicky is both strange and fascinating. Nicky (John Cassavetes), convinced there’s a contract out on his life, calls his friend Mikey (Peter Falk) to help him out. Nicky foolishly stole money from a mob boss, which only adds to his paranoia. As Mikey tries to help, Nicky begins to think his friend might be betraying him. Cassavetes and Falk give outstanding performances (by some accounts, largely improvised) as two friends who seem to love and hate each other (sometimes all at once). Elaine May’s direction of the two characters is frequently amazing and sometimes frustrating. May went far over budget with the project, which placed her in the midst of a legal dispute with Paramount. This new Criterion edition comes from a new 4K restoration supervised by May and includes a new “making of” segment featuring interviews with producer Michael Hausman, distributor Julian Schlossberg, and actor Joyce Van Patten. The disc also includes new interviews with critics Richard Brody and Carrie Rickey, and a 1976 audio interview with Peter Falk.
Beat the Devil (1953) Twilight Time
Speaking of strange films, John Huston’s Beat the Devil takes the cake as one of the all-time weirdest, head-scratching film noir titles, one that has been previously available on awful-looking DVDs (and the previous Film Detective Blu-ray release, which I have not seen, but received mixed reviews at best). The plot is purposefully ridiculous. While waiting in a small Italian port for their steamer to be repaired, a pair of criminals (Humphrey Bogart and Gina Lollobrigida) get played for suckers by two other crooks (Robert Morley and Peter Lorre), with the entire quartet thinking they’re going to get rich smuggling uranium out of East Africa. Think of a parody of The Maltese Falcon filled with comic misadventures, an unpredictable plot, and great characters. I don’t know if anyone associated with the film knew what they were getting into when they signed on, but it doesn’t matter. Beat the Devil is either an absolute mess or pure genius. I vote for the latter.
The Twilight Time release comes from a 2016 Sony Pictures/Film Foundation 4K restoration, taken from an uncensored international version discovered in a London vault, which includes four additional minutes of footage, a reordered narrative chronology, and more. Twilight Time also adds a video essay from artist/documentarian Elizabeth Lennard called Alexander Cockburn Beat the Devil, and an always-welcome commentary from Lem Dobbs, Julie Kirgo, and Nick Redman. Preorders open on January 9.
(Not final art)
Red Rock West (1993) Plan B Entertainment (UK, Region B), Blu-ray + DVD
Drifter Michael Williams (Nicholas Cage) walks into a bar in Red Rock, Wyoming and catches the attention of bar owner Wayne Brown (J.T. Walsh), who thinks Williams is the hitman Brown hired to kill his unfaithful wife. Brown and Williams settle the details of the job when the real hitman (Dennis Hopper) shows up. This film has never been treated well. It was released on DVD domestically way back in 1999 and in Australia in 2007. A 2016 German Blu-ray release (with no extras) received mixed reviews, so let’s hope this disc comes from a better source. Yet since I can find no solid information on this release, I’m wondering how dependable this announcement really is.
That should keep you busy for January, but if you know of any other titles I’ve missed, please led me know in the comments below. Happy New Year and happy viewing!