Film Noir Releases in June 2019
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.
June may be light on new film noir releases from the classic era, but the neo-noir era is well-stocked, with Kino Lorber leading a strong charge this month. We’ve got a little bit of everything in June, so let’s jump right in.
Nightfall (1957) Jacques Tourneur - Arrow Academy (UK, Region-free)
Thanks to screenings at several Noir City events, Jacques Tourneur’s Nightfall is finally getting the attention it deserves. Based on a novel by David Goodis, Nightfall begins with commercial artist Jim Vanning (Aldo Ray) meeting a lovely model named Marie (Anne Bancroft) at a local bar. Everything’s going well until the date ends and we learn that Vanning’s been running from his past, but probably not in the way you might think. Nightfall is one of the rare film noir movies that uses flashbacks effectively, and brings a freshness to the often-used trope of the innocent man caught up in a deadly situation. Ray and Bancroft are wonderful, as are supporting players Brian Keith, Rudy Bond, and James Gregory. The film also boasts some wonderful Burnett Guffey cinematography.
Extras include a new audio commentary by author/critic Bryan Reesman, “White and Black,” a new video appreciation of the movie by film historian Philip Kemp, “Do I Look Like a Married Man?”, a new video essay on the themes of Nightfall by author/critic Kat Ellinger, a theatrical trailer, image gallery, and an illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Amy Simmons. Although Blu-ray.com states this is a Region B disc, Arrow’s website labels this disc region-free. Arrow has lately released several of their new titles in both the UK and US editions, but it appears this is a UK-only release, at least for now. But since it’s region-free, everyone should pick this one up, even as a blind-buy. You won’t be disappointed.
Excess Baggage (1997) Marco Brambilla - Mill Creek Entertainment
Starved for attention, Emily Hope (Alicia Silverstone) decides to make her wealthy father (Jack Thompson) take notice by faking her own kidnapping, hiding in the trunk of a car until the cops arrive. The only problem? The car gets stolen (by Benicio Del Toro) while Emily’s still in the trunk. This one probably contains a higher percentage of comedic rather than neo-noir elements, but it might be worth a look, especially at such a low price. This release is part of Mill Creek’s Retro VHS Collectible Titles, and while Mill Creek has stepped up their game of late, don’t hold your breath for any extras.
Money for Nothing (1993) Ramón Menéndez - Kino Lorber
More comedy/crime elements arrive with the Blu-ray release of Money for Nothing, the story of an out-of-work Philadelphia dockworker named Joey (John Cusack) who finds a bag containing over $1 million that fell off an armored car. Does Joey turn it in or keep it? C’mon, we all know what he does… A flop upon it’s release, Money for Nothing developed a cult following when it hit VHS and DVD. Want to talk about an impressive supporting cast? Okay, how about Michael Madsen, Benicio Del Toro, James Gandolfini, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Debi Mazar, Michael Rapaport, and Maury Chaykin? For the cast alone, I’m in.
Money for Nothing was previously released on Blu-ray in 2011 from Mill Creek, but with the wrong aspect ratio, so let’s hope this oversight has been corrected by Kino Lorber. The disc offers only a theatrical trailer as an extra.
Bright Angel (1990) Michael Fields - Kino Lorber
Perhaps a borderline neo-noir, Bright Angel presents George (Dermot Mulroney) as a teenager in Montana, eager to escape his dysfunctional parents (Sam Shepard and Valerie Perrine). After meeting a young drifter named Lucy (Lili Taylor), George and his friend Claude (Benjamin Bratt) decide to join her on a road trip to Wyoming to break Lucy’s brother out of jail. This one was far better received by critics than audiences, so take that for what it’s worth. This release comes from a new 2K remaster and includes an audio commentary by director Michael Fields, a theatrical trailer, and a booklet essay by author Richard Ford.
Death and the Maiden (1994) Roman Polanski - Studio Canal (Germany, Region B)
Wow, what an intense film… This seems to be the Roman Polanski film few people have seen, but they should. I haven’t watched it in 25 years and I still remember the film’s high level of intensity that never lets up. In an unnamed South American country just freed from a brutal dictatorship, Gerardo Escobar (Stuart Wilson) brings home a stranger named Dr. Roberto Miranda (Ben Kingsley) during a violent thunderstorm. The longer the Dr. Miranda talks, the more Escobar’s wife Paulina (Sigourney Weaver) is convinced the stranger is the same man who captured, tortured and raped her for weeks during the country’s dictatorship, all while she was blindfolded. Paulina convinces her husband to stage a mock trial and it’s one I guarantee you’ll never forget.
Death and the Maiden is based on a play by Ariel Dorfman and the title refers not only to the play, but also the famous Schubert string quartet heard in the film. Powerhouse performances dominate this extraordinary work, especially that of Sigourney Weaver, who is so terrifying you’ll think her role as Ripley in the Alien movies was rather quaint. Note that this is a German Region B release and contains only a theatrical trailer as an extra. Hopefully we’ll see this in a North American release soon, but I’m very tempted to order it now.
The Running Man (1963) Carol Reed - Arrow Academy (UK, Region B; US Region A edition available June 18)
(Please not that this is not the 1987 film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.)
Upset over losing a significant amount of insurance money owed him, pilot Rex Black (Laurence Harvey) fakes his own death in a plane crash in order for his “widow” Stella (Lee Remick) to collect the £50,000 life insurance money and join him in Málaga. Everything’s moving right along until an insurance investigator (Alan Bates) just happens to be vacationing in Spain near Rex (with a new identity) and Stella. Director Carol Reed shows that he can still create an effective noir thriller years after his masterpiece The Third Man (1949), using the same cinematographer, Robert Krasker. As far as I can tell, this is the first time The Running Man has been released on home video in any format. This release comes from a 2K restoration by Sony Pictures and includes an audio commentary by Peter William Evans, author of British Film-Makers: Carol Reed; “On the Trail of The Running Man,” a new featurette with script supervisor Angela Allen, assistant director Kits Browning, and other crew members; an audio-only recording of Lee Remick’s appearance at the National Film Theatre in 1970; an isolated music and effects track, image gallery, and (for the first pressing only) an illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Barry Forshaw.
The Silent Partner (1978) Daryl Duke - Kino Lorber
The Silent Partner is one of those noir thrillers that most people have never heard of, which is the real crime here. Thanks to Kino Lorber for making this wonderful title available. Don’t be surprised if it becomes one of your new favorites. Elliott Gould plays Miles Cullen, a teller in a Toronto bank located inside a shopping mall bustling with activity during the Christmas season. When a man (Christopher Plummer) dressed as Santa Claus robs Miles at gunpoint, the teller gives him only part of the money, deciding to pocket the rest. Once the robber discovers the ruse, he promises brutal violence against Miles. With a screenplay by Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential), The Silent Partner is a nail-biting cat-and-mouse thriller with great performances by Gould, Plummer, and Susannah York. The release includes a new interview with Elliott Gould, a new audio commentary by film historians Howard S. Berger, Steve Mitchell, and Nathaniel Thompson, a theatrical trailer, and a radio spot. Don’t miss this one.
The Brink’s Job (1978) William Friedkin - Kino Lorber
Okay, The Brink’s Job isn’t a film noir, but it is a heist movie, and I can’t resist heist movies, even a comedic one like this. Small-time crook Tony Pino (Peter Falk) and his five buddies (including Paul Sorvino, Warren Oates, and Peter Boyle) have a habit of bungling their robberies, yet this gang of dipsticks manages to pull off the heist of the century at the Brink’s main office in Boston. Based on the actual Brink’s robbery of 1950, The Brink’s Job seems an unlikely project for the director who gave us The Exorcist, The French Connection, and Sorcerer, but give credit to Friedkin, the Oscar-nominated art direction, and another great performance by Peter Falk. Fans of The Hot Rock (1972) will want to check this one out. This release includes a new audio commentary by film historians Howard S. Berger, Steve Mitchell, and Nathaniel Thompson.
The Border (1982) Tony Richardson - Kino Lorber
Jack Nicholson plays Charlie Smith, an immigration officer from L.A. who’s transferred to El Paso to become a border patrol agent. Upon his arrival, Charlie discovers all sorts of sketchy characters, including some of his co-workers, primarily a seasoned border patrol agent named Cat (Harvey Keitel). The question becomes will Charlie go along with the corruption he sees or do something about it? I remember being quite impressed with The Border upon its initial release, so I’m eager to see how well it holds up. (For Warren Oates fans, here’s another great Oates supporting performance.) The UK company Indicator previously released a Region-B locked edition of the film in 2018. I’m sure this Kino release is sourced from the same materials. So far, the Kino release offers only a theatrical trailer and a new audio commentary from film critic/author Simon Abrams, whereas the Indicator delivers a different commentary (from film critic Nick Pinkerton) and a 58-minute tribute from The Guardian and the BFI to Tony Richardson from 1982.
Lost Highway (1997) David Lynch - Kino Lorber
Kino Lorber has come to June absolutely loaded with great titles. Credit them for being the first American company to finally release Lost Highway in the US, after so many fans (including me) have purchased the film from European companies. If you’re a David Lynch fan, you don’t need to be told about the plot, but if you’re unfamiliar with the story of Lost Highway, here goes: Fred (Bill Pullman), a jazz saxophonist, and his wife Renee (Patricia Arquette) begin receiving VHS tapes on their doorstep. These tapes show the interior of their house, filmed while Fred and Renee were away from home or asleep. Later at a party, Fred meets a creepy Mystery Man (Robert Blake) who informs Fred that, despite the fact that Fred sees him standing in front of him, the Mystery Man is at this moment in Fred’s house. He encourages him to call his home if he doesn’t believe him. He does and the Mystery Man is there.
This only scratches the surface of the weirdness of Lost Highway, which can be a head-scratcher for some, and a challenging masterpiece for others. It almost certainly demands at least a second viewing, which makes it a prime candidate for a Blu-ray purchase. The most current information states that supplemental features have not yet been finalized.
Midnight Lace (1960) David Miller - Kino Lorber
This little-seen David Miller film was released on DVD from Universal a couple of years ago, receiving no fanfare at all, so I’m glad Kino has released the film on Blu-ray. Doris Day plays an American bride in London who received obscene, threatening phone calls, yet no one will believe her. The film boasts a wonderful supporting cast which includes Rex Harrison, John Gavin, Myrna Loy, Roddy McDowall, Herbert Marshall, Natasha Parry, John Williams, Hayden Rorke, and others. The release includes a theatrical trailer and an audio commentary by film historian Kat Ellinger.
Gaslight (1944) George Cukor - Warner Archive
Many of us can now retire our old DVD copies with the arrival of this new 4K remaster of a wonderful period noir. Newly-married Paula (Ingrid Bergman, in her Oscar-winning role) believes she must be seeing and hearing things, and her husband Gregory (Charles Boyer) schemes to convince her that she’s going insane. The film also stars Joseph Cotten, Dame May Whitty, and a 17-year-old Angela Lansbury in her screen debut. Not only is Gaslight a great noir thriller, it’s frequently screened for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which I posted about a couple of years ago.
The disc includes the original 1940 British version of the film (in standard definition), the Lux Radio Theatre broadcast reuniting Bergman and Boyer, “Reflections on Gaslight” (featuring Angela Lansbury), a reminiscence by Bergman’s daughter Pia Lindstrom, an Academy Award ceremonies newsreel, and a theatrical trailer.
So you might want to cut that June vacation a little bit short in order to make room for all these great discs. Who needs the beach when you’ve got heists, bank robberies, and David Lynch? As always, if I’ve missed any releases, please let me know. Enjoy!