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.
Barring any last-minute announcements from Blu-ray and DVD labels, September promises to be a dismal month for new film noir and neo-noir releases. September definitely marks the low point for new discs since I’ve been keeping track of them the past few years, but let’s hope for better days as we approach Noirvember. I’ll only cover three titles this time, but one of them’s a must-own.
The Collector (1965) Indicator (UK, Region Free*) Limited to 3,000 copies
It probably falls more on the side of a thriller or horror title, but The Collector should also appeal to noir fans. Terence Stamp (in only his third film) stars as Freddie Clegg, a quiet, reserved bank clerk who makes good after winning a London football pool. Freddie’s been collecting butterflies, but decides to add a young woman to his collection, an art student named Miranda Gray (Samantha Eggar). After abducting Miranda and locking her in the cellar of his English country house, Freddie promises to let her go after four weeks, plenty of time for her to get to know him and want to stay of her own volition. William Wyler directs a story filled with wonderful verbal manipulation (on both sides) and some very unsettling tension.
The Collector was previously released in the U.S. in 2011 from Image, and while the picture looks pretty good, the only extra consists of a trailer. The Indicator 2K restoration offers much more in the supplements department: “The Guardian Interview with William Wyler” (83 min.) from 1981 (audio only), “The Guardian Interview with Terence Stamp” (92 min.) from 1989 (audio only); selected scene commentary with author and film historian Neil Sinyard; “Angel to Devil” (13 min.), a 2018 interview with Terence Stamp recalling working with Wyler; “Nothing But Death” (16 min.), a 2018 interview with Samantha Eggar; “The Look of Stardom” (3 min.), promotional film about the casting of Eggar; “The Location Collector” (8 min.), a 2018 short identifying the film’s location exteriors; “Richard Combs on The Collector” (2018, 9 min.), an appreciation by the critic, lecturer and broadcaster, original theatrical trailer, other teaser trailers, image gallery, and a 40-page limited edition booklet with a new essay by Carmen Gray, “John Fowles and The Collector."
Absolution (1978) Indicator (UK, Region Free*) Limited to 3,000 copies
A very tentative entry into film noir/neo-noir territory, but Absolution is a film with an interesting lineage… More on that in a moment. Richard Burton (in his final film released in the U.S.) plays Father Goddard, a priest at a Catholic boarding school who hears the bizarre, sordid confessions of student Benjamin Stanfield (Dominic Guard). Stanfield must be playing pranks on the good Father, or is he? Goddard suspects that the confessions are genuine and thus can’t testify because of the confidentiality of confession. Then things go very wrong…
Things go wrong with the film as well, but it’s certainly worth seeing, for no other reason than the fact that the screenplay was written by Anthony Shaffer, who also wrote Sleuth (1972) Frenzy (1972) and The Wicker Man (1973). Absolution was apparently something of a personal project for Burton, but never lived to see the film’s release in the U.S. Filmed in 1978, the movie was not put into wide release in the UK until 1981 and went through some legal battles (the details of which are unknown to me) in the U.S., delaying the film’s release there until 1988, by which time Burton had been dead for four years. In an interesting twist, Dominic Guard, who plays the manipulative manipulative Stanfield, made the transition in real life from actor to child psychotherapist. The critics have not been kind to the film, but if you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber (in the U.S.), you can check it out and decide if the Indicator disc is for you.
The Man Who Cheated Himself (1950) Flicker Alley (Blu-ray + DVD)
Thanks to the Film Noir Foundation and the UCLA Film & Television Archive, we’re getting a 4K restoration in September of a very worthy film noir that could previously been seen only on poor quality DVDs and streaming (and at various Noir City festivals). Lee J. Cobb plays Ed Cullen, a San Francisco homicide lieutenant who’s running around with a woman named Lois (Jane Wyatt), another man’s wife. When Lois kills her husband in Cullen’s presence, Cullen has the bad luck of being assigned to catch the killer. We’ve seen similar situations in film noir (Where the Sidewalk Ends, Scandal Sheet), but this one has an added twist: Cullen is being partnered with his younger brother Andy (John Dall), a rookie police detective who asks a lot of questions…
The release also includes “The Man Who Cheated Himself Revisited,” a mini-documentary on the film produced by Steven Smith and the Film Noir Foundation, “The Man Who Cheated Himself Locations Then and Now” with City Sleuth (Brian Hollins) leading viewers on a virtual tour of the film’s San Francisco locations, a restoration of the original trailer, and a souvenir booklet containing rare photos, poster art, lobby cards, and an essay by Eddie Muller.
Okay, so there’s not a lot to celebrate in September, but if you live in the Detroit area, you can definitely celebrate: Noir City Detroit is coming to town September 22 and 23 at the Redford Theatre! Film Noir Foundation founder and president Eddie Muller will be on hand to introduce each of the festival’s seven films. Find out more about the festival here.
*According to Blu-ray.com, both The Collector and Absolution are Region B locked, but the Powerhouse Films (Indicator) website claims they are both region free. Not all Indicator titles are region free, but most are. Hopefully I will know something definitive on this soon, at which time I’ll let you know.