Okay, so October obviously belongs to horror, and so next month may be a bit light on new film noir releases, but remember that November (or Noirvember, if you prefer) is just around the corner. In the meantime, I hope these October noir releases – many of which are European – will give you something to consider. (Unless otherwise indicated, these are U.S. Region A Blu-ray releases.)
Gregory Peck Centennial Collection (To Kill a Mockingbird/Cape Fear) (1962) Universal
This is a bit of a cheat since Cape Fear was previously released on Blu-ray from Universal in 2013. I’m assuming that this is the same presentation with the same extras (which are few and in 480i), in which case you should probably stick to the previous edition, which you can pick up (as of this writing) for under nine bucks.
52 Pick-Up (1986) Arrow (UK, Region B)
This story of adultery and blackmail, based on a novel by Elmore Leonard, is a John Frankenheimer film I’ve never seen, but John Grant, in his book A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir, calls it a “thoroughly exploitational neonoir.” Hmmm… Stars Roy Scheider and Ann-Margaret. Maybe…
The Laughing Policeman (1973) Kino Lorber
Another noir based on a novel, this one by Swedish writers Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, whose police procedural Martin Beck series is excellent. Here director Stuart Rosenberg substitutes San Francisco for Stockholm and Martin Beck becomes Jake Martin (Walter Matthau). Martin investigates a massacre on a bus which killed several people including his partner. The new partner (Bruce Dern) joins Martin in uncovering the facts behind the massacre and the case the former partner was working when he was killed. I was too young to catch this one when it first came out, so I’m looking forward to this one, which also includes Louis Gossett Jr., Anthony Zerbe, and Cathy Lee Crosby.
Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) BFI Video (UK, Region B)
Needing some quick money, former policeman David Burke (Ed Begley) hires a racist ex-con named Earl Slater (Robert Ryan) to help rob a bank. But Burke also hires a black man named Johnny (Harry Belafonte) who needs the money to cover a gambling debt. You might think you’ve seen this type of film before, and maybe you have, but this is not one to pass by unnoticed. Superb performances by the three leads as well as Gloria Grahame and Shelley Winters.
Note: Warner Archive announced on 9/15/16 that it will be releasing a U.S. Blu-ray edition of Odds Against Tomorrow before the end of 2016.
The Wages of Fear (Le Salaire de la Peur) (1953) BFI Video (UK, Region B)
A true masterpiece that should not be missed. Desperate for money, four men in a South American oil town drive trucks filled with nitroglycerin over a mountainous terrain. If you live in the U.S., you’re probably already familiar with the Criterion release of this film, which is still available. Regardless of where you live, this is a must-own film.
Garde à vue (1981) TF1 Video (BD + DVD; France, Region B)
A police inspector (Lino Ventura) investigates the rape and murder of two little girls near Cherbourg, zeroing in on an attorney (Michel Serrault) as the prime suspect. Despite intense interrogation, the lawyer maintains his innocence. Then the lawyer’s wife (Romy Schneider) appears at the police station to deliver an interesting statement… I’d love to see this Claude Miller film, which was nominated for eight Césars and won four. Unfortunately, no English subtitles.
Mortelle randonnée (Deadly Circuit) (1983) TF1 Video (BD + DVD; France, Region B)
Another Claude Miller-directed film, this one a combination noir/tragedy/black comedy about a private eye (Michel Serrault again) whose obsession with the memory of his deceased daughter interferes with the case he’s working on. Again, I would love to see this one, but no subtitles.
Les Salauds dorment en paix (The Bad Sleep Well) (1960) Wide Side Video (BD + DVD; France, Region B)
An outstanding, gripping tale of corporate corruption and revenge. After High and Low, this is my favorite non-samurai film from Akira Kurosawa, but unfortunately this edition includes only French subtitles. The only other Blu-ray edition I know of is from Japan (again, without English subtitles). You can still pick up the Criterion DVD-only edition and if you’ve never seen it, you should. I can only hope that Criterion will give this one a Blu-ray upgrade soon.
The Small World of Sammy Lee (1963) Vintage Classics (UK, Region B)
Sammy Lee (Anthony Newley), emcee of a Soho strip club, finds himself needing a lot of money fast, otherwise a local bookie is going to make Sammy’s face unrecognizable. Sammy’s girlfriend Patsy (Julia Foster) offers to strip at the club for money, but Sammy thinks he can get the money on his own. (Hmmm… I’m thinking he can’t.) Directed by Ken Hughes, whose most famous film is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968), which is unlikely to be seen on a double feature with The Small World of Sammy Lee. But hey, you never know…
Regardless of where you live, I hope you’ll find something here to investigate. If I’ve missed anything noir-related for October, please let me know in the comments below.