Unfortunately there’s not an awful lot to get excited about in January as far as new Blu-ray and DVD releases go, but oddly enough, 2017 does include a mountain of horror releases. (Make of that what you will.) Although the noir and neo-noir releases are criminally low this time out, I do have an alternative for you at the end of this post. (As usual, all items are North America Region A Blu-ray releases unless otherwise specified.)
The Man Between (1953) Studio Canal Vintage Classics (UK – Region B)
This Carol Reed film is talked about far less than related films such as Reed’s own The Third Man (1949) and Martin Ritt’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965), but treads on similar territory: naive Susanne (Claire Bloom) travels to Berlin to see her older brother Martin (James Mason), who has married a German woman (Hildegard Knef) whom Susanne suspects is hiding a deadly secret.
Loophole (1981) Kino Lorber
A British heist movie with a all-star cast including Albert Finney, Martin Sheen, Susannah York, Robert Morley, and more. I know little about this one, so if you do, please weigh in.
Crime Story: The Complete Series (1986-1988) Image Entertainment (9 DVDs)
(This is actually a reissue of a set that has been out of print for several years.)
I knew about this show when it aired, but I don’t remember anyone talking about it at the time. Yet it sure sounds compelling. The series is set in the 1960s and concerns a police lieutenant (Dennis Farina) and a mobster (Anthony Denison) who’re both obsessively trying to destroy each other. Today we’re used to serialized TV shows, but in the 80s, when most shows were episodic, Crime Story really got the audience’s attention, but not always in a positive way. Maybe it was simply ahead of its time.
Some of the regulars on the show include Stephen Lang, Andrew Clay (yet, that one), Jon Polito, and Joseph Wiseman, but you won’t believe some of the show’s guest stars: David Caruso, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Deborah Harry, Gary Sinise, Christian Slater, Pam Grier, Stanley Tucci, Michael J. Pollard, Dennis Haysbert, Miles Davis and Dexter Gordon. The show only ran for two seasons, but some critics have called it one of the best shows of the 80s. I’m definitely picking this up.
Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) Warner Archive
Okay, so I suppose this isn’t a true film noir, but if you think of Spencer Tracy as a detective in a town full of criminals (which isn’t too far from the truth), you could see some traces of noir here and there. Even if it’s not noir, I think noir fans will love it. The premise? Spencer Tracy steps off the train in a town where no one ever gets off the train. None of the locals (including Robert Ryan, Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Walter Brennan) want him there and are not shy about telling him so. So why is he here? You’ve just gotta see it.
The Wages of Fear (1953) BFI Video (UK – Region B)
If you live in the U.S., you probably already have the Criterion Blu-ray edition of this classic, although this BFI dual format is probably less expensive. No details on the extras.
Again, pretty slim pickings for January, but I have an alternative for you.
If you love film noir and have never attended the Noir City festival, you simply must go. Take that money that you would’ve spent on Blu-rays and head out to San Francisco January 20-29 instead. Just take a look at Noir City 15’s line-up which includes not only bonafide masterpieces of film noir such as The Asphalt Jungle, Criss Cross and The Killing, but also great neo-noir films from the 70s (The Taking of Pelham 123, Charley Varrick), newer neo-noir films (Sexy Beast, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead), and noir titles from France, Italy, and Japan. As should be obvious by now, the theme for Noir City 15 is “The Big Knockover” – heist, caper, and hold-up movies. Who doesn’t love those?
You can get a passport that will allow you to see every single movie for only $120. (Come on, that’s probably what many of us spend a month on Blu-rays anyway.) All movies are screened at the gorgeous Castro Theatre and you’ll find plenty of other noir heads to talk to between features. Plus you’ll get to see Eddie Muller and hear his incredible introductions to many of the films. It’s a great deal. (Of course you’ll have to get to San Francisco and find a place to stay, but trust me, you won’t regret it.)
So that’s it for January. If you know of any new releases I’ve missed, please let me know in the comments section below.