There’s quite a bit in store for noir and neo-noir fans in June with several new releases (and at least one reissue), several of them from across the pond, so if you don’t have a region-free Blu-ray player, now’s a great time to pick one up.
Disclaimer: unless otherwise indicated, all releases are Blu-rays (just one DVD exception this month). Region B discs from France or the UK are identified as such. I’ve stopped listing releases of French films that do not have English subtitles. Unless otherwise noted, the images are those displayed under each title’s entry at Blu-ray.com.
So let’s see what June has to offer…
Le Trou (1960) Studio Canal (UK, Region B only)
Director Jacques Becker died shortly after completing Le Trou, a film that was not well received at the time, but has since come to be regarded as a classic. An innocent man (Marc MIchel) is convicted for the attempted murder of his wife and thrown into a prison cell with four hardened criminals. An exceptional film I can’t wait to see again (and own). This is a new restoration, but beyond that I don’t know any further supplement details.
Touchez Pas au Grisbi (Honor Among Thieves) (1954) Studio Canal (UK, Region B only)
Here’s another film from Jacques Becker and another new restoration from Studio Canal (which is also releasing Becker’s non-noir but dark comedy Edward and Caroline on the same date). French cinema legend Jean Gabin and René Dary play two gangsters well past their prime attempting one last heist. The film also stars Jeanne Moreau and Lino Ventura and had a profound influence on Jean-Pierre Melville.
Midnight Lace (1960) Universal Studios (DVD)
I haven’t seen this David Miller film, but it seems like noir-lite: Doris Day plays a U.S. bride in London who receives obscene and threatening phone calls, yet no one will believe her. Hmmm…. The DVD is only $6.29 so if you’re a risk-taker, you won’t be out much money.
The Murderer Lives at 21 (L’Assassin Habite au 21) (1942) Eureka/Masters of Cinema (UK, Region B only)
Henri-Georges Clouzot’s first feature film follows a serial killer whose trademark is leaving white cards with the words “Monsieur Durand” beside his victims. Inspector Wenceslas Wens (Pierre Fresnay) investigates. This looks like a reissue of a 2013 Eureka/Masters of Cinema release which included a 14-minute introduction by Ginette Vincendeau, professor of French Cinema at King’s College London as its only supplement (although the release also included a 28-page booklet). Dr. Svet Atanasov over at blu-ray.com is of the opinion that unless Criterion decides to release the film in the U.S., this release might be the only way to see it on home video.
(Theatrical poster – no cover art available)
The Quiet American (1958) Twilight Time
Audie Murphy plays an American in Saigon who falls in love with an Vietnamese woman (Giorgia Moll) who happens to be the girlfriend of an English journalist (Michael Redgrave). Jealous, the journalist informs the Communists that the American is behind an arms deal with anti-Communist rebels. I have never read the novel, but I have seen the 2002 version with Michael Caine which I like quite a lot. I may pick this one up, mainly because it was directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who may have been an un-quiet American, but made some great films. Could this be one of them? No details on supplements.
The Killer is Loose (1956) ClassicFlix
This excellent noir thriller is rarely discussed but should be. Wendell Corey (in perhaps his best role and performance) plays Leon Poole, a bank employee who appears to be the hero in a bank robbery, but was actually in on the crime. The police catch up to Poole as he’s hiding and mistakenly shoot Poole’s wife. Captured by Detective Sam Wagner (Joseph Cotten), Poole vows revenge. The film is filled with tension and fast-paced, so much so that you can easily overlook some of its weaknesses (mainly convenient coincidences).
I have yet to purchase a Blu-ray from ClassicFlix, a company that just started releasing discs a short time ago starting with Miss Annie Rooney (1942) and Another Man’s Poison (1951), neither of which contain any supplements. These releases also haven’t exactly received stellar reviews. If The Killer is Loose also contains no supplements, I’ll still buy it, but not until the price drops below $15.
Night People (1956) Kino Lorber
Night People is probably more of a post-WWI/early Cold War thriller, but it’s directed by frequent film noir contributor Nunnally Johnson. When an American soldier stationed in West Berlin just after WWII is taken and held captive in East Berlin, Colonel Steve Van Dyke (Gregory Peck) leads the investigation to discover what happened to the soldier. I haven’t seen the film, but it looks like its filled with deceit, betrayal, and all the other stuff of noir. This new 4K restoration features interviews with Cecilia Peck, Carey Peck and Tony Peck as well as an audio commentary with film historian Jeremy Arnold.
The Rockford Files (TV 1974-1980) Mill Creek Entertainment (22 discs)
I’ll confess right now that I’ve only seen a smattering of episodes of The Rockford Files, but I’m eager to see more. I’ll also confess that I’m not the biggest fan of Mill Creek, but for budget discs, they generally do a good job; you get what you pay for. The retail price of $129.98 seems a little high, but we are talking about 22 Blu-ray discs, so it’s probably a fairly reasonable price, made even more reasonable by the current Amazon price of $70.19. I’m holding off for now. As far as I can tell, this release includes neither supplements nor the TV movies made after the show’s final season.
They Live by Night (1948) Criterion
Like many fans, I’ve waited a long time for Nicholas Ray’s They Live by Night to appear on Blu-ray and it’s finally happening. Ray’s first full-length feature is a beautiful love-on-the-run noir that has influenced so many other films not only in content, but in style, cinematography, and other aspects. Supplements include an audio commentary with Eddie Muller and actor Farley Grainger (which was on the previous Warner double feature DVD with Side Street), a new interview with writer Imogen Sara Smith, a short piece from 2007 with critic Molly Haskell, filmmakers Christopher Coppola and Oliver Stone, noir experts Alain Silver and James Ursini, illustrated audio interview excerpts from producer John Houseman from 1956, and a new essay by film scholar Bernard Eisenschitz. If you buy only one film this month, it should be this one.
Eight Million Ways to Die (1986) Kino Lorber
Somehow I totally missed this one back in the day despite it starring one of my favorite actors, Jeff Bridges. In director Hal Ashby’s final film, Bridges plays a detective named Scudder whose inner demons resulting from a narcotics raid shootout lead him to enroll himself in an Alcoholics Anonymous program, where he meets a mysterious woman who points him toward paths he probably shouldn’t pursue. The film received terrible reviews (and currently displays a 0% on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer with eight critic reviews) but certainly has its fans. Extras on the Blu-ray include separate interviews with Rosanna Arquette, Andy Garcia , Alexandra Paul, Lawrence Block, and an audio commentary by film historians Howard S. Berger and Nathaniel Thompson.
The Hit (1984) Movinside (France, Region B only)
Terence Stamp plays London gangster Willie Parker who gave up his buddies to the cops ten years earlier. Now two hitmen (John Hurt and Tim Roth) have been sent to find Parker in Spain and bring him back to Paris so he can take his medicine. The film is Stephen Frears’s second feature film, one I’ve wanted to see for years. The Hit was released by Criterion way back in 2009 and has had Blu-ray releases in Italy and Spain, but the Italian release has not received favorable reviews. (No word on the Spanish release…) I’m probably going to hold off for now, but if the reviews for this Movinside release are good, I’ll bite. No supplement information.
The Midnight Man (1974) Movinside (France, Region B only)
Burt Lancaster (who co-directed with Roland Kibbee) plays Jim Slade, an ex-cop who served his time for killing his wife’s lover and now works as a university nightwatchman. After the murder of a coed, Slade goes back into cop mode. Apparently this is a pretty good, but slow-moving, neo-noir. No supplement information on this one, either.
Straw Dogs (1971) Criterion
Love it or hate it, Straw Dogs is one of the handful of Sam Peckinpaw films you must see. Locals in a Cornish village resent American Dustin Hoffman, but lust after his British wife Susan George. This controversial film (due to a rape scene and graphic violence) won’t be for everyone. Extras detailed here.
The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927) Criterion
Alfred Hitchcock’s third feature film (although he considered it the first film that was truly his own) chronicles a serial killer called The Avenger who terrorizes London murdering young blonde women. The new 2K restoration is just one of the reasons to buy this release, including a second feature Downhill (a.k.a. When Boys Leave Home, 1927) which plays on one of Hitchcock’s favorite themes: the “wrong man.” Read about the other features here.
That’s it for June. If you know of any releases I’ve missed, please let me know.