(Please see the end of this post for an August UPDATE)
We’re not seeing as much film noir from the “classic” era (roughly 1941-1958) being released on Blu-ray and DVD these days, at least not as much as I’d like, but rest assured there are more classic noir titles in the pipeline. Still, you’ll find plenty of good stuff this month including several neo-noir and “noir-stained” titles (although some of those connections might be a bit tenuous). You’ll also notice a few previously announced releases that were delayed for various reasons. As always, the following discs are in the Blu-ray format for U.S./Canada Region A players unless otherwise indicated.
Disturbia (2007) Paramount
Paramount Pictures releases two films from the 2000s in August, movies that are at the very least “noir-stained.” First up we have Disturbia from director D.J. Caruso, a Rear Window-esque movie (more on that in a moment) starring Shia LaBeouf as Kale, a teenager so distraught over the death of his father that he attacks his high school teacher, landing himself under house arrest. With nothing better to do, Kale picks up his binoculars and watches the new girl in the neighborhood (Sarah Roemer) who is interesting, but something even more interesting is happening nearby. Kale sees something that leads him to suspect that his next-door neighbor Mr. Turner (David Morse) could be a serial killer.
The Cornell Woolrich estate brought a federal copyright infringement suit against the film, not because it was too much like Hitchcock’s Rear Window, but rather Woolrich’s 1942 short story “It Had to Be Murder” (which Rear Window was based on). The suit was dismissed and I’m not entirely sure that Disturbia itself shouldn’t be dismissed as well, but please share your thoughts. I have no information on special features, but I suspect we’ll get the same extras from the 2007 DreamWorks release: a commentary from D.J. Caruso, Shia LaBeouf and Sarah Roemer, and a 15-minute “making of” feature.
The Machinist (2004) Paramount
Also from Paramount comes The Machinist, a film that was generally well-received by critics but largely passed over by audiences. Christian Bale plays Trevor Reznik, a factory machinist who’s responsible for an accident that causes a coworker (Michael Ironside) to lose an arm. Reznik lays the blame on another coworker named Ivan (John Sharian), who may or may not be a a figment of Reznik’s imagination. I’ve been wanting to see The Machinist for quite awhile, but have never been able to work up the nerve to see what I suspect will be a difficult watch. (Bale lost 60 pounds for the role. The stills of him from the film are unsettling enough…)
As with Disturbia, I am assuming the numerous supplements from the previous 2009 Paramount release will be included: a commentary track with director Brad Anderson, “Manifesting The Machinist,” a 23-minute feature exploring the film’s themes, script, performances, etc., “The Machinist: Hiding in Plain Sight” (14 minutes), which breaks down the mystery elements of the film, a 25-minute “making of” feature, eight deleted scenes and a theatrical trailer.
Fargo (1996) Shout Factory 20th Anniversary SteelBook Limited Edition (10,000 units)
Everyone knows – and probably already owns – this Coen brothers masterwork, but hardcore fans will not want to miss this SteelBook 20th anniversary edition. The special features are spelled out here.
The Breaking Point (1950) Criterion
As the second adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s 1937 novel To Have and Have Not, The Breaking Point concerns a small-time boat captain (John Garfield) who needs money so badly he’s willing to do business with the wrong kind of people. I’ve been wanting to see this one for a long time, partly due to being a Garfield fan, but also being a Michael Curtiz fan. This edition features a new 2K restoration and several new features including an interview with Alan K. Rode, film historian and writer of the upcoming biography Michael Curtiz: A Life in Film, a new feature with Garfield’s daughter, actor Julie Garfield, and a new video essay with filmmakers Tony Zhou and Taylor Ramos, examining Curtiz’s directorial techniques. Also included is an essay by critic Stephanie Zacharak. No two ways about it, this is a must-buy.
White Heat (1949) Warner Bros. (HMV Exclusive, UK, Region B)
This James Cagney classic directed by Raoul Walsh has been available before, but this time it reappears as a Region B exclusive edition for the UK retailer HMV. This undoubtedly contains the same features as the U.S. Blu-ray (and the 2005 DVD): a commentary with Dr. Drew Casper, “Warner Night at the Movies 1949,” a short feature “White Heat: Top of the World,” and a theatrical trailer. Also releasing on the same day: The Public Enemy (1931) and Little Caesar (1931), which were included along with White Heat in Warner’s Ultimate Gangsters Collection Blu-ray box set from 2013. If you were smart enough to buy it, you also got The Petrified Forest in that set.
Ronin (1998) Arrow
It’s funny that I was listening to the latest episode of Pure Cinema Podcast just yesterday and the guys listed Ronin as one of their 90s cult favorites. As they mentioned, it’s a very good action film with some definite noir elements, a film many have forgotten over the past 20 years and definitely a title that should be rediscovered.
Robert De Niro is part of a team of mercenaries hired to steal a metal briefcase from the Russian mob. The contents of the briefcase are, of course, a MacGuffin, but what’s important is the bond between characters, the moral quagmire, and of course the action. The film also stars Sean Bean, Stellan Skarsgård, and lots of other great folks. Directed by John Frankenheimer (who’s made a good film or two), Ronin is also what many consider to be De Niro’s last really meaty role. The disc boasts a new 4K restoration supervised and approved by cinematographer Robert Fraisse. You can read more about the supplements here. The film is also getting a UK release on August 14, so no matter what side of the pond you’re on, you should definitely pick up Ronin.
The Deadly Affair (1966) Indicator Series (Blu-ray + DVD, UK, Region B)
Probably more an espionage movie than a film noir, The Deadly Affair is an adaptation of a John le Carré novel directed by Sidney Lumet about British agent Charles Dobbs (James Mason) who can’t understand why a man he’s investigating unexpectedly commits suicide. (If the character of Charles Dobbs seems an awful lot like George Smiley, you’re correct; he is. But Paramount owned the rights to the character George Smiley, so the name was changed here to Charles Dobbs, but it’s essentially a George Smiley story.) The film also stars Simone Signoret, Harriet Andersson and Maximilian Schell. There’s no information yet on supplements, but I can tell you that Indicator has been absolutely killing it with great discs in this their first year, so if this type of film appeals to you (and it certainly appeals to me), you can buy it with confidence.
Touchez Pas au Grisbi (1954) Studio Canal (UK, Region B)
Le Trou (1960) Studio Canal (UK, Region B)
Both of these Studio Canal Region B Blu-rays were originally slated for a June release and have been pushed back twice, first to July and now to August. I touched on them briefly back in June. Let’s hope there are no further delays. I plan to get them both.
Barton Fink (1991) Kino Lorber
Screenwriter Barton Fink (John Turturro) has a bit of trouble with writer’s block, but that’s just the start of his troubles. Even if you’re not a huge fan of the Coen brothers, you’ll want to see this for another in a long line of superb John Goodman performances. The disc will include separate interviews with Turturro, Michael Lerner, and producer Ben Barenholtz. Also included: “Headspace: The Inner Sounds of Barton Fink” with composer Carter Burwell and sound designer Skip Lievsay, an original theatrical trailer, and eight deleted scenes. There have been European Blu-ray releases of the film, but I believe this is the first American Blu-ray edition.
The Big Knife (1955) Arrow
Hollywood actor Charles Castle (Jack Palance) is getting a tremendous amount of pressure from his studio boss (Rod Steiger) to sign a new contract, but that’s just the beginning of his troubles. Although this satire of Hollywood boasts an all-star cast including Ida Lupino, Wendell Corey, Jean Hagen, Everett Sloane, and Shelley Winters, I’m afraid it’s never been one of my favorites. Maybe I’ll give it another look. Supplemental information here. (The UK edition from Arrow is available on Aug. 28.)
So not a lot for August, but if you’re like me and still trying to pay for your summer vacation (and trying to survive several online Blu-ray sales), you’ll need a bit of a break. Stay tuned – there’s more coming this fall. As always, if you know of any film noir or neo-noir August releases that I’ve missed, please let me know in the comments section below. And be sure to let me know what you’re planning on picking up.
The Stranger (1946) Olive Films
Also on August 29, Olive Films will release their new edition of The Stranger (1946) directed by Orson Welles. The film has been available on Blu-ray before from Kino in 2013 and Film Chest in 2011. The Kino gets much better reviews than the Film Chest release, but according to Dr. Svet Atanasov’s review, the new Olive discs beats the Kino release (reviewed by Casey Broadwater), despite the two discs receiving practically the same starred review. (The Kino disc actually gets a slightly higher rating over the Olive disc in extras.)
This release is not part of the Olive Signature series (although its retail price seems to place it between the price of a regular release and a Signature title), which I hope hasn’t gone away, but seems to be on hold at best. I own the Kino edition and don’t plan on picking up the Olive release unless someone can make a convincing argument that I should. If you pick it up, let me know what you think.