September is neither the most exciting nor the most densely packed month for film noir and neo noir releases, but I present to you several worth considering, especially if you own an all-region Blu-ray player. As always, unless otherwise noted, the following are Region A (U.S. and Canada) Blu-rays. Here we go:
Tequila Sunrise (1988) Warner Bros. (UK, Region B)
Screenwriter Robert Towne (most famous, of course, for his Chinatown script) directed four films. Tequila Sunrise was the second and most successful of the bunch, featuring three (at the time) red-hot stars: Mel Gibson, Michelle Pfeiffer and Kurt Russell. Gibson plays Mac, a drug dealer who wants to give up the criminal life for the sake of his kid while Mac’s childhood friend, a police detective played by Kurt Russell, isn’t exactly convinced of Mac’s sincerity. Pfeiffer plays the co-owner of a restaurant who knows Mac from his frequent visits.
Tequila Sunrise has had a previous U.S. release and this UK edition appears to be the same exact package from that edition, which didn’t get such great reviews, especially in the video quality department. Keep an eye on the price of both; might be worth a blind buy.
Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982) Universal Studios
Carl Reiner’s parody of – and homage to – film noir certainly has its share of both lovers and haters and you can count me among the former. If you’ve never seen it, Steve Martin and Carl Reiner have put together a story involving PI Rigby Reardon (Martin) trying to solve a mystery that’s just as incomprehensible as any you’ll find in the film noir canon. Reardon’s story itself is fun, but the idea of integrating clips from classic film noir movies is brilliant. It doesn’t always work, but for the most part it does if you go with the concept. One of the most enjoyable aspects of the film is in watching Edith Head’s costumes mirroring some of the ones she originally designed for the films seen in the clips. (This was Head’s last film.)
I can’t find any information on extras, but if the previous UK and Italian editions are any indication, this will be a bare-bones release. Regardless, it’s a must-own for me.
Rebecca (1940) Criterion
Even if you already have Hitchcock’s Rebecca in another edition, you must get this one. You can find a list of the supplements here, but the new extras include a new conversation between critic Molly Haskell and scholar Patricia White, a new interview with historian Craig Barron, and the French TV documentary Daphne du Maurier: In the Footsteps of “Rebecca.” I’m still keeping my 2012 MGM Blu-ray, which shares some of the extras but also includes a Richard Schickel commentary and audio interviews with Peter Bogdanovich (4:20) and François Truffaut (9:15).
Crime of Passion (1957) ClassicFlix
Barbara Stanwyck, Sterling Hayden, Raymond Burr… Do you really need another reason to pick up Crime of Passion? Newspaper advice columnist Kathy Ferguson (Stanwyck) is a strong-willed career woman who falls in love with police detective Bill Doyle (Hayden), but can’t find a way to fit into his world. He’s also nowhere near as driven as she is, so Kathy decides to take steps to advance Bill’s career. But things don’t go exactly like she planned. Another nice release from ClassicFlix featuring a stunning cover design by the talented Michael Kronenberg.
They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969) Kino Lorber
Hitting Blu-ray for the first time, Sydney Pollack’s They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (based on the stunning novel by Horace McCoy) certainly deserves rediscovery. Although nominated for nine Oscars (with a Best Supporting Actor win for Gig Young), few people discuss it today. A Depression-era dance marathon may seem an odd setting for a film noir, but it’s soaked in noir, certainly a must-see. The release features an audio commentary by Pollack, another commentary featuring actors Jane Fonda, Michael Sarrazin, Red Buttons, Bonnie Bedelia, producers Irwin Winkler, Martin Baum, and hair stylist Sydney Guilaroff. If you’re on the fence, it’s definitely worth a blind buy.
Voici le temps des assassins (Deadlier Than the Male) (1956) Pathe Distribution (France, Region B)
Not to be confused with the 1967 British film with the same English title, this Julien Duvivier/Jean Gabin project (their seventh and final) presents Gabin as Andre, the owner of a Paris restaurant. Andre lost contact with his wife Gabrielle (Lucienne Bogaert) years ago, but when a young woman enters the restaurant claiming to be Gabrielle’s daughter from another marriage, Andre decides to take her in, which could be the worst mistake he’s ever made in his life. Have never seen this, so I might have to change that…
You may remember that this film was also released last year from Pathe as a Blu-ray/DVD combo. This edition is a single disc Blu-ray.
Marie-Octobre (1959) Pathe Distribution (France, Region B)
Another Julien Duvivier film, another Blu-ray/DVD combo from Pathe reduced to Blu-ray only. In the years following the end of WWII, resistance network organizer Marie-Hélène Dumoulin (Danielle Darrieux) gathers the other members of her network together to inform them that one of them betrayed their resistance leader to the Nazis. (The film was remade in 2008.) If the information on Blu-ray.com is correct, this is one of the few French releases to include English subtitles. I’m strongly considering it.
The Harder They Fall (1956) Sidonis Calysta (France, Region B)
Humphrey Bogart’s final film finds him playing Eddie Willis, a washed-up sportswriter hired by unscrupulous boxing promoter Nick Benko (Rod Steiger) to launch the career of his new boxer, the mountainous but no-talent Toro Moreno (Mike Lane). The film is more about corruption in boxing than it is the fighters themselves. One of the saddest aspects of watching the film is in knowing that it’s Bogart’s last. Why this film has never been released on Blu-ray until now is a mystery to me, but I’m glad to see it here, even if it is a Region B release.
Again, not much to choose from in September, so I suppose this could be thought of as Be Kind to Your Wallet month. Regardless, let me know if you plan on picking up any of these. And as always, please let me know of any September noir or neo noir films I might’ve missed.