If you’re new to my monthly Film Noir Releases posts, welcome! My goal is to cover all the first-time releases to Blu-ray and DVD, usually passing over reissues unless there’s a good reason to include them. (I also tend to leave out more recent films from the last several years.) Unless otherwise noted, the following are all North American Region A Blu-ray discs. I often use the terms “film noir” and “neo-noir” rather loosely, so while you may quibble with some of my choices, I hope these are films you’ll at least consider. As always, if you know of any film noir or neo-noir films I’ve left out, please let me know in the comments below. And thanks for reading.
While March includes a few interesting North American releases, now may be the time to consider a region-free Blu-ray player if you haven’t already done so. But if you want to stay within the U.S. and Canada, Twilight Time, Kino Lorber and ClassicFlix offer some nice titles in March. Let’s get started.
Le Corbeau (1943) StudioCanal/Vintage World Classics (UK, Region B)
In the first of three newly-restored releases from StudioCanal, all directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, Le Corbeau concerns a doctor (Pierre Fresnay) in a small provincial French town, a man who receives a series of poison-pen letters accusing him of adultery and performing abortions. The letters, each signed “Le Corbeau” (The Raven), don’t hint at just one or two indiscretions, but rather that the good doctor is up to all sorts of shenanigans with many different women. The film was produced during the Nazi occupation of France and was considered at the time a scandalous representation of French society. There’s speculation that the film was based on an actual case from the 1930s in Tulle, France, but it’s also possible Clouzot was influenced by the 1939 British film Poison Pen. StudioCanal has not released a complete listing of supplements, but you can find the basics here.
Quai des Orfèvres (1947) StudioCanal/Vintage World Classics (UK, Region B)
In his next film after Le Corbeau, Clouzot delivers a thriller combining show biz and murder. Hoping that a wealthy businessman (Charles Dullin) might help advance her singing career, Jenny Lamour (Suzy Delair) agrees to meet the elderly gent at his home. When the businessman is found dead by Jenny’s pianist and jealous husband Maurice (Bernard Blier), Inspector Antoine (Louis Jouvet) agrees to take the case.
La Prisonnière (1968) StudioCanal/Vintage World Classics (UK, Region B)
Jump ahead 21 years after Quai des Orfèvres for Clouzot’s final film, La Prisonnière (Women in Chains), a psychological thriller. After posing nude for photographer Stanislas Hassler (Laurent Terzieff), a woman named Josée (Elisabeth Wiener) becomes obsessed with him to the point of attempting suicide. I’ll be interested in seeing how this dark film, with frank sexuality, is viewed after 50 years. The film was not well-received upon its release, but apparently has been unjustly neglected. We shall see. It sure would be nice if StudioCanal released these three Clouzot films as a box set…
Ramrod (1947) Arrow Academy (UK, Region B)
I’m not sure how you feel about noir westerns. I’m not even sure how I feel about them, but I tend to enjoy them more as westerns that are “noir stained.” This film’s director, André De Toth, certainly knew a thing or two about westerns and film noir, so I’m going to trust him on this one. Connie Dickson (Veronica Lake) is having issues with her father (Charles Ruggles), who hires a local cattle baron (Preston Foster) to run Connie’s sheep rancher fiancé out of town. Connie still insists on keeping her land and hires a former alcoholic “ramrod” (Joel McCrea) to try to talk sense to her father. But we know things are eventually going to get ugly… When you put André De Toth, Veronica Lake and Joel McCrea together, there’s no way I’m going to pass this one up.
Ramrod had a previous Blu-ray release from Olive Films in 2012, but that disc contained zero supplements. This Arrow Academy release features an audio commentary by film scholar Adrian Martin, an audio-only conversation between De Toth and Patrick Francis, a new appreciation by American genre films expert Peter Stanfield, and another De Toth interview from 1994 spanning the director’s career, conducted by writer and broadcaster Kevin Jackson. Be sure to pick up the first pressing of this release, which will feature an illustrated collector’s booklet with a new essay on the film and more by Adrian Danks.
Berlin Alexanderplatz (TV 1980) Second Sight (UK, Region B, 5 Blu-ray discs)
Criterion released Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 14-part German television mini-series (covering over 15 hours) on DVD in 2007 and while the film has had Blu-ray releases in Germany, France and Japan, we still do not have a North American release, but thanks to Second Sight, more people will be able to enjoy this work (if you have a region-free player, that is). Fassbinder’s epic certainly expands on the 1931 film by Phil Jutzi (based on the Alfred Döblin novel) chronicling the story of Franz Biberkopf (Günter Lamprecht), a man released from four years of prison for killing his girlfriend. The lumbering, childlike Biberkopf only wants to start a new life, but he finds the straight-and-narrow difficult in Weimar-era Germany. Considered Fassbinder’s crowning achievement (which is saying quite a lot since he’d made 40 films by the time he was 34), Berlin Alexanderplatz is clearly a mini-series that will tempt any film noir fan.
March 13 – UPDATE
While the City Sleeps (1956) Warner Archive Blu-ray
One of two Fritz Lang films coming to Blu-ray from the Warner Archive, While the City Sleeps is a combination “life of a newspaper reporter”/serial killer noir with a tremendous cast. (Just read the cover above.) You can read my review from Noirvember 2016 here, but the bottom line? Lang and his cast make what could’ve been a confusing mess something quite compelling. The release is from a new remaster and the only extra we’re likely to get is a theatrical trailer. Still, more Lang on Blu-ray is always welcome.
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956) Warner Archive Blu-ray
Another Fritz Lang film noir from 1956? Another one starring Dana Andrews? Yes to both. Beyond a Reasonable Doubt was Lang’s last U.S. effort, a film that was actually a remake of The Man Who Dared (1946), which was rather loosely based on Circumstantial Evidence (1935). Andrews plays a novelist looking to get the inside scoop on capital punishment for his next book. What better way to do that than to fake a capital crime (while documenting that you’re just pretending, of course) and find out for yourself how the system works? Of course, things go wrong. Things also go wrong with the film’s disappointing ending. Many viewers feel that what has come before works well enough to praise the film as a whole. Others don’t. See what you think. Like While the City Sleeps, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt features a new remaster and a theatrical trailer.
Gumshoe (1971) Indicator Series (UK, Region B)
The fact that Gumshoe was the feature film debut of director Stephen Frears (The Grifters, The Hit) may be enough to entice you to purchase this new Indicator disc. If not, consider this: Albert Finney stars as Eddie Ginley, a small-time club comedian/bingo caller who decides to give himself a birthday present by placing an ad in a local Liverpool paper:
Ginley’s the Name
Gumshoe’s the Game
No Divorce Work
And, of course, Ginley gets a call, leading to all sorts of adventures. Originally released on DVD nearly 10 years ago, this edition of Gumshoe also features brand new interviews with Frears, screenwriter/actor Neville Smith, and cinematographer Chris Menges. The package also includes “The Burning,” a 31-minute short from Frears, a booklet (limited to the first pressing) featuring a new essay by Robert Murphy, and an image gallery. I’m not sure about the levels of comedy and noir, but Frears’s name is all I need to add this one to my shopping list.
Town on Trial (1957) Indicator Series (UK, Region B)
John Mills plays a police inspector investigating a murder in a small London suburb, encountering upper-crust characters he both suspects and despises. I’m not familiar with this one, but the film seems more of a thriller/police procedural than film noir yet certainly seems worth a look. You can find supplement information here.
The Seven-Ups (1973) Twilight Time
The Seven-Ups (another film I haven’t seen) also seems more police procedural than noir, but it could be worth a look: it stars Roy Scheider and is the only directorial effort from Philip D’Antoni, the producer of Bullitt (1968). Scheider plays Buddy Manucci, a New York City investigator tracking down several hoods guilty of crimes that could get them a minimum of seven years’ jail time (thus the film’s title). No word on extras; limited to 3,000 copies.
Don’t Bother to Knock (1952) Twilight Time
Although far from perfect, Don’t Bother to Knock is one of those film noir titles that doesn’t get nearly enough love. An upscale hotel’s elevator operator (Elisha Cook, Jr.) recommends his niece Nell (Marilyn Monroe) as a babysitter for a family he knows, but he fails to tell the couple that Nell is mentally unbalanced. A recently-spurned womanizer (Richard Widmark) also becomes interested in Nell, unaware that she’s a time bomb waiting to go off. Directed by Roy Ward Baker with cinematography by Lucien Ballard. No word on extras; limited to 3,000 copies.
Highway Dragnet (1954) Kino Lorber
There’s no doubt I’m genetically inclined to appreciate any movie starring either Richard Conte or Joan Bennett, but put them together? I’m first in line. Conte plays James Henry, an ex-Marine accused of murdering a woman he met at a bar. Evading the cops, Henry catches a ride with a magazine photographer (Bennett) and her model (Wanda Hendrix). The story is familiar, but enjoyable, written by U.S. Anderson and future King of the B Movies Roger Corman in his first credited film. This is a new 4K restoration from Paramount. So far we have no details on supplements.
No Orchids for Miss Blandish (1948) Kino Lorber
No Orchids for Miss Blandish was once a pretty scandalous film, filled with what was considered excessive sex and violence in 1948, but seems pretty tame these days. Linden Travers plays Miss Blandish, a kidnapped heiress who has not one, but two groups of cheap hoods after her jewelry. Fighting among the hoods ensues while Miss Blandish’s father hires a detective to get her out of this mess. Set in New York City, but filmed in the UK with an all-British cast, No Orchids for Miss Blandish is a film I’m not really expecting much from, but it might be fun.
John Alton Film Noir Collection (1947-1948) ClassicFlix
(T-Men/Raw Deal/He Walked by Night)
It’s refreshing to see a box set heralding not an actor or a director, but rather a cinematographer, the great John Alton. I previously reviewed the ClassicFlix releases of T-Men (1947) and He Walked by Night (1948) and while I haven’t yet purchased Raw Deal, it’s a rock-solid film noir that doesn’t disappoint. If you don’t own these three films, order this set right now. I guarantee you won’t regret it.
And This Extra:
Trouble is My Business (2018) Lumen Actus (DVD)
Finally, a sneak peak at a DVD scheduled for an April 3 release, Trouble is My Business, directed by Thomas Konkle, written by Thomas Konkle and Brittney Powell. I found out about this independent film noir set in 1947 Los Angeles via Twitter and thought it looked interesting. From the film’s promotional material:
“Detective Roland Drake falls for two sisters from the Montemar family. One woman is dead and the other wants to kill him. Passion, murder, and betrayal. Just another day at the office.”
The period detail looks really nice and I’m always glad to support independent film, especially when we’re talking film noir. If you subscribe to The Dark Pages film noir newsletter, I plan on reviewing the film there in the near future. In the meantime, please check out the trailer for Trouble is My Business:
That’s gonna do it for March 2018. If you know of any other film noir releases in March, please let me know in the comments section below. Happy viewing!