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.
Just a few weeks ago, things looked pretty bleak for May releases, but several new titles have been announced in the last few days. More may be on the way; if so, I’ll be sure to update the post. But what we have so far looks pretty interesting… Let’s have a look:
The Violent Professionals (Milano trema: la polizia vuole giustizia) (1973) Code Red
A break-all-the-rules cop named Giorgio (Luc Merenda) finally goes a bit too far and gets slapped with a suspension. Giorgio uses his “time off” to infiltrate and take down a powerful criminal organization. Although not technically film noir, I include this movie from action/crime/giallo director Sergio Martino primarily because it stars Richard Conte, a noir favorite of mine. I’m assuming this release will include English subtitles, dubbing, or both. As far as I can tell, the release contains no extras. I have never bought a Code Red release, so I’m not sure what standard operating procedure is for them.
Next we have three titles from the French company Elephant Films, movies that have previously been released in various formats in the U.S. I’m not sure whether these releases are new scans or have been acquired from other companies (Individual releases discussed below). I’m also a bit confused about their listing on Blu-ray.com, which lists each title as one Blu-ray disc, yet the cover art on all three clearly indicates Blu-ray and DVD discs. If I find out anything further, I’ll post an update. All three movies are in English with French subtitles (which I assume you can disable).
Portrait in Black (1960) Elephant Films (France, Region B) Blu-ray + DVD (?)
Anthony Quinn plays Dr. David Rivera, who keeps ailing Matt Cabot (Lloyd Nolan), the head of a shipping empire, going with daily injections. When Rivera – who’s having an affair with Cabot’s wife (Lana Turner) – accidentally kills Cabot, the shipping magnate’s right-hand man Mason (Richard Basehart) starts blackmailing both Rivera and his former boss’s wife. Some nice twists with an impressive cast which also includes Sandra Dee, Ray Walston and John Saxon. Although the Portrait in Black has previously been available on DVD, this marks its first Blu-ray release.
I Saw What You Did (1965) Elephant Films (France, Region B) Blu-ray + DVD (?)
You’ve probably seen this one, and if you haven’t, you should. It certainly won’t change your life, other than to made you sad that by 1965 the careers of Joan Crawford and John Ireland were reduced to a William Castle low-budget thriller. That’s not a knock against Castle. Give him credit for casting a fine actor (Ireland) and a legend (Crawford) near the end of their careers. The premise is simple: two teenagers make prank calls to random phone numbers with the message, “I saw what you did and I know who you are.” Of course one of the numbers they call is that of Steve Marak (Ireland), who actually did kill someone.
I Saw What You Did was previously released in the U.S. from Shout Factory in 2016. If this release is taken from the same scan, you might want to think twice about purchasing it, based on the Blu-ray.com review.
Victim (1961) Elephant Films (France, Region B) Blu-ray + DVD (?)
Upon its release, Victim was banned in the U.S. and was very controversial in the UK. Dirk Bogarde plays Melville Farr, a British barrister who’s married, but has a gay lover (Peter McEnery). When the lover tells Farr he’s going to blackmail him, Farr will do anything to avoid the discovery of his secret. 2018 audiences may not think this was a big deal, but at the time, homosexuality was a criminal offense in England. Although Victim stands as a bold social commentary, it’s also an excellent film noir featuring what many consider Bogarde’s finest performance.
Victim has been previously available on DVD in the excellent Eclipse box set (Series 25) Basil Dearden’s London Underground, which I highly recommend. The film has also had a previous Region B Blu-ray release in the UK from Network in 2014. Again, there’s no indication that this is a new transfer and the user reviews of the Network release appear to be a mixed bag. Your best bet might be picking up the Eclipse DVD set. You’ll pay more for it, but all four films are excellent.
Dark Blue (2002) Arrow (UK, Region B)
Before researching May’s new releases, I’d never even heard of this Kurt Russell movie by Ron Shelton, a guy known for sports movies like Tin Cup, Bull Durham, and White Men Can’t Jump. From what I can determine, Dark Blue was in and out of theaters very quickly, but it may be worth a look. Russell plays Eldon Perry, an LAPD detective investigating a triple homicide at a Los Angeles convenience store just days after the Rodney King beating. Perry’s rookie partner Bobby Keough (Scott Speedman) begins to suspect Perry’s handling of the case is less than ethical. It seems most critics and viewers consider the film worth viewing, but certainly not great. Most also agree, however, that Dark Blue contains one of Russell’s best performances, so if you’re a Russell fan, check this one out. The film had a previous Blu-ray + DVD release from MGM in 2009 which has been out of print for some time. There’s no indication on the Arrow website that this is a new scan, but the release does contain some nice extras which you can read more about here.
Moonrise (1948) Criterion
Danny Hawkins (Dane Clark) has had a rough childhood. His father was hanged as a criminal when Danny was just a boy and the locals in his small Virginia hometown have never forgotten it, taunting Danny well into adulthood. Things begin to brighten in this moody Southern town as grown-up Danny thinks he might have a chance with schoolteacher Gilly Johnson (Gail Russell). But Gilly is actually the sweetheart of Jerry Sykes (Lloyd Bridges), a local nasty who always revels in leading the taunts against Danny. After Sykes pushes him over the edge, Danny unleashes a lifetime’s worth of anger and finds himself on the run for his life.
Moonrise, while probably more melodrama than noir, is an outstanding film by an acclaimed director largely in danger of being forgotten today, Frank Borzage, whose film career begins in 1913. Borzage directed many excellent films, most notably during the late silent and early sound era, but Moonrise is one of his final – and best – achievements. The good news is the Criterion release of the film is taken from a new 4K restoration. The bad news? Buyers of the disc will receive only one disc supplement, a new conversation between author Hervé Dumont (Frank Borzage: The Life and Films of a Hollywood Romantic) and film historian Peter Cowie. (The disc also includes a printed essay by critic Philip Kemp.) This release – and especially Borzage – deserves far more. I can think of a least four people who could’ve provided an expert audio commentary. I’m delighted for the release, but the lack of supplements is a huge disappointment.
Wild at Heart (1990) Shout Factory
David Lynch’s Wild at Heart certainly contains noir elements, but regardless of the debates on whether or not it belongs in noir or neo-noir categories, I include it here. You can find synopses of the film elsewhere, but if you’ve never seen it, I encourage you to (1) watch at least one other Lynch film first, then (2) just jump right into the film. It’s been available in many countries and formats, but the previous U.S. release from Twilight Time has been out of print for years. Aside from Twilight Time’s isolated score, all of the other extras have been included in this Shout Factory release. The only new supplement? An interview with novelist Barry Gifford. If you already own the Twilight Time release, you might want to let this one pass you by. If not, jump on it.
The Man Who Watched Trains (a.k.a. The Paris Express) (1952) ClassicFlix
A humble clerk named Kees (Claude Rains) has dreamed of leaving the Dutch city of Groningen for years. When he discovers that his boss Julius de Koster (Herbert Lom) is planning on embezzling his company’s money to run off with a prostitute (Märta Torén), trouble can’t be far behind. If this new restoration is anything like the rest of the work being done by ClassicFlix, you can pick this one up with confidence. No word yet on supplements.
(Not final art)
Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) Olive Films
One of the last films at the very edge of the classic film noir era, Odds Against Tomorrow is a superb Robert Wise film that features David Burke (Ed Begley) as a disgraced former cop looking to rob a bank with ex-con Earl Slater (Robert Ryan). No problem, except Burke has also hired Johnny Ingram (Harry Belafonte) for the job and Slater has no intentions of working with a black man. The three leads are all spectacular and the supporting cast (including Shelley Winters and Gloria Grahame) is also excellent. The film was also released in 2016 as a Blu-ray/DVD combo by the BFI in the UK. That edition includes several nice extras which are detailed here. Olive discs are usually barebones releases, so unless this turns out to be a title in their Signature line, I’ll probably go for the UK edition.
The French Detective (Adieu poulet) (1975) TF1 Video (France, Region B)
Often described as the French Dirty Harry, Pierre Granier-Deferre’s The French Detective begins with an election riot which leads to the killing of a cop and a young man. Were these political murders? Chief Inspector Verjeat (Lino Ventura) thinks so, but learns that he’s being transferred in a week, giving him little time to close the case. Or is he being manipulated from within the department? I’d love to see this, but it appears the release will not include English subtitles. C’est la vie…
Scheduled for Sometime in May…
Gun Crazy (1950) Warner Archive
The biggest news of the month is Warner Archive’s announcement yesterday of the Blu-ray release of Gun Crazy, an absolute classic of film noir that you simply must own. If you’re not familiar with the film, it’s the story of two people who were made for each other: gun enthusiast Bart Tare (John Dall) and sideshow sharpshooter Annie Laurie Starr (Peggy Cummins). Which is greater: their passion for each other or their impulse for using their guns to get what they want? Gun Crazy is more than simply a forerunner to Bonnie and Clyde; it’s an amazing film noir that resonates just as much today as it did in 1950. It’s impossible to forget the tremendous performance by Peggy Cummins, whom we sadly lost last year. Once you’ve seen the movie, you’ll want to read Eddie Muller’s excellent book Gun Crazy: The Origin of American Outlaw Cinema.
Warner Archive has newly remastered the film for this release, which will include the previous audio commentary from Glenn Erickson (ported over from the DVD) and the feature length documentary Film Noir: Bringing Darkness to Light (2006), previously included as a separate disc in the Warner Film Noir Classic Collection: Volume 3. Warner Archive tweeted this as a May release, but didn’t include a specific release date, so keep your eyes open and pick this one up ASAP.
Unless I’ve missed something, that’s going to do it for May. Let me know what you pick up. I’ll do the same. Enjoy!