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Since other genre forums have them, I figures we might try one here.

 

I'll start with this, which is at the bottom of the DVD column in Tuesday's NYT which discusses this week's new home video releases:

 

*FORGOTTEN NOIR AND CRIME COLLECTION: VOLUME 4 VCI Entertainment continues to explore the vaults of the Poverty Row studio Lippert Pictures. There are nine titles in this batch, all new to home video. The highlights are two terse crime films by the wildly prolific Sam Newfield, ?Western Pacific Agent? and ?Motor Patrol,? both from 1950. (vcientertainment.com, $29.99, not rated)*

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just came across an interesting review of a new "Forgotten Noir & Crime" collection from VCI Entertainment by Leonard Maltin. I've not heard about this set before, but it definitely sounds interesting!!

 

http://leonardmaltin.com/Picks.htm#NewDVDReleases

 

*FORGOTTEN NOIR & CRIME: COLLECTION 4* (VCI Entertainment/Kit Parker Films) ? I can?t explain my abiding fondness for B movies, but there is something inexplicably satisfying about watching a formula story when it?s executed with pizzazz and a dollop of originality. Kit Parker continues to dig up obscure and arcane titles for his VCI boxed sets and this one has its fair share of goodies along with some duds.

 

The title that interested me most in the set was Mr. District Attorney (1941), made by Republic Pictures but unseen since the underlying rights to Phillips H. Lord?s radio show were sold to Columbia in 1946. (That sale resulted in one of the worst Bs I?ve ever suffered through, in spite of a fine cast led by Adolphe Menjou. Even Columbia must have known it stank, as the prospective series it heralded never came to be. If you?re morbidly curious, it?s part of Forgotten Noir 3.) Like its remake, this film has virtually nothing to do with the long-running radio series. Studios repeatedly purchased these properties in order to lure audiences, then blithely ignored the characters and situations radio listeners were accustomed to hearing every week. Go figure.

 

In any case, this Mr. District Attorney turns out to be a bright, genuinely funny comedy with a crime story running through it. From the moment D.A. wannabe Dennis O?Keefe runs smack into ace reporter Florence Rice in the opening scene, Malcolm Stuart Boylan and Karl Brown?s screenplay never lets up with snappy patter and fresh ideas. Peter Lorre is pretty much wasted as a bad guy (he hasn?t many scenes, which means he must have commanded a decent salary for only a few days? work) but, as if to compensate, Republic?s casting director worked overtime to stock the pond with familiar faces?from the always-reliable Stanley Ridges and Minor Watson in key supporting roles to such welcome players in bit parts as Grady Sutton, Ben Welden, Norma Varden and Tommy Cook. Director William Morgan spent most of his long career as a film editor but got a chance to spread his wings at Republic in the early 1940s and acquitted himself quite well, as least with this lively B.

 

Another, later Phillips H. Lord radio show, Counterspy, was turned into a short-lived series by Columbia in 1950, yielding just two features starring character actor Howard St. John as the government mastermind. David Harding, Counterspy appeared in Volume 3 of Forgotten Noir. Its follow-up feature, Counterspy Meets Scotland Yard, is part of this latest collection and it?s a diverting 67 minutes. Aussie Ron Randell plays a Scotland Yard agent sent to work with David Harding to discover the source of a leak exposing important government secrets to ?the enemy.? A young, skinny, clean-shaven and almost unrecognizable John Dehner plays Harding?s number-one operative (and also provides the film?s opening narration?remember, he was primarily a radio actor at this time). Amanda Blake is well-cast as a secretary and concentration camp survivor (???) who?s being used as a dupe by a nefarious spy ring. I won?t reveal more; suffice it to say that the film is efficiently handled by director Seymour Friedman and spins a good yarn without wasting any time. You?ll recognize such B movie stalwarts as June Vincent, Gregory Gaye, John Doucette, Don Brodie, Rick Vallin, and Jack Rice (?Brother? from the Edgar Kennedy comedies) in supporting roles.

 

When one leaves the major studio movies behind for the independent efforts of exhibitor-turned-producer Robert Lippert the picture changes considerably. These are threadbare films that test the resourcefulness of its filmmakers?and the patience of its audiences, especially today. Treasure of Monte Cristo has the nerve to use that resonant name for a modern-day movie that has nothing whatsoever to do with Alexandre Dumas?except that its hero is named Ed Dantes, for reasons never explained. Oh, there?s an introductory scene to plant the idea of an ancient unclaimed treasure but believe me, the title is just a come-on.

 

Treasure of Monte Cristo was made entirely in San Francisco, both indoors and outdoors, in daylight and at night. This would seem to guarantee some degree of interest but only goes to prove that authentic locations don?t add up to much if they aren?t presented in a compelling dramatic context?as, for instance, in the following year?s D.O.A. Glenn Langan plays a sailor on shore leave who comes to the rescue of a damsel in distress (Adele Jergens, whom he later married in real life), which leads him to nothing but trouble. A worn-looking Michael Whalen plays the local D.A., Steve Brodie plays a crooked lawyer, and Sid Melton?from all evidence producer Lippert?s favorite comedian?has a glorified bit part as a delivery boy. I cannot tell a lie: I needed to use the fast-forward button to get through this 76-minute opus. It?s difficult to know whether to blame the script, by writer-producers Aubrey Wisberg and Jack Pollexfen, or hard-working Lippert director William Berke for the dreary doings. Radio dramas of the period spun this same kind of story with snap and crackle?and wrapped everything up in a half-hour.

 

On the other hand, Western Pacific Agent (1950), directed by B-movie workhorse Sam Newfield and written by Fred Myton?the man who gave us Nabonga and the Double Indemnity ripoff Apology for Murder?is surprisingly watchable, from its opening scenes in the skylight dome of a passenger train?with an unbilled Jason Robards, Sr. establishing the story framework?through the resolution of its juvenile-delinquent saga. Mickey Knox plays the bad egg whose father, storekeeper Morris Carnovsky, can?t bring himself to admit may be the cold-blooded killer railroad agent Kent Taylor is looking for. Sheila Ryan is the leading lady this time, with Robert Lowery in a surprisingly brief appearance (perhaps earning a quick paycheck from Lippert) and the ever-popular Sid Melton adding comedy relief.

 

Are the other titles on this set worth exploring? That depends on how adventurous you are?and how much you like B movie fixtures like Hugh Beaumont, Pamela Blake, Tom Neal, and Ralph Byrd. Bless ?em all.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just watched *Black Legion*, a nifty 1937 crime drama from WB starring Humphrey Bogart and Ann Sheridan. The director is Archie Mayo. Had filmmakers in the 40's attempted anything like this (I'm unaware of any similar effort), it might also have made a great noir.

 

The movie is about a ****-like organization that exploits workers' xenophobia and work-related anger (due to any number of reasons) to carry out hate crimes against people deemed "foreigners" - which at the time of the movie, apparently included even Irish-Americans.

 

Bogart is one of the frustrated blue-collar workers who finds himself suddenly becoming a member of this Black Legion, eventually finding out that once in, there is no way out. Eventually, he ends up shooting one of his co-workers (and best friends). The ending is pretty much what you'd expect given the Code restrictions, although Bogart's character has one last display of decency, without which he could have probably avoided any punishment for his actions (which of course couldn't happen due to the Code).

 

The DVD from WHV has a superb transfer, the movie looks just about as good as almost anything from the 30's that I've ever watched.

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*The Outfit* is a gangster movie that is largely forgotten. Despite coming out between Coppola's two *Godfather* movies of the 70s, and starring Robert Duvall, it doesn't seem to have a large following, and has never even been released on DVD.

 

It's still a pretty solid gangster revenge thriller, with an above-average cast. It stars Duvall, as the ex-con seeking revenge for the death of his brother; Joe Don Baker is his partner in crime and Karen Black is his girlfriend. Perhaps of equal or even greater interest are the appearances by some old pros - Robert Ryan and Timothy Carey as the heavies; Jane Greer in a small part as the widow of Duvall's brother. Elisha Cook Jr. also has a small part as a cook working in Baker's restaurant.

 

The movie's based on a novel by Donald E. Westlake, who also wrote the novel that became *Point Blank* - I haven't read it yet, but it might be worthwhile reading.

 

Near the end of the movie, we get a priceless exchange:

 

-Why'd you have to kill him?

-He owed me money.

 

Sometimes, a credit bureau just won't do. :P

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Let's try one here.

 

"Where The Sidewalk Ends" reunites Dana Andrews, Gene Tierney and director Otto Preminger in a police/crime drama that is a nice piece of work but is no "Laura."

 

From the files of "It's a small world" and "what a coincidence" Andrews plays a cop who gets more involved in a case then he plans to. He's half gentleman and half nightmare. Police brutality is a way of life for him and it gets him in trouble. The crux of the movie deals with Andrews trying to fix a situation he never should have been in in the first place.

 

Andrews does some fine work. Gary Merrill is a pleasant surprise as a smart aleck mobster. Gene Tierney has little to do but look beautiful but that's ok. It seems shot in a typical noir fashion which is fine but I;m not familiar enough with Preminger to know what makes it distinctively his. Nothing jumps out.

 

Anyway, good film but I don't think it will bowl anyone over.

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Over this past year's travels, I've been able to watch just about all of these. Yeah, some might have deserved their "Forgotten" collection titles, but I'm so grateful to be able to watch and make that choice myself.

 

DETOUR and DOA have been out in not-great-quality formats for a while and that's just fine. There were a couple of Edward G. Robinson DVDs released in the dollar-bins a few years ago (SCARLETT STREET and RED HOUSE) - not great films but, again, I'm grateful that they've been put onto DVD for us to make decisions about purchasing and watching.

 

I've often enjoyed watching DETOUR and then finding the wonderful I LOVE LUCY episode where Ethel and Lucy hitchhike to Florida, riding down with Elsa Lanchester, when all of them hear news tidbits about a woman killer (or women killers) on the loose, and each of them suspect the other.

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  • 3 weeks later...

> {quote:title=Ollie_T wrote:}{quote}

> I've often enjoyed watching DETOUR and then finding the wonderful I LOVE LUCY episode where Ethel and Lucy hitchhike to Florida, riding down with Elsa Lanchester, when all of them hear news tidbits about a woman killer (or women killers) on the loose, and each of them suspect the other.

 

Hi Ollie,

Remember the name of that I LOVE LUCY episode, by any chance? :)

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I couldn't think of another place to post this (and it certainly wouldn't deserve a thread of its own) but among the latest batch of new video releases there is a little gem that apparently didn't get a theatrical release and that is a pretty good homage to the noirs and thrillers of the 40s and 50s. It's called Night Train, and aside from a few CGI shots of the train making its way through the snowy night, it could very well have been done at RKO in the 40s.

 

The plot concerns a mysterious, apparently priceless device, and there is plenty of murder, deceit, double-crossing and an effectively cold-hearted femme fatale (Leelee Sobieski); among the most enchanting nods to the films of the past are two characters named Mr. Cairo and Mr. Gutman. And pulling it all together quite effectively, a surprisingly touching performance by the great Danny Glover.

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I have tried Netflix and my extensive cooperative library system but can't seem to lay my hands on _Stranger on the Third Floor_, which is usually regarded as the first (American) film noir. You all know that it has Peter Lorre but I am also eager to see the early art direction of Van Nest Polgase, who it turns out did more than 300 movies, including a little film called _Citizen Kane_.

Suggestions?

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A good post is worth repeating: ;-)

 

Movieman1957 writes:

 

"Let's try one here.

 

"Where The Sidewalk Ends" reunites Dana Andrews, Gene Tierney and director Otto Preminger in a police/crime drama that is a nice piece of work but is no "Laura."

 

From the files of "It's a small world" and "what a coincidence" Andrews plays a cop who gets more involved in a case then he plans to. He's half gentleman and half nightmare. Police brutality is a way of life for him and it gets him in trouble. The crux of the movie deals with Andrews trying to fix a situation he never should have been in in the first place.

 

Andrews does some fine work. Gary Merrill is a pleasant surprise as a smart aleck mobster. Gene Tierney has little to do but look beautiful but that's ok. It seems shot in a typical noir fashion which is fine but I;m not familiar enough with Preminger to know what makes it distinctively his. Nothing jumps out.

 

Anyway, good film but I don't think it will bowl anyone over."

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You're right, this is not "Laura" by any means. But what makes this a Preminger movie are his long lasting shots without cuts. I think it was one of the big-time noir aficionados like Alain Silver who said that the producers threw Gene Tierney's character into the story just to help the box office draw and her character isn't even in the book.

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Folks in the SF Bay Area may be interested in Examining Film Noir, a class being offered this fall at Academy of Art University in San Francisco, starting in mid-September.

 

According to the university's online course description,

 

 

As a result of successfully completing this course, students:

 

Will be able to:

 

* distinguish the differences between regular crime thrillers or crime action films and crime movies that can be identified as Film Noir

* identify the foremost practitioners, auteur stylists, adn iconic performers of waht came to be known as Film Noir druing its Golden Age, between 1938 - 1960

* identify filmmakers and performers who generated the modern Noir film, that has continued to evolve from the 1960s through to the present

* analyze the worldview as manifested in Film Noir and later Neo-Noir cinema and apply it to their own creative work

 

Will be familiar with:

 

* a solid grounding if the student wishes to pursue the subject along further scholarly lines

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