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Bad Girls of Film Noir Vol. 1 and 2 DVD boxsets


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I don't remember if this had been mentioned before, because the titles were kind of up in the air, but there is now official confirmation that Sony Pictures will release these two boxsets in February:

 

Bad Girls of Film Noir: Volume 1 ( *Two of a Kind, The Killer That Stalked New York, Bad for Each Other* and *The Glass Wall* ) and Bad Girls of Film Noir: Volume 2 ( *Night Editor, One Girl's Confession, Over-Exposed* and *Women's Prison* ) on DVD on 2/9.

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Two of the movies in the "Bad Girls of Film Noir" collection were screened on Wednesday at NoirCity, and Grover Crisp of Sony Pictures Home Video was introduced to the public before the presentation to speak a bit about the efforts on Sony's part to continue presenting the classic films in the Columbia library to the public.

 

In addition, special artwork for the DVD sets was given out to those in attendance, which was especially marked to celebrate the showing of the movies during the film festival.

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There's a glowing review of these sets in The New York Times this week. As Dave Kehr points out, not all of the girls in these movies are bad, not all of the films are true noirs, but with classic movies being so rarely released on DVD these days, it would be churlish to complain.

 

DVDs

*Carnal, Gum-Crackin? and Dangerous to Know*

 

By DAVE KEHR

Published: February 5, 2010

 

IT?S easy to recognize the Bad Girl. She?s usually a bottle blonde, stuffed into a tight sweater that outlines her oddly conical breasts. Her mouth is wide, painted and clamped on a cigarette. Her eyes burn a little too brightly, and her legs, planted in a pair of high-rise pumps, go on forever.

 

In ?The Killer That Stalked New York? (1950), Evelyn Keyes plays a jewel smuggler who has brought a case of smallpox with her back from Cuba.

 

This exotic specimen began appearing in American movies around 1944, when one of her first interpreters was Barbara Stanwyck in Billy Wilder?s ?Double Indemnity,? from the James M. Cain novel. An American variation on the femme fatale of the 19th-century romantics, she was not the figure of mystery and dark allure that her European predecessors were, but a more carnal, blatantly sexual and self-interested creature. She was more fond of chewing gum than smoking opium, less concerned with luring men to their metaphysical doom than cleaning out their bank accounts and moving on to the next sucker.

 

In the movies she has been played by stars from Mary Astor in ?The Maltese Falcon? to Kathleen Turner in ?Body Heat.? But her supreme incarnation was probably Lana Turner in Tay Garnett?s 1946 ?Postman Always Rings Twice,? another adaptation of a James M. Cain novel. Turner, a sunny, all-American **** girl during most of the war years, acquired a new presence and authority as Cora, the man-eating waitress in the blindingly white uniform, who persuades a handsome drifter (John Garfield) to murder her portly, middle-aged husband (Cecil Kellaway).

 

Turner?s transformation offers a clue to the origins and meanings of the Bad Girl. During the war years women had gained a measure of autonomy as factory workers and office clerks, taking over for men absent at the front. In peacetime, though, these emancipated women came to be seen as a threat, holding jobs that now needed to be handed over to returning vets. Those who did not retreat quietly to the kitchens of the new suburbia were duly demonized as domineering monsters in the popular culture, and the Bad Girl, riding a wave of notoriety, remained a prime object of fear and desire well into the 1950s.

 

This week Sony is releasing ?Bad Girls of Film Noir,? a two-volume collection that contains eight little-known titles from the Columbia Pictures archive. As it turns out, not all of the girls in this set are bad, and not all the films noir. But given the barriers to bringing older films to market at a time when DVD sales are diminishing, it would be churlish to complain. What we have here are excellent transfers of hard-to-see films that provide fine showcases for some of the most provocative actresses of the postwar years.

 

Lizabeth Scott, a husky-voiced blonde with a patrician carriage that belied her origins as the daughter of Slovakian immigrants in Scranton, Pa., was probably the foremost Bad Girl of her time. She appears in two of the films in Volume 1.

 

With her sculptural cheekbones and penetrating blue eyes, Ms. Scott (at 87 she?s still with us) had a way of projecting a cruel pleasure in her characters? plottings that displays a distinctly Sadean edge: in Henry Levin?s ?Two of a Kind? (1951) the screenplay requires her to remove the tip of Edmond O?Brien?s little finger by slamming it in a car door, a process she carries out with swooning delight. In the less satisfying ?Bad for Each Other,? a 1953 medical melodrama directed by Irving Rapper, she?s a morally corrupt heiress who tries to lead a young doctor (Charlton Heston) from the straight and narrow; the censorship strictures of the time, alas, prevent her from fully succeeding.

 

Cleo Moore, who has three films in Volume 2 ? Hugo Haas?s ?One Girl?s Confession? (1953), Lewis Seiler?s ?Women?s Prison? (1955) and Seiler?s ?Over-Exposed? (1956) ? was in many ways Ms. Scott?s opposite: a softly curvaceous Southerner whose diction revealed no trace of stage training. Moore?s specialty was the working-class girl struggling to get by in a man?s world without compromising too much of her virtue. ?Confession? is one of the many low-budget films she made with the sympathetically obsessive Haas, a Czech actor-director who relentlessly circled the same themes of male **** and female perfidy.

 

Two major noir actresses, Evelyn Keyes and Gloria Grahame, are represented here by not-so-noirish films. In ?The Killer That Stalked New York? (Earl McEvoy, 1950), Keyes is a literal femme fatale, a jewel smuggler who has brought a case of smallpox with her back from Cuba. The film is mainly interesting as an example of the influence that neo-realism, with its extensive use of location shooting, was then exerting over Hollywood.

 

That influence is even more pronounced in ?The Glass Wall? (1953), in which the Italian actor Vittorio Gassman (star of the neo-realist hit ?Bitter Rice?) stars as a Hungarian refugee lost in Manhattan. As Grahame, playing an unemployed factory worker, tries to help him, the director, Maxwell Shane, uses ?hidden cameras? (according to the film?s trailer) and what looks like a high-speed 16-millimeter film stock to capture some marvelous footage of Times Square at night.

 

The revelation of this set is Janis Carter, a stunning blonde who appeared in several Columbia B-pictures of the 1940s but never quite made the transition to A-level stardom. (She probably came closest in S. Sylvan Simon?s ?I Love Trouble,? an all-star Bad Girl extravaganza from 1948 that remains unavailable because of rights issues.) In Henry Levin?s 1946 ?Night Editor? she?s one decadent society dame you can really believe in. ?You?re like me,? she purrs to her lover of the moment, a married cop played by the hapless William Gargan. ?There?s an illness inside you that either has to hurt or be hurt.? And when they come across the body of a woman beaten to death with a tire iron, her cries of ?I want to see her, Tony! I want to look at her!? express an unhealthy arousal that Krafft-Ebing would find hard to classify.

 

As censorship slowly relaxed in the late ?50s, the Bad Girl gradually lost her usefulness. It was no longer necessary to characterize women as hopelessly evil for expressing an interest in sex. By the time of ?A Summer Place? (1959), directed by Delmer Daves, even Sandra Dee was doing it. She lived on for a while in soft-core pornography, notably in the Times Square specials of Doris Wishman (?Bad Girls Go to Hell,? 1965), but then faded back to where she had come from: the roiling American subconscious. (Sony, each volume $24.95, not rated)

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Just received the 2 volumes. The transfers were great. The only minor complaint is the studios seem to be using more shoddy dvd cases than ever before. Just finished watching Night Editor. Beautiful transfer. Love Janis Carter! Wish there were more film noirs with her. I have a few but still looking for I Love Trouble, The Mark of the Whistler and The Woman on Pier 13.

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

> Just received the 2 volumes. The transfers were great. The only minor complaint is the studios seem to be using more shoddy dvd cases than ever before. Just finished watching Night Editor. Beautiful transfer. Love Janis Carter! Wish there were more film noirs with her. I have a few but still looking for I Love Trouble, The Mark of the Whistler and The Woman on Pier 13.

 

TODDFAN,

Are you perhaps referring to the "eco-friendly" DVD cases? A lot of people seem to dislike those, and I don't blame them.

 

I would also love to see I Love Trouble on DVD, however in the review of this set for the NYT, I think Dave Kehr said it was bogged down by rights issues, so unfortunately it may take a while yet.

 

Glad you're enjoying the set, let us know when you watch the rest. :)

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Just got through Volume 2. A word of warning: You can't access Women's Prison unless you click on scene one of the scene selections. Anyways, to me, Night Editor was the best of the volume followed by One Girl's Confession (great Cleo Moore film noir!). Over-Exposed, while not really a film noir was great to have as it is an intriguing drama and Women's Prison is well...a women's prison picture. Loved it and thrilled to have this as a commercial release! Will watch Volume 1 tonight.

 

Edited by: TODDFAN on Feb 10, 2010 3:44 PM

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Finally watched Vol 1 and while I'm thrilled to finally have these films, the only true noir was Two of a Kind and did enjoy that one. I would definitely recommend Vol 2 over Vol 1 hands down. Hopefully more of these volumes will follow, especially if they're with Cleo Moore!

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I think as long as these sets coming out right now continue to sell reasonably well, we can look forward to more of them in the future.

 

Ordinarily I don't urge people to buy stuff, but right now almost all the studios have largely dropped the catalog titles from the DVD release schedule, there's very few sets coming out compared to 2 or 3 years ago - so I feel it's important to demonstrate there is still demand for classic movies in pressed sets (not just MOD offerings).

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Found yet another glowing review of these boxsets in, of all places, The Wall Street Journal:

 

*Bad Girls of Film Noir*

 

By DAVID MERMELSTEIN

 

Film noir?that slippery admixture of crime, shadow and mordant cynicism?didn't get its familiar moniker until well after the genre's emergence in 1940s America. But from the outset these movies gripped filmgoers, whose enthusiasm extended beyond such classics as "The Maltese Falcon" (1941), "Double Indemnity" (1944) and "Out of the Past" (1947). The thrill ultimately transcended American shores, and in England and France films like Carol Reed's "The Third Man" (1949) and Louis Malle's "Elevator to the Gallows" (1958) proved that there was nothing intrinsically American about the genre's dyspeptic ethos. Indeed, Criterion's recent "Nikkatsu Noir" set (named for the Japanese studio that produced the movies) effectively demonstrates that noir isn't even exclusively occidental.

 

Such widespread interest resulted in a motley cache of noirs made over some seven decades, the bulk of the American ones produced between the genre's emergence and 1960. In recent years, those passionate about these films have been well served, as studios with substantial noir libraries have transferred them to DVD. Universal did it first, with a short-lived (though still available) series. Twentieth Century Fox improved on that by releasing more than 25 titles over several years. And Warner Brothers set the gold standard, thanks to several boxed sets featuring many of the greatest noirs. (The efforts of smaller studios and independent producers have also been remembered, particularly in two valuable five-disc sets from Kino.)

 

Now it's Sony's turn?the studio finally exploiting the rich Columbia vaults to which it holds the keys. Late last year, Sony issued a five-disc set promisingly titled "Columbia Pictures Film Noir Classics Volume I," and this month sees the release of "Bad Girls of Film Noir," two volumes totaling eight films (four pictures in each two-disc set) from American film noir's heyday. All are new to DVD.

 

The canny concept capitalizes on a pillar of noir iconography: the femme fatale, a no-good woman who charms for a while but one way or another betrays the man she claims to love. The films aren't classics?they're all B pictures?but in a way that's even better, because noir and glamour are fundamentally antithetical.

 

Among their virtues, these movies offer viewers a chance to acquaint themselves with actresses many won't know, including Lizabeth Scott (a Lauren Bacall manqu?) and Cleo Moore (a somewhat stilted Marilyn Monroe type) who between them appear in five of the pictures.

 

Ms. Scott won't charm everyone?her raspy voice and native aloofness can be off-putting?but she proves ideal in "Bad for Each Other" (1953), in which she plays a feckless society dame who seduces a fundamentally good Army doctor (Charlton Heston at his square-jawed hunkiest), getting him to abandon the small mining town he hails from in favor of sophisticated Pittsburgh.

 

And she's just as good suckering Edmond O'Brien in "Two of a Kind" (1951); he severs his pinkie at her behest. It's all part of a plot masterminded by the deliciously unctuous Alexander Knox, who's intending to snooker a rich old couple into believing the rough-hewn O'Brien is their long-lost son. The picture's big twist is especially rich.

 

Moore, who died in 1973, is less alluring than Ms. Scott, but she has spunk in spades, whether as a waitress willing to go to jail to keep the money she's stolen from her brutish employer in "One Girl's Confession" (1953), a success-hungry photographer with questionable ethics in "Over-Exposed" (1956), or a recidivist jailbird in "Women's Prison" (1955).

 

In that last picture, the female prisoners (among them Phyllis Thaxter, Jan Sterling, Audrey Totter and Juanita Moore) are the "good guys," despite their crimes, abused by jailhouse matrons under a heartless superintendent played by Ida Lupino, whose icy hauteur would chill a polar bear. (To a concerned husband whose perfectly normal wife she is destroying psychologically, Lupino indifferently says, "I hate to tell you this, but I'm afraid your wife is a borderline psychopath.")

 

A different sort of bad girl appears in "The Killer That Stalked New York" (1950), in which Evelyn Keyes unintentionally spreads smallpox through Gotham. If this film sounds suspiciously like the more famous "Panic in the Streets," directed by Elia Kazan and released six months earlier, that's because both movies adopt a documentary-like tone and strong public-health message.

 

But the best of this lot must be "The Glass Wall" (1953), whose generous use of location shooting recalls Jules Dassin's groundbreaking "The Naked City" (1948). Having appealed without success to the better nature of immigration officials, a Hungarian stowaway named Peter (Vittorio Gassman in a terrific performance) escapes his shipboard confinement and tries to find an American jazz musician he helped during World War II. His feverish search through New York's alternatingly teaming and deserted streets takes him from Times Square to more squalid parts of the city, and ultimately to the United Nations. But his journey is metaphorical, too, at once revealing the generosity of Americans, personified by an impoverished Gloria Grahame, and their reflexive xenophobia.

 

In fact, all these films turn a lens on the society that made them?a world where the horrors of war were not long past and institutional abuse plagued prisons, where doctors and lawyers swapped ethics for riches and foreigners battled prejudice. There, women had to manipulate men to get ahead. We live elsewhere now. Or so we'd like to think.

 

Mr. Mermelstein writes for the Journal on film and classical music.

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I have both sets and they are both excellent..quite the gems..the 2nd Volume to me was better the the first..however the Glass Wall gets my vote for the best film between the 2 sets..I now have Cleo Moore in my movie library

Women's Prison was pretty funny where the convicts are made to look sympathetic and jail life is actually a cheerful place while the police officers & the superintendent (Ida Lupino) are made to look like the villains. Really Ironic

Over Exposed was really good too - it held my interest , and the story was well done

I mention these 2 since I just watched them last night..

The review from the WSJ was right on target when it comes to Lizabeth Scott..just my opinion but I never found her to be that attractive and her voice is just really grainy to me

That being said - I do like her in some of the roles she plays like Dead Reckoning & Too Late for Tears

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