Film Noir Classic Collection: Vol. 5, has dusted off eight films of the celebrated genre and adapted them to DVD format. Collections like these, which bring older films to newer light, are godsends regardless (to a degree) of which films are selected, because as timeless as some of these stories and performances might be, the barrier of being stuck in an old format can bury them forever. And these stories deserve to be told. If you watch a few well made noir thrillers you will no doubt see the seeds that were planted in the heads of crime-thriller filmmakers the likes of Martin Scorsese or Michael Mann. Though there are better films in the noir genre that this collection could have culminated, there are also a lot worse. Any fan of noir films or old mysteries and thrillers will be pleased at what this box set has to offer.
Directed by Anthony Mann; Written by Harry Essex; Starring Steve Brodie, Audrey Long, Raymond Burr, Douglas Fowley, William Challee, Jason Robards
After being set up for a heist he didn't know he was taking part of, an honest man, Steve Randall, and his wife, Anne, go on the run in order to avoid both the cops and men who set him up. The performances were terrific, and the great chemistry between the husband and wife makes for a classic suspense tale. Also, major points go to the dialogue, which was very witty and often times funny.
Directed by Edward Dmytryk; Written by John Paxton; Starring Dick Powell, Walter Slezak, Micheline Cheirel, Nina Vale, Morris Carnovsky, Edgar Barrier, Luther Adler
Cornered wastes no time getting into the meat of the story. Right from the get-go, ex-Canadian Air Force pilot Laurence Gerard scours the globe looking for his wife's murderer. Laurence meets lots of colorful characters, all of whom should have been more colorful. The story itself is pretty single-minded, and as fast as the plot starts, it doesn't get realistically thick quickly enough to keep the audience on edge. The age of the film shows, too; a few scenes with missing or fairly damaged frames.
The Phenix City Story (1955)
Directed by Phil Karlson; Written by Crane Wilbur, Dan Mainwaring, Charles Bennett; Starring John McIntire, Richard Kiley, Kathryn Grant, Edward Andrews, Meg Myles, James Edwards
Phenix City, Alabama is a real place that at one point was a hub of corruption and crime, dubbed: “the most vicious town in the United States.” Prostitution, murder, rigged casinos - Phenix City had it all. The story is based on true events where a young lawyer, John Patterson, tries to get his father as the state's attorney general. Before the credits even roll, an actual news anchor from Birmingham News interviews some of the real people whom the actors in the following film portray. The movie is part documentary, which gives this story a sense of rawness and grittiness, but the only downside to the opening interviews is that we find out what happens to some of the main characters, so it lacks some suspense the story could have used.
Dial 1119 (1950)
Directed by Gerald Mayer; Written by John Monks, Jr. (screenplay), Hugh King (story), Don McGuire (story); Starring Marshall Thompson, Virginia Field, Andrea King, Sam Levene, Leon Ames
A handful of late-night customers at a bar watch a news broadcast announcing to the public to “dial 1119 if you see Gunther Wyckoff,” a very violent, mentally unstable murderer who has escaped from the state's hospital for the criminally insane. To their dismay, Gunther winds up at their bar, and holds them all hostage. A story like this relies heavily on performances, and all except the main character deliver the goods. Gunther, played by Marshall Thompson, isn't very engaging and instead of giving the audience a feeling that there is a monster behind the blank stare, like Anthony Perkins in Psycho, he just sort of emotes blandness that wouldn't be threatening without the gun in his hand.
Armored Car Robbery (1950)
Directed by Richard Fleischer; Written by Earl Fenton and Gerald Drayson Adams; Starring Charles McGraw, Adele Jurgens, William Talman
The title does not lie: a group of gangsters set out to rob an armored car. Everything is pretty cut and dry until a snag in the plan causes a lot of grief for the criminals, and the death of policeman Jim Cordell's partner. There's a lot going on here; a handful of subplots that add some decent layers to the otherwise formulaic hard-nosed-cop-chases-bad-guy story.
Crime in the Streets (1956)
Directed by Donald Siegel; Written by Reginald Rose; Starring James Whitmore, John Cassavetes, Sal Mineo, Mark Rydell, Denise Alexander
In a bleak depiction of a crime-stricken neighborhood that seems to have surrendered its streets to young gangs, James Whitmore does a solid job as a social worker trying to reach out to some of the youngsters, particularly, Frankie, head of the Hornets. And trouble brews when Frankie plans on unprecedentedly plans on killing a guy. Themes run amok of how to raise children to not misbehave so much. It gets tiresome. The performances save this from being a pretty forgettable film.
Deadline at Dawn (1946)
Directed by Harold Clurman; Written by Clifford Odets (screenplay), Cornell Woolrich (novel); Starring Susan Hayward, Paul Lukas, Bill Williams, Joseph Calleia, Osa Massen, Lola Lane, Jerome Cowan
Young Navy sailor Alex Winkley wakes up on a New York City street after having too much to drink. Soon after he realizes he's carrying a considerable amount of cash that doesn't belong to him. The last memories of the night before are hazy, but he knows to whom the money belongs, and when he tries to return the money to its rightful owner, he finds that she has been murdered. What ensues is a fairly classic whodunit with the twist being that Alex can't prove - even to himself - that he is innocent. The story is relatively unique and the characters that inhabit the streets of Deadline at Dawn's New York City are easy to watch. Bill Williams, who plays Alex Winkley, was well cast as a rather simple guy who looks like he has absolutely no skeletons in his closet, which goes nicely with Susan Hayward's rather jaded portrayal of a woman who gets paid to dance with men.
Directed by Vincent Sherman; Written by Larry Marcus (story & screenplay), Ivan Goff (screenplay) and Ben Roberts (screenplay); Starring Virginia Mayo, Gordon MacRae, Edmond O'Brien, Dane Clark, Viveca Lindfors
While healing from severe spinal injuries in a hospital bed, war veteran Bob Corey receives a visit from a mysterious woman in the middle of the night, who warns Bob that his best friend Steve is practically on his death bed with his life very much hanging in the balance. Things get even worse for Bob as he gets wrapped up in a murder mystery that will test his wits and endurance as he attempts first-hand to put the puzzle pieces together and try to figure out who killed whom. It's a pretty clever story and it moves fluidly. Like any good mystery, it has a good amount of engaging characters and twists. It also makes good use of flashbacks as certain people recount their piece of the puzzle.
DVD Bonus Features
Sadly, apart from a few of the films providing trailers, there is no extra content.
"Film Noir Classic Collection: Vol. 5" is on sale July 13, 2010 and is not rated. Crime-Thriller. Directed by Anthony Mann, Don Siegel, Edward Dmytryk, Gerald Mayer, Harold Clurman, Phil Karlson, Richard Fleischer, Vincent Sherman. Written by Earl Fenton, Gerald Drayson Adams, Larry Marcus, Ivan Goff, Ben Roberts, John Paxton, Reginald Rose, Clifford Odets, Harry Essex, John Monks, Jr., Hugh King, Don McGuire, Crane Wilbur, Dan Mainwaring, Charles Bennett. Starring Adele Jurgens, Andrea King, Audrey Long, Bill Williams, Charles McGraw, Dane Clark, Denise Alexander, Dick Powell, Douglas Fowley, Edgar Barrier, Edmond OBrien, Edward Andrews, Gordon MacRae, James Edwards, James Whitmore, Jerome Cowan, John Cassavetes, John McIntire, Joseph Calleia, Kathryn Grant, Leon Ames, Lola Lane, Luther Adler, Mark Rydell, Marshall Thompson, Meg Myles, Micheline Cheirel, Morris Carnovsky, Nina Vale, Osa Massen, Paul Lukas, Raymond Burr, Richard Kiley, Sal Mineo, Sam Levene, Steve Brodie, Susan Hayward, Virginia Field, Virginia Mayo, Viveca Lindfors, Walter Slezak, William Talman.