Tracker Pixel for Entry

​Dark, troubled times call for noir thrillers

by Christopher P. Jacobs | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Cinema | March 8th, 2017

The genre, or as some say the style, of film noir, which deals with crime and various other unsavory activities usually happening at night, developed in Hollywood around 1940.

Its focus on mostly antiheroic protagonists and a pervasive sense of doom separates it from standard crime or mystery-thrillers, consciously or unconsciously reflecting the dark times of a troubled world during World War II. Even the “good guys” have their bad points and sometimes may be nearly as corrupt and/or cynical as the “bad guys,” who may actually display some good points.

Film noir reached its most prolific period in the postwar decade from 1945 through the mid- to late1950s as uneasiness about the world situation competed with the benefits of an economic boom that didn’t always bring what many people expected and a growing feeling that official authority could not always be trusted. A few examples of noir continued into the 1960s before being replaced by more standard crime dramas of “good guys vs. bad guys.”

A generation later the genre revived as “neo-noir” with films such as “Body Heat” (1981) and the Coen brothers’ “Blood Simple” (1984) consciously imitating the dark, expressionistic lighting and having no particularly admirable characters.

More recently neo-noir has become more frequent with “L.A. Confidential,” the “Sin City” films, “The Killer Inside Me,” and the like, even Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” trilogy, again reflecting a disillusionment with a once-respected establishment.

More and more classic noir have been showing up over the past year or so on Blu-ray, an ideal format for its high-definition image’s ability to bring out the textures and details of the genre’s typically harsh lighting that often looks merely muddy or merges to black on old DVDs and streaming versions of the same films. Here are three that came out last November and one especially rare title from last October.

The evocatively titled “I Wake Up Screaming” (1941), directed by H. Bruce Humberstone, is an excellent early film noir mystery thriller that was also shown under the title “Hot Spot.”

The police, especially intimidating detective Laird Cregar, are positive that a promoter and publicity agent (Victor Mature) murdered a fashion model he made famous (Carole Landis). Mature and the model’s sister/roommate (Betty Grable) must try to figure out who the real killer is, as there are a number of other logical suspects.

The well-scripted plot is fun but the biggest draw is the stunning use of light and shadow and camera angles by cinematographer Edward Cronjager.

The image on Kino's Blu-ray is outstanding. Audio is good but a bit tinny with some pops at splices. Bonus features include a good audio commentary, an image gallery of photos and advertising, a trailer, plus trailers to four other film noir titles offered by Kino on Blu-ray. Inexplicably, the box cover lists a deleted scene, alternate “Hot Spot” opening title, and alternate advertising, none of which are actually on the disc.

I WAKE UP SCREAMING on Blu-ray -- Movie: A- / Video: A / Audio: B+ / Extras: B

Robert Siodmak’s “Cry of the City” (1948) is another good noir thriller starring Victor Mature, this time playing a cop who is after a boyhood friend from his old neighborhood (Richard Conte), who is now a jewel thief and cop killer.

Shelley Winters and Debra Paget make brief but key appearances as the crook’s two girlfriends, one who wants to help him escape and the other who wants him to give himself up.

Again, Kino’s Blu-ray has a beautiful-looking picture, with good sound. Bonus features are an audio commentary, a trailer, and trailers to other five other noir titles.

CRY OF THE CITY on Blu-ray -- Movie: B+ / Video: A / Audio: A- / Extras: B-

Henry Hathaway’s “The House on 92nd Street” (1945) incorporates a number of noir elements into a moderately interesting documentary-style spy thriller based on an actual case declassified after the war.

A young FBI recruit of German heritage (William Eythe) becomes a double agent hoping to expose Nazi spies trying to steal secrets of the Manhattan Project about the atomic bomb in 1939 through 1941. Lloyd Nolan plays the head FBI agent.

Kino’s Blu-ray looks and sounds fine, although there is a fair amount of grainy stock footage especially at the start. Bonus features are a commentary, an image gallery, and trailers to six other noir films (but not this one).

HOUSE ON 92nd STREET on Blu-ray -- Movie: B / Video: A- / Audio: A- / Extras: B

“Private Property” (1960) is an obscure independent feature directed by Leslie Stevens, who later produced “The Outer Limits” TV series. Made in 1959, it was refused a seal of approval by the Hollywood Production Code and had only limited theatrical showings in 1960.

This well-made thriller follows two unstable and sometimes violent drifters (Corey Allen and a young Warren Oates) stalking a blonde in a Corvette (Kate Manx). They make serious plans to seduce her, especially after they discover the house next door to her upscale suburban home is empty.

The smarter of the pair realizes she is often frustrated by the frequent long absences of her businessman husband and tries to get hired on as their gardener, beginning a psychological cat-and-mouse relationship. A slow, deliberate, and very gradual building of characterizations and tension leads to a climactic nighttime sequence in the last ten minutes.

Although newly restored in 4k, the Cinelicious Pics Blu-ray still looks slightly soft much of the time, but the 1.66:1 picture is very clear, with fine audio. The only bonus features are a new interview with the film’s still photographer, a trailer, and an enclosed leaflet with an essay on the film.

PRIVATE PROPERTY on Blu-ray -- Movie: B+ / Video: A- / Audio: A / Extras: C

Recently in:

FARGO– A legislator, hopeful politicians, and business owners appealed to the governor’s office Monday morning with hopes of an executive order to fight the Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of Net Neutrality.The…

Last week we talked about my lack of photographic skills and then what the heck am I going to do with all of these bad pictures that I take. Storage options for those pictures continues this week:RAIDAnother storage option is a…

Wednesday, April 25, 9pm-howlingThe Aquarium, 226 Broadway, FargoYou may have heard their sick beats on 95.9 lpfm on Friday's from 5pm-midnight. Now you can dance your pants off in the presence of the minds behind ”The Riverside…

According to Greek mythology Hades is to blame for the Earth’s mournful state of winter. The story involves Persephone the goddess of nature and Hades the god of the underworld in a classic caper of obsession, abduction, and…

Does That Old-Time Religion Signal The End Of Rational Thought?An incident about gender identity in the Maryland Legislature last week magnified a microcosm of what we are going through in the United States about religion in the…

FARGO - A collection of memories from High Plains Reader's annual Cocktail Showdown. Participants were judged on creativity, flavor, and presentation; and this year we added a new category. Like years before, each establishment was…

All About Food

​Oysters

by HPR Staff

By Ben Myhrebenmyhre35@gmail.comAs a North Dakota native, raw oysters are just not a food staple that I think about. We are about as far from the coasts as we can get and we have a backyard full of tasty local cuisine, like walleye…

Record Store Day is all about music artists and fans celebrating “the culture of the independently owned record store.” A variety of unique and special releases are pressed for Record Store Day and those are only distributed to…

Leveraging whatever name-brand clout it might carry with the target demographic, “Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare” -- the onscreen title for the pre and post-credit sequences -- won’t make the kind of impact previously enjoyed by…

There are so many cool places to be in Austin during the South by Southwest Festival -- like the Flatstock Market, which displays the works of the world’s top gig poster artists. The show features posters of varying styles,…

By Nathan Roybardsdream@gmail.comYou are absolutely right. The title is not “To be or not to be” from the famous Shakespeare soliloquy in "Hamlet." I won’t be talking about Shakespeare particularly. I will expound the…

Fargo has its share of people who are passionate about stand-up comedy, even if the success of clubs devoted to it has been mixed. Despite the fact we have seen places like Courtney’s Comedy Club and Level 2 Comedy Club close…

I consider myself an avid wine drinker, but I recently found out there are more than 10,000 varieties of grapes, and about 1,500 of those are used to make commercial wines. I don’t know about you, but I could probably name about…

A few months ago, I was introduced to the concept of probiotics and how they work with our bodies. I would never have guessed the change that occurred after their introduction into my system.I always considered myself a fairly…

By Melissa Martin melissamartincounselor@live.com “I’m sorry” are two vital words to be used in relationships because human beings are imperfect people living in imperfect environments. Ask yourself the following…

Calm was the day in late JulyAnd bright was the sun across the skyBut inside his chest the calm had brokenGovernor Sinner had started croakin’.I laughed the first time I read that, and I’m still laughing every time I think…