Tracker Pixel for Entry

​Noteworthy noir new to Blu-ray

by Christopher P. Jacobs | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Cinema | March 15th, 2017

Big news for film buffs lately was the long-awaited February Blu-ray release of film noir classic “The Big Sleep” (1946). But three notable noir variations on a theme also came out on Blu-ray in recent months, another major classic and two lesser-known titles that deserve more widespread recognition. None is truly an archetypal film noir like “The Big Sleep,” or say “Out of the Past” or “Double Indemnity,” but all share a number of elements identified with noir (postwar alienation, impending doom, striking black-and-white imagery, and of course a crime-thriller plot) that give them a noir flavor.

John Huston’s classic “Key Largo” (1948) is one of the iconic films in the group-held-hostage-by-criminal(s) genre, along with “Petrified Forest” a dozen years earlier. Humphrey Bogart this time is a disillusioned vet, a former officer who is more or less the hero and romantic interest even though he mostly tries to downplay his war record and to not get involved.

Huston and co-screenwriter Richard Brooks revised the 1939 play by UND alum Maxwell Anderson to bring in the World War II aspect. This both updates the story and gives Bogart’s character the motivation to stop at the remote, rundown Florida hotel operated by the widow (Lauren Bacall) and invalid father (Lionel Barrymore) of one of his army comrades. There he soon learns that an old-time deported mobster (Edward G. Robinson) and his gang have taken over the hotel as a hideout until he can conclude a business deal and leave, causing a heavy undercurrent of tension among everybody there, exacerbated by the impending arrival of a hurricane.

A great deal of the plot plays out through the dialogue, but the all-star cast, combined with moody cinematography by Karl Freund, help the film overcome its stage play origins. Claire Trevor won an Oscar for her touching portrayal of the gangster’s aging, alcoholic mistress.

The Warner Archive Blu-ray looks very good, with a wide contrast range and only minor wear, but the blacks often blend together, reducing detail in extra-dark scenes. Sound is good. The only bonus feature is a trailer for the film.

KEY LARGO on Blu-ray – Movie: A / Video: A- / Audio: A- / Extras: D

Cornel Wilde produced, directed, and stars in “Storm Fear” (1955), a tight, well-written drama of crime and domestic problems with a strong film noir sensibility. Scripted by the award-winning Horton Foote, it’s an interesting variation on the familiar formula perhaps best-known in “Key Largo.”

A family’s remote snow-covered mountain home is invaded by criminals on the run. When the gang of three bank robbers arrives, we quickly learn their wounded leader Charlie (Cornel Wilde) is the estranged brother of the family’s ailing father and had had a troubled relationship with his wife some time in the past. Family relationships become even more strained as Charlie gives their son the attention he craves and the boy becomes torn between admiration for his uncle’s free-spirited life and uneasiness about his criminal deeds.

Meanwhile Charlie’s partners are impatient to leave before the police discover their hideout, which is currently blocked by a recent snowstorm. The last third of the film covers their attempt to escape over the mountains as snow plows begin opening the roads.

“Storm Fear” is unusually heavy in characterization for a genre picture, motivating a few unexpected plot twists as well as some unexpectedly touching sequences. The effective script, strong performances by the entire cast, a fine music score by Elmer Bernstein and beautiful black-and-white cinematography by Joseph LaShelle help make the film a minor classic that deserves to be better-known.

Picture quality on Kino’s Blu-ray is extremely good overall, very sharp with a good contrast although a few portions are somewhat softish, and the usual minor wear shows up periodically. Audio likewise is very good. The minimal bonus features are trailers to three other film noir titles that Kino has released on Blu-ray, including “He Ran All the Way.”

STORM FEAR on Blu-ray – Movie: A / Video: A- / Audio: A- / Extras: D

“He Ran All the Way” (1951) is another well-made and underappreciated film noir about a criminal holding a household in terror as he seeks temporary refuge from his pursuit by the police. John Garfield, in his final screen performance, plays Nick Robey, a sullen layabout who lives with his bitter, alcoholic mother (Gladys George) in a New York tenement. With a couple of shady friends, he tries to pull off a payroll heist, but things go wrong and he’s the only one able to escape. While on the run, he flirts with a shy, lonely girl named Peg Dobbs (Shelley Winters). She naturally falls for the macho lug, but he’s plotting how he can use her as a cover. After she takes him home to meet her parents, he decides to hold the family hostage until he can make a getaway.

Garfield is in top form as the volatile young hoodlum who would prefer to lead a normal life if given the opportunity. Shelley Winters is also at her best as the working-class plain-jane who just might be his opportunity to change his life as much as he is hers. Of course the world of film noir promises an inexorable fate that is not likely to be what either wanted.

The film wastes no time in developing characters enough to grab audience interest and keep the plot moving throughout a tight screen time of 77 minutes. In fact, it might have been nice to see more backstory of several characters, including Nick’s mother and Peg’s family.

Kino’s Blu-ray has an outstanding HD transfer of James Wong Howe’s masterful cinematography (other than a brief digital glitch near the beginning). Sound is also good. Bonus features are the same three trailers on the “Storm Fear” Blu-ray.

HE RAN ALL THE WAY on Blu-ray – Movie: A- / Video: A / Audio: A- / Extras: D+

Recently in:

AMHERST, SOUTH DAKOTA – Four days before TransCanada anticipated obtaining permits for the Keystone XL project, the company’s older pipeline leaked, spilling more than 210,000 gallons of Canadian crude oil into the South Dakota…

The Transgender Day of Remembrance memorializes the trans individuals who have lost their lives due to violence this year. It is a day where we read their names and remember them—not how they died, but how they lived. This is also…

Thursday, November 16, 7-9pmUnglued, 408 Broadway N, FargoProof Artisan Distillers and Unglued present a craft party with four distinct projects and help from artists Ashley from AENDEE and Nicole Rae, not to mention a special…

“The experience of all ages has proved that the people constantly give away their liberties.” - John Adams“Man’s dishonesty with himself is his greatest enemy. When he makes a mistake, his memory admits, ‘I have done…

The thoughts and prayers of politicians will finally be answeredWe have had 307 mass shootings (four kills or more) so far in 2017, including the last one in Sutherland Springs, Texas, where 26 mortals attending church, aged 18…

For the third week in a row, our panel of judges were out on the town with a thirst for cocktails and a focus on presentation, flavor, and creativity. This week’s adventures took us to a couple of hotspots in south Fargo, as the…

Colder weather, changing leaves, pumpkin spice and more are some of the few things that come to mind when many think of fall. But fall is about much more than sugary lattes and scarves, and you can fully indulge in fall flavors at…

I’m told that there is nothing quite like a live Green Jelly show, where anarchy and foam puppets reign. So perhaps it’s in the spirit of the upcoming show that my intended interview with the mastermind and vocalist behind the…

On Tuesday, November 14 at 7pm, the Fargo Theatre hosted a screening of “The Mission of Herman Stern,” a feature-length documentary chronicling the remarkable humanitarian efforts of the North Dakota businessman and founder, in…

Would you like to escape your stressful daily life with a relaxing arts event? Do you like to meet with old friends and make new ones? Or maybe you would like to start your Christmas and Holiday shopping early. FMVA has the event…

Ted Larson introduced me to Chris Jacobs one evening at Weld Hall in the late 1980s. I was in high school then, but Chris recognized fellow film fanatics, and we would chat a little bit each week. I learned quickly that he loved…

Humor

​Talking to strangers

by Sabrina Hornung

“I don’t have a tour, like, on the back of a sweatshirt,” comedian Paula Poundstone says. “I go out every weekend. This weekend I went out Friday, Saturday and Monday. Mostly it’s Friday/Saturday or Thursday through…

Believe it or not, “The Holidays” are upon us. If you’ve been to Target lately, and I know you have, you may have noticed that the Christmahanakwanzika stuff is already up (if you’re unsure of that term, Google it).In fact,…

Essential oils. They are all the buzz lately. It seems everyone has heard of them or is purchasing them. Some people know how to use them; others are just interested in the wonder of their complex scents.Essential oils are as…

Live and Learn

​The other shoe

by HPR Contributor

By Elizabeth Nawrotnawrot@mnstate.eduI look up from my hotel lobby breakfast astonished to see a framed print of Wassily Kandinsky's "Mit und Gegen,” a masterpiece of color and composition that just happens to be my favorite…

By Anthony Paul [Editor’s note: This piece contains language that some readers may find offensive]It has been all over social media and the news lately, how our president and commander-in-chief called and spoke with one of these…