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:

OXBOW N.D. – Marcus Larson stops along freshly tarred Trent Jones Drive, careful not to spill his coffee swishing in a ceramic mug. He’s aware his 1991 Chevy pickup doesn’t belong amongst the neighborhood’s Porsches and…

The Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County (HCSCC) has been dedicated to the preservation of the history of Clay County. Since their mission is “To collect, preserve, interpret, and share the history and culture of Clay…

Thursday, December 21, 6-9pmSanctuary Events Center, 670 4th Ave NGet in the Christmas spirit singing your favorite Christmas songs with friends and family. Music provided by the Good Shepherd band (Lutheran Church of the Good…

According to a New York Times article titled: “Tinder, the Fast-Growing Dating App, Taps an Age-Old Truth,” close to 50 million people use Tinder. On average they spend 90 minutes a day assessing their matches. Men are three…

What the hell is happening to this country?For a long time the United States has been considered to be the richest and most powerful country in the world. Our president has been the leader of the free world for decades because of…

cjlarson75@gmail.comNewly remodeled since July of this year, the Spirits Lounge inside the Holiday Inn in Fargo takes the lounge concept to a level of comfort that isn’t often seen in town.On one side of the room, underneath two…

On the Corner of University and Northern Pacific sits a building that has just been revitalized. Once a horse barn, this large picturesque structure now houses Wild Terra Cider and Brewing. When the new owners Breezee and Ethan…

“The DIY scene welcomed me in at the age of 15 and I never left. The DIY scene has allowed me to travel to 49 of the 50 US states. I have made friends all over this country that I will have for the rest of my life. People…

On her biggest canvas to date, filmmaker Dee Rees paints a vivid picture of two American families in “Mudbound,” a deeply satisfying drama based on Hillary Jordan’s 2008 novel.Adapting the screenplay with collaborator Virgil…

hanhe@mnstate.eduThere are a variety of types of events and groups in our communities that encourage and support women. Robin Swanson, organizer of Her Story, wanted to create another special event for herself and other women. “I…

Theater B is now opening its second show of the season with a play entitled "I Will Not Go Gently" by Jennifer Childs. "This clever one-woman show plays with our sense of nostalgia and shines a light on our quest for self…

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 Tony Gehrigtonygehrig@gmail.com I do not blame any company for seeking incentives. Rather, I blame the government for giving them away. Incentives represent an unfair and unsustainable tax system that affects real people.Some…