Blu-ray Review: Columbia Noir #1



Film noir played a large part of Hollywood filmmaking during the 1940s and 1950s. Whilst these stylish, cynical and melodramatic crime dramas were popular at the time, it was only decades later that many were critically reappraised. This is especially the case with the many ‘B’ movies released over the era. For every big Bogart film there were countless smaller movies. Columbia Pictures, possibly more than any other studio, made the best use of their resources; recycling sets, actors and crew across their many productions. The first collection of Columbia Noir from Powerhouse Films brings a number of these lower budget films together.

The Undercover Man

Directed by Joseph H. Lewis, Frank Warren (Glenn Ford) is a treasury agent assigned to take down Big Man, a crime boss. He becomes increasingly frustrated when his efforts are continually sabotaged by witness intimidation, mysterious deaths and a highly successful mob lawyer. Ford is superb and adds a touch of class to a crime drama which keeps its audience on edge.

Special features:

  • 2K restoration
  • Original mono audio
  • Audio commentary with writer and film programmer Tony Rayns (2020)
  • Man on a Bus (1945, 29 mins): short film directed by Joseph H Lewis for the United Jewish Appeal, featuring a star-studded cast, including Walter Brennan, Broderick Crawford, Ruth Roman, and Lassie
  • Income Tax Sappy (1954, 17 mins): comedy starring the Three Stooges, in which the trio come under the scrutiny of the US Treasury Department when they get creative with their tax returns
  • Image gallery: publicity and promotional material
  • New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • World premiere on Blu-ray

Drive a Crooked Road

Mickey Rooney stars as Shannon, a poor mechanic and racing driver who dreams of buying his own racing car. When a beautiful woman (Dianne Foster) enters his life, the shy young man is soon smitten. However, it’s not long until he discovers he’s being duped into a plot to rob a bank. Rooney plays the innocent really well whilst director Richard Quine mixes style and action into a hard-boiled plot.

Special features:

  • 2K restoration
  • Original mono audio
  • Audio commentary with film historian Pamela Hutchinson (2020)
  • The Fleet That Came to Stay (1945, 22 mins): World War II documentary, compiled by Budd Boetticher from original combat footage captured during the Battle of Okinawa, and released shortly after Escape in the Fog
  • You Nazty Spy! (1940, 18 mins): World War II comedy starring the Three Stooges, in which the trio satirise the Third Reich and help publicise the Nazi threat to American audiences
  • Image gallery: publicity and promotional material
  • New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • UK premiere on Blu-ray

Escape in the Fog

Nina (Eileen Carr) has disturbed dreams. One day she has a premonition about a murder and not soon after encounters the victim, Malcolm (William Wright). He is sent on a secret mission but knowing what fate awaits him she faces a race against time to stop a crime. Budd Boetticher lays the atmosphere on thick in this tense espionage drama.

  • 2K restoration
  • Original mono audio
  • Audio commentary with film historian Pamela Hutchinson (2020)
  • The Fleet That Came to Stay (1945, 22 mins): World War II documentary, compiled by Budd Boetticher from original combat footage captured during the Battle of Okinawa, and released shortly after Escape in the Fog
  • You Nazty Spy! (1940, 18 mins): World War II comedy starring the Three Stooges, in which the trio satirise the Third Reich and help publicise the Nazi threat to American audiences
  • Image gallery: publicity and promotional material
  • New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • UK premiere on Blu-ray

The Garment Jungle

When Alan Mitchell (Kerwin Mathews) returns from abroad to his father’s (Lee J. Cobb) textile business, he finds him up to his neck in trouble. His workers are trying to unionize, led by Tulio Renata (Robert Loggia), whilst he’s in hock to the local hoodlums he pays to prevent it happening. Vincent Sherman and Robert Aldrich’s picture is a surprisingly political and socially conscious crime drama where the stakes are set to high.

  • 2K restoration
  • Original mono audio
  • Audio commentary with film historian Kevin Lyons (2020)
  • It’s a Jungle Out There (2007, 20 mins): archival interview with actor Robert Loggia, conducted by Alan K Rode of the Film Noir Foundation following a screening of The Garment Jungle
  • Law of the Jungle (2020, 15 mins): writer and film programmer Tony Rayns discusses Robert Aldrich and The Garment Jungle
  • Rip, Sew and Stitch (1953, 17 mins): comedy starring the Three Stooges, in which the trio play tailors who find themselves caught up in criminal activities
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Image gallery: publicity and promotional material
  • New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • UK premiere on Blu-ray

The Lineup

Don Siegel’s film follows a plot to smuggle heroin into America by planting it on unsuspecting tourists. Dancer (Eli Wallach) and Julian (Robert Keith) are charged with collecting the merchandise. When the dead bodies start to pile up, Lt. Guthrie (Warner Anderson) is tasked with tracking down the killers. It’s a clever and twisting crime drama which works on several levels.

  • High Definition remaster
  • Original mono audio
  • Audio commentary with author James Ellroy and the Film Noir Foundation’s Eddie Muller (2009)
  • Audio commentary with film historian David Del Valle and author and screenwriter C Courtney Joyner (2020)
  • The Influence of Noir (2009, 7 mins): appreciation by filmmaker Christopher Nolan
  • The Streets of San Francisco (2020, 7 mins): video essay guide to the locations of The Lineup
  • Three episodes of The Lineup radio series: ‘The Candy Store Murder’ (1950, 30 mins), written by Blake Edwards; ‘The Case of Frankie and Joyce’ (1951, 31 mins); and ‘The Harrowing Haggada Handball Case’ (1951, 26 mins), written by Edwards and Richard Quine
  • Tricky Dicks (1953, 16 mins): comedy starring the Three Stooges, in which the trio send up the police procedural
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Trailer commentary: short appreciation by A History of Violence screenwriter Josh Olson
  • Image gallery: promotional and publicity materials
  • New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • UK premiere on Blu-ray

5 Against the House

Four war veterans stop of at a casino in Reno on the way back to college. When someone tries to rob the place, it gives Roy (Alvy Moore) an idea. He comes up with an ingenious plan to pull of a heist. However, it’s a four-man job, but Al (Guy Madison) is all wrapped up with a blonde (Kim Novak). Phil Karlson’s film is a strange mishmash of many elements which changes tack halfway through.

  • High Definition presentation
  • Original mono audio
  • Audio commentary with film critic David Jenkins (2020)
  • The Guardian Interview with Kim Novak (1997, 67 mins): archival video recording of the celebrated actor in conversation with David Robinson at the National Film Theatre, London
  • Sweet and Hot (1958, 17 mins): comedy starring the Three Stooges, in which the trio team up with a female singer in the hope of finding fame and fortune in the big city
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Image gallery: publicity and promotional material
  • New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • UK premiere on Blu-ray

The Columbia Noir #1 collection is released on Blu-ray by Powerhouse films as part of the Indicator series on 30 November.

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