Blu-ray Review: Columbia Noir #2



Film noir made up 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 during the era. For every big Bogart film released 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 second collection of Columbia Noir from Powerhouse Films brings a number of these lower budget films together.

Framed

When Mike Lambert (Glenn Ford) crashes into town he soon finds himself in trouble, but a mysterious woman (Janis Carter) comes to his rescue, quitting her job to help him. The mining engineer’s sudden change of luck seems to be holding when he’s offered a job, but is it just too good to be true? Glenn Ford shines in this stylish three-hander as the downtrodden patsy who refuses to stay down.

Special features:

  • High-Definition presentation
  • Original mono audio
  • Audio commentary with author and critic Imogen Sara Smith (2021)
  • The Steps of Age (1951, 25 mins): dramatised documentary written and directed by Ben Maddow, screenwriter of Framed, demonstrating the challenges of growing old as seen through of the eyes of a retired widow
  • Up in Daisy’s Penthouse (1958, 17 mins): The Three Stooges get mixed up with a murder plot, mistaken identity, a gold-digging blonde, and a great deal of money
  • Image gallery: publicity and promotional material
  • New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • UK premiere on Blu-ray

Affair in Trinidad

Glenn Ford is at it again in Affair in Trinidad. This time with Rita Hayworth. Throw in some dodgy accents and a slice of espionage. Steve Emery (Ford) arrives in the Caribbean to discover his brother has committed suicide. He smells a rat and his suspicion falls on the beautiful wife (Haworth) and a rich playboy (Alexander Scourby). Vincent Sherman spins a ripping yarn.

711 Ocean Drive

Mal Granger (Edmond O’Brien) is an enterprising telephone repairman with an eye for the horses. Along with a bookmaker (Sammy White), they hatch a plan to beat the odds by playing the wires and getting advanced race results. However, their system is so successful that it draws attention from dangerous men. Joseph M. Newman’s film takes a familiar tale about greed and corruption and plays it out with an air of authenticity.

Special features:

  • High-Definition presentation
  • Original mono audio
  • Audio commentary with author and film critic Glenn Kenny (2021)
  • Diary of a Sergeant (1945, 24 mins): Joseph M Newman’s documentary portrait of Harold Russell, a soldier who lost his hands during World War II and would later win an Oscar® for his performance in The Best Years of Our Lives
  • Three Sappy People (1939, 18 mins): the Three Stooges play a trio of telephone repairmen who make an unexpected career switch
  • 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

Murder by Contract

Claude (Vince Edwards) wants money fast, so he becomes a contract killer. His meticulous and thorough planning ensures that his career gets off to a bright start. However, when he’s tasked with assassinating a key witness, things start to go wrong. Much to the frustration of his handlers (Phillip Pine and Herschel Bernardi). Irving Lerner takes a very different approach to the hitman sub-genre, producing an unusual and fresh noir.

Special features:

  • High-Definition presentation
  • Original mono audio
  • Audio commentary with film critic and writer Farran Smith Nehme (2021)
  • Introduction by Martin Scorsese (2014, 5 mins)
  • Swedes in America (1943, 18 mins): Irving Lerner’s Oscar®-nominated short film, presented by Ingrid Bergman, detailing the influence of Swedish immigrants on the United States
  • Violence Is the Word for Curly (1938, 18 mins): comedy short starring the Three Stooges, which provided an early cinematography credit for Murder by Contract’s prolific director of photography, Lucien Ballard
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Larry Karaszewski trailer commentary (2020, 3 mins): short critical appreciation
  • Image gallery: publicity and promotional material
  • New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • World premiere on Blu-ray

Tight Spot

Ginger Rogers plays a tough talking felon (Sherry) who’s whisked off out of prison by a US attorney (Edward G. Robinson) hoping she’ll turn state witness against a local bigshot. She has no intention of doing so, but a budding relationship with her police minder (Brian Keith) begins to weaken her resolve. Phil Karlson’s noir is expertly plotted and benefits greatly from the chemistry between Rogers and Keith. It’s the best of a strong bunch.

Special features:

  • High-Definition presentation
  • Original mono audio
  • Audio commentary with writer and film historian Nora Fiore (2021)
  • The Senate Crime Investigations (1951, 62 mins): extracts from unedited telerecordings of the US senate committee’s hearings into organised crime, originally compiled by the British Film Institute and presented in four parts, including footage of Virginia Hill, who partly inspired Tight Spot
  • Idiots Deluxe (1945, 18 mins): courtroom comedy short starring the Three Stooges and featuring an isolated hideaway beset by a deadly intruder
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Image gallery: publicity and promotional material
  • New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • World premiere on Blu-ray

The Mob

When Detective Johnny Damico (Broderick Crawford) makes a terrible error following a murder in the street, he assumes his career is over. However, he’s given a chance of a reprieve as long as he goes undercover as a New Orleans tough-guy in order to find a crime boss. Whilst Robert Parrish’s film stretches credibility a little too much, it’s an entertaining and eventful descent into the criminal underworld.

Special features:

  • High-Definition presentation
  • Original mono audio
  • Audio commentary with filmmaker and writer Gina Telaroli (2021)
  • The Guardian Interview with Ernest Borgnine (2001, 79 mins): archival audio recording of the much-loved character actor in conversation with Clyde Jeavons at the National Film Theatre, London
  • Ernest Borgnine in Conversation (2009, 49 mins): archival video recording of the actor discussing his eventful career with Adrian Wootton at the BFI Southbank, London
  • Hot Stuff (1956, 16 mins): a trio of law enforcers, played by the Three Stooges, go undercover and assume blue-collar jobs in order to thwart criminal activities
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Image gallery: publicity and promotional material
  • New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • World premiere on Blu-ray

Columbia Noir #2 is a fantastic collection of some of the best the studio has to offer. This limited-edition boxset is released on Blu-ray by Powerhouse Films as part of the Indicator series on 15 February.

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