Blu News – 4 Noir Classics

November,  when we feel the nights drawing in with a vengeance – an ideal time to take in some dark cinema. Arrow Academy are putting out a very attractive-looking set of noir movies on dual format Blu-ray/DVD  packed with extra features on Nov. 20, and now up for pre-order here.

Film noir has had many influences. Long before the term was even coined, we had atmospheric studio-shot detective thrillers, whose characters gradually became more ambiguous, and whose locations started to take in the world outside (notably New York City). This collection showcases some classic examples.

In The Dark Mirror (1946), directed by Robert Siodmak (The Killers), a man is murdered and there’s an obvious suspect, but she has an identical twin sister (both played by Olivia de Havilland, Gone with the Wind), and one of them has a cast-iron alibi. The perfect crime? A psychologist with a specialist interest in twin psychology delves into the heart of the mystery, at considerable risk to himself. In Secret Beyond the Door (1947), Fritz Lang (The Big Heat) adapts the Bluebeard legend with a dash of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. Shortly after their marriage, Celia (Joan Bennett, Suspiria) begins to suspect her architect husband Mark (Michael Redgrave, Dead of Night) of having a secret past, and wonders about the reason behind multiple rooms in his self-designed home, one of which is kept permanently locked. In Abraham Polonsky’s Force of Evil (1948), an unscrupulous lawyer (John Garfield, The Postman Always Rings Twice) scents a personal fortune when he concocts a plan to merge New York City’s numbers rackets into a single powerful and unbreakable operation, but reckons without his brother, who’d rather stay independent. And in Joseph H. Lewis’ ultra-stylish The Big Combo (1955), Lieutenant Diamond (Cornel Wilde, The Naked Prey) is determined to bring down mob boss Mr Brown (Richard Conte, Thieves’ Highway). But Brown feels the same way, and is far less constrained by the law, leading to some wince-inducing set pieces (some involving a pre-stardom Lee Van Cleef).

This collection showcases many of the genre’s major names on both sides of the camera. In addition to the directing and acting talent mentioned above there are cinematographers Stanley Cortez (The Night of the Hunter) and John Alton (An American in Paris), composers Dmitri Tiomkin (High Noon) and Miklós Rósza (The Killers) and writers Nunnally Johnson (The Woman in the Window) and Philip Yordan (Johnny Guitar). It’s little wonder that directors such as Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino were so struck by them.

Seeing as I’ve written about, and enjoyed, three of these movies myself (The Big Combo, The Dark Mirror, Secret Beyond the Door) I’m certainly looking forward to what promise to be the definitive editions of these films.

Blu News – Jake Wade

Just spotted this announcement for a most welcome upcoming release on Blu-ray from Warner Archives. The Law and Jake Wade is a superb western – featuring Richard Widmark & Robert Taylor and directed by John Sturges – that never gets talked about enough as far as I’m concerned and has the potential to look great in hi-def. I wrote about the movie some years ago here and I’m very pleased to see it getting this well-deserved upgrade. The WA post on Facebook has this to say:

THE LAW AND JAKE WADE (1958)
NEW 2017 1080p HD REMASTER
Run Time 86:00
Subtitles English SDH
DTS HD-Master Audio 2.0 Mono – English
ORIGINAL ASPECT RATIO – 2.35:1, 16 X 9 LETTERBOX
COLOR
BD 25
Special Features:
Theatrical Trailer (HD)

Robbing banks, holding up stagecoaches: That’s the life Jake Wade tried to leave behind when he put on a badge, found himself a pretty fiancée and set his path on the straight and narrow. But not yet. Wade’s outlaw partner resurfaces to take the lawman and his girl captive, forcing them into a trek to recover the loot Wade buried long ago — and plunging captors and captives into the violent heart of Comanche territory.
John Sturges (The Great Escape) directs, continuing his string of rugged, character-driven tales of action. Robert Taylor and Richard Widmark deliver vivid contrasts as the resolute hero and the depraved desperado. And the snowcapped Sierras provide towering backdrops for the mounting clash of wills.

Republic Studios – A Private Tour

One of my followers, Terry, just sent me details of the following event. It’s not something I’ll be able to take part in personally but it sounds very tempting and may be of interest to some US-based readers. So, read on…

What: Once in a lifetime chance for a private Tour of CBS Studio Center (formerly Republic Studios) & July 4th Celebration

Where: 4024 Radford Ave. Studio City, CA 91604

When: Tuesday July 4th at 5 pm (arrive early to allow time for security check and parking)

How much: $1,000 per person

Only 10 tickets available on a first come, first serve basis. Tickets will only be sold online. https://www.freshtix.com/events/4th-of-july-fireworks-festival-2-2

Get a behind the scenes tour of the historic CBS Studio Center (formerly Republic Studios) backlot given by none other than Studio Center President Michael Klausman.

In the early 1920s silent film producer and director Mack Sennett relocated his movie studio to southern California and the neighborhood around the studio became known as Studio City. The Mack Sennett Studios produced movies featuring the Keystone Kops, Charlie Chaplin and Fatty Arbuckle before becoming Republic Studios. Republic launched the careers of Bette Davis, Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne and many others. Today the studio is known as CBS Studio Center. Past and present shows filmed on the lot include Gilligan’s Island, Gunsmoke, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, CSI New York, Will and Grace, Seinfeld, Brooklyn Nine Nine, Hot in Cleveland, Last Man Standing and many others.

Public tours of the studio are not available, so this is a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in film and television history. You will see the open air space where John Wayne showered, Seinfeld’s Central Park, and Leave it to Beaver’s house, among many other iconic locations.

The tour begins at 5 pm before the Fourth of July celebration and guests will be taken around the lot on studio golf carts. Preferential parking will be provided. Space is limited to ten participants. After the tour enjoy our VIP July 4th celebration on stage 15 with a meal, sampling stations of food and alcohol from various local restaurants, caricature artists, facepainters and more! Then take your seat on the roof of the parking structure for the view of the best fireworks in Los Angeles. Tickets are available https://www.freshtix.com/events/4th-of-july-fireworks-festival-2-2. Click on VIP plus Private Lot Tour w/Studio President

Please call 818-655-5916 if you have any questions.

TRIAL AND ERROR (1937) by Anthony Berkeley

This is another of those occasions when my friend Sergio has been kind enough to allow me a platform to put my thoughts on a piece of classic mystery/crime fiction. Follow the link here to read them in full, and have a good look around Sergio’s ever excellent site while you’re there.

Tipping My Fedora

It’s time for a guest post from my blogging buddy Livius, who writes about movies at his marvellous blog, Riding the High Country. And now it’s over to the man himself:

The inverted crime story is one where the perpetrator is known from the outset, or close enough to it, and the thrust of the story is carried forward by our interest in seeing law or its representatives piece together the clues and evidence that will bring the criminal to book. In short, if you’ve ever seen an episode of Columbo, then you know exactly what I mean.

We submit this review for Bev’s Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunt; and Friday’s Forgotten Books meme, hosted today by Todd Mason at his Sweet Freedom blog

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Blu News – 2 for July

It’s just come to my attention that July will see the release of a couple of new western titles on Blu-ray in Germany. Koch Media will be putting out Cattle Drive (1951) with Joel McCrea along with  Audie Murphy’s Showdown (1963). I don’t have any more details at present but I think this should be welcome news for western fans, particularly since I believe Showdown hasn’t previously been available anywhere in any format.

Blu News – Another for April

Just time to fit in another announcement for next month. Eureka! in the UK have a dual format (DVD+Blu-ray) of Walter Hill’s classy fight drama Hard Times coming out on April 24.

The specs/features listed for this edition are:

  • New 4K digital restoration
  • Uncompressed PCM and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hearing-impaired
  • A new interview with co-writer/director Walter Hill
  • A new interview with producer Lawrence Gordon
  • A new interview with composer Barry DeVorzon
  • Excerpts from a 1984 interview with Walter Hill at the National Film Theatre, London
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • A 20-PAGE BOOKLET featuring Pauline Kael’s original 1975 New Yorker review of the film, and archival imagery.

This is a film I’ve enjoyed and written about in the past. If you feel so inclined, you can read my thoughts on the movie here.

March Blues – Take 2

Powerhouse/Indicator have two further releases this month, John Huston’s gritty boxing movie Fat City and The Front, the Martin Ritt/Woody Allen satirical take on HUAC and the Hollywood blacklist.

Fat City (1972) offers a glimpse into  the lives of two fighters, the tired and jaded Billy Tully (Stacy Keach) and the youthful Ernie Munger (Jeff Bridges). Typically, boxing dramas use the fight backdrop to tell stories of crime or ambition, or often just human triumph in the face of adversity. As such, Fat City is an atypical boxing film but, somewhat paradoxically, a classic example of early 70s cinema. It’s one of those frank appraisals of struggling types that seemed to become increasingly common in an era still hung over from the JFK assassination and wearied by the latter stages of the war in South East Asia.

A lot, though not all, of John Huston’s work had a cynical edge, a bitter way of looking at life and human nature – think about the endings of The Maltese Falcon and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and you’ll see what I mean. While Fat City had an undeniable harshness and bleakness, the tendency towards cynicism is replaced by compassion. If Leonard Gardner’s script (from his own novel) and Huston’s direction aren’t exactly uplifting, the end result is nevertheless satisfying.

The new Blu-ray is yet another David Mackenzie encode of a 4K restoration. What that means is that Conrad Hall’s cinematography looks particularly fine. The film, as befits the theme and locations, is subdued and shadowy, but in a good way with plenty of detail and natural-looking grain.

In terms of supplements it’s another stacked package. The disc carries a commentary track by Nick Redman and Lem Dobbs in addition to a 1972 interview with Huston recorded at the NFT and, similar to a commentary, plays out over the film. Sucker Punch Blues is an extensive analysis of the film with input from surviving cast and crew members. This is backed up by an audio interview with writer Leonard Gardner, a brief bit of footage with Huston, the trailer and an image gallery. The accompanying 28 page illustrated booklet opens with a strong piece by Danny Leigh, follows up with a contemporary Sight & Sound review, and ties it all up with comments on the film by both John Huston and Stacy Keach.

The Front (1976) looks at one of the most painful and shameful periods of film and television history, the era of HUAC and the blacklist. Like all satire, it has a serious point to make. Woody Allen’s cash-strapped cashier starts out like one of his trademark angst-ridden opportunists, jumping at the chance to do a blacklisted friend a favor, and himself an even bigger one, by becoming a front for him – i.e. allowing his name to be used on the scripts and passing them off as his own. While the money and romantic possibilities are hugely attractive, the charade also reveals its uglier side as he witnesses the relentless grinding down of the spirit of Zero Mostel’s comic actor.

Tye movie features solid work from Allen and former blacklist victims director Martin Ritt, writer Walter Bernstein and Zero Mostel. And the film really belongs to Mostel; clearly feeding off his own experiences, he delivers a performance that ranges from the barnstorming to the heartbreaking, and culminates in a final scene that is quite sublime.

The Powerhouse/Indicator Blu-ray is, yet again, a David Mackenzie encode of a 4K restoration. The Image looks great throughout with lots of detail, depth and clarity. The extra features on the disc are a little lighter this time. There’s a commentary track with Nick Redman, Julie Kirgo and Andrea Marcovicci, one of the film’s stars. In addition we get a short interview with cinematographer Michael Chapman, an isolated score track, a gallery and the trailer. The booklet is a substantial one, coming in at 36 pages. Gabriel Miller, who has written about Martin Ritt, provides the detailed article that kicks it off. This is followed up by extracts of interviews with Ritt, Bernstein and Allen.

So, we’re talking about another two worthy releases by Powerhouse/Indicator. Both films have been treated to fine presentations that highlight their strengths, and come with the kind of carefully chosen supplements that make for highly desirable packages. I’d watched Fat City a number of times before and it therefore held no surprises for me, although it does look as good as I’ve ever seen it. The Front,  however was a new one for me and I have to say I was very favorably impressed. It’s a good story and well made but the performance of Zero Mostel lifts it up to another level, making it a memorable and moving piece of cinema.

All told, these releases are first-rate editions of two fine examples of 70s cinema. The strong visuals and the comprehensive extras are evidence of how seriously the label is taking its place in the market. It all bodes extremely well for their upcoming titles.

March Blues – Take 1

As has already been noted on this site and elsewhere, UK boutique label Powerhouse/Indicator are in the process of rolling out a series of high quality dual format (DVD/Blu-ray) releases. March sees three titles on the way and I’ll be posting short comment pieces on each one.

First up is Fritz Lang’s superior The Big Heat. Now I’ve already talked about the movie at length so I’m not going to go back over the same ground as my assessment of it as a piece of cinema hasn’t changed – those thoughts can be found here. Instead, I want to refer to the new upgraded package now available. The image is very strong and solid, looking as crisp and clean as I’ve ever seen it, the kind of classy result that you can almost take as read with a David Mackenzie supervised encode.

This version also comes with a comprehensive and worthwhile package of supplementary features. There’s good a three-way commentary track involving Nick Redman, Julie Kirgo and Lem Dobbs. In addition, we also have the opportunity to listen to the isolated score. Then we have the filmed features – two short pieces from filmmakers Martin Scorsese & Michael Mann, both giving their thoughts on the movie. Then there is a longer half hour appreciation of the film, presented within an overview of Lang’s career, by Tony Rayns. Round it all off are subs for the hard of hearing, the theatrical trailer and an image gallery.

The movie is accompanied by a chunky, and handsomely illustrated, 35 page booklet edited by Jeff Billington and Nick Wrigley. Contained within is a detailed essay by Glenn Kenny as well as an extract from Peter Bogdanovich’s 1967 book on Lang, which is essentially an interview with the director. Following on from that is a critical anthology and a short piece on way the movie was viewed by the Production Code.

All told, this is a fine package, the type of comprehensive appreciation the film richly deserves.

DEATH IN THE TUNNEL (1936) by Miles Burton

I try, as much as possible, to keep my writing on this site focused on cinema and film related material. However, that doesn’t mean my interests extend no further. My friend Sergio is a regular visitor and commenter here and, seeing as his site is a bit more flexible in its approach than mine, he was kind enough to allow me to contribute my thoughts on a novel a while back and left the offer open. As a result I took him up on that and if you follow the links in this post you can see my latest effort. And while you’re there, you could do a whole lot worse than browse around his ever excellent site.

Tipping My Fedora

burton_death-in-the-tunnell_blThis is a bit of a special post – I have so far managed to get through life without reading a single novel by John Rhode, who often published as Miles Burton and whose real name was Cecil John Street. So I am really happy to have one of his books reviewed here at Fedora – only not by me. Instead this fine analysis come to you courtesy of our very good blogging buddy Colin (aka ‘Livius’) of the mighty party Riding the High Country blog, who has once again graciously agreed to write a guest post for Fedora.

We submit this review for Bev’s Golden Age Mystery Scavenger Hunt; and Friday’s Forgotten Books meme, hosted today by Todd Mason at his Sweet Freedom blog.

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Blu News – 2 for April

A couple of titles which have been mentioned before are now confirmed for dual format (BD + DVD) releases at the end of April in the UK via Powerhouse/Indicator. Firstly, we get Orson Welles’ The Lady from Shanghai, an enthralling film noir. And, in addition, Blake Edwards’ Experiment in Terror, which I wrote about here, makes an appearance.

The special features announced so are as follows:

The Lady from Shanghai

• 4K restoration from the original negative
• Original mono audio
• Audio Commentary by Peter Bogdanovich
Simon Callow on ‘The Lady from Shanghai’ (2017, tbc mins): a new filmed appreciation piece by the acclaimed actor and Welles scholar
A Discussion with Peter Bogdanovich (2000, 21 mins): the renowned filmmaker and author talks about Welles and The Lady from Shanghai
• Original theatrical trailer
• Image gallery
• New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Limited edition exclusive booklet with a new essay by critic Samm Deighan
• UK Blu-ray premiere
• Limited Dual Format Edition of 5,000 copies
• More TBC

Experiment in Terror

• 2K restoration from the original negative
• Original mono audio
• Audio commentary by film critic Kim Morgan
• New and exclusive filmed interview with actor Stefanie Powers (2017, tbc mins)
• Isolated score – experience Henry Mancini’s original score
• Original theatrical trailer
• TV spots
• Image gallery
• New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Limited edition exclusive booklet with a new essay by critic Kim Morgan
• UK Blu-ray premiere
• Limited Dual Format Edition of 3,000 copies
• More TBC