It’s a return to the dark side
Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 2
Warner Home Video, $50 for the set; $20 each
This second wave of film noir titles from Warner features several fixtures of the genre at the top of the craft: Lawrence Tierney, Robert Ryan, Barbara Stanwyck, Marie Windsor, Claire Trevor, Robert Mitchum and Charles McGraw.
Lawrence Tierney, who was just as tough and two-fisted off screen as he was on, was introduced to movie audiences in this scrappy 1945 crime melodrama -- a highly fictionalized account of the Depression Era bank robber and killer John Dillinger.
“Dillinger” was Oscar-nominated for Philip Yordan’s taut screenplay.
Extras: The trailer and subdued commentary from the usually gregarious John Milius, who wrote and directed the 1973 “Dillinger,” and interview excerpts from Yordan.
After World War II, Hollywood began to tackle social issues in films. And in 1947, two films -- “Gentleman’s Agreement” and “Crossfire” -- examined anti-Semitism. The thriller revolves around the brutal murder of a Jewish man (Sam Levene) by a psychopathic, bigoted World War II veteran (fearlessly played by Oscar-nominated Robert Ryan). Robert Young is the low-keyed police detective, and Robert Mitchum is a levelheaded Army sergeant. A young Gloria Grahame also picked up an Academy Award nomination as a sultry dance-hall girl.
Extras: The trailer, a mini-documentary “Crossfire: Hate Is Like a Gun,” which includes vintage interviews with the late director Edward Dmytryk, and commentary from film historians Alain Silver and James Ursini with interview excerpts with Dmytryk.
Born to Kill
Though Robert Wise is best known for directing the Oscar-winning musicals “West Side Story” and “The Sound of Music,” he began his career in the 1940s at RKO working on such atmospheric horror films as “The Body Snatcher” and this tantalizing “B” movie from 1947.
Lawrence Tierney plays a handsome psychopathic killer who meets a newly divorced socialite (a terrifying Claire Trevor) just as ruthless and heartless as he is.
Extras: The trailer and informative and often amusing commentary from film noir historian Eddie Mueller as well as interview excerpts from the soft-spoken, 90-year-old Wise.
The Narrow Margin
Fast-paced, exceptionally done little thriller from 1952 directed by Richard Fleischer. Two Los Angeles detectives (the gravelly voiced Charles McGraw and Don Beddoe) are dispatched to Chicago to guard a tough-as-nails gangster’s widow (a perfect Marie Windsor) -- who is going to give evidence against the mob -- on the sleeper train from the Windy City to L.A. The plot twists are clever and surprising -- no wonder the screenplay was nominated for an Academy Award.
Extras: The trailer and enthusiastic commentary from Oscar-winning director William Friedkin -- “Narrow Margin” is one of his favorite films -- and interview excerpts with Fleischer.
Clash by Night
Fritz Lang directed this well-cast 1952 adaptation of Clifford Odets’ Broadway play from the early 1940s. Barbara Stanwyck strikes just the right note as a cynical woman who returns to her hometown, a small fishing village in Northern California, after happiness eludes her in the big city. The restless Stanwyck marries a burly fisherman (Paul Douglas) but soon begins a passionate, clandestine affair with a hotheaded movie projectionist (a sexy Robert Ryan). Marilyn Monroe also stars.
Extras: The trailer and astute commentary from director Peter Bogdanovich with excerpts from the interviews he conducted with Lang 40 years ago.
-- Susan King