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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

Film Noir Classic Collection Back in Print

Attention all Film Noir fans! Thanks to the folks at Warner Archive the Film Noir Classic Collection, Volume Five (1945-47, 1950, 1955-56) is stepping back into the light. The acclaimed collection of eight indispensable Film Noir classics comes on four DVD discs, and features extras such as original trailers and news reels. This installment of the famed collection includes the following fabulous black and white beauties:

In CORNERED (1945) The Murder, My Sweet team of Edward Dmytryk and Dick Powell re-team for a blistering, brutal noir paean to vengeance and obsession delivering a remarkable indictment of fascism and fear-mongering. Powell plays Laurence Gerard, an ex-RCAF pilot out for vengeance against the Nazi collaborator who killed his bride. Not knowing the identity of his quarry, or even if he is alive, Girard follows a dangerous trail that leads to the southern hemisphere, which has become a haven for the Nazis. In a classic Noir twist, Powell soon finds the role of hunter and hunted have changed and he's in for the run of his life. Frankly, I'd watch Powell in anything, but he is exceptional when bathed in chiaroscuro lighting.

If you like your Noir plain and simple this next one's for you. DESPERATE (1947) stars Steve Brodie as an innocent who stumbles across a fur robbery in progress. He is taken prisoner by the thieves who threaten to brutally mutilate his wife, Anne (Audrey Long). So, Steve agrees to confess to the murder of a policeman. Intending all along to double-cross his kidnappers, Steve and Anne find themselves in a cross-country, life-or-death pursuit, fleeing both the killers and the authorities. I don't know if Noir gets any more basic than that.

PHENIX CITY STORY (1955) has some terrifically gritty qualities of low budget location shooting. Richard Kiley stars in this gripping crime drama about a crusading lawyer who takes on the corrupt machine running a Southern town, based on actual events. Phenix City was known as the "Sin City" of Alabama where gambling, prostitution, and any number of other vices were tolerated openly by the law as organized crime controlled the local government. In 1954, a reform group tries to persuade the city's most prominent attorney, Albert Patterson (John McIntire), to take action, but having seen his efforts come to little, he would rather relax with his wife and enjoy the return of his army officer/lawyer son, John (Richard Kiley). But when thugs beat up Patterson's friends and involve John, turning to murder and intimidation, the elder Patterson and his son join the reformers. Of particular interest is a 13-minute preface, compiled from newsreel footage and interviews with the original participants, provides background on the events that inspired the film. And the film is in 16x9 Widescreen!

This next one is one I've never heard of, but look forward to seeing. In DIAL 1119 (1950) Marshall Thompson stars as a deranged inmate, out to punish the world for his unjust imprisonment in an asylum. Gunning down the bus driver who ferried him to the city while stealing his gun, the madman takes a bar hostage, demanding to see the doctor responsible for his diagnosis.

ARMORED CAR ROBBERY (1950) comes from ace director Richard Fleischer. This brute-force milestone in Film Noir uses documentary techniques to up the cinema verité aspects of the gritty atmosphere, effectively throwing the viewer inside the action as a bulldog cop (Charles McGraw) out to avenge his partner's killing. McGraw is tenacious as he tightens the net around criminal mastermind (William Talman) and gangster moll (Adele Jergens). This is an unforgettable look at the streets of urban Los Angeles before the onset of post-war suburban sprawl.

CRIME IN THE STREETS (1956) features future indie star John Cassavetes and current star Sal Mineo in a street savvy juvenile delinquency suspenser that was originally produced for TV. James Whitmore is the adult authority figure struggling against time and despair to save a street gang member from getting silenced as a snitch by a rival gang leader. This is also in glorious 16x9 Widescreen!

A young Susan Hayward stars in DEADLINE AT DAWN. This film noir classic places Hayward as a jaded nightclub dancer who pursueds an innocent sailor into finding a murderer by convincing him that unless he does he will hang for the crime. With four hours left before sunrise, it's a desperate, life-or-death race through a city's dark underbelly to find a killer. Both Hayward and Bill Williams are charming as two youths in over their heads.

In BACKFIRE (1950) Film Noir royalty Virginia Mayo stars in this Vincent Sherman directed seat-gripper about a wounded veteran (Gordon MacRae) who struggles to prove a pal's innocence while recovering from severe wounds. The always wonderful Edmond O'Brien is the pal, Mayo is the sister of mercy who lends some support to MacRae's sucker quest, while Viveca Lindfors lingers to complicate the mystery, as she does oh, so well.

If you're a fan of Noir you didn't need the above descriptions to convince you to purchase this collection. If you're not already a fan, then I believe this collection will make you one. And then you can check out collections one through four. I envy you this adventure.

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