Film Noir 4-Film Collection - Together for the First Time on Blu-ray
The Warner Archive is releasing a wonderful quartet of Film Noirs in one package. Murder My Sweet (1944), Out of the Past (1947), The Set Up (1948), and Gun Crazy (1950) are truly inspired selections for a release focusing on the great Noirs of the 1940s, just when the genre was in peak form.
This new classic film collection pulls together four of the definitive masterworks one of the greatest genres in Hollywood history. Plus there's a feature-length documentary, Film Noir: Bringing Darkness to Light (2006) from director and film historian Gary Leva, and commentary on all four films with a special examination of The Set-Up by directors Robert Wise and Martin Scorsese.
I absolutely love this selection. All four movies were shown in my film school classes and pretty much act as the perfect intro to a film style often mis-understood. You can count on these titles to set you straight, and lure you into a new film fascination that can only be fulfilled with more and more dangerous dames who twist hard-hearted men with a tragic past around their fingers until everything goes wrong. Ain't love grand.
If you've never seen Murder, My Sweet, I envy you. There's nothing like discovering a great film for the first time. Directed by and starring Dick Powell, this film helped create the genre's style that would be used like a blueprint for all other Film Noir's to follow. Bristling with bravado, previous song and dance man Powell shatters his good boy personae with a faithful portrayl of Raymond Chandler's sleuth Philip Marlowe who's out to find a missing moll named Velma. Powell throws snarky comments around as much as the scum bags he needs to get through to uncover the truth, even if it kills him.
Out of the Past is the very first Noir I ever saw, so for me it's the high mark of the genre, supported with the most iconic plot outline. A troubled P.I. played by Robert (hubba-hubba) Mitchum, becomes infatuated with a drop-dead gorgeous, Jane Greer, who is perfection as the iciest femme fatale you'll ever meet in the shadows of the silver screen. But she's the girl of moneyed mobster Kirk Douglas in one of his first big rolls. The triangle twists and turns and twists again in one of the greatest film noirs of all time - and that is not hyperbola.
The Set-Up is a title I've only become familiar with in the past few years. I was fortunate to see it for the first time on the big screen at one of the TCM Classic Film Festivals. The rough and rugged Robert Ryan plays a world-weary prize fighter who insists he's just one punch away from the big time. Unfortunately, his manager believes he's deluding himself and takes a bribe from a gangster without telling his fighter. When Ryan finds out about "the set up" he's more upset about his opportunity being taken away than the threat on his life if he doesn't take a dive. This taught seventy-three minute decent into the heartbreaking shattered dreams of an aged boxer features Noir regular Audrey Totter, and is directed by the versatile Robert Wise.
Another film school favorite of mine is the fourth feature in this compilation, Gun Crazy. This Noir standard is as an insanley entertaining film with the feel of a gritty, low budget, neo-realistic crime drama. The story is heavily inspired by the Bonnie and Clyde myth, set in the then modern era of post-war America. Although the main characters are partners in crime, it is the greedy and violent nature of the woman (Peggy Cummins) he loves who drags the man (John Dall) down into oblivion as is the fate of all men in Noir.
The Warner Bros. Archive Collection of Film Noir is a fantastic voyage into the best of Film Noir. If you're interested even in the least in the darkest of classic film genres then this is the collection for you.