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Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 3 (Border Incident / His Kind of Woman / Lady in the Lake / On Dangerous Ground / The Racket)
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Five more film noir classics lined up with genre stars such as Robert Mitchum, Robert Montgomery, Robert Ryan, and Jane Russell, are now available in Volume 3 of the Film Noir Classics Collection series. The new 6-Disc DVD set is only available as a collection and includes a bonus documentary disc on the Noir genre.]]>
For eye-popping dynamism coupled with ferocious intensity, no noir director matched Anthony Mann. Border Incident (1949) was Mann's and cinematographer John Alton's first film for MGM following a string of darkly dazzling low-budget beauties at Eagle-Lion (T-Men, Raw Deal, The Black Book, et al.). In structure it's virtually a remake of T-Men, transposed from the shadowy city where a Secret Service team battled counterfeiters, to California's Imperial Valley where the Immigration Service sets out to infiltrate a gang exploiting--and often murdering--Mexicans eager to work the farms. From the opening night scene of three laborers trying to recross the border and meeting a grisly end, the movie relentlessly imagines ways the human body can merge with the earth. Visually stunning, and replete with memorable villains (headed by Howard Da Silva, a past master at making affability lethal), this is one of Mann's strongest noirs and surely his most inventive. Its neglect can be explained only by people's assumption that nothing worthwhile could come of a movie top-billing Ricardo Montalban and George Murphy (as the government agents). Wrong, wrong, wrong.
After a scalding first reel in big-city night streets, Nicholas Ray's On Dangerous Ground (RKO, 1951) likewise forsakes familiar noir terrain for the countryside--the mountains and snowfields where city cop Robert Ryan seeks a psychotic killer. For both the actor and the director, Ryan's character is an exemplary creation: a man with personal demons whose overzealous pursuit of criminals has pushed him into sadism. His passage from urban darkness into the silent white mountain country becomes a redemptive journey, thanks largely to his interaction with a blind woman (Ida Lupino) in an isolated farmhouse whose younger brother may be the quarry he's after. Ray developed the screenplay with A.I. Bezzerides under the supervision of producer John Houseman (for whom Ray had made his feature debut, They Live By Night). The film boasts a thrilling music score by Bernard Herrmann, anticipating his great soundtrack for North by Northwest.
His Kind of Woman (also RKO, 1951) is a vehicle for both RKO's reigning bad boy, Robert Mitchum, and Howard Hughes' definitive coup of distaff engineering, Jane Russell. Their characters cross paths en route to a seaside Mexican resort, where she aims to continue her gold-digger pursuit of Hollywood ham Vincent Price, and Mitchum will figure in a plot to get deported mobster Raymond Burr back into the U.S.A. The slow-brewing romance between this dauntingly tall, broad-shouldered pair gives off little heat, but the players' good-natured, weary-pro rapport as they go through their mostly preposterous paces makes for very good fun. Still more is supplied by Price, who just about steals the movie when he gets to extend his subErrol Flynn screen heroism into real life--all the while supplying his own florid running commentary on the action. The urbane director John Farrow filled the movie with one delicious, what-the-hell-is-going-on-here scene after another (highlight: a bored Mitchum ironing his money), but that wasn't enough for studio boss Hughes. Richard Fleischer was brought in to stretch the climactic melodrama aboard Burr's yacht in the harbor, and the picture grew to an overblown two hours in length. Not that you're likely to regret a minute of it.
Robert Montgomery directed and played Phillip Marlowe in Lady in the Lake (MGM, 1947), Raymond Chandler's novel as adapted by Steve Fisher (I Wake Up Screaming). The gimmick is that, apart from a few scenes of private detective Marlowe chatting us up in his office, everything is viewed through his eyes, with Marlowe himself remaining unseen unless he glances in a mirror. This literal-minded conceit is more curious than compelling; the camera simply doesn't see the way the human eye does, and the artificiality constantly calls attention to itself. Montgomery, a suave actor who enjoyed playing it coarse and obnoxious on occasion, makes his screen Marlowe more smartass than any other ("dumb, brave, and cheap"). With him cracking wise off-camera, much of the movie is really carried by Audrey Totter, a swell late-'40s dame who has to stand up under more relentless scrutiny than even her shifty character deserves.
The Racket (RKO, 1951) is the second film version of a 1920s play about municipal corruption, gangsterism, and the attempt to squash an honest police precinct captain. John Cromwell had acted in the original Broadway production, which may help explain why, as director, he let so much of this movie turn back into a play. Eventually studio boss Howard Hughes, who had produced the 1928 film version (directed by Lewis Milestone), once again called in another director to do salvage work.
That was Nicholas Ray, whose scenes include police captain Robert Mitchum's pursuit of the man who has just bombed his home. Mitchum's fellow cast members include Robert Ryan as the ultra-paranoid gangster; husky-voiced noir blonde Lizabeth Scott as a nightclub thrush romanced by Ryan's brother; future Perry Mason D.A. William Talman as a dedicated street cop; and Ray Collins and William Conrad as two municipal officials negotiating a delicate dance with morality and expediency. --Richard T. Jameson
Top Customer Reviews
This bonus DVD makes this collection particularly special: The documentary "Film noir: Bringing darkness to light," completed in 2006 and produced and directed by Gary Leva, is far superior to any of the film-noir documentaries available on public-domain collections of film noir for several reasons: (1) At 68 min., the subject is treated in depth. (2) The B&W clips from films as well as the interviews in color and color film posters are of excellent quality. (3) The clips, some from rarely seen films, are precise selections, unlike the fuzzy, often lengthy trailers included in previous noir documentaries. (4) While traditional noir themes (femmes fatales, lighting, cynicism, fatalism, etc.) receive full treatment, other generally neglected topics are detailed, notably the role of music. (5) Commentary is by a host of film-noir historians and players. The credits list some 45 interviewees, including actress Jane Greer (1924-2001). The diversity of opinions sometimes leads to conflicting interpretations, which is probably as it should be as film noir is a recognizable phenomenon that is hard to define. "Film noir: Bringing darkness to light," is an essential and insightful analysis of the film-noir phenomenon.'
The 13 scenes comprising 68 min.Read more ›
Featuring two MGM productions, and three from RKO (which means Howard Hughes was heavily involved), the Noir elements vary significantly in each film (one could even question whether a couple 'qualify' as Noir)...but the choices made are fascinating!
"Lady in the Lake" (MGM, 1946, **1/2): Robert Montgomery's debut as a director, portraying Raymond Chandler's 'Philip Marlowe', probably gave MGM no END of grief, when he decided to film it nearly completely with a 'subjective' camera, barely appearing on screen! While the concept wasn't new (the first twenty minutes of the Bogie/Bacall "Dark Passage" were filmed in the same manner), the audacity of making an ENTIRE film this way, particularly from the biggest of Hollywood studios, was remarkable!
Sadly, the gimmick didn't work...
With an incongruous 'Christmas' motif to introduce the film, the camera work soon becomes annoying, allowing little character development for Marlowe/Montgomery (making him seem more cruel and petty than either Bogie or Dick Powell, in their 'takes' as Marlowe). While Audrey Totter, acting to the camera lens, is terrific, everyone else seems self-conscious (especially poor Lloyd Nolan). Add to this MGM's difficulty in creating Noir-style lighting and atmosphere, and what you end up with is, ultimately, a mess!
The only real 'misfire' in this collection!
"Border Incident" (MGM, 1949, ****): This FABULOUS Anthony Mann
film, of a joint US/Mexico operation to break up an illegal alien racket is even more topical, today.Read more ›
ON DANGEROUS GROUND is probably one of the finest noirs ever made and Robert Ryan gives a brilliant performance. Very moody, unusual film that rates high on any noir fan's list.
HIS KIND OF WOMAN is another superb noir with a satirical edge and the unforgettable team of Mitchum and Russell. One of the most popular and best-loved noir films too.
THE RACKET can only be a winner with that cast - Mitchum, Ryan and Lizabeth Scott - lots of great scenes and fun "bits".
LADY IN THE LAKE is a genre-defining title, highly regarded for its unique narrative and an excellent portrayal of Philip Marlowe by Robert Montgomery.
BORDER INCIDENT is a neglected gem starring a remarkably good Ricardo Montalban - its inclusion in the set will give it the exposure it probably never would have had, if titles had been sold separately.
As if this was not enough, an entire documentary on Film Noir is included.
Considering all of this, I am not surprised that WB decided to sell this collection as a set only. The price is so reasonable that buying the whole set costs basically the same as it would to buy 2 individual titles. So anyone who wants only 1 or 2 titles really gets a fabulous deal and will surely be enthralled when they watch the other titles and the documentary.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Received in very good condition and was as expected when viewed. Although the rating for the movies themselves are only 3 star plus - that is what was expected.Published 4 months ago by Thom Bean
This collection is loaded with some prime noir, but the main reason I purchased it was for the slightly nutty His Kind of Woman, a film that commences with sultry attitudes about... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Phoebus Mudd
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