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Film Noir Classic Collection, Volume Two (Born to Kill / Clash by Night / Crossfire / Dillinger (1945) / The Narrow Margin (1952))


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Film Noir Classic Collection, Volume Two (Born to Kill / Clash by Night / Crossfire / Dillinger (1945) / The Narrow Margin (1952)) + Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 3 (Border Incident / His Kind of Woman / Lady in the Lake / On Dangerous Ground / The Racket) + Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 1 (The Asphalt Jungle / Gun Crazy / Murder My Sweet / Out of the Past / The Set-Up)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Film Noir Classics Collection, The: Volume 2 (DVD) (5-Pack)

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Film noir is such a rich cinematic zone that second-tier specimens compel nearly as much fascination as the classics. At a glance, Volume 2 of Warner Bros.' (ever-expanding, we hope) Film Noir Collection is a distinct step down from Volume 1--inevitable when you've launched your series with five landmark titles, including three outright noir masterpieces (The Asphalt Jungle, Gun Crazy, Out of the Past). But linger beyond that first glance, because the second set is a flavorful mix of sleazoid iconography (two vehicles for B-movie bad boy Lawrence Tierney), an offbeat outing for a major director (Fritz Lang in his Howard Hughes RKO period), Poverty Row production circumstances that encourage aggressively peculiar, verging-on-radical filmmaking (the strange mélange that is Monogram's Dillinger), and two pressure-cooker suspense pictures that are landmark films in their own right (Crossfire and The Narrow Margin).

Jean-Luc Godard dedicated Breathless to Monogram Pictures, and Dillinger (1945) was probably the main reason why. With an Oscar-nominated script credited to Philip Yordan (abetted by his friend William Castle, director of Monogram's excellent When Strangers Marry), Max Nosseck's 60some-minute account of the Depression-era outlaw's brashly improvisatory career is a hypnotic mix of bargain-basement filmmaking (lotsa stock footage and minimalist sets), astute ripoff (the rain-and-gas-bomb robbery sequence from Lang's You Only Live Once), and Brechtian bravura. The major Hollywood studios had taken a vow of chastity when it came to glorifying gangsterism; Monogram ignored the embargo and barreled ahead to unaccustomed popular and critical success. The storyline actually scants the ultraviolence (no Bohemia Lodge shootout) and all-star supporting cast (no Pretty Boy Floyd, no Baby Face Nelson) of Dillinger's real life--likely a matter of cost-cutting rather than abstemiousness. Newcomer Lawrence Tierney nails the guy's coldblooded freakiness and animal magnetism, and the supporting cast includes such éminences noirs as Marc Lawrence, Eduardo Ciannelli, and Elisha Cook Jr. Producers Maurice and Frank King would make Gun Crazy four years later.

Born to Kill (1947) is the second helping of Tierney, playing a psychotic drifter who's irresistible to women ("His eyes run up and down ya like a searchlight!" breathes housemaid Ellen Colby, just about the only female he doesn't bother targeting). A number of people end up dead by his hand, but the kicker is that he crosses paths with a woman--socialite-divorcee Claire Trevor--just as heartless as he, and even more treacherous. The script makes less sense with each passing reel, but there are ripe character turns by Walter Slezak, as a philosophical private eye who operates out of a diner; Elisha Cook Jr., as Tierney's more level-headed partner; and Esther Howard, as a hard-bitten old bat who flirts with Cook in a nightmarish nocturnal wasteland outside San Francisco.

Three Roberts--Young, Mitchum, and Ryan--costar in Crossfire (1947), one of only a handful of noirs to be sanctified with Academy Award nominations: best picture, director Edward Dmytryk, screenwriter John Paxton, and supporting players Ryan and Gloria Grahame. The film unreels during a single sweaty, post-WWII night when one among a squad of GIs on leave in Washington, D.C., murders a nice Jewish man (Sam Levene) because he doesn't like "his kind." The audience knows who's guilty before the cops do, and Ryan's portrayal of the bigot will make the hair on your neck rise. Police detective Robert Young plays with his pipe too much and makes one speech too many, but the atmosphere is memorably taut and surreal.

Robert Ryan may be even scarier in Fritz Lang's Clash by Night (1952), a rare noir without any criminal aspect: all its bitterness and savagery is emotional, psychological, and--preeminently--sexual. Barbara Stanwyck, slightly past her stellar peak but in her prime as an actress, plays a married woman in a New England fishing town who knows what a bad idea it is but falls anyway for a vicious, misogynistic movie projectionist. Sample Clifford Odets dialogue, Stanwyck to Ryan: "What do you want to do to me? Put your teeth in me? Hurt me?" Clinching ensues. (All this and Marilyn Monroe, too.)

We've saved the best for last. Narrow Margin (1952) is the kind of trim, beautifully paced movie people have in mind when asking, "Why don't they make 'em like that anymore?" Two cops have to guard a gangster's widow against assassination as she rides the Golden West Limited sleeper train from Chicago to give evidence in L.A. Soon there's only one cop (gravel-voiced Charles McGraw, usually a villain), and he's finding the sharp-tongued widow (Marie Windsor) as obnoxious as she is endangered. Nothing goes quite as you'd expect in this exemplary train thriller, which rattles and rocks toward its destination without a music track or a wasted moment. --Richard T. Jameson


Special Features

  • Includes:
  • Born to Kill
  • Commentary by Eddie Muller, author of The Art of Noir and Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir, with audio excerpts of director Robert Wise
  • Clash by Night
  • Commentary by filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich, with audio interview excerpts of director Fritz Lang
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Crossfire
  • Commentary by film historians Alain Silver and James Ursini, with audio interview excerpts of director Edward Dmytryk
  • Crossfire: Hate Is Like a Gun featurette
  • Dillinger (1945)
  • Commentary by John Milius, director of the 1973 Dillinger, with audio interview excerpts of screenwriter Philip Yordan
  • The Narrow Margin (1952)
  • Commentary by filmmaker William Friedkin, with audio interview excerpts of director Richard Fleischer

Product Details

  • Actors: Claire Trevor, Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Young, Lawrence Tierney, Charles McGraw
  • Directors: Robert Wise, Fritz Lang, Edward Dmytryk, Max Nosseck, Richard Fleischer
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Black & White, Closed-captioned, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 5
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: July 18, 2006
  • Run Time: 518 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00097DY20
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #93,474 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Film Noir Classic Collection, Volume Two (Born to Kill / Clash by Night / Crossfire / Dillinger (1945) / The Narrow Margin (1952))" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Eric on July 1, 2005
Format: DVD
I had the privlege of borrowing this boxed set from a critic-pal of mine, as it hasn't hit the street yet. My copy is already on order.

After delivering one of the best boxed sets of 2004 with their first FILM NOIR COLLECTION, Warner Brothers once again hits the bell with a gorgeous collection of 5 stellar noirs, with great transfers and beautiful packaging.

Noir hero Lawrence Tierney stars in two entries here, the underrated BORN TO KILL, and the rarely seen Monogram programmer DILLNGER. He had an amazing screen persona, which makes it doubly sad that his personal problems put the kabosh on his screen career. But in these two films, he is at his best, especially in his breakthrough role in DILLINGER, which most certainly is a hard-boiled film noir that had to be made at B-studio Monogram, because the major studios weren't allowed to "glorify" criminals in that era.

My favorite film in the pack is Richard Fleischer's THE NARROW MARGIN, which moves along at a break-neck pace, and is presented here not only in a sparkling print, but with comments on the audio track from the director.

One of the greatest of all directors, Fritz Lang, created a tense and brooding drama of lust and betrayal with CLASH BY NIGHT, boosted by terrific performances by noir legends Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Ryan, and an early, but memorable performance by Marilyn Monroe who looks as magnificent as ever.

Last, but certainly not least, is the heralded classic CROSSFIRE, with Robert Mitchum and Robert Ryan, in a smoldering tale that deals with hatred, murder, and anti-Semitism. This was a breakthrough film, and comes with a great commentary track that features comments from its late, great director Edward Dmytryk.

No serious cinephile will be disappointed in this splendid collection.
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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful By mrliteral VINE VOICE on September 20, 2005
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
The first set of the Film Noir Classic Collection was chock full of great movies, so I was naturally looking forward to the second set. Volume 2, happily, is also a good collection, not quite at the par of the first set but still with five decent-to-great movies. And if they play a little faster and looser with the definition of film noir in this set, that doesn't deprive the collection of its value.

First viewed (I tried watching them in chronological order) is Dillinger, a fictional biography of the real-life criminal John Dillinger. This movie stars Lawrence Tierney as the title character, a generally cold-hearted killer who is a cunning bank robber. For those most familiar with Tierney from his role as a crime boss in Reservoir Dogs, this is a showcase for the actor in his prime. The movie itself is more of an old-fashioned gangster movie (similar to the ones in the Warner Gangster Collection) than a true noir movie, but it is nonetheless good, though too much the B movie to be great.

Second is Crossfire, a more true noir film dealing with anti-Semitism. Starring three Roberts - Ryan, Young and Mitchum - it gets somewhat preachy towards the end which makes it merely good instead of great. Although the focus of the story shifts from character to character, the true star is Ryan as a hateful psychopath. Mitchum is good but underutilized and Young is competent but relatively boring.

The gem of the collection is Born to Kill, with Lawrence Tierney and Claire Trevor in a tale of classic film noir complete with femme fatales, murder and plenty of shady characters. Tierney plays a man on the lam after killing his girlfriend and her date (an ill-conceived attempt to get Tierney jealous).
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By D. Bakken on June 16, 2005
Format: DVD
Although this set is not loaded with as many classics as Warner's first noir box (I don't think the quality of that box set can ever be equalled), it is loaded with fine examples of the genre.

I am sure some reviewers (some already have) will criticize the films in this box and in future Warner fim noir box sets. Something those people need to understand is that Warner likely does not own the rights to many of the films that they may want to see included - Criterion released "Thieves Highway", Fox released "Nightmare Alley", and many other classics, including "Double Indemnity" are owned by some company other that Warner and have not released those films yet.

Personally, I feel that any release of classic noir, especially with the care and extras that Warner gives it, is worth five stars.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Daniel C. Markel on July 29, 2005
Format: DVD
Overall this is a highly recommended set of five different movies. All are digitally remastered, but some could have used some restoration and that's why I'm giving the box set four stars instead of five. It's still a must have package for the classic noir fan. If you have even the slightest interest in buying any two of the five movies offered, then it well worth buying the box set and not the individual DVDs. Here are my reviews of the five DVDs included in this package:

BORN TO KILL

The story starts in Reno, Nevada where Helen Brent (Claire Trevor) receives a divorce. She goes home to a boarding house and overhears a young woman named Laury discussing her love life with an older, drunken woman named Mrs Kraft. At one point, Laury tells Mrs. Kraft that she is going out with a different man tonight simply to make her steady boyfriend Sam Wilde (Lawrence Tierney) jealous. Sam runs into the dating couple later that evening at a casino. Later that night Sam confronts Laury's date in the boardinghouse kitchen and a violent fight insues and Sam, in impressive fashion, kills the other man. Laury then comes in the kitchen and discovers the body and then Sam kills her. Shortly thereafter Helen returns home and finds the dead couple but for some reasons decides not to call the police and instead takes a train to San Francisco. Just by coincidence, Sam takes the same train and sits with her and this sets up a turbulent, yet fascinating relationship between the two for the rest of the movie.

I really enjoyed this movie for a number of reasons. First, the beautiful Claire Trevor plays a morally bankrupt golddigger, but does it with such superficial charm and grace.
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