Return to the realm of smoke and shadows for Columbia Pictures Film Noir Classics II
, five largely overlooked stories of doomed heroes and double-dealing ladies, featuring the likes of Kim Novak, Fred MacMurray, Glenn Ford, Anne Bancroft, and legendary femme fatale Gloria Grahame, and each making their DVD debut. The top pick of the set is arguably 1957's Nightfall
, a tense adaptation of David Goodis's novel by suspense master Jacques Tourneur (Out of the Past
) that benefits from strong chemistry between leads Aldo Ray as the regular Joe pursued by bank robbers and Anne Bancroft as the model who falls for him, and an elastic story structure that keeps the viewer as disoriented as Ray in its frequent flashes to the past. Some, however, may argue the case for The Brothers Rico
(1957) from Phil Karlson (The Phenix City Story
)--like Martin Scorcese, who praises the film in one of the set's extras--with Richard Conte as a former Mob accountant forced to return to the organized crime world in order to save his brothers (Paul Picerni and James Darren), or Fritz Lang's Human Desire
(1954), which reunited Lang with his Big Heat
(1953) star, Glenn Ford, in a remake of Jean Renoir's La bête humaine
(1938) that offers a sterling showcase for Gloria Grahame as the seductress who lures Ford into a plot to murder her husband (Broderick Crawford). The set is rounded out by Pushover
(1954), a modest revamp of Double Indemnity
with that film's star, Fred MacMurray, again displaying his knack for understated drama as a cop who falls for Kim Novak (in her movie debut), the girlfriend of the bank robber he's staking out, and City of Fear
(1958), an entertaining B-thriller from Irving Lerner, who re-teams with his Murder by Contract
star, Vince Edwards, as a tough con who unwittingly steals a canister of radioactive material and spreads death to everyone he meets.
Extras are light but informative; in addition to the three-minute Scorsese chat, there are brief discussions of noir style and tropes with actress Emily Mortimer and director Christopher Nolan (Inception), who riffs on themes of paranoia in noir and his appreciation for City of Fear. Original theatrical trailers for all five films are also included. --Paul Gaita
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and The Film Foundation partner once again to bring five films to DVD for the first time, fully restored and remastered, in Columbia Pictures Film Noir Classics II. In this second volume, renowned directors Fritz Lang, Phil Karlson, and Irving Lerner are joined by Jacques Tourneur and Richard Quine in proving that lust, adultery, greed, and revenge all adds up to cold, calculated murder. Film Noir Classics II takes you on a dark journey among lowlifes and mobsters, cops and gun molls, and the dimwitted, hapless pawns who forever changed the landscape of cinema, and whose doomed paths are as disturbing today as when they were first committed to film.