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The House on 92nd Street (Fox Film Noir)

50 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

A stentorian narrator tells us that the USA was flooded with Nazi spies in 1939-41. One such tries to recruit college grad Bill Dietrich, who becomes a double agent for the FBI. While Bill trains in Hamburg, a street-accident victim proves to have been spying on atom-bomb secrets; conveniently, Dietrich is assigned to the New York spy ring stealing these secrets. Can he track down the mysterious "Christopher" before his ruthless associates unmask and kill him?

The House on 92nd Street has solid claims to a place in film history, and not just as an engrossing true-life counter-espionage movie. Its working title was "Now It Can Be Told," and its story--about the F.B.I. smashing a Nazi spy ring in New York--involved the stealing of atomic secrets. That surely upped the topical ante for 1945 audiences (who, we may assume, had a lot less ambivalent feelings about the F.B.I. than latterday viewers).

Of more lasting significance, the movie pioneered a salutary postwar trend in American filmmaking: forsaking the Hollywood soundstages and back lot to tap the freshness and palpable authenticity of real-world locations. Shot mostly in New York City, House was a collaboration between 20th Century–Fox and Louis de Rochement, the documentary producer renowned for his "March of Time" newsreels. The working formula of House and its successors was to fully incorporate documentary techniques into the storytelling, and to "film where it actually happened." That included using some nonprofessional performers, sometimes people who had been involved in the case. Fox went on to embrace this aesthetic in not only the de Rochement–produced 13 Rue Madeleine and Boomerang! but also the gangster movie Kiss of Death, the journalistic detective story Call Northside 777, and another F.B.I. case history, Street With No Name. Even the storybook fantasy of the studio's 1947 Miracle on 34th Street was charmingly validated by setting Kris Kringle down amid real New Yorkers and real Gotham grittiness.

Noiristes should stand advised that House on 92nd Street, a key influence on film noir, is not quite a true noir itself (whereas Anthony Mann's T-Men is noir to the max). Even as a German-American double agent, hero William Eythe is unburdened by neurosis or doubt, and the stylistic keynote is documentary gray, not black--though a murder in a railroad yard and the final showdown are memorably stark and dark. --Richard T. Jameson

Special Features

  • Photo gallery
  • Original press booklet

Product Details

  • Actors: William Eythe, Lloyd Nolan, Signe Hasso, Gene Lockhart, Leo G. Carroll
  • Directors: Henry Hathaway
  • Writers: Barré Lyndon, Charles G. Booth, John Monks Jr.
  • Producers: Louis De Rochemont
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Black & White, Dubbed, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 1.0), English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), Spanish (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • DVD Release Date: September 6, 2005
  • Run Time: 88 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0009X766O
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #41,033 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The House on 92nd Street (Fox Film Noir)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 39 people found the following review helpful By I. Martinez-Ybor VINE VOICE on September 10, 2005
Format: DVD
I have always had a soft spot for this flick. To my knowledge it was the first to combine documentary and dramatic action in what is today done routinely, often cheesely, on cable channels. There are no relationships established or explored (not one kiss), no characters developed, this is all exposition, expertly and classily done. What acting there is, is sharp, to the point, and full of conviction. What a pleasure to see Lloyd Noland and Signe Hasso, projecting absolute integrity as the unambiguously good and the irredeamably bad, both equally effective at what they do. One would have no problem trusting such a cop or fearing such a spy. The movie is obvious FBI propaganda, even J.Edgar Hoover makes an appearance, but neither message nor method is ever offensive. The country was cheerily victorious in 1945 and one has to be truly morally stingy to deny its secret police a movie-screen cheer for its assistance in securing victory. The movie is also interesting as a historical artifact: it reveals tricks of the trade c. 1945 such as two-way mirrors, invisible writings, IBM card-file match machines, filming of suspects, encrypted postage stamps, micro-film credentials. Were audiences surprised by these back then?

The DVD transfer is of a very high quality.

Historically, German espionage in America was rather inept. Far more interesting, we now know, from Venona intercepts and USSR archives, were Soviet schemes to penetrate the Manhattan Project and the highest levels of American foreign policy making. Stalin already knew of the success of Trinity when Truman shared it with him and Churchill in the Potsdam conference in 1945. The misdeeds of Klaus Fuchs, the Rosenbergs, Alger Hiss, and the like could provide fodder for interesting movies now that we have firmer grasp of what went on.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Vincent Tesi on May 2, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
The House on 92nd Street was one of the first Hollywood films to incorporate a semi-documentary edge to the noir/crime genre. The film's technical accuracy is authenticated by actual FBI archive footage of Nazi subversives and location shooting at FBI headquaters in Washington. For the first time ever, J. Edgar Hoover's dictatorial organization is depicted as an organized, structured, and efficient government institution whose existence and purpose is to preserve and protect national security. Hoover allowed director Henry Hathaway unprecendented access to film FBI secret equipment such as: two-way mirrors, video surveillance cameras, wire tapping lines, and a demonstration of the immense fingerprinting tracking system. Hoover gave his stamp of approval since the film justified the Bureau's stand and actions against possible covert foreign operations infiltrating America's military, political, economic, and educational systems. The film was released in 1945, weeks after the atomic bombing of Japan and the plot revolves around Nazi spies and their quest for information about ultra-secret plans dubbed Project 97. Project 97 obviously refered to the Manhattan Project which was the actual government code name given for the construction of the atomic bomb. Dark European mannerisms flood the film, as evidenced by Hathaway's judicious choice in casting. Swedish actress Signe Hasso is nefariously convincing as the Nazi spy ring's mastermind. With the exception of Leo G. Carroll, the remaining subversives are undertaken by unknown players. Their anonymity to the average American film buff heightens their deviousness and subterfuge. Lydia St. Clair is absolutely chilling in her small but malevolent role as a Nazi loyalist.Read more ›
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Beth Fox on June 25, 2006
Format: DVD
"The House on 92nd Street" -- the first film made with the cooperation of the FBI -- tells the story of the FBI's bust of a Nazi spy ring who'd tried to steal the plans for the atomic bomb. The hero, Bill Dietrich, is an American of German ancestry who was approached by the Nazis to spy for their regime. Instead, he volunteers his services to the FBI and becomes a double-agent. After training at a Nazi school in Hamburg, Dietrich returns to the US as paymaster and radioman for the Nazi spy faction operating in New York. This group, run by the hard-as-nails Elsa, controls other agents and informants and, in turn, is controlled by the mysterious "Mr. Christopher". The intriguing and fast-paced story leads to a surprise ending that does not disappoint.

This film was the first-ever "semi-documentary." It has aspects of a documentary: true-life footage inside FBI headquarters, genuine footage of Nazis in the US and their arrests, and G-men playing for the screen the same roles they took in solving the actual crime. The plot is interrupted, now and then, by documentary-like stentorian narration. It is, however, a dramatization and the screenwriters took minor liberties with the facts (i.e., certain of the actual villains were married.) It can also be seen as a commercial for the FBI, and 1945 audiences no doubt were left with a gee-whiz feeling when they saw the footage of the largest file room in the United States, with its millions of fingerprints; the detailed files on all potentially-troublesome foreigners (supposedly rounded up in one day); the FBI's one-way glass mirrors; the elaborate shortwave radio set-ups and the like.
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