Customer Reviews: Kansas City Confidential (MGM Film Noir)
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VINE VOICEon June 3, 2007
For years Kansas City Confidential has languished in the Public Domain Hell. Released in a woefully substandard version from Alpha (watch the video wiggle at the bottom of the screen every 10 seconds), and a much better, but still flawed version from Image (the picure is just a bit too dark and has some minor print damage), along with several "dollar" DVD versions that were even more flawed than the Alpha and Image releases, Kansas City Confidential was a movie that most Film Noir fans thought would never see an "official" DVD release by MGM (owner of the master print, and - presumably - the negatives).

But here it is - MGM is actually releasing (or has released, depending on when you read this) the "official" DVD for this fantastic Film Noir. Based on their track record of releasing official versions of movies previously relegated to public domain releases (see He Walked By Night as an example - MGM's DVD is flawless!), this should see a drastic improvement in both image and sound quality over all of the previous versions released to date.

The movie itself is tightly written, well acted (John Payne is fantastic, and the supporting cast of Preson Foster, Lee Van Cleef, Neville Brand, Jack Elam, and Coleen Gray are all near perfect in their roles), and extremely well directed by Phil Karlson.

This is a classic crime/wrong man framed and sets out for revenge movie. For fans of Film Noir this is truly a, "Must Have," DVD.

Update - The DVD is, as expected, a HUGE improvement over the Image release, which istself is much better than the Alpha version. MGM/Fox have done a very nice job on the quality of this release - the print used is excellent. Even if you already have a previous version of Kansas City Confidential you still may want to get this one for the much improved picture and sound.
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on October 17, 2004
Nobody played the accused innocent any better than John Payne. Tall and good looking, Payne exuded a quiet moral strength combined with an ability and willingness to mess it up with the bad boys whenever the situation dictated. An Eagle Scout with a merit badge in bar brawling.

KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL is a smart little crime drama that features Payne as the unluckiest of flower delivery drivers in motion picture history. It seems that Mr. Big, bad guy Preston Foster, has been meticulously plotting a bank heist, and an integral part of his plan involves using an exact duplicate of Payne's truck as the getaway vehicle. Nothing personal, John. The bad guys don't even know you.

Mr. Big has recruited three thugs (Jack Elam, Lee van Cleef, and Neville Brand) to pull off the heist, taking the precaution of insisting they always wear masks while in each other's presence. That way, if things go wrong, nobody will know who his accomplices are. For a good part of this movie the only one who has anything going wrong is poor John Payne, who is promptly fingered as one of the bank robbers. In this movie, Payne seemingly can't walk into a room without getting pounded by some burly cop or surly con.

KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL is briskly paced and offers enough small surprises to keep us on our toes. Phil Karlson was a great director, under-appreciated in his time and relegated almost exclusively to B-movie duties. KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL is one of his best. Strongly recommended.
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"Kansas City Confidential" opens with the declaration that it is about a hypothetical "perfect crime" that has never existed in the history of any law enforcement agency. The crime is a $1.2 million dollar bank heist orchestrated by Tim Foster (Preston Foster), a disgruntled ex-cop forced into retirement. Foster bullies three hoods into doing the job, using their criminal records against them and promising an equal split of the dough. Pete Harris (Jack Elam), Tony Romano (Lee Van Cleef), Boyd Kane (Neville Brand), and Foster hold up security guards as they transfer money to an armored car. Foster has insisted that everyone wear masks at all times so that his 3 accomplices cannot identify one another, making them "cop-proof and stool pigeon-proof". After the job, they go separate ways to await the pay-off. Meanwhile, the police pick up Joe Rolfe (John Payne), the driver of a florist delivery truck that looks like the crooks' getaway truck, and accuse him of the crime. Unable to beat a confession out of Rolfe, the police are compelled to release him, leaving Joe Rolfe angry, without a job, and hell-bent on finding out who framed him.

John Payne reminds me very much of Jimmy Stewart in this role. Although he was a lesser star than Stewart, Payne shares Stewart's versatility and ability to be a sympathetic, idealized everyman, but edgy and a little dangerous at the same time. Joe Rolfe is a good guy, but he's angry, frustrated, and fully capable of matching his enemies' ferocity. Neville Brand plays a thug, as he always did, in direct opposition to his real-life stature as a World War II hero, for which he was decorated 10 times. "Kansas City Confidential"'s most striking quality is its archetypally film noir fatalism. Joe Rolfe and Tim Foster's destinies become powerfully interdependent, even though the men do not know one another. As Pete Harris says to Joe, "We didn't have nothing against you. We didn't even know you. It just fell that way." Elam gives a stand-out, though brief, performance as a twitchy, menacing, loser of a criminal. "Kansas City Confidential" isn't relentlessly hard-boiled, but it has enough menace and confusion to gratify film noir fans.

The DVD (Image Entertainment 2002): This print is watchable, but it's grainy in the grays and noticeably speckled. Bonus features include: "Cast & Crew", which is text biographies and "noir filmographies" for 6 members of the cast plus director Phil Karlson. "Stills & Lobby Cards" includes 9 black and white movie stills and 8 color lobby cards. "Coleen Gray Interview" (9 minutes) is a recent interview by author Eddie Muller with actress Colleen Gray, who plays the movie's "good girl". Gray talks about her role in the film, the other actors, and the qualities of film noir. There is also a trailer (1 ½ minutes) for the film "5 Against the House". No subtitles.
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on February 18, 2011
Being a huge booster of Blu-Ray as the ideal (so far) medium for improving the sight and sound of older movies I was fairly disappointed with this and HD Cinema's concurrent release, "The Stranger". While Blu-Ray transfers typically make details sharper, shadows blacker and faces more detailed, these two films' details seem softer and less focused despite the BD transfers.

Ironically, this can be proven by watching the short side-by-side comparison each disc offers as an extra feature. The non-Blu-Ray half of the screen looks sharper with more relief. First time I've seen that.
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on April 26, 2002
A great, great noir film starring John Payne(HELL'S ISLAND, 99 RIVER STREET). But the cast doesn't stop there! It also stars Lee Van Cleef, Jack Elam and Neville Brand. This really is a gritty little crime caper flick. If you watch it, it will be difficult to ignore how the film might have influenced a guy like Quentin Tarantino in the conception of RESERVOIR DOGS. Great dvd!
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on January 26, 2002
Director Phil Karlson (whose best-known work is probably the 1972 crime drama "Walking Tall")switched from being a decent director of routine films to one of the most innovative and influential crime film directors of them all with a remarkable series of tough,distinctive thrillers beginning with this one in 1952 and going on to include "99 River Street" in 1953, "The Phenix City Story" in 1955, and "The Brothers Rico" in 1957. "Kansas City Confidential" follows the pulling off of a well-planned and executed robbery that's been carefully thought out by an embittered ex-police officer. He plans it so that Joe Rolfe(played by John Payne) will be framed for the robbery. Rolfe is a WWII veteran who has some problems with the law in his past. After being grilled and ultimately (and grudgingly) released by the police,he pursues the thieves to Mexico,looking for revenge. Payne is fine in a sharp turnaround from the lightweight roles he usually played in the 1940s. Preston Foster is also good as the mastermind of the robbery, as is Coleen Gray as his daughter, a bright,decent young woman. The best performances however,are those given by three of the greatest heavies in movie history: Jack Elam,Neville Brand,and Lee Van Cleef,in the roles of the thieves who pull off the robbery. Elam,who is first seen sweating heavily and rifling through an overflowing ashtray in a dingy hotel room,looking for a cigarette butt with a few puffs left on it,is particularly good, but Brand and Van Cleef ooze menace and bad blood in just about every scene they're in. The film is filled with close-ups,tough,terse dialogue, and brutal (at least for its time) violence. The payoff of the film goes kind of soft, after what's come before, but this is still a first-rate example of cold,tough 1950s film noir,from a real master of the genre.
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on August 13, 2007
Before larger budgets put a kink in his style Phil Karlson was in a class with Sam Fuller and Don Seigel. His crime films were gritty, low-rent and when people got slugged you winced. "Kansas City Confidential" gave him a dream cast to work with. He had already helped affable song-and-dance man John Payne to re-invent himself as an embittered proletarian hero in "99 River Street," and here Payne is joined by one of the best line-ups of heavies ever to grace a 50s crime film--Jack Elam, Lee Van Cleef and Neville Brand. Karlson ultimately lacked the pessimism to be a great noir stylist. He likes happy endings, and even his ex-cop mastermind proves to be a stand-up guy at heart, all set to turn his three stooges over to the law in exchange for a shot at redemption. (Quite the opposite of the similar character played by Ed Begley in "Odds Against Tomorrow.")
While "Kansas City Confidential" falls short of being a true film noir, it certainly delivers the goods as a tough, tense crime thriller. Well worth seeing for its cast alone.
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on August 3, 2014
----Noirs are-like women.... Good ones are hard to find. --- K C C is an extremely good B Movie Noir. I like it almost as well as "The Asphalt Jungle" but in different ways. Its not near as much of a movie.--It's not as multi dimensional.--Its not as well written, directed or complex but I like the way it hits me. ---Its got a good plot (ITS A HEIST) with lots of twists and turns and the principal character(played by John Payne) is tough yet likeable. The director and actors do a good job of putting you in the picture and keeping the action going.--- Lee Van Cleefe (The Good Bad and the Ugly) really showcases his acting ability here. --Really nice to see him shine as a younger actor. Other Noir Regulars like Neville Brand And Coleen Grey are also here here and Brand puts in his usual decent performance.---- Along with Van Cleefe the other standout here is Jack Elam---What a great performance---I hate spoilers so I'll say no more.---THE TECHNICALS-----The Film Chest B. R./DVD picture is clear and the audio easy to understand.------ I found the only deductions coming in the beginning and a few other scenes with the picture being overly bright ( overly white) other than that the picture was fine. Its not a Criterion but its decent.---IF your looking for the absolute best picture quality the original OOP (Out Of Production) MGM version is the one to buy.----That is if you can still find it --- That said the Film Chest offering is(at the time of this review) an economical alternative.-- It offers 2 Discs of the same movie for around $10. Therefore you could keep the DVD disc as a backup or to play on your laptop, gift one of the discs or split the purchase with a friend thus reducing your acquisition cost.--- Hope this additional info helps you out.--- Now go get your Noir on.
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on September 1, 2007
This is a film noir. Made in 1952 in Black and White, it has the cynicism, it has the interesting plot twists that draw you into the story, it has the lead male in desperate circumstances beyond his control, but no femme fatale, no chiaroscuro, no stylishly odd camera angles. This is one of the heist-themed noir films. I found it very engaging and satisfying. The story was believable, the acting was at times inspired, at other times just a bit lackluster, possibly due to a few weak spots in the script. The DVD picture and sound are both excellent, and the disc has no extras. Strange, but I found the leading male resembling Kevin Spacey at times, Jimmy Stewart at times, and Robert Mitchum at, but a bit distracting. There are three "heavies" who stand out: Lee Van Cleef, Neville Brand, and Jack Elam are all famous for work they did in the 1950's through the 1970's, and it is very interesting to see them here as young men (without cowboy hats, too!) These men have all brought their characters to life with great performances. This film is in the second tier of its genre: Very good, but not essential. Overall, I can strongly recommend it to fans of 1950's crime movies and film noir. 4 1/2 to 5 stars.
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on April 20, 2015
Noted as the first of several collaborations between actor John Payne (MIRACLE ON 34th STREET) and Golden Age Hollywood director Phil Karlson, this crime-drama classic has been splendidly restored. Originally a picture that once had what was considered a most matted black-and-white look, comes a brand new deep and detailed texture that a film-noir of this caliber finally deserves; so detailed in fact, you can see a reflection of the cameramen in the heist scene's delivery van!! When reformed Kansas City felon Joe Rolfe (Payne) is framed by an ex-cop to take the fall for a 3-man bank heist next door to the Florist Shop where he works, he goes on a dangerous mission to reclaim the life he's worked so hard to build. From the Tijuana train station scene where a sweat-beading and bleeding Pete Harris chuckles his last gasping words, to the hotel room in Borados, where the sexy and sultry gift-shop seductress Teresa, tucks tip money in her cleavage as both her lips and the whites of her eyes glisten with her breathy "You won't forget about... a souvenir?" Now digitally remastered, this piece of classic cinema appears sharper than ever!
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