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Nightmare Alley (Fox Film Noir)

91 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

In this engaging melodrama, Stanton Carlisle (Tyrone Power) is a lowlife working in a carnival. Knowing a good con when he sees one, he learns the tricks of a mind-reading act from Zeena (Joan Blondell), then tosses her aside. In time, he becomes ?The Great Stanton,? star attraction of swanky nightclubs and the darling of society. But with all his notoriety built on lies, it?s only a matter of time before exposure brings Stanton?s world crashing down around him.

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The long-awaited emergence of Nightmare Alley into the light of DVD should achieve two things: make a legendary film noir available to a new generation, and restore the horrific charge to the lately watered-down term geek, a concept that once had the power to give people very bad dreams indeed.

To his lasting credit, Tyrone Power--20th Century Fox's extraordinarily handsome but not terribly interesting star of the '30s and '40s--begged for the chance to play Stan Carlisle, the predatory charmer who snakes his way through this bracingly unwholesome story. A spieler for--and lover of--carnival mind reader Zeena (Joan Blondell), he displays uncanny skill at "reading" the susceptible rubes, including a tough sheriff who turns to jelly after Stan psychs him out. Once Stan's mastered the intricate code used in Zeena's act, he's set to dump her for the younger, sexier Molly (Coleen Gray) and go bigtime as nightclub psychic "Stanton the Great." After that, it's only a blasphemous bank shot to superstardom as a miracle worker with his own tabernacle and radio show.

Few '40s films ventured as deeply into cynicism as Nightmare Alley, or dealt so frankly with sexuality (with ripplings of polymorphous perversity yet) and power-tripping. The movie's rhythm is uncertain and Jules Furthman's screenplay telegraphs things, but the overall tone is remarkable, as are individual sequences: the freaky forced marriage of Stan and Molly in accordance with carny morality, and a creepy night scene in a park when Stanton the Great raises a ghost for a high-society client. Cinematographer Lee Garmes's chiaroscuro creates a relief map of the carnival world and what passes for life there. As for the geek... well, you'll find out what geek means. Stan does. --Richard T. Jameson


Special Features

  • Theatrical trailer

Product Details

  • Actors: Tyrone Power, Joan Blondell, Coleen Gray, Helen Walker, Taylor Holmes
  • Directors: Edmund Goulding
  • Writers: Jules Furthman, William Lindsay Gresham
  • Producers: Darryl F. Zanuck, George Jessel
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Black & White, Dubbed, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 1.0), English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Dubbed: English
  • 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: June 7, 2005
  • Run Time: 110 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0007ZEO8C
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,217 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Nightmare Alley (Fox Film Noir)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

97 of 100 people found the following review helpful By Dave on June 12, 2005
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Tyrone Power stars as Stanton Carlisle, a nobody working in a carnival who dreams of hitting the "big time". Stanton is having an affair with Zeena (Joan Blondell), whose drunk husband Pete is too out of it to notice...or care. Zeena and Pete perform a mindreading act via a special code they've worked out, but when Pete dies from a tragic accident (because of Stanton) Stanton becomes Zeena's partner in the mindreading act. Stanton feels guilty about Pete's death, however, and he also grows tired of Zeena's company, so he seduces the young and sexy Molly (Coleen Gray), who performs an "electrifying" act at the carnival while wearing close to nothing.

After Molly and Stanton give in to mutual lust, the carny people find out and force the two to marry. Accepting his fate bravely, Stanton and his new bride start touring the country with the same mindreading act that Zeena had taught him. Before long Stanton is known as "The Great Stanton" and his fame and fortune increase. After meeting the crafty psychiatrist Lilith (Helen Walker), Stanton comes up with his most ruthless plan yet: exploit wealthy men and women who've lost loved ones in the past by pretending to contact their dead lost loves or relatives. Stanton uses both his wife and Lilith in the scheme but it all comes crashing to an end when Molly breaks down and refuses to go on tormenting their naive "victims".

"The Great Stanton" is then reduced to hiding from the police after being betrayed by Lilith. He sends Molly back to the carnival where they first met while he begins a downward spiral made worse by alcoholism. Eventually he sinks even lower than Pete had and he gets hired by the carnival to play the "geek", an animal-like creature that bites the heads off chickens.
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70 of 73 people found the following review helpful By agreggofsociety on April 9, 2005
Format: DVD
It's about time this amazing classic film is made available to the public! For years this movie has been withheld due to copyright disputes. I was fortunate enough to get an excellent VHS copy some years ago from a collector, and can attest firsthand that this movie is an absolute cinematic masterpiece.

Nightmare Alley is a twisted ride from the start in its depiction of the ugly side of carnival life. This movie is, hands down, Tyrone Power's finest hour in his acting career! He plays a heel with gritty realism as his character embarks upon his rise and fall, using everyone to further his own ambitions. His ambiguous performance leaves us sometimes sympathetic and sometimes with disgust.

And what an amazing supporting cast!! Joan Blondell plays a more evolved rendition of her 30's tough-mouthed, strong-shouldered, cynically-witted dames, and gives a very rounded performance. She has a dangerous edge despite her on-the-surface saintly devotion to her husband in the film. Joan's acting in this film is undeniably great, and worthy of recognition.

But my favorite performance in the film is that of Helen Walker, who also gives her finest and most memorable performance out of the many fine roles she's played in other significant film noirs. Her acting in the movie is wickedly fierce as she gives new meaning to the term 'femme fatale'.

Aside from the acting, the black and white cinematography is brilliant, and it has a perversely modern feel to it! And to say anything else would be to say too much! See for yourself.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Buys Lots o Stuff on January 5, 2006
Format: DVD
I've been collecting noir DVDs for some time and this is a new one for me. It is just great. The "old-time" seedy carnival/sideshow feel is mesmerizing, the photography will put you in a trance and I never thought much of Tyrone Power but he is fantastic in this; I forgot he was a "bigtime actor" because he WAS the character. DVD quality for an old movie is top notch. Unusual for a noir too because there are no gangsters and I don't remember seeing a gun-- it's pure noir without the gangster baggage. If you have the mildest interest in noir you will love this.
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39 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Justin Playfair on May 29, 2005
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This original top selling novel by William Lindsay Gresham, dealing with alcohol addiction, illegal carnival sideshow freaks, mind reading and especially the spiritualist movement is brought to the screen very effectively with Tyrone Power in one of his best roles as a opportunist looking to make a fortune by hook or crook. The film begins on a traveling Carnival circut where Stan is assisting in a mind reading act. Here also, we find Stan's fascination with the local circus "Geek", essentially a wildman paid to gross out the locals by chewing the heads off of live chickens! He wonders how a man could get so low as to work for a bottle of booze a day in that occupation, but the incident is to have stong implications later. Power then discovers that Joan Blondell and her alcoholic husband were famous nightclub entertainers at one time and he eventually wrestles a secret code from Blondell. Stan then leaves the carnival for fame but his ambition leads him to more than just being an entertainer. He desires to enter "the spook rackets", intending to fleece rich clients for big money. He makes a dark arrangement with a pretty psychologist (placing too much trust in her, he makes a mistake in confessing guilt feelings due to a tragic incident at the carnival for which he feels partially responsible) to gain inside information. Power then becomes "Reverend" Stanton and gains the confidence of a rich industrialist who seeks to contact a dead lover for forgiveness. The scam backfires and Power becomes a man on the run. Eventually Stan drifts back to his circus roots, not the great magician, but a tragic figure, when he is offered a position as a Geek! A great film, a great book!
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