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Act of Violence / Mystery Street (Film Noir Double Feature)

17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

A WWII veteran's peaceful life is shattered by haunting memories of the past when one of his former comrades suddenly arrives in town with murderous intentions. The drama unfolds in Act of Violence (Van Heflin. 1948/82 min.). Up next, a Boston detective traces a murder case to an innocent man, while the victim's landlord blackmails the real killer. It's a tangled web of suspicion in Mystery Street (Ricardo Montalban. 1950/93 min.). B&w/NR.

Amazon.com

Act of Violence (1948) is the real film noir McCoy, albeit so meticulously directed by Fred Zinnemann in postwar-European style that it's virtually an art-film noir. Van Heflin plays a model small-town citizen suddenly confronted with a guilty WWII past, in the dark, limping, permanently trenchcoated figure of Robert Ryan. The film systematically dismantles the domestic security of Heflin's life till he's forced to flee his own home, which has become a trap, and escape into the nightworld of the big city. Mary Astor is superb as one of its few sympathetic denizens. Co-featured with Act of Violence is Mystery Street (1950), a hard-edged movie about a B-girl's murder and some of the proto-CSI techniques the police use to solve the crime. Directed by John Sturges, from a script by Richard Brooks and Sydney Boehm, the picture is enhanced by atmospheric Boston and Cape Cod settings and camerawork by Mr. Film Noir himself, John Alton. --Richard T. Jameson

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Van Heflin, Robert Ryan, Janet Leigh, Ricardo Montalban, Sally Forrest
  • Directors: Fred Zinnemann, John Sturges
  • Writers: Collier Young, Leonard Spigelgass, Richard Brooks, Robert L. Richards, Sydney Boehm
  • Producers: Frank E. Taylor
  • Format: Black & White, Closed-captioned, NTSC, Original recording remastered, Subtitled
  • Language: English, German
  • Subtitles: English, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: July 31, 2007
  • Run Time: 175 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000PKG798
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #66,537 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Act of Violence / Mystery Street (Film Noir Double Feature)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

"Act of Violence" (1949) and "Mystery Street" (1950) are both crime films produced by MGM , but they have little else in common. Warner Brothers is billing both films a "film noir", a label that suits "Act of Violence", though that film is not archetypal noir, but is less apt for "Murder Street", which is only superficially or intermittently noir. It's more a straightforward, technophilic murder mystery. "Mystery Street" is very well-plotted, however, and both films offer memorable performances. The versatile Van Heflin plays a man hounded by guilt and then by his past in "Act of Violence". And Elsa Lanchester gives a scene-stealing supporting performance as an over-the-hill schemer and would-be femme fatale if only she were younger and more clever in "Mystery Street".

"Act of Violence" opens as World War II veteran Joe Parkson (Robert Ryan) prepares to kill someone. He is obsessively pursuing Frank Enley (Van Heflin), his former friend and commanding officer with whom he flew 21 missions before spending the rest of the war in a German POW camp. Joe blames Frank for the deaths of his comrades and intends to make him pay with his life. Frank is now a family man and well-liked civic leader in a small California town. Joe stalks him, disrupts his domestic idyll, frightens his wife Edith (Janet Leigh), and eventually sends Frank running to the city, whose back alleys are little consolation as Joe closes in.

This film has a pronounced symmetry: It becomes increasingly introverted and visually dark as Frank succumbs to fear and guilt. Joe, who initially seems unbalanced and blindly obsessive, becomes more rational as the film progresses. One goes up as the other goes down.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By C. O. DeRiemer TOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 19, 2008
Act of Violence (1948):
Act of Violence is a film that tries to be more than what it can deliver. It tries to be a significant film, as Hollywood defines "significant," of weakness and obsession, with a bit of irony and, of course, redemption at the end. It fails, in my opinion, because the dramatic core of the movie is as earnest, unlikely and melodramatic as the plots of most $3.98 remainder novels. Fred Zinnemann directed some well-crafted movies such as The Day of the Jackal and High Noon (Collector's Edition). He also made a number of highly popular, long and dull movies. What makes Act of Violence interesting is the performances of the two leads, Van Heflin and Robert Ryan. Both were fine actors.

Heflin plays Frank Enley, a successful small town businessman with an attractive wife and a small child. He's a nice guy with a secret that leaves him in turmoil. Robert Ryan plays Joe Parkson, Enley's worst nightmare. In a German POW camp Enley betrayed a group of men who were planning to escape. He thought he had a promise that nothing would happen to the men. They were, of course, all shot. Parkson somehow survived. Now, after the war, Parkson has only one purpose in life...to find Frank Enley and make him pay with his life for what he did.

If it weren't for Heflin's earnest desperation and furrowed angst, something he did better than most actors, and Ryan's fierce anger and internalized tenseness, something he did better than most, we'd have a long slog until we reach the point where final payment is made and life, we hope, can go on.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Andrew J. DiLiddo Jr. on January 13, 2011
Do you like CSI Crime Scene Investigation on TV? Do you like the series "Bones" on TV? Then you will like "Mystery Street" starring a very young Ricardo Montalban. As Amazon says above - "proto -CSI techniques - **"
meaning, the beginnings of forensic pathology and crime scene investigation depicted in this flick at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.

A skeleton is found on Cape Cod in the Sand Dunes by a bird watcher and a doctor at Harvard begins the medical investigation. The scene where Ricardo Montalban as the investigator and the Harvard doctor superimpose photographs of people onto photographs of the skeleton's skull in order to identify the victim is maybe crude by today's DNA standards technology, but, fascinating nevertheless.

And oh so typical, the Boston Detectives visit the Harvard campus and get lost even though they work in Boston (proper) 6 miles away. Typical Boston. If you also like Alfred Hitchcock movies and/or film noir, you will enjoy this film.

As the Amazon review mentions above, the camera work is exceptional. The ending of the movie with the camera work in the Boston train station is incredible, with changing angles and foreground shots of train car wheels, staircases and railings providing angular framing. Very Hitchcock-esque and hopefully my comment is no insult to John Alton.

As far as film noir goes, there are plenty of dark scenes, especially the detectives work rooms - dingy with inadequate light desk lamps and the boarding room scenes can be dark as well.

** from Amazon:
**Mystery Street (1950), a hard-edged movie about a B-girl's murder and some of the proto-CSI techniques the police use to solve the crime. Directed by John Sturges, from a script by Richard Brooks and Sydney Boehm, the picture is enhanced by atmospheric Boston and Cape Cod settings and camerawork by Mr. Film Noir himself, John Alton. --Richard T. Jameson
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