Film Noir - Five Classics from the Studio Vaults: (Scarlet Street / Contraband / Strange Impersonation / They Made Me A Fugitive / The Hitch-Hiker)
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SCARLET STREET (1945) - A FILM BY FRITZ LANG - WITH EDWARD G. ROBINSON, JOAN BENNETT & DAN DURYEA - A box-office hit in its day (despite being banned in three states), Scarlet Street is perhaps legendary director Fritz Lang's finest American film. But for decades, Scarlet Street has languished on poor quality VHS tape and in colorized versions. Kino's immaculate new HD transfer, from a 35mm Library of Congress vault negative, restores Lang's extravagantly fatalistic vision to its original B&W glory. When middle-aged milquetoast Chris Cross (Edward G. Robinson) rescues street-walking bad girl Kitty (Joan Bennett) from the rain slicked gutters of an eerily artificial backlot Greenwich Village, he plunges headlong into a whirlpool of lust, larceny and revenge. CONTRABAND (AKA Blackout) (1940) - A FILM BY MICHAEL POWELL - WRITTEN BY EMERIC PRESSBURGER - WITH CONRAD VEIDT & VALERIE HOBSON - Contraband is a comedy thriller in the vein of Hitchcock's The Thirty-Nine Steps and The Lady Vanishes. The film is an early treasure from the writer-director team of Emeric Pressburger and Michael Powell (The Red Shoes), who have been hailed by critics as jewels in the crown of British cinema. Set in England during the early days of WW II, Contraband stars Conrad Veidt and Valerie Hobson as a Danish sea captain and his enigmatic passenger who are kidnapped by a cell of Nazi spies operating from a basement in London's Soho. In evocatively Hitchcockian fashion, the plot progresses as a chase that puts the characters in one peculiar set of surroundings after another. STRANGE IMPERSONATION (1947) - A FILM BY ANTHONY MANN - WITH BRENDA MARSHALL & LYLE TALBOT - Hard-boiled film noir masquerading as a women's melodrama, Strange Impersonation is a twisted tale of jealousy, murder, revenge and facial disfigurement from director Anthony Mann (T-Men, Raw Deal). THEY MADE ME A FUGITIVE (AKA I Became A Criminal) (1947) - A FILM BY CAVALCANTI - STARRING TREVOR HOWARD & SALLY GRAY - Alberto Cavalcanti (Dead of Night), one of the key figures in French and British cinema for several decades, turns his sights on the London underworld in the engrossing Brit Noir gangland drama They Made Me a Fugitive. Set in unsettled postwar England where crime is on the upsurge, Fugitive is a suspenseful genre film which uses the picturesque Soho district as background to brilliant effect. The brooding and atmospheric cinematography of cameraman Otto Heller (Funeral in Berlin) is in the noir visual tradition, while the film's authenticity is due to the director's command of documentary technique. The London pubs, alleys, and back bedrooms turn into the poetry of urban realism. THE HITCH-HIKER (1953) - A FILM BY IDA LUPINO - STARRING EDMOND O BRIEN, FRANK LOVEJOY & WILLIAM TALMAN - The only true film noir ever directed by a woman, this tour-de-force thriller (considered by many, including Lupino herself, to be her best film) is a classic, tension-packed, three-way dance of death about two middle-class American homebodies (Edmond O'Brien and Frank Lovejoy) on vacation in Mexico on a long-awaited fishing trip. Suddenly their car and their very lives are commandeered by psychopathic serial killer Emmett Myers (William Talman). The striking light/dark contrasts, the stunning compositions (such as the two kidnap victims separated by a narrow stream from a gun-cradling madman with a lazy eye) and the spatial integrity of a determining sense of locale (the pitiless topography of a rockbound, horizonless Mexico over which hovers an ever-present doom) all contribute mightily to this fascinating character study.
"Kino's DVD of Fritz Lang's Scarlet Street is just great. The solid, clear image and sound completely rescue this winner from the obscurity of crummy Public Domain copies." --Glenn Erickson, DVD Savant
"The film is brilliantly shot and gorgeous -- not only the transfer, but the film itself -- and Lang's direction is full of inventive and telling details. This is one of the wittiest noirs, as well as one of the greatest." --Mick LaSalle, The San Francisco Gate
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My favorite of the bunch is the now remastered "Scarlet Street" starring Edward G. Robinson. Robinson was in some of the best noirs of the 40's and 50's including "Woman in the Window", which has also been recently released on DVD. Definitely a worthwhile purchase and also quite economical.