Bad Girls of Film Noir- Volume 1: (The Killer That Stalked New York / Two of a Kind / Bad for Each Other / The Glass Wall)
In the 40's and 50's the juiciest roles for actresses in Hollywood were often in B-pictures that explored the dark side of life: starring roles as cool, calculating gals who could stick a knife in a man's back and make him like it. Lizabeth Scott, Gloria Grahame, and Evelyn Keyes were some of the best of the period, and are among Noir fans' favorites for their roles in such classics of the genre as Dead Reckoning and The Racket (Scott), The Big Heat and Human Desire (Grahame), 99 River Street and The Prowler (Keyes). Here's your chance to see them at work in some great films straight out of the vault, newly restored and re-mastered, for the first time on DVD. Co-starred with the likes of Edmund O'Brien, Charleton Heston, and Vittorio Gassman these dames shine a like the brightest stars in Hollywood, and each film packs in plenty of the best bad girl behavior.
The femme fatale is front and center in volume 1 of Bad Girls of Film Noir, a quartet of low-budget, Truman-era crime movies from the Columbia vaults. Evelyn Keyes is the most extreme example of deadly female in 1951's The Killer That Stalks New York; she's a smuggler and unwitting carrier of smallpox who passes the disease to the innocent and unscrupulous alike. Based on a real smallpox outbreak in New York in 1947, the film is part medical thriller and part educational film thanks to a doom-and-gloom narrator (the ubiquitous Reed Hadley) who informs the viewer of Keyes's progress in spreading death. Also from '51 is Two of a Kind, with the morally questionable Lizabeth Scott and Alexander Knox scheming to bilk an elderly couple out of their savings by passing off gambler Edmond O'Brien as their long-absent son; it's a somewhat lighter shade of noir, thanks to the presence of a youthful Terry Moore as the couple's naive niece, though veteran scene-stealers Scott and O'Brien have their moments. And Scott returns in Bad for Each Other (1953), a sudsy drama with Charlton Heston as a weak-willed army doctor who falls under the sway of a socialite (Scott, naturally) who lures him away from his small-town practice. Less of a noir than what the industry used to call a "woman's picture," Bad succeeds largely as a camp practice, thanks in part to Heston's voracious scenery chewing.
Volume 1 is rounded out with The Glass Wall (also '53), with Vittorio Gassman as a Hungarian immigrant searching for the American G.I. (Jerry Paris) whose life he saved during World War II so that he can attain legal status. Noir fave Gloria Grahame is the out-of-work factory employee whose own desperation drives her to help Gassman. Period footage of Times Square is a highlight of the picture, as is the presence of Grahame in a rare good-girl turn. The double-disc presentation includes original trailers for all four films, the best of which is the spot for Glass Wall, which attempts to sell Italian actor Gassman to stateside audiences by telling them that if his wife, actress Shelley Winters, loves him, why shouldn't they? There's also a breezy 1956 episode of The Ford Television Theatre (billed as All Star Theatre) with the always-reliable Howard Duff as a private eye who becomes entangled with a dangerous Janet Blair. And a recent interview with Moore, which covers her tenure as a contract player at Columbia, when Two of a Kind was made, is an interesting capper for this pleasantly pulpy set. --Paul Gaita
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First, the good news. We do get to see some of Hollywoods finest femme fatales. The bad news, not all the films are true noir.
The Killer That Stalked New York: *** The film features Evelyn Keyes as the femme fatale up to her eyeballs in larceny. She's a diamond smuggler who's recently returned from Cuba with a small catch of diamonds following her in the mail. This film flips the usual noir element of the bad girl influencing the hapless man. Instead, it's the rotten husband that motivates Sheila (Keyes) to commit crime. Sheila is also feeling sick. Meanwhile, a man dies of a strange disease in a local hospital that has doctors stumped. After a lot of diagnostics, the doctors discover the man died of small pox. Guess who the carrier is? The chase is on but Sheila is on a quest of her own; getting even with her two-timing husband. Look for Dorothy Malone in a small part as a public health nurse. This is almost as good as "Panic in the Streets", a similarily themed movie released in the same year. This is one of Evelyn's best roles and she handles it very well.
Two of a Kind: **** This is my favorite of the 4 films in this package. First, we have Lizabeth Scott as a quintessential femme fatale. She uses her up-front sexuality to lure a small time con artist and drifter, Michael (Edmund O'Brien) into a major effort to swindle millions from a rich couple whose son disappeared when he was 3. She is also manipulating the family's lawyer (Alexander Knox) into making the whole scheme work. Michael begins to enjoy his role as the possible long-lost son and seeks the family's trust through a niece, Kathy (Terry Moore). When the family patriarch, William (Griff Barnett), decides to leave all his wealth to charity rather than the man he now sees as his son, the lawyer decides to "fix" things by way of a fishing accident. Michael, and even Brandy(Scott), try to draw the line here but can they stop it? One of Lizabeth Scott's very best femme fatale roles. However, Terry Moore, as a rather kooky ingenue, almost steals the movie. Great fun for noir fans.
Bad for Each Other: ** Although this film features Hollywood legend, Charleton Heston, and super femme fatale, Lizabeth Scott, it is nowhere near film noir. Instead, it's a rather soapy film about a doctor who chooses to dispense pills to wealthy hypochondriacs rather than treat people who really need him. Of course, there's a woman behind this decision and it's Helen(Lizabeth Scott), who views wealth and her socialite friends as the only things worth pursuing. There is an all too predictable ending.
The Glass Wall: **** This not-quite-noir is still a very good movie. An immigrant with no papers arrives in New York and is detained by U.S. authorities. He escapes the ship he is on but breaks his ribs in the chase. Our immigrant, Peter(Vittorio Gassman), seeks a ex-GI who can vouce for him. Along the way, he is befriended by down-on-her-luck, Maggie(Gloria Grahame), who steals dimes from kids on the street to help him. As he moves on, he meets Burlesque dancer, Tanya(Robin Raymond) who is the child of immigrants and takes him in for a while. As the night progresses, Peter's only remaining hope is the United Nations but his broken ribs are taking their toll. There are many noir elements in this movie, enough to satisfy all of us film noir fans.
Recommended for: film noir fans and anyone who enjoys movies. These films should all be considered PG as the adult elements are carefully disguised for the censors of the time. These are not family films but they are not offensive either.
The Killer That Stalked New York (1950) directed by Earl McEnvoy - Sheila Bennet (Evelyn Keyes) smuggles diamonds into the U.s knowingly and smallpox unknowingly. People she is in both casual and close contact begin to fall sick and die while Sheila remains on her feet. Her mission - to stay alive long enough to even the score with her faithless husband while doctors make a mad search through New York City for "patient number one".
Two of A Kind (1951) directed by Henry Levin - Edmund O'Brien plays the body double of the long missing son of a rich couple. He's recruited by a con-artist couple to impersonate the son and thus inhert their money. However, the couple reveals they have no intention of leaving any money to the man they think is their son.
Bad for Each Other (1953) directed by Irvin Rapper - Charleton Heston stars in a rather predictable tale of a doctor returning from Korea who must both choose between serving humanity and riches in his profession and between a wealthy self-involved girl and a dedicated nurse in his private life. The production code gave this film only one option on outcome, and you see it coming at you a mile away. Weakest film in the bunch.
The Glass Wall (1953) directed by Maxwell Shane - Tale of an immigrant to the U.S. after WWII who needs the testimony of a particular soldier to insure legal entry into this country. He battles time and an unfamiliar land to try to find him. It's not really a film noir, in my opinion, but it's a pretty good film. The imagery of New York City right after the war ended is entertaining in its own right.
Terry Moore on Two of a Kind
The Payoff-All Star Theatre Episode
In all a great set and very reasonably priced to boot!
Add it to you collection now you will not be disappointed.
Most recent customer reviews
It isn't a film-noir, more of a Drama or Thriller.Read more