711 Ocean Drive
Our second Columbia Noir box set takes a dive once more into the studio’s archives and the world of film noir – a world of undercover detectives (The Mob) and emotionless hitmen (Murder by Contract), a world where film is inspired by real-life criminal activities (Tight Spot, based loosely on Virginia Hill’s testimony against Bugsy Siegel) and real-life criminal activities are inspired by film (711 Ocean Drive, which attracted the unwanted attention of mobsters), and a world where Glenn Ford finds himself unwittingly embroiled in murder – twice (Framed, Affair in Trinidad).
All six films are presented for the first time on Blu-ray in the UK, with The Mob, Tight Spot and Murder by Contract making their world Blu-ray premieres. This stunning collection includes newly recorded commentaries on each film, assorted bonus materials, including six short films starring the Three Stooges, lampooning the tropes and themes of the features, a 120-page book, and is strictly limited to 6,000 numbered units.
Joseph M. Newman's 711 Ocean Drive, the second film in Indicator's second Columbia Noir set, is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with a 1080p/24hz high-definition encode. It's delivered on what is so far the only dual-layered disc in the series.
Similar to Framed and half of the titles in the first set, 711 Ocean Drive comes from an older master and it unfortunately shows, but it holds up a little better in comparison to Framed. Shimmering and other aliasing effects occur throughout the film when some tighter details are on screen (usually in tight patterns found on jackets and the like), though not to the degree of what was in Framed, which would, on occasion, show clear moire effects.
Grain is there and it's rendered decently enough, not as clean as what a newer scan would probably accomplish, but it's okay. Contrast levels and grayscale are managed well, black levels looking deep without crushing out detail. The print shows plenty of wear, though nothing I would call severe: it's limited primarily to specs of dirt, scratches and the occasional tram line. The image can go a little out of focus on the edges, maybe due to warping, but the picture is, surprisingly enough, quite sharp and crisp throughout.
It's obvious very little restoration has gone into it and the master shows some dated elements, but the end results are still crisp and clear.
The film's lossless PCM monaural soundtrack is clean with clear dialogue. Music has a bit of range, but not too much as it flattens out when it reaches for higher moments. Damage is not at all a concern.
Just like all of the previous titles in the series, Indicator provides an audio commentary for the film, this one from critic and author Glenn Kenny. Kenny's track is serviceable enough, looking at the film in relation to Columbia's other noir output. He covers its various strengths and weaknesses, giving director Newman credit where it's due, though he ultimately describes the filmmaker's directing skills only as "competent." He also gets into specific story elements, from the wiring services to the central crime organization, even comparing these elements to their real life influences and brining up other films that feature similarities. He also talks about the film's advertising and opening title card, which pushed that the film had to be made under police protection because violence was being threatened aginst the production. On this point, outside of real police being used as extras during the climax, Kenny couldn't find anything to suggest the police were involved in the production in any other way, let alone "protection." In all, Kenny hits the right notes and keeps it going, though I'm not sure just how invested he is in the film.
Along with the film's trailer (which pushes the idea the police had to protect the production because of what it exposed) and an image gallery (featuring a handful of photos, lobby cards, and posters) Indicator also include two short films. First is the short documentary Diary of a Sergeant, directed by 711's Newman for the War Department, and focussing on American soldier Harold Russell, who lost both of his hands during the war. Made a year before he would appear in The Best Years of Our Lives (for which he won an Oscar), this "documentary" follows Russell's journey through recovery with a focus on adjusting to his new prosthetics and the lengthy rehabilitation process. It also looks at the psychological impact that one could face around both the injury and the use of the prosthetic limbs. It's all obviously staged, with Russell playing himself onscreen and someone else providing voice over, but it serves its purpose as an educational film for the public, concluding with a message from the Surgeon General, Major General Norman T. Kirk. It runs 24-minutes.
The other short is yet another Three Stooges film, in this case Three Sappy People, featuring Curly, Larry, and Moe. The loose connection to the main feature revolves around the fact the Stooges play telephone repairmen (similar to O'Brien's original job in the main feature), who, through ridiculous circumstances, are confused for psychiatrists and called in to aid a rich man's wife during her own birthday party. Hijinks ensue. This is what it is, though there are a couple of chuckles. It has also been beautifully restored.
Kenny's track is serviceable and Newman's short is an interesting inclusion, but I can't say much sticks out all that much here.
It sports a couple of interesting features and a decent, if obviously dated, presentation.