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.
Found in their second Columbia Noir set, Indicator presents Richard Wallace's Framed, delivering the film on a single-layer disc in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1. It has been encoded at 1080p/24hz.
Though generally decent and far better than anything a DVD could ever deliver, the very dated master is problematic in a number of ways. Shimmering is a consistent problem throughout, starting with the grill of the truck speeding through the opening, right down to the tighter cross-hatch patterns and textures on suits, which ends up leading to jaggies on occasion. All of this looks to be baked in to the master that was provided to Indicator. It's a bit disappointing because other aspects of the presentation aren't bad: grain looks decent enough, if sharpened a bit, and detail is generally strong. But, when they appear, the artifacts are front and center
The print still shows some wear and tear, with scratches and dirt popping up throughout, but damage is, at the very least, never all that severe. Blacks can be a bit heavy and drown out some of the shadows in the photography, but grays look okay. Overall, I think Indicator have done what they can, and as I said the image is still pretty sharp, but there are a number of artifacts, which again all look to be inherent to the provided master.
The monaural soundtrack is all well and good for what it is: it's clean, easy to hear, and sharp, but it's range is limited. There were no signs of severe damage.
Indicator packs on a handful of supplements, starting with a great audio commentary by film scholar Imogen Sara Smith. Indicator, impressively enough, has been packing a commentary on every title in their Columbia Noir series (so far), and they've been fine as a whole, with a couple of stand-outs, but Smith's is by far the best one I've listened to (again, so far). Smith admires the film's lean narrative and quick pace, and likes to focus on the moments that best highlight these strengths, while also touching on other stand-outs, like the film's femme fatale. She recounts her initial reactions to the film, what surprised her (the film does actually manage to pull off one genuine surprise), and shares her thoughts on the characters and their motivations. Some of the tracks in the series (especially the one for The Garment Jungle) spend a lot of time just going over the actors in the film, offering backgrounds and going over their work, with little of it relating specifically to the film. Smith does fall into this at times, though it's a minimal portion of the track and is actually in service to the film, not just filler: she likes to point out the types of roles these actors usually play and how that plays into their performances here. Like other tracks, she also gets into the blacklist, where many of those involved in these earlier noirs (which had fairly progressive themes) would find themselves on the blacklist, and then even offers general details around Columbia's noir output. She is obviously working from a script, but it never feels laboured, manages to flow naturally, and the pace is great. Though there are some other solid contributions to be found in this series (Rayns' track for Undercover Man was pretty great, too) I almost wish Smith was the sole contributor on these.
Indicator then includes the short film The Steps of Age, a 1950 short film directed by Framed's writer, Ben Maddow. The 24-minute educational film for the South Carolina Department of Health revolves around the mental health of the elderly and the life changes that can suddenly come up. The focus of the film is an elderly woman experiencing a number of things all at once, from her husband being forced into retirement (and resenting it) to having to move in with her daughter and her family. There are some dated elements (no surprise) and a feeling the message is more along the lines of "just shake it off and get used to where life has gone," but I get a kick out of older educational/government films and on that level I thought this was a great addition.
And continuing with their apparent policy in including Three Stooges films with their noir titles, Indicator includes a Three Stooges film. The films are usually loosely related to the main feature and this one, Up in Daisy's Penthouse (featuring Shemp, Larry, and Moe), features a woman and her partners trying to scam the stooges' father, a scenario that has Shemp in the dual role of the father and one of the sons. The father has amazingly struck oil, has left the Stooges' mother for a shifty lounge singer, and the three try to fix things, though they hit rough patches obviously. I enjoy the shorts, though more out of nostalgia than much else. This one has a few chuckles but isn't one of the better ones. Like the others it has also been beautifully restored.
The release also features a small image gallery containing some production photos, lobby cards, and posters.
Not packed, like the other titles in the series, but Smith's commentary is one of the stand-outs so far.
Framed's presentation is a bit disappointing, with some digital artifacts appearing to be baked into the master. But the release possibly features the best commentary in the series so far.