The Garment Jungle
Six tough, no-nonsense noirs from six of the genre’s toughest, no-nonsense directors: Budd Boetticher’s Escape in the Fog, in which a nurse and a war veteran take on Nazi spies in San Francisco; Joseph H Lewis’ The Undercover Man, inspired by the real-life case against Al Capone; Richard Quine’s Drive a Crooked Road, which finds Mickey Rooney moving away from comedies and musicals to a tougher persona; Phil Karlson’s 5 Against the House, starring Kim Novak as a nightclub singer embroiled in a casino heist; Vincent Sherman’s The Garment Jungle, from which Kiss Me Deadly director Robert Aldrich was famously fired; and Don Siegel’s police procedural The Lineup, based on the radio and television series, and as brutal a film as he ever made.
All six films are presented for the first time on Blu-ray in the UK, with The Undercover Man and Drive a Crooked Road making their world Blu-ray premieres. This stunning collection also boasts a 120-page book, and is strictly limited to 6,000 numbered units.
The Garment Jungle, which was technically directed by Robert Aldrich (he was fired by Columbia Picture's Harry Cohn and replaced with Vincent Sherman), is the fifth single-layer Blu-ray disc in Indicator's first Columbia Noir box set. The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and has been given a 1080p/24hz high-definition encode. Indicator was supplied with the master from Sony, which itself comes from a new 2K restoration.
Of the six films in the first set, The Garment Jungle's is the strongest. It's an incredibly clean and sharp presentation, every little detail appearing to jump off of the screen. Tight patterns are cleanly rendered without any noise or jaggies (an issue with some of the older masters Indicator has been using for some of the films in the series) and the overall picture delivers a very film-like appearance. The film's fine grain structure is rendered beautifully, never looking like noise. Grayscale looks incredible, while whites are bright without ever blooming and black levels are rich and inky without crushing out details. This leads to some impressive shadows in the photography.
Some archival footage that has been inserted into the film looks a bit rough but the majority of the film is clean, free of any damage or blemishes; I don't recall a single scratch during the non-archival portions of the film. The Garment Jungle has really the royal treatment by Sony and Indicator presents it here beautifully.
The film's monaural soundtrack also has a nice bite to it, managing to provide a surprising amount of range in the voices with excellent fidelity. Music reaches for highs and can get a bit edgy when it does so, but it's mostly clean. There is some audible noise at times but the track is very clean and in excellent condition.
Indicator packs a few more supplements on this disc in comparison to other titles in the series, and starts things off, like every other title in the series so far, with an audio commentary, this one provided by Kevin Lyons. I ended up being disappointed with this one. The production history behind the film is an interesting one, with Robert Aldrich being brought in to direct originally before he was canned and replaced, and though Lyons touches on this aspect of the film (even pointing out where he thinks Aldrich possibly makes a cameo) he spends a lot of time simply talking about the actors that appear, providing details about their careers. This can be interesting at times, but it didn't do much for me in the end, and all of it has almost nothing to do with the main feature. Thankfully Tony Rayns fills in the details missed in the commentary during his 15-minute video interview, the film scholar explaining how Aldrich's original idea behind the film contained its more progressive themes front and center, which went against what Columbia's Harry Cohn wanted: a simple gangster film with a love story at the center. Aldrich shot most of the film before he was fired and Rayns tries to guess how much of the film is actually Aldrich's, though there is a lot of conflicting information. I know Rayns did the commentary for Undercover Man already (and it was a good one), but it probably wouldn't have hurt to stick him on this one as well.
To add on to Rayns' contribution, Indicator next provides an archival interview with Robert Loggia, filmed at The Egyptian Theatre in 2007 with Alan K. Rode. Though the latter half of the 20-minute excerpt offers an overview of some of Loggia's later work, the first half is fairly specific to The Garment Jungle, Loggia recalling Aldrich's contribution to the film, what attracted the filmmaker to the film, and his eventual firing by Harry Cohn (who Loggia says was the basis for the studio exec in Aldrich's The Big Knife). It's a wonderful addition to the release and I'm very happy Indicator was able to locate it. (I feel the need to point everyone to one of the most random and wonderful commercials ever, featuring Loggia, and I do it for no other reason than I think it's great.)
The disc then features the film's original trailer and larger image gallery featuring a lot of production photos, lobby cards, and posters.
And, as Indicator has been doing with all of their Columbia Noir titles, they include another Three Stooges short, Rip, Sew and Stitch. Indicator tries to include shorts that are loosely tied in with the main feature and this one revolves around the Stooges (Shemp, Larry, and Moe in this case) working as tailors. When the debt collectors send them notice that they're about to have all of their equipment repossessed if they don't come up with with what they owe, the figure they can catch a wanted criminal and use the reward money to pay it off. Of course, things don't go exactly to plan. As usual, I enjoy seeing these again as I haven't seen them in decades, and there are a few chuckles in this one, but they don't exactly hold up all that well.
The commentary I could do without, but the rest of the material is worth going through.
The Garment Jungle offers the best looking presentation in Indicator's first Columbia Noir set. It looks incredible.