Warner Film Noir Collections

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patrick
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#176 Post by patrick » Fri Jul 27, 2007 7:03 pm

Our store copy showed up today and without having watched any of it it already appears to be one of the best box sets so far this year. I really like the Val Lewton Collection-style package, with two films per disc in regular cases. I'm particularly impressed by the fact that every film has a commentary and a featurette.

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Belmondo
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#177 Post by Belmondo » Sat Jul 28, 2007 12:48 am

Alain Silver and Elizabeth Ward do a very nice job on the two commentaries I have listened to so far - MYSTERY STREET and TENSION.
Audrey Totter is listed as a commentator on TENSION, but her remarks are very brief and spliced in from a previous interview. She does have a nice answer to this question: "We know that these movies were not called film noir at the time; what did you call them?" "We called them B movies".

TENSION is enjoyable but something of a muddle of styles, and Silver and Ward deserve credit for sorting it all out. Cyd Charisse still looks good even in an unattractive hairstyle.

I also watched DECOY, which is the real rarity in this set. Yeah, she only runs over him once. I will be very curious to hear from others regarding this movie - will it be overpraised because of its rarity? Will it be rightly criticised for its cheap sets and our continual need to suspend disbelief at what the characters are doing? Or, can we do the right thing and set all that aside as we watch quite the femme fatale as portrayed by a woman who died much too young?

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tryavna
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#178 Post by tryavna » Sat Jul 28, 2007 11:32 am

Belmondo wrote:She does have a nice answer to this question: "We know that these movies were not called film noir at the time; what did you call them?" "We called them B movies".
:lol: Brilliant response!

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domino harvey
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#179 Post by domino harvey » Sun Jul 29, 2007 2:38 am

Derek Estes wrote:No, my Born To Kill works fine but I've had problems with my Crossfire DVD, it seems to have problems loading. It takes about 10 min to load and it skips the WB logo and skips straight to the main menu, and it will not play the feature. Has anyone else experienced this? It is a new DVD player and has never given me problems, even with scratched discs.
I've had this exact problem with Crossfire and the last ten minutes problem with Narrow Margin also, I came in here to ask if anyone else has... it's been too long since I bought it to get a replacement from DDD, is there someone at Warner's I can email, does anyone know?

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tryavna
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#180 Post by tryavna » Sun Jul 29, 2007 11:15 am

domino harvey wrote:it's been too long since I bought it to get a replacement from DDD, is there someone at Warner's I can email, does anyone know?
Yes. Well, actually, that's not an e-mail address; it's a postal address for returning DVDs for replacement. I just had to return my copy of I Walked With a Zombie/The Body Snatcher last week because it suddenly crapped out on me. Haven't got a replacement yet, but if you're worried, I'll let you know when I do -- should give you a sense of how long it takes.

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tryavna
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#181 Post by tryavna » Mon Aug 06, 2007 3:54 pm

DH,

My replacement copy of I Walked With a Zombie/The Body Snatcher arrived in the mail today, with a very nice letter from WHV enclosed. I believe I mailed my bad disc to them on the 26th or 27th, so it was only about a 10-day turn-around time -- much faster than I ever expected.

My only advice is that you enclose a brief letter explaining the problem and listing your mailing address.

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Belmondo
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#182 Post by Belmondo » Sat Aug 11, 2007 6:46 pm

"These movies are not worth that level of scholarship", is one of many provocative comments made by Nina Foch on the commentary track to ILLEGAL.

Ms. Foch is the female lead in the movie; now a film professor, and at age 82, she is sharp as a tack and not afraid to tell us exactly what she thinks. Much is revealed on how these movies were acted, edited, blocked, and shot. She is joined in the commentary by AFI film historian Patricia King Hanson, who may have the facts until Foch tells her just how wrong she is.

We get depth and dirt. "See Jayne Mansfield and me in that scene? We both are wearing a similar dress, but I had to wear a dickie on my collar and she didn't because they wanted you to see her breasts. Well, my breasts were pretty poor anyway".

Yup, like the critic said; even in a borderline noir, there is always something interesting going on.

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Ashirg
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#183 Post by Ashirg » Sat Aug 11, 2007 9:36 pm

I really enjoyed Ms. Foch's commentary. Too bad most of her better noirs are owned by Columbia/Sony that show no interest in releasing their old movies. A shame!

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domino harvey
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#184 Post by domino harvey » Fri Aug 17, 2007 3:39 am

I finished off this boxed set in all of two days and I think in terms of consistency it surely ranks higher than the two sets before it. I guess I responded pretty hard to the eccentric nature of the films, but I'm still surprised so many people didn't pick this one up. "If I'm not back by Wednesday, chop down that door!" alone makes the set worth picking up.

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jorencain
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#185 Post by jorencain » Sat Aug 18, 2007 3:39 pm

I've really been enjoying this set, and I'm so happy that Waner Bros. has continued to release some great films that I've never had the chance to see before. After being blown away by Ray's "On Dangerous Ground" in the 3rd set, I just watched "They Live By Night" and had a similar reaction. Although (or maybe because) neither is a textbook noir, they are so engaging and really stand out from the rest of the great movies in these sets.

I bought "Thieves Like Us" a week or two ago and watched that for the first time as well. I had no idea until today that they came from the same source, and it was interesting to see how two masters handled the material. As much as I love Altman, I have to say that Ray comes out on top. Great stuff.[/i]

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Steven H
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#186 Post by Steven H » Sun Aug 19, 2007 12:48 am

I absolutely loved this set. A few clunkers (Illegal and Decoy really), but overall fantastic. The best disc of the bunch has to be the Farley Granger/Cathie O'Donnell disc of Side Street and They Live By Night (did Cathy O'Donnell remind anyone else of Kishida Kyoko from Woman in the Dunes (just in the way she looked, similar eyes, lips, cheekbones)? Both films are nearly perfect. Its probably my favorite Nicholas Ray, and Side Street goes further to cement Anthony Mann in as one of Hollywood's greatest filmmakers.

The Nina Foch commentary on Illegal was outstanding, but Farley Granger on They Live by Night seemed a little uptight. Was it the James Ellroy commentary on Crime Wave that was all weird growls and grunts about either women or real locations used in the film (not to mention his constant self-promotion)? Pretty annoying, but still informative I suppose. Crime Wave was a *huge surprise* for me, what a great noir. The John Farrow long takes in Where Danger Lives were also surprising. Its odd that Hughes would be so superficially interested in how actresses looked, but not seem to mind those fairly aesthetically subversive directions like long-as-hell takes. Richard Baseheart took Tension to a whole other level, and the same goes for Robert Ryan in Act of Violence.

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Harold Gervais
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#187 Post by Harold Gervais » Mon Aug 20, 2007 8:08 pm

Steven H wrote:I absolutely loved this set. A few clunkers (Illegal and Decoy really),
Well, one thing about Decoy....it may be trash but it is glorious trash. Any movie where the lead character is one of the most ruthless, amoral & just plain crazy femme fatales in all of cinema and the central plot point is bringing a convicted murderer back from the dead so the location of hidden money can be found with that same woman killing off the former lover-dead guy after she has that information can't be all bad.

filmnoir1
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#188 Post by filmnoir1 » Sat Aug 25, 2007 4:01 pm

I finished this up today and I have to say while all the films are not of equal caliber, they each inform us about what the studio system was like in the late 40s into the 50s. Moreover in each of these films we can see that America's rampant devotion to unchecked capitalism is beginning to fray the nerves of the society at large. These films demonstrate why it is that noir is such a quintessential American artform albeit one that was in many cases crafted by foreign/expatriate directors. Perhaps American directors were too busy celebrating America to realize that the country of 1776 by 1946 was no more. Thus it is apparent that the roots of today's crisis and malaise lies with the WW II generation and its aftereffects despite the fancy prose of Bush claiming that 9/11 is our Pearl Harbor.

Of the films included I would recommend Act of Violence in its challenge of masculine ideals such as valor, war, and violence. Anthony Mann's Side Street is also a masterpiece that deals with these issues, only in his film it is the angst of the youth raised during the war which is addressed.

Overall I highly recommend this set to anyone who loves noir and its questioning of the American identity. Warner's should be commended for once again providing viewers young and old with a chance to further claim and engage with our filmic heritage.

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Belmondo
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#189 Post by Belmondo » Sun Aug 26, 2007 12:40 am

I like your thinking but I wouldn't read quite so much into it. I'm one of the oldest babyboomers and my parents were both World War II vets (my mother was an officer in the U.S. Navy Waves and outranked my father, so you can guess what my childhood was like).

One of the movies that best sums up the immediate post-war period is not a film noir at all, but the wonderful THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES. It deals with most of the issues you mention but I, for one, am not going to worry too much about rampant devotion to unchecked capitalism if the people doing it are the ones who had just survived a horrible depression and then saved the world.

I think what I mean to say is that I prefer the idea that film noir is very specific and not at all general. I've heard it said that "femme fatales" were a reaction to women in the workforce, that these films were a result of post-war malaise, and many other theories which may all be true in part; but I prefer something closer to the "auteur theory" in which a bunch of up and coming directors used their low budgets to say something about sex, violence and morality at a time when your next kiss could only last three seconds. Get the lighting and camera angle right and we'll know what's going on even if you can't show it.

Sure, there are bigger themes here, but I hate to take a leap all the way up to Pres. Bush.

I'd rather take six in the gut from Jane Greer.

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tryavna
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#190 Post by tryavna » Sun Aug 26, 2007 11:00 am

Let's not forget that the popularization (or "mainstreamization" or whatever you want to call it) of psychology had an impact as well. Surely film noir is dependent to some extent on the idea that there are "hidden" depths of the human mind that can reveal themselves in extremely unhealthy ways under certain circumstances.
These films demonstrate why it is that noir is such a quintessential American artform albeit one that was in many cases crafted by foreign/expatriate directors. Perhaps American directors were too busy celebrating America to realize that the country of 1776 by 1946 was no more.
Well, there are quite a number of American directors who were doing extremely good work at the same time that the European expats were creating their noirs. I don't think I'd want to trade John Ford's, Howard Hawks', or Preston Sturges' 40s/early 50s work for more noir. (Aren't the Western and the screwball comedy just as quintessentially American as film noir?)

And of course, the one director you mentioned by name in your post (Anthony Mann) was born in California. So it's not like noir was entirely a European expat affair.

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Steven H
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#191 Post by Steven H » Sun Aug 26, 2007 11:44 am

tryavna wrote:Let's not forget that the popularization (or "mainstreamization" or whatever you want to call it) of psychology had an impact as well. Surely film noir is dependent to some extent on the idea that there are "hidden" depths of the human mind that can reveal themselves in extremely unhealthy ways under certain circumstances.
This isn't always brought up, but I believe its hugely important.

Its also been a little funny to me that, while I do believe the "post-war malaise" had something to do with the fact these films were popular, I just never saw it as having a huge connection with the content and style (Also, weren't a lot of the specific themes inspired by the hugely popular hard boiled novels of the 20s and 30s?) I'm more interested in director or producer (excitable, chance taking, producers) as auteur to describe this; especially considering how completely different two directors can be working in the same basic noir style, take De toth and Preminger for instance. And didn't the ever so gradual subversion of the production codes as the years went by account a bit for how faithfully the hard boiled works were adapted?

But if you look at world cinema, there's something to be said for the "malaise" reasoning, as there are popular recurring themes all over the place. Now what I'd like to see is a Noir in other post-WWII countries thread. Naruse's Floating Clouds, Visconti's La terra trema, Bardem's Death of a Cyclist, Dassin's Rififi, Becker's Le trou, and Kurosawa's Stray Dog come to mind.

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david hare
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#192 Post by david hare » Thu Sep 27, 2007 6:58 am

Yes, all true. But surely the two core influences for Noir are some stylistic aspects of 20s German Expressionism, (and the migration of German artists to Hollywood) and even more importantly the rise of 30s French "Poetic Realism". Prevert's screenplays, even Spaak's - the latter devolving from melodrama to pessimism - are central Noir tropes.

I also wonder, how much the Code boundaries were in fact actively pushed further by Noirs, or merely accommodated them. One example for instance is the original shooting script of His Kind fo Woman which the Code red pencilled for relatively innocuous Mitchum/Russell chummying, yet Hughes then added a climactic scene of sadistic violence (directed by Fleischer after principal shooting) and managed to push the whole movie through the Code without a problem.

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zedz
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#193 Post by zedz » Thu Oct 11, 2007 5:05 pm

This is probably my favourite of the sets so far, possibly because there's so much in it. Even considering it's the fourth go-round, and doubles the number of picks, there's only one real clunker in the form of Illegal, a routine courtroom drama that's not even noir in my books. (It's not as if the previous sets were dud-free: Lady in the Lake, Dillinger). However, even Illegal is somewhat redeemed by Nina Foch's lively, disparaging commentary. She expands on the shortcomings of the film to discuss the general stiffness of staging and performance in films of the time, but a better film may have dodged her criticisms more effectively. This disc is shared by The Big Steal, a fine film, but it's also hard to consider it as noir. The guy on the commentary argues unpersuasively that it counts because it has duplicitous characters and one scene takes place at night, but if they're the criteria we might as well welcome The Baron of Arizona and any number of Sturges comedies into the fold.

Offset against that film are, by my reckoning, three masterpieces: They Live by Night, Crime Wave and Act of Violence. The latter was so good I had momentary amnesia about the other Zinnemanns I'd seen. Crime Wave is astonishing: it should open with a title reading “Danger: 50,000 Voltsâ€

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Mr Sausage
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#194 Post by Mr Sausage » Thu Oct 11, 2007 6:06 pm

zedz wrote:Anthony Mann's Side Street is only a hair's breadth behind. The material is a bit slight (Granger's character is a little too hapless for my liking), but the execution is rivetting, especially the concluding chase
More irritating than Granger's character is the sharp and aggravating fall for Cathy O'Donnel between the films. She plays such an interesting and a-typical character in They Live by Night that it's doubly frustrating to see her slapped with not just a more traditional character, but such a limp and weepy one at that. It becomes an embarrassment after a while.

I wouldn't put Side Street only a "hair's breadth" behind They Live by Night, but I will praise its often thrilling technical accomplishments. It's a solid movie--or at least a solidly handled movie (those opening shots, and the way Mann makes the city into a maze during the car chase). The script, with its absurd moralizing voice-overs and bland characters, could easily have been interminable. So you're right that Mann "somehow manages to realise 150% of [the scripts] potential."

I actually liked the concussion "device" in Where Danger Lives, because it doesn't forward the plot as much as you'd think (a bad choice to follow the girl after Claude Rains' death would have been acceptable within the genre without a concussion). What I love is how her insanity and his inability to think lead them to make the stupidest and most moronic judgements, so that at every turn they're foiling themselves, as tho' the danger doesn't exist in the world around them but in the weird subjective place in which they both live. Would have been a better movie, tho', if Mitchum had been killed.
Last edited by Mr Sausage on Fri Oct 12, 2007 2:44 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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zedz
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#195 Post by zedz » Thu Oct 11, 2007 9:09 pm

Mr_sausage wrote:More irritating than Granger's character is the sharp and aggravating fall for Cathy O'Donnel between the films. She plays such an interesting and a-typical character in They Live by Night that it's doubly frustrating to see her slapped with not just a more traditional character, but such a limp and weepy one at that. It becomes an embarrassment after a while.
You're right and I'd forgotten what a gulf that creates between the two movies. I'd actually all but forgotten O'Donnell in Side Street entirely, which is probably telling.

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domino harvey
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#196 Post by domino harvey » Sun Apr 20, 2008 4:18 pm

I'm nearly done working my way thru this set but I have to say the film that absolutely floored me was Where Danger Lives-- I went in expecting a B-Grade Mitchum flick and was rewarded with what has to be one of the most endlessly inventive, delirious "noir" films I've ever seen. By the time the couple gets arrested for not having facial hair I thought I'd seen it all, but then Mitchum gradually becoming more and more paralyzed and then and then and then and oh man, I can't remember the last time I had this much fun watching a movie!

Anyone heard any rumblings about another annual set for the summer?

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#197 Post by ByMarkClark.com » Sun Apr 20, 2008 7:30 pm

I heard that ARMORED CAR ROBBERY was in the pipeline. This from the same source who tipped me off about CRIME WAVE last year. Not sure what else is in the works, but I THINK another 5-disc, 10-movie set is cooking.

Alphonso

#198 Post by Alphonso » Sun Apr 20, 2008 10:25 pm

They still need to release Renoir's hidden gem Woman on the Beach; I believe Warner has the rights.

Props55
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#199 Post by Props55 » Wed Jun 11, 2008 11:41 pm

Hate to resurrect this thread on such a trivial note but has anyone else noticed the sidelong references to CITIZEN KANE in ON DANGEROUS GROUND? Early on when Ryan leaves the other cops in the drug store after the unintentional snub by the young countergirl, we see a shabby newsvendor/informant approach him with a tip about one of the crooks they're looking for. He writes an address on a folded newspaper and the masthead clearly reads "Love-Nest" on the insert shot. It's definitely not the same exact prop newspaper which reads "Kane Caught in Love-Nest" from the earlier film but the font and size are almost identical.

Later, after the death of Lupino's brother, his body is brought to a cabin at the foot of the mountain. There are two entrances to this snowbound cabin and outside each doorway is a sled! Again, not identical (no Rosebud logo) and the sleds are slightly different in size and design, but one has to wonder if producer John Houseman was having a bit of fun. I noticed the newspaper headline the first time I saw the film on TV many years ago but didn't catch the sleds until just recently.

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