If ever there was a collection to introduce anyone to the joys of the film noir of the 1940's and 50's, this collection is it. It offers a nice variety of film noir styles, some big and iconic film noir stars, and above average film noir stories.
The best in my opinion are the two films that feature the superstar of film noir actors, Robert Mitchum. Where Danger Lives is one of the best film noirs you'll ever view. Robert Mitchum fills the screen with his charisma, and the beautiful and under-rated Faith Domergue is one of the most beautiful femme fatales one could be so unfortunate to ever meet. A classic of the genre.
The Big Steal is another classic film noir with the legendary Robert Mitchum, and one of the great film noir actresses of the period, Jane Greer. The film does a great job of presenting the down and out locale of an exotic Mexican village. William Bendix, as usual, does a great job in playing the seedy nemesis to Robert Mitchum's film noir anti-hero.
The next two gems in this collection are Decoy and Tension. Decoy is an absolute film noir classic and an archetype of the genre. Directed by Jack Bernhard and written by Ned Young, these two gentlemen made a film noir on a very limited budget that would be remembered. The femme fatale in this film is unforgettable, played with film noir relish by a very sexy Jean Gillie, and frankly, the black humour in this film is really something to behold.
Tension is your classic film noir which finds our beautiful film noir femme fatale, Audrey Totter, turn her obsessed boyfriend into a murderer. The talented Richard Basehart, one of the great film noir lead actors, carries this film with suspenseful flair.
The final film I would like to comment on is Crime Wave.Read more ›
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187 of 197 people found the following review helpful
10 lesser-known but excellent Film Noirs make it to DVDApril 24 2007
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This collection is the DVD debut for all ten of these films, and I don't even know if any of them are available on VHS. I've only seen them thanks to Turner Classic Movies playing them at odd hours, along with other cable channels presenting them over the years. They are excellent but not well remembered film noirs. I would rate them all between 4 and 5 stars. I thought I would list their descriptions, stars, and special features below, not in any particular order:
Crime Wave: (1954) Starring Sterling Hayden and Gene Nelson. An ex-con is trying to go straight, but circumstances force him into crime one more time. Gene Nelson plays a hard-nosed cop. Note a young Charles Bronson playing a minor role.
Commentary by James Ellroy and Eddie Muller
Crime Wave: The City is Dark
Decoy: (1946) Starring Gene Gillie and Edward Norris. Sci-Fi meets Film Noir in this story of a woman who will stop at nothing to retrieve 400K stolen in a robbery. Gillie would make Barbara Stanwyck proud as she chews up man after man in her quest.
Commentary by Stanley Rubin and Glenn Erickson
Decoy: A Map to Nowhere
Illegal: (1955) Starring Edward G. Robinson and Nina Foch. Robinson plays a D.A. whose upwardly mobile career faces a train wreck when a man he convicted is executed and then found to be innocent. After he hits bottom he resurrects his legal career, this time as a criminal attorney. The plot can be hard to follow, but Robinson's performance is great.
Commentary by Nina Foch and Patricia King Hanson
Illegal: Marked for Life
Behind the Cameras: Edward G. Robinson
The Big Steal: (1949) Starring Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer. The lead duo from "Out of the Past" trade wisecracks and insults in a cross-country chase over a suitcase full of stolen money. For once, Mitchum is actually not the bad guy. Almost too much fun to be considered Film Noir.
Commentary by Richard B. Jewell
The Big Steal: Look Behind You
They Live By Night: (1948) Starring Cathy O'Donnell and Farley Granger. The story of an escaped convict trying to live a normal life with the help of his girlfriend. Granger plays the convict who isn't entirely bad, but not entirely reformed either.
Commentary by Farley Granger and Eddie Muller
They Live By Night: The Twisted Road
Side Street: (1950) Starring Cathy O'Donnell and Farley Granger. Granger plays a struggling husband trying to make ends meet when he spots some cash lying around in an office one day. He takes the money, but finds out it is much more than he thought. When he tries to return the money, he gets caught up in a murder mystery. Hitchcock-like in its twists and turns.
Commentary by Richard Schickel
Side Street: Where Temptation Lurks
Where Danger Lives: (1950) Starring Robert Mitchum and Faith Domergue. The plot is somewhat unbelievable, even for Film Noir, but Mitchum gives a strong performance that makes it worthwhile. Mitchum plays a doctor who becomes taken with a patient. Due to a concussion, his judgement becomes clouded and he believes he has murdered the patient's husband. He and the woman go on the run, have some strange adventures, and then Mitchum realizes what kind of illness his new girlfriend was being treated for in the first place.
Commentary by Alain Silver and James Ursini
Where Danger Lives: White Rose for Julie
Tension: (1950) Starring Richard Basehart and Audrey Trotter. Basehart plays a mild-mannered man whose salary and disposition are not enough for his wife. She leaves him for a tough and wealthy man. Why Basehart would want her back is anyone's guess, but he does and plans to murder his wife's new boyfriend. The tough guy is murdered, but not by Basehart's character.
Commentary by Alain Silver and Elizabeth Ward with Audrey Trotter
Tension: Who's Guilty Now?
Act of Violence: (1948) Starring Van Heflin and Robert Ryan. Van Heflin plays a family man trying to adapt to life after the war and internment in a prison camp. Enter Robert Ryan, who plays a man with Terminator-like determination in his quest to murder Heflin's character for something that happened during their joint stay in the German prison camp.
Commentary by Dr. Drew Casper
Act of Violence: Dealing With the Devil
Mystery Street: (1950) Starring Ricardo Montalban and Sally Forrest. Montalban plays a detective who, working with a forensics expert, tries to solve a murder case and exonerate the lone circumstantial suspect. One of the first films I know of to use science to help solve a murder decades before DNA made this aspect of crime solving so interesting and important.
Commentary by Alain Silver and Elizabeth Ward
Mystery Street: Murder at Harvard
54 of 55 people found the following review helpful
fun collection...excellent transfers GREAT extras!!July 31 2007
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Okay...I'll let others go into the actual films.. I enjoy them all for different reasons but am a noir fan and a big fan of Mitchum and Sterling Hayden who appear here so I didn't need convincing to purchase. Lets not forget these are directed by Andre De Toth, Nicholas Ray,Don Siegel, Anthony Mann,John Sturges and Fred Zinnemann...legends all. Its also fun to see Charles Bronson as a bit player in "Crime Wave" along with Gene Nelson (not singing or dancing in this one) as well as a young Janet Leigh in "Act OF Violence".
I'd like to review the DVDs themselves...(having just made my way through much of this). first ...the transfers are excellent (typical for WB's older titles) The extras...commentaries are by legit experts who know the films and add real value.The commentary by James Ellroy on Crime WAve is the most unbelievably NONPC and hysterically funny/interseting one I've ever heard PERIOD. The short featurettes are also enlightening and give extra value to the project as well as info on the films which added to my enjoymment. These featurettes which feature folks like Oliver Stone, show film clips and the interview subjects are shot/lit very noirish which ads to the flavor and class of this presentation.
I picked this up for $39...thats $4 per film!! If you are a noir fan its simply a no brainer and if you aren't ...why are you reading this(not being smart , sincere). If you have an interest you will not be dissapointed with the quality of the presentation on these films. I agree with the other reviewer..after a slight misstep on NOIR 3..WB is back on the ball...great job!
48 of 49 people found the following review helpful
Bravo! Bravo!Aug. 10 2007
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Whoever put this collection together should get a promotion, a raise, and a personal letter of thanks from every serious noir fan. This is an absolutely wonderful assortment of moody, gritty noirs that deserve to be better known. Of the ten (yes, TEN!) movies in this collection, none except "The Big Steal" has ever been on commercial VHS, much less DVD. "Decoy" is so scarce that the only version generally circulating before now was taken from a European TV broadcast, complete with Croatian subtitles.
Before anyone gets the wrong idea: these are not masterpieces. They are, however, very good movies and quintessential noir. The selection has been made with care and affection. This set is ideal for newcomers to noir who have seen a number of the genre cornerstones and want to further steep themselves in the essential style without the glitter of A-list productions. Dedicated noirphiles, of course, have been awaiting official high-quality transfers of these films for years.
I can't say enough good things about this set. The intelligent mini-documentaries for each film and the insanely low price tag are the icing on this ten-layer cake. We can only hope the same people will be in charge of Volume 5 of this series! Maybe we'll get a similar assortment of worthwhile "Never on home video" films such as The Breaking Point, Cry of the City, The Locket, My Name is Julia Ross, Nightfall, The Prowler, Screaming Mimi, Talk About a Stranger, The 13th Letter, The Unsuspected, The Verdict, and more. (Okay, I didn't bother to check who owns the rights to those movies, but you get the idea.)
28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
After a mis-step with volume 3, Warners gets back on trackJuly 21 2007
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I as a little annoyed with Volume 3 in the series. The films were all good choices (let's face it, I'm a noir completist, so just about any classic noirs making it to DVD qualify as good choices to me), but the packaging was irritating - the titles were not sold individually and they were packaged in dinky slim cases not in keeping with the rest of the series. Now, not only has Warners gone back to the original packaging, but they are generously offering 10 films as double features for the same price as the previous 5, all of them great lesser-known choices (the top of the heap here being Crime Wave, They Live by Night, Act of Violence, and Where Danger Lives), plus commentaries and short documentaries for each and every feature and the original trailers for many of the films. Here's hoping for Volume 5 - I can't imagine there's much left in the vaults, but then again I believe Warners owns the whole RKO catalog, so there are probably enough additional titles to make another set. Note to Warner's - please release ALL of your noir holdings. And don't forget about some of the espionage films that fall loosely into the noir category - perhaps a separate box set of those?
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Strongest of Noir Collections To DateNov. 1 2007
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My guilty pleasure is film noir, so even though I had never heard of a single one of the films featured in Film Noir Collection Vol. IV, I bought it anyway just as I have bought and mostly enjoyed the previous three. After viewing this entire set the week it arrived, I came to the conclusion that overall, this is the strongest of the four film noir classic collections issued to date. I won't rehash the films. The reviewer that currently is "most helpful" has done a creditable job. But I will comment on each film and sometimes why I like them. 1)Act of Violence: Cowardice under pressure in a Nazi prison camp comes back to haunt successful contractor/family man Van Heflin as he is stalked by one of his former fellow prisoners. The movie is filled with suspense and the ending is a surprise. Five stars. 2)Mystery Street: Ricardo Montalban is excellent as the dogged and resourceful detective who tracks down the killer of a scheming whore whose skeleton is found on Cape Cod. Five stars. 3)Crime Wave: An ex-con trying to go straight is forced back into crime by some escaped ex-jailmates who have precipitated a rash of hold-ups to finance their existence on the lam. Lots of harrowing moments as the police close in. Five stars. 4)Decoy: Gene Gillie is perfect as an avaricious and vicious femme fatale who will stop at nothing to get her hands on a cache of money. She is a real piece of work. Five stars. 5)Illegal: Edward G Robinson stars as an attorney on his way back up after hitting bottom when he resigned following the execution of a man he had wrongly prosecuted and convicted as DA. He makes amends defending lowlifes and soon finds himself enmeshed by intrigues involving the new DA and a man he had long wanted to prosecute when he himself was DA. Many twists of the plot and Robinson proves his mettle by pushing the envelope on the law. He always had to win and his final case will show you just how far he was willing to go! Five stars. 6)The Big Steal:Kind of a goofy noir that takes place, like some other Robert Mitchum films, in Mexico. Lots of fun and misadventure as Mitchum tries to track a suitcase full of stolen money. Not quite noir in my book though. Four stars. 7)They Live By Night: Farley Granger is excellent as a mild-mannered escaped con who is pressured by fellow escapees into participating in more crimes. He runs off with the daughter of one of the convicts' brother, marries her and wants to go straight, but he just can't. Real noir, there is no happy ending. Four stars. 8)Side Street: Farley Granger stars as a day-dreaming part time mail carrier who succumbs to momentary weakness and greed, setting in motion a chain of events that nearly cost him his freedom and later his life. The voice-overs detract ever so slightly. Four stars. 9)Where Danger Lives: Robert Mitchum stars as a doctor who falls for a dangerously psychotic patient convincingly played by Faith Domergue. His bad judgement nearly costs him dearly. Some silliness along the way detracts. Four stars. 10)Tension: Hoo boy, can anyone top Audrey Trotter's performance as a sneering, faithless, gold-digging trollop or Richard Basehart's transformation from a trollop's doormat into a man of purpose and resolve? Basehart's character Warren Quimby reminds me of the old Charles Atlas ads where a bully humiliates a wormy guy in front of his girlfriend at the beach and the guy gets revenge by taking Atlas' body-building course then returning to confront the bully and physically avenge himself. The film is filled with twists of plot as Basehart struggles internally between the new and the old Quimby. And Trotter is scheming and hateful to the end. In many ways, this is the best of the set. Five stars. If you are a fan of film noir which I must assume you are because you are reading this, this is a set you will return to over and again. I haven't seen all the extras yet and so cannot comment on those, but the quality of the films alone make this a set well worth owning. Five stars overall.