One of the great benefits of the "Fox Noir" series, of which this film is a standout, is the remastering/release of the classic 1940's work of the great Otto Preminger. All the four Preminger titles in this series demonstrate what a concise, fluid director he was, easily managing crowd scenes as well as dramatic close-ups with his supple, effortless camera. Also, Preminger had a true talent for zeroing in on an actor, instantly revealing what made them different or unique and allowing them to play up their strengths. Under Preminger's care the star of this film, Dana Andrews, was allowed to fully flower. There was a very moving quality in Andrews, particularly when playing a heel as he does in this one, which always suggested that he had just enough soul and intelligence to dislike himself. This is why he was one of the great noir actors: without a lot of fuss, he could convey a deeply felt need to be a better man than was possible. He was, in short, a very graceful and subtle tough guy.
Briefly told, the theme of this film is sexual obsession. Every principal male player in the film desperately wants Stella, a hash-slinger in a local café, played by the all-too-soon gone Linda Darnell. This, of course, leads to men behaving very badly.
This clearly was a favorite theme of Preminger's, and he never had a better carnal female than Darnell as an object of desire (actually, the emotion all men in the film feel for Darnell transcends desire into the realm of critical need). Darnell is absolutely great and her appeal has held up very well over the 70 intervening years.
The other thing that makes these Fox Noir DVD's so good is the expert commentary that accompanies these discs in the Special Features sections. I know . . .sometimes these commentary tracks can be very hit or miss, but the folks at Fox seemed to take some care in their selection of experts, and I have enjoyed them all. The commentary track for this one is supplied by Noir historian, Eddie Muller, and I found his voiceover very, very good. In fact, things I might say in praise of this film are covered much better by Mr. Muller, so I will let you listen to him for yourself when you buy the DVD. Mr. Muller is a real treasure trove of interesting trivia and worthwhile insights.
This disc also has Dana Andrews' daughter, Susan Andrews, giving commentary. I have to admit with other DVD movies, I have been often disappointed by commentary from family members of famous stars. Not here. Susan Andrews comes across with an easy warmth and depth that really fleshed out her father, Dana Andrews, as both an actor and a man. I found myself hanging on the stories she told, remembering her father.
Lastly, with regard to the digital remastering, Fox has done it right. These classic Noirs never looked better.
Excellent all the way. --Mykal Banta