New DVD Set: Film Noir Collector’s Edition

Questar Entertainment on May18 will release a 6-DVD Box set of 7 classic films noir. Questar has kindly sent me a complimentary promotional copy.

The nicely boxed set presents each DVD in it’s own case with high quality stills and artwork, and the DVD menu has a cool animated noir motif and voice-over. While the titles are in the public domain and the image quality is variable, all but two of the transfers are of higher quality than files currently available on the Internet. Sound quality on all transfers is very good with no hiss.

The Movies

Disc 1:

DOA

DOA ( 1950) ‘I want to report a murder…mine.’ Edmond O’Brien stars as an accountant whose number is up when he is poisoned, and spends his last desperate hours trying to find out who ‘killed’ him and why.

A taut thriller with a bravura performance from Edmond O’Brien as Frank Bigelow. From the Cardinal Pictures factory and directed by Rudolph Maté, this movie packs so much in 83 minutes. It starts off slow, but once the action shifts from a sleepy rural burg to San Francisco and LA, the pace is frenetic. The streets of these cities are filmed in deep focus, and there is a sense of immediacy in every scene.

The image quality is good, but I have seen a better transfer on late-night TV.

Disc 2:

Detour

Detour (1945) ‘What did you do with the body?‘ A hitchhiker gets into the wrong car and picks up the wrong woman. Roger Ebert: ‘No one who has seen it has easily forgotten it’.

Edgar G. Ulmer’s cult poverty-row noir .  Filmed on a shoe-string, this story of a guy so dumb he blames fate for the consequences of his own foolishness, is pure pulp noir, with a career-best from Anne Savage, as the street-wise conniving dame, who incredulously falls for the sap.

This is the best transfer of Detour I have seen.

Disc 3:

The Stranger

The Stranger (1946) Orson Welles stars in this tense thriller as a small-town professor who will stop at nothing to conceal his Nazi past, with Edward G. Robinson as the Nazi hunter out to expose him.

A strong thriller with Orson Welles directing and playing the lead in a screenplay by Victor Trivas. Edward G Robinson is solid – as always – as the investigator, with the beautiful Loretta Young perfect as the innocent and loyal wife. Welles’ deft direction and the camera-work of Russell Metty transform an over-the-top thriller into a moody and intelligent noir, where Jungian concepts of the unconscious are woven with a taut psychological study of the deranged mind of a desperate man.

Image quality is good.

Disc 4:

Scarlet Street (1945) stars Edward G. Robinson as a henpecked husband who falls under the spell of a scheming femme-fatale.

This classic film noir from Fritz Lang, shattered the closed romantic realism of Hollywood. It is unremitting in its pessimism. A dark mood and pervading doom are devastating in their intensity.

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946 ) Stars Barbara Stanwyck and Van Heflin. A dark tale of small town secrets, obsession, and murder.

A very dark noir rife with fascinating psychological puzzles.

The image quality for these two transfers is poor to fair.  For Scarlet Street (1945) the KINO digitally restored DVD can’t be beat.  I have seen a better transfer of The Strange Love of Martha Ivers on television.

Disc 5:

Too Late for Tears

Killer Bait (aka Too Late for Tears) (1949) stars Lizabeth Scott as a woman who will do anything to keep $60,000 that falls into her lap.

From the opening scene of the silhouette of a car speeding up a winding road on a hill outside LA one dark night, you know you are in noir territory. Soon a preposterous chance event launches a wild descent into dark avarice and eroticised violence as perverse and relentless as fate itself.

Image quality is Ok.

Suddenly

Suddenly (1954) stars Frank Sinatra in his most controversial role as a psycho who holds a family hostage while plotting to assassinate the president.

A fast-paced b-thriller with a viciously violent protagonist.

Image quality is Ok.

Disc 6:

Extras:

  • Featurette: What is Film Noir?
  • Featurette: Femme Fatale – The Noir Dame
  • Film Noir poster gallery
  • 38 Film Noir trailers

The two short featurettes are good intros but fairly unsophisticated. What makes them very entertaining is the skillful editing of themed montages of film clips.  There were a few posters I hadn’t seen before in the Poster Gallery.  The trailers included a few sleepers I was not aware of, with the image quality variable.

The Verdict

The high quality of  the packaging make the set compelling, and the better image quality of five of the seven movies over downloads is a definite plus, but the recommended retail price of  US$49.99 is on the high side.  It gets down to how much you value the convenience of easily loading a DVD into your DVD-player and watching the movies on a large screen television.  Amazon is taking orders for the special price of US$44.99.  At this price, with each movie costing you only US$6.42, the set is Ok value.  All  the pictures, bar Suddenly, are essential noirs, and for many chronic noiristas,  a good quality transfer of  Detour would be worth a lot more.

9 thoughts on “New DVD Set: Film Noir Collector’s Edition”

  1. Hi! Tony,
    Tony said,”Questar has kindly sent me a complimentary promotional copy.”

    Tony, that is good news that Questar sent you a complimentary promo copy.

    I already own a similar Questar boxset minus the film Suddenly and I have to agree with you, wholeheartedly, when it comes to your assessment of each film on the boxset.

    “DOA ( 1950) The image quality is good, but I have seen a better transfer on late-night TV.”

    I have to give you the thumbs-up…and agree with your assessment of DOA picture quality.

    “Detour (1945) Edgar G. Ulmer’s cult poverty-row noir . Filmed on a shoe-string, this story of a guy so dumb he blames fate for the consequences of his own foolishness, is pure pulp noir, with a career-best from Anne Savage, as the street-wise conniving dame, who incredulously falls for the sap.
    This is the best transfer of Detour I have seen.”

    I have to give you the thumbs-up…and agree with your assessment of Detour picture quality too… But, I disagree with you, when it comes to fate, Tom Neal’s character,(Al Roberts) and that “psycho” lady Ann (“Vera”)Savage, falling for him being considered “incredulously.”

    “The Stranger (1946)Image quality is good.”
    Personally, I don’t think you can find a copy any better…than the one on the Questar boxset.

    “Scarlet Street (1945) This classic film noir from Fritz Lang, shattered the closed romantic realism of Hollywood. It is unremitting in its pessimism. A dark mood and pervading doom are devastating in their intensity.”

    “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946 ) Stars Barbara Stanwyck and Van Heflin. A dark tale of small town secrets, obsession, and murder.” A very dark noir rife with fascinating psychological puzzles.”

    “The image quality for these two transfers is poor to fair. For Scarlet Street (1945) the KINO digitally restored DVD can’t be beat.”

    Right you are…

    “I have seen a better transfer of The Strange Love of Martha Ivers on television.”

    …Oh! yes, Paramount released a really nice copy of The Strange Love of Martha Ivers that I purchased a year or two ago.

    “Killer Bait (aka Too Late for Tears) (1949) stars Lizabeth Scott as a woman who will do anything to keep $60,000 that falls into her lap.
    Image quality is Ok.”

    The Sentinel, leads with a story by author Eddie Muller, and his quest to try to save this film.(Or rather get a new print striked(Sp)…in time for NoirCity 2011?!?.)
    Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that is going to happen…The saving of Too Late For Tears, and The Chase.

    “Suddenly (1954) stars Frank Sinatra in his most controversial role as a psycho who holds a family hostage while plotting to assassinate the president.
    A fast-paced b-thriller with a viciously violent protagonist.Image quality is Ok.”

    I have never watched this film…Therefore, I’am going to have to take your word for the picture quality.
    Thanks, for sharing!
    DeeDee 😉

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  2. I’m always wary of buying merchandise from these public domain companies. I always hold out hope that companies like Kino and Criterion end up releasing certain noir titles themselves. Scarlet Street and Night And The City are good examples. If this boxset had a good print of The Big Combo I might have purchased it.

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  3. Aye Maurizio, I quite agree, though I also am thrilled to hear that an official company has acknowledged this great place with this long overdue acknowledgement for Tony, much as this place is the altar of film noir online. The best news in this fantastic DVD review (this is the first I’ve seen from you Tony, and you really gave this the attention that would allow anyone to make a purchasing decision) is of course the excellent quality you vouch for DETOUR, though of course there are some disappointment too, especially for MARTHA IVERS, SCARLET STREET and D.O.A. But yes you are right that the remastered Kino (and a stunning Region 2 I own) of SCARLET STREET is the way to go. It does seem like the price is right here though!

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  4. Hey Tony,
    Great work on these reviews. I received a review copy of this set also, as you probably know. Announced it in Noir Journal along with the release of the revised Film Noir Encyclopedia.
    So far, I’ve only viewed Suddenly from the set–an excellent movie. The acting was a bit stilted at first until Sinatra came on the scene. Always amazed to remember what a great actor he was.
    Probably not noir, although definitely noir elements, but a really excellent film.
    I plan to combine a review of the revised encyclopedia with reviews of a few of the films from the set–in a few weeks, I hope.
    Take care,
    Mike L.
    Noir Journal
    http://noirjournal.typepad.com/noir-journal/

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  5. The Scarlet Street picture is labeled Tierney, but it should be Bennett. Joan looked her absolute best in the mid ’40s. Collectively, that decade had the most beautiful actresses ever.

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