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Directed by Stuart Heisler
USA 1942

One of two good versions of Dashiell Hammett's pacy crime novel: the earlier (1935) film noir starred Edward Arnold and George Raft in the roles taken here by Donlevy and Ladd. More noteworthy, however, are the performances given by Lake, as the girl of dubious loyalties, and particularly Bendix as the villain's sadistic henchman who loves inflicting pain on his victims. The impressive camerawork by Sparkhuhl includes a memorable aerial shot of a man crashing through a glass roof.

Excerpt from Channel 4 located HERE

****

Not quite so resonant an early example of noir as The Maltese Falcon, partly because the novel's ending has been clumsily softened, but still a remarkably successful Hammett adaptation. Best sequence by far is the marathon beating-up sustained by Ladd in a bout of grating sado-masochism as Bendix ('He's a tough baby, he likes this') coyly begs his 'little rubber ball' to bounce back for more. Shot and played with deceptive casualness, the sequence is central to the film, flaunting an erotic undertow that sows continuing doubts throughout. Playing with his usual deadpan as he weaves warily through a maze of political machinations and underworld snares in the service of his boss, Ladd remains equally frozen whether expressing his love for Lake or his loyalty to Donlevy. The result is a teasing sexual ambiguity, considerably enhanced (at least until the copout ending) by the fact that Hammett's hero - here callous enough to admit a willingness to let Lake hang if necessary in furtherance of his aims - has been toughened up by being reduced to a noir cipher for the film.

Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE

Poster

Theatrical Release: October 14th, 1942

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DVD Comparison:

Universal Pictures UK - Region 2,4 - PAL vs. TCM - Region 1 - NTSC

1) Universal Pictures UK - Region 2,4 - PAL LEFT
2) TCM - Region 1- NTSC - RIGHT
 
DVD Box Cover

Distribution Universal Pictures UK - Region 2,4 - PAL TCM - Region 1 -  NTSC
Runtime 1:21:27  1:25:15
Video 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.2 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s   
1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.56 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Bitrate:

Audio English (Dolby Digital 1.0)  English (Dolby Digital 1.0)
Subtitles English, None None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Universal UK.

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

none

DVD Release Date: February 12th, 2007

Keep Case
Chapters: 16

Release Information:
Studio: TCM.

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Introduction by Ben Mankiewicz (2:28)

• Eddie Muller on Dashiell Hammet's The Glass Key (2:31)

• Eddie Muller on Lake and Ladd (2:18)

• Digital Image Galleries
- Behind-the-Scenes Photos
- Publicity Stills
- Lobby Cards
- Movie Posters
- Scene Stills

• TCMDb Article

DVD Release Date: December 3rd, 20
12
3-tier Digi-pack inside cardboard case
Chapters:
24

 

 

Comments:

ADDITION: TCM - Region 1 - NTSC - November 2012: (comments duplicated - covering all three releases) So TCM has put together a new Noir package with the, long awaited in NTSC, black-cinema classics - The Blue Dahlia, Phantom Lady and The Glass Key. So, as Eddie Muller repeats in the DVD extras section, 'finally'. The Ladd/Lake noirs (This Gun For Hire, The Blue Dahlia, and The Glass Key) are an essential part of the cycle and Eddie considers Siodmak (Phantom Lady, Criss Cross, The Dark Mirror) the greatest of all Noir directors.

All three transfers are single-layered and appear to be from the same source as their PAL counterparts with the same light damage/speckles. Contrast improves significantly in The Glass Key and there is notable improvement as well in The Blue Dahlia. Less so in Phantom Lady but the biggest appeal is getting these three iconic Noirs  in there theatrical running time (no PAL speedup).

Extras have Eddie Muller giving short input on all three discs - twice in multiple subjects, we also have a brief, and still classy, Marsha Hunt discussing Noir and an introduction by Ben Mankiewicz for The Glass Key. All three also have Digital image galleries with Behind-the-Scenes Photos, Publicity Stills, Lobby Cards and Movie Posters.

I treasure this set - would love the films in 1080P but it seems such an unfairly long period of time for these important films to reach NTSC. I'll be buying a second set to store in a safety deposit box. Certainly recommended!

***

ON THE UNIVERSAL UK PAL DVD: Although still a very dirty print (no restoration) this is a bit better a transfer than The Blue Dahlia as there are far fewer speckles and I can see no combing - albeit in The Blue Dahlia it was fairly imperceptible.  We had already heard that The Big Steal, also released in this DVD Noir grouping, was the Turner colorized edition, not - as advertised - the black and white original. So it certainly lowered expectations of these releases, for me personally, to about the level that they seem to be at. Despite the muddy appearance of the screen captures viewing on a CRT was not especially poor. I appreciate the subtitles and to have a progressive transfer of a film that I adore.

Like The Blue Dahlia I have had to subsist on a VHS-to-DVD bootleg of this film for a while. It was quite poor in comparison to this new PAL DVD edition, which eclipses it in every category - It is sharper, less artifacts and offers optional English subtitles. This is by no means an acceptable transfer for many Noir fans and the lack of extras for a film of this caliber is very frustrating to say the least. Cover artwork is also weak, but in the final tally - as it is the only viable game in town for this classic - who can resist? I can't and the recommendation is about 95% for the film alone.

Gary W. Tooze


DVD Menus

 

1) Universal Pictures UK - Region 2,4 - PAL LEFT
2) TCM - Region 1- NTSC - RIGHT
 
 
 

 


Subtitle Sample

 

1) Universal Pictures UK - Region 2,4 - PAL TOP
2) TCM - Region 1- NTSC - BOTTOM

 


Screen Captures

 

1) Universal Pictures UK - Region 2,4 - PAL TOP
2) TCM - Region 1- NTSC - BOTTOM

 


1) Universal Pictures UK - Region 2,4 - PAL TOP
2) TCM - Region 1- NTSC - BOTTOM

 


1) Universal Pictures UK - Region 2,4 - PAL TOP
2) TCM - Region 1- NTSC - BOTTOM

 


1) Universal Pictures UK - Region 2,4 - PAL TOP
2) TCM - Region 1- NTSC - BOTTOM

 


1) Universal Pictures UK - Region 2,4 - PAL TOP
2) TCM - Region 1- NTSC - BOTTOM
 

 


1) Universal Pictures UK - Region 2,4 - PAL TOP
2) TCM - Region 1- NTSC - BOTTOM
 


1) Universal Pictures UK - Region 2,4 - PAL TOP
2) TCM - Region 1- NTSC - BOTTOM
 

1) Universal Pictures UK - Region 2,4 - PAL TOP
2) TCM - Region 1- NTSC - BOTTOM
 

 

DVD Box Cover

Distribution Universal Pictures UK - Region 2,4 - PAL TCM - Region 1 -  NTSC


Recommended Reading in Film Noir (CLICK COVERS or TITLES for more information)




 

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