directed by Jules Dassin
UK 1950

Adapted from the lowlife novel by Gerald Kersh, Night and the City is a baroque masterpiece of corruption, paranoia and doom that ranks among the true works of art in the film noir genre. Produced by Twentieth Century Fox, yet employing American, British and Continental personnel and filmed on the streets of London, it was directed by Jules Dassin, under suspicion in Hollywood for his political beliefs, who made it at great speed before he was blacklisted.

Much of the filming was done in actual after-midnight hours, shooting night scenes in a London still shattered and skeletal from wartime bombings. Soho, Piccadilly and the Festival of Britain construction site on the South Bank were all locations.

Richard Widmark delivers an indelible performance as Harry Fabian, a small-time American nightclub tout and desperate dreamer who tries to worm his way into the wrestling rackets of post-war London. In his path lie the formidable obstacles posed by a vengeful club owner Phil Nosseross (Francis L Sullivan) and the racketeer Kristo (Herbert Lom). The club owner's sultry wife (Googie Withers) schemes with him, and a long-suffering girlfriend (Gene Tierney) does her best to save Harry from himself. Like many a noir hero before him, Harry thinks he can outrun his fate. He's wrong.

***

Deep within the bowels of shadow-infested London, two-bit hustler Harry Fabian (Richard Widmark) struggles to live a life of ease and plenty. Trailed by an inglorious history of go-nowhere schemes, Fabian stumbles upon a chance of a lifetime in the form of legendary wrestler Gregorius the Great (Stanislaus Zbyszko). But there is no easy money in this underworld of shifting alliances, bottomless graft, and sweaty, pummeled flesh and soon Fabian learns the horrible price of his overweening ambition. Night and the City is a crowning achievement of legendary director Jules Dassin and quintessential film noir.

Posters

Theatrical Release: April 1950 - UK

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

DVD Comparison:

Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC vs. BFI - Region 2 - PAL

(Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT vs. BFI - Region 2 - PAL RIGHT)

DVD Box Cover

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 274 - Region 1- NTSC BFI - Region 2 - PAL
Runtime 1:35:36 1:31:39 (4% PAL speedup)
Video 1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.47mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s
1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 8.10 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

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

Bitrate:

Criterion

Bitrate:

BFI

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

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion Collection

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Audio commentary by Glenn Erickson, author of the Film Noir Reader essay on Night and the City
• Video interview with director Jules Dassin
• Excerpts from a 1972 French interview with Dassin

•  "Two Scores" - a 2nd version of the film. Chris Husted commentary
• New essay by film critic Paul Arthur
• Original theatrical trailer

• Liner notes by Paul Arthur

DVD Release Date: February 1st, 2005

Keep Case
Chapters: 25

Release Information:
Studio: BFI Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.33:1

 

Edition Details:

• Audio commentary by Paul Duncan, co-author of Film Noir
• Video interview with director Jules Dassin
• Excerpts from a 1972 French interview with Dassin

•  Featurette: "Two Versions - Two Scores"

• 18-page liner notes booklet with essay by Lee Server


DVD Release Date: October 15th, 2007

Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 14

 

Comments:

ADDITION: BFI - Region - 2 - PAL (October 07'): Firstly, it was hoped that this would be the British version of the film but I understand the rights for that are tied up somewhere. It would have made a poignant companion to the Criterion US version. Both of these DVDs are the US version.

Surprisingly I feel the BFI dual-layered progressive image has a superior image (and feel) than the Criterion from 2005. This is only my opinion but I prefer the generally darker and sharper PAL edition in terms of image. Now it does exhibit more digital noise than the Criterion but I guess I am willing to acquiesce to that to see the DVD transfer that supports dark feel of the film more astutely (again my opinion). The BFI bitrate is higher.

In regards to framing - there is some movement and zooming but overall I feel the BFI shows a shade more information (in many scenes) mostly at the bottom of the frame. I don't find this significant but if I don't comment on it I get emails.

Audio is the same as far as my ears can tell - the 4% PAL speedup didn't seem to dramatically alter the pitch in my opinion.

In the supplements - both offer an excellent commentary - I wouldn't dare choose one over the other but I really enjoyed Paul Duncan's' very professional manner. Glenn Erickson's is also wonderful and it's nice they bring up different points (although a few are duplicated). This could be reason enough to own the BFI!  Both offer the same 1972 Dassin interview (excerpts) and 'Two Versions - Two Scores' featurette. Criterion go one step further with a 25 minute video interview with Dassin (another one). Both offer informative liner notes but between the two I might lean to BFI.

There you have it. If you love the film, as I, the BFI is worthy if only for another commentary but you may also feel that the PAL image is superior. Certainly the screen caps support them being sharper (or at least the perception of being sharper). This film is a true gem and I'm not unhappy to have both DVD editions and if I was going to re-watch would probably choose the BFI.    

***

RE: the Criterion - I don't think the image quality is up to par with say Siodmak's The Killers or Fuller's Pick-up on South Street, two other strong Criterion noir DVDs from the same period, but it is very good nonetheless. Heavy contrast and a notch below on the sharpness scale (for Criterion that is!). At times it shows excessive grain. Big nod to Glenn Erickson's commentary - top notch stuff from a fellow DVD reviewer. Great extras, great packaging, great subtitles - hey it's Criterion!.. and we thank goodness for their existence everyday! out of     

Gary W. Tooze


DVD Menus

 

(Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT vs. BFI - Region 2 - PAL RIGHT)

 


Subtitle Sample

 

NOTE: Not exact frame!

 

(Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. BFI - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM)

 

 


 

Screen Captures

 

(Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. BFI - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM)

 

 


 

(Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. BFI - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM)

 

 


 

(Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. BFI - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM)

 

 


 

(Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. BFI - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM)

 

 


(Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. BFI - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM)
 

 


 
(Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. BFI - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM)
 

 


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

 

DVD Box Cover

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 274 - Region 1- NTSC BFI - Region 2 - PAL

 



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Gary Tooze