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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r


Columbia Pictures Film Noir Classics, Vol. 1

The Sniper (1952)          The Big Heat (1953)        5 Against the House (1955)

The Lineup (1958)         Murder by Contract (1958)


Product Description:
In the 1940s, a new genre* - film noir - emerged from the world of "hard - boiled" pulp magazines, paperback thrillers, and sensational crime movies. These films - tough and unsentimental - depicted a black-and-white universe at once brutal, erotic and morally ambiguous. Now, Sony Pictures and The Film Foundation have brought five noir classics together in one collection, all restored and remastered, and featuring brilliant performances by Glenn Ford, Lee Marvin, Kim Novak, Eli Wallach, Kathie Browne and Gloria Grahame, the genre-defining cinematography of Burnett Guffey, Hal Mohr and Lucien Ballard, and focused, taut direction by celebrated directors including Fritz Lang, Don Siegel and Phil Karlson.

*NOTE: Many don't consider 'Film Noir' a genre - but a 'style'.





The Sniper (1952) - Filmed in San Francisco, this Stanley Kramer production is one of the earliest studies of a murderous psychopath who kills randomly and without motive, making it almost impossible for the police to track him down. This noir pits the rationalism of law and psychiatry against the irrationality of post-traumatic stress and compulsive homicide. Adolphe Menjou, Arthur Franz and Marie Windsor star under the taut direction of Edward Dmytryk. The Sniper has a running time of 87 minutes and is not rated.

The Big Heat (1953):
Fritz Lang’s policier stars Glenn Ford as a loving husband and father driven by grief to conduct a relentless vendetta against mobster Alexander Scourby and his brutal henchman, Lee Marvin. Once dedicated to protect and serve, Ford sacrifices everything—principles, career, and even the woman who comes to him for protection—in a rage to destroy his gangland foes. With Gloria Grahame, Jocelyn Brando and a young Carolyn Jones. The Big Heat has a running time of 90 minutes and is not rated.

5 Against the House (1955):
A quartet of Korean war vets—aided by a sizzling Kim Novak—plan a “perfect” crime - robbing a casino in Reno, Nevada. What starts out as a prank becomes deadly serious, especially for the one vet with psychopathic tendencies. Noir specialist Phil Karlson directs Novak, Guy Madison, Brian Keith, Kerwin Matthews, Alvy Moore and William Conrad. 5 Against the House has a running time of 84 minutes and is not rated.

Murder by Contract (1958):
Vince Edwards stars as a hired assassin whose latest “assignment” (Caprice Toriel) is about to testify against the mob. But this particular target is not so easy to get at. So he waits…and waiting gives the assassin what he needs least: time to think. The lean, efficient direction by Irving Lerner (City of Fear) is complimented by the stark black and white cinematography of Lucien Ballard (The Wild Bunch). Murder by Contract has a running time of 81 minutes and is not rated. Watch for TOS gal,
Kathie Browne.

The Lineup (1958):
This double narrative follows two criminals involved in a dope smuggling scheme and the police who follow their trail of violence and death across the city of San Francisco. Making brilliant use of space and architecture, the film features a wildly disorienting car chase that culminates on the then-unfinished Embarcadero Freeway – literally, a road going nowhere. Don Siegel directs Eli Wallach as the cold-blooded hit man, with Warner Anderson and Emile Meyer as the cops hunting him down. Richard Jaeckel and Robert Keith co-star. The Lineup has a running time of 86 minutes and is not rated.


Theatrical Releases: 1952 - 1958

DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Sony (5-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC


DVD Box Cover

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Distribution Sony - Region 1 - NTSC
Time: Respectively - 1:27:48, 1:29:27, 1:26:24, 1:23:06, + 1:20:18
Audio English (original mono)
Subtitles English, None

Release Information:
Studio: Sony

Aspect Ratio:
All Original: The Sniper (1952) The Big Heat (1953) are 1.33 and 5 Against the House (1955), The Lineup (1958) and Murder by Contract (1958) are anamorphic 1.85:1.

Edition Details:
• Commentary with Author Eddie Muller on The Sniper

• Commentary with Authors Eddie Muller and James Ellroy on The Lineup
• Featurette: “Martin Scorsese on Murder by Contract” (4:57)
• Featurette: “Martin Scorsese on The Sniper” (3:17)
• Featurette: “Martin Scorsese on The Big Heat” (5:47)
• Featurette: “Michael Mann on The Big Heat” (10:56)
• Featurette: “The Influence of Noir with Christopher Nolan (The Lineup - 6:29)”

Trailer for The Big Heat

DVD Release Date: November 3rd, 2009

Custom digi-pak case (see image below)
Chapters: 12 X 5



With Warner temporarily ceasing their classic Noir, Gangster, Pre-Code or individual vintage star boxsets, Sony has taken over bringing out packages of older films that are representative, in this case, of a film style, director or star. Their recent Samuel Fuller Film Collection is an example also filling that niche sub-label, like this, entitling both "The Collector's Choice". The Big Heat is the only title that has seen the digital-light-of-day previously and we have compared some captures below from our review HERE of that original Columbia Tri-star disc.

The five feature films of this boxset are all filmed in black and white and reside on individual, progressively transferred DVD discs. Each is single-layered (only) in their original aspect ratios - 1:33 for the first 2 and 1.85 16X9 enhanced for the final 3.  Each disc is coded for Region 1 only (The Big Heat DVD from 2001 was coded for regions, 1, 3 + 4) in the NTSC standard. They have original mono audio (or 2.0 channel stereo) and each offer optional English subtitles in a bright yellow font. The package (image below) is a three tiered Digi-pak housed inside a handsome cardboard slipcase. There are two supplemental commentaries and short 'introductions' that we will discuss below.

Image quality:  Columbia TriStar produced some excellent quality single-layered DVDs of classic films and their 2001 The Big Heat fares a shade better than the one in this new Sony Noir package. While black levels are richer on the Sony - grain and detail are superior on the older transfer. The Sony is definitely a bit softer and although my captures below may not be exact matches - I can confirm this. Either the Columbia is slightly stretched vertically or the Sony is slightly compressed horizontally. The bitrate (5.57 vs. 4.57 Mbps) is also notable as being weaker in the new collection. Since the DVD does share the feature with some extras - albeit less than 20-minutes worth - I would have thought it prudent to house this on a dual-layered disc. In short the original looks untouched where the new rendering may have had some DNR and boosted black levels - it appears quite likely. I'm not going to fuss to much as the discrepancy over, say, Blu-ray (we can hope - one day!) will be a far greater leap - but I'd much prefer the grain and detail over the softer manipulated image with noise.

Actually all 5 film transfers are on single-layered DVDs and have bitrates less than 5 Mbps. Since many Noir fans probably have these on recorded DVD-R media this makes the upgrade a more difficult 'sell'. But there are plenty of other advantages in the supplements. Quality of the appearance is fairly consistent with the contrast of 5 Against the House being greenish and weaker than the rest. Murder By Contract is a shade softer than the rest and The Lineup looks to have the best detail. The Sniper is a bit hazy with some noticeable noise in monochromatic dark backgrounds.  

Audio was acceptable with all dialogue discernable and without major faux-pas like devastating dropouts, pops or background hiss. It was consistent and clear enough and is supported with optional English subtitles in a bright yellow font.


Extras have some real value with a commentary by Noir King Eddie Muller on The Sniper. He's one of the best to listen to as his knowledge fills the 1.5 hour film with grace and easy. He's relaxed and his commentaries are always a pleasure to indulge in by fans of the dark style. The Lineup has Eddie again as commentarist along with a boisterous James Ellroy. These guys are having a ball while watching this Don Siegel film but Ellroy is definitely on an R-rated roll with his language. Eddie continuously points of out San Francisco landmarks and details of this and other Noirs are discussed with confidence. Ellroy has been proud to state in the past '...I am also the greatest crime writer who ever lived.' He is a lot of fun and the commentary is well worth listening! Martin Scorsese gives short, less than 5-minute, introductions (not labeled as such but it is how I interpreted them) on Murder by Contract, (influencing scenes in his later Taxi Driver) The Sniper and The Big Heat. The latter DVD has another piece with Michael Mann talking about this iconic film, and Noir for about 10-minutes. On The Lineup we get a featurette - “The Influence of Noir with Christopher Nolan” running about 6.5 minutes and the director/writer impresses with his insightful knowledge. There are no supplements on 5 Against the House. I'm sure many share my disappointment that these extras weren't longer or gravitated into more commentaries but despite this they were highly interesting.


There were two films in this collection that I had never seen before and like the Samuel Fuller Film Collection set I was in Nirvana. I doubt my review words would dissuade any true fans from indulging in this package. Everyone is aware of the value of Fritz Lang's The Big Heat but all films in this boxset are well above-average! The Lineup was especially satisfying with, perhaps, 5 Against the House being a notch below the others. Dmytryk's The Sniper and Irving Lerner's sparse Murder by Contract are prime examples of the shadowy style. It seems like it has been so long since we were able to immerse ourselves into a set such as this and let's hope that The Film Noir Collection: Volume 2 with Pushover (1954), Nightfall (1957), The Brothers Rico (1957), City of Fear (1959) and the rehashed In a Lonely Place (1950) establishes a specific release date soon!

Gary W. Tooze





Sample DVD Menus



The Sniper (1952)


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The Big Heat (1953)

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Original Columbia Tri-star DVD TOP vs. Sony Noir Collection Volume 1 BOTTOM


Original Columbia Tri-star DVD TOP vs. Sony Noir Collection Volume 1 BOTTOM



Original Columbia Tri-star DVD TOP vs. Sony Noir Collection Volume 1 BOTTOM




Original Columbia Tri-star DVD TOP vs. Sony Noir Collection Volume 1 BOTTOM




More caps from the Sony Noir Collection Volume 1











5 Against the House (1955)

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The Lineup (1958)

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Murder by Contract (1958)
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DVD Box Cover

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Distribution Sony - Region 1 - NTSC




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