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Bad Girls of Film Noir, Vol. 2

 
Night Editor (1946)         One Girl's Confession (1953)


Women's Prison (1955)      Over-Exposed (1956)

 

Cleo Moore, Audrey Totter, Jan Sterling, Ida Lupino and Janis Carter. Forgery, adultery, theft, blackmail and murder. The Bad Girls of Noir are back, in Volume 2, and these gorgeous gals with malice in their hearts are sure to thrill hard-boiled fans of Noir. Fan favorite Cleo Moore finally gets her due in three films that highlight the talents of the beauty who was compared to Marilyn Monroe, but whom fans love for her earnest, if stilted portrayals of dim-witted gals who can't catch a break. Four films, restored and re-mastered are all new to DVD, and sure to provide plenty of excitement for the noir aficionado. Watch out for these gals, they're dangerous--which makes them oh, so fun to watch.'

Titles

 


 

Overview:

 

Columbia has reached deep into their vaults to come up with some previously unissued gems. But here's an important travel advisory: Just because a movie is in black & white doesn't make it noir. Let me repeat that: Just because a movie is in black & white doesn't make it noir. Nor does a movie qualify for noir status just because it's black & white and made in the fifties or late forties, nor even if it has one of those femme fatale actresses we conjure up when we think of the genre (or "style" or "sub-genre" or whatever). Without attempting a definition of "noir", I think we can all agree on what it is not: it is not: tidy endings or pleasant romances. And it is not a public service announcement in melodramatic form.

Perhaps I have set the bar high for a "noir" certificate. I confess I have never fully embraced the idea of noir as style rather than as genre. If we consider only generally accepted noir elements, then most of the eight movies here have some of them, but then so does On the Waterfront. My impression is that the only movie across both sets that qualifies in style and execution is Night Editor. To consider one of these movies in more detail, The Killer That Stalked New York has many noirish elements, but it has a very different agenda from the usual noir film. It means to inform the public about a potential killer that could attack at any moment. It also tells us how to combat it. What noir movie does that! The character that is most like what we ordinarily think of as a femme fatale is entirely unaware of her weapon. That makes for irony, but not, in my opinion, a noir character. Moreover, there is no anti-hero, no protagonist of any kind to consider one way or another, let alone both at once, which is the usual characteristic of noir heroes or anti-heroes, In this movie they are merely a collection of agents with parallel goals. I could go on to parse out why I feel each film does or does not qualify as noir (in style or genre) but suffice to say, I feel that, by and large, they don't.

OK. So don't get your hopes for these eight films (including the four on Volume 2). They are not likely to satisfy a craving for undiscovered noir, to say nothing of "classics" in the genre. HOWEVER, these are all good to outstanding dramas, and, to my knowledge, they have the further benefit of never having been released on DVD in Region 1. Source elements are in fine shape. The only disappointment here is the extra features, which are light-to-non-existent. On Volume 2, there is only one 24-minute episode from television's "All Star Theatre" and most of the original theatrical trailers. (The segment with Terry Moore is included on Volume 1.) Unlike many of the Fox Noir packages, there are no commentaries in either volume. Each DVD volume consists of two single-sided, dual layered discs, placed against the inside front and rear covers (no flippages or placement on top of each other – Hallelujah!) And, unless I blinked, the transfers are pretty much without tears or missing frames. Artifact issues, jaggies, and that most persistent of DVD bugbears, edge enhancement, are not at issue here.

Volume 2 includes four films that peek into the seedier side of life.

Posters

Theatrical Releases: 1946 - 1956

DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Sony (2-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC

 

DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

 

Distribution Sony - Region 1 - NTSC
Audio English (original mono)
Subtitles English, English (SDH), None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Sony

Aspect Ratio:
All Original: 1.33:1 and 1.85:1

Edition Details:
• Remember To Live-All Star Theatre Episode

DVD Release Date: February 9th, 20
10
Chapters: 12 X 4

 

Comments:

Night Editor

Directed by Henry Levin

1946

Written by Scott Littleton & Hal Smith

Photographed by Burnett Guffey (From Here to Eternity, Birdman of Alcatraz, Bonnie and Clyde)

Featuring: William Gargan, Janis Carter, Jeff Donnell and Coulter Irwin

 

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Audio: English mono.

Subtitles: English & English SDH

Duration: 66 minutes (1:06:25)

Chapters: 12

 

Night Editor features William Gargan (if you don't know the name, you'll recognize the face) as a newspaper editor who recounts the inside story behind the headlines: This one is about a married police detective (Coulter Irwin) who witnesses a murder while in the company of another woman (Janis Carter) with whom he is having an affair. To avoid embarrassing complications he does not report what he saw. As ironic luck would have it, he is assigned to the murder case. It's the stuff a good B-movie could have a field day with, and this is a good B-movie. bringing the total to 281 films).

 

Image & Sound

The source elements are good, with no distracting scratches or blemishes.  The transfer preserves film grain and contrast that offers strong blacks and good sharpness, consistent with expectations for the scene and lighting. Despite this being the oldest of the eight films in these two volumes, dialogue is crisp and office sounds are convincing enough.  The music for this movie was composed by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, more famous as the composer of a popular Concerto for Guitar.

 

One Girl's Confession

Directed by Hugo Haas

1953

Written by Hugo Haas (who has done it all: producer, writer, director, and actor, all of it here, and none of it particularly memorably)

Photographed by Paul Ivano (From Here to Eternity, Birdman of Alcatraz, Bonnie and Clyde)

Featuring: Cleo Moore, Hugo Haas, Glenn Langan, Ellen Stansbury

 

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Audio: English mono.

Subtitles: English & English SDH

Duration: 73 minutes (1:13:35)

Chapters: 12

 

Don't be surprised if you are unfamiliar with any of the people involved in this movie.  Cleo Moore made a career of B-movies and has starring roles in two of the films in this collection and a supporting role in a third.  Here the body beautiful serves her time and then tries to find a trustworthy person to help her locate the thousands she stole and buried. Glenn Langan (The Amazing Colossal Man, The Snake Pit) is, by turns, the lucky and unlucky chap. One Girl's Confession gets a little too caught up in manufactured irony, but it's a good time all the same.

 

Image & Sound

The image is generally quite good, but shows occasional contrast inconsistencies scene to scene: some good, some flat, some bright, some dark, some soft, some razor sharp. There are no distracting blemishes.  The audio is clear, unremarkable mono. 

 

 

Women's Prison

Directed by Lewis Seiler

1955

Written by Jack DeWitt and Crane Wilbur

Photographed by Lester White (Sherlock Holmes & the Secret Weapon)

Featuring: Ida Lupino, Jan Sterling, Audrey Totter, Phyllis Thaxter, Warren Stevens and Howard Duff

 

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Audio: English mono.

Subtitles: English & English SDH

Duration: 80 minutes (1:19:40)

Chapters: 12

This galactically unimaginative title suggests the pulpiest of exploitation movies.  Women's Prison, "where caged men are separated only by a thick wall from caged women" features one of the more illustrative casts of the eight films in this collection.  The hands-on warden is played by Ida Lupino: she feels that every inmate should be treated equally – equally badly.   Jan Sterling is a returning convict on a forgery rap; Phyllis Thaxter (known primarily for her work on television, she would go on to play Superman's Earth mother) arrives with her on a manslaughter conviction, having killed a child while driving her car.  No one in this film denies their guilt.  In Thaxter's case, she is quite consumed by it and "cracks up" the moment the iron door closes behind her.  Audrey Totter's husband, Warren Stevens, is in for a long hitch next door and spends his time trying to get over the wall to see his wife on an "urgent matter" that only he can satisfy.   Howard Duff is the sympathetic, but often powerless, prison doctor, who has some theories about why the Lupino is the way she is.  Vivian Marshall does impersonations – her Bette Davis is about the best I've seen. Women's Prison is high and mighty melodrama given a committed face by an excellent cast. 

 

Image & Sound

The source elements are very good with no distracting scratches or blemishes.  Contrast and sharpness is very good.  The audio is very good here, with solid weight to the iron door that closes on poor Phyliss, yet subtle enough to make out the whisper of oxygen fed into one of the inmates' infirmary tent.  This is one of the better looking and sounding titles across the two volumes of "Bad Girls of Film Noir".

 

 

Over-Exposed

Directed by Lewis Seiler

1956

Written by James Gunn & Richard Sale

Photographed by Henry Freulich

Featuring: Cleo Moore, Richard Crenna, Raymond Greenleaf, Isobel Elsom, James O'Rear and Constance Towers

 

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Audio: English stereo.

Subtitles: English & English SDH

Duration: 80 minutes (1:19:50)

Chapters: 12

 

All that buxom Cleo Moore wants is respect, particularly from those least likely to give it.  She sees any and every good turn as a thinly veiled proposition to get into her pants.  Raymond Greenleaf is a once-respected portrait photographer, now at the end of his career taking "a sip now and then," who teaches the trade to Cleo.  She tries to go straight, so to speak, but as usual no one takes her seriously. An earnest Richard Crenna bumps into her one day and tries to encourage her to climb the ladder slowly and deliberately.  But she wants it all, now.  And she gets it, or nearly.  James O'Rear plays a reporter for an ersatz National Enquirer and invites Cleo to get the pictures that would support his embarrassing stories.  Blackmail lurks just around the corner.  Over-Exposed doesn't quite find a consistent tone.  It seems at first to want to be a light comedy, and then a thriller, while all the while maintaining a moralistic message.  It's all so 50s, one has to blush.

 

On a personal note, I found something that truly endeared me to this movie.  Perhaps you've noticed how often some behavior or language in a film relating to your own profession fails to meet the minimal requirements for verisimilitude.  For example, a character who is supposed to be a photographer stands three feet from his subject with what is obviously a normal focal length lens yet somehow obtains a full length portrait.  Not in this universe.  In Over-Exposed, Cleo Moore often behaves as a photographer would.  In one scene she goes to the trouble of moving aside a distracting place setting on a restaurant table before taking a portrait of someone sitting one the other side of the table.  That's really remarkable, and done without bringing any attention to itself.  In fact, we get a pretty good idea how Cleo gets the kind of portraits she becomes famous for.  Watch how she generates the inner person by the way she talks to them.  Very impressive.

 

Image & Sound

The source elements are generally very good, though with a few moderately washed out stretches.  There are no distracting scratches or blemishes.  Contrast and Sharpness is also quite good, often excellent.  The audio is in stereo, which permits its clearly recorded dialogue to be appropriately located across the frame.

 

Recommendation

By now it should be clear that none of these movies have any claim to "noir" status.  Even the notion of "bad girl" is a bit thin.  All the same, there isn't a single loser in the bunch, and several are quite good and have high rewatchabilty credentials.  Too bad about the lack of Extra Features.  Both volumes are recommended.  Good value for the money, too.

Leonard Norwitz

LensViews

January 22, 2010


Sample DVD Menus



 

Night Editor (1946)

 

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One Girl's Confession (1953)

 
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Women's Prison (1955)

 
Screen Captures
 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

Over-Exposed (1956)

 
Screen Captures
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

 

Distribution Sony - Region 1 - NTSC


 


 



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