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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Hoodlum Empire [Blu-ray]


(Joseph Kane, 1952)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Republic Pictures

Video: Olive Films



Region: 'A' (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:38:05.880

Disc Size: 21,637,169,664 bytes

Feature Size: 21,524,594,688 bytes

Video Bitrate: 27.00 Mbps

Chapters: 8

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: April 30th, 2013



Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 825 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 825 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 1.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 16-bit)






• None





Description: WWII veteran and ex-gangster, Joe Gray (John Russell) is subpoenaed to testify against his uncle and current mob boss, Nick Mancini (Luther Adler). Nick must restrain Charley Pignatalli (Forrest Tucker), his violent second-in-command, from killing Joe before he his court appearance. Torn from the headlines and shot in a semi-documentary style, Hoodlum Empire was inspired by the Kefauver investigations of 1950 and 1951. This classic film noir was directed by Joseph Kane (King of the Pecos) and was beautifully shot by Reggie Lanning (Sands of Iwo Jima). The all-star cast includes Claire Trevor, Brian Donlevy, Vera Ralston and Gene Lockhart.



The Film:

The Kefauver Committee's ongoing investigation of organized crime spawned several "Torn from Today's Headlines!" films in the early 1950s. Republic's Hoodlum Empire concerns the efforts by gangster Joe Gray (John Russell) to get out of the rackets after WW II. Part of Gray's "reclamation" is to testify at a public hearing, prompting a series of flashbacks. Part of the fun is to guess who all the "fictional" criminals are really supposed to be: Luther Adler's character may be called "Nicky Mancini," for example, but for all intents and purposes Adler is playing Frank "Fifth Amendment" Costello. Other famous underworld personages are impersonated by Claire Trevor, Forrest Tucker and Roy Barcroft, while the steadfast Estes Kefauver counterpart is portrayed by Brian Donlevy.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

Designed to cash in on the televised Kefauver hearings, this was originally intended as a Frank Costello biopic. When George Raft refused to play his old buddy, the project metamorphosed into the story of Joe Gray (Russell), brought up in the rackets by his mobster uncle (Adler) until combat service in WWII teaches him the all-American values his army buddies are ready to die for. In feeble imitation of the vastly superior The Enforcer, a string of flashbacks from the Senate Committee hearings reveal how Gray tries to go straight in a rural community; how the Mob's expanding gambling activities encroach; and how he is deliberately inculpated so that, should threats fail and he decide to testify, his evidence will be compromised. Absurdly melodramatic when it isn't being pompous, sermonising or hopelessly simplistic about syndicate activities, the film is kept afloat solely by the fine cast (Adler, Russell and Trevor, in particular).

Excerpt from TimOut Film Guide located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Hoodlum Empire is on our Essential Noir listing and Olive have put it to Blu-ray. Most know the drill - this is single-layered with a decent bitrate on the un-manipulated 1080P transfer. It is not exceptionally sharp but contrast is improved over SD. There is no real depth but there is some grain and this may be a close approximation of how it may have looked more than 60 years ago. The Blu-ray gave me a decent enough HD presentation to enjoy the film's Noir characteristics of light and shadow.

















Audio :

The DTS-HD mono track at 825 kbps is predictably flat but has some depth to its Nathan Scott (Driftwood, The Red Menace, Wake of the Red Witch) score. It is consistent but unremarkable without fatal flaws but it seems a faithful transfer. There are no subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.


Extras :

No supplements - not even a trailer which is the bare-bones route that Olive are going with the vast majority of their releases.



Interesting and reasonable complex/full noir - heavy on the flashbacks. I can see myself indulging again now that I have been exposed to it. The film itself is imperfect (awkwardness) but the 'dark cinema' sensibilities are here in abundance. The Blu-ray is typical Olive bare-bones but the a/v has benefits. Those versed in Nor will probably get the most benefit - and we recommend to that niche. 

Gary Tooze

April 30th, 2013


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