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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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Comparison:

Universal Pictures UK - Region 2,4 - PAL vs. TCM - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Koch Media - Region 'B' - Blu-ray vs. Arrow - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 
1) Universal Pictures UK - Region 2,4 - PAL LEFT
2) TCM - Region 1- NTSC - SECOND
3) Koch Media - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - THIRD
4) Arrow - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - RIGHT
 
Box Covers

Also available in the Dark Crimes Boxset:

 

 

Distribution Universal Pictures UK - Region 2,4 - PAL TCM - Region 1 -  NTSC Koch Media
Region 'B' -
Blu-ray
Arrow- Region 'B' - Blu-ray
Runtime 1:21:27 (4% PAL Speedup) 1:25:15 1:25:28.039 1:25:26.121
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

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 27,065,288,202 bytes

Feature: 25,857,740,160 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 34.95 Mbps

1080P Single-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 24,702,919,474 bytes

Feature: 20,402,996,352 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 27.80 Mbps

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

Bitrate:

Bitrate:

Bitrate: Koch Blu-ray

Bitrate: Arrow Blu-ray

Audio English (Dolby Digital 1.0)  English (Dolby Digital 1.0) DTS-HD Master Audio German 1575 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1575 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio English 1612 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1612 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)

LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary

Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps

Subtitles English, None None German, English, None English (SDH), 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

Release Information:
Studio: K
och Media

 

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 27,065,288,202 bytes

Feature: 25,857,740,160 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 34.95 Mbps


Edition Details:

• Introduction by Ben Mankiewicz (2:29)

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

• Eddie Muller on Lake and Ladd (2:20)

• Trailer (1:33)

• Gallery
 

Standard Blu-ray case

Blu-ray Release Date: May 12th, 2016

Chapters: 16

Release Information:
Studio: Arrow
 

1080P Single-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 24,702,919,474 bytes

Feature: 20,402,996,352 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 27.80 Mbps

 

Edition Details:

• Audio commentary by crime fiction and film expert Barry Forshaw
• New visual essay on the film by Alastair Phillips, co-author of 100 Film Noirs (23:28)

Rare 1946 half-hour radio dramatization of The Glass Key by The Screen Guild Theater, starring Alan Ladd, Marjorie Reynolds and Gene Kelly (29:39)
• Original theatrical trailer (1:38)
• Extensive gallery of vintage stills and promotional materials
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Tonci Zonjic

Blu-ray Release Date: September 19th, 2016
Transparent Blu-ray Case

Chapters:13

 

 

 

 

Comments:

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

ADDITION: Arrow - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - September 16': There was a postal delay in my receiving this and The Blue Dahlia but I am overjoyed to have them, finally, in my possession. Aside from a shift pixel here and there the new Arrow 1080P matches up, almost exactly, with the German Koch - who were first out of the Blu-ray-gate with this essential Noir title. The Arrow is only single-layered and the bitrate a bit lower but it still shows the wonderful grain and impressive contrast that fans hope for. I see no framing disparity. I doubt many would distinguish between the two on their systems. I'm very pleased with the video presentation.

Arrow go with an authentically flat linear PCM mono track - 24-bit (as opposed to Koch's 16-bit.) The higher-end might be a shade crisper than the Koch and the bass a little less intense. The score, credited to Victor Young (Three Faces West, The Sun Shines Bright, Johnny Guitar, China Gate etc.), and Walter Scharf (Hans Christian Andersen, The Geisha Boy, Rock-a-Bye Baby) sound tight and buoyant in this addictive Noir. There are optional English subtitles (see sample below) and the Blu-ray is region 'B'-locked.

I look forward to including the the audio commentary by crime fiction and film expert Barry Forshaw. There is a new, 24-minute, visual essay on the film by Alastair Phillips, co-author of 100 Film Noirs and It was very rewarding. We get another rare 1946 half-hour radio dramatization - this time The Glass Key by The Screen Guild Theater, starring Alan Ladd, Marjorie Reynolds and Gene Kelly. It's very atmospheric. There is an original theatrical trailer and extensive gallery of vintage stills and promotional materials plus the package has a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Tonci Zonjic.

NOTE: There is a link between The Coen brothers Miller's Crossing and The Glass Key (thanks Anthony!) as identified in Wikipedia "Miller's Crossing contains references to many gangster films and film noir. Many situations, characters. and dialogue are derived from the work of Dashiell Hammett, particularly his 1931 novel The Glass Key. There are some parallels between the two stories, and many scenes and lines are culled directly from this novel. In particular, the relationship between Tom and Leo in the film mirrors the relationship between Ned Beaumont and Paul Madvig, the principal characters of the Hammett novel."

The equal video, improved audio and supplements make the case for an Arrow Blu-ray purchase. This is one I will cherish and revisit often. Another stellar package from Arrow and we whole-heartedly recommend! I hope they do more Noir, soon!

***

ADDITION: Koch Media - Region 'B' - Blu-ray May 16': The Koch is a massive improvement with a max'ed out bitrate. This looks great - wonderful and consistent grain texture. It is significantly in advance of the chroma-filled TCM SD transfer.

 

Audio is transferred in a healthy DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel (16-bit) in the original English (and an optional German DUB) and it sounds very good. There are some aggressive effects and the lossless adds another atmospheric layer to this delicious Noir. There are optional English subtitles (see sample below) and the Blu-ray is region 'B'-locked.

 

So, we get the Mankiewicz introduction, the, too brief, Eddie Muller extras are repeated from the TCM DVD. An English trailer and gallery. Eddie considers Siodmak (Phantom Lady, Criss Cross, The Dark Mirror) the greatest of all Noir directors.

 

The Ladd/Lake noirs (This Gun For Hire, The Blue Dahlia, and The Glass Key) are an essential part of the cycle and this Koch Blu-ray is the best way, by a wide margin, on how to see the film in your home theatre. Very strongly recommended!

***

ADDITION: TCM - Region 1 - NTSC - November 2012: The TCM has a very poor image with chroma bug. Something is wrong here - and/or it is a sloppy SD transfer. We hope this arrives on 1080P soon!

(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.

All three transfers are single-layered and may be from different sources from their PAL counterparts - and are slightly cropped - but have similar light damage/speckles.

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.

***

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
 
 
 

 

 

Koch Media - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 

 

Arrow - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 

 


CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Subtitle Sample

 

1) Universal Pictures UK - Region 2,4 - PAL TOP
2) TCM - Region 1- NTSC - SECOND
3) Koch Media - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - THIRD
4) Arrow - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM
 

Screen Captures

 

1) Universal Pictures UK - Region 2,4 - PAL TOP
2) TCM - Region 1- NTSC - SECOND
3) Koch Media - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - THIRD
4) Arrow - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM
 

 
1) Koch Media - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - TOP
2) Arrow - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM
 
 
1) Koch Media - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - TOP
2) Arrow - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM
 

1) Universal Pictures UK - Region 2,4 - PAL TOP
2) TCM - Region 1- NTSC - MIDDLE
3) Koch Media - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM
 


1) Universal Pictures UK - Region 2,4 - PAL TOP
2) TCM - Region 1- NTSC - MIDDLE
3) Koch Media - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM
 


1) Universal Pictures UK - Region 2,4 - PAL TOP
2) TCM - Region 1- NTSC - MIDDLE
3) Koch Media - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM
 


1) Universal Pictures UK - Region 2,4 - PAL TOP
2) TCM - Region 1- NTSC - MIDDLE
3) Koch Media - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM
 

1) Universal Pictures UK - Region 2,4 - PAL TOP
2) TCM - Region 1- NTSC - MIDDLE
3) Koch Media - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM
 

1) Universal Pictures UK - Region 2,4 - PAL TOP
2) TCM - Region 1- NTSC - MIDDLE
3) Koch Media - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM
 

 

More Blu-ray Captures

 

Box Covers

Also available in the Dark Crimes Boxset:

 

 

Distribution Universal Pictures UK - Region 2,4 - PAL TCM - Region 1 -  NTSC Koch Media
Region 'B' -
Blu-ray
Arrow- Region 'B' - Blu-ray


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




 

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