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British Noir: Five Film Collection

 

While the film noir movement may seem like a distinctly American phenomenon, British studios embarked on their own shadowy thrillers, laced with postwar cynicism. This five-DVD collection assembles some of the lesser-known Brit noir titles from the Rank Studios, featuring such major talents as actors James Mason, Trevor Howard, and John Mills; and directors Ronald Neame and Roy Ward Baker.


THEY MET IN THE DARK (1943) Discharged for treason, a former Navy Commander (James Mason) sets out to expose the espionage ring that destroyed his career - Directed by Carl Lamac.


THE OCTOBER MAN (1947) After a traumatic brain injury, a young engineer (John Mills) tries to repair his life. But his recovery is thwarted when a woman (Kay Walsh) is found strangled and he becomes the prime suspect - Directed by Roy Ward Baker.


SNOWBOUND (1948) A British Army vet (Dennis Price) exposes a plot by ex-Nazis to reclaim a stash of gold bullion hidden at a ski resort. This edition was derived from a master suffering from moderate deterioration and is presented in a less-than-ideal condition - the stellar cast included Robert Newton, Herbert Lom and Stanley Holloway - Directed by David MacDonald.


THE GOLDEN SALAMANDER (1950) A British archaeologist (Trevor Howard) finds himself caught between a gang of North African gun-runners and the woman he loves (Anouk Aimée) - the top-notch cast included Herbert Lom and Wilfrid-Hyde White - Directed by Ronald Neame.


THE ASSASSIN (aka Venetian Bird) (1952) A private eye (Richard Todd) arrives in Venice in search of a fugitive, but soon discovers that the city s winding waterways hold dark secrets - Directed by Ralph Thomas.

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Distribution

Kino

Region 0 - NTSC

 

Comments

British Film Noir does not get as much attention as American - only 3 British films were mentioned in classic film noir literature and all of them with Hollywood connections - Jules Dassin's Night and the City, Edward Dmytryk's Obession aka The Hidden Room, Carol Reed's The Third Man. The term "British Film Noir" was first mentioned in 1987 in Films in Review article by William K. Everson with more articles and books to follow, including a chapter on the subject by Tony Williams in Film Noir Reader 2 and excellent British Film Noir Guide by Michael F. Keaney that I often reference to seek these often forgotten crime dramas. There were several other film guides released afterwards, adding more titles to find, especially since many UK DVD companies have been releasing them on DVD - Network, Renown Pictures, StudioCanal, Odeon Entertainment, Simply Media, Spirit Entertainment/Strawberry Media to name just a few most prominent. Statesides, besides the most popular titles released by Criterion, there was VCI that licensed a number of Lippert, Rank/ITV and Renown noirs and Warner Archive released a number of titles that had US theatrical release, sometimes in American version as happened with The Accursed (aka The Traitor). Very few of them get high-definition re-master, but we are glad these films get any quality releases.

Kino Classics licensed five British Noirs from ITV and released them in a 5-disc set. First film is a 1943 wartime spy drama They Met in the Dark starring James Mason (Odd Man Out)and Joyce Howard. The film was released previously in UK by Odeon Entertainment, but like most films in this set, this is US video debut. The next picture is the best one in the set - The October Man starring John Mills (Great Expectations) and Joan Greenwood (Kind Hearts and Coronets) and directed by Roy Ward Baker (A Night to Remember, Inferno). The film was previously available in UK only as part of 8-film John Mills Centenary Collection from ITV and stateside release was on a bootleg DVD-R. It is followed by a rare 1948 drama Snowbound starring Dennis Price (Kind Hearts and Coronets) and Mila Parély (The Rules of the Game). The film starts off with a warning about deteriorated source materials and presents this film as a bonus to this set. Perhaps it explains why this film was never released on DVD previously, in UK or elsewhere. Then comes Golden Salamander starring Trevor Howard (They Made Me a Fugitive) and 18-year old Anouk Aimée (Lola) in her first English-language role. The film, directed by Ronald Neame (Tunes of Glory, The Odessa File), was previously released by Odeon Entertainment in UK. The last film in the set, The Assassin aka Venetian Bird stars Richard Todd (Never Let Go) and Eva Bartok (Blood and Black Lace). Directed by Ralph Thomas (The Clouded Yellow) and beautifully filmed in Venice, it was based on Victor Canning novel (who also wrote previous film, Golden Salamander) and previously released in UK by Strawberry Media. All five films have their own charms and merits and are recommended for any film noir fan - if it takes place in a British small town, snowy Alps, exotic Tunisia or on canals of Venice.

Each film gets its own single-layered interlaced disc. There are some marks and damage on the prints - they did not go through extensive restoration and it can be seen from the sources used in the set. All films are in original full screen aspect ratio - no film is past 1954. The contrast and grain are fine - we don't own British discs to compare the presentation. Even the film that was derived from deteriorated print, Snowbound, most of the running time looks fine with only a few scenes where the damage is visible. The mono audio is decent, with no damage or distortions, but unfortunately, there are no English subtitles or captions available. There are 8 chapters for each film and no other extras, but we still recommend this set for rarity of these films in region 1 and hopefully more sets will follow.

  - Gregory Meshman

 


DVD Menus
 

 


 

directed by Carl Lamac
UK 1943

 

A wartime espionage drama based on the novel “The Vanished Corpse” by Anthony Gilbert (a pseudonym used by Lucy Malleson...)

[...]


Set during WWII. Mary, an attractive female enemy agent pretending to be the manicurist girlfriend of respected naval commander Richard Heritage (James Mason) plants false orders on him, and as a consequence a merchant ship is lost through the lack of a convoy escort. Heritage is court-martialled, found guilty of disobeying orders and dismissed from service. He returns to civilian life determined to prove his innocence and clear his name. He tracks the beautiful femme fatale to Blackpool, and is given a message to meet Mary at the Bell and Dragon inn. She’s not there but Heritage is directed to a remote house on the coast called Orchard Cottage. Heritage visits the cottage during a stormy night but discovers her dead body in one of the bedrooms. Entering the house moments later is Laura Verity (Joyce Howard), and after some initial misunderstandings they join forcers to solve the murder.

Excerpt of review from Britmovie located HERE

Theatrical Release: 1 November 1943 (UK)

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DVD Review: Kino (British Noir: 5 DVD Set) - Region 0 - NTSC

Big thanks to Gregory Meshman for the Review!

DVD Box Cover

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Distribution

Kino

Region 0 - NTSC

Runtime 1:30:30
Video

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.5 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

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

Bitrate

Audio Dolby Digital Mono (English)
Subtitles None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Kino

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
� 5 films of 5 discs

DVD Release Date: August 25th, 2015
5 discs in a keep case

Chapters 8


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directed by Roy Ward Baker
UK 1947

 

Roy Ward Baker‘s directorial debut is an atmospheric psychological thriller adapted by Eric Ambler from his own story. A Hitchcock connection unsurprisingly influences the film’s atmosphere, Ambler’s second wife collaborated on scripts with Hitchcock and Ward Baker was his one-time assistant. This compelling film noir features an accomplished performance from John Mills in the lead role...

[...]


After a bus accident in which his friend’s daughter (Juliet Mills) is killed, young industrial chemist Jim Ackland (John Mills) sustains head injuries that result in him suffering amnesia and suicidal tendencies. After a lengthy spell in hospital he is released and moves into a seedy London suburban hotel where he encounters sympathetic model Molly (Kay Walsh), although it’s fellow guest Jenny (Joan Greenwood) that he begins dating. Shortly after he lends Molly thirty-pounds, she is found strangled on the common and Jim is suspected of the murder...

Excerpt of review from Britmovie located HERE

Theatrical Release: 28 August 1947 (London)

Reviews                                                  More Reviews                                                      DVD Reviews

 

DVD Review: Kino (British Noir: 5 DVD Set) - Region 0 - NTSC

Big thanks to Gregory Meshman for the Review!

Distribution

Kino

Region 0 - NTSC

Runtime 1:35:06
Video

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.4 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

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

Bitrate

Audio Dolby Digital Mono (English)
Subtitles None

 

 


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directed by David MacDonald
UK 1948

 

The heroine of Snowbound is the Italian Countess Forelli (Mila Parely), known in a previous life as Carla. Snowbound tells the story of a guileless script writer, Blair (Dennis Price), who is sent by an ex-intelligence agent to find out why a collection of dubious Europeans are congregating at a remote ski hut in the Alps. The answer turns out to be a race to find Nazi gold buried in a ski lift at the end of the war. The main villain is Kellerman (Herbert Lom), an unrepentant Nazi who wants the gold to establish another Reich, but others in the group searching for the treasure include the very British Mayne (Guy Middleton), who has stolen the identity of another soldier...

Excerpt of review from Britmovie located HERE

Theatrical Release: 23 March 1948 (London)

Reviews                                                                    More Reviews                                                                          DVD Reviews

 

DVD Review: Kino (British Noir: 5 DVD Set) - Region 0 - NTSC

Big thanks to Gregory Meshman for the Review!

DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

 

 

Distribution

Kino

Region 0 - NTSC

Distribution

Kino

Region 0 - NTSC

Runtime 1:24:51
Video

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.5 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

Audio Dolby Digital Mono (English)
Subtitles None

 

 


Text Screen
 

 


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directed by Ronald Neame
UK 1950

 

With her little-girl voice and arched eyebrows, a 17-year old Anouk (Aimee) is a real attention-getter. Having her fall for the much older and plainer Trevor Howard, however, is something of a stretch. Nonetheless, it's a fascinating movie to look at even if the basic plot is unexceptional. Archaeologist Howard travels to north Africa to retrieve shipwrecked treasures that include a golden salamander. There he stumbles across a network of gun- smugglers and hooks up with the exotic Anna (Anouk) in a seedy, atmospheric café. Just who is and who isn't a part of the network generates some suspense.

But the movie's strength is in the acting and the photography. Howard is superb, as usual, while Anouk manages to be both emotionally vulnerable and surprisingly accomplished in her first big part. Special mention should go to Walter Rilla for his super slick version of a gangster kingpin. He looks and acts the sinister role to a proverbial T.

Excerpt of review from Doug Doepke for imdb.com located HERE

Theatrical Release: 1 February 1950 (London)

Reviews                                                                    More Reviews                                                            DVD Reviews

 

DVD Review: Kino (British Noir: 5 DVD Set) - Region 0 - NTSC

Big thanks to Gregory Meshman for the Review!

Distribution

Kino

Region 0 - NTSC

Runtime 1:37:24
Video

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.5 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

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

Bitrate

Audio Dolby Digital Mono (English)
Subtitles None

 

 


Screen Captures

 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 


(aka "Venetian Bird" )

 

directed by Ralph Thomas
UK 1952

 

From a screenplay by Victor Canning and based on hisown novel, Venetian Bird is a routine thriller heavily influenced The Third Man. Unfortunately, this tale of Richard Todd caught up in a web of mystery andintrigue suffers from a severe lack of suspense and only adequate acting. RalphThomas directs in his usual competent but routine manner, and cinematographerErnest Steward makes some stunning use of the Venetian locations.

[...]


Private detective Edward Mercer (Richard Todd) ishired to find war-time Italian partisan Renzo Uccello (John Gregson) in Venice and reward him for aiding the escape of an American during the war. Once he arrives, the detective finds himself the quarry of every Venetian policeman and shady underworld character in sight.[...]

Excerpt of review from Britmovie located HERE

Theatrical Release: October 1952 (UK)

Reviews                                                      DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Kino (British Noir: 5 DVD Set) - Region 1 - NTSC

Big thanks to Gregory Meshman for the Review!

DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

 

 

Distribution

Kino

Region 0 - NTSC

Distribution

Kino

Region 1 - NTSC

Runtime 1:34:30
Video

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.4 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

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

Bitrate

Audio Dolby Digital Mono (English)
Subtitles None

  


Screen Captures

 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 


DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

 

 

Distribution

Kino

Region 0 - NTSC



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