Thursday, May 27, 2010

Columbia Film Noir Classics Vol. 2

This is a great time to be a film noir geek. It seems as if every week brings us a new set of classics from down in the studio vaults. Following hard upon the release of last year's first volume of Columbia Pictures noir classics (a nice set that included The Big Heat, The Sniper, and Murder By Contract, among others) comes a new collection. From my vantage point, this one looks even better. Columbia Pictures churned out a lot of top flight work (second only to RKO probably) and this collection goes deep.

Columbia Film Noir Classics Vol. 2 includes the following films:

Pushover-One of the great underrated noirs, this film was directed by an unjustly overlooked director named Richard Quine. Quine was known primarily as a director of comedies but his topnotch noir work (which includes the masterpiece Drive a Crooked Road which he made the same year) cannot be missed. Pushover stars Fred MacMurray as a cop who falls for a sexy bad news dame played by Kim Novak. For my money, it's MacMurray's best noir. Yeah, you read that right. This is an essential noir.

Human Desire-Fritz Lang reteamed with Glenn Ford and Gloria Grahame for this tale of adultery and murder. It's often overshadowed by the splashier, more violent The Big Heat, which Lang and his actors made the previous year, but Human Desire is even more insidious in its depiction of people venturing beyond the bounds of their own morality. Also features the great Broderick Crawford.

Nightfall-This is a weak spot in the set. It sounds like it should be amazing: Jacques Tourneur directs an adaptation of a David Goodis classic. The results, however, are sluggish and uninvolving. I wrote about this film before in an essay about the challenges that Goodis poses to those who try to adapt his work.

City of Fear-Director Irving Lerner followed up his brilliant Murder By Contract with this hard-edged story of an escaped convict (played by hothead Vince Edwards) who gets his sweaty hands on a radioactive chemical called Cobalt 60.

The Brothers Rico-Director Phil Karlson directed this adaptation of the Georges Simenon story about Eddie Rico, an ex-gangster trying to save his brothers from being murdered by a duplicitous crime lord. Richard Conte, Mr. Big Shot himself, stars as Eddie and the great Dalton Trumbo did uncredited work on the script.

Columbia Film Noir Classics Vol. 2 will be released July 6th. It also features introductions to the films by Martin Scorsese, Christopher Nolan, and Emily Mortimer.


Laurie Powers said...

I didn't even know about Volume 1. Shame on me. Thanks for the summary on the films. I've come to the decision that this blog is indispensible for anyone who wants to learn about film noir.

Jake Hinkson said...

Thanks, Laurie! The first set was good, but this one looks even better.

StephenD said...

Based on your recommendation I tracked down a copy of "Pushover". I have to say I was not disappointed. You always come up with some great overlooked noirs. Keep up the good work.