Both “bad girl” and “film noir” are terms to be understood loosely in this two-volume, eight-film collection from Sony, but I’m more than willing to put up with a little hype if it means bringing some fresh material to market. To say the least, this isn’t a director-oriented collection; the strongest personality here is the redoubtable Hugo Haas, represented by “One Girl’s Confession,” one of his least pathological productions (this time, Cleo Moore is the masochist).
There are two anonymous efforts by Lewis Seiler (“Women’s Prison,” 1955; “Over-Exposed,” 1956); two somewhat more flavorful films from Henry Levin (“Night Editor,” 1946; “Two of a Kind,” 1951) that suggest Levin had a little more kink in him than his bland Fox comedies would suggest; and a half-hearted medical melodrama from Irving Rapper (“Bad for Each Other,” 1953) which manages to make Charlton Heston look like a much worse actor than he actually was. More intriguing are the two on-location thrillers, “The Killer That Stalked New York” by Earl McAvoy and “The Glass Wall” by Maxwell Shane, both of which show the very strong influence that neorealism was bringing to bear on Hollywood practices, even on this marginal level of production. The latter film goes so far as to import Vittorio Gassman, in his first English language role, to play a Hungarian displaced person on the run in New York City; his attempts to find refuge in Times Square were filmed, according to the trailer, with “hidden cameras” — probably 16-millimeter rigs loaded with high speed newsreel stock.
The performers, of course, are the center of attraction here, and if the set offers a little too much of the fleshy Cleo Moore (in three films, including the all-star “Women’s Prison”), it does showcase Lizabeth Scott (in two films), Ida Lupino, Jan Sterling, Audrey Totter, Gertrude Michael, Juanita Moore and Mae Clarke (all in “Women’s Prison”), Evelyn Keyes (“The Killer That Stalked New York”) and the underrated Janis Carter — whose enthusiastic interpretation of a decadent socialite who gets turned on by the prospect of examining a battered corpse in “Night Editor” makes her the baddest girl of this bunch. That’s her above, with William Gargan. My New York Times review is here.