The noir boom continues — at least, the studios have found one way to market old movies — with a pair of lush sets from Sony (five titles) and Warners (eight). For the most part these are mid to late period titles, moving from the baroque stylization of Anthony Mann’s 1947 “Desperate” to the stripped-down stylistics and opaque characterizations of Irving Lerner’s 1959 “City of Fear.” The streamlined noir of the 50s finds its most consistently interesting practitioner in Phil Karlson, represented here by two of his best films, “The Brothers Rico” (in the Columbia box) and the semi-documentary “The Phenix City Story” (in the Warners set).
As usual, it’s debatable whether some of these films are noir at all, as opposed to police procedurals (Richard Fleischer’s tight little “Armored Car Robbery”) or juvenile delinquent dramas (Don Siegel’s “Crime in the Streets,” with an early John Cassavetes performance and a very Playhouse 90 script by Reginald Rose). It may have gotten in on a pass, but there is probably more to say about Gerald Mayer’s “Dial 1119,” a topical drama from Dore Schary’s deflated MGM about an escaped mental patient (Marshall Thompson) who holds half a dozen hostages in a back-lot bar through 75 minutes of more or less real time. Unfortunately, the film isn’t very well directed, but it does suggest that by 1950 people were already concerned about the baleful influence of live television on breaking news stories (and makes “Ace in the Hole” look a bit less innovative in the process).
My New York Times review is here.