With the likes of Goodfellas, Pulp Fiction, and Reservoir Dogs approaching or achieving their quarter century of release and Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver paying homage to the likes of The Driver and Freebie and the Bean, it’s timely that Arrow Academy has put together a cracking quartet of classic noir thrillers from the Golden Age of Hollywood. These will certainly be of interest to fans and curious followers of Scorsese and Tarantino, who have both cited the four films here as key influences on the classics that have redefined genre in Tinseltown.
The Dark Mirror (1946), Secret Beyond the Door (1947), Force of Evil (1948), and The Big Combo (1955) bring together incredible directing and casting talent who excel in their respective roles and environments. Another key joy of watching the films is also scoping the credits for those who went on to bigger things. In the case of Force of Evil, cinematographer George Barnes, who shot the 1953 version of War of the Worlds and The Dirty Dozen director Robert Aldrich is credited as Assistant Director, lend their chops to this dark and timeless yarn of gambling fraud, which features John Garfield, who starred opposite Lana Turner in the 1946 version of The Postman Always Rings Twice.
The Dark Mirror reveals Olivia de Havilland in dual roles as twin sisters, one of whom may be a murderess whilst the other deems herself an alibi. A psychologist (Lew Ayres) who specialises in the study of twins works alongside the police to uncover the circumstances behind the death of a man in the apartment where they live.
Secret Beyond the Door showcases Metropolis director Fritz Lang’s work after he moved to Hollywood and signed with MGM. Newly-weds Celia (Joan Bennett, whose last film role was as Madame Blanc in Dario Argento’s Suspiria) and Mark (Michael Redgrave) have to confront his dark past, which seemingly is hidden behind a secret locked room in his house.
The Big Combo sees Detective Lt. Diamond (Cornel Wilde) in a determined frame of mind to bring down kingpin gangster Mr. Brown (Richard Conte). Unfortunately, his obsession with Brown’s girlfriend Susan Lowell is clouding his judgement in cracking the case.
This is a supremely enigmatic collection of tales, all contrasting but consistent with the genre they celebrate. The cinematography is dark and deliriously framed and there are key shots and montages that remind one of the later films that fans of the directors first mentioned in this review will pick up on without delay. They are also excellently compact and concise stories told with simplicity and without the need for major visual effects or editing prowess that is at the disposal of modern editors and cinematographers.
The Limited Edition box set contains Dual Format Blu-ray and DVD (2000 copies) - plus commentaries, introductions (including one from Martin Scorsese of Force Of Evil), reversible sleeves and a Hardback book with new writing on all four films, amongst the extras.
Highly charged - and highly enjoyable - entertainment for noir fans.
FOUR FILM NOIR CLASSICS LIMITED EDITION BOX SET / CERT:PG / DIRECTORS: ROBERT SIODMAK, FRITZ LANG, ABRAHAM POLONSKY, JOSEPH H. LEWIS / SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: RICHARD CONTE, OLIVIA DE HAVILLAND, JOAN BENNET, MICHAEL REDGRAVE, JOHN GARFIELD / RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 20TH