Film Noir Classic Collection

Film Noir Classic Collection
Film noir — named for its dark, night time settings, as well as the blackness in the heart of many of its protagonists — was a movement of the late 1940s and early '50s. Classics of the genre include many adaptations of the work of Raymond Chandler, whose detective Phillip Marlowe was given life by Humphrey Bogart in the noir classic The Big Sleep. Marlowe makes another appearance on this box, portrayed here by Dick Powell in Murder, My Sweet (1944, directed by Edward Dmytryk). It features many hallmarks of noir: a labyrinthine plot decipherable only in the last ten minutes; hidden secrets of its protagonists; and it delves into a criminal underbelly of gangsters, femme fatales and double-crosses. The same could be said for Out of the Past (1947, directed by Jacques Tourneur), one of the best films featured here. Starring the laconic Robert Mitchum as a man trying to make a new life for himself, Past is classic noir. The Asphalt Jungle (1950, directed by John Huston), an early Huston work that chronicles a well-plotted heist that goes inevitably wrong, is the third straightforward noir in this collection. The last two entries are the anomalies in the noir world. Gun Crazy (aka Deadly Is the Female, 1949, directed by Joseph H. Lewis) is a twisted story of a gun nut who meets his better half at a carnival; the pair embarks upon a cross-country crime spree at her behest. Often cited as the blueprint for 1967's landmark Bonnie and Clyde, what's notable now is that it contains the DNA of a more modern tale, Quentin Tarantino's Natural Born Killers. Finally, The Set-Up (1949, directed by Robert Wise) is the story of one night in an aging boxer's life when he gets his chance to make one last big score — except he's not aware that his manager has already fixed the fight without telling him. The Set-Up is the least typical noir here — its plot unfolds without elaborate twists — but is most of interest for a shared commentary between Wise and Martin Scorsese, where he outlines how its look influenced his own Raging Bull. This five-film box is strongest for its historical context: each film comes with a full commentary by a different noir film scholar, and while all of them tend more toward a college lecture than an analysis of the film at hand, they are fulfilling nonetheless for the more scholastically minded. Typically, noir is dismissed as a B-movie genre, but the level of talent showcased here, in front of and behind the camera, demonstrates that even in the shadows film history was made. (Warner)