Film Noir Classic Collection Vol. 3

Noir cannot be bound by a mere two collections. It was inevitable that those mean streets and bad folk would return for a third array of shadow and ambiguity, hence Warner’s new five-film selection. Breezy entertainment comes from His Kind of Woman, in which Robert Mitchum goes to Mexico to take a mysterious job that might just end in death. There he finds gold-digging Jane Russell, movie-star mark Vincent Price and a raft of weirdoes with guns and grim attitudes. The film doesn’t take itself terribly seriously and big, big fun results. Less successful is Lady in the Lake, notorious for its use of the subjective camera to show us everything from Robert Montgomery’s POV. The gimmick doesn’t work but the film has bigger problems in a script full of hokey dialogue and some over-the-top performances. Much better is Border Incident, where Ricardo Montalban and George Murphy go undercover to smash an illegal migrant worker ring. Director Anthony Mann earns his cult reputation with taut, moody direction that eschews the throbbing musical score that mars so many American movies. Meanwhile, The Racket pits no-nonsense cop Mitchum against no-holds-barred gangster Robert Ryan; both are lost in a world of politics and chicanery, and both would rather bust heads than play the game. The movie manages to pack quite a bit into a trim 89 minutes, with Ryan at his hostile best as the crime lord who shoots first and considers its appropriateness later. But the most powerful film in the collection is Nicholas Ray’s On Dangerous Ground, in which angry psycho cop Ryan has to go to the backcountry to pursue a child-killer. A classic example of Ray’s anguished loner archetype, the lead ultimately has to face his fury not only in the image of the killer but his quarry’s blind sister Ida Lupino. Ray’s fluid camera never falters as Ryan first snakes through the city then goes deeper into the woods to find not only a crime but also himself. Rounding out the bunch (and available only with the box set) is Film Noir: Bringing Darkness to Light, a brief documentary that’s somewhat amorphous but manages to outline the movement’s major themes, motives and motifs. Each of film is decked out with expert commentary, while the documentary features five fascinating short subjects in the Crime Does Not Pay series. (Warner)