The House on 92nd Street Henry Hathaway

Gritty realism in Hollywood pretty much starts with The House on 92nd Street, and the approach was so novel for the time that the film was a big hit; alas, better hands have appropriated its methods, making its failings now easy to spot. An all-stops propaganda tour for the F.B.I., this tells the allegedly true tale of a German-American agent (William Eythe) who's sent to infiltrate the Nazi spies trying to purloin A-Bomb secrets; thing is, it doesn't really tell it from his point of view, opting instead to watch from a distance while he and his fellow agents use neat tricks and special techniques to smash the spy ring. And while this was understandably fascinating to the audience at the time, it's pretty much the only gimmick it's got; meaning those who now get weekly procedurals from C.S.I. will have nothing else to occupy their minds. The big problem is that it's about an organisation rather than people — Eythe is completely empty beyond his role as a Fed, and thus makes a rather remote figure of identification. Of course, the whole point is to impress you with his superhuman resilience and make you aware of the awesome debt we owe the Bureau, but it's hard from the vantage point of now to buy into such a program. Henry Hathaway directs competently but with little flair, which pretty much sums up my feelings about the film. Extras include a stellar Fox Noir commentary by Eddie Muller, who deals with the thornier aspects of the film's approach while denying that it is, in fact, a noir, as well as a gallery of photos and the original press book. (Fox)