BluRay/DVD Reviews


By • Mar 18th, 2003 •

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(Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment) 1950
94 minutes / B&W

The time is fast coming, if it’s not already here, when home theater enthusiasts will be able to take DVDs of their favorite films and re-edit them to their tastes, spitting them out digitally onto another DVD with no apparent loss in visual or sound quality.

I would do it with this beautiful, quirky little noir. And in time I may. I’d edit out as much of Bogart’s agent’s foolishness (played by Art Smith, and the painful interludes were not his fault) as I could, and in the process eliminate much of the stupid music that mars an otherwise decent score.

I’d do it with THE ALAMO, too, when the uncut version is released on DVD. I’d get rid of some of the long, clumsy speechifying, allowing viewers to concentrate on the shorter bursts of fine writing that is usually forgotten in the film.

And I’d cut out Edmund O’Brien’s offensive last line in WHITE HEAT. Let it end on the passion of Cagney’s self-immolation, without the Hollywood moralizing.

I’d trim down my own work, too. BURT’S BIKERS, STREET TRASH, and THE PROJECTIONIST (on which I was an Associate Producer and Assistant Director) could use a little off on the sides.

How many LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWIN TOWERS fans, given the opportunity, would gladly hack some of the painful comic relief out of the second film, specifically the bearded dwarf warrior Gimli’s clownish cutaways. Those were some of the worst offenses since the old Hollywood days when clownish sidekicks were the accepted norm.

Feel free to email FIR with scenes or shots you think would go when you finally have the home technology to make your favorite films more to your tastes.

In the meantime, pick up this one; it survives neatly even with those little transgressions. Bogart plays Dixon Steele, a screenwriter with a nasty violent streak. Being a screenwriter, I can empathize. I guess Edmund North, who adapted the novel, could too. Shortly afterward, in THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, he created a peaceful alien who, when mistreated, knew he had a robot who could kick the shit out of everyone. More alter ego stuff.

Steele lures his next door neighbor, Lauren Gray (noir queen Gloria Grahame) into his arms, and she begins to wonder just how far his irrational angers have taken him. You see, there’d been another girl in his place, one she’d seen, who’s now dead…

Nicholas Ray’s film is distinguished by its rude narrative strokes; it establishes an identity every bit as sociopathic as its lead character. Most people I know are enchanted with its ‘B’ soul, and L. A. CONFIDENTIAL director Curtis Hanson professes his love in a decent little accompanying documentary, doling out some smart facts and intuitions about the production.

The other particularly memorable element of the film is Bogart’s performance. He was in the midst of a fertile, if commercially-uneven, stretch of role choices which challenged his abilities. He’d played gray characters before, notably in THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE, but even greedy paranoid Fred C. Dobbs pales somehow beside his eerily real performance here, made even moreso by the sharpness of the DVD pressing. It’s what defines the film, finally, in those months and years where one looks back and gives it the big thumbs-up.

Documentary featuring Curtis Hanson.
Directed by Nicholas Ray.
Screenplay by Andrew Solt.
Adaptation by Edmund North.
Based on the novel by Dorothy B. Hughes.
Score by George Antheil..
Cinematography by Burnett Guffey.

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