Blu-ray review: Essential Film Noir Collection 3 (1946 – 1955)

Essential Film Noir Collection 3 (1946 – 1955)

Film Noir

Contains the following:

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946) 

Written by: Robert Rossen

Directed by: Lewis Milestone

Featuring: Barbara Stanwyck, Van Heflin, Lizabeth Scott and Kirk Douglas

Toni Marachek: “You know what probation is?”

Sam Masterson: “Oh sure, a knife stickin’ in your back.”

In 1928, young heiress Martha Ivers fails to run off with friend Sam Masterson, and is involved in fatal events. Years later, Sam returns to find Martha the power behind Iverstown and married to “good boy” Walter O’Neil, now district attorney. At first, Sam is more interested in displaced blonde Toni Marachek than in his boyhood friends; but they draw him into a convoluted web of plotting and cross-purposes.

Video Review

“The Strange Love of Martha Ivers” has been available for years on DVD as it was in the public domain and was able to be released by any distributor, resulting in terrible looking transfers that turned off viewers from this classic film noir. The 2012 Blu-ray from Film Chest provided a remastered transfer supposedly sourced from original 35mm elements, but the liberal application of DNR gave the principals a waxy look, while several missing frames disrupted the film’s flow. This new 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 rendering outclasses all previous releases, making it well worth an upgrade if you’re a fan of the movie.

Despite the remastering, there is a large amount of print damage, mostly in the form of faint white and black vertical lines, still remains, but that’s a small price to pay for a film-like image that flaunts excellent clarity, contrast, and shadow delineation. The picture is definitely darker than the 2012 Blu-ray, but it looks more natural, thanks to an organic grain structure, rich blacks, more balanced and stable whites, and nicely varied grays that help bring fine details into focus. Falling rain, costume fabrics, and close-ups are all nicely defined, and though a bit of crush creeps in from time to time, it never overwhelms the frame. Some scenes exhibit more softness and texture than others, but the image remains surprisingly consistent throughout.

Special Features 

  • 1080p High-definition presentation on Blu-Ray from a 4K scan by Paramount Pictures
  • NEW Audio commentary by Film Noir Foundation board member Alan K. Rode (2022)
  • Introduction with Kirk Douglas & Alan Rode
  • NEW Barbara Stanwyck: From Stage to Screen to Legend with Alan K. Rode (2022)
  • NEW Domestic Terror: Barbara Stanwyck and the Gothic Noir – video essay by Kat Ellinger (2022)
  • Barbara Stanwyck: Straight Down the Line – documentary
  • Theatrical Trailer

No Man of Her Own (1950)

Written by: Sally Benson and Catherine Turney based on the novel I Married a Dead Man by Cornell Woolrich

Directed by: Mitchell Leisen

Featuring: Barbara Stanwyck, John Lund, Phyllis Thaxter, Jane Cowl and Lyle Bettger

Helen Ferguson: [voice over] “Summer nights are pleasant in Caulfield. They smell of heliotrope and jasmine, honeysuckle and clover. The breeze that stirs the curtains are soft and gentle. There’s the hush… the stillness of perfect peace and security. Oh, yes, the summer nights are pleasant in Caulfield, but not for us. Not for us.”

A woman is torn between a comfortable lie and the painful truth in this classic Film Noir. Screen legend Barbara Stanwyck assumes another woman’s identity after surviving a train accident in this haunting drama based on a Cornell Woolrich (under the pseudonym, William Irish) novel, I Married a Dead Man. Eventually her past catches up to her when her crooked ex-lover (Lyle Bettger) arrives in town, demanding money to keep her true identity a secret.

Video Review

A sharp image distinguishes the 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 “No Man of Her Own” transfer, but pervasive print damage significantly dulls its impact. Almost constant speckling that fluctuates in intensity often mars the cinematography of Daniel L. Fapp. Scratches and blotches frequently crop up as well, but during the clean stretches, it’s easy to appreciate the excellent clarity and contrast, deep blacks, crisp whites, and nicely varied grays, all of which produce a pleasing picture that exhibits a fair amount of depth. The natural grain structure preserves the feel of celluloid, details in costume fabrics and bits of decor are easy to discern, and an array of lovely close-ups render fine facial features well.

Special Features

  • 1080p High-definition presentation on Blu-Ray by Paramount Pictures
  • NEW Audio commentary by film historian Drew Casper (2022)
  • NEW Writer, broadcaster and journalist Barry Forshaw on No Man of Her Own (2022)
  • The Screen Director’s Playhouse: No Man of Her Own – radio drama starring Barbara Stanwyck and Lyle Bettger (1950)
  • Theatrical Trailer

The Turning Point (1952)

Written by: Warren Duff

Directed by: William Dieterle

Featuring: William Holden, Edmond O’Brien and Alexis Smith

Amanda Waycross: “Isn’t it a tragic thing if the people all over this nation can be told that a man like Eichelberger can tear a man like you apart with his dirty fingers. What are we coming to Johnny, when a man like that can do this to all of us?”

Prosecutor John Conroy (Edmond O’Brien) is determined to bring down organized crime in his Midwestern town. He looks to his father, Matt (Tom Tully), a police officer, for help, but Matt refuses. John’s childhood friend Jerry McKibbon (William Holden), an investigative reporter, senses something fishy.

Video Review

Remastered in HD by Paramount Pictures from a 4K scan of the original 35mm film elements, “The Turning Point” looks terrific on Blu-ray. The 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer boasts superior clarity, contrast, and grayscale, all of which produce a picture that brims with depth and vibrancy. Rich blacks and bright, stable whites anchor the image, an organic and consistent grain structure preserves the feel of celluloid, and excellent shadow delineation keeps crush at bay. Exterior shots seamlessly blend with studio-lit interiors, highlighting the deft, naturalistic cinematography.

Special Features

  • 1080p High-definition presentation on Blu-Ray by Paramount Pictures
  • NEW Audio commentary by film historian Drew Casper (2022)
  • NEW Writer, broadcaster and journalist Barry Forshaw on No Man of Her Own (2022)
  • The Screen Director’s Playhouse: No Man of Her Own – radio drama starring Barbara Stanwyck and Lyle Bettger (1950)
  • Theatrical Trailer

The Desperate Hours (1955)

Written by: Joseph Hayes and Jay Dratler based on the 1954 novel The Desperate Hours and 1955 play The Desperate Hours by Joseph Hayes

Featuring: Humphrey Bogart and Fredric March

Glenn Griffin: “I got my guts full of you shiny-shoed wise guys with handkerchiefs in their pockets!”

Director William Wyler’s suspense classic marks the only time cinema giants Humphrey Bogart and Fredric March worked together. And the result is everything you’d expect: taut, terrifying and terrific. Bogart plays an escaped con who has nothing to lose. March is a suburban Everyman who has everything to lose, as his family is held hostage by Bogart. As the desperate hours tick by, the two men square off in a battle of wills and cunning that tightens into an unforgettable, fear-drenched finale.

Video Review

Filmed in VistaVision, the enhanced definition widescreen process that Paramount pioneered in the 1950s and reserved for its flagship productions, “The Desperate Hours” jumps off the screen, even in black-and-white. The wow factor is in full force from the moment the opening credits begin to roll and it never wanes over the course of the film’s almost two-hour running time. The 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer flaunts an alluring dimensional quality that enhances depth, heightens the sheen of auto paint, and helps costume patterns and fabrics pop. A natural yet faint grain structure maintains the film-like feel and preserves the integrity of the cinematography of Lee Garmes, who won an Oscar almost 25 years earlier for 1932’s Shanghai Express. Terrific clarity and contrast, inky blacks, crisp whites, and beautifully varied grays produce a dazzling, well-balanced picture, though isolated instances of softness occasionally crop up. Excellent shadow delineation keeps crush at bay, reflections in mirrors and glass are well defined, and razor-sharp close-ups showcase all the careworn wrinkles and crow’s feet on March’s face, as well as Bogart’s omnipresent stubble, baggy eyes, and unkempt appearance.

Special Features

  • 1080p High-definition presentation on Blu-Ray
  • NEW Audio commentary by film historian Kevin Lyons (2022)
  • NEW Writer, broadcaster and journalist Barry Forshaw on The Desperate Hours (2022)
  • Theatrical Trailer

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