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Category:    Home > Reviews > Crime > Drama > Murder > Mystery > Police > Burgulary > British > Noir > Crime Thrillers Collection + Four In A Jeep (1951/VCI DVDs) + The Hitmen Diaries – Charlie Valentine (2010/Lionsgate DVD) + Naked Fury/Cover Girl Murders + Tomorrow We Live/Inquest (VCI DVDs)

Crime Thrillers Collection + Four In A Jeep (1951/VCI DVDs) + The Hitmen Diaries – Charlie Valentine (2010/Lionsgate DVD) + Naked Fury/Cover Girl Murders + Tomorrow We Live/Inquest (VCI DVDs)


Picture: C/C/C+/C/C     Sound: C/C/C+/C/C     Extras: D (Diaries & Jeep: C)     Films: C+



The hardboiled detective murder thriller is a product of U.S. literature, pulp and otherwise, but its influence and the need to still imitate it is as strong (and usually more failed) than ever.  We coincidentally received a batch of foreign variants from VCI and a recent U.S. indie attempt to revisit that territory, but with nothing but gangsters.


First is VCI’s Crime Thriller Collection, featuring three more British crime thrillers that were made in the post-Noir era.  Murder Can Be Deadly (1962, aka Painted Smile) has the always interesting Liz Frazer as a call girl working in gang territory when her boyfriend is killed by a top mobster (Kenneth Griffin) and she has to figure out what to do next.  Tony Wickert and David Hemmings also star.  Then there’s The Marked One (1963) involves stolen plates to counterfeit as a convict (Don Mason) has his family threatened unless he turns the plates over, but does not know where they are.  He decides he will not go back to prison and not turn to the police to stop this madness before it’s too late.  Finally comes Pit Of Darkness (1961) involves a safe maker (William Logan) who is kidnapped and when he awakens in an odd place, has lost three weeks of his memory.  A safe he put into a clients house has been broken into as well, so he must find out what has happened.  With his wife helping, he digs for the truth.  Moira Redmond and Nigel Green also star.


Those were the usual B-movie programmers (running 60 to 80 minutes average) the British were making before the Spy craze and more major TV productions kicked in.  At the same time, other countries were trying there hand at such fiction and one Swiss co-production with a U.S. company was Leopold Lindtberg’s Four In A Jeep, a 1951 film with true Noir construction as we are back in Vienna (a famous locale for suspense stories) has Ralph Meeker (Kiss Me Deadly) and Viveca Lindfors in a decent tale of International Police on the job as a young woman (Lindfors) want to leave the Russian Zone with her former internment camp husband, but it could get them killed.  Meeker is a cop who might help, but things get complicated in several ways.  Not bad and worth seeing, though Third Man fans will find this interesting in particular.


The Hitmen Diaries – Charlie Valentine (2010) is an ambitious, sometimes mixed, but often effective story of the title character (Raymond J. Barry) back in circulation and ready for one more big job.  He takes on several camps of gangsters while trying to make amends with his son (Michael Weatherly of TV’s Dark Angel) in a often credible character study and crime tale.  Some parts work, some don’t, but Barry is so good you cannot stop watching.  I always thought he was a good actor and this shows that to great effect.  James Russo and Tom Berenger also star.


Finally are two Double Features with two more Renown British crime films.  Volume One offers Tomorrow We Live (1943) with John Clements as a Frenchman escaping to England with secret submarine base info.  Can the French Underground and British Secret Service help him before the Nazis kill him?  Hugh Sinclair (once an RKO Saint) also stars.  Inquest (1939) is a courtroom drama about a woman (Elizabeth Allan) who is forced to kill her husband.  Well made and interesting, it also makes for a good comparison and nice change of pace as compared to so many films and TV shows with the same set-up, so it is a welcome addition here.


Finally we have Volume Two, which offers Naked Fury (1959) made after Noir ended, a gang robs a safe and kills a security guard there, but his daughter (Leigh Madison) is there and they kidnap her for insurance and because she saw them.  Of course, two of the robbers (Reed de Routen and Kenneth Cope) both fall for her and more trouble is ahead.  Edwin Astley scored the film.  Cover Girl Killer (1960) takes place in clubs hidden in alleys and other sleazy locales, a young lady (Bernadette Milnes) who once was a cover girl is found dead.  She was fighting with a TV producer (Harry H. Corbett) and a curious investigator (Victor Brooks) intends to find out why.


In a rarity, that is nine films worth a look!




The 1.33 X 1 black and white image (often letterboxed 1.66) on the VCI DVDs have their moments and offer some nice shots, but the transfers are otherwise detail challenged, lack some contrast and the prints show their age.  The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on Hitmen was shot in the 35mm Techniscope film format that is rarely used anymore, especially with the long end of three-strip Technicolor dye-transfer prints (ending in 1974!), but it is better than the usual HD shoot with color that is not always muted.  Detail is an issue, but this is not bad and the best here.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (save PCM on a couple of the films) on the VCI films are in better shape than their image, but audio also shows its age, yet the company has made some effort to clean them up and that is a plus.   The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on Hitmen has a fair soundfield, but the channels are not taken full advantage of and the low budget limited the recording quality.


Extras on the VCI discs include maybe a trailer here and there, but nothing otherwise save Jeep, which has the 1945 propaganda film Your Job In Germany, directed by Frank Capra.  Written by Dr. Seuss creator Theodore Geisel, its 15 minutes are spent warning all soldiers not to befriend anyone in the country because Nazi sympathizers will try to kill them and boy, is it blunt about it.  Hitmen includes a trailer gallery, making of/behind the scenes featurette and feature length audio commentary by Johnson, Cinematographer Jonathan Hall and Line Producer Kelli Kaye.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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