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Category:    Home > Reviews > Thriller > Mystery > WWII > Submarines > Spy > Murder > Detective > Neo Noir > Missing Persons > Assignment In Brittany (1943/MGM/DVD*)/My Name Is Julia Ross (1945**)/Night Moves (1975/Blu-ray/*both Warner Archive)/Phantom Lady (1944/Paramount/**)/So Dark The Night (1946/**all MVD/Arrow Blu-rays)

Assignment In Brittany (1943/MGM/DVD*)/My Name Is Julia Ross (1945**)/Night Moves (1975/Blu-ray/*both Warner Archive)/Phantom Lady (1944/Paramount/**)/So Dark The Night (1946/**all MVD/Arrow Blu-rays)



Picture: C/B+/B/B/B+ Sound: B (DVD: C) Extras: C-/B/C/B/B Films: C+/B/B/B/B



PLEASE NOTE: The Assignment In Brittany DVD and Night Moves Blu-ray are now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.



Here's a spy thriller, several Film Noirs and one of the best of all Neo Noir films...



We start with Jack Conway's Assignment In Brittany (1943) with Jean-Pierre Aumont in a dual role as a killer and a good guy, the latter of which has to pretend to be the evil man to help the Allies get inside a Nazi operation. In his first Hollywood film, he was simply billed as Pierre Aumont and the film has some cliches and is unintentionally amusing, just managing to juggle to dual roles thing. Then he is torn between two women.


MGM never met a potential movie star they did not want to sign and have as their next breakout star, so they definitely try to showcase him at his best and though he became a name star internationally, he did not become the 'exotic' Frenchman the studio hoped he might for them. Still, this film has its moments and Signe Hasso and Susan Peters help make for a good supporting cast, but this is ultimately a propaganda film, albeit a good one. It is worth a look.



Arthur Penn's Night Moves (1975) is the great filmmakers' attempt at making a Neo Noir film (a Noir that takes apart limits and cliches of old Noirs films and tries to explore new territory and truths) following Polanski's Chinatown (1974) and Altman's The Long Goodbye (1973, both reviewed elsewhere on this site) and all three films have their own takes on re-approaching the world of the private detective.


Gene Hackman is Harry Moseby, in Los Angeles who thought he was happily married, but his wife (Susan Clark) is hiding something, then he suddenly gets a much-needed assignment to find the runaway daughter (Melanie Griffith) of a wealthy family and takes the job. This brings Harry into the world of location filmmaking and he lands up in Florida. While a heist film is being made, turns out maybe a real life fortune or two is at play and he has to investigate, but he is surprised by marital issues and hobbled by being semi-complacent in L.A. In a way that puts him at a disadvantage in the situations ahead without him realizing.


I had to think a long time on this one to see if I was missing anything clever on the part of Penn and company and it has been eons since I saw the film. Some parts are still a little off in ways that did not work for me back then either, but Penn and writer Alan Sharp are erasing cliches from the first scene to make sure Harry is not a hero or even any kind of subversive anti-hero, something very popular at the time.


Instead, it flushes out the characters, makes this more of a character study, has some fine acting and new kinds of situations that seem more palpable, plus note the dialogue that is more realistic than most such films without people just swearing in cliched ways. James Woods has an early acting turn here and Jennifer Warrens adds to the unusual goings on, plus the natural locations further dispel anything fake about the genre or type of mystery material this is.


I won't say much more except it has a great conclusion and the film remains one of Hackman;s most underrated works. Now that this is out in such a great, restored, upgraded Blu-ray edition, I hope audiences catch up with it again and it joins the other Neo Noirs of the time. The next period of such films was 1990 with a slew of gangster genre films, the year Hackman did his last big lead role in a major action film, Peter Hyams' underrated remake of the 1950s Noir Narrow Margin (1990) and that film has a few sly references to this one. Night Moves is smart and worth going out of your way for.



The 1.33 X 1 black & white image transfer on Brittany can show the age of the materials used and the film needs some restoration, but even in this problematic print, you can see it has a decent look to it, while the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is also a generation down or so, so be careful of high volume playback and volume switching.


The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Night Moves can sometimes show the age of the materials used, but this is far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film with nice color through, handled by Technicolor (maybe in the U.K., they got 35mm dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor prints of the film?) looks to be from a restored source. I really enjoyed it and the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix of the original optical theatrical monophonic sound is as good as it is going to get.


Extras in both releases includes an Original Theatrical Trailer, but Night Moves adds a Making Of featurette: The Day Of The Director.



Now for some new Arrow Academy releases...


Who doesn't love a good film noir? Arrow Academy beautifully restores yet another classic, this time its Phantom Lady (1944). An Engineer named Scott Henderson (Alan Curtis) meets a mysterious femme fatale (Fay Helm) after a fight with his wife. The two strangers go see a concert together (the one he was supposed to take his wife too), and go home without even knowing whom one another is. When Scott returns home that night, he finds his wife strangled with one of his ties and himself framed for the murder by a trio of detectives. Things grow even more bizarre and complex from there as he can't prove where he was that night and he gets a death sentence. Luckily his secretary (Ella Raines) seeks to help prove him innocent and hires an Inspector to hopefully prove his innocence...


Phantom Lady stars Ella Raines, Franchot Tone, Aurora Miranda, and Thomas Gomez. The film is directed by Robert Siodmak and written by Bernard C. Schoenfeld.


Presented in 1080p high definition on Blu-ray disc with a full frame aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and an English LPCM 2.0 mix, both of which look pretty great here. The print is in miraculous shape considering and there's plenty of detail on clothing and nice contrast levels. For a film as old as this one this is an impressive restoration.


Special Features include...


Dark and Deadly: 50 Years of Film Noir, an insightful archival documentary featuring contributions from Robert Wise, Edward Dmytryk, Dennis Hopper and more

Rare, hour-long 1944 radio dramatization of Phantom Lady by the Lux Radio Theatre, starring Alan Curtis and Ella Raines

Gallery of original stills and promotional materials

Reversible sleeve featuring two original artwork options

and FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by author Alan K. Rode



So Dark The Night (1946) and My Name is Julia Ross (1945) are two more new titles from Arrow Academy that are certainly worth picking up if you're a fan of filmmaker Joseph H. Lewis (Gun Crazy (reviewed on Warner Archive Blu-ray elsewhere on this site), Terror in a Texas Town). Both films could be considered Film Noirs and remind me a lot of some of the early Alfred Hitchcock films.


A renowned and relentless Paris detective takes his first vacation in eleven years at a small inn in the French countryside. There he meets and falls in love with the hotelier's daughter, who had been betrothed to a neighboring farmer, but who hopes to marry him and move to Paris. On the evening of their engagement, both the fiancee and the farmer disappear.


Special Features for So Dark The Night include...

Commentary by Glenn Kenny and Farran Smith Nehme

A Dark Place: Joseph H. Lewis featurette

Theatrical Trailer

Reversible Cover Art

and a nice insert booklet with photographs and an essay by David Carins


In My Name is Julia Ross (1945), Julia Ross (Nina Foch, Dark Shadows) secures employment, through a rather nosy employment agency, with a wealthy widow, Mrs. Hughes, and goes to live at her house. Two days later, she awakens - in a different house, in different clothes, and with a new identity. She's told she is the daughter-in-law of Mrs. Hughes, and has suffered a nervous breakdown. Is Julia really 'Julia', or, is it true, that she's lost all memory of who she is?


My Name is Julia Ross also stars Dame May Whitty, George Macready, Roland Varno, Anita Sharp-Bolster, and Doris Lloyd.


Both films are presented on 1080p Blu-ray with a black and white HD transfer and a 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio (original ratio 1.37:1) and is paired with a new LPCM 2.0 Mono mix. The film looks beautiful on disc with no visible signs of wear or anything. These are certainly top notch presentations of these films that best previous releases.


Special Features for My Name is Julia Ross includes...

Commentary by Alan K. Rode

Identity Crisis: Joseph H. Lewis at Columbia featurette

Theatrical Trailer

Reversible Flip Cover

and insert booklet with photographs and an essay by Adrian Martin



To order the Assignment In Brittany DVD and Night Moves Blu-ray from Warner Archive, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


http://www.wbshop.com/



- Nicholas Sheffo and James Lockhart (Arrow)

https://www.facebook.com/jamesharlandlockhartv/


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