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Category:    Home > Reviews > Film Noir > Drama > Crime > Red Scare > Thriller > Heist > Prison > Delinquents > Revenge > Literature > Black > Essential Film Noir Collection 5 (Burglar (1957,) Island Of Doomed Men (1940,) Red Menace (Republic/1949,) 13 West Street (1962)/Sony/ViaVision/Imprint Region Free Import Blu-ray Set)/Mike Hammer's Mi

Essential Film Noir Collection 5 (Burglar (1957,) Island Of Doomed Men (1940,) Red Menace (Republic/1949,) 13 West Street (1962)/Sony/ViaVision/Imprint Region Free Import Blu-ray Set)/Mike Hammer's Mickey Spillane (2011/VCI Blu-ray w/DVD*)/The Swiss Conspiracy (1976/Film Masters Blu-ray/*both MVD)

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

PLEASE NOTE: The Film Noir 5 Import Blu-ray set is now only available from our friends at Umbrella Entertainment in Australia, can play on all 4K and Blu-ray players, is limited to only 1,500 copies and can be ordered from the link below.

Now for some dark, suspenseful thrillers, all connected to Film Noir in some way, including some great looks at the genre and creators of such work...

Several companies are issuing restored Film Noir classics and a few of them are issuing box sets. Imprint is one of them and The Essential Film Noir Collection 5 is their latest offering, delivering four very interesting entries. This set includes...

Paul Wendkos' The Burglar (1957) has Jayne Mansfield as part of a gang of four thieves ready to steal a very valuable necklace from a fake spiritualist (Martha Vickers) and hide it until it is no longer a 'hot' item and they can cash in. However, personality clashes among thieves and unexpected twists make all this not as easy as they had hoped.

A takeoff of The Asphalt Jungle in a few ways, it is not bad and had Mansfield before her star took off, actually finished a few years before until Columbia needed it. When Mansfield became a star, they rushed it into theaters to cash in. Dan Duryea, Peter Capell and Mickey Shaughnessy play the rest of the gang and this was the directorial debut of highly successful journeyman director Wendkos, whose run was highly successful and enduring.

No, it is not totally original, but is well done and the supporting cast of unknowns do just fine. A solid Noir worth checking out.

Charles Barton's Island Of Doomed Men (1940) is a short (67 minutes) but well done little romp with Peter Lorre once again the evil mastermind, this time running an island for paroled convicts and of course, it is named 'dead man's island' and he is (to say the least) violating them and abusing their civil rights to the extreme. When authorities hear about this, they send in an undercover spy (Robert Wilcox) to confirm this and its worse than he could have even imagined.

Certainly played as a bit of exploitation in the ad campaigns, Lorre was still a big star then and remained so for a good while longer, so he goes more over the top than the campaign and it is not a bad B-movie with some Noir elements and harsh realities. It delivers what it promises within the Production Code and is definitely worth a look. If they had more money and it was longer, who knows what they could have done.

R.G. Springsteen's The Red Menace (1949) was part of an earlier cycle of 'anti-communist' films that started about 1948 and was played out by 1957 when the formula was worn thin. It was a little fresher here as a GI (Robert Rockwell) back from the war gets involved with the Communist Party and falls for one of its sexier members (Hanna Axmann-Rezzori) when they realize how bonkers the organization is. When they decide to leave, the group plans to kill them both!

Well that's pretty cut and dry, though this is more of a melodrama with some suspense than an outright Noir, but some shots are Noir-like so it fits this set. Obviously, these red scare films always date oddly, but they are all worth a look and expect a few unintended hoots along the way. Cheers to the cast of unknowns and how Republic pushed the budget.

Philip Leacock's 13 West Street (1962) is actually four years after the original Noir cycle ended, but films like this and Penn's Mickey One were continuing Noir's stark realism as Alan Ladd plays a man beaten by a bunch of violent teens, but instead of just reporting it to the police, he sets out for revenge and the results are not what anyone expects. Rod Steiger plays the cop who has to stop the situation from going totally out of control.

Ladd co-produced what was his last lead roll and with a larger budget than the usual Noir film, hired Lady From Shanghai Director of Photography Charles Lawton Jr., A.S.C., plus a great supporting cast that includes Kenneth McKenna, Michael Callan, Margaret Hayes, Dolores Dorn, Jeanne Cooper, Stanley Adams, Adam Roarke, Stanley Adams, a very young Bernie Hamilton, Chris Robinson, Frank Gerstle and Ted Knight. Well done and holds up better than you'd think.

Now for playback performance. The 1080p black and white digital High Definition image on the discs are 1.33 X 1 save 1.85 X 1 on Burglar and 1.78 X 1 on Street. Though the look of Menace is different because it was a Republic production and not from Columbia at a time when you could figure out what studio a film was from, if you got familiar with the look of the labwork from each one. Sony is taking great care of their Columbia Noirs and Paramount has owned the Republic catalog for a while, so they are taking care of them well and it shows on these transfers.

The original theatrical monophonic sound has been remastered for PCM 2.0 Mono lossless mix om all four films and they sound as good as they will ever sound, remastered as well and thoroughly as possible. Of course, we only expect so much from low budget films of the time, but these are just fine.

Extras include trailers on the half the films, including
Burglar, which also has a Martin Scorsese Intro, while Menace offers a brand new Feature Length Audio Commentary by Film Historian Samm Deighan, Hollywood On Trial (1976) feature documentary, narrated by John Huston and The Hollywood 10 (1950) Short film. Street has the other trailer.

You can order the box set and more great, even exclusive releases, at:


Mike Hammer's Mickey Spillane (1998, plus 2011 radio drama video) is writer/scholar Max Allan Collins (Road To Perdition, Dick Tracy) biographical tribute to the creator of one of the toughest gumshoe detectives of all time and one of the first Besides interviews with Spillane himself, he talks to dozens of key actors and writers in the genre and in productions of Spillane's works.

Running 61 minutes in this new and expanded version, which is a little longer than a typical episode of the sadly defunct A&E Biography TV show, features on camera interview comments by Shirley Eaton, Leonard Maltin, Stacy Keach, Micheal Collins, Otto Penzler, Donald E. Westlake, Walter Mosley, Lee Meredith and many others. If you have missed it before (and it has been issued elsewhere, originally 47 minutes, a shorter 40 minutes version is on the Criterion edition of Kiss Me Deadly) and you are interested in the man and his work, it is definitely recommended. I just wish it were longer or maybe, Collins could have updated it by expanding it or retooling and upgrading some of the film clips.

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 image on the Blu-ray is an upscale from the analog videotape production, but it has some better color and is a little clearer than the 1.33 X 1 DVD, both of which include older film clips form various TV series and movies involving Hammer. The PCM 2.0 stereo on the Blu-ray is a little better than the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on the DVD, but both have more than a few old monophonic moments due to the documentary nature of the production.

Extras include a feature length audio commentary track by Collins on the biography and a new Hammer audio drama on video with actor Gary Sandy running 90 minutes version of a one-time program that debuted as an audio book with Stacy Keach reprising the Hammer role. Sandy later did it live on stage.

For more on Spillane, try these links:

Mike Hammer TV series with Darren McGavin DVD set


Kiss Me Deadly Criterion Mike Hammer film Blu-ray, which features this documentary at its shortest, but none of the extras here


Jack Arnold's The Swiss Conspiracy (1976) is thew last great big screen hurrah for the long-running director. One of the great journeymen directors, started making horror films in the 1950s, most B-movies, yet classics like It Came From Outer Space (1953,) The Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954, both huge hits) The Glass Web (1953, all also in 3D and an actual Film Noir,) The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957, all classics,) Revenge Of The Creature (1955) and several comedies before moving into TV bigtime. He wanted out of B-movie production, but he could not catch a break.

In a film co-produced by (then West) German and U.S. producers, the title is happy to conjure Friedkin's The French Connection (1972) and poster & still images all the current hip thrillers and the Bond films. David Janssen, coming off of his hit TV series Harry O and still remembered very fondly for The Fugitive (both reviewed elsewhere on this site,) plays an investigator with a past, hired by a Swiss bank being blackmailed with leaked information and demanding hush money. It will not be as simple as it sounds.

Made for adults with a smart script, smart situations, good acting and a great cast that also include Senta Berger, John Saxon, Anton Diffring, Ray Milland, John Ireland, Curt Lowens, David Hess and Elke Sommer. The Cold War was still going on too and Switzerland was then known for being a 'neutral' country during WWII, so this was issued during a different sense of intense world politics. Janssen more than carries the film, it has some fine action sequences and some suspense, plus the locations they shoot at are used to best effect.

Arnold finally made the A-level thriller he always wanted to make, informed by all of his mastery and experience with suspense, form Horror, to how Film Noir opened to doors for the modern thriller and the results are very, very long overdue for rediscovery.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 High Definition image on Swiss has some good color and some really good color, but a little bit of noise and some slight detail limits, but it is a solid 4K scan otherwise from original 35mm archival elements. Almost all color films before 1983 have fading issues and the press release or info in this disc does not get more specific about those elements, though it has a different look thanks to German lab work and that is to its advantage. However, bering an orphan film, it has survived much better than many of its kind, so it is still very watchable.

The sound is here in a good, decent, DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix and weaker lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono here for convenience. The DTS sounds as good as the film ever will, both from the original theatrical monophonic release.

Extras include (mostly per the press release) Ballyhoo Motion Pictures presents, "Jack Arnold: The Lost Years," focusing on the late career years of the filmmaker; Ryan Verrill and Will Dodson from Someone's Favorite Productions present a visual essay, "Jack Arnold: A Three-Dimensional Filmmaker"; author/podcaster Daniel Budnik and film historian Rob Kelly join forces to provide a comprehensive commentary track; Lee Pfeiffer, editor-in-chief of Cinema Retro Magazine, provides outstanding liner notes in the illustrated booklet included in the Blu-ray case and original 35mm theatrical trailer in faded condition, as well as the recut, newly restored trailer. These are fine extras and better than I expected.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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