Universal Pictures’ ‘Black Angel’ Is One Of Hollywood’s Most Underrated Film Noir Flicks

Courtesy: Arrow Video

Arrow Video and MVD Entertainment Group will resurrect Universal Pictures’ little-known 1946 film noir flick Black Angel later this month.  The movie, starring Peter Lorre (20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, The Maltese Falcon, Arsenic & Old Lace), June Vincent (The Creeper, Shed No Tears, Can’t Help Singing) and Dan Duryea (The Flight of the Phoenix, Scarlet Street, Too Late For Tears) is scheduled for release January 28 on Blu-ray.  The movie’s central story proves that while it might not have been among the genre’s most well-known features in its initial debut, is still a work that every noir fan will appreciate.  The bonus content featured with the movie’s home release adds even more appeal to its presentation.  That combined primary and secondary content makes the movie’s average price point money well-spent by any classic movie buff and film noir aficionado.  Keeping all of this in mind, Arrow Video’s forthcoming reissue of Black Angel proves itself a presentation that is a must have for all of the noted viewers.

Movies today just are not what they were during Hollywood’s golden era.  Hollywood (and even so many independent studios) rely entirely too much on sex, violence and special effects than on anything with any real substantive content.   Thankfully, Arrow Video and MVD Entertainment Group are going to give audiences another alternative to all of that excess later this month when they reissue Universal Pictures’ 1948 noir flick Black Angel.  This movie is a work that classic film buffs and noir aficionados alike will welcome openly.  That is due in part to its story, which abounds in content.  The story, based on the novel by author Cornell Woolrich, centers on the murder of the fictional singer Mavis Marlowe and the search for her killer.  The man accused of her murder Kirk Bennett (John Phillips – 7 Men From Now, Heldorado, John Paul Jones) is accused of taking her life and is sentenced to death for the crime.  However, Kirk’s wife Catherine (played by Vincent) doesn’t believe her cheating husband is guilty, so she works with Marlowe’s estranged husband Martin Blair (Duryea) to prove Kirk’s innocence and save him from the gas chamber.  Female viewers especially will appreciate the story because as Martin and Catherine work to prove Kirk’s innocence, Kirk finds himself falling for Catherine, but she never gives into his charms, staying loyal (ironically) to her husband who himself had cheated on her with Mavis.  In the end, Kirk is proven innocent.  How he is saved will not be revealed here.  That will be saved for audiences to discover on their own.  During the course of the story, Roy Chanslor, who adapted Woolrich’s story for the screen, manages to keep viewers engaged and entertained as Catherine and Martin go undercover at a night club to investigate the crime.  He [Chanslor] does a good job with the use of his red herring in the investigation.  Viewers will agree that element adds even more enjoyment to the story since it does throw a bit of a proverbial wrench in the works.  As a matter of fact, it will leave eagle-eyed viewers to go back and recall a certain subtle element from earlier in the story that helps determine the identity of the true killer.  By the story’s end, audiences will know that they have taken in a story that even despite its changes from its literary source material (which is discussed in the movie’s bonus content), is still an enjoyable story in itself.

The story at the center of Black Angel does a lot to make it an enjoyable presentation for classic movie buffs and film noir aficionados.  It is just one part of what makes the movie’s forthcoming home release so appealing.  The bonus content included with the story builds on the foundation formed by the story to make the movie’s presentation even more appealing.  One of the bonuses featured with the movie’s reissue is a retrospective on the movie by film historian Neil Sinyard.  Sinyard has provided commentary for other reissues from Arrow Films and Arrow Academy.  He points out in this presentation’s commentary, Woolrich actually was not fond of Chanslor’s adaptation of his novel.  Maybe that is because of the changes that Chanslor made as he wrote the story’s screenplay.  This will be discussed a little more in-depth shortly.  Sinyard also makes note of the fact that Woolrich’s biographer ironically did like the movie.  Sinyard points out the reason for this was that it ‘caught something essentially about Woolrich’s personality both personal and artistic.”  The discussion on Black Angel as a possible reflection on Woolrich’s personality is just one of the interesting notes that Sinyard brings up in his roughly 20-minute retrospective.  He also goes into a discussion on the movie’s casting, noting that by the time that the movie came along, Duryea was already a very well-known actor, having played villains (or heavies as they are also known) in a number of films prior to this work.  Sinyard points out that Duryea is actually a presentation of Woorich himself, and that added to the reason for Woolrich’s biographer appreciating the adaptation.  Along with the note of Duryea and his possible connection to Woolrich, Sinyard also shares a funny anecdote about supporting actor Broderick Crawford (All The King’s Men, A Night Before Christmas, Born Yesterday), who portrays in this movie, Police Captain Flood.  He tells the story of an alleged run-in between Crawford, who also had a history of playing bad guys in cinema prior to this flick, and the late, great Frank Sinatra.  The story that Sinyard shares involves Crawford allegedly getting into an altercation with Sinatra and doing something peculiar with Sinatra’s toupee.  Lorre is also addressed by Sinyard, albeit briefly.  He jokes about not knowing how Lorre could deliver his lines while having a cigarette “dangling from his bottom lip.”  That in itself will bring its own share of laughs from viewiers.  Sinyard also addresses the movie’s soundtrack and its role in the story as well as director Roy William Neill, stressing Black Angel was actually Neill’s final film before his death.  He applauds (and rightfully so) Neill’s work behind the lens, citing specific examples for his praise of Neill in the process.

Writer and film scholar Alan K. Rode (pronounced roadie) adds even more enjoyment to the movie with his feature-length commentary.  Right off the bat, Rode does actually get one fact wrong, noting that Catherine is trying to save her husband from the electric chair.  It is clearly pointed out during the story that he faces the gas chamber, not the electric chair, but he [Rode] can be forgiven for this misstep.  It is the only item that is misspoken through the course of the movie.  Rode expands on Sinyard’s commentary, noting that Duryea was paid as an outsider for his part in this movie since she was not a contract actor for Universal Pictures.  At another point, Rode points out that Vincent was not the first choice for the role of Catherine.  In fact, Ava Gardner was the initial choice for the role, he points out.  Rode also points out that Duryea actually played the piano in this movie, rather than just playing against a tape.  He points out that Duryea learned five songs so that he could actually perform them here.  This is important in that it added to the story’s believability.  Along the same line, the song ‘Heartbreak’ was sung by Vincent.  This adds even more to the story, both for its irony and the realism.  An extensive background history of Neill is also presented by Rode during his commentary, including his earliest days.  Rode points out that Woolrich’s original book was told from a first-hand perspective from Catherine and that there were four characters included in the book that were omitted in the screenplay adaptation.  Maybe that played into Woolrich’s dislike of how his book was translated to the screen.  Rode also points out the fact that Duryea was completely different off screen than his characters.  He notes that some women were such fans of Duryea’s characters that despite those characters’ despicable nature, his female fans liked that aspect.  He states that Duryea was so concerned by the fan letters that he took them to a psychiatrist friend of his and asked what to do.  Rode adds in, he was so concerned about the reaction of his fans to his characters that he and his wife went over the top in every day life to make sure people knew the characters he played were just that.  This shows that crazy fans today are nothing new.  Everything noted here is discussed within the first half hour of Black Angel’s 80-minute run time.  The rest of the movie offers audience just as much, if not more, commentary to appreciate.  That includes a funny recollection of an off-screen interaction between Lorre and another actor in a movie and how it led to a bit of a scuffle in the movie in question.  When all of this is considered alongside Sinyard’s retrospective, the whole of the bonus content proves to be more than worth the watch.  It adds so much to the movie’s overall presentation and makes the movie’s average price point that much more worth paying.

The average price point of Black Angel is $32.20.  That price was reached by averaging listings at Amazon, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Books-A-A-Million and MVD Entertainment Group’s store.  Considering that the movie’s reissue this time out is being handled by a British company, that makes it an import.  So to that end, that price is right about on par with most imports.  Amazon, Target, Best Buy and Barnes & Noble Booksellers each have listings below that average point.  Their listings do not even break the $30 mark as a matter of fact.  Walmart ($33.09), Books-A-Million $39.95) and MVD Entertainment Group (also $39.95) all break that average.  Again, audiences should keep in mind that this reissue is an import, so all of the prices are in line with most DVD and BD import prices.  Regardless of which retailer one chooses, the money paid is worth it considering everything that this presentation offers audiences.  Add in the general rarity of the movie’s release, it makes the price, which will not break anyone’s bank, that much more appealing.  Keeping this in mind along with the content, the whole of Black Angel becomes a presentation that lovers of classic film and especially film noir will enjoy.  It is also another example of why Arrow Films/Arrow Academy and MVD Entertainment Group are quickly becoming some of the leading names in home entertainment.

More information on Black Angel and other titles from Arrow Films is available online at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.arrowfilms.com

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Arrow Academy Hits Another Bullseye With Its Re-Issue Of ‘The Apartment’

Courtesy: Arrow Academy/Arrow Films/Arrow Video

Romantic comedies, dramas and dramedies nowadays are not exactly the cream of the crop. From one to the next, they center on the boy meets girl-loses her-gets her back in the end storyline with far too many similarities from one to the next. Even the execution of the stories far too often mirror one another, even while some movies are more light-hearted than others and vice versa. Keeping that in mind, having an original entry in that field come along is always welcome. Enter United Artists’ 1960 dramedy The Apartment. Starring a laundry list of now famed actors including Jack Lemmon, Shirley Maclaine, Fred MacMurray, Ray Walston and others, this heartfelt romantic dramedy is a true classic that every classic film buff should own, especially in its new re-issue from Arrow Academy. The movie’s limited edition re-issue is a must have in part because it is a brand new opportunity to experience a story that is just as relevant today as it was more than 50 years ago when it originally premiered. This will be discussed shortly. Lead star Jack Lemmon’s work on camera also makes the movie so entertaining. It will be discussed later. The bonus material included in this new re-issue rounds out the most important of its elements. Each item is important in its own way to the movie’s presentation, as will be explained through this review. All things considered, they make Arrow Academy’s recent re-issue of The Apartment more proof that re-issues are just as valuable for movie lovers as the prequels, sequels, reboots and over-the-top biopics that flood theaters today.

Arrow Academy’s recently released re-issue of United Artists’ 1960 Jack Lemmon romantic dramedy The Apartment is a must have for any true classic movie buff. It is one more example of why re-issues are just as important as viewing options as the prequels, sequels, reboots and over-the-top biopics that flood theaters today. That is proven in part through the story at the center of the movie. The story centers on Lemmon’s character, C.C. Baxter as he tries to work his way up the corporate ladder by letting his superiors use his apartment for their illicit romantic trysts. As he proceeds, he eventually grows as a person and finally grows a spine, standing up to them (specifically to J.D. Sheldrake–played by Fred MacMurray (The Absent Minded Professor, Son of Flubber) ) and making his own way. To that end, it is a classic underdog story. Here is a man who just wants to make it, but has had to sacrifice his own dignity in order to do so. When he finally stands up to Sheldrake, He finally comes out on top, just in an unexpected fashion. That unexpected ending is another part of what makes the story so interesting. It won’t be revealed here, for the sake of those who haven’t yet seen the movie.

While it is, at its heart, a warm, entertaining underdog story, it is also a statement about corporate America; a statement that the culture that has for so long been accepted within that world, must change. As is noted in the bonus commentary (which will be discussed later), this is critical because this movie came along during the age of McCarthyism, yet still didn’t land director and co-writer Billy Wilder on Hollywood’s black list. Considering the ongoing discussions about the “Me Too” and “Time’s Up” movements going on right now, this element of the story becomes that much more critical to its whole. It makes even more so, the story overall just as relevant today as it was in its 1960 premiere (nearly 60 years ago). That is a very telling statement. When this element is coupled with the story’s more heartfelt, fun underdog story, the whole of those elements make the overall story a tale that insures audiences’ entertainment and engagement from beginning to end. Of course, the story is only one key part of what makes this movie so entertaining so many decades after its original premiere. Lead star Jack Lemmon’s work on camera plays its own critical part here, too.

Lemmon’s work is so important to note in examining this movie because it is so entertaining in its own right. This movie, as audiences learn in the bonus content, was only the second time that Lemmon and Wilder had worked together. The first time was only a year prior in 1959’s Some Like It Hot. Audiences see a lot of similarity in his portrayal of Baxter to that of Jerry (from the prior flick). In the same breath, one can also argue that Lemmon’s take on Baxter here also could be where he got the inspiration for Felix Unger in The Odd Couple, which interestingly would not come along for another eight years after The Apartment. A close side-by-side comparison of those portrayals would seem to hint at that considering Baxter’s at times semi neurotic behavior. The general sympathetic, underdog persona adds to the strength of that comparison. Of course, as audiences learn in the bonus material (again, this will be discussed later), this was nothing new for Lemmon by this time. To that end, maybe Felix’s character wasn’t influenced by Baxter, but it’s interesting to consider the similarities regardless. Either way, Lemmon’s take on Baxter is so entertaining that audiences will agree it is just as much of a strong point in this movie’s presentation as the story itself. It is of course still not the last of the movie’s most important elements. The bonus material that is included with the movie’s new re-issue rounds out the most important of its elements.

The bonus material included in the movie’s re-issue is extensive to say the very least. There is an archived one-on-one interview with Wilder from the Film Writers Guild in which Wilder talks film theory and how it related to how he helmed The Apartment. It comes complete with an audio introduction from Lemmon. Also included in the bonus material is an interview with Hope Holiday, who played Margie McDougall in which she shares her story of how she actually ended up in the movie almost by chance. The tears of joy that Holiday sheds as she shares her story make the story all the more engaging. That is because they are clearly not crocodile tears. She really is so thankful to have been able to have been in the movie. As if all of this isn’t enough, the bonus feature-length commentary reveals its own share of interesting information. For example, audiences learn through that commentary that Fred MacMurray was not the original actor who portrayed Sheldrake. As a matter of fact, it turns out that he was under contract to Disney when he was called to replace the original actor who played Sheldrake, and was not exactly in favor of playing a character such as Sheldrake because of the characters he was playing for Disney. Obviously he ended up being convinced to play Sheldrake, and the rest (as the adage states) is history. The commentary also reveals that the scene in which Baxter had a cold was very real. He in fact had a cold when the scene in question was filmed. There is also discussion on the anti-capitalist themes presented in the movie and how Wilder and co-writer I.A.L. Diamond surprisingly got away with putting them into the movie without being black listed. This adds its own insight into the movie. Between all of this, the commentary about Wilder’s distaste for television (and the contradiction thereof since he hired a bunch of television actors for his leads), and so much more, it becomes wholly clear why the bonus material included in The Apartment‘s new re-issue is so critical to its overall presentation. It adds just as much — if not more — to the re-issue’s presentation as the movie’s story and Lemmon’s acting. When all three of those elements are considered together, they make this movie a work that should be in any true classic movie buff’s movie library, and a work that shows once more that re-issues are just as important for audiences as all of the prequels, sequels, reboots and biopics out there today.

Arrow Academy’s recent re-issue of The Apartment is a presentation that belongs in the home library of any true classic movie buff. That is because it is a re-issue done right. From the movie’s look and sound to its very story alongside Lemmon’s acting to the bonus material included this time, there is so much done right here. All things considered, this re-issue shows that re-issues are just as important as viewing options for audiences as the new theatrical offerings out there today. It is available now and can be ordered online direct via Arrow Academy’s online store. More information on The Apartment and other titles from Arrow Academy is available online now at:

Website: http://arrowfilms.com

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Twitter: http://twitter.com/ArrowFilmsVideo

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Arrow Academy’s ‘Terror In A Texas Town’ Re-Issue Is Anything But A Terror

Courtesy: Arrow Academy/United Artists

Late this past July, independent movie company Arrow Academy re-issued the little-known classic Western flick Terror in a Texas Town on Blu-ray.  While perhaps not the most well-known offering from the “Western World,” it is in fact a movie that Western fans and cinephiles alike will appreciate.  That statement applies regardless of audiences’ familiarity with the movie.  This is due in part to the movie’s central story, which will be discussed shortly.  The work of the movie’s cast plays its own part in the movie’s enjoyability and will be discussed later.  The bonus material included in the movie’s recent re-issue rounds out its most important elements.  Each element is important in its own right to the re-issue’s overall presentation.  All things considered, they make Arrow Academy’s re-issue of Terror in a Texas Town anything but a terror.

Arrow Academy’s recent re-issue of United Artists’ 1958 Western Terror in a Texas Town is a work that is anything but a terror.  Yes, that awful pun was fully intended.  That statement is supported in part through the movie’s story.  Written by Dalton Trumbo, the movie’s story follows a relatively familiar plot yet does so with a few alterations to that all too familiar plot.  Trumbo’s story follows protagonist George Hansen (Sterling Hayden—The Godfather, Dr. Strangelove, The Asphalt Jungle) as he sets out to avenge his father’s death.  In the way of that vengeance is the standard evil businessman/landowner McNeill (Sebastian Cabot—The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh, The Jungle Book, The Sword in the Stone) and his henchman, Johnny Crale (Nedrick Young—Inherit The Wind, The Defiant Ones, Jailhouse Rock).  One of the most notable variations incorporated into this story is that Hansen comes in not as the incoming Sheriff who typically fights the bad guys, but a man from another land.  This element is discussed more in-depth in the bonus material and will be touched on later.  In other words, this story isn’t the standard man in white versus the man in black story.  It is just a man who wants justice and (not to give away too much here) gets it without going around the town shooting all the bad guys.  That in itself is another variant that can’t be ignored here.  Along with those variants, audiences will also notice that the underlying romance subplot that is all too common in so many other is absent from this story, too.  Its absence here makes the story all the more engaging for audiences, proving even more that a good story doesn’t necessarily need all of the clichés of a genre to be enjoyable.  The fact that Trumbo left so many Western clichés out of this story, opting instead for something more directed and focused also played positively into the movie’s roughly 80-minute run time, ensuring even more audiences’ maintained engagement.  What’s more, the lack of those clichés also is obviously what led to the movie’s 80-minute run time.  If all those unnecessary items had been added to the story, it likely would have been far longer in terms of its run time and even less well-known.  Keeping all of this in mind, it becomes clear why the story at the center of Terror in a Texas Town is such an important part of the movie’s whole.  It also becomes clear why the story is so entertaining and engaging from start to finish.  With this in mind, the movie’s story is only one of its most important elements.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as important to discuss as its story.

The work of the cast in Terror in a Texas Town is so critical to the movie’s overall presentation because the cast’s work is just as simple as the story.  This is not a bad thing, either.  From Hayden’s confidence as George Hansen to Cabot’s diabolical McNeill and even to Young’s work as Johnny Crale, and beyond, every cast member here does just enough to make their characters believable.  Audiences will be especially moved by the subtlety in Young’s portrayal of Crale as Crale clearly is struggling internally with who he is and was.  The way that Young handle’s Crale, there almost seems to be a hint that Crale doesn’t like being a hired gun anymore and has second thoughts about what he is doing despite convincing himself in the end of his place.  Even in the case of Cabot and Hayden, their performances are spot on.  Cabot, even in his few on-screen appearances still manages to make audiences know McNeill is the evil businessman without going over the top in doing so.  Hayden echoes hints of Gary Cooper (which is also discussed in the re-issue’s bonus material) in his simplistic approach.  Between all of this and the work of the rest of the movie’s cast, so much can be such of the cast’s work, all of it positive.  Audiences will see that for themselves when they check out this movie for themselves.  Keeping this in mind, it becomes clear why the work of this movie’s cast is just as important to its presentation as the movie’s story.  It still is not the last of the movie’s most important elements.  The bonus material included in its recent re-issue rounds out its most important elements.

The bonus material featured in Arrow Academy’s recent re-issue of Terror in a Texas Town includes an in-depth introduction to the movie and an analysis of its cinematography from author Peter Stanfield.  Stanfield, known best for his book Hollywood, Westerns and the 1930s—The Lost Trail and Horse Opera: The Strange History of the Singing Cowboy, explains what makes Terror in a Texas Town so many other Westerns and what also sets it apart from those flicks.  Audiences learn through Stanfield’s discussions that while Trumbo’s story was, on its outermost level a Western, it was on a deeper level, an allegory about personal freedoms.  This is key as he connects it to the impact of Joseph McCarthy’s witch hunt on Trumbo, Hayden and even Young.  This discussion alone adds so much more depth to the movie’s overall presentation.  Stanfield’s discussion on Trumbo’s balance of classic Western elements with his own writing style here adds yet more depth to the movie’s presentation as does his discussion on director Joseph H. Lewis’ stylistic approach to the movie behind the lens.  This is a discussion that any film production student and lover will appreciate.  When these and other discussions included in the re-issue’s bonus material is considered in whole, they prove collectively to be just as critical to the movie’s presentation as the movie’s story and the work of its actors.  Collectively, those bonus discussions, the movie’s story and the cast’s work show Terror in a Texas Town to be a work that Western fans and movie history buffs alike will appreciate.  That is even despite the movie being one of the lesser-known entries in the “Western world.”  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on this and other titles from Arrow Academy is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://arrowfilms.co.uk

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ArrowAcademy

 

 

 

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