I Wake Up Screaming – DVD Review

Directed by:
H. Bruce Humberstone

Starring:
Betty Grable ………. Jill Lynn
Victor Mature ………. Frankie Christopher (Botticelli)
Carole Landis ………. Vicky Lynn
Laird Cregar ………. Police Insp. Ed Cornell
William Gargan ………. Jerry MacDonald
Alan Mowbray ………. Robin Ray
Allyn Joslyn ………. Larry Evans
Elisha Cook Jr. ………. Harry Williams

Twentieth Century Fox presents I Wake Up Screaming. Written by Dwight Taylor based on the novel by Steve Fisher. Runtime: 82 minutes. NOT RATED. Available on DVD: June 6, 2006.

The Movie


When it comes to Fox and film noir it all started with I Wake Up Screaming, the film was their first venture in to the darker more adult tones, and boy did they make something memorable. When people think of this particular genre they think of movies during or post World War II, but I Wake Up Screaming was released well before the attacks that happened at Pearl Harbor, it was noir before noir had a name. There are many instances in the movie that while fresh and new at the time of filming have become key to the noir styles. Smoke filled rooms, hardboiled dialogue, atristic use of light and shading, so much is contained in this one film that would become staples of the genre as the years went on.

Victor Mature plays Frankie Christopher, a sports promoter, who along with his two close friends makes a gentlemens bet that he can turn lowly waitress Vicky Lynn in to the talk of the town. A premise certainly more suited for a comedy than noir. Things turn however as Vicky’s head begins to get bigger as she starts to get modeling and advertisement offers and even thinks she has a career in singing. With all these opportunities coming her way she plans to leave town, only before she leaves she turns up dead. Now Victor is the prime suspect in the case due to the nature of their split. His close relationship with Vicky’s sister Jill is making it even tougher to clear his name. Now a ruthless detective by the name of Ed Cornell obsessively persues Frankie with a determination to pin the murder on him whether he’s responsible for it or not.

I Wake Up Screaming is one of those murder mysteries that twists and turns constantly, making you guess who the killer is until the closing moments. Now ofcoarse I won’t spoil that surprise for you, but while watching, it’s interesting to note just how much modern films of the same nature manage to muck up the ending while ones like this one pull it off with near perfection.

These days they tend to go for one of three different twists. The first, the standard, where they start out the murder with the most obvious person as the prime suspect, then build the rest of the movie trying to make you question that characters inclusion. Only to at the end prove him or her to be the actual murderer. That one isn’t used so much any more due to so many movies using it and causing audiences to roll their eyes every time the lead was miraculously freed half way through the film, knowing full well how the rest would play out. Second in the “who dun’it” handbook was having the close relative or lover of the lead be the killer and have that character be in the background the entire film only to confess the whole thing, usually over jelousy, during the closing moments. Then there was the third type, which isn’t so much a type actually, it’s the ones where they tried to shake the cliche’d nature of one and two and would either succeed wonderfully (Seven) or fail miserably (Taking Lives).

Screaming actually uses all three of these methods, managing to not only succeed but should in many ways become the go to guide when it came to making these types of films. It has characters you build both affection and hatred towards, a plot that zigs and zags at every turn and actors that are a joy to watch. The film would later be remade in 1953 under the name Vicki.

The DVD


Video:
(Presented in 1.33:1 Fullscreen)
Video is crisp and detail is wonderful but at times the picture becomes a bit unstable and begins to jitter. That only happens a handful of times during the film and rarely becomes such an issue that it takes you away from the viewing experience. The black and white is sharp and overall is a fantastic restoration by those involved.

Audio:
(English 2.0 stereo & 1.0 mono)
The audio much like the video is again given top notch treatment by Fox and has no problems whatsoever.

Extras:

Feature Length Commentary – Eddie Muller is the commentator for this DVD and as usual is almost as enjoyable to listen to as the film itself. Here he is a bit more laid back than usual, while providing his usual bombardment of information about the production he still finds points in the film to poke fun. Like how during any scene with music there is a 50/50 chance that you’ll be hearing Harold Arlen’s “Over the Rainbow” or Alfred Newman’s “Street Scene”. Both songs are, while beautiful, used at the most inopportune times during the movie, causing for a very odd mix of audio and visuals.

Deleted Scene (4:03) – The deleted scene “Daddy” is included on the DVD and has been restored to near perfection like the film itself. It’s quite clear the scene was only included in the movie to offer Grable an opportunity to sing, seeing as that was what the young actress was best known for doing. The scene has very little to offer when it comes to the actual story in the movie but for fans of Grable this is a nice treat.

Also on the DVD you’ll find still galleries along with an alternate credit sequence that includes the films original title of Hot Spot. Likewise there is also another gallery that has numerous poster art for the film while it still had the alternate title. In addition there is a Theatrical Trailer for the film along with a few for other titles in the Fox Film Noir line.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for I Wake Up Screaming
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE MOVIE

7
THE VIDEO

8
THE AUDIO

8
THE EXTRAS

6.5
REPLAY VALUE

5
OVERALL
7
(NOT AN AVERAGE)

The Inside Pulse
I Wake Up Screaming is based on the novel by the same name and is one of the better adaptations you’ll come upon. It quite simply understands how to reformat a story to the big screen while keeping the mood and meaning. Here we get yet another worthy title added to the Fox Film Noir series.