Film Noir was not a true genre like horror or romantic comedy. During the golden years of Hollywood, no studio executive declared that he needed to get a Film Noir into the theaters for Christmas. The term was created after these films were produced in the ‘40s and ‘50s. Ultimately these are low budget crime films shot in a cinematic world of bold shadows, harsh light and grey characters. There are elements and attitudes that critics and film historians attribute to the label, but it’s not like the filmmakers were following any rules. Bad Girls of Film Noir, Volume 1 includes four films that contain the essential ingredient of a hard-boiled dame.
The Killer That Stalked New York (1950 – 76 minutes) proves crime is contagious. Evelyn Keyes thinks she’s merely smuggling diamonds into New York City, but it turns out she’s also carrying a case of smallpox. A lot of sweat coming out of that woman isn’t from nerves from the cops on her trail. Turns out the public health officials want her tracked down before she infects others. Being caught by the law isn’t her biggest threat. Turns out her husband (Charles Korvin) is hooking up with her sister (Lola Albright). He sends the wife out on international smuggling runs to give him extra time with little sister. When will he feel his wife’s anger? Will it be before Manhattan becomes an island of the diseased. The film is based on a real small pox outbreak in 1947. Jim Backus (Gilligan’s Island) has a role in this hotzone crisis.
Two of a Kind (1951 – 75 minutes) is a grifters delight. Lizabeth Scott meets her dream match in Alexander Knox, a devious lawyer. The pair see the key to their happiness in ripping off an elderly couple that’s loaded. Even with all their cash, they can’t buy a clue to what happened to their son when he vanished in Chicago at age 3. The evil duo get Edmund O’Brien to pose as that missing lad. The only painful part about their scheme is that the real son had lost a few digits before he disappeared. If they can’t pull off this scam, O’Brien is going to be ticked off for his sacrifice. Besides the elderly couple, they have to fake out Terry Moore. This is a bit more light hearted as the con gets grotesque with the fingers angle.
Bad For Each Other (1953 – 82 minutes) gives us more Lizabeth Scott in medical melodrama. Charlton Heston (Planet of the Apes) has returned from serving as a doctor in the Korean War. He’s got a choice in his Pennsylvania mining town to either help the poor or be a pill pusher to the rich society ladies. He picks the later when Lizabeth Scott tempts him into the cushy life. Will it crush his soul to participate in a charade practice? This isn’t that Noir on any sort of level except Lizabeth Scott. The film is unintentionally funny with the depiction of medical professionals in the ‘50s. These guys smoke more than the cast of Mad Men.
The Glass Wall (1953 – 80 minutes) gives us an immigrant from Europe who doesn’t think he’s an illegal alien. Vittorio Gassman arrives from Hungary, but he gets nabbed at a dock. He wants to get in the country because he saved an American G.I. during World War II. This was a way to gain citizenship. However they can’t locate the G.I. to prove his story. Vittorio escapes and head into Time Square. Gloria Grahame helps him stay undercover. As a wanted man, his face ends up on the newspapers. Things get weird when the ex-G.I. (Jerry Paris) realizes Vittorio’s unfortunate fate, but his controlling girlfriend (Ann Robinson) wants him to focus on an upcoming band audition. How mean of her. Paris would go on to be a part of The Untouchables and direct numerous Happy Days episodes. The film does get a bit too clumsy in presentation as it makes too heart warming of a gesture.
These films aren’t that close to the textbook definition of film noir. They are low budget films with tales that are meant to tear the lid off everything from crooked lawyers, lazy doctors, illegal immigrants and slimy lawyers. They do deliver the bad girls including two devious turns from Lizabeth Scott. The four titles on Bad Girls of Film Noir, Volume 1 wouldn’t be part of Raymond J. Regis’ Introduction to Film Noir class, but they’d probably make his extra credit viewing list.
The films are 1.33:1 full frame. These fresh black and white transfers look good for their age. They’re buffed up nicely. The audio is Dolby Digital Mono. The levels will let you hear the bad girls calculating their devious plans. The subtitles are in English.
The Killer That Stalked New York Trailer (1:56) highlights the killer roaming the streets.
Two of a Kind Trailer (1:51) teases us with Brandy and Lefty’s relationship. They were made for each other in a criminal sense.
Terry Moore on Two of a Kind (7:14) is a recent interview.
The Payoff – All Star Theatre Episode (25:27) is a little crime brought to a TV series. Blake Edwards wrote the script.
Bad For Each Other Trailer (1:56) declares “The Mask Is Off The Ghost Surgeon Racket!” Nothing more fun than seeing a bunch of surgeons having a smoke break next to the operating room.
The Glass Wall Trailer (2:04) reminds us that “his wife Shelley Winters loves him and so will you!” Shelley divorced Vittorio Gassman a year later in 1954.
Bad Girls of Film Noir, Volume 1 provides four females willing to drag an honest man to hell. The films aren’t the rough and tumble detective thrillers that dominate the category. The Killer That Stalked New York combines small pox with diamond smuggling without feeling like you’ve been ripped off. Two of a Kind is a likable and light hearted grift. Bad For Each Other works best as an early Charlton Heston flick and less as a medical drama. The Glass Wall finishes off the collection with a tale of a pal’s girlfriend screwing over a hopeful immigrant They all feature women that enjoy hiding in the shadows. Bad Girls of Film Noir, Volume 1 and Volume 2 are my Raymond J. Regis Memorial Vintage Titles of the Month.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents Bad Girls of Film Noir, Volume 1. Starring: Evelyn Keyes, Lizabeth Scott, Alexander Knox, Alexander Knox and Jerry Paris. Boxset Contents: 4 feature films on 2 DVDs. Released on DVD: February 9, 2010. Available at Amazon.com.
Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.