Kansas City Confidential – Blu-ray Review

It doesn’t get much better than this: Joe Rolfe (played by John Payne) is an ex-con trying to change his ways when he’s framed for a million-dollar robbery. Beaten by the police, fired from his job, and now famous for a crime he didn’t commit, Joe is determined to exact his revenge on the four strangers that set him up.

Like the best revenge stories, Joe doesn’t just want to get even, he wants to ruin the men responsible for ruining his life. Because the robbers wore masks and never used their names, Joe is able to take the place of one so he can find the ringleader behind the heist. Unfortunately, he runs into complications when he meets an “inconvenient beauty” as she’s described on the Blu-ray case, Helen Foster. Now he’s not only trying to get his revenge, but get the girl while he’s at it, too. Will he succeed? Rent the movie and find out.

Kansas City Confidential is rightfully a classic of the film noir genre: it has a tight, tense plot and some great acting by Payne, Preston S. Foster, Coleen Gray, Jack Elam, Neville Brand, and a young Lee Van Cleef. Like a well-made watch, all the pieces fit together seamlessly, almost invisibly, making for a great movie.

It’s a minor point, but one part that I particularly enjoyed was the way the movie handled Mexico and Mexicans. I suppose I’ve just come to expect the worst from Hollywood, but I was surprised at the lack of stereotypes or racist, comic-relief characters in the movie. Granted there were more white people than Hispanic, but that’s to be expected from a movie from that time. Like I said, it’s a minor point, but it was so refreshing to see a another race portrayed as a human being rather than a racist caricature that I thought it bore mentioning here.

The movie doesn’t rewrite the book when it comes to film noir, but it uses all the standards of the genre to great effect. It’s just a good movie, period, and one that’s well worth your time to watch.

Both the Blu-ray and DVD disks were in Fullscreen 4:3 aspect ratio with the sound in 5.1 Surround Sound. The transfer is excellent and there were no problems with the audio or video on either format.

There are few special features to this release other than ones about restoring the film. It’s a bit too technical for my tastes, but I will say that the little movie art postcard insert is pretty cool.

Movie Trailer

Original Movie Art Postcard

Before & After Restoration Demo

Film noir fans should definitely check this out. It’s a perfect little heist/revenger story in the best noir tradition. Highly recommended.


Film Chest Inc. presents Kansas City Confidential. Directed by: Phil Karlson. Starring: John Payne, Preston S. Foster, Coleen Gray, Jack Elam, Neville Brand, and Lee Van Cleef. Written by: George Bruce and Harry Essex. Running time: 99 minutes. Rating: NR. Released on DVD: February 15, 2011.

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