Nov 29, 2016

On DVD: James A. Fitzpatrick Traveltalks in Technicolor, Volume 3

For armchair travel via time machine, there's no beating James A. Fitzpatrick's Traveltalks. From 1930 to 1954, this prolific producer filmed hundreds of Technicolor shorts all over the globe. I missed seeing the first two Warner Archive volumes of these fascinating little films, but very much enjoyed the 66 shorts in the recently released volume three, which covers the years 1940 to 1953.

The three disc set literally goes all over the map, even from film-to-film. If you sit down to watch several shorts in one sitting, you can go from Brazil and New Zealand to the Andes and the Taj Mahal within an hour. In a world where jet set travel had not yet reached its peak, and focus was on World War II and postwar recovery, seeing places like these before the nightly matinee must have been stunning.

Today the films still impress, though more for the efficient time capsule they provide. The Traveltalks recall life at a slower pace. There are fewer cars and people, and you can even see that the cities have cleaner, clearer air. Overviews of big cities like Chicago and New York are juxtaposed with scenic shots of National Parks and natural wonders, the urban spots in particular almost appearing to be from another world because of the distance of time.

Fitzpatrick kept his subjects at arm's length, choosing long shots over close-ups. You are more likely to see group shots and scenery than anything to provide true insight into a culture. The films are essentially a peaceful and jolly catalogue of places and activities. You do not see the stress of a rural farmer or a busy city dweller.

For the most part the Traveltalks series ages well because Fitzpatrick is a fairly straightforward narrator, avoiding jokes or asides that could date the material. There are moments of racial insensitivity and exoticism of foreign people, but they aren't as glaring as other travelogues I've seen from the time.

The films show their age and the images aren't sharp, but the warmth of the Technicolor does much to make viewing the shorts a pleasurable experience.

I found it a soothing experience to pop these DVDs in the player and take an easygoing trip around the world.

Many thanks to Warner Archive for providing a copy of the film for review. This is a Manufacture on Demand (MOD) DVD. To order, visit The Warner Archive Collection.

Nov 27, 2016

In Theaters: Fandango and TCM Present Breakfast At Tiffany's (1961)

I had a lovely time at the multi-plex this afternoon, where I had the rare opportunity to watch a classic film in the kind of theater that is usually home to the latest big screen blockbuster. Because of this, it always feels like a triumph to me to attend movies presented by TCM Big Screen Classics and Fathom Events. In the past I have fulfilled the dream of seeing Miracle on 34th Street (1947) and The Wizard of Oz (1939) in a theater through these screenings. Today I saw a film I have loved since I was a teenager, but never had the chance to see on the big screen: Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961).

The screening included an intro and outro by TCM host Tiffany Vasquez. This is one of my favorite parts of the series, because it always makes the event feel intimate and special. While I thought I knew pretty much all there was to know about Breakfast at Tiffany's, Vasquez did share a few tidbits after the film that were new to me.

Seeing a film that has been a part of your life for many years in a theater is always an interesting experience. You end up laughing at jokes that would never inspire a giggle at home and some audience reactions can be shocking and even cringe worthy. In this case I was a bit stunned by the laughter that Mickey Rooney's racist portrayal of the photographer Mr. Yunioshi inspired; a performance that the actor and director Blake Edwards themselves would later regret.

I was also amused to hear snoring from near the front of the theater, starting  less than an hour into the film and lasting until the end. Maybe someone was trying to humor their significant other and failed?

Over the decades I've been watching Breakfast at Tiffany's, my feelings about it have gone through many changes. As a teenager, I was impatient with the developments of the plot, and more interested in Hepburn, her gorgeous fashions and the rhythm of the dialogue and Henry Mancini score. In later years, I paid more attention to the relationships, and eventually fully understood the lonely aimlessness of Holly Golightly (Hepburn) and her upstairs neighbor Paul Varjack's (George Peppard)  lives and of those who tried to control them.

While I still adored the fashion, music and amusing script, this time around I felt more indignation than I had before about the way people treated Holly Golightly. Just about everyone she meets feels the need to tell her how to be and even what to feel. From the men she meets in nightclubs, to her ex-husband and even Paul himself, she is treated like their possession.

Oddly enough, I also felt more sympathy for those people than I had before too. I teared up when Doc Golightly opened those blue eyes and showed he knew he was going to get on a bus broken hearted. It made me crumble a bit when Paul thought Holly was married and realized how disappointed he was to lose the possibility of her love. It isn't just Holly's suitors that tugged at me either, as 2E, the glamorous society lady keeping Paul, Patricia Neal made me feel her need to have some control, over a man, over the decoration of his apartment and in the kind of attention he paid her.

While Breakfast at Tiffany's has its flaws, it is deservedly a classic. Beneath its glossy exterior is a cast of desperate characters; their heartache, and the skill of the actors who play them, keeps the production from becoming insubstantial fluff. As if to soften the edges, this film is also devoted to romance, making a dramatic change from the ending of the Truman Capote novella upon which it was based to claim that Hollywood happy ending in a way that has rarely, if ever, been matched.

There are still showings of this film across the country this week! Tickets for the 2:00pm and 7:00pm shows on Wednesday, 11/30, can be purchased at Fathom Events.

Next up for TCM Big Screen Classics: From Here to Eternity, with showings on December 11 and 14.

Many thanks to Fathom Events for providing tickets to the show.

Image courtesy of Fathom Events.

Nov 26, 2016

2016 Holiday Gift Guide for Classic Film Fans

Well the dust has settle from Black Friday and Buy Nothing Day has passed, so let's do some Classic Movie Style shopping! Over the past year I have gathered lots of great gift ideas for classic film fans and I am excited to share them with you.

Get some inspiration for gifts, or simply print this post, circle your favorites and leave a few copies in strategic locations around your home, or wherever it will fall under the right pair of eyes (links to product pages under photos):

There are seemingly endless options for classic film lovers at Red Bubble, a site where you can buy clothing, stickers, pillows, bags and many other items with the image of your choice. I've bought a lot of movie-themed t-shirts from them, and I'm very tempted to grab this Mary Pickford bag next:

Red Bubble

And if you're looking for a great grocery bag, look no further than the Ava Gardner Museum in Smithfield, NC. They just started offering this lovely shopper this year:

Ava Gardner Museum

I also love the design on this TCM bag, which is made by BAGGU, my favorite grocery bag maker:

A random search for "film reel" items on Etsy one day led me to the great film strip gift bows at the top of the page and these cute necklaces and pillow. I actually have the necklace with the glass-topped film reel charm and have worn it every year I've attended TCM Classic Film Festival:




My talented, movie-crazed pal Kate Gabrielle has long made fun classic movie-inspired art, pins and the like. It's impossible to pick a favorite, but I do especially love the detail work on her Maltese Falcon pin:
Kate Gabrielle
I'm in love with this pork pie hat that has long been an offering of the International Buster Keaton Society. If the $75 price tag is a bit steep for you, check out the other Keaton-inspired offerings on their website, including hats, shirts and pins:
The International Buster Keaton Society

Or you could buy this snappy fedora from the TCM site:

There were so many great DVD releases this year that I couldn't possibly cover even all of the best of them, but here are a few that stood out:

This year Flicker Alley celebrated its 50th release with the DVD/Blu-ray debut of Children of Divorce, starring Clara Bow and Gary Cooper.

Milestone Films also released a fourth disc in its remarkable series featuring filmmaker Shirley Clarke. This time it is a 3-disc set of her short films.

It was bittersweet to see the final volume of Warner Archive's Forbidden Hollywood series come out this year, but it was enjoyable to the last film.

While the Pierre Etaix box set from Criterion Collection wasn't released this year, it served as my introduction to the French comic, who I knew very little of before his recent death. Watching these films was one of the most enjoyable viewing experiences of the year. A treat for any fan of classic comedy.


This year I've been having a great time reading books that were the basis for classic films. If your loved one has a film favorite that was based on a novel or story, try tracking down the literary inspiration. While many of these tomes have been re-released over the years and even made available on eBook, it can be even more fun to track down a vintage copy of the book, like the paperback version of Build My Gallows High pictured above, which served as the basis for the classic noir Out of the Past. Many of them are surprisingly affordable.

I have several new movie books to recommend as well, to be shared in a future post!

More ideas for classic film gifts

Make a donation for film preservation in the name of your loved one:

National Film Preservation Foundation

The Film Foundation

Film Noir Foundation

Buy a subscription to a disc rental or streaming service:

Perhaps Mubi, the brand new FilmStruck or ClassicFlix? (Full disclosure I write monthly DVD/Blu-ray reviews for ClassicFlix, but I also use and enjoy the service.)

Buy admissions or a pass for a film series or festival:

Noir City, San Francisco Silent Film Festival, TCM Classic Film Festival and Capitolfest are just a few of the options. Keep your eyes open for upcoming special showings or movie events in the area where your loved one lives.

Nov 25, 2016

In Theaters: The Technicolor-Hued Sorcery of The Love Witch

The Love Witch, now in theaters, will get a lot of attention for its brightly-colored retro look, but it is perhaps most striking for the way it revels in the rarely explored female point of view. A visual throwback with modern ideas about love, romance and their navigation by women and men, it doesn't rely as much on its images as it could, but is a memorable, carefully-crafted work by the meticulous cinematic woman-of-all-trades Anna Biller (Viva).

It is a horror film, with black comic touches, about Elaine (Samantha Robinson) a glamorous witch who is desperately in search of love and not afraid to cast a few spells to find it. With a destructive understanding of sexual politics, she murders disappointing lovers, all of whom can't handle the consequences of getting everything they think they want from this perfect dream of erotic femininity. Her traveling companions include men with square jaws to do Russ Meyer proud, perfectly groomed ladies with steely backbones and a cheery interior designer who finds herself in the unfortunate position of being the only person with a firm grasp on reality.

The look of The Love Witch is as pleasurable as a Technicolor musical or a Hammer horror film. Bright with carefully coordinated reds, blues and pinks, to watch it is to feel your eyes open a little wider and your senses engage with more intensity. It has a warm, rich look, partially due to being filmed on 35mm film, but in several scenes it is clear that expert lighting and filtration are at play as well. This is no doubt thanks to the work of seasoned cinematographer M. David Mullen (Mad Men, Jennifer's Body).

Biller has made decisions about visuals that feel precise and deliberate: in an early scene, Elaine exits her red Ford Mustang with a matching red suitcase, bag and cigarette case, while flashing perfectly-manicured red nails. The color scheme telegraphs her erotic power, but to behold it is a pleasure in itself. Sometimes it's just exciting to enjoy perfectly composed details.

I found the same pleasure in the beautifully executed costumes, all found or made by Biller. There are swinging mini dresses, high-necked lace gowns, silky underwear and wigs galore.

There's so much to love here: beauty, some amusingly quirky acting that is sure to please fans of classic film, an effectively menacing soundtrack (a mix of Biller's compositions and music from classic Italian horror films), and a narrative that is refreshingly female.

If only the message of The Love Witch wasn't spelled out in such excessively explicit detail. There is liberal use of voiceover narrative; which sometimes works brilliantly, but is often unnecessary, because the visuals are strong enough to communicate the message on their own. There is also a long explanation of sex magick and feminine power by a warlock and his witch friend that tries the patience and nearly takes the zing out of a zesty burlesque club scene where what is said is already being expressed perfectly with images. There is an overall feeling that Biller doesn't know her own power to communicate visually.

Biller does transmit her message though, and she uses a deliciously female visual language incorporating things like Elizabeth Taylor-level green eyeshadow, a tampon soaked with menstrual fluid and the most traditionally feminine adornments. 

She has also found a remarkable messenger in Samantha Robinson, whose performance as the lovelorn Elaine is a triumph of confidence and commitment. The actress constructs a flawless, supernaturally beautiful shell, while subtly revealing the narcissistic rot and madness at her core.

The film is an unique experience, unusually luxurious in the way that it has been so carefully executed, but rarely stifled by the precision of those preparations. It is artfully conceived and faithful to its message in a manner rarely seen in the business of film. This is clearly the triumph of Biller whose belief in her craft, and ability to execute her vision, makes me feel hopeful for the future of cinema.

Many thanks to Oscilloscope for providing access to the film.

Nov 22, 2016

Book Review--Joseph Mankiewicz, Cecil B. DeMille and a Legendary Directors Guild Meeting

Hollywood Divided: The 1950s Screen Directors Guild Meeting and the Impact of the Blacklist
Kevin Brianton
University Press of Kentucky, 2016

On October 22, 1950, over 500 members of the Screen Directors Guild met late into the night at the Beverly Hills Hotel. It was a special meeting, called to discuss Cecil B. DeMille's rather sneaky attempt to recall Joseph Mankiewicz as the group's president, due to the director's opposition to an anti-communist loyalty oath, while he was vacationing in France. This tension-filled gathering, dominated by the most powerful directors in Hollywood, led to dramatic changes for the Guild, in addition to decades of exaggerations and fabrications about the events of that night.

In the short but substantial Hollywood Divided, Brianton describes this HUAC-era conflict in detail, picking apart each rumor to find the truth about an event that would shake up the guild's board, and revealing how it would affect the film industry. He describes the events that lead to the meeting, including a brief background of HUAC and the black and gray lists enforced by the studios that affected many filmmakers. He describes the main players, focusing Mankiewicz and DeMille, digging into their histories and describing their reputations, so that the events of October 22 can be better understood.

Hollywood Divided is a window into the intellects of the men whose works drove Hollywood (Ida Lupino, the only female director present that evening at least gets a hat tip) and how they related to each other. While directors like George Stevens, John Huston and Rouben Mamoulian showed their disapproval of DeMille with varying degrees of passion, John Ford commanded the room at a key moment to defend C.B., claiming he didn't like him, but that there should in essence be a civil resolution to the conflict. This uneasy brew of anger, fear and adherence to gentlemanly codes of conduct seems to speak to the changes to come in Hollywood and American society at large; the young directors had a different way of approaching the issue than more established filmmakers like Ford.

While I have some interest in the politics of the HUAC era, I had my reservations about reading this book. As a person who avoids meetings at all costs, how fascinating could it be to read a book about one? But to be serious, Brianton's account of the night of October 22 is as riveting as a big screen thriller. With several of the best minds of Hollywood all speaking passionately about the matter at hand, it should be no surprise that the whole thing played like a drama, and Brianton captures all the details that made the evening fascinating, frustrating and consistently surprising. The best section of the book describes the event in great detail, capturing the mood of the night and providing insight into the words of each speaker.

It's an interesting window into mid-century politics in Hollywood and the inner workings of the boy's club that shaped American cinema during the studio age.

Many thanks to University Press of Kentucky for providing a copy of the book for review.

Nov 16, 2016

On DVD: Peter Bogdanovich Revealed in One Day Since Yesterday (2015)

I've always had a lot of respect for Peter Bogdanovich, both as a filmmaker and as a custodian of film history. When many of the great directors were still alive, he befriended these legends and recorded their thoughts for future generations. He would also pay tribute to the style and stars of classic Hollywood in films like Paper Moon (1973) and The Last Picture Show (1971). That said, I have also often been a bit put off by his seeming arrogance, a sort of haughty, above-it-all air he's carried with him throughout his career. In the documentary One Day Since Yesterday (2015), now available on DVD from Warner Archive, all these aspects of the director's life and persona are explored in a loving, revealing, and lightly critical way.

While the documentary covers Bogdanovich's entire career, it focuses on his 1981 romantic comedy They All Laughed and his love affair with one of the film's stars, Dorothy Stratten, who would be assaulted and killed by her estranged husband before the release of the film. It is in essence an exploration of what made Bogdanovich the person he was before and after this tragedy.

Currently working film directors, former stars in Bogdanovich productions and his family offer their thoughts, while the director himself opens up about his work and the tragic relationship that has colored his life. At the time of Stratten's death, the pair were on their way to spending a life together. They seem to have been a good match: Bogdanovich saw beyond the actress/model's beauty to her emerging intellect and inherent compassion, while Stratten kept him humble and grounded.

Even at twenty Dorothy Stratten was beginning to reject the treatment she received as an otherworldly beauty. While her looks propelled her to a certain success as a playmate and actress, she did not bank on them for her happiness. She was intellectually curious, and acutely in tune with the emotions and motivations of those around her. The documentary captures a bit of her fire in a clip from The Tonight Show: when Johnny Carson asks her a question that offends her, she turns it around on him, subjecting him to the same intrusive gaze that he has inflicted on her. The flustered talk show host hardly knows how to react to her authority.

Bogdanovich is still clearly grieving the loss of Stratten. The typically dour director cracks a rare smile when he shares a story about how he was starting to flip his lid about something and she leaned over him to gently say "your heart, darling, your heart." He so revered her that you wonder if the relationship could have matured into something less starry-eyed and more aligned with the rhythms of daily life.

You can learn a lot about someone from the people they know and where Bogdanovich is concerned, it is clear he cherishes women. The most illuminating interviews in the film come from former love and lifelong friend Cybil Shephard, friend and They All Laughed star Colleen Camp, Stratten's sister Louise (to whom he was married for thirteen years) and his two daughters. These sharp, intelligent and loyal ladies have clearly felt valued by the director and they know him best, revealing his arrogance and generosity with great candor.

I've always felt a bit ill at ease about Bogdanovich's marriage to Stratten. Aside from being much younger than her sister, and the director, I wondered if he was chasing the dead in marrying her. It didn't seem healthy to me. It was fascinating to hear both Louise and Peter describe how the alliance helped them to heal from the trauma of Dorothy's murder. Being together assured them both of always being near someone who understood the feelings of grief and loss. While it is true that Bogdanovich saw something of his lost love in her younger sister, it is clear that the relationship was and continues to be strong and mutually supportive.

While Bogdanovich's quirks are approached with honesty, his work is essentially given a pass. Directors Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach offer uncritical appraisals of the director's work, focusing more on paying tribute than offering analysis. I found this a bit disappointing, She's Funny That Way (2014) was an entertaining film, but I felt skeptical of interviewees in the film who compared this less graceful effort with the airily romantic They All Laughed. I got the feeling that the love for the director was so great, and the need for him to succeed so strong that critical thinking could not enter the picture.

The film digs into the controversy and backlash Bogdanovich experienced as the first celebrity director, revealing the director's own discomfort with fame and eventual popularity with studios as a filmmaker striving to make art in a business driven by profits. While his flaws are not ignored, his methods are essentially justified. Perhaps he got wrapped up in the excitement of fame and success, but he was always in it for the movies. One Day Since Yesterday makes that obsessive passion clear and shows how it could help a man living with an unshakable tragedy to survive.

Many thanks to Warner Archive for providing a copy of the film for review. This is a Manufacture on Demand (MOD) DVD. To order, visit The Warner Archive Collection.

Nov 8, 2016

Book Review: The Story of a Film and a Restoration, The King of Jazz (1930)

King of Jazz: Paul Whiteman's Technicolor Revue
James Layton and David Pierce
Media History Press,

In 1930, a struggling Universal Studios hitched its hopes for resurrection to two mega-productions: one, the dark anti-war epic All Quiet on the Western Front the other, a frothy Technicolor musical revue called King of Jazz. While the former would go on to become one of the most universally lauded films in cinematic history, the latter would have a more complex trajectory. In a new book, James Layton and David Pierce tell the story of this unusual film and the recent restoration that brought it to life again.

King of Jazz the book begins with the story of its players: Universal Studios and its father-son team of Carl Laemmle and Carl Laemmle, Jr.; director John Murray Anderson, who came fresh to movies from the stage; Paul Whiteman, the enormously successful band leader who is practically forgotten today; and the diverse cast of vaudeville players and rising stars in the cast.

Paul Whiteman and his band
At the time, Whiteman was the major draw. Wealthy and in demand, with a string of number one hits and several satellite bands traveling the country, the rotund band leader with the tiny mustache was a star. Today, he is best remembered as the man who commissioned Rhapsody in Blue, a version of which is the centerpiece of the film. As the decades passed, and King of Jazz has seen various reissues, including a home video release, Bing Crosby has emerged as the face of the film, though he only appears in a few songs as a member of the Rhythm Boys singing trio.

King of Jazz requires some explanation for modern audiences. Rather than make Universal contract players attempt to be musical stars, as had been the case with most revues at other studios, director Anderson, with the exception of Universal crooner John Boles, pulled his performers from vaudeville. And so you have acts like the German sibling act The Sisters G, comedians William Kent and Grace Hayes and cabaret artist Jack White, all presented like the greatest stars you have never heard of.

The Sisters G

There are also the so-called "blackout" acts, brief, sometimes seconds long comedic skits that zing out a punchline before flashing to a black screen. This is where Universal stars, like Laura La Plante, made the most significant contribution. This vaudeville tradition, with its blink-and-you'll-miss-it speed, makes a lot more sense with a little explanation.

One of the best aspects of the book is that it does translate the meaning and importance of the stars, traditions and style of the film for modern audiences. Understanding these elements can increase the enjoyment of a film that otherwise can seem to zip along with little reason or form. It goes into the history of its players, placing the studio, band, performers, and Whiteman especially, in their various industries and explaining how they all came together.

A particularly lovely page from the book

King of Jazz
explores different prospective versions of the film and describes in detail the various ways the studio created tailor-made versions for foreign audiences. It also digs into the differences between different releases of the film, which has seen a lot of cuts and re-editing as it has gone from re-release and television to video cassette and the recent reissue. An appendix goes into the geekiest of these details, outlining different sources for restoration, cut scenes and production histories.

The book is modest in its assessment of the film. There is no claim that this rather jumbled spectacle is a universal classic in need of enormous revival. It makes a strong case for its appeal though, from the cheerful skill of its performers and the fun of seeing Bing Crosby in his first film role to the stunning designs of Herman Rosse, who won the Oscar for best Art Direction for his work on the production.

One of the most useful and enjoyable sections of the book is the scene-by-scene synopsis which describes, and occasionally illuminates the action of the film from start to finish. I found I enjoyed King of Jazz much more after reading this chapter.

The Russell Markert Dancers en pointe for the Rhapsody in Blue production number

It's a nice-looking book, loaded with photos, posters and advertisements which all help to tell the story of the film. For the most part I found the formatting pleasing; I liked the full page photos and the balance between photos and print materials. However, the print is very small and sometimes I found it a strain to read. I also found it difficult to make out the details in some of the photos when they were arranged, two or more to a page. Perhaps there is some economizing at hand there, but I would have liked to have seen full-page photos for at least the stills of the larger production numbers, rather than the portraits and dual shots of performers the book favored for full page reproductions.

The Melting Pot final production number

So much of the magic of this film is in the look of it. While the rough copies of it that have been floating around over the years provide mild entertainment value, the musical is vastly improved when viewed in a restored version. I've yet to see the full restoration, but the few scenes I have seen give it the feel of an entirely different film. When properly presented, the two-color Technicolor cinematography and the elegant simplicity of the sets enhance the action in an almost magical way. The book describes the journey to this dramatic transformation in such an engaging way that I can't wait to check out the restoration.

Many thanks to Media History Press for providing a copy of the book for review.

Images courtesy and property of Media History Press.

Nov 3, 2016

On Blu-ray: Ida Lupino, Robert Ryan and Thrills in On Dangerous Ground (1951)

The romantic noir thriller On Dangerous Ground (1952) transcends an uninspired story thanks to the special talents of its cast and crew. Directed by Nicholas Ray, starring Robert Ryan and Ida Lupino and scored by Bernard Herrmann, the economical production makes a surprising emotional connection. Now the film is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive.

Ryan plays a tightly-wound big city cop Jim Wilson, who is disgusted by the slick hoods and violent thugs on the streets of his beat in New York. His increasingly violent means of dealing with these criminals finally gets him in trouble. He's instructed to go to the country to handle a brutal murder case while things cool off. Released from the tension of the city, he is able to reflect on his anger while falling in love with the blind sister of the mentally ill murderer.

It's always a bit difficult to believe that an angry, violent character could suddenly see the error of his ways and begin anew. There may not be many actors besides Ryan who could begin to pull off that transformation. He's perfect for the role, and noir in general, because while he is magnetic, appealing, and sometimes even tender, there's always tension thrumming within him. Anything he does, even an act of sincere kindness, is underlined by that feeling that he is on the edge. You always expect that he could suddenly explode into violence, letting lose with a slap or a sock to the jaw.

Ray also makes that transformation more plausible in the way he films the city and rural settings. The New York scenes are cramped and dim, with lots of anxious close-ups. You feel the rough panic of the streets where Wilson spends so many hours. Drug addicts, criminals and underage girls with stringy hair and tight sweaters slinking around bars form the tableaux that inspires his dismay and disgust.

By contrast, the country scenes are wide open and full of light. Acres of snowy fields increase the sense of this being a heavenly place to find redemption. While the murder of a young girl is more terrifying for its rarity in the small community, it is near restful for Wilson to be able to focus his energy on one crime while surrounded by decent people. The revenge-crazed father of the young victim takes his place as the one driven by anger, which helps the detective to understand what he has become.

As Mary, the blind older sister of murderer Danny (Sumner Williams), Ida Lupino plays innocent and somewhat vulnerable, but only to a point. Her familial loyalty gives her strength, and her other, heightened senses have taught her things about people that they might not wish to reveal. It is her wisdom as much as her gentle nature that seems to intrigue Wilson.

As director Nicholas Ray led a somewhat scandalous and dysfunctional personal life, I've always been curious to know what he had in him to inspire such sweetly romantic and deeply compassionate connections between his actors. You can see it in the various interactions between James Dean, Sal Mineo and Natalie Wood in Rebel Without A Cause (1955) and especially between Farley Granger and Cathy O'Donnell as a couple on the run in his first feature They Live By Night (1948). His characters find comfort each other to such a profound degree, as if they have finally found the one person in the world who could make life bearable.

Lupino and Ryan connect in this way, seeming to see deep into each other as they become acquainted. Mary makes Wilson melt, though you can never completely forget the rage of which he is capable. His eyes are kind, liquid and calm, but also slightly sinister, like a seal pup. And yet, the pair seems to have a chance because they so profoundly get each other.

Composer Bernard Herrmann underscores all these emotional shifts with dramatically different moods. His score sneaks up on you; in the early scenes his famous propulsive style is not yet evident. It is only when the action moves to the rural settings that he cuts loose, throwing in the swirling strings of Vertigo (1958), the sharp jabs of Psycho (1960) and the blaring brass of North by Northwest (1959). In these scenes he almost cannibalizes his own works too much, but ultimately gives the score its own character by imbuing it with a reckless, off-kilter wildness. This is also one of the composer's best romantic scores; in the scenes with Lupino and Ryan, he uses the low, throaty sound of the rare string instrument the viola d'amore to add unsentimental warmth.

The picture quality of the Blu-ray is good, with occasional scratches, but a decent image overall. Special features include a theatrical trailer and commentary by film historian Glenn Erickson.

Many thanks to Warner Archive for providing a copy of the film for review. To order, visit The Warner Archive Collection.