“This week Sony is releasing ‘Bad Girls of Film Noir,’ a two-volume collection that contains eight little-known titles from the Columbia Pictures archive,” reports Dave Kehr in the New York Times. “As it turns out, not all of the girls in this set are bad, and not all the films noir. But given the barriers to bringing older films to market at a time when DVD sales are diminishing, it would be churlish to complain. What we have here are excellent transfers of hard-to-see films that provide fine showcases for some of the most provocative actresses of the postwar years.”
Among those actresses is Lizabeth Scott, who Kehr calls “probably the foremost Bad Girl of her time.” “Scott headlines 1951’s ‘Two of a Kind,'” writes the LA Times’ Susan King, “starring as an ambitious young woman who teams up with a crooked attorney (Alexander Knox) in a plot to rob an aging wealthy couple of $10 million–they enlist the help of a gambler (Edmond O’Brien) to pretend he is the old couple’s long-lost son. Scott woos and romances O’Brien while keeping Knox tied around her little finger, but she ultimately turns good girl in this engrossing caper film. Scott also turns up in 1953’s glossy melodrama ‘Bad for Each Other,’ as a spoiled rich girl with two previous husbands who sinks her claws into a handsome doctor (Charlton Heston) just returned from serving in the Army. Penned by Horace McCoy and Irving Wallace and directed by Irving Rapper (‘Now, Voyager’), ‘Bad for Each Other’ is delicious fun.”
“You’re not going to find anything here on the order of Barbara Stanwyck lathering up Fred MacMurray, but you’ll still appreciate Evelyn Keyes in Volume 1’s leadoff title, ‘The Killer That Stalked New York’’ (1950),” notes the Boston Globe’s Tom Russo. “The last time you saw Keyes was likely in a cast reminiscence segment on the recent reissue of ‘Gone With the Wind,’ in which the late actress played Scarlett’s little sister. She’s just a touch harsher in ‘Killer’’ as a nightclub singer who smuggles diamonds from Cuba for her man, only to make the bitter discoveries that he’s a two-timer (with her sister!), and that she’s contracted a city-imperiling case of smallpox.”
Glenn Erickson at DVD Talk: “‘One Girl’s Confession’ (1953) introduces DVD both to the obscure auteur Hugo Haas and his most notable leading lady, Cleo Moore. Czech emigré Haas was an accomplished writer, director and actor who won character parts in Hollywood films before beginning a strange cycle of sordid dramas about tarnished women and older men, usually played by himself. Although Haas’ micro-budgeted films gained little initial attention beyond critical jabs at Ms. Moore’s limited acting ability, they’re due for rediscovery–even the worst has a worthy plot twist or two.”
“You could call Bad Girls of Film Noir: Volume 2 (Sony) a tribute to Cleo Moore, the ‘B’-est of tawdry blonde bad girls,” writes Sean Axmaker. “She’s part of a lively ensemble in the set highlight ‘Women’s Prison’ (1955), a perfectly and enjoyably tawdry little prison drama, a minor classic of the disreputable (and yet irresistible) ‘women in prison’ subgenre thanks to the smart-alecky camaraderie of the inmates and the classy slumming of Ida Lupino as the ruthless warden of the women’s wing, a real piece of work who wields power with a sadistic satisfaction.”
In more DVD news, a reminder that, as you may already be aware, 23 Criterion titles will be going out of print at the end of March. The Criterion Collection is offering these films–which include “Diary of a Country Priest,” “Peeping Tom,” “Pierrot le fou,” and spine number 1, Renoir’s “Grand Illusion”–at a $5 discount on their website until they’ve sold out.