Kino on Video has just released three terrific films noir: "Brute Force," "The Naked City" and "Blue Gardenia" ($25 each).
Both "Brute Force" (1947) and "The Naked City" (1948) were produced by the legendary Mark Hellinger, a former crime journalist who turned to motion pictures in the 1930s and was responsible for such hard-hitting films as "The Killers" (1946).
"Brute Force," which was directed by Jules Dassin, is a gritty, powerfully acted drama set in an overcrowded maximum-security prison. Burt Lancaster, who made his debut the year before in "The Killers," gives an intense performance as a prisoner who masterminds an escape from the hellish facility after the tactics of a brutal captain of the guards (a scary Hume Cronyn) become unbearable. Charles Bickford and Howard Duff also star in this violent, disturbing thriller, which was written by Richard Brooks.
The print has been digitally remastered for picture and sound.
Dassin, who was later blacklisted, also directed "The Naked City," the first film shot entirely on location in New York City.
Done in a semi-documentary style, the film chronicles the New York police department's painstaking work to solve the bathtub murder of a blond tramp. Written by Malvin Wald and Albert Maltz, the film stars Oscar winner Barry Fitzgerald of "Going My Way" fame as the veteran police lieutenant and Don Taylor as his young associate. Ted de Corsia is perfectly cast as the evil, cold-blooded killer. Cinematographer William Daniels and editor Paul Weatherwax both won Oscars for their superlative work.
"Naked City" was Hellinger's last film as a producer, and it is his distinctive voice that utters the film's last line: "There are 8 million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them."
"Naked City" has been digitally restored with a clean, remastered soundtrack.
Rounding out the collection is "Blue Gardenia" (1953), a compelling, claustrophobic melodrama directed by German master Fritz Lang.
Anne Baxter stars as a telephone operator who gets a "Dear John" letter from her fiance. Heartbroken, she goes on a blind date with a playboy painter (a wonderful Raymond Burr) who gets her drunk at a swank restaurant called the Blue Gardenia. When he tries to seduce her at his apartment, Baxter strikes him on the head with a fireplace poker and flees. When she wakes up the next day, she reads he has been murdered. Though she doesn't remember all of the previous night's events, she thinks she must be guilty of the crime.
Richard Conte plays a high-powered newspaper reporter who ends up falling in love with Baxter. Nat King Cole is also on hand, singing the haunting title tune.
Kino is presenting "Blue Gardenia" with digitally remastered picture and sound.
To order, call (800) 563-3330.