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Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema VIII [Street of Chance / Enter Arsene Lupin / Temptation]
Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents three more unique film noir entries from the Universal Studios vault in the eighth boxed set of their Film Noir: The Dark Side Of Cinema collections. Here's what's inside…
Directed by Irving Pichel in 1946, Temptation is set in Victorian times where we meet a beautiful woman named Ruby (Merle Oberon), who has recently tied the knot with a very well-to-do archeologist named Nigel Armine (George Brent). They got married fairly quickly and Nigel remains, mostly, blissfully unaware of the fact that Ruby's past is less than squeaky clean. Before he came around and put a ring on her finger, she'd been through a few marriages and subsequent divorces and wasn't always the most faithful of wives to her various husbands over the years.
Regardless, life goes and they travel to Egypt where Nigel winds up having work at dig where his services are required to uncover a long buried mummy. While he's off doing this, Ruby meets a man named Baroudi (Charles Korvin), a fast talker who she proves to be far too trusting with. They become romantically involved and he's manipulative enough that he's able to convince her to get rid of Nigel, permanently, to run off with him.
Ruby decides the best course of action would be to poison her latest husband and be with Baroudi for good, but of course, it doesn't quite work out that way…
Based on a novel titled Bella Donna penned by Robert Hichens, Temptation is an enjoyable twisting, turning noir that keeps things interesting from start to finish while never quite rising to the best that the genre has had to offer. The performances here are pretty solid, Merle Oberon in particular makes for a very fetching female lead. While we know not to trust her, we can understand why Nigel would be drawn to her. She has an interesting chemistry with both of her male co-stars in the film. George Brent is solid in his role and Charles Korvin does a very good job as the film's conniving heavy.
Production values are decent if never amazing. The cinematography is good and the score hits all the right nots at all the right moments while never feeling as memorable you might want. You might figure out where this is all going before it gets there, but Temptation, nevertheless, a fun ride.
Enter Arsene Lupin:
Directed by Ford Beebe in 1944, Enter Arsene Lupin stars Charles Korvin in the titular role as the famous French ‘gentleman thief' created by French writer Maurice Leblanc in 1905. In this story, from a screenplay by Bertram Millhauser, Lupin steals an emerald from an English heiress named Stacie Kanares (Ella Raines) before then hoping on The Orient Express and racing off to his home base of Paris.
Lupin (going under the alias of Raoul D'Andressy), however has a soft spot for the fairer sex and realizes that he's quite in love with the beautiful Ms. Kanares. Having a change of heart, decides to head over to London where he has every intention of returning to her the precious gem that he so recently liberated from her possession. Conveniently enough, he arrives just in time to save her from a possible auto accident.
What neither Lupin nor the apple of his eye realize, at least initially, is that Stacie's cousin, Bessie Seagrave (Gale Sondergaard) has murder on her mind, intending to permanently do away with poor Stacie so that she'll be able to get her sizeable inheritance of herself. Lupin soon figures out what Bessie is up to and takes it upon himself to save her, well aware that sticking around any longer could lead to his own capture at the hands of a cunning and determined policeman named Ganimard (J. Carrol Naish).
A fast-paced and witty sixty-five minute picture, Enter Arsene Lupin is good entertainment if less a traditional noir than the other two pictures. The plot is heavy on coincidence and hard to take too seriously, but the dialogue is well-written and enjoyable and the performers good in their respective roles. Charles Korvin does a nice job of playing Lupin, though he lacks the charisma that John Barrymore had as the character in 1932's Arsene Lupin, a more interesting and better made film all around. Still, this entertains and charms, it's hardly a waste of time.
The cast are good, for the most part. If Korvin is no Barrymore he's still a decent choice. Beautiful Ella Raines is very well-cast as Lupin's love interest, she looks great and does not lack in sex appeal. J. Carrol Naish steals a few scenes as the cop who is bound and determined to bring Lupin to justice, and Gale Sondergaard more than decent as the villainous cousin causing so much trouble. Production values are good across the board, the movie is handsomely shot and features some nice sets and locations throughout.
Street Of Chance:
Based on Cornell Woolrich's novel, The Black Curtain, the 1942 film Street Of Chance, which was directed by Jack Hively, stars the great Burgess Meredith as a man named Frank Thompson. He wakes up in the middle of a night like any other only to realize he's completely lost his memory. As such, he has no idea what his name is, where he is or how he got there. The only clues to his identity are the initials "D.N" on his custom cigarette case and his hat.
As time goes on, understandably Frank sets out to try and figure out who he is and how he wound up in this situation, but it won't be easy. He comes into contact with a woman named Virginia (Louise Platt) who may or may not be his wife, and this ties into the presence of a strange woman named Ruth Dillon (Claire Trevor) who takes an unusually strong interest in Frank and his rather unique predicament. The more Frank digs to try and get the bottom of all of this, the more he starts to wonder if he played a part in a recent murder… even if he can't remember having anything to do with it!
The best of the three movies in the set, Street Of Chance might even seem a little clichéd by modern standards, as the ‘man with amnesia' bit has been done more than a few time since this picture was made, but taking that out of the equation since you can't fault the film or the filmmakers for that, it holds up very well. There's a lot of good suspense here and the acting is quite strong across the board. Burgess Meredith has a very believable ‘everyman' quality to his work here that goes a long way towards making the picture as effective as it is, and both Louise Platt and the enigmatic Claire Trevor are just as strong in their more mysterious roles.
The production values are very good here as well. The cinematography, courtesy of Theodor Sparkuhl, is legitimately excellent. The film has a consistently moody, atmospheric look to it that help keep things tense, exciting and interesting to look at. The score is strong and Jack Hively's direction is tight, resulting in a really well-made and well-paced picture sure to give fans of vintage film noir a whole lot of enjoyment.
All three movies in the Film Noir: The Dark Side Of Cinema VIII are presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and framed at 1.37.1 and placed on a 25GB disc and All three films are in black and white and taken from new 2k masters. There is some, admittedly minor, print damage here and there (more noticeable on Temptation than the other two films) but all three movies are offered up in very film-like presentations that definitely benefits from the format. There's good depth, texture and detail throughout and no problems with compression, noise reduction or any other digital quirks. Contrast varies a bit from film to film and scene to scene but overall it's pretty strong. These look really good, overall.
All three films in the set get the DTS-HD 2.0 Mono treatment, in their native English. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. All three feature properly balanced levels and clear dialogue but again, Temptation is occasionally rougher sounding than the other two, with some pops and occasional hiss in a few spots.
Extras are spread across the three discs in the set as follows:
The first disc gets a commentary track from film historian Kelly Robinson. There's lots of detail here about Irving Pichel's work and life, Robert Hitchens' source novel, the production team, thoughts on and biographical details for the different cast and crew members that worked on the pictures, exploration of the different themes that are woven in here and thoughts on the overall quality of the production.
Enter Arsene Lupin:
In addition to a theatrical trailer, this disc also gets a commentary track from film historian Anthony Slide. This track goes over the history of the story and its main character, offers lots of information about director Ford Beebe's career and background, and gives up the expected amount of trivia about the making of the movie and about the people who worked on it both in front of and behind the camera.
Street Of Chance:
Film scholar Professor Jason A. Ney provides a commentary for Street Of Chance. Director Jack Hively's career is covered in detail and the Cornell Woolrich story on which the film is based is explored. Burgess Meredith gets a good bit of air time here, and the other cast and crew members are covered pretty thoroughly, as is the effectiveness of certain techniques on display, the score, and plenty more.
Kino's Blu-ray release of Film Noir: The Dark Side Of Cinema VIII offers up three lesser-known entries in the movement in pretty nice shape and with some interesting and illuminating commentary tracks exploring their respective histories. Interesting stuff, plenty of entertainment value to be had here. Recommended.rn
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.