Essential Film Noir: Collection 5 (Imprint #262–#265) (Blu-ray Review)

REVIEW OVERVIEW

The Film (Island of Doomed Men)
The Film (The Red Menace)
The Film (The Burglar)
The Film (13 West Street)
The Video (Island of Doomed Men)
The Video (The Red Menace)
The Video (The Burglar)
The Video (13 West Street)
The Audio (Island of Doomed Men)
The Audio (The Red Menace)
The Audio (The Burglar)
The Audio (13 West Street)
The Supplements
Overall

SUMMARY

Imprint Films offers another collection of eclectic noir from the Columbia vault.

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

In its latest gathering of lesser-known film noir films, Essential Film Noir Collection 5, Imprint Films gathers four films that very vaguely fit into what most might consider to be the genre but still provides lots of juicy moments in stark black and white cinematography. 1940’s Island of Doomed Men stars an exceptionally creepy Peter Lorre who chews up every scene playing the sadistic Stephen Danel who runs a slave labor camp on an island with jewel mine where he oversees convicts sent there with a cruel hand. Dabel frames undercover agent Mark Sheldon (Robert Wilcox) for murdering a colleague and has him shipped off to the island, where Mark begins to fall in love with Danel’s glamorous Lorraine (Rochelle Hudson).

The second entry in the collection is an anti-communist propaganda piece called The Red Menace, which follows disgruntled ex-GI Bill Jones (Robert Rockwell), scammed by crooked real estate agents, who is lured into the communist party by a honeypot and they try to ensnare the entire United States in their red grip. The obvious propaganda, terrible slogans, and poor acting made this film a joke even in 1949.

The Burglar raises the level a bit, and the quality of the cast with the beautiful Jayne Mansfield making her debut. Professional burglar Nat Harbin (Dan Duryea) and his two associates, Baylock (Peter Capell) and Dohmer (Mickey Shaughnessy) plot a burglary of rich spiritualist Sister Sarah (Phoebe Mackay). In particular, they want her emerald necklace, Using Harbin’s ward Gladden (Mansfield) to infiltrate Sister Sarah’s home. The burglary does not go quite as well as planned when two cops spot Harbin’s car, but they get the necklace. The group begin to bicker about how to unload the necklace, but another couple are already onto to them and trying to get the merchandise away from them and things go further south when a cop gets killed.

Lastly, in this poorly thought out take on the teen gang genre, 13 West follows a rocket scientist who is beat up by a gang of well-to-do, upper middle-class teens, causing his wife to now fear every teenager she sees and him to slowly go down a path of vengeance. This one is most notable for the standout performance from Rod Steiger who puts in a solid performance as Detective Sergeant Pete Koleski who was investigating the original assault.

Purchase Essential Film Noir: Collection 5 on Amazon.com

  • Jayne Mansfield in The Burglar (1957)
  • Jayne Mansfield in The Burglar (1957)
  • Island of Doomed Men (1940)
  • Island of Doomed Men (1940)
  • Essential Film Noir Collection 5
  • Essential Film Noir: Collection 5 (Imprint)

The Video

There is only one film in this collection where Imprint lists the provenance of the transfer and it is for The Red Menace, which is taken from a 2013 4K scan of the nitrate original negative. The Red Menace may be from the 4K OCN (and it appears in a 1.37:1 AVC encodement) but it is not one of the better-looking entries in the collection. The grain is on the coarser side and there is a lot of source damage in the form of scratches and wavering brightness. Island of Doomed Men, a worldwide Blu-ray premiere, (1.33:1 AVC 1080p) is the worst looking in the set with film softness, grain sparkle, and source damage. The image quality picks up exponentially when we move to the 1.85:1 AVC 1080p encodement of the worldwide Blu-ray premiere The Burglar. Some inconsistency in crispness is still there in certain scenes, where we can see a marked drop-off in detail and heightened grain such as the scene where Jayne Mansfield  runs into her bedroom after getting into an argument with one of the men, but the majority of the film is crisp and clear, and the dark scenes have inky blacks with good shadow detail. Lastly, 13 West Street, another worldwide first on Blu-ray, at 1.78:1 AVC 1080p, it just a notch down from The Burglar due to a bit more source damage that can be seen, but it also has a finer grain structure than The Burglar.

The Audio

Each film in the collection comes with an English LPCM 2.0 mono audio mix. There is nothing that stands out as sounding exceptional but also nothing egregious. The first and earliest film, Island of Doomed Men, which also has the worst picture quality, has the worst audio, with boxy sound and the most noise on the track. The rest of the tracks are about what one would expect with the quality slowly climbing the ladder as the films get closer to ‘contemporary’ ending with 1962’s 13 West Street.

The Supplements

There are not a lot of bonus features included with these films, but The Red Menace does get a new audio commentary, and the inclusion of a 1976 documentary on the Hollywood red scare and the 1950 short film on the Hollywood 10. The Burglar includes an archival introduction from Martin Scorsese.

The Red Menace

Bonus Features:

  • Audio Commentary by Film Historian Samm Deighan (NEW)
  • Hollywood on Trial (720p; 01:41:41) – 1976 feature documentary, narrated by John Huston 
  • The Hollywood 10 (720p; 00:15:00) – 1950 Short film

The Burglar

Bonus Features:

  • Introduction by Martin Scorsese (720p; 00:02:13)
  • Theatrical Trailer (1080p; 00:01:57)

13 West Street

Bonus Features:

  • Theatrical Trailer (1080p; 00:02:30)

The Final Assessment

Although these four films in the Essential Film Noir Collection 5 may be esoteric and barely qualify as film noir, they are worth watching for some of the performances and for historical reasons. The transfers are satisfying though not the greatest we have ever seen.


Essential Film Noir: Collection 5 is out now from Imprint Films

Purchase Essential Film Noir: Collection 5 on Amazon.com


  • Rating Certificate: Australia: M
  • Studios & Distributors: Columbia Pictures | Republic Pictures | Ladd Enterprises | Imprint Films | ViaVision Entertainment
  • Run Time: 325 Mins.
  • Street Date: 29 November 2023
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 | 1.37:1 | 1.85:1 | 1.78:1
  • Video Format: AVC 1080p
  • Primary Audio: English LPCM 2.0 Mono
  • Subtitles: English HOH
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Imprint Films offers another collection of eclectic noir from the Columbia vault.Essential Film Noir: Collection 5 (Imprint #262–#265) (Blu-ray Review)