Columbia Pictures is thought of as one the ‘big five’ major American film studios but this wasn’t always the case. It began life as one of the so-called ‘poverty row’ studios in Hollywood in 1918, churning out B-movies. Their cachet grew as time went on, with Columbia finding success in screwball comedies in the late 20s and early 30s. In the late 40s and early 50s, they developed further with Rita Hayworth and other stars helping turn the studio into one of the biggest.

Their success might possibly be attributed to their small-scale roots. Due to starting from the ground up, Columbia’s producers were used to making something for nothing, so they became adept at producing cheap films that still played well with audiences and sold tickets. This was the case with many of the film noir titles they made in the 40s and 50s. Often B-pictures, these crime dramas (the term ‘film noir’ wasn’t commonplace at the time) were churned out with none of the expensive glitz and glamour that is often prevalent in Hollywood fare, but the dark tales and flawed characters spoke to post-war audiences and the studio made a steady income from this rapidly-shot, low-budget output.

Indicator paid tribute to some of Columbia’s fine noir titles with their excellent ‘Columbia Noir #1’ box set, released back in November, and they’ve not been resting on their laurels since, as they’re swiftly following it up with #2. With my love of noir and respect for the label, it didn’t take much to convince me to review the set. I spent a week delving through the dark cinematic treats contained within it, as well as the mountains of supplemental material. My thoughts on what I watched are below.

Framed (a.k.a. Paula)

Director: Richard Wallace
Screenplay: Ben Maddow
Based on a Story by: John Patrick
Starring: Glenn Ford, Janis Carter, Barry Sullivan, Edgar Buchanan, Karen Morley, Jim Bannon
Country: USA
Running Time: 82 min
Year: 1947

The set starts with a bang as Mike Lambert (Glenn Ford) careens down a country road in a truck with no brakes. He manages to control it and crashes into the truck of Jeff Cunningham (Edgar Buchanan) in a small mining town. Rather than sympathy for the life-threatening situation he narrowly scraped through, the people of the town are rather hostile to him and he finds himself facing a prison charge.

Thankfully, the attractive waitress Paula (Janis Carter) bails Mike out. He’s a little suspicious of this but doesn’t turn down the offer and proceeds to find work in the town as originally planned. However, Paula and her lover Steve (Barry Sullivan) have something else in mind for Mike, leading to a dangerous game of cat and mouse.

Framed is a textbook example of film noir. There’s an innocent man unwittingly plunged into a whirlpool of violence and treachery, a particularly devious femme fatale and a twisting plot to make off with piles of cash. It’s maybe not as stylishly shot as some examples, but it still has some suitably shadowy night scenes and looks good in general, thanks to DOP Burnett Guffey, one of noir’s finest lensmen.

So, it’s not a groundbreaking title, by any means, but it’s a very good example of the genre. Helping it stand out is a tautly written script. “Constructed around different layers of knowledge” (as it’s described from a quote given in the commentary), different characters and the audience know different pockets of information about the plot at different points, but only Paula knows the whole story before the end. Small details we come across as we watch are also cleverly brought back as key plot elements later on. The dialogue is perhaps not as sharp or witty as in some noir titles, but this helps the delivery feel a little more natural.

Ford helps lift the film up a notch too. He’s a fairly underrated actor compared to many of his better-known peers, as he consistently delivers strong and layered performances but isn’t spoken of as often as people like Bogart, Cagney and Stewart. The rest of the cast aren’t quite as strong, with Carter and Sullivan making slightly flat ‘bad guys’. Buchanan is decent though as the film’s only other likeable character, after Mike.

All-in-all then, it’s a very typical example of film noir, but an enjoyable one. Ford helps elevate it too, treading a delicate line between hard-boiled and sympathetic. The villains are more one-dimensional but the story is well constructed and Framed still delivers the noir goods, so won’t disappoint fans of the genre.

711 Ocean Drive

Director: Joseph M. Newman
Screenplay: Richard English, Francis Swann
Starring: Edmond O’Brien, Joanne Dru, Otto Kruger, Barry Kelley, Dorothy Patrick, Don Porter, Howard St. John, Robert Osterloh, Sammy White
Country: USA
Running Time: 102 min
Year: 1950

711 Ocean Drive sees Edmond O’Brien play Mal Granger, an electronics expert who’s hooked up with gangster bookie Vince Walters (Barry Kelley) through his friend, small-time bookmaker Chippie Evans (Sammy White). Mal modernises Walters’ wire service so he can increase his operation.

Things are going well for Walters due to this and Mal’s reputation (and pay packet) are boosted accordingly. One day, a desperate man who owes Walters money shoots the gangster dead and then kills himself. Following this, Mal takes over the business and pushes the local bookmakers for all they’re worth.

Mal’s success and pushy methods attract the interest of ‘the syndicate’ though and boss Carl Stephans (Otto Kruger) sends his right-hand man Larry Mason (Don Porter) to take control of Mal’s agency and have him as part of their team. Mal agrees, helped by the fact he falls for Larry’s wife, Gail (Joanne Dru), who is no longer in love with her abusive husband.

As Mal’s greed for money, power and Gail take over though, he lands himself in deep trouble with both Carl and the law.

711 Ocean Drive’s trailer and an opening caption claim the film’s producers were threatened by real-life criminals during production and they required protection from the police to avoid trouble. The facts about this are pretty sketchy, so it’s likely just a publicity stunt or only based on some very minor incident. The film doesn’t seem particularly naturalistic either way, though it does describe a lot of the technical tricks used by the criminals to run illegal betting services and sometimes delay the delivery of results to make big winnings.

Generally, however, it’s your typical rags to riches then downfall through greed crime drama. Other than those interesting looks at the gadgets and scams implemented by the bookies, which I very much appreciated, it’s fairly uninspired.

That’s not to say the film is bad though. The performances are pretty decent, with Edmond O’Brien suitably tough and confident as Mal, Kruger oozing cool authority as Carl and Porter cruelly cold as Larry. Dru is more sympathetic as the abused, possibly alcoholic wife who doesn’t look to be getting much of a better deal with Mal.

There a couple of well-orchestrated scenes too, including an exciting final chase around Boulder Dam (now known as the Hoover Dam) which makes the most of the film’s famed DOP, Franz Planer.

Overall then, it’s a solid crime drama, charting the rise and fall of a criminal with big ambitions. It hardly breaks new ground and it’s clear where it’s headed, but it’s highly engaging and well made nonetheless.

The Mob

Director: Robert Parrish
Screenplay: William Bowers
Based on a Story by: Ferguson Findley
Starring: Broderick Crawford, Betty Buehler, Richard Kiley, Otto Hulett, Matt Crowley, Neville Brand, Ernest Borgnine
Country: USA
Running Time: 87 min
Year: 1951

The Mob opens with police officer Johnny Damico (Broderick Crawford) accidentally letting a murderer run free one rainy night, as the perpetrator tricked him with a badge taken from a dead police officer. Rather than demoting or firing him though, his superior orders him to take on the undercover job of finding the man who did the deed, reportedly named Blackie Clegg.

So Damico shaves his moustache and assumes the identity of Tim Flynn, a tough guy who’s moved from New Orleans to work on the New York docks. He soon muscles his way into the local mob, who control the area. He initially gets in trouble when he mixes with Joe Castro (Ernest Borgnine) and his heavy, Gunner (Neville Brand), with the pair attempting to frame him for murder. However, Damico/Flynn manages to get out of it and comes back to bring down Gunner and Castro and find Blackie Clegg before the murderer finds him.

I enjoyed this one a lot. Again, its narrative is fairly typical, but it fires on all cylinders in most departments.

For one, the plot contains a good share of twists and turns to keep you gripped. It’s punchily edited too, running at a fair clip. Director Robert Parrish was a former editor (after being a child actor) before getting into directing, which might explain its taut nature.

The film is also quite dialogue-heavy, with hard-boiled, witty lines delivered at a rapid pace, as found in some other banter-heavy noirs and screwball comedies. There’s still time for a couple of tense and exciting set-pieces though, and great use is made of some real locations.

I enjoyed the performances too. Broderick Crawford is not your typical leading man, being middle-aged at the time and quite heavy-set, but he’s a larger-than-life character that has a lot of charisma, with a tough but likeable approach. His transformation from everyman cop to wise-cracking gangster is surprisingly believable too.

Similarly atypical as a star (though his role isn’t massive here), Borgnine impresses in what was one of his first performances in a feature film. It helped lead him towards his big breakthrough in From Here To Eternity. Plenty of great character actors fill out the rest of the cast and it’s fun to see them do their thing.

Like 711 Ocean Drive, there are some nice tricks used by the cops and gangsters that I enjoyed, with the fast pace slowing occasionally to detail them. I particularly liked the ultra-violet paint system used to track Damico towards the end.

So, The Mob is a gripping undercover cop thriller with some fun twists and turns, a convincing lead and decent noir photography. It’s a real solid film that’s hard to fault and easy to watch.

Affair in Trinidad

Director: Vincent Sherman
Screenplay: Oscar Saul, James Gunn
Based on a Story by: Virginia Van Upp, Berne Giler
Starring: Rita Hayworth, Glenn Ford, Alexander Scourby, Valerie Bettis
Country: USA
Running Time: 98 min
Year: 1952

Affair in Trinidad was made to be Rita Hayworth’s comeback film after the actress left Hollywood for 4 years following her controversial and troubled marriage to Prince Aly Khan. Columbia studio head Harry Cohn was eager to get her back on screen as quickly as possible after the marriage fell apart (particularly as she was being paid thirty-five hundred dollars a week for being back on contract). He thought matching her with her Gilda co-star Glenn Ford in a very similar film would be a good move, so Affair in Trinidad was rushed into production. His instructions to director Vincent Sherman were “Just get me twelve reels of film, an exotic background, a love/hate relationship, a few good dance numbers, and we’ll go to the post.”

Despite the lack of care put into pre-production, mixed reviews and the fact that Hayworth was unhappy with the film, Affair in Trinidad was a hit, becoming Columbia’s highest-grossing film of 1952. This helped get Hayworth quickly back in the limelight after her hiatus.

The film sees Hayworth play Chris Emery, an American nightclub singer living in Trinidad whose husband Neil is found dead at the start of the film, presumably due to committing suicide. However, Inspector Smythe (Torin Thatcher) and consul Anderson (Howard Wendell) soon discover it was actually murder. A fisherman reportedly saw Neil’s boat at the house of the wealthy and powerful Max Fabian (Alexander Scourby) on the night of his death. Smythe thinks Fabian is up to something but doesn’t have enough evidence to jump on him, so gets Chris to use her charms on the wealthy man, who happens to take a shine to her.

Throwing a spanner in the works, however, is Neil’s brother Steve (Glenn Ford), who flies over to Trinidad after receiving a letter from him about a job. Landing to find his brother is dead, Steve is furious that everyone seems to be easily accepting the dubious claim that Neil committed suicide and begins to run his own personal investigation. This causes him to step on Chris’ toes but the pair nonetheless fall in love. Chris is sworn not to tell anyone, even Neil, about her plot though, so she desperately tries to keep him from blowing his top when she cosies up to Fabian.

The plot of Affair in Trinidad is a bit ridiculous (why would the police hire the grieving widow of a man to solve his murder?) and there are holes and dropped threads abound (just why did Neil write to his brother about a job?) However, the film does hold together and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

The film is a little glossier than the other titles, being a star vehicle and set in an exotic location (though the budget didn’t stretch far enough to actually shoot in Trinidad so it’s all studio-bound). As such it doesn’t quite have the hard-boiled punch of some of the other films, but you do get some bonuses, most notably a couple of sexy song-and-dance numbers from Hayworth. She truly comes alive in these sequences and shows why she was so popular with audiences back then.

She wasn’t just a sex symbol though, she could act as well as the best of them. Her performance here is very good, showing fairly subtle depth and range. You can’t go wrong with Glenn Ford either and he’s tough but sympathetic as usual. Valerie Bettis is also memorable in a larger-than-life role as one of Fabian’s alcoholic ‘houseguests’, Veronica Huebling. She deserves extra credit for being the choreographer of those excellent dance sequences too.

I wasn’t a massive fan of the tone of the film though. Everyone takes things very seriously (other than Veronica), so it can get a bit glum and the melodramatic love triangle (or square if you factor in Neil) takes over the plot as it moves on. The circumstances of the relationships do add emotional complexity to the drama though.

So, though more of a glossy melodrama than the rest of the films in the set, Affair in Trinidad is still a decent potboiler. It rarely surprises and suffers from a weak script, but it remains enjoyable and intriguing.

Tight Spot

Director: Phil Karlson
Screenplay: William Bowers
Based on a Play by: Leonard Kantor
Starring: Ginger Rogers, Edward G. Robinson, Brian Keith
Country: USA
Running Time: 97 min
Year: 1955

Tight Spot opens with a potential ‘stool pigeon’ being driven to the courthouse to testify against mob boss Benjamin Costain (Lorne Greene) before being shot dead on his way into the building.

We then jump to a women’s prison where Sherry Conley (Ginger Rogers) is giving advice to a fellow inmate. She’s soon taken away though and driven to a hotel where she’s kept under the watchful eye of Lt. Vince Striker (Brian Keith). U.S. attorney Lloyd Hallett (Edward G. Robinson) has had Conley sent there to try to convince her to testify in her former squeeze’s place (the ‘stoolie’ at the start was an associate of hers).

Conley is not interested in taking the stand, but takes advantage of the hospitality of the hotel and relative freedom, regardless. However, as Costain’s goons close in and the weight of the situation bears down, Conley must decide what’s in her best interest. During this testing time, she also falls for her protector, Vince.

This is an odd entry to the set, not fitting comfortably into the usual noir mould. For one, it feels more like a comedy than a hard-boiled noir for the most part. This is largely due to Rogers’ character and performance. She plays it big, cracking wise at every opportunity. I must admit I found this rather annoying to begin with, but after about 20-30 minutes the jokes are toned down and some darker elements creep in.

There are some very dark and dramatic touches here and there in fact, which don’t always settle well with the comedy but make for an interesting spin on the police informant drama. Rogers does display quite a range as things move on too, with a fragility appearing beneath her brassy, loud-mouthed exterior. A fiery argument with her sister is particularly powerful and her relationship with Vince is well handled.

Speaking of whom, actor Brian Keith is someone I only came across recently after seeing him in Nightfall and 5 Against the House. After those and his role in this, I’ve grown to like him a lot as an actor though. He has an inherent strength and brooding presence, but also a humanity and depth less present in similar ‘tough-guy’ actors of his generation. It’s always a pleasure to see the great Edward G. Robinson too and though his role isn’t all that interesting here, he delivers a solid, low-key performance.

The film is very much a chamber piece, rarely leaving the hotel room, but director Phil Karlson and DOP Burnett Guffey make the most of the limited space with some inventive framing and clever shifts in lighting at key moments.

As you might expect from the cramped setting, the film is based on a play, but surprisingly some of the most interesting and dramatic elements weren’t present in its original form, so I can’t imagine how it would have worked. The play, in turn, was actually loosely based on the real-life account of how an attorney convinced Virginia Hill to testify against her former partner, Bugsy Siegel.

So, with its chamber piece approach and emphasis on humour, Tight Spot is fairly unique to the genre. Its tonal shifts didn’t always work for me though, keeping things a little too light-hearted considering the stakes and true-crime roots of the story. Largely, it’s an enjoyable and well-performed character piece though.

Murder by Contract

Director: Irving Lerner
Screenplay: Ben Simcoe
Starring: Vince Edwards, Phillip Pine, Herschel Bernardi, Caprice Toriel
Country: USA
Running Time: 81 min
Year: 1958

Murder by Contract follows the new career path of Claude (Vince Edwards), a seemingly straight-cut white-collar young man who wants to save up $28,000 to buy a new house. Rather than slowly work his way up the corporate ladder though, he decides to become a contract killer. He certainly seems to have a knack for it, stripping himself of all feeling and offing a handful of people in the film’s opening act.

His money-saving quest is moving too slowly though, so he takes on a well-paid job to kill the key witness in a mob boss’ trial. He’s sent across the country to L.A, where he is greeted by his two handlers, George (Herschel Bernardi) and Marc (Phillip Pine). They (particularly Marc) grow frustrated with Claude’s unhurried, bizarre approach to the hit, as the killer spends his time sightseeing and relaxing rather than getting on with the job.

However, when Claude finally decides to get to work, he’s shocked to discover the target is a woman, Billie Williams (Caprice Toriel). Claude isn’t comfortable with killing a woman, not out of any sort of honour, but because they are “unpredictable”. This worry proves well-founded, as his first attempt fails and the day of the trial looms ever closer. These issues cause cracks in the generally calm demeanour of the clinical killer.

After finding the first three titles in this box set rather typical examples film noir, it’s closed out with a film that comes totally out of leftfield. Most famously championed by Martin Scorsese, Murder by Contract was a cheap B-picture that came and went on its original release but had such an impact on young Marty that he’s continued to extoll its virtues and it reportedly influenced his work. He has openly said the scenes of Claude working out in his room, waiting for his first hit, were the inspiration for the scenes of Travis Bickle alone in his room in Taxi Driver.

Murder by Contract feels ahead of its time in general. The film has an unusual tone that mixes offbeat comedy with disturbing thriller or even horror tropes. It’s also starkly minimalist in both style and narrative. Its approach reminded me of the films of the French New Wave (particularly given Claude’s penchant for philosophising about his work), which broke forth that same year. In the film’s commentary, Jean-Pierre Melville is mentioned too and I think he’s a good fit. Melville’s Bob le Flambeur came before Murder by Contract, so may have been an influence, but it almost feels more like Melville’s later 60s and 70s work.

Murder by Contract also brings to mind Quentin Tarantino in the way it spends much of its running time dwelling on the bickering between its criminal characters, rather than rushing to get along with the plot.

The film is also stylishly presented. Presumably due to the budget and time restrictions (the film was shot in only 7-8 days), sets are simple and few. However, director Irving Lerner and DOP Lucien Ballard frame shots in interesting ways and the editing is well controlled, balancing between long takes and sharp cuts as each sequence requires. Lerner started out as an editor, so it’s no surprise the film is expertly constructed in this way.

Also adding to the film’s unusual style and immediately standing out on first viewing, is its music. Perry Botkin provides a strikingly spare score. It has more than a flavour of The Third Man, particularly in its fairly bouncy early passages, but in using a solo electric guitar rather than a zither and affecting the sound of the theme as the film moves on, it anticipates modern scores.

I could ramble on for an age about what’s so good about Murder by Contract, but overall it’s a darkly comic, offbeat noir that feels way ahead of its time. Witty, unconventional and a dark pleasure to watch, it’s truly something special and makes a fine end to this Blu-ray collection.

Columbia Noir #2 is out on 15th February on Region B encoded Blu-ray in the UK, released by Indicator. Pre-order here. The transfers are all very good. A couple of the titles struggle a touch with the digitisation of quite heavy grain, but overall the pictures all look crisp and detailed. The stills used in this review are all screengrabs from the discs, to give you an idea of quality, though they have been slightly compressed. Audio is solid across the board too.

INDICATOR LIMITED BLU-RAY EDITION BOX SET SPECIAL FEATURES

FRAMED
– High Definition presentation
– Original mono audio
– Audio commentary with author and critic Imogen Sara Smith (2021)
– The Steps of Age (1951, 25 mins): dramatised documentary written and directed by Ben Maddow, screenwriter of Framed, demonstrating the challenges of growing old as seen through of the eyes of a retired widow
– Up in Daisy’s Penthouse (1958, 17 mins): the Three Stooges get mixed up with a murder plot, mistaken identity, a gold-digging blonde, and a great deal of money
– Image gallery: publicity and promotional material
– New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
– UK premiere on Blu-ray

711 OCEAN DRIVE
– High Definition presentation
– Original mono audio
– Audio commentary with author and film critic Glenn Kenny (2021)
– Diary of a Sergeant (1945, 24 mins): Joseph M Newman’s documentary portrait of Harold Russell, a soldier who lost his hands during World War II and would later win an Oscar® for his performance in The Best Years of Our Lives
– Three Sappy People (1939, 18 mins): the Three Stooges play a trio of telephone repairmen who make an unexpected career switch
– Original theatrical trailer
– Image gallery: publicity and promotional material
– New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
– UK premiere on Blu-ray

THE MOB
– High Definition presentation
– Original mono audio
– Audio commentary with filmmaker and writer Gina Telaroli (2021)
– The Guardian Interview with Ernest Borgnine (2001, 79 mins): archival audio recording of the much-loved character actor in conversation with Clyde Jeavons at the National Film Theatre, London
– Ernest Borgnine in Conversation (2009, 49 mins): archival video recording of the actor discussing his eventful career with Adrian Wootton at the BFI Southbank, London
– Hot Stuff (1956, 16 mins): a trio of law enforcers, played by the Three Stooges, go undercover and assume blue-collar jobs in order to thwart criminal activities
– Original theatrical trailer
– Image gallery: publicity and promotional material
– New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
– World premiere on Blu-ray

AFFAIR IN TRINIDAD
– High Definition presentation
– Original mono audio
– Audio commentary with film historian and author Lee Gambin (2021)
– The End of the Affair (2012, 24 mins): Peter Ford, son of Glenn Ford, discusses the life and career of his father with the Film Noir Foundation’s Eddie Muller
– Caribbean (1951, 25 mins): documentary by the Crown Film Unit, released the same year as Affair in Trinidad, depicting life and culture in the West Indies, British Guiana, and British Honduras
– Saved by the Belle (1939, 18 mins): island intrigue and Señorita Rita spell trouble for the Three Stooges
– Original theatrical trailer
– Image gallery: publicity and promotional material
– New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
– UK premiere on Blu-ray

TIGHT SPOT
– High Definition presentation
– Original mono audio
– Audio commentary with writer and film historian Nora Fiore (2021)
– The Senate Crime Investigations (1951, 62 mins): extracts from unedited telerecordings of the US senate committee’s hearings into organised crime, originally compiled by the British Film Institute and presented in four parts, including footage of Virginia Hill, who partly inspired Tight Spot
– Idiots Deluxe (1945, 18 mins): courtroom comedy short starring the Three Stooges and featuring an isolated hideaway beset by a deadly intruder
– Original theatrical trailer
– Image gallery: publicity and promotional material
– New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
– World premiere on Blu-ray

MURDER BY CONTRACT
– High Definition presentation
– Original mono audio
– Audio commentary with film critic and writer Farran Smith Nehme (2021)
– Introduction by Martin Scorsese (2014, 5 mins)
– Swedes in America (1943, 18 mins): Irving Lerner’s Oscar®-nominated short film, presented by Ingrid Bergman, detailing the influence of Swedish immigrants on the United States
– Violence Is the Word for Curly (1938, 18 mins): comedy short starring the Three Stooges, which provided an early cinematography credit for Murder by Contract’s prolific director of photography, Lucien Ballard
– Original theatrical trailer
– Larry Karaszewski trailer commentary (2020, 3 mins): short critical appreciation
– Image gallery: publicity and promotional material
– New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
– World premiere on Blu-ray

– Limited edition exclusive 120-page book with essays and interviews linked with all films in the set, as well as credits.
– Strictly limited to 6,000 numbered units.

The Framed commentary analyses the film in great detail. Imogen Sara Smith really makes you appreciate the craft behind it. Her delivery is a touch dry and there’s a lot to take in, but it’s incredibly rich in background and analysis so is a very strong track.

The 711 Ocean Drive commentary describes the plot a little too frequently for my liking, particularly for a film that’s pretty easy to follow. Glenn Kenny does impart some interesting facts about the cast and crew though so it’s still worth a listen.

Gina Telaroli’s commentary on The Mob digs deep into the background of those involved, with some great quotes and facts. Added to this, she has a clear passion for the film and era so her track is infectious to listen to. There’s not a great deal of critical analysis and she leaves a few pauses here and there, but on the whole it’s a highly recommended track.

Lee Gambin’s commentary on Affair in Trinidad is incredibly well researched, enthusiastically delivered and honest about the film’s shortcomings. He has a lot of notes on the costumes too, which isn’t an area I’m particularly interested in but he makes a few illuminating points about them.

Nora Fiore’s commentary on Tight Spot is more ‘performed’ than the others at times, which prevents the largely analytical track from getting dry. It’s an excellent commentary that helps better appreciate the film’s unusual approach.

Farran Smith Nehme’s commentary on Murder by Contract provides a wonderful mix of analysis of the film and background information on its cast and crew. I found the story of Caprice Toriel’s life particularly fascinating.

The Steps of Age is a poignant account of the mental health issues inherent in growing old. The performances are a tad wooden at times and the ending simplistic, but the writing is movingly honest with a touch of earthy poetry which is reflected in the direction.

Diary of a Sergeant starts off in a powerfully upfront fashion with the story of a man who’s lost his hands in the war. After the first 5-6 mins it becomes about his rehab and touches on the psychological impact. It can be a little corny at times but the hard-boiled approach to the narration is a nice twist that keeps it engaging.

Ernest Borgnine’s two interviews are very enjoyable, though he relates many of the same stories, practically word-for-word, so I don’t think there’s much value in including them both. I’d recommend people just listen to the longer one, which runs under the film like a commentary (though only makes brief mention of the film itself).

Caribbean is part travelogue, part documentary about social reform in the islands. There’s some nice footage and infectious music at times but it’s rather dry away from that, not helped by a terribly flat British narration.

The interview with Peter Ford is both surprisingly frank (with regards to his father’s womanising and parenting) and affectionate (with regards to his work). It’s an interesting watch with some eye-opening stories.

The Senate Crime Investigation clips are an interesting addition though only a short segment is (loosely) connected to Tight Spot and the poor sound quality makes it difficult to follow.

In Scorcese’s introduction to Murder by Contract he says it was a big influence on Taxi Driver. His piece shows his love for the film and he discusses its merits as well as some other interesting similar titles from around the era, though it’s a very short piece so doesn’t dig particularly deep.

Larry Karaszewski’s trailer commentary, like Scorsese’s piece, demonstrates a passion for the film and gives brief reasons why the presenter loves it, but again is too short to offer a great deal.

Swedes in America is a patriotic (to both Sweden and the US) historical piece. It has some nice footage and is presented by Ingrid Bergman but wasn’t of great interest to me, to be honest.

I’m not much of a Three Stooges fan but I still think it’s a great idea to have one short with each film as a bonus, making watching each disc more like a night out at the cinema would have been back in the 40s and 50s.

The booklet is superb, being crammed with essays, interviews, book extracts, etc. about each film and some of the shorts included in the set. Highlights include a look at an LA Times piece on the claims that 711 Ocean Drive’s producer was in trouble with the real race-wire syndicate and an amusingly frank excerpt from Robert Parish’s autobiography.

So, ‘Columbia Noir #2’ is a fantastic set with consistently decent films and a veritable treasure trove of special features to dig into. Hopefully we’ll get Columbia Noir #3 soon too.

Columbia Noir #2 - Indicator
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Editor of films and videos as well as of this site. On top of his passion for film, he also has a great love for music and his family.

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