As I mentioned in my review of Columbia Noir #3, there are only so many ways I can introduce Indicator’s continuing series of Columbia Noir boxsets, so I won’t mess around. Regular readers will know how much I’ve enjoyed the sets so far, so I can never resist an offer of another one to review, no matter how busy I am.

Columbia Noir #4 includes:

Walk a Crooked Mile
Walk East on Beacon!
Pushover
A Bullet is Waiting
Chicago Syndicate
The Brothers Rico

My brief reviews of all the titles are below, as well as my thoughts on the transfers and special features.

Walk a Crooked Mile

Director: Gordon Douglas
Screenplay: George Bruce
Based on a Story by: Bertram Millhauser
Starring: Louis Hayward, Dennis O’Keefe, Louise Allbritton
Country: USA
Running Time: 91 min
Year: 1948

The first film in the set (if you run through them chronologically, as I did) is the early Cold-War spy movie Walk a Crooked Mile. Its story begins with the murder of an FBI agent whilst he’s on the phone with his superior, Daniel O’Hara (Dennis O’Keefe), telling him “I think I’ve run into something red hot”. The deceased agent was only supposed to be tailing the suspect of an illegal border entry case, so O’Hara, on top of wanting to catch the killer, wants to find out what this ‘red hot’ discovery was that led to the man’s death.

The case leads to the discovery of a Soviet spy ring that is attempting to steal American atomic secrets. When Philip ‘Scotty’ Grayson (Louis Hayward), a visiting British Scotland Yard detective, gives O’Hara a strong lead, he’s brought on to assist on the job. The pair work together to catch the ‘Commies’ in the act before it’s too late.

This spy thriller (I’m a little reticent to call it a noir due to its lack of many of the tropes of the genre) plays like a promotional tool for the FBI but, unlike a number of similar crime films made at the time, including Walk East on Beacon!, the film did not have the backing of J Edgar Hoover. He had an issue with showing that the enemy could get access to top-secret American facilities.

Nonetheless, the film revels in showing the various tricks, gadgets and techniques the FBI employ in gathering evidence and catching criminals. These are the aspects I most enjoyed. Many of the techniques became commonplace in films over the years and have since been surpassed by digital gadgets. However, it’s fun to see these early methods and I’ve always been a fan of procedural films that really dig into the nitty-gritty of the work of government agents. Not only do we see the clever technology used, we have one of our heroes take on an undercover role, having to work in a laundry for a stint and move into a rough part of town to add credence to his assumed identity.

Perhaps due to this procedural approach though, it’s quite a dry film, aiming for realism in practical details without creating particularly interesting characters (not helped by a bland set of leads). This dry approach is accentuated by a voiceover by Reed Hadley, who had already leant his voice to a number of films and documentaries, so was considered a voice of authority and credibility. I found his narration a little annoying, to be honest, spelling out things we could already see on screen, but thankfully it’s largely only used in the first half.

The focus on the job and avoidance of any love interests or backstories means Walk a Crooked Mile remains a lean, well-paced film, despite any attention to detail on the detective work. As such, it’s an engrossing and occasionally quite thrilling film, particularly in the final act where we’re treated to a pretty decent car chase and shoot out.

Overall then, Walk a Crooked Mile is a gripping and exciting procedural spy thriller. It can be a little too dry in execution, perhaps, and would have benefited from a more charismatic cast, but it’s a decent watch, nonetheless.

Walk East on Beacon!

Director: Alfred Werker
Screenplay: Leo Rosten, Laurence Heath (additional writing), Emmett Murphy (additional writing), Virginia Shaler (additional writing)
Based on an Article by: J. Edgar Hoover
Starring: George Murphy, Finlay Currie, Virginia Gilmore
Country: USA
Running Time: 98 min
Year: 1952

Walk East on Beacon! is based on a Reader’s Digest article called ‘The Crime of the Century’, credited to J Edgar Hoover himself (though he took a lot of credit for articles and books written by others, over the years). This was inspired by the Rosenberg-Fuchs-Gold spy ring case, which made the discovery that American atomic secrets were being secretly given to the Soviet Union during WWII.

Walk East on Beacon! changes a fair amount of details of the case but keeps a smattering of true-life incidents to allow the film to join the ranks of a cycle of semi-documentary films made by Hollywood after WWII. The House on 92nd Street kick-started the movement, whose films aimed to tell fairly authentic stories but with added entertainment value.

In Walk East on Beacon!, George Murphy plays FBI Inspector Belden, who investigates a leak in the top-secret ‘Falcon’ project. Professor Albert Kafer (Finlay Currie) is the lead scientist on it and approaches the bureau after the Soviets blackmail him into giving up secrets, threatening the life of his only surviving son (his other two were killed in concentration camps during the war).

Belden asks Kafer to go along with the Soviet’s plot, so they can follow him and gain information as to who’s behind the operation and put a stop to any further leaks of national security secrets.

Walk East on Beacon! is quite similar to Walk a Crooked Mile in its FBI promoting, anti-Soviet narrative and fairly dry, procedural approach. However, Walk East on Beacon!, after a pretty stuffy first act, gets more exciting as it goes on. It also feels more human in places, largely due to the Kafer character. With him being a non-agent, caught between both sides and facing the death of his son if he slips up, he provides a soul to the otherwise caricature-filled world of evil ‘Reds’ and tirelessly hard-working government agents. Currie’s performance goes some way to helping him stand out too, as he demonstrates a decent range and effectively sells the anxiety of his character.

Walk East on Beacon! also sets itself apart from Walk a Crooked Mile in following the villains as closely as the heroes. This adds more flavour and suspense to the tale, as we can see what is being plotted and know when the bad guys are one step ahead. However, with these extra elements, the film isn’t quite as tight and punchy as its predecessor in the set.

Again, much enjoyment is gained from watching the methods in which both the FBI and the Soviet spies do their thing. With Hoover’s support, the film was allowed to shoot in actual FBI offices too and even used some real agents as background players. This adds an extra layer of realism, on top of the location shooting and procedural aspects.

So, it’s another exciting FBI promo, seeing the bureau and a brave scientist bring down a Communist spy ring. Following the spies as much as the FBI, it’s a little less stuffy than the other title, though it’s not quite as taut.

Pushover

Director: Richard Quine
Screenplay: Roy Huggins
Based on a Novels by: Thomas Walsh, Bill S. Ballinger
Starring: Fred MacMurray, Kim Novak, Philip Carey
Country: USA
Running Time: 88 min
Year: 1954

Pushover wastes little time in setting up its story, with a slick, wordless bank heist running under the credits. We then cut to a scene of Paul Sheridan (Fred MacMurray) picking up Lona McLane (Kim Novak) after a movie. The couple gets pretty cosy but we soon learn Paul is actually a cop who has been assigned to get close to Lona so that he can find out where her boyfriend Harry Wheeler (Paul Richards) is. You see, Harry was heading the bank job at the start of the film but has disappeared with the money.

So, Paul jumps between spending time with Lona and then spying on her from a room across the courtyard, alongside partner Rick McAllister (Phillip Carey) who seems more interested in spying on Lona’s ‘wholesome’ next-door neighbour, Ann Stewart (Dorothy Malone).

Lona discovers Paul is a cop and, whilst initially angered, professes her love for him and suggests they intercept Harry before the police and take the money for themselves. The greedy Paul agrees to go along with this but, of course, things get out of hand and the cop tries desperately to keep on top of everything so he can keep the money and not get caught himself.

Whilst I found the first two titles in this set (as well as the next, which I’ll get to later) questionable as examples of film noir, Richard Quine’s Pushover most definitely fits the mould. Whilst noir is a difficult genre to classify (some might not even call it a genre at all, due to this) there are certain things you expect and most are here, front and centre. On top of surface aspects like a night-time urban setting with shadowy lighting and scenes set in nightclubs, you have a central narrative that focuses on a seeming ‘everyman’ character who is talked into doing something illegal and/or immoral by a woman, which throws him into a whole heap of problems.

It’s full of flawed characters too. Men don’t come out well in this, in particular. Everyone’s a bit twisted. Even the eventual hero is shown spying on a girl he likes and makes offensive comments about women from the offset.

In contrast, Novak isn’t your typical femme fatale. She does initiate the idea that they take the stolen money from her boyfriend, but she never double-crosses MacMurray and is the only one of the pair that has second thoughts about the plan as the film goes on. She, ultimately, has an air of innocence about her, with MacMurray taking over the reins of plotting and implementing their criminal act.

Reportedly many critics have dismissed Pushover as a Double Indemnity knock-off, but some have stood up for the film. Jean Luc Goddard has stated the film was an influence on Breathless, in fact. There are also similarities to Rear Window, but they came out in the same year. In fact, Pushover came out first, by a couple of months.

Personally, I liked Pushover a lot. It’s incredibly taut, keeping locations to a minimum and cranking the tension continuously up as layers and layers of obstacles and complications impede the plans of Paul and Lona. The only possibly superfluous aspect of the story is the relationship that develops between Rick and Ann, but even this has a dark edge with Rick’s spying.

The film has several complex emotional and moral dilemmas, in fact, as with all the best noirs. The Paul character has a lot to deal with as the film goes on and the underrated MacMurray does a magnificent job with it all. Novak is no slouch either, in her debut lead performance. Her character isn’t as strong or interesting as MacMurray’s, unfortunately, but she oozes sex appeal in the early scenes with him and shows depth as the film goes on. She also gets one of the best brush-off scenes I’ve seen, when she’s pestered by a man at a bar. Their interaction includes this sharp bit of interplay before she purposely spills a drink on his crotch:

Man: “You remind me of someone. Haven’t you ever met me before?”
Lona: “Hundreds of times.”
Man: “I don’t get it.”
Lona: “And you won’t, so try someplace else.”

It’s probably the most stylishly shot film in the set too. Great use is made of rain on windows and streets, as well as shadows, in classic noir fashion. There are some nicely blocked out moving shots too, that make good use of depth and the film’s theme of duplicity. There’s a nice reveal of a second piano and player in a nightclub scene, for instance.

Overall then, Pushover takes a fairly simple premise (part-borrowed from another classic noir) and rings it for every ounce of tension and emotional and moral complexity. It’s a fine example of the beauty of film noir.

A Bullet is Waiting

Director: John Farrow
Screenplay: Casey Robinson, Thames Williamson
Based on a Story by: Gerald Drayson Adams, Leo Katcher
Starring: Rory Calhoun, Jean Simmons, Stephen McNally
Country: USA
Running Time: 90 min
Year: 1954

A Bullet is Waiting opens by showing us the aftermath of a small plane crash. The two passengers, who both survived, were lawman Frank Munson (Stephen McNally) and his handcuffed prisoner, Ed Stone (Rory Calhoun). The crash leaves the pair stranded out in the Californian wilderness, where they soon meet Cally Canham (Jean Simmons), a young shepherdess whose farm is nearby.

Cally is currently alone out there, as her father, David (Brian Aherne), is away. After a torrential storm floods the only passage in and out of the farm, Cally’s father won’t be able to get back any time soon and Munson and Stone won’t be getting away either. With Munson injured following the crash, he’s in no fit state to walk Stone out of there anyway.

As the trio while the time away at the farm, Cally and Stone form a relationship. It’s an uneasy one though as, on top of them seeming mismatched (she’s an educated lover of art, he’s an oafish criminal), there’s an ever-present suggestion that Stone may only be buttering Cally up to be able to get hold of her gun and escape.

A Bullet is Waiting is another title that might not normally be classed as noir. For starters, it’s in colour (though a few classic period noirs share this trait) and it’s also set out in the wilderness, giving off more of a western vibe. There’s no femme fatale either.

Instead, the film is more of a melodramatic character study, where our heroine and male antagonist/protagonist (there’s a constant debate as to where he stands in the film) both undergo a transformation/enlightenment over the course of the film. Cally comes to terms with her blossoming sexuality and Stone discovers his sensitive side in the story that’s loosely based on Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’.

As such, I found the Munson character a little superfluous. He isn’t as well developed as the other two in this chamber piece and acts largely only as a reminder that Stone is supposed to be a killer. He’s also there to add tension and violence into the mix, but the unusual, not quite believable ways the characters initially deal with one another and their predicament put a damper on a lot of that anyway.

The film just lacked drama for me, with some sappy moments causing everything to lurch into the wrong side of melodrama. It didn’t help that I watched it in a double bill, straight after the superior and much more exciting Pushover, but A Bullet is Waiting felt like a dull slog in comparison.

The film was directed by John Farrow, who also helmed the wonderful The Big Clock. Unfortunately, this doesn’t come close to the brilliance of that film. His preference for elaborate camera movement is demonstrated in the opening shot along a beach but, otherwise, the direction seems fairly pedestrian.

So, A Bullet is Waiting proved to be the only dud in the set, for me. With little in common with the noir genre in general, I’m not quite sure why it was included here, to be honest.

Chicago Syndicate

Director: Fred F Sears
Screenplay: Joseph Hoffman
Based on a Story by: William Sackheim
Starring: Dennis O’Keefe, Abbe Lane, Paul Stewart, Allison Hayes
Country: USA
Running Time: 84 min
Year: 1955

Chicago Syndicate sees accountant Barry Amsterdam (Dennis O’Keefe) talked by the authorities into working undercover for a crime syndicate run by Arnold Valent (Paul Stewart), after the boss’ previous accountant Nelson Kern is murdered.

Amsterdam slowly gains Valent’s trust and is brought into his inner circle as his chief accountant. In this role, Amsterdam works to try and find evidence of the gangster’s criminal dealings, which proves tricky seeing as Valent cunningly keeps his name off the books.

Amsterdam discovers there may be evidence of Kern’s old accounts still available though, in Valent’s name, which could bring down the syndicate. The undercover accountant enlists the help of the mysterious Sue Morton (Allison Hayes) who, we discover, is also keen to bring Valent down.

Connie Peters (Abbe Lane), Valent’s girl, also proves to be a valuable asset, particularly after Sue pushes her man away from her.

The undercover man story is pretty well worn in Hollywood movies, even back then, but Chicago Syndicate adds a few little twists in the tale. The accountant angle, though not entirely original, gives a different slant on the usual situation where the undercover agent is a tough cop, pretending to be a hardened criminal. The inclusion of a second pseudo-undercover character in Sue (later revealed to be called Joyce) also adds an original take on the story.

There are no particularly big names in the cast, but the principles all do a decent job. Dennis O’Keefe is very effective as our tough-talking undercover lead and Abbe Lane is attention-grabbing as Valent’s hard-done-by girlfriend who proves a pivotal character by the end. Her musical numbers are suitably sultry too, where she sings alongside her real-life husband, band-leader, restauranteur and cartoonist Xavier ‘Cugie’ Cugat.

It’s not the most action-packed of gangster movies, meaning thrill-seekers might be slightly disappointed, though there’s a brutal-sounding off-screen beating at one point and a stylishly photographed, exciting showdown in the tunnels running under Chicago.

Overall, it’s a solid crime thriller that puts just enough of a spin on an old formula to hold its own, on top of some decent performances and cinematography.

The Brothers Rico

Director: Phil Karlson
Screenplay: Lewis Meltzer, Ben Perry, Dalton Trumbo (uncredited)
Based on a Story by: Georges Simenon
Starring: Richard Conte, Dianne Foster, Larry Gates, Argentina Brunetti, Paul Dubov, Paul Picerni
Country: USA
Running Time: 92 min
Year: 1957

The final film in the set, Phil Karlson’s The Brothers Rico, sees Richard Conte play Eddie Rico, a retired mob accountant who’s now prospering as a legitimate businessman. He’s happily married to Alice (Dianne Foster) and the pair are in the final stages of adopting a child.

However, Eddie’s past comes knocking when he gets a phone call from Phil (Paul Dubov), a former associate, who tells him a mobster is being sent over to his office in Florida and he must give him a job to help him lay low. Soon after this, Eddie also receives a letter from his mother (Argentina Brunetti), describing how she’s worried about his two brothers, Gino (Paul Picerni) and Johnny (James Darren).

When Gino shows up and speaks to Eddie, it turns out he and Johnny are in trouble. They were the ones that hit a big name mobster and afterwards Johnny disappeared. It turns out Johnny got married and his new brother in law, Peter Malaks (Lamont Johnson), has been speaking to prosecutors. So, mob boss Sid Kubik (Larry Gates) is worried this is a sign Johnny is planning to talk to the authorities.

Eddie is summoned to meet with Kubik himself and, having absolute faith in the boss after being treated as part of the family in the past, believes him when he tells Eddie he wants him to find his brother just to speak to him and make sure he’s not planning on testifying.

So Eddie flies back and forth across the country in search of his brother. Meanwhile, Kubik’s goons keep cropping up everywhere and Alice and others tell Eddie not to trust his former boss. This whole affair is also keeping Eddie from attending final adoption meetings, so Alice is beside herself with worry that this is going to prevent them from finally having a baby.

I liked The Brothers Rico a lot. It’s quite a peculiar mob movie, with a different tone to many, aided by the largely bright, sunlit settings. In the film, the mob run their operations in a “buttoned-down corporate fashion” to quote Martin Scorsese from his introduction. Their killings are a cold business transaction, but not to Eddie, who’s stepped away from the game and (eventually) sees it for what it is after foolishly believing it was the close-knit family affair it was back in his day, when he was just doing their books. Eddie’s blinkered view of what’s really going on through much of the film is a little hard to swallow, perhaps, but having him eventually realise it makes for an impactful final act.

The daytime setting and business-like presentation of the mob doesn’t mean the film is light in any way though. There’s an ever-expanding sense of dread throughout and it gets very dark in places. Karlson was famous for depicting tough brutality in his films. Here the violence is kept to a minimum and often off-screen but when it comes it’s pretty shocking for the era.

The depiction of Eddie and Alice’s marriage is refreshingly open for the time too with quite a racy introduction to the pair crackling with sexual chemistry, as well as frank talk about adoption, infertility and miscarriages, topics that are still not often faced head-on in the movies.

This relationship and others within the film are given weight by strong performances. Conte is particularly good as the film’s anchor. His character goes through a lot but Conte keeps his portrayal understated, other than a few outbursts at appropriate moments. There are also plenty of wonderful supporting turns in the various minor characters that pop up throughout the film to add flavour and often remind the audience that the mob’s reach extends everywhere Eddie turns.

What impressed me most though is the storytelling. The film has quite a leisurely pace, compared to many film noir classics. However, the narrative is so well developed and constructed that it’s wholly engrossing from start to finish. There’s a powerful build to the drama too, with some heartbreaking moments in the final act.

It must be said though, that the film’s coda feels rather tacked on and corny. It’s no surprise that this didn’t appear in the original novel by Georges Simenon, which ends on a much more bleak and ambiguous note.

A clunky final minute or so is not enough to spoil this superbly constructed crime melodrama though. Beautifully controlled and performed, it’s a real gem to close out the set on a high.

Columbia Noir #4 is out on 27th September on Region B encoded Blu-ray in the UK, released by Indicator. The transfers are all excellent, with possibly the earliest two looking the best, strangely enough. Their pictures are sharp, detailed and clean. I found The Brothers Rico looked a touch weaker than the rest though with a slightly softer look. All films sound great, with the original mono tracks coming out crisp and clear.

INDICATOR LIMITED BLU-RAY EDITION BOX SET SPECIAL FEATURES

WALK A CROOKED MILE
– High Definition remaster
– Original mono audio
– Routine Job: A Story of Scotland Yard (1946, 23 mins): short film following the day-to-day work of a Scotland Yard detective in the pursuit of a case
– The March of Time: ‘Policeman’s Holiday’ (1949, 20 mins): dramatised instalment of the famed newsreel series, featuring an American detective who assists Scotland Yard while in the UK, echoing but reversing the plot of Walk a Crooked Mile
– Dunked in the Deep (1949, 17 mins): the Three Stooges inadvertently find themselves mixed-up with a foreign spy ring and smuggling top-secret material out of the country
– Image gallery: publicity and promotional material
– New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
– World premiere on Blu-ray

WALK EAST ON BEACON!
– High Definition remaster
– Original mono audio
– Audio commentary with In a Lonely Street: Film Noir, Genre, Masculinity author and academic Frank Krutnik (2021, 69 mins)
– The March of Time: ‘G-Men Combat Saboteurs’ (1941, 21 mins): documentary short from the famed newsreel series created by Walk East on Beacon! producer Louis de Rochemont
– The March of Time: ‘G-Men at War’ (1942, 20 mins): documentary short from the newsreel series, focusing on the efforts of the FBI to apprehend spies and fifth columnists
– Commotion on the Ocean (1956, 17 mins): the Three Stooges once again find themselves mixed-up with a foreign spy ring and smuggling top secret materials in this ‘Fake Shemp’ reversion of Dunked in the Deep
– Image gallery: publicity and promotional material
– New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
– World premiere on Blu-ray

PUSHOVER
– High Definition remaster
– Original mono audio
– Audio commentary with film historians Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Josh Nelson (2021)
– Partners in Crime and Comedy (2021, 19 mins): author and critic Glenn Kenny discusses the careers and collaborations of director Richard Quine and actor Kim Novak
– Blunder Boys (1955, 16 mins): comedy short starring the Three Stooges, in which the trio play detectives assigned to the case of a justice-evading bank robber
– 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

A BULLET IS WAITING
– High Definition remaster
– Original mono audio
– Audio commentary with writers Barry Forshaw and Kim Newman (2021)
– From Cricklewood to Hollywood (2021, 21 mins): archivist and historian Josephine Botting discusses the early career of actor Jean Simmons and her transition from British to American cinema
– The Yoke’s on Me (1944, 16 mins): comedy short starring the Three Stooges, in which the trio protect their isolated farmhouse from unwanted guests
– 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

CHICAGO SYNDICATE
– High Definition presentation
– Original mono audio
– Audio commentary with film historian Toby Roan (2021)
– From Nurse to Worse (1940, 17 mins): comedy short starring the Three Stooges, in which the trio attempt to make big money through an insurance scam
– Image gallery: publicity and promotional material
– New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
– World premiere on Blu-ray

THE BROTHERS RICO
– High Definition remaster
– Original mono audio
– Audio commentary with professor and film scholar Jason A Ney (2021)
– Introduction by Martin Scorsese (2010, 4 mins)
– A Bracing Brutality (2021, 30 mins): author and critic Nick Pinkerton considers the tough, no-nonsense cinema of director Phil Karlson
– A Merry Mix-Up (1957, 16 mins): the Three Stooges play three sets of brothers, creating all manner of chaos, confusion, and violent misunderstandings
– 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

– Limited edition exclusive 120-page book with new essays by Beth Ann Gallagher, Bob Herzberg, Sophie Monks Kaufman, Omar Ahmed, Jen Johans, Monica Castillo, and Jeff Billington, archival articles and interviews, and film credits
– Limited edition box set of 6,000 numbered units

‘Routine Job’, like Walk a Crooked Mile, which it’s paired with, offers a fairly detailed procedural look at police work. It’s engaging but quite flat, largely due to the overuse of voiceover.

‘Policeman’s Holiday’ is another short take on a similar idea. This time it’s more exciting though and, whilst a VO still drives the story, it’s delivered with more character here. It’s a fun little film.

Frank Krutnik’s commentary on Walk East on Beacon! debates whether or not it should be classed a film noir as well as looking at the context of the film’s production. It’s rather dry and academic and doesn’t run through the whole film, ending after a little over an hour, but it’s an engaging and fascinating track nonetheless. It also makes up for the lack of commentary on Walk a Crooked Mile, as the films share a lot in common and seem to come from a similar movement.

‘G-Men Combat Saboteurs’ opens in a style typical of documentaries back then but provides an interesting look at the use of FBI surveillance, study and analysis techniques that now seem commonplace. At the halfway mark, a short story element is introduced to put some techniques into practice too.

‘G-Men at War’ is another stern documentary about the talents of the FBI, yet this one is particularly focused on how they helped the war effort.

Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Josh Nelson’s commentary on Pushover is very good, with the pair bouncing off each other nicely and providing plenty of interesting thoughts on the film, as well as facts about those involved.

Glenn Kenny’s piece on Novak and Quine’s collaborations is illuminating too, discussing both of their careers and personal lives, and how they intertwined.

The A Bullet is Waiting commentary with Barry Forshaw and Kim Newman has a lot of energy, with the pair rattling through the track. They have some interesting thoughts on the film and go off on several tangents about those involved and similar films.

Josephine Botting’s piece on Simmons runs through her life and career in a fair amount of detail. It’s an interesting and welcome feature.

The Chicago Syndicate commentary with Toby Roan is purely fact-based, looking at the lives and careers of practically everyone involved in the film, spending a great deal of time discussing the work of producer Sam Katzman. It’s an incredibly well researched and interesting track, though I personally prefer a little analysis in my commentaries.

The commentary on The Brothers Rico is another strong one, with Jason A Ney exploring a number of avenues, such as how the film differs from the source novel and the careers of Karlson and Conte, as well as analysing some of the key scenes.

Nick Pinkerton’s interview is similarly rich in discussing the work of Karlson and how The Brothers Rico fits into it.

Martin Scorsese also provides one of his introductions to The Brothers Rico. As usual, it’s disappointingly short but affectionate and thoughtful.

As I’ve mentioned in my previous Columbia Noir reviews, I find The Three Stooges a bit hit and miss, but I think their shorts make a fun addition to the set, helping replicate the sort of experience you’d have watching these films at the cinema back in the day. ‘Blunder Boys’ was the standout episode for me. Weirdly, ‘Dunked in the Deep’ is almost exactly the same as ‘Commotion on the Ocean’ though, just with some gags cut out and replaced by others. This was due to Shemp Howard’s death causing Columbia to have to recycle old material to fulfil contracts and produce more shorts. ‘A Merry Mix-Up’ is from the Joe era of The Three Stooges, which is never a good thing and, indeed, it’s probably the weakest of the collection.

As in previous sets, the booklet is superb, providing a balanced mix of essays on the films and interviews or period articles linked with the filmmakers. I found the piece on the ​​Rosenberg-Fuchs-Gold spy ring particularly interesting.

So, Columbia Noir #4 is another wonderful set from Indicator with a great set of films and plenty of special features to enhance the experience. I can’t get enough of these sets, so hopefully there are more to come.

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Columbia Noir #4 - Indicator
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