Combustible Celluloid
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With: John Payne, Rhonda Fleming, Arlene Dahl, Kent Taylor, Ted De Corsia, Leslie Brooks, Robert Paige, Michael Whalen, Walter Sande, John Holland, James Griffith, David Leonard, Constance Towers, Anthony Eisley, Micahel Dante, Virginia Grey, Patsy Kelly
Written by: Robert Blees, Kenneth Gamet, Raymond Schrock, Samuel Fuller
Directed by: Jack Bernhard, Allan Dwan, Samuel Fuller
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 266
Date: 03/18/2013

Deadly Dames: Film Noir Collector's Set (2007)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Blonde and Scarlet

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

VCI Entertainment has released this juicy three-disc box set with three excellent examples of film noir. It starts with two VCI staples, Slightly Scarlet (1956), released on DVD in 2002, and Blonde Ice (1949), released on DVD in 2003, and throws in a brand-new edition of Samuel Fuller's The Naked Kiss (1964).

The French New Wave filmmakers adored Allan Dwan's full-color, widescreen Slightly Scarlet, which was based on a James M. Cain novel. John Payne (a veteran of several Dwan films) stars as a henchman for a shady gangster who tries to smear a politician's good name. On top of that, the politician is involved with a woman whose kleptomaniac sister has just been released from prison. Dwan uses his usual light touch but somehow keeps Cain's insidious tale intact and delivers a steely film noir, one of his best films. The great John Alton is responsible for the cinematography. The author, screenwriter and film buff Max Allan Collins provides a commentary track.

Directed by Jack Bernhard, the early, low-budget film noir gem Blonde Ice takes place in the cutthroat world of San Francisco newspapers as a killer femme fatale wraps all the males around her ink-stained fingers. This disc comes with loads of extras, including a short and an episode of the TV show "Into the Night," as well as a commentary track by noir expert Jay Fenton and an exploration as to Edgar G. Ulmer's possible contribution to the film.

Finally, Fuller's The Naked Kiss is one of his oddest and most brutal works. In its unforgettable beginning, a woman (Constance Towers) grapples and claws with a man in a room; at one point, he reaches up and snatches off her wig, revealing a completely bald dome! As the credits roll, she re-applies her wig in the mirror before she escapes to a small town and lands a job working for handicapped children. Unfortunately, she gets into more trouble when she initiates a love triangle between herself, the town sheriff and the sheriff's best friend. This film already has a Criterion edition DVD to contend with, but the VCI version comes with new extras, notably an interview with Fuller's widow Christa and a TV episode of "Dark Stranger."

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