Combustible Celluloid
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With: Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, Dan Duryea, Edmond O'Brien, Conrad Veidt, Valerie Hobson, Trevor Howard, Brenda Marshall, William Gargan
Written by: Emeric Pressburger, Dudley Nichols, Ida Lupino, Collier Young, Noel Langley, Mindret Lord
Directed by: Fritz Lang, Ida Lupino, Michael Powell, Alberto Cavalcanti, Anthony Mann
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 423
Date: 03/18/2013

Film Noir: Five Classics from the Studio Vaults (2007)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Noir System

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Kino continues to mine their vaults for these reasonably-priced ($50), thin-packaged box sets, each with its own high and low points. (The original discs have not been modified, updated or remastered in any way.) This new film noir box comes with Fritz Lang's masterpiece Scarlet Street (1945), which Kino released in its definitive edition two years ago. Next up we get Ida Lupino's rock-hard, tense B-thriller The Hitch-Hiker (1953), and two minor films, Alberto Cavalcanti's They Made Me a Fugitive (1947) and Michael Powell's Contraband (1940). Finally, there is Anthony Mann's early B-picture Strange Impersonation (1946), which at first glance seems like a routine programmer. But a closer look shows some of Mann's pet themes already being explored, such as the connection between inner torment and external environment. In the film, Nora Goodrich (Brenda Marshall) is a scientist working alongside her true love Dr. Stephen Lindstrom (William Gargan), although she's more interested in working than in marrying him. While testing a new anesthetic, her backstabbing assistant (Hillary Brooke) sabotages her, sending her to the hospital and breaking up the lovers. Given a chance to start again with a new identity, Nora once again lands a job with the good doctor and proceeds to win him back, planning her revenge at the same time. Mann still had yet to develop the stark, high-contrast look that drove his later noirs, but Strange Impersonation is too interesting to write off. See also Film Noir: The Dark Side of Hollywood (2006).

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