THE LAST HURRAH : Ten Greatest Film Noirs of the 20th Century and their best physical releases here in the 21st Century!

I have not put CASABLANCA or THIRD MAN on this list, because although they have noir elements, there is an A picture scope to them in terms of not just budget but aspiration, that transcends the conventions of the noir, they ultimately tell larger tales than the fall or redemption of a single man, which is the heart of the noir aesthetic.

With that caveat aside, onto the list.

  1. MALTESE FALCON (1941)

  2. DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944)

I don’t love the cover art for the Eureka release of Billy Wilder’s DOUBLE INDEMNITY (I think they should have gone with the art used for DVD and other releases) , but the film itself is magnificent, one of the greatest film noirs of all time. And a very good Blu-ray release. It is currently the must own version of this film.

3. MURDER MY SWEET (1944)

4. KISS ME DEADLY (1955)

5 DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS (1995)

Walter Mosley’s DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS remains a watershed book, in many ways improving on the pulp noir and film noir roots laid by writers like Hammett And Chandler. As someone who has read the book, listened to the audio book, and seen the film, Director and Screenwriter Carl Franklin’s take on DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS is just as watershed a film. With a stellar cast, the film is Noir distilled, while being one of the most beautiful color films, and is endlessly watchable and compelling. Indicator Films finally releases this film on Blu-ray, with Booklet and one newer special feature… a charming 2018 Interview– Carl Franklin: DANCING WITH THE DEVIL. That said I do wish they had sprung for new interviews and commentaries to go along with the ported features from the original 20 year old DVD; but that aside this is a must own limited-special edition release, that is  25 years in the making.

6. LADY FROM SHANGHAI (1947)

7. THE BIG HEAT (1953)

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8. THE BIG SLEEP (1946)

9. I WAKE UP SCREAMING (1941)

While ostensibly 1941’s MALTESE FALCON is recognized as the first FILM NOIR, this film, I WAKE UP SCREAMING, made at the same time as MALTESE FALCON, actually is the first film to put together all the iconic elements we would later associate with film noir.

In addition to the Femme Fatale, and the morally challenged protagonist, this film adds the heavy use of shadows, the Venetian blinds, the stylish dutch and off-center shooting angles, in essence the visual language of film noir shows up first in this least heralded of films. And with a winding script that keeps you shifting your belief of “who done it” from one character to another, and some strange and compelling performances and laudable direction, you end up with a film that deserves to be better known.

 

10. RAW DEAL (1948)

Being the single best of Anthony Mann’s and John Alton’s magnificent collaborations makes RAW DEAL a must for any top ten list. This special edition, complete with booklet  is a must own release.

Well, that’s it my top 10 list.

2020 saw all ten of these films available on quality, feature rich Blu-Ray releases (eff barebone, questionable quality 4K releases — I despise the “no interior artwork, lacking new artwork” 4k releases. I also blame 4k for the further fragmentation and dwindling of a market, that can not survive anymore fragmentation. If you are going to do UHD releases, release them with the Blu-Ray and/or DVD in multi-packs. You eliminate having to have a DVD market and a Bluray Market and a UHD market, and the associated expenses of trying to package for 3 different formats ) for the first time in the relatively short history of physical media. And arguably by the end of 2021 these ten movies will never again all be available in quality, feature rich, physical media versions.

I hope that will not be the case, but hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

If you want these films in physical media, pick all ten up today, while they are still in stock. Click the images to be taken to the movies in question.

If  you have enjoyed this post, then like, subscribe and come back for more of our coverage of physical media and the… Last Hurrah.

Trailer of the Day : Mark Amin’s EMPEROR (2020) and great Black History Month and All Year Long DVD and Blu-Ray Pickups!

Dayo Okeniyi in Emperor (2020)

This trailer came out of nowhere, but I loved it.

I’m not crazy about the poster tag-line, a ‘true legend’, while many true things with time become the stuff of legend, and many legends are stories that have outlived and outlasted the crumbling and burying into dust of all things, even concrete evidence, the putting together of those two words… ‘true legend’ , if not exactly an oxymoron, is just slightly inept marketing. You want to put those two together, try this… ‘in a time of imposed truths, he became in his own lifetime… a galvanizing legend’ .

Took me two seconds to come up with that, and I think it shows more thought than what their marketing department did. Call me guys if you need to fire them and get a better marketing presence, we’ll talk. 🙂 .

But that aside, a very good poster and a GREAT Trailer! If the movie lives up to it, it will be a blast.

As someone who just picked up the 2 season set of UNDERGROUND (almost sold out, so you may want to pick it up while you can, use the attached link) and who is a huge fan of the best in Pan African cinema such as SANKOFA, DARESALAM, HYENAS, GENESIS, I AM CUBA, CAMP DE THIAROYE  (also available courtesy of the attached links) this film definitely goes on my must check out list. Probably along with the WITCH:SUBVERSION one of the best trailers for the Month of February.

 

UNDERGROUND 2 season DVD

SANKOFA – arguably one of the finest, and both savage and beautiful films made, of a true Holocaust. Haile Gerima’s masterpiece. and the fact that this film is out of print, and does not have a Criterion or similar high-scale Blu-ray or DVD release, is only proof that we have a long way yet to go. Get a copy, you will thank me later.

Sankofa

 

 

Daresalam

DARESALAM – This is simply put, cinema at its finest. Get your copy, while you can.

 

I AM CUBAFor years this film was not available in the west, and then when I finally saw it, I think at a film festival, yeas ago, the camera work, in a time way before CGI, blew my mind. As a fan of David Lean, and Hitchcock and Welles and Fritz Lang, geniuses with the camera, this film was like a generational evolution. In an age before Steadicam adoption, the shots were absolutely mind blowing. When it finally was released on a quality DVD boxset, I rushed out and picked it up, and I told all of you to pick it up. For those new to this blog, back in the day, those who listened to me picked it up for $40. It is decidedly more than that, but still worth picking up, if you have the funds. A Masterpiece.

*************************

 

Quick rant, feel free to bypass this. 🙂

Here’s a tip you should know. Quality  non-hollywood  films about and by people of color, especially politically provocative films, have a tendency of not staying in print. And either dry up entirely on the secondary market, or explode in price before disappearing into private collections rarely to see the light of day.

I am never in a rush to pick up KNIVES OUT or 1917 or AVENGERS ENDGAME, because that is going to be there for decades to come. But when I hear about a THE GREAT WAR or EMPEROR or a DARESALAM or a BROTHER JOHN on dvd or Blu-ray, I can not race fast enough to purchase these movies. Haile Gerima, who I had the pleasure to interview back in the day, understood the importance of retaining positive images, and words, and movies, and music. That is culture.

And when the ability to view or hear or see these sounds and images, is at the mercy and whims of multinationals… culture itself is held hostage. And the people who depend on the reflective power of culture, to help define the width and the breadth of their aspirations, are likewise diminished.

And particularly today when so many are weaned on streaming, physical media is ironically both scarcer and yet more important and arguably esteemed and sought after, than ever before.

Because those in the know, understand streaming giveth and streaming taketh away, based on the uninformed whims of the lynchmob. You want your favorite film, available to watch when you want, and in the cut of the film you remember, there is no replacement for physical media. There just is not.

Here endeth the soap-box interlude. 🙂

You can take it, or you can leave it alone. 🙂
Either way, be well.

 

 

 

GREAT 2015 Art Books to get before the end of the year!!

 

The Art of Horror: An Illustrated History

Crimson Peak: The Art of Darkness

 

 

Guillermo del Toro Cabinet of Curiosities: My Notebooks, Collections, and Other Obsessions

 

 

Hello, Here I Am

 

 

Hall of History Bermuda’s Story in Art

 

 

Gustave Dore 1832-1883: Master of Imagination

 

 

 

American Grotesque: The Life and Art of William Mortensen

 

 

Ligotti vs Ligotti: Comparing Subterranean Press’ vs Carroll & Graf’s GRIMSCRIBE editions

Ligotti vs Ligotti: Comparing Subterranean Press’ vs Carroll & Graf’s GRIMSCRIBE editions

So I just received in the mail, the now Out of Print, Subterranean Press’ 2011 HC edition of GRIMSCRIBE. Now I own the original 1991 Carroll & Graf edition, but my interest was piqued by the sold out nature of previous Subterranean Press editions, the wonderful cover art as well as the description of their Grimscribe edition as being revised and definitive.

Here’s the description:

“Grimscribe
by Thomas Ligotti

Dust jacket by Aeron Alfrey.

Limited: (sold out)
Trade: (sold out)
ISBN: 978-1-59606-409-6

Grimscribe: His Lives and Works is the second volume in a series of revised, definitive editions of the horror story collections of Thomas Ligotti. First published in 1991 by Carroll & Graf in the United States and Robinson Publishing in England, Grimscribe garnered significantly more recognition than Ligotti’s first collection, Songs of a Dead Dreamer, which was issued two years earlier by the same publishers.”

So biting the bullet I picked up one of the sold out Subterranean editions (sold out in less than 3 months, which is pretty darn impressive), thankfully for not too much more than cover price (it’s now, in the brief 2 weeks since I purchased it, climbed to the 3 figure range) and having perused it today I have to say, my initial impression upon taking it out of the box is… I’m a bit dissapointed.

I mean I really am disposed to like imprints such as Centipede Press and Subterranean Press, that in this day of digital are trying to make the hardcopy something attractive and special. My problem is for the price, I’m not even talking the marked up reseller’s price, I’m talking Subterranean’s retail price, GRIMSCRIBE when finally seen is underwhelming.

I mean for the money I don’t think a slipcover done to quality, embossing on the cover, and maybe spot illustrations and a ribbon marker and gilded pages are too much to ask. Look at books such as Dark Horse’s FRANKENSTEIN illustrated by Bernie Wrightson, which sells for a fraction of the price of Subterranean’s books, but in terms of quality there is no comparison. Dark Horse’s FRANKENSTEIN is a work of art. Something you’re going to be treasuring and proud to have on your shelf for a long time.

Bernie Wrightsons Frankenstein

I can’t say that for Subterranean’s GRIMSCRIBE.

The first thing that strikes me is it’s a smaller, less imposing/less impressive book than what I was expecting. Just average HC trade dimensions. And the slipcover which boasts imaginative art by Aeron Alfrey, unfortunately undermines that art quite a bit with a muted, even muddy looking printing, and cropping/shrinking the image rather than allowing it to take up a respectable amount of the cover.

But getting beyond the slipcover the book itself is just an average brown coated HC, with blue type on the binding. The interior however does offer large, legible, and attractive type.

Now onto the heart of the matter, the “revised, definitive” nature of this new version. Is it or isn’t it, an improvement over the original?

Well comparing the two versions there are minor differences, what Ligotti described thusly:

“One thing I did not do is deliberately seek out changes. Of course there would be errors that needed corrections and phrases that needed to be polished. But I didn’t look to shorten or lengthen the stories or any part of them, or to make my prose leaner or more baroque, or to in any way alter the tone of a given story. I just read the books carefully from start to finish and keep on the lookout for additions and deletions that would enhance each story, at least to my mind.”—- see full article here.

Okay, a writer can change his work if he wants, I mean it’s his work. But sometimes you can’t go home, and sometimes a writer or a boxer or an actor’s best work is behind him rather than in front. Frank Miller’s great comics are all decades in the past, his current work a poor shadow of him in his prime. Bernie Wrightson is one of the most hailed and influential artists of the 70s and 80s, but his work in the 21st century (while still head and shoulders above most artists) for a variety of reasons, cannot compare to the artist he was. I’m saying the changes a 21st century Thomas Ligotti makes are perhaps not an improvement on the writing of a 20th century Thomas Ligotti.

Examples, changes are small, but they are I think telling, a tendency to the dumbed down, and often clumsy phrasing rather than the lyric poetry and embracing of the extremes of youth:

THE LAST FEAST OF HARLEQUIN

Original:

“At certain times I could almost dissolve entirely into this inner realm of awful purity and emptiness. I remember those invisible moments when in disguise I drifted through the streets of Mirocaw, untouched by the drunken, noisy forms around me: untouchable.”

Revised 2011 Subterranean version”

“At certain times I could almost dissolve entirely into this inner realm of purity and emptiness, the paradise of the unborn. I remember how I was momentarily overtaken by a feeling I had never known when in disguise I drifted through the streets of Mirocaw, untouched by the drunken, noisy forms around me: untouchable.”

Again the changes aren’t many and aren’t drastic, I just don’t think they improve on the original and for the most part I find them to be the clunky exposition of age, rather than the fertile and frenetic choices of a visionary.

I find his earlier word choices, in almost every case, to be the stronger, more poetic, more memorable. The mating of differences, terms like “awful purity” and “invisible moments” wonderful baroque phrasing of the original, that are missed in this revised edition.

THE SPECTACLES IN THE DRAWER

“Without an author whoever lived in this world, if you will recall what I told you about it.” that is a clunky, and unwieldy sentence in the revised version.

In the original it is:

“Without a living author, if you will recall what I told you about it.”

Original:
“Plomb had done nothing less than multiplied these visions into infinity, creating oceans of his own blood and enabling himself to see with countless eyes. Entranced by such aspiration, I gazed at the mirrors in speechless wonder. Among them was one I remembered looking into some days– or was it weeks? –before.”

Revized Suibterranean version:
“Plomb had done nothing less than multiplied these visions into infinity, creating oceans of his own blood and enabling himself to see with countless eyes. Entranced by such aspiration, I gazed at the mirrors in speechless wonder. Among them was that tilting mirror I remembered looking into not so long ago.”

Again, not a major change, a few words, but they tend to be poorly chosen, and a bit boring and pedestrian compared to the original.

And such ‘improvements’ run throughout the stories in the 2011 Subterranean collection.

The only thing the Subterranean version has going for it is the slightly flawed slipcover, which flaws and all is a 100 times better than the pathetic slipcover on the original 1991 HC. Unfortunately a slipcover is not enough. So my recommendation, save yourself the dough on Subterranean’s “revised, definitive” edition and get the original HC instead and have your own nice slipcover made for it(all of which can be done for less than the price the Subterranean books are going for).

Grimscribe: His Lives and Works

Grimscribe: His Life and Works