Angel Face Blu-ray Review

Angel Face Screenshot

Angel Face is an Otto Preminger film noir which has grown in stature since its initial release.

Angel Face (1952)
Released: 11 Feb 1953
Rated: Approved
Runtime: 91 min
Director: Otto Preminger
Genre: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir
Cast: Robert Mitchum, Jean Simmons, Mona Freeman
Writer(s): Frank S. Nugent, Oscar Millard, Chester Erskine
Plot: Ambulance driver Frank Jessup is ensnared in the schemes of the sensuous but dangerous Diane Tremayne.
IMDB rating: 7.2
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Other
Distributed By: Warner Archive
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 32 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: keep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: All
Release Date: 06/27/2023
MSRP: $21.99

The Production: 3.5/5

As one of the “Kings of Noir,” Robert Mitchum fits into the dark and sinister world of Otto Preminger’s Angel Face without even raising a sweat. He’s at the mercy of a femme fatale again, just as he was in Out of the Past, but he doesn’t go to his fate as willingly this time out, and the cold, cruel world we see unfolding before us is just as disturbing and tragic as it almost always is with the best noirs.

Ambulance driver Frank Jessup (Robert Mitchum) and his partner Bill Crompton (Kenneth Tobey) are called to the mansion of Charles and Catherine Tremayne (Herbert Marshall, Barbara O’Neil) when a gas jet is opened in her bedroom almost suffocating her. Though it’s deemed an accident, Catherine’s stepdaughter Diane (Jean Simmons) is oddly indifferent to the circumstances of that night. Finding Frank very interesting, Diane follows him after he leaves and ingratiates herself with him. He finds her enigmatic but alluring enough to momentarily take his attention away from his girl friend Mary (Mona Freeman), but he won’t commit himself to Diane totally despite all of her plotting and planning though he does quit his ambulance driving job to become the chauffeur to the Tramaynes. When the wealthy couple are killed in a tragic automobile accident on the grounds, suspicion falls on Diane and Frank since her enmity against her stepmother is well known and Frank’s knowledge of automobiles clearly suggests he might have had something to do with it.

From a story by Chester Erskine, the screenplay was written by Frank Nugent and Oscar Millard, and in it, they’ve created one of film noir’s most perplexing femme fatales. Diane Tremayne’s beautiful face is a mask hiding one of the most diabolical plotters in all of noir; unlike so many of her contemporaries whose scheming is overt and obvious, she plots and plans with interior precision, and her mind is always thinking, one or two chess moves ahead of the people she’s hoodwinking and keeping a straight, sincere face all the time while doing her worst. And she wants Frank in the worst way, even though he’s only mildly interested and once he’s scoped her character, knows she’s a ticking time bomb and tries to steer clear (in vain, of course). Director Otto Preminger was hired by RKO studio head Howard Hughes to make life miserable for Jean Simmons since she refused to sign another term contract with the studio and Hughes wanted to punish her, but despite this dastardly motivation, he has turned in a solid directorial effort. Two horrific death scenes are mesmerizing in their visceral viciousness, and the climactic courtroom proceedings are pushed along with alacrity. There’s also a rather pathetic wedding in a prison hospital ward that’s the antithesis of blissful.

As usual, Robert Mitchum’s Frank Jessup is unflappable, only slightly susceptible to Diane’s charms and intelligent enough to realize some of what’s going on and try to stay abreast of trouble, all to no avail. It’s a triumph for Jean Simmons playing against type as the bad girl hiding behind a face of pure innocence with a cold and blackened heart. Though not given enough to do in the movie, Mona Freeman is her polar opposite, the good girl blonde but also one not fully buying Diane’s pretense at innocence. Kenneth Tobey is the tried-and-true fellow waiting on the sidelines for his chance to impress her. Herbert Marshall and Barbara O’Neil both get a couple of scenes each to establish their basic goodness and their utter inability to cope with the evil that surrounds them. Leon Ames and Jim Backus face off with good results in court representing defense and prosecution respectively.

Video: 5/5

3D Rating: NA

The film’s 1.37:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully presented in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Grayscale is excellently represented with crisp whites and rich, deep black levels. Clarity of image and details in that image couldn’t be bettered. The movie has been divided into 22 chapters.

Audio: 5/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix offers a strong aural presentation for the listener. Dialogue is well represented, and Dimitri Tiomkin’s background score melds with the story dynamically. Sound effects have also been folded into the mix with surety. There are no age-related anomalies like hiss, crackle, pops, or flutter to spoil the listening experience.

Special Features: 2/5

Audio Commentary: the “Czar of Noir” Eddie Muller offers a lively and enthusiastic commentary track attached to a standard definition transfer of the film. Since he’s not working from a script, though, there are some silent portions.

Theatrical Trailer (2:17, HD)

Overall: 3.5/5

Otto Preminger’s Angel Face isn’t quite up to the quality of his classic Laura (less mystery, fewer memorable characters), but it’s still an intriguing and surprising noir with just the right number of twists and turns to keep an audience surprised and engaged.

Matt has been reviewing films and television professionally since 1974 and has been a member of Home Theater Forum’s reviewing staff since 2007, his reviews now numbering close to three thousand. During those years, he has also been a junior and senior high school English teacher earning numerous entries into Who’s Who Among America’s Educators and spent many years treading the community theater boards as an actor in everything from Agatha Christie mysteries to Stephen Sondheim musicals.

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benbess

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Ben
Saw this yesterday in the recent blu-ray, which is amazingly from the original camera negative, giving us A+ PQ. I've been a fan of Jean Simmons since I saw her in the 1946 version of Great Expectations as a kid, almost half a century ago. Also a fan of Robert Mitchum for almost as long. This noir took a couple of reversals I didn't see coming. From my pov this is one of the key noirs from the classic era of genre. My rating on the movie itself is an A-.

Matt Hough writes in the perceptive review above:

"....From a story by Chester Erskine, the screenplay was written by Frank Nugent and Oscar Millard, and in it, they’ve created one of film noir’s most perplexing femme fatales. Diane Tremayne’s beautiful face is a mask hiding one of the most diabolical plotters in all of noir; unlike so many of her contemporaries whose scheming is overt and obvious, she plots and plans with interior precision, and her mind is always thinking, one or two chess moves ahead of the people she’s hoodwinking and keeping a straight, sincere face all the time while doing her worst. And she wants Frank in the worst way, even though he’s only mildly interested and once he’s scoped her character, knows she’s a ticking time bomb and tries to steer clear (in vain, of course). Director Otto Preminger was hired by RKO studio head Howard Hughes to make life miserable for Jean Simmons since she refused to sign another term contract with the studio and Hughes wanted to punish her, but despite this dastardly motivation, he has turned in a solid directorial effort. Two horrific death scenes are mesmerizing in their visceral viciousness, and the climactic courtroom proceedings are pushed along with alacrity. There’s also a rather pathetic wedding in a prison hospital ward that’s the antithesis of blissful..."

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