The Scar / The Limping Man Studio: VCI Entertainment Year: 1948/1953 Rated: Not Rated Film Length: 83 Minutes/76 Minutes Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Audio: DD Mono Color/B&W: B&W Languages: English Subtitles: None MSRP: $14.99 Package: Keep Case Format Standard DVD The Feature: It’s obvious that VCI is a small company that cares about film and offers up a product that is a quality package often surpassing the quality of many of the other companies who release films that have fallen into the public domain. This Classic Film Noir – Double Feature package, includes both feature length films, a bevy of special features and a presentation that exceeds what we have usually come to expect (er, dread) with many of these long forgotten films. Aside from the standard Keep Case, upon inserting the disc, we’re treated to a rather cool animated opening sequence where an old gangster style car pulls up in an alleyway and after only a cigarette heater is seen through the windshield, machine gun fire rings out, which is our introduction to the VCI Film Noir Collection. The menus are static and are basically stills of the original movie poster art. A very nice touch. This double feature Volume #1 disc includes both full length films, The Scar and The Limping Man. The Scar The film was originally released as Hollow Triumph from Eagle Lions and stars Paul Henreid as Johnny Muller as well as perennial noir actresses Joan Bennett (as Evelyn Hahn) and Leslie Brooks (as Virginia Taylor). After his recent release from prison, it isn’t long before Muller and his boys decide to knock over a rival gangster’s casino operation. They’re all aware that the stakes are high but so is the pay-off if everything works out. Unfortunately, it does not. Knowing he’s faced with a virtual death sentence, he decides to leave town and to start over. After a chance encounter he discovers that his appearance is identical to that of a psychiatrist and concocts a plan to assume his identity. Ironically, what he doesn’t know is that the Doctor has as many skeletons in the closet as he does and it doesn’t take long for the whole plot to unravel. The Limping Man Frank Prior (played by Lloyd Bridges) is an American serviceman who has been recently discharged from the military after the war and returns to England to search for his wartime sweetheart, Pauline French (played by Moira Lister). When Frank’s plane lands, the man standing next to him is suddenly assassinated. After he locates Pauline, he soon discovers things aren’t what they used to be and learns that his sweetheart not only was intimately involved with the slain man but may have been involved with the murder. Determined to help the young woman he still loves, he decides to help her clear her name even though she has now been entangled in a possible blackmail scheme by the same man she thought was murdered just days earlier. Video: For those unfamiliar with purchasing older films that have fallen into the public domain, these can be quite frankly, hit or miss. There are a number of companies that strive to release a quality product such as Image, Kino, Roan and VCI. I have many titles in my collection from various companies that are satisfactory to even exceptional, unfortunately I have many that are barely viewable at best. Remember, rarely do these companies have access to original elements and even if they did, they wouldn’t have the financial resources of a Fox, Paramount or Warner Brothers for any necessary restoration work. Thus, much of what’s released is ported laserdisc transfers or video presentations or even cable television broadcasted movies, hence the less than desirable results. I think it’s fairly safe to say; know going into these that you’re probably not going to get transfers that rival those of the major studios. For those of us who purchase these films, we do so because of a specific film, or a favorite actor/director or perhaps a fondness for specific genres. My advice to those who demand flawless presentations and cannot tolerate anything less than perfection would be to avoid these releases as they vary quite radically from title to title. Unfortunately by doing that however, you will miss out on many great films that are never going to see the “restored look” light of day. In an attempt to release even more films, VCI has recently started releasing select films in a DVD-R format, for which I’ll have a few reviews posted soon. So having said all that, both The Scar and The Limping Man looked quite similar in nature and both looked quite respectable. Both movies were most certainly watchable and up to par with many of the B&W films we’ve seen released even from the major studios. Both films displayed an adequate level of blacks and rendered a grayscale that offered an acceptable amount of shadow detail. While there wasn’t a ton of definition in terms of image detail, the overall detail of the picture was acceptable. The amount of grain present in both films was reasonable as was the expected amount of film dirt and scratches that were present. Occasionally light shimmer persisted but not to a point of distraction. There were also a number of cuts and splices that were evident. There were no compression errors to speak of. I should also mention that I compared my copy of The Scar (the Alpha release…) to the VCI release and it should come as no surprise that the VCI was superior in virtually every way including the audio portion. On the Alpha disc not only was the hiss more dominant, but there was a very slight squeal that was always present (and annoying) as well. Audio: Similar to the video presentations, both were similar in their performance of handling the DD mono tracks, although the slight edge went to The Scar in that it was slightly less problematic. Obviously, the biggest problem with films from this period is hiss and crackling. While both films had an amount of hiss present, the track on The Scar was slightly less noticeable. The level seemed to fluctuate but it wasn’t what I would call annoying but it was certainly noticeable. Although both tracks are relatively thin, a few of the action sequences and sibilance seemed strained during The Limping Man, but this is more of an observation than that of a criticism. Beyond the inherent limitations of the mono tracks, these offered little more than we would expect. Special Features: Surprisingly, this disc offers more special features than we’ve seen on many classic releases from the major companies. Such as: [*] An episode of The Star And The Story entitled, Dark Stranger (1954) which is a “noirish” (actually more like a Twilight Zone) episode from the TV series starring Film Noir stable Edmond O’Brien and Joanne Woodward. Big O’Brien fan here and the episode is introduced and discussed by him for the first minute. The episode is in pretty good shape - nice inclusion. Duration: 25:41 minutes. [*] Film Noir Posters. These are quality photos of the following Film Noir films: Alimony, Born To Be Bad, Detour, Gun Crazy, Island Women, Larceny, Over Exposed, Pick-up, Playgirl, Beyond The Forest, Born To Kill, Brute Force, I Was A Communist For The FBI, Dark Passage, G-Men, I Wouldn’t Be In Your Shoes, Railroaded, Somewhere In The Night, Sorry Wrong Number, The File On Thelma Jordan, The Woman On Pier 13. Some of these aren’t even in Eddie Muller’s book, The Art Of Noir. A great special feature inclusion. [*] The final feature is a group of Theatrical Trailers including Slightly Scarlet, T-Men, The Scar, Raw Deal, The Limping Man, Impact, D.O.A. and Blonde Ice all of which vary in quality. Final Thoughts: While it’s difficult to “recommend” many if not most of these somewhat obscure films that are brought to us from many of these smaller companies based on presentation alone, if it weren’t for these companies most of these titles would never see the light of day. Sure, the overall presentation might not be quite up to the level we’ve come to expect, but if you’re a film lover first, you owe it to yourself to see some of these lost treasures. Thankfully, most of these films can be had for as little as $5.00 - $10.00 bucks, so making a blind purchase is a bit more palatable. In the case of these two films as a double feature set, let me say this; Both of these films are solid Noirs which I enjoyed immensely and in terms of the presentation, I’d have no reservation or hesitation about recommending this disc to fans of the specific genre. Release Date: Available now.