Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema V – Blu-ray Review

4 Stars Three more Universal noirs debut on Blu-ray

Kino dives back into the Universal vaults for three more noirs making their Blu-ray debut in Volume V of their Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema series. This set has three stories of people hiding their true identities: one to get away from her past life with her gangster ex-fiancée (Because of You), one to break up an international counterfeiting ring (Outside the Law) and one to learn the truth behind a beloved priest’s murder (The Midnight Story).

The Midnight Story (1957)
Released: 04 Jun 1957
Rated: Approved
Runtime: 90 min
Director: Joseph Pevney
Genre: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir
Cast: Tony Curtis, Marisa Pavan, Gilbert Roland
Writer(s): Edwin Blum, John Robinson
Plot: When a San Francisco priest is murdered, a policeman, who's a close friend, starts an investigation.
IMDB rating: 6.9
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Universal
Distributed By: Kino Lorber
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 35 Min. (Because of You), 1 Hr. 21 Min. (Outside the Law), 1 Hr. 30 Min. (The Midnight Story)
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: Blue keep cases in a cardboard sleeve
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 12/14/2021
MSRP: $49.95

The Production: 3.5/5

Because of You (1952; 3.5 out of 5)

For Christine Carroll (Loretta Young), her life is turned upside down when she is sent to jail – along with her fiancée Mike Monroe (Alex Nicol) – when she is made an unwitting accessory to a crime committed by Mike. However, Christine vows to emerge from prison better than when she went in, and sure enough, she becomes a nurse’s aide at a war veteran’s hospital and soon marries Steve Kimberly (Jeff Chandler), a patient suffering from PTSD. Over time, the couple have a child together, but Christine’s new lease on life is suddenly shaken when Mike reappears and asks her for a favor. This favor could very well destroy everything she has worked for since turning her life around…

Though not technically a true film noir, Because of You still maintains some elements of noir while mixing in a few more different genres. Joseph Pevney – still early in his directorial career – gets a good handle on the different genre styles laid out in Ketti Frings’ script and works them into a cohesive whole. The contributions of longtime Universal cinematographer Russell Metty and composer Frank Skinner aren’t to be overlooked either, as both ably help to create an atmosphere that suits the many twists and turns the story takes emotionally. But the film truly works because of the chemistry between Loretta Young and Jeff Chandler, who are strongly supported by the likes of Alex Nicol, Alexander Scourby, Frances Dee, Gayle Reed and Mae Clarke; Young was given the chance to break out of the wholesome image here while Chandler later admitted that this was his favorite out of all the films he made. With a melding of different genres and the solid performances of its two leads, Because of You is a neat little noir melodrama that’s worth rediscovering; one final note: the titular song – which was written before the film’s release – became the first #1 hit recording and a signature song for the legendary Tony Bennett.

Outside the Law (1956; 3 out of 5)

When an Army soldier is shot dead in Berlin, Treasury agents enlist the help of ex-convict – and a friend of the victim – Johnny Salvo (Ray Danton) to not only help them flush out the killer, but also break up an international counterfeiting ring. In the process, Johnny gets a chance at redeeming himself in the eyes of his father (Onslow Stevens) – who’s leading the operation – while also earning the love and trust of his buddy’s widow Maria (Leigh Snowden). However, Johnny’s work doesn’t go unnoticed: Don Kastner (Grant Williams) not only has eyes for Maria, but also heads the counterfeiting ring and will stop at nothing – even trying to kill both Johnny and Maria – to keep it running!

While director Jack Arnold was no stranger to the film noir genre, Outside the Law isn’t exactly one of his better efforts in the genre. However, it’s not without value: Danny Arnold’s script does cover the nuances of a Treasury investigation in a similar manner that a certain Los Angeles based Jack Webb TV show was doing at the time of the film’s release. The film also has the bonus of noir specialist Irving Glassberg handling the cinematography quite well. But the major issue with the film is that the proceedings have the air of familiarity and feeling of being more disjointed than it should be, something that not even the film’s brief running time can cover up; the game cast does their best with what they have here. So, while it has some positive attributes, Outside the Law is still a minor entry in Jack Arnold’s noir output and his larger canon as a whole.

The Midnight Story (1957; 4 out of 5)

In the North Beach District of San Francisco, beloved Father Tomasino is knifed to death in an alleyway by an unknown assailant. Traffic officer Joe Martini (Tony Curtis) has a hunch who might be responsible but is quickly dismissed by homicide detective Kilrain (Ted de Corsia), who then promptly orders him to stay off the case. Going it alone, Joe quickly befriends the main suspect, restaurant owner Sylvio Malatesta (Gilbert Roland), and is even quickly accepted as a friend of the family. However, Joe’s investigation takes a turn he didn’t expect, as he finds himself falling in love with Sylvio’s cousin Maria (Marisa Pavan); now Joe is caught between his vow to catch Father Tomasino’s killer and the newfound loyalty he has to Sylvio and his family.

Reuniting with Tony Curtis, his star from Six Bridges to Cross (1955), director Joseph Pevney has an even better vehicle with The Midnight Story. The director – like his previous Curtis noir collaboration – makes great use of the on-location photography, but now he has the virtues of Cinemascope, San Francisco and the great cinematographer Russell Metty at his disposal here. One of the strongest aspects here is the script by John Robinson and Edwin Blum, both of whom subvert typical standards of the private eye trope – which was becoming more and more old hat coming at the end of the noir cycle – as well as make the main suspect of the crime here ambiguous in his potential guilt, never tipping the hand until the final third of the film. Best of all, Pevney directs with a solid handle for the material and gets great performances from both Curtis and especially Gilbert Roland, with solid support coming from Marisa Pavan, Jay C. Flippen, Ted de Corsia, and Argentina Brunetti in major parts. While overlooked by most standards, The Midnight Story is still a neat little hidden gem of a noir that’s worth rediscovering.

Video: 4/5

3D Rating: NA

All three films are presented in their original respective aspect ratios for this release: Because of You is presented in its original 1:37:1 ratio, Outside the Law is shown in its original 1:85:1 ratio and The Midnight Story is presented in its original 2:35:1 Cinemascope ratio. All three films exhibit organic film grain and faithful representations of fine details and gray scale; there’s a few instances of issues like scratches, dirt and tears present – more noticeable in Because of You and Outside the Law – but nothing that’s too distracting. Overall, this release is likely the best all three movies will ever look on home video.

Audio: 5/5

The original mono soundtracks for all three films are presented on DTS-HD Master Audio tracks for this release. Dialogue is strong and clear with sound mix and music for each film – Frank Skinner for Because of You, stock music composed by Henry Mancini, Hans J. Salter, Frank Skinner, Herman Stein and Stanley Wilson for Outside the Law and an uncredited combination of Hans J. Salter and Henry Vars for The Midnight Story – represented faithfully; there’s little to no problems like distortion, crackling, popping or hissing present here. Overall, this release likely represents the best all three films will ever look on home video.

Special Features: 4/5

Because of You

Commentary by film historian Samm Deighan – Recorded for this release, Deighan talks about the background on the cast and crew, as well as the film’s production and the several themes and elements mixed in the plot.

Theatrical Trailer (2:20)

Bonus KLSC Trailers – The Stranger, The Accused, Female on the Beach & Man in the Shadow

Outside the Law

Commentary by film historian Richard Harland Smith – Newly recorded for this release, Smith talks about the film’s brief production history, stories involving the cast and crew and even a funny – though unrelated story – involving Rock Hudson and one on the cast members here.

Theatrical Trailer (2:08)

Bonus KLSC Trailers – Night Has a Thousand Eyes, The Web, Alias Nick Beal & Kiss the Blood Off My Hands

The Midnight Story

Commentary by professor/film scholar Jason A. Ney – Recorded for this release, Ney goes over every aspect in the making of the movie, from cast histories to the status of some of the San Francisco locales shown in the film.

Theatrical Trailer (2:05)

Bonus KLSC Trailers – 99 River Street, Calcutta, So Evil My Love & Cry of the City

Overall: 4/5

Kino continues its solid run in the Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema series with three more decent HD transfers of the films and informative commentary tracks on all three films. Highly recommended, especially since Outside the Law and The Midnight Story are making their home video debut here (Because of You was previously released on VHS).

Amazon.com: Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema V : Loretta Young, Tony Curtis: Movies & TV

Mychal has been on the Home Theater Forum’s reviewing staff since 2018, with reviews numbering close to 300. During this time, he has also been working as an assistant manager at The Cotton Patch – his family’s fabric and quilting supplies business in Keizer, Oregon. When not working at reviewing movies or working at the family business, he enjoys exploring the Oregon Coast, playing video games and watching baseball in addition to his expansive collection of movies on DVD, Blu-ray and UHD, totalling over 3,000 movies.

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