Shakedown (1950) – Blu-ray Review

3.5 Stars Minor Universal noir debuts on Blu-ray

Before he became a director of film and television (in the latter, he most notably directed several episodes of Star Trek), Joseph Pevney first entered show business as an actor. Beginning in vaudeville, he soon turned to the stage before Hollywood came calling for his film debut Nocturne (1946); after a handful of film appearances as an actor – most notably alongside John Garfield in Body and Soul (1947) – he went to Universal-International Pictures, where he launched his directorial career with Shakedown. Kino has licensed the movie for its home video debut.

Shakedown (1950)
Released: 01 Sep 1950
Rated: Approved
Runtime: 80 min
Director: Joseph Pevney
Genre: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir
Cast: Howard Duff, Peggy Dow, Brian Donlevy
Writer(s): Nat Dallinger, Martin Goldsmith, Alfred Lewis Levitt
Plot: Unscrupulous and opportunistic San Francisco news media photographer Jack Early steps on and uses folks to get ahead, but in the end he tangles with the wrong people.
IMDB rating: 7.1
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Universal
Distributed By: Kino Lorber
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. 20 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: Blue keep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 03/29/2022
MSRP: $29.99

The Production: 3.5/5

Jack Early (Howard Duff) is a hotshot press photographer working for a San Francisco newspaper. His personal prospects take a turn for the better when he manages to snag a high-quality photograph of notorious racketeer Nick Palmer (Brian Donlevy), who, in turn, takes a shine to Jack and plans to use him in a scheme to humiliate underworld rival Colton (Lawrence Tierney); at the same time, Jack’s own ambitions lead him to the arms of co-worker Ellen Bennett (Peggy Dow) as well as trying to romance Nick’s wife Nita (Anne Vernon). However, a sharp and cunning mind cuts both ways, and Early’s own arrogant and callous ambition may just lead him to one double cross too many!

Shakedown may have tinges of film noir in it, but it’s more like a crime drama. For his directorial debut, Joseph Pevney shows a solid handle of the material and the noir elements mixed in; he also makes an uncredited appearance – his last as an actor – as a reporter as well. The contributions of cinematographer Irving Glassberg are also worth mentioning, as his work shows why he was efficient – albeit lesser-known today – in the noir genre. The only real demerit here is that the script covers familiar territory in the genre and doesn’t make the film truly stand out from the pack. However, Shakedown is still an efficient and lean little noir/crime drama that makes the most of its material and helped to launch the career of Pevney as a solid and serviceable director for much of the 1950’s and 1960’s in Hollywood.

Already familiar with the noir genre since his film debut in Jules Dassin’s Brute Force (1947), Howard Duff has one of his best overall roles here as the unscrupulous photographer Jack Early; his part was loosely based off of the famed Arthur “Weegee” Fellig. Brian Donlevy lends his usual suave yet rough villainous persona well to the part of Palmer; the same year this movie was released, he portrayed the infamous Confederate guerrilla fighter William Quantrill in Universal’s western Kansas Raiders. Legendary noir tough guy Lawrence Tierney is appropriately brutish as Palmer’s rival Colton while Peggy Dow and Anne Vernon both bring noir glamour to the two women in Early’s life, both of whom get two-timed by him. Filling out the cast are Bruce Bennett as the newspaper editor who valiantly tries – and fails – to be Early’s conscience, Peter Virgo and Charles Sherlock as Early’s fellow co-workers at the paper, an uncredited Will Lee as a cabbie, an uncredited Chester Conklin as Chet and an early uncredited appearance by Rock Hudson as the doorman of the Bay View Club.

Video: 4/5

3D Rating: NA

The film is presented in its original 1:37:1 aspect ratio, taken from a brand new 2K transfer created for this release. Film grain is faithfully represented along with the gray scale and fine details here; there’s mostly minimal cases of scratches, vertical lines, dirt and tears present but nothing that can be considered distracting to the viewer. For a movie that hasn’t seen the light of day until now, this is likely the best it will ever look on home video.

Audio: 5/5

The film’s original mono soundtrack is presented on a DTS-HD Master Audio track for this release. Dialogue is both strong and clear with the sound mix and music score (comprised of stock music composed by Daniele Amfitheatrof, Milton Rosen, Miklós Rózsa, Hans J. Salter, Frank Skinner and Leith Stevens, all of whom are uncredited here) also given a faithful representation as well; there’s minimal instances of distortion, crackling, popping and hissing present here. This is likely the best the movie will ever sound on home video.

Special Features: 3/5

Commentary by professor/film scholar Jason A. Ney – Recorded for this release, Ney talks about some of the themes of the movie as well as the connection between the character of Jack Early and the real life inspiration behind him, the famed photographer Arthur “Weegee” Fellig; Fellig “contributes” to the track through archival audio comments.

Bonus KLSC Trailers – Because of You, Female on the Beach, The Midnight Story, Calcutta & The Web

Overall: 3.5/5

A small yet neat little crime thriller with noir elements, Shakedown helped to establish Joseph Pevney as a director and prime him for more successful endeavors in the director’s chair. Kino continues its impressive run of mining gems from the Universal vaults with a solid HD transfer and an informative commentary track as a special feature. Highly recommended. Shakedown: Pevney, Joseph, Duff, Howard, Donlevy, Brian, Dow, Peggy: 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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