Superb noir docudrama looks great on Blu-ray. 4.5 Stars

A noir docudrama that’s long on suspense and a brilliant exercise in taut direction and evocative cinematography, Anthony Mann’s T-Men is a film that deserves to be far better known.

T-Men (1947)
Released: 29 Apr 1948
Rated: APPROVED
Runtime: 92 min
Director: Anthony Mann
Genre: Crime, Film-Noir, Thriller
Cast: Dennis O'Keefe, Mary Meade, Alfred Ryder, Wallace Ford
Writer(s): John C. Higgins, Virginia Kellogg (story)
Plot: Two US Treasury agents hunt a successful counterfeiting ring.
IMDB rating: 7.0
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Other
Distributed By: ClassicFlix
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Audio: English PCM 2.0
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: A
Release Date: 10/10/2017
MSRP: $39.99

The Production: 4.5/5

A noir docudrama that’s long on suspense and a brilliant exercise in taut direction and evocative cinematography, Anthony Mann’s T-Men is a film that deserves to be far better known. Combining aspects of the police procedural with an inside look on how treasury agents work to bring down counterfeiters, T-Men catches one’s attention early on and never lets go. The excellent, unshowy performances likewise give the movie a power and grace that bigger studio productions with all-star casts of the era could only envy.

Getting word that counterfeiters out of Los Angeles possessed a quantity of high-quality paper to make superb phony money, the Treasury Department conscripts two of its lesser known agents to head the undercover operation: Dennis O’Brien (Dennis O’Keefe) will masquerade as Vannie Harrigan and Tony Genaro (Alfred Ryder) will be Tony Galvani, both playing young, hungry con men willing to start at the bottom of the mob operation in Detroit before transferring to the big time in Los Angeles. With a great pair of counterfeit engraving plates, O’Brien finally gets introduced to the counterfeit syndicate through the weasel-like connections of The Schemer (Wallace Ford), but the duo must watch their every step since the mob is not reckless nor naïve when it comes to dealing with shady characters, and the slightest slip by either O’Brien or Galvani could spell their doom and the end of the operation.

The screenplay by John C. Higgins takes its time delivering the exposition necessary to help audiences understand the meticulous preparation necessary for the treasury agents (“T-Men” of the title) to be able to succeed in fooling experienced gangsters who must always be on the lookout for police and governmental operatives. The stentorian narration by Reed Hadley takes us step-by-step through the agents’ motivations, preparations, and reactions to their daily experiences which shape their next moves while never merely describing on-screen activity, and it certainly gives an authentic feel to the storytelling of this notorious “Shanghai Paper Case.” Then, the superbly thoughtful and meticulous direction of Anthony Mann with its fascinating John Alton camera placement choices (many shots taken from low angles with bodies hurling toward the camera or focusing on multiple figures sometimes in both foreground and background in the same shot and occasionally shocking us with murders from behind where the shooter is blocked by the body of his soon-to-be victim) brings us home with such a variety of set-ups that the movie is continually inventive both visually (several montages work beautifully including one in a succession of steam baths which has a great payoff later in the movie) and aurally (the sound recording earned an Oscar nomination). The tension becomes tauter and more excruciating as the movie runs as our two protagonists run into unanticipated problems trying to keep their true identities a secret while inching closer and ever closer to learning the identity of Mr. Big.

Known for light comedies and musicals, Dennis O’Keefe emerges here as a more than competent tough leading man. There is a fairly ridiculous climactic showdown with tough cookie Moxie played with great sneering relish by Charles McGraw where O’Keefe’s “Harrigan” walks straight into a hail of bullets without even thinking of cover for himself, but elsewhere in the film, he’s a thinking man’s agent weighing his decisions before taking action. Alfred Ryder has less to do as the other half of the undercover team, but he has a memorable moment late in the film when he’s surprisingly confronted on the street by his wife (fresh-faced June Lockhart) but has to deny his true identity to keep up his subterfuge. Wallace Ford makes a memorably sleazy impression as The Schemer, once a big shot with the mob and now reduced to worrying about his place on the team on a daily basis. Art Smith is the low-key head of the treasury investigative team with Jim Bannon as a helpful fellow agent. Also in small but key roles in the movie are familiar faces like Tito Vuolo as the manager of a seedy hotel and John Newland as a lab technician. Aside from June Lockhart, the only other women’s roles of substance are Jane Randolph as Diana Simpson, executive assistant to Mr. Big (who winds up being played by Oscar Gaffney), and Mary Meade as a nightclub photographer who inadvertently provides the first real lead O’Brien gets in Los Angeles to uncovering the identity of the counterfeit gang.

Video: 5/5

3D Rating: NA

The film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.37:1 has been faithfully rendered in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Would that all black and white noirs from the 1940s were blessed with such pristine and spectacular transfers! The grayscale is so extraordinary that words can’t really do it justice, but the blacks are really deep, and details in the shadows will test the very best televisions and projectors with reproducing all of the detail that is present. Contrast has been majestically rendered in this transfer while the images are sparkling clean and free from age-related artifacts of all kinds. The movie has been divided into 27 chapters.

Audio: 5/5

The PCM 2.0 mono sound (2.3 Mbps) is remarkably crisp and responsive, expertly blending the well-recorded dialogue and narration, the driving Paul Sawtell background score, and the atmospheric effects together into a very impressive track. There are no problems with age-related audio artifacts like hiss, crackle, thumps, and flutter.

Special Features: 4/5

Audio Commentary: film historian Alan K. Rode provides a very informative and entertaining commentary on the film providing background information on the stars and supporting players and pointing out memorable aspects of the direction, cinematography, writing, and performances.

Into the Darkness: Mann, Alton and T-Men (10:38, HD): the film’s claims to greatness are expounded by a number of film historians and industry professionals, among them cinematographer Richard Crudo, critic Todd McCarthy, historian Julie Kirgo, director Courtney Joyner, and biographer Alan K. Rode.

A Director’s Daughter: Nina Mann Remembers (9:18, HD): director Anthony Mann’s daughter Nina offers insight into her father’s passions and drives.

Twenty-Four Page Booklet: contains a wealth of stills and posters, original poster art on the back cover, and film historian Max Alvarez’s outstanding essay on the movie’s production and subsequent history.

Overall: 4.5/5

One of the outstanding noir docudramas of the 1940s, T-Men is a taut and tense thriller worthy of multiple views. The Classic Flix special edition Blu-ray boasts a superlative audio and video transfer of the movie and offers an abundance of bonus material that makes it a highly recommended addition to your video collection.

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Matt Hough

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Robert Crawford

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I have this on order and patiently awaiting mine to ship to me. Without a doubt, it probably looks much, much better than the Noir Alley showing we were expose to months ago.
 

Steve...O

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Thanks, Matt. I am not familiar with this movie, but am intrigued based on your review. This will go on my wish list for potential future order after my bank account builds back up (I just placed an order for three TT titles plus several Warner Archive titles and Old Dark House from Amazon).
 
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commander richardson

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Get it down near $15 and I'll consider it.
It is expensive but please remember that the people releasing it have invested much money into making certain it is available to us in the very best quality possible and many hours have been spent in doing just that ..........the previous releases of this film were awful and were a total waste of money.......this new release is outstanding in every way possible and if you are a fan of Film Noir then you will be thrilled upon its release.......
 

ClassicFlix

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It is expensive but please remember that the people releasing it have invested much money into making certain it is available to us in the very best quality possible and many hours have been spent in doing just that ..........the previous releases of this film were awful and were a total waste of money.......this new release is outstanding in every way possible and if you are a fan of Film Noir then you will be thrilled upon its release.......
You couldn't be more right Commander. This is not just a re-issue of an old transfer, A LOT of money has gone into this release to make it Criterion-esque.

Something else I hope classic film fans will consider, we are a small company (much smaller than Criterion, Kino, Cohen & even Olive), and we don't have a pile of money to invest in licensing other films. Support of our releases prior to or just around the street date means we can go out and license other films to be restored and presented on Blu-ray. Lack of support means less money toward licensing and fewer titles coming out.

Additionally, with the exception of ANOTHER MAN'S POISON (a restoration we licensed from Cohen), all of our releases are fresh scans and we make sure the restorations meet a VERY HIGH STANDARD by removing instability, warping, dirt and anything else that will distract from the presentation (and it shows in all the positive reviews we've received). I am also intimately involved in the entire process of the releases from start to finish to make sure packaging, sound and bonus features also meet the same high standard.

For over 10 years in the retail business I've heard it lamented as to why "This doesn't come out on DVD" or "That doesn't come out on DVD"? Well, we're trying to do something about it and not just in a slap-dash way. And while we are considering a separate "Archive" type line that will present re-issues or lesser-known films that we budget very little money for (and thus charge less for), the release of T-MEN and the entire ClassicFlix label as it stands now is for HIGH QUALITY, HIGH BUDGETED releases and we have to charge accordingly.

Thanks for listening.

- David
 

Robert Crawford

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You couldn't be more right Commander. This is not just a re-issue of an old transfer, A LOT of money has gone into this release to make it Criterion-esque.

Something else I hope classic film fans will consider, we are a small company (much smaller than Criterion, Kino, Cohen & even Olive), and we don't have a pile of money to invest in licensing other films. Support of our releases prior to or just around the street date means we can go out and license other films to be restored and presented on Blu-ray. Lack of support means less money toward licensing and fewer titles coming out.

Additionally, with the exception of ANOTHER MAN'S POISON (a restoration we licensed from Cohen), all of our releases are fresh scans and we make sure the restorations meet a VERY HIGH STANDARD by removing instability, warping, dirt and anything else that will distract from the presentation (and it shows in all the positive reviews we've received). I am also intimately involved in the entire process of the releases from start to finish to make sure packaging, sound and bonus features also meet the same high standard.

For over 10 years in the retail business I've heard it lamented as to why "This doesn't come out on DVD" or "That doesn't come out on DVD"? Well, we're trying to do something about it and not just in a slap-dash way. And while we are considering a separate "Archive" type line that will present re-issues or lesser-known films that we budget very little money for (and thus charge less for), the release of T-MEN and the entire ClassicFlix label as it stands now is for HIGH QUALITY, HIGH BUDGETED releases and we have to charge accordingly.

Thanks for listening.

- David
Thank you for your comments. I can't wait until my disc gets to me. I liked this film a lot and consider it an essential Anthony Mann directed film. I watched TCM's Noir Alley presentation of it with Eddie Muller a few months ago and it looked mediocre at best so I'm looking forward to seeing what improvements you made with the video and audio of this fine film.
 

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Thank you for your comments. I can't wait until my disc gets to me. I liked this film a lot and consider it an essential Anthony Mann directed film. I watched TCM's Noir Alley presentation of it with Eddie Muller a few months ago and it looked mediocre at best so I'm looking forward to seeing what improvements you made with the video and audio of this fine film.
Thanks for your support Robert. We're hoping to really blow people away with this one and if Matt's review is any indication we're off to a good start.

- David
 

haineshisway

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The funny thing about the folks who always say "if this comes down to fifteen dollars" I'll grab it - they never grab it - that's the joke. I see that all that time and the usual response is, "Well, it came down to fifteen, I'll wait till it's ten" and on it goes. This is a great film with amazing John Alton photography and is worth every penny.
 

bigshot

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I grab a lot of classic movies when they hit the $15 range. I have hundreds and hundreds of them on blu-ray that fit in that price point. I tend to get better deals at Amazon UK, even factoring in the cost of shipping. I don't care about supplements or packaging. All I want is the film in a decent transfer. Sometimes I'll go up to $20, but it has to be very special for that. There are too many great films in the $15 range to choose from... https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=sr_nr_...53011&ie=UTF8&qid=1507583393&rnid=10346811011
 
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ClassicFlix

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I grab a lot of classic movies when they hit the $15 range. I have hundreds and hundreds of them on blu-ray that fit in that price point. I tend to get better deals at Amazon UK, even factoring in the cost of shipping. I don't care about supplements or packaging. All I want is the film in a decent transfer. Sometimes I'll go up to $20, but it has to be very special for that. There are too many great films in the $15 range to choose from... https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=sr_nr_p_n_price_fma_1?fst=as:eek:ff&rh=n:2625373011,n:!2644981011,n:!2644982011,n:2901953011,p_n_feature_three_browse-bin:2651261011,p_n_price_fma:10346817011&bbn=2901953011&ie=UTF8&qid=1507583393&rnid=10346811011
Our target customer for this release and all our special editions is not the $15 range and nor should it be with a title like T-Men as all we could do at that price is re-issue the same lousy transfer that's been out there for 20 years.

Also, the Amazon link to those films ins't comparable to what we're doing as:
  1. Most of the titles in the first couple of pages on Amazon are studio releases and they don't have to pay licenses fees, etc. to themselves which makes costs significantly lower
  2. Most of the non-studio releases are bare bones titles or don't boast major restorations
  3. Virtually all titles are "catalog" and not new releases.
My guess is this and other special editions will end up in the mid-$20's like most Criterion titles do, but they will never be $15.

- David
 
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Robert Crawford

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I grab a lot of classic movies when they hit the $15 range. I have hundreds and hundreds of them on blu-ray that fit in that price point. I tend to get better deals at Amazon UK, even factoring in the cost of shipping. I don't care about supplements or packaging. All I want is the film in a decent transfer. Sometimes I'll go up to $20, but it has to be very special for that. There are too many great films in the $15 range to choose from... https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=sr_nr_p_n_price_fma_1?fst=as:eek:ff&rh=n:2625373011,n:!2644981011,n:!2644982011,n:2901953011,p_n_feature_three_browse-bin:2651261011,p_n_price_fma:10346817011&bbn=2901953011&ie=UTF8&qid=1507583393&rnid=10346811011
Okay, we got that established so can we get back to discussing this Blu-ray release instead of your buying habits/strategies.

My disc will arrive tomorrow so I'm hoping to have this title along with The Sea Wolf for a double feature viewing. It's going to be a great day!
 

Robert Crawford

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Matt,

How would you compare this audio commentary by Alan Rode to commentaries done for other films by Eddie Muller?
 

smithbrad

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I look forward to supporting this release in the next few weeks. The way I figure it, all the money I save picking up studio releases, catalog re-releases, and bare bones titles leaves me with the extra funds needed to support titles like this from small enterprises where extra care is taken to provide what most of us are looking for in this hobby.
 

Robert Crawford

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Wherever this ends up, price-wise, it is important to support this company, IMO - they're trying to do these things in the right way.
I'm doing my part!

In less than a month, we have another Anthony Mann classic coming from ClassicFlix, He Walked By Night. I have that one on pre-order. These early Mann films are essential viewing for me as I like them as much as his westerns with Jimmy Stewart. I'm also looking forward to that audio commentary with Alan Rode and Julie Kirgo.:)
 

Rodney

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Wherever this ends up, price-wise, it is important to support this company, IMO - they're trying to do these things in the right way.
Agreed, which is why I purchased this and He Walked by Night directly from them, so they can see as much revenue as possible on these releases. While I understand Stephen's viewpoint and his personal price point for films, mine is higher and I really want to see ClassicFlix succeed and bring out more great products.
 

bigshot

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Well it's on my Amazon wish list and it's already dropped ten bucks. Let it drop another ten or fifteen bucks and I'll push the button.