The Film Noir Collection (4 stars)

The Film Noir Collection

(12) 375min
(BFI DVD retail)

Having come to America in 1936 to direct his first love, theatre, on Broadway, Otto Preminger became one of Hollywood’s top filmmakers following the success of his 1944 film noir, Laura. Although the notoriously irascible, but terribly talented Austro-Hungarian émigré went on to make all kinds of films (romantic comedy, musical, western, melodrama, literary adaptation, historical epic, courtroom drama), it’s the half dozen noirs he made concluding with Angel Face in 1952 upon which Preminger’s reputation rests today.

This four-film boxed set collects three of the best of them (though Laura isn’t included): Fallen Angel (1945), Whirlpool (1949) and Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950). Watching them together, what’s striking is less the chiaroscuro visual styling that defined the look of the film noir and more the focus on the psychology of the flawed protagonists – respectively, Dana Andrews’ drifter gold digger, Gene Tierney’s kleptomaniac and Andrews’ bad cop – which gives these great looking films real dramatic clout.

The Preminger noirs are complemented with a fourth, the excellent London-set Night and the City (1950), made by American director Jules Dassin, who, in a reversal of Preminger’s fortunes, made his most memorable films in Europe (seminal Paris-based heist flick Rififi among them). Good extras include an illustrated booklet of essays.

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