Best of Film Noir, Vol. 1 & 2 [6 Discs] [DVD]

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Special Features

  • Before & after restoration demo
  • Original movie art postcard
  • Movie trailers
  • Audio Commentary


Suddenly is the name of the small town invaded by professional assassin Frank Sinatra and his henchmen. Taking a local family hostage, Sinatra sets up a vigil at the second-story window of the family's home. From here, he intends to kill the President of the United States when the latter makes a whistle-stop visit. The film's tension level is enough to induce goose pimples from first scene to last. Sinatra is outstanding as the disgruntled war vet who hopes to become a "somebody" by killing the president. The parallels between his character and Lee Harvey Oswald's are too close for comfort, so much so that Suddenly was withdrawn from local TV packages for several years after the JFK assassination. Sinatra would claim in later years that he himself engineered the removal of Suddenly from general distribution, though in fact he'd lost whatever rights he'd held on the film when it lapsed into public domain. Be sure and miss the notorious colorized version of this black-and-white thriller, wherein Sinatra is transformed into Ol' Brown Eyes. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Stranger
The Stranger is often considered Orson Welles' most "traditional" Hollywood-style directorial effort. Welles plays a college professor named Charles Rankin, who lives in a pastoral Connecticut town with his lovely wife Mary (Loretta Young). One afternoon, an extremely nervous German gentleman named Meineke (Konstantin Shayne) arrives in town. Professor Rankin seems disturbed--but not unduly so--by Meineke's presence. He invites the stranger for a walk in the woods, and as they journey farther and farther away from the center of town, we learn that kindly professor Rankin is actually notorious Nazi war criminal Franz Kindler. Conscience-stricken by his own genocidal wartime activities, Meineke has come to town to beg his ex-superior Kindler to give himself up. The professor responds by brutally murdering his old associate. If Kindler believes himself safe--and he has every reason to do so, since no one in town, especially Mary, has any inkling of his previous life--he will change his mind in a hurry when mild-mannered war crimes commissioner Wilson (Edward G. Robinson) pays a visit, posing as an antiques dealer. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Kansas City Confidential
Kansas City Confidential, Phil Karlson's low (low) budget, B-grade film noir, opens on a Kansas City armored-car robbery perpetrated by cynical, corrupt ex-policeman Timothy Foster (Preston S. Foster). Foster devises an outrageous scheme: he will recruit three of the most vicious and unrelenting criminals he can find (screen heavies Lee Van Cleef, Jack Elam and Neville Brand) to undertake a robbery, blackmailing them into the heist with incriminating evidence from other "jobs." As an eccentric and clever conceit, Foster forces each of the perpetrators to wear masks, thus concealing their identities from one another and preventing the old pitfall of the men squealing and backstabbing. The heist comes off without a scratch, but a complication arises when the ignorant cops pick up an unrelated fellow, Joe Rolfe (John Payne) for his ownership of a van similar to the one used in the caper. In time, Rolfe is cleared, but he grows irate over the accusations and sets off to find Foster and co. and teach them a lesson. He finally happens upon one of the perpetrators in Mexico, beats him nearly to death, and assumes the victim's identity - and that's when things really get complicated. Though produced under the Hays Code censorship regulations, Kansas City Confidential constituted one of the most brutal and violent crime pictures made up through that time; as such, it retains historical significance. It also claims a strong cult following. ~ Nathan Southern, Rovi

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers
In The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, relationships formed in childhood lead to murder and obsessive love. The wealthy Martha Ivers (Barbara Stanwyck) is the prime mover of the small Pennsylvania town of Iverston. Martha lives in a huge mansion with her DA husband, Walter O'Neil (Kirk Douglas), an alcoholic weakling. No one knows just why Martha and Walter tolerate one another....but Sam Masterson (Van Heflin), an Iverstown boy who returns to town, may just have a clue. At least that's what Martha thinks when Sam asks Walter to intervene in the case of Toni Marachek (Lizabeth Scott), who has been unjustly imprisoned. It seems that, as a young boy, Sam was in the vicinity when Martha's rich aunt (Judith Anderson) met with her untimely demise. What does Sam know? And what dark, horrible secret binds Martha and Walter together? Directed by Lewis Milestone, and based on John Patrick's Oscar-nominated original story, Love Lies Bleeding, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers creates in Martha a unique and interesting, driven, obsessed, and spoiled character, but one not without sympathy. Barbara Stanwyck is outstanding as Martha, with her predatory smile and sharp, manicured nails. Kirk Douglas is surprisingly convincing as a lost, sad, weak man, who loves his wife, but is unable to gain her respect. The Strange Love of Martha Ivers eventually lapsed into public domain and became a ubiquitous presence on cable television. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The darker side of the American dream is explored in the fascinating film noir Pitfall. Dick Powell stars as John Forbes, a successful insurance man with a trophy wife named Sue (Jane Wyatt) and a model child named Tommy (Jimmy Hunt). Despite all that he's achieved in life, Forbes feels somehow unfulfilled. During an attempt to recollect illegally purchased goods by a convicted bank robber, Forbes falls for his glamorous client Mona Stevens (Lizabeth Scott). When she "comes on" to him, it sparks an affair between them. Forbes suffers the pangs of guilt, a fact immediately capitalized upon by the seedy private eye MacDonald (Raymond Burr), who is upset because Mona has rejected him. If adultery has been committed, can murder be far behind? Many individual scenes in Pitfall are standouts, notably a brief moment wherein Forbes' son Tommy suffers a horrible nightmare -- in almost exactly the same manner that child actor Jimmy Hunt would endure a similar bad dream in 1953's Invaders from Mars. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Red House
Delmer Daves directs the noirish thriller The Red House, based on the novel by George Agnew Chamberlain. Edward G. Robinson plays Pete Morgan, a farmer who harbors dark secrets and refuses to let anyone near the red house in the woods behind the house. In order to fend off trespassers, he hires Teller (Rory Calhoun) to stand guard. He lives with his sister, Ellen (Judith Anderson), and his adopted daughter, Meg (Allene Roberts). When they hire Meg's friend, Nath Storm (Lon McCallister), to help out on the farm, the two kids start to wonder about the mysterious red house. The film features an eerie original score by Miklós Rózsa. ~ Andrea LeVasseur, Rovi

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