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Hollywood Hoodlums Collection [4 Discs] [DVD]

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Overview

Special Features

  • Film noir poster gallery

Synopsis

Beat the Devil
Humphrey Bogart stars as one of five disreputable adventurers who are trying to get uranium out of East Africa. Bogart's associates include pompous fraud Robert Morley, and Peter Lorre as the German-accented "O'Hara", whose wartime record is forever a source of speculation and suspicion. Becoming involved in Bogart's machinations are a prim British married couple (Edward Underdown and blonde-wigged Jennifer Jones). As a climax to their many misadventures and double-crosses, the uranium seekers end up facing extermination by an Arab firing squad. The satirical nature of Beat the Devil eluded many moviegoers in 1953, and the film was a failure. The fact that the picture attained cult status in lesser years failed to impress its star Humphrey Bogart, who could only remember that he lost a considerable chunk of his own money when he became involved in the project. Peter Viernick worked on the script on an uncredited basis. Beat the Devil eventually fell into public domain, leading to numerous inferior editions by second and third-tiered labels. ~ 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

Shock!
In this thriller, psychiatrist Dr. Cross (Vincent Price) kills his wife and expects to get away with murder, until he discovers that the slaying was observed by a next-door neighbor, Janet Stewart (Anabel Shaw). As Janet attempts to convince her husband (Frank Latimore) of the doctor's dastardly deed, Cross shows up to advise him that Janet is in dire need of some in-depth counseling. ~ Iotis Erlewine, Rovi

The Great Flamarion
This ambitious independent production was packaged by producer W. Lee Wilder, brother of Billy Wilder, and distributed by Republic. The title character, played with relish (and a bit of mustard) by Erich Von Stroheim, is an arrogant vaudeville artiste specializing in a trick-gunshot act. A dyed-in-the-wool misogynist, Flamarion at first pays little attention to his beautiful assistant Connie (Mary Beth Hughes)-just as well, since Connie is already married to Flamarion's other assistant, Al Wallace (Dan Duryea). Bored with marriage, Connie begins playing up to her boss, the result being the "accidental" death of Al during Flamarion's act. Having committed murder for Connie's sake, Flamarion fully expects to be sexually compensated-but he doesn't know the treacherous Connie as well as the late Al did. Future cult favorite Anthony Mann's direction is rather perfunctory, suggesting perhaps that he was somewhat intimidated in the presence of the flamboyant Von Stroheim. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

They Made Me a Criminal
Borderline
This crime melodrama with humorous undertones involves the investigation of dope smugglers on the Mexican border. Americans Fred MacMurray and Claire Trevor enter the scene and find themselves embroiled in the illicit activities. Both are government agents, but each one thinks the other is a crook. The real bad guy is Raymond Burr, head of the smuggling ring. At one point, MacMurray and Trevor must pretend to be husband and wife, which weakens their mutual mistrust. Eventually, MacMurray and Trevor sort out the heroes from the villains, and the dope ring is scuttled...at least for the time being. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Man Who Cheated Himself
Lee J. Cobb stars as Ed Cullen, a San Francisco police lieutenant, embroiled in a clandestine romance with married socialite Lois Frazer (Jane Wyatt). When Lois kills her husband Howard (Harlan Warde), the flustered Cullen vows to cover for her. He arranges the evidence to suggest that Howard was shot during a robbery. Things get sticky when Cullen is assigned to investigate the case, together with his more honest younger brother Andy (John Dall). How can Cullen escape detection without destroying his brother's standing with the force? Man Who Cheated Himself is worth seeing if only to watch Jane Wyatt play against her established screen image. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Chase
Originally slated for release through Monogram Pictures, The Chase was ultimately distributed by United Artists. Adapted by Philip Yordan from Cornell Woolrich's The Black Path of Fear (a perennial of the radio series Suspense), the film stars Robert Cummings as Chuck, shell-shocked ex-GI. Tormented by bizarre dreams, Chuck is drawn into the orbit of racketeer Roman (Steve Cochran). Hired as Roman's chauffeur, Chuck deals as best he can with his boss' faithless wife Lorna (Michele Morgan) and sinister henchman Gino (Peter Lorre). Persuaded by Lorna to help her escape the brutish Roman, Chuck agrees, only to end up accused of a murder he didn't commit. Thus begins the chase of the title, with Chuck eluding not only the authorities but also the stiletto-wielding Gino. Just when it seems that Chuck has cleared himself and all's right with the world, the story takes an unexpected turn, thrusting the hero back into a nightmarish maelstrom. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Second Woman
In the vein of Spellbound and Rebecca comes this 1951 film noir from director James V. Kern. Robert Young stars as Jeff Cohalan, a successful architect who is tormented by the fact that his fiancée was killed in a mysterious car accident on the night before their wedding. Blaming himself for her death, Colahan spends his time alone, lamenting in the cliff-top home he'd designed for his bride-to-be. To make matters worse, ever since the accident, Colahan seems to be followed by bad luck. His horse and dog turn up dead without explanation, leading him to wonder if he has been cursed. Enter Ellen Foster (Betsy Drake), an independent and intelligent insurance investigator who just might be able to help Colahan figure out who or what's behind all of his misfortune. ~ Matthew Tobey, Rovi

The Big Combo
Police Lt. Leonard Diamond (Cornel Wilde) is criticized by his superior Capt. Peterson (Robert Middleton) for his obsessive but fruitless investigation of organized crime boss Mr. Brown (Richard Conte). Peterson calls it a waste of the taxpayers' money motivated by Diamond's love for Brown's girlfriend Susan Lowell (Jean Wallace). Watched at all times by henchmen Mingo (Earl Holliman) and Fante (Lee Van Cleef), and masochistically drawn to Brown, Susan is unable to walk away from him. She overdoses on pills in a suicide attempt and, in her delirium, utters the name "Alicia." Diamond follows up on that new lead, and as he gets closer to defeating his adversary, the arrogant and sadistic Brown retaliates by capturing and torturing Diamond. Meanwhile Brown's former boss but now humiliated underling, Joe McClure (Brian Donlevy), believing that Brown has gone too far in his personal vendetta against Diamond, tries to enlist Mingo and Fante in overthrowing him. However, they remain loyal, and, in a chillingly silent scene visually punctuated by flashes of gunfire, they shoot the deaf McClure after Brown removes his hearing aid. Though superficially a story of good vs. evil, Joseph H. Lewis's film noir presents a complex world, visually captured by John Alton's stark photography, in which the lines between good/evil and love/hate are not always clear. ~ Steve Press, Rovi

Trapped
When nearly perfect counterfeit 20-dollar bills start turning up, the Treasury Department recognizes them as the work of Tris Stewart (Lloyd Bridges), a man already doing a long prison stretch. They offer Stewart a break on his sentence if he'll help them find out who got hold of his old plates, but he initially refuses. Some weeks later, while being transferred to another prison, Stewart escapes from custody -- it turns out that this is a set-up to free Stewart to search for the plates with a treasury agent keeping tabs on him; then he turns on the T-man as well, escaping for real. What Stewart doesn't know is that the agents expected and desired this move, believing that he would only go for the plates if he thought he could make some money from the bills and get out of the country with his girlfriend Laurie (Barbara Payton). They've got her apartment bugged, and one of their own men, Downey (John Hoyt), has been put in place as a customer at the nightclub where she works, quietly establishing himself as a man with some angles of his own and a yen to know her better. Stewart follows the trail to one of his ex-distributors, now in business for himself with the plates. But the man needs money, and Stewart thinks he can get it with help from Downey -- he doesn't like him trying to impress her, but does like it that he is a grifter with some money. They become partners, putting up Downey's cash to get the 250,000 dollars in counterfeit twenties, which Stewart will spend at face value where he and Laurie are going, in countries where they need U.S. currency and there are no treasury agents around to help identify counterfeit bills. Before the deal can be closed (and the arrest made), a new round of possible double-crosses starts between the hoods, and Downey's cover is suddenly blown by accident -- Stewart tries to kill him but is captured instead. Downey's superiors want to pull him out, but the agent thinks he can still salvage the operation if he can get to the plates before Laurie can talk to anyone. That leads to the denouement, an extended series of split-second plot developments with several lives at risk. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi

Quicksand
Mickey Rooney, with his kid roles and musicals behind him, went for a major change of image in this harrowing film noir. He gives what many consider to be the best performance of his career as Danny Brady, a well-meaning grease monkey whose life is destroyed in less than a week. Danny finds himself short of cash when he's supposed to take out Vera (Jeanne Cagney), a waitress whom he's just met who works at a hash-house. He borrows 20 dollars from the cash register, planning on paying it back with 20 dollars that a buddy owes him the next day, but the friend doesn't turn up. To get the 20 dollars, he buys a 100-dollar watch on a payment plan and then hocks it for the 20 dollars, but a detective picks up on the purchase and threatens to have him jailed if he doesn't pay the full 100 dollars immediately; desperate to raise the money, he robs a drunken bar patron of his bill-fold. His money problems seemingly behind him, Danny takes Vera out with the extra cash, but gets into a fight with her former boss, Nick (Peter Lorre), who picks up a clue that Danny did the robbery. Nick pressures Danny to provide him with a new car (a hard-to-get commodity in 1950) from the garage where he works, in return for keeping quiet. Danny steals the car and turns it over to Nick, but he and Vera decide to get even by robbing Nick's safe that night -- now they've got 3,600 dollars, which they split. But Danny's boss, Mackey, tells him he knows who stole the car, and wants either the car back or the full value, or he'll turn Danny in to the police. Vera has already blown her share on a mink coat, and he goes back to Mackey with what he has, 1,800 dollars. Mackey takes it and proceeds to call the police. Danny attacks him and leaves him for dead. Danny goes on the run, convinced he's wanted for Mackey's murder. Danny runs into Helen (Barbara Bates), a nice girl that he was dating and then dumped, and they end up fleeing together, hijacking a car and holding an innocent man at gunpoint. Impending tragedy seems to loom up even larger when they cross paths with police officers on a manhunt. Realizing that Helen has been good to him, he ends up on the run alone, with a gun in hand, as the law closes in. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi

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