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New noir on DVD: Before L.A., there was 'New York Confidential'

July 2, 2010 |  1:57 pm

New York It was one of the hot tickets earlier this year at the American Cinematheque’s annual film noir festival at Hollywood's Egyptian Theatre.

The once-lost film noir "New York Confidential" (1955) had been out of circulation for years and was only available in inferior prints due to rights issues. But the rights were recently purchased by Kit Parker Films, which specializes in rehabbing orphan movies, and the newly restored film made its DVD debut Tuesday.

So does it live up to all the hype?

Definitely. Though it looked as though it was shot on a dime budget, the film crackles with sharp dialogue from the Oscar-nominated writing team of Russell Rouse (who also directed the movie) and Clarence Greene.

Broderick Crawford is all bluster and bombast as a New York mob boss working for the syndicate who believes in the old adage of an eye for an eye. A young Anne Bancroft plays his rebellious daughter who hates what her father does for a living and tries to strike out on her own. Noir icon Richard Conte turns in a strong performance as a hit man brought in from Chicago who becomes Crawford’s right-hand man.

VCI Entertainment, which has a deal with Kit Parker Films, is releasing the DVD, which includes commentary from film noir historian/writer Alan K. Rode and film writer Kim Morgan, as well as a before-and-after look at the restoration.

The Criterion Collection is also shining the spotlight on a classic 1940 British film, "Night Train to Munich." Though not as obscure as "New York Confidential," the clever thriller has fallen through the cracks in recent years.

Directed by Carol Reed and with a script by the team of Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder (of "The Lady Vanishes" fame), "Night Train to Munich" stars Margaret Lockwood as the daughter of a Czech scientist. When the Nazis invade the country, they demand that the scientist work for the Third Reich. The scientist’s only option is to escape to England. But his daughter is arrested and sent to a camp where she meets a fellow prisoner (Paul Henreid, then known as Paul von Henreid) who devises a successful escape plan. Later, Lockwood's character and the scientist are aided in England by a quirky, handsome undercover agent (Rex Harrison). But Henreid's character, who isn't exactly a friend, re-enters the picture and the fun begins.

Filled with twists, turns, comedy and high drama, "Night Train to Munich" is a journey you simply have to take. The Criterion discs features a lovely new restored high-definition digital transfer, a conversation between film scholars Peter Evans and Bruce Babington about Reed and the screenwriters and a booklet featuring an essay by film critic Philip Kemp.

-- Susan King

Photo: Broderick Crawford, Anne Bancroft in "New York Confidential"; credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

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