20th Century Fox presents
The Dark Corner (1946)
"For six bits, you'd hang your mother on a meat hook."- Brad (Mark Stevens)
Stars: Lucille Ball, Clifton Webb, William Bendix, Mark Stevens
Other Stars: Kurt Kreuger, Cathy Downs, Reed Hadley, Constance Collier
Director: Henry Hathaway
MPAA Rating: Not RatedRun Time: 01h:39m:09s
Release Date: 2005-12-06
Genre: film noir
DVD ReviewFox's steady stream of noir honeys is one of the best things to happen on DVD, and The Dark Corner is a worthy addition to the collection, moody and brooding, full of tension, tough guys and the dames who love and double-cross them, and enough backstory to pad out at least a couple of dime-store novels. As the best noir films are, it's pulpy and recoils at the very notion of high art; you've got to get a little bit down and dirty to love movies like these, and I'm not ashamed to say I love rolling around in the gutter with this stuff.
At the heart of the story is Bradford Galt, P.I., who is, of course, a man with a past, which probably explains why a hefty fellow in a white suit is none too inconspicuously following him around the mean streets of New York. Mark Stevens plays Brad with standup street smarts; he's also got a slinky young receptionist who's got some ‘splainin' to do, played by a pre-sitcom Lucille Ball. Lucy plays Kathleen, who likes the boss a whole lot, and is in it for more than just a new pair of nylons—it's hard to divorce Ball's TV persona from anything else she was in, but she's really pretty good in this (even if, according to the commentary track, she hated the project). Tailing Brad is a fellow called Fred Foss, played by professional lug William Bendix, another character performer the likes of which have gone the way of rotary phones.
Years ago and miles away, something bad happened between Brad and his onetime partner, Jardine—if you can puzzle out what happened between them exactly in San Francisco, you're one up on me, friend, but for these purposes it doesn't matter much. What matters is that these boys don't like each other, especially now that Jardine has stepped up in class—his new best pal is Hardy Cathcart, a snotty Park Avenue art dealer with a pretty young trophy wife. (Cathcart is played by Clifton Webb, in a thinly veiled effort to reprise his role from Laura.) So one of the ex-partners is on the wrong side of the tracks, while the other is looking to erase any evidence of his past—that they head for trouble is no surprise, and in truth just what we hope for.
It's a movie in which everybody's got a bag full of secrets, and they're all pretty good poker players, too—it feels at times as if you could use a scorecard, but having a clean lineup card isn't the point. Even though it's all innuendo, there's a degree of sexual knowingness in this movie that's pretty racy, especially for its time, and even more pleasurable is the filmmakers' willingness to throw their characters under the bus for plot purposes, making it a movie full of odd little detours and peculiar and unexpected developments. I won't spill any of it here, but just about as fun as the story is the chance to watch this New York that's long gone unspool before our eyes, a world in which all the men wear fedoras, you can tell all you need to know about a woman by the seams in her stockings, and the cops, uniforms festooned with brass buttons, chase after the bad guys riding along on the running board. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, mister.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The source print seems to be a little spotty, with more than its share of scratches and discolorations; and it looks like almost nothing was done to primp it up for this DVD release, which is unfortunate.
Image Transfer Grade: C+
Audio Transfer Review: Some dynamic problems, especially on the mono track—but if a movie like this sounded perfect, it wouldn't sound right.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring Call Northside 777, Laura, Nightmare Alley, Panic in the Streets, House of Bamboo, The Street With No Name
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Alain Silver and James Ursini
Extras Review: As they have for a number of other titles in this series, film historians James Ursini and Alain Silver tag team for a commentary track, with an emphasis on the technical particulars of the shoot—though set in New York, most of the movie was shot on a Hollywood backlot, with a few pickups back east for which not all the actors made the journey. These guys are clearly well informed, and it's a free-ranging discussion of all things noir; but you start to get a sense that their frame of reference is really kind of limited, to a finite number of pictures and novels in the genre. It pains me to say it, but not all of life or the movies comes down to film noir, and even a modest broadening of the horizons would be welcome.
Extras Grade: C+
Final CommentsThe plot is often baffling, but the story isn't the point—The Dark Corner is loaded with noir style, and a grab bag of actors you probably wouldn't associate with one another, all pulling in the same direction to make this a splendidly nasty bit of work.
Jon Danziger 2005-12-06