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Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema, Volume IV: Calcutta (1946) - Blu-ray Review

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Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema, Volume 4

“Two gin slings . . . with ice.”

With that famous line, Alan Ladd (Shane) as American pilot, Neale Gordon, begins to fall for Virginia Moore (Gail Russell, The Uninvited).  He doesn’t want to, but he can’t help himself.  Hell, one look at her engaging beauty and I would, too.  Holy cow is she a looker.  She simply smolders with those clear eyes and face, which definitely comes into play here: she could be a murderer.

"wanted Calcutta ...to be the next Casablanca . . . or maybe even The Maltese Falcon, but Ladd is not Bogart and Paramount’s budget didn’t allow for much of anything beyond its backlot"


 

Unfortunately, Moore is surrounded by suspicion concerning the death of her fiancée, Bill Cunningham (John Whitney), another American pilot who resides in India.  Cunningham, as made clear from the exciting dilemma of the beginning, also flew the not-so friendly skies between Chungking, China to Calcutta, India, but now his murder has Gordon and Pedro Blake (William Bendix) on edge, questioning everyone’s motives.

Who killed Cunningham?  Was it Nightclub singer Marina Tanev (June Duprez), Eric Lasser (Lowell Gilmore), the nightclub owner, or was it one of the jewel thieves the pilots are involved with?  There are a lot of suspects in Calcutta and they are all armed with “squirt” guns.  This potboiler might not be one of Ladd’s most exciting ventures, but it was his most profitable, scoring more than The Blue Dahlia.Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema, Volume 4

It seems obvious to me that Paramount - with the location of Calcutta (but really Paramount’s backlot) and its “white men in uniforms” approach to India - wanted Calcutta, directed by John Farrow (Wake Island) and written by Seton I. Miller (Here Comes Mr. Jordan), to be the next Casablanca . . . or maybe even The Maltese Falcon, but Ladd is not Bogart and Paramount’s budget didn’t allow for much of anything beyond its backlot.

The drama is there.  The mystery tightens, too, as Gordon makes his way through the usual suspects.  Too bad he didn’t focus more on the face in front of him . . . the femme fatale.  Calcutta is now on blu-ray - newly remastered in HD - as a part of Kino Lorber’s Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema, Volume IV, a three movie set which includes An Act of Murder and Six Bridges To Cross.

3/5 beers

Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema, Volume 4

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Kino Lorber
Available on Blu-ray
- July 14, 2020
Screen Formats: 1.37
Subtitles
: English SDH
Audio:
English
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; three-disc set
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

From John Farrow, the acclaimed director of Wake Island, The Big Clock, Alias Nick Beal, His Kind of Woman, Hondo and Back from Eternity, comes this classic film noir starring screen legend Alan Ladd (This Gun for Hire, The Blue Dahlia, Shane) with Gail Russell (The Uninvited, Angel and the Badman) and William Bendix (Lifeboat, The Glass Key). Neale (Ladd) and Pedro (Bendix) fly cargo between Chungking and Calcutta. When their friend and fellow pilot Bill is murdered, Neale vows to play judge and jury and bring the criminals to justice himself. Along the way, he meets Bill's fiancée Virginia (Russell) and becomes suspicious of a deeper plot while also falling for her charms. Beautifully shot by John F. Seitz (The Lost Weekend, Double Indemnity) and co-starring June Duprez (And Then There Were None), this heart-pounding thriller simmers with postwar intrigue. 

Video:

With a crisp black-and-white transfer, Calcutta lands on blu-ray thanks to the crackling efforts of Kino Lorber.  Shadows, while not too terribly detailed, are thick and atmospheric throughout. Presented with an aspect ratio of 1.37:1, the film looks marvelous and easily beats the poor appearance on television and on home video DVD that has previously dogged it. The blacks and grays are handled expertly by the transfer.  Beads of sweat are visible, wet city streets, textures in clothing, and even the dirt in the pavement is all visible with fine textures throughout.

Audio:

Bang! Bang! Bang!  Shots are fired on the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track which accompanies this film noir flick.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • There is a brand-new commentary for Calcutta that is recorded by film critic Nick Pinkerton.

Special Features:

Outside of the commentary, there is a theatrical trailer.

  • Original Theatrical Trailer

Blu-ray Rating:

  Movie 3/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 3/5 stars
  Extras 2/5 stars

Overall Blu-ray Experience

3/5 stars

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