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Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema, Volume I: Storm Fear (1955) - Blu-ray Review

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Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema, Volume I - Storm Fear

Classic film noir - with its emphasis on atmosphere and futility - simply doesn’t get any more claustrophobic than in Cornel Wilde’s directorial debut, Storm Fear.  A classic thriller which has West (The Naked Prey) starring, producing, and directing Dan Duryea (Scarlet Street), Jean Wallace (No Blade of Grass), Lee Grant (The Landlord), Steven Hill (A Child is Waiting), and Dennis Weaver (Duel) as he, in the role of Charlie Blake, a wounded criminal, hides out with his gang at his brother and sister-in-law’s house as a snowstorm rages outside.

"a tightly woven crime thriller that pits brothers against brother as a house becomes a jail for three criminals on the run"


And they are willing to risk the life of a 12-year-old boy to lead them through the snow and mountains in order to escape. 

High on tension and the psychological effects of irrational fear (as well as cabin fever), Storm Fear is a tightly woven crime thriller that pits brothers against brother as a house becomes a jail for three criminals on the run.  Fred (Duryea) hates his brother.  He has plenty of reasons for that hatred, too, thanks to a love affair between his brother and his wife.  Is his son really his son?  Damn, son.  That’s the territory of this haunting film noir flick.

With sharp performances throughout, Elizabeth (Wallace) finds herself unexpectedly facing her past with Charlie as she and her husband find themselves with no choice but to shelter the abusive criminals.  It seems everyone thinks she’s wasting her life as Fred’s wife, including Hank (Weaver), the handyman. {googleads}

The couple, already at odds with each other, immediately hates what Charlie has done to them, making them prisoners in their own house as he, trying to rekindle the old flame he once had with Elizabeth, makes an impression on their youngest, David (David Stollery) with his harmonica playing and his guns.  It gets worse with the gang hanging around, as no one can be trusted.

Storm Fear, full of paranoia as doubt is cast as to the true father of David, hits all the high notes with an adapted screenplay by the great Horton Foote (To Kill a Mockingbird) and stunning black-and-white cinematography by Joseph LaShelle (Laura), who gives us scene after scene of nail-biting tension as pulp fiction characters - in some really bad situations - make problematic decisions as the snow causes all routes of escape through the mountains damn near impossible.Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema, Volume I - Storm Fear

Film Noir, as a genre in film, stems from the assault of way too many “Happy Endings” in Hollywood.  It’s a natural response full of pessimism and fatalism and, as a result, it butters this reviewer’s bread.  For about a decade, writers and directors could see that audiences weren’t interested in fairy tales anymore.  There was too much poverty; too much death and destruction; too many wars.  And the push to urban life had created an economic disparity that lingered long after any romantic ending did.  

People needed the darkness to be acknowledged and, from 1944 to 1955, it was cinema’s prime celebrity as highly cinematographic films - cheaply made - fell onto the rain-soaked streets of Home Town, USA.  Storm Fear, now on blu-ray thanks to Kino Lorber’s Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema, Volume I, is merely one offering from that era of filmmaking.  There are four other titles, including A Bullet For Joey, Witness to Murder, He Ran All The Way, and Big House, U.S.A!

4/5 stars

Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema, Volume I - Storm Fear

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Kino Lorber
Available on Blu-ray
- May 24, 2016
Screen Formats: 1.85:1, 1.75:1, 1.37:1
Subtitles
: English SDH, French, Spanish
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; five-disc set
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

In this set from Kino Lorber, all 5 films were newly remastered in HD! A Bullet For Joey (1955) When a Canadian police inspector (Edward G. Robinson) investigates a murder, he is hurtled into an adventure involving foreign spies, American gangsters and an explosive high-tech secret that could change the world, co-starring George Raft. He Ran All The Way (1951) John Garfield plays a dim-witted thug who survives a shootout with the police after a payroll robbery. Seeking cover, he meets Peg a lonely young girl (Shelley Winters) who takes him to her family's apartment, while there the paranoid thief decides to take the family hostage until he can escape. Storm Fear (1955) Cornel Wilde plays a wounded bank robber, on the run from the law, he and his gang decide to hide out at his brother (Dan Duryea) and sister-in-law's (Jean Wallace) farmhouse during a snowstorm. Witness to Murder (1954) A woman (Barbara Stanwyck) fights to convince the police that she witnessed a murder. Co-starring George Sanders and Gary Merrill.  And in Big House, USA, Broderick Crawford, Ralph Meeker, Charles Bronson, Lon Chaney, Jr. and William Talman star in this tough and realistic crime drama about a gang of ruthless convicts who execute a successful prison break to secure a $200,000 loot hidden in Colorado's Royal Gorge National Park.

Video:

With a crisp black-and-white transfer, Storm Fear 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 1.75:1, 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:

  • None

Special Features:

There is only a trailer.

  • Original Theatrical Trailer

Blu-ray Rating:

  Movie 4/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 3/5 stars
  Extras 1/5 stars

Overall Blu-ray Experience

3/5 stars

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Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema, Volume I

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