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Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema III: The Lady Gambles (1949) - Blu-ray Review

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Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema, Volume III: The Lady Gambles

Lady Luck has no heart at all in this morality tale!

The Lady Gambles begins with a stunning beatdown as its star, Barbara Stanwyck, is repeatedly attacked, smacked, and punched by a couple of thugs who feel cheated by her use of loaded dice in a game of back-alley craps.  Joan (Stanwyck) is addicted to gambling and, after losing everything she once loved in her life to its thrills, has nothing to show for it.

"an engaging cast that brings the drama and the interest to an otherwise forgettable morality tale of a woman who gambles everything away for a chance at winning it big"


Except for her husband, David Boothe (Robert Preston), a news reporter on assignment at the Hoover Dam.  He’s all she’s got left of the life she used to know and The Lady Gambles, directed by Michael Gordon (An Act of Murder, One Dangerous Night, Pillow Talk), tells the tale of how the gambling addiction got out of hand.  It started with house chips from the casino’s owner and, rather quickly, evolved to her stealing her husband’s camera and then hawking for more money to gamble and lose.  

It’s all about the thrill and this movie serves as a cautionary tale to anyone who fancies life in the casino . . . because a simple game of “pick ‘em up and heave ‘em” can lead to a series of unfortunate decisions that has you partnering with a crook named Frenchy in Louisiana.  So, yeah, this film noir starts in Las Vegas, but has the legs to carry us all the way to the most populous city in the Shreveport-Bossier City metropolitan area of Louisiana as Joan descends and keeps falling over her choices and her debts.

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. Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema, Volume III: The Lady Gambles

And this movie delivers with an engaging cast that brings the drama and the interest to an otherwise forgettable morality tale of a woman who gambles everything away for a chance at winning it big.

People needed the darkness to be acknowledged and, from 1944 to 1955, tales like this one was cinema’s prime celebrity as highly cinematographic films - cheaply made - fell onto the rain-soaked streets of Home Town, USA.  The Lady Gambles, now on blu-ray thanks to Kino Lorber’s Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema III, is merely one offering from that defining era of filmmaking.

In The Lady Gambles, watch as Stanwyck dresses up the game of craps!

3/5 beers

Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema, Volume III: Adandoned


Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Kino Lorber
Available on Blu-ray
- June 9, 2020
Screen Formats: 1.37
: English SDH
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; three-disc set
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

From Michael Gordon, the outstanding director of The Web, An Act of Murder, Woman in Hiding, Cyrano de Bergerac, Pillow Talk and Portrait in Black, comes this classic film noir starring screen legend Barbara Stanwyck (Double Indemnity, Witness to Murder) as a once respectable and vibrant wife who has become a desperately out-of-control high-roller gambler. A chance visit into a Las Vegas casino introduces Joan Boothe (Stanwyck) to the seductive allure of poker and the craps table. All too soon, she ignores her devoted husband (Robert Preston, Wake Island, This Gun for Hire) and older sister (Edith Barrett, I Walked with a Zombie) as she compulsively chases after hard-hearted Lady Luck. Beautifully shot by Russell Metty (Touch of Evil) and featuring a stellar supporting cast that includes Stephen McNally (Diplomatic Courier), John Hoyt (O.S.S.), Leif Erickson (On the Waterfront) and Tony Curtis (6 Bridges to Cross). The Lady Gambles is part of the three films that make up Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema III.


With a crisp black-and-white transfer, The Lady Gambles  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 thanks to its 1080p handling and its black-and-white cinematography absolutely sizzles. 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


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



  • There is a NEW Audio Commentary by Film Historian Kat Ellinger.

Special Features:

Alas, there is but a theatrical trailer.

  • Theatrical Trailer

Blu-ray Rating:

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

Overall Blu-ray Experience

3/5 stars

Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema, Volume II: The Lady Gambles (1949)

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