Reel Classics

Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema, Volume V: Outside the Law (1956) - Blu-ray Review

Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema, Volume V: Outside the Law (1956)

Director Jack Arnold was Universal’s go-to guy when they wanted a quick hit.  He proved himself mightily as he churned out classics like It Came from Outer Space (1953), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), Revenge of the Creature (1955), Tarantula (1955), and The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957).  Pulling out a film noir crime drama for him was a no-brainer, which is partly why Outside the Law works as well as it does.

"a by-the-books drama that is suspenseful in all the right parts"


Outside the Law - full of great screen personas - is about an ex-con who is given a chance to redeem himself by going undercover in Germany and busting up a criminal ring of international counterfeiters.  That ex-con, played by Ray Danton, also gets a shot at revenge as his old army buddy, Corp. Harry Craven, was killed by the criminals.  What follows is a by-the-books drama that is suspenseful in all the right parts as Danton falls for a widow, played by Leigh Snowden, who may or may not be a part of the organization.

Co-starring Grant Williams, this film noir thriller works because of the father/son dynamic because the army parolee has to work for his father, whom he hates for sending to jail.  This might be bare bones, when it comes to noir, but it pays off in spades thanks to the intertwinement of the three stories: the Treasury Department’s offer of redemption, working for his father, and the widow angle.  Everything boils in the same pot and produces a tasty dish as T-Men take on this counterfeiting ring and thanks to some solid cinematography from noir specialist Irving Glassberg (Larceny, The Price of Fear), this film gets elevated to a minor REEL CLASSIC.Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema, Volume V: Outside the Law (1956)

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 Hometown, USA.  

Outside the Law, now on blu-ray thanks to Kino Lorber’s Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema, Volume V, is merely one offering from that defining era of filmmaking.

3/5 stars

 

Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema, Volume V: Outside the Law (1956)

Blu-ray Details

Home Video Distributor: Kino Lorber
Available on Blu-ray
- December 14, 2021
Screen Formats: 1.37:1
Subtitles
: English SDH, French, Spanish
Audio:
DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; three-disc set
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

Ray Danton (The Night Runner), Leigh Snowden (The Square Jungle) and Grant Williams (The Incredible Shrinking Man) star in the riveting film noir Outside the Law. Ex-con Johnny Salvo (Danton) is given the chance to redeem himself, and revenge the murder of an old Army buddy, by going undercover and helping the authorities break up a ring of international counterfeiters who will stop at nothing, including murder, to protect their operation. But first, Johnny must earn the respect of his Treasury-man father (Onslow Stevens, O.S.S.) and the trust of his buddy’s widow (Snowden). Prolific filmmaker Jack Arnold, the director of It Came from Outer Space, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Man in the Shadow, No Name on the Bullet and The Mouse That Roared, helmed this action-packed crime drama that features cinematography by noir specialist Irving Glassberg (Larceny, The Price of Fear).

Video:

With a crisp black-and-white transfer, Outside the Law 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:

Special Features:

There is a collection of trailers for future releases, including one for this release.

Blu-ray Rating

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

Composite Blu-ray Grade

4/5 stars


Film Details

Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema, Volume V: Outside the Law (1956)

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
Runtime:
81 mins
Director
: Jack Arnold
Writer:
Danny Arnold
Cast:
Ray Danton; Leigh Snowden; Grant Williams
Genre
: Drama | Noir
Tagline:
T-Men Blast Counterfeiting Racket!
Memorable Movie Quote:
Theatrical Distributor:
Universal Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
June, 1956
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
December 14, 2021.
Synopsis: Ex-con Johnny Salvo (Ray Danton) is given the chance to redeem himself, and revenge the murder of an old Army buddy, by going undercover and helping the authorities break up a ring of international counterfeiters who will stop at nothing, including murder, to protect their operation. Directed by Jack Arnold

Art

Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema, Volume V: Outside the Law (1956)

 

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