The Man Who Cheated Himself (Flicker Alley, Blu-ray+DVD) Moonrise (Criterion, Blu-ray, DVD) Gun Crazy (Warner Archive, Blu-ray) No Orchids for Miss Blandish (Kino, Blu-ray, DVD)
Lee J. Cobb takes the lead as Lt. Ed Cullen, a veteran Homicide detective in a secret affair with socialite Lois Frazer (Jane Wyatt) while she’s in the midst of a divorce, in The Man Who Cheated Himself (1950), an independently-made film noir shot on location in San Francisco. When she shoots her soon-to-be-ex-husband (in self-defense), Ed looks over the incriminating evidence and decides that a cover-up is in her best interest. When he’s assigned the case, all looks good, except that his rookie partner—his newlywed and newly promoted younger brother Andy (John Dall)—digs into the evidence and uncovers contradictions in the case, despite Ed’s efforts to nudge him in other directions. It’s a classic good cop gone bad set-up but Ed isn’t greedy or corrupt, merely protective of the woman he loves, which gets complicated because he’s equally protective of his kid brother determined to pull at every loose thread. Wyatt is an unlikely femme fatale, less cold-blooded than practical, but Cobb is excellent as the tough mug of a cop swayed by love and the two deliver a beautifully understated coda that sums up their relationship without a word, merely glances and body language that suggests a tenderness that still exists between them. Dall is the opposite as the bright and energetic rookie on the trail of his first big case, with wide grins and a twinkle in his eye.
The big releases this week are The Road (Sony), Corman McCarthy’s grim novel of a father and son surviving the desolate, savage wasteland of post-apocalypse America, the latest Nicholas Sparks tearjerker Dear John (Sony), with Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried. That’s all well and good and thoroughly covered at every DVD review page on the net (including my own column at MSN Entertainment), so let’s move on to other, more interesting releases.
The archival release of the week is a newly remastered edition of Stagecoach (Criterion), which I review here, but the notable DVD debut is Yesterday Girl (Facets), the debut release in Facets Video’s new “The Alexander Kluge Collection.” 15 discs of feature films and shorts made by the director over the span of 40 years have been announced, scheduled for release one a month through mid-2011. Released in 1966, Yesterday Girl is the film that marks the birth of the New German Cinema in the same way that Francois Truffaut’s The 400 Blows is the first feature the Nouvelle Vague. You can argue technicalities in the years of short films or any of the other features by young German filmmakers in the landmark year that established the aesthetic without receiving the acclaim, but Yesterday Girl, the story of a bright young German woman from East Germany (played by Alexandra Kluge, the director’s younger sister) who arrives penniless and jobless in West Berlin and drifts through a series of jobs, casual affairs and petty crime, was the most internationally acclaimed of these first features and the film that announced the new blood in the stagnant German film industry to the world. I wrote a substantial feature review of the release for the Turner Classic Movies website.