Saturday, November 23, 2013

Kansas City Confidential Blu-Ray + DVD Combo Pack (1952)

Kansas City Confidential Blu-Ray + DVD Combo PackFor years Kansas City Confidential has languished in the Public Domain Hell. Released in a woefully substandard version from Alpha (watch the video wiggle at the bottom of the screen every 10 seconds), and a much better, but still flawed version from Image (the picure is just a bit too dark and has some minor print damage), along with several "dollar" DVD versions that were even more flawed than the Alpha and Image releases, Kansas City Confidential was a movie that most Film Noir fans thought would never see an "official" DVD release by MGM (owner of the master print, and presumably the negatives).

But here it is MGM is actually releasing (or has released, depending on when you read this) the "official" DVD for this fantastic Film Noir. Based on their track record of releasing official versions of movies previously relegated to public domain releases (see He Walked By Night as an example MGM's DVD is flawless!), this should see a drastic improvement in both image and sound quality over all of the previous versions released to date.

The movie itself is tightly written, well acted (John Payne is fantastic, and the supporting cast of Preson Foster, Lee Van Cleef, Neville Brand, Jack Elam, and Coleen Gray are all near perfect in their roles), and extremely well directed by Phil Karlson.

This is a classic crime/wrong man framed and sets out for revenge movie. For fans of Film Noir this is truly a, "Must Have," DVD.

Update The DVD is, as expected, a HUGE improvement over the Image release, which istself is much better than the Alpha version. MGM/Fox have done a very nice job on the quality of this release the print used is excellent. Even if you already have a previous version of Kansas City Confidential you still may want to get this one for the much improved picture and sound.

Nobody played the accused innocent any better than John Payne. Tall and good looking, Payne exuded a quiet moral strength combined with an ability and willingness to mess it up with the bad boys whenever the situation dictated. An Eagle Scout with a merit badge in bar brawling.

KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL is a smart little crime drama that features Payne as the unluckiest of flower delivery drivers in motion picture history. It seems that Mr. Big, bad guy Preston Foster, has been meticulously plotting a bank heist, and an integral part of his plan involves using an exact duplicate of Payne's truck as the getaway vehicle. Nothing personal, John. The bad guys don't even know you.

Mr. Big has recruited three thugs (Jack Elam, Lee van Cleef, and Neville Brand) to pull off the heist, taking the precaution of insisting they always wear masks while in each other's presence. That way, if things go wrong, nobody will know who his accomplices are. For a good part of this movie the only one who has anything going wrong is poor John Payne, who is promptly fingered as one of the bank robbers. In this movie, Payne seemingly can't walk into a room without getting pounded by some burly cop or surly con.

KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL is briskly paced and offers enough small surprises to keep us on our toes. Phil Karlson was a great director, under-appreciated in his time and relegated almost exclusively to B-movie duties. KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL is one of his best. Strongly recommended.

Buy Kansas City Confidential Blu-Ray + DVD Combo Pack (1952) Now

"Kansas City Confidential" opens with the declaration that it is about a hypothetical "perfect crime" that has never existed in the history of any law enforcement agency. The crime is a $1.2 million dollar bank heist orchestrated by Tim Foster (Preston Foster), a disgruntled ex-cop forced into retirement. Foster bullies three hoods into doing the job, using their criminal records against them and promising an equal split of the dough. Pete Harris (Jack Elam), Tony Romano (Lee Van Cleef), Boyd Kane (Neville Brand), and Foster hold up security guards as they transfer money to an armored car. Foster has insisted that everyone wear masks at all times so that his 3 accomplices cannot identify one another, making them "cop-proof and stool pigeon-proof". After the job, they go separate ways to await the pay-off. Meanwhile, the police pick up Joe Rolfe (John Payne), the driver of a florist delivery truck that looks like the crooks' getaway truck, and accuse him of the crime. Unable to beat a confession out of Rolfe, the police are compelled to release him, leaving Joe Rolfe angry, without a job, and hell-bent on finding out who framed him.

John Payne reminds me very much of Jimmy Stewart in this role. Although he was a lesser star than Stewart, Payne shares Stewart's versatility and ability to be a sympathetic, idealized everyman, but edgy and a little dangerous at the same time. Joe Rolfe is a good guy, but he's angry, frustrated, and fully capable of matching his enemies' ferocity. Neville Brand plays a thug, as he always did, in direct opposition to his real-life stature as a World War II hero, for which he was decorated 10 times. "Kansas City Confidential"'s most striking quality is its archetypally film noir fatalism. Joe Rolfe and Tim Foster's destinies become powerfully interdependent, even though the men do not know one another. As Pete Harris says to Joe, "We didn't have nothing against you. We didn't even know you. It just fell that way." Elam gives a stand-out, though brief, performance as a twitchy, menacing, loser of a criminal. "Kansas City Confidential" isn't relentlessly hard-boiled, but it has enough menace and confusion to gratify film noir fans.

The DVD (Image Entertainment 2002): This print is watchable, but it's grainy in the grays and noticeably speckled. Bonus features include: "Cast & Crew", which is text biographies and "noir filmographies" for 6 members of the cast plus director Phil Karlson. "Stills & Lobby Cards" includes 9 black and white movie stills and 8 color lobby cards. "Coleen Gray Interview" (9 minutes) is a recent interview by author Eddie Muller with actress Colleen Gray, who plays the movie's "good girl". Gray talks about her role in the film, the other actors, and the qualities of film noir. There is also a trailer (1 ½ minutes) for the film "5 Against the House". No subtitles.

Read Best Reviews of Kansas City Confidential Blu-Ray + DVD Combo Pack (1952) Here

Being a huge booster of Blu-Ray as the ideal (so far) medium for improving the sight and sound of older movies I was fairly disappointed with this and HD Cinema's concurrent release, "The Stranger". While Blu-Ray transfers typically make details sharper, shadows blacker and faces more detailed, these two films' details seem softer and less focused despite the BD transfers.

Ironically, this can be proven by watching the short side-by-side comparison each disc offers as an extra feature. The non-Blu-Ray half of the screen looks sharper with more relief. First time I've seen that.

Want Kansas City Confidential Blu-Ray + DVD Combo Pack (1952) Discount?

A great, great noir film starring John Payne(HELL'S ISLAND, 99 RIVER STREET). But the cast doesn't stop there! It also stars Lee Van Cleef, Jack Elam and Neville Brand. This really is a gritty little crime caper flick. If you watch it, it will be difficult to ignore how the film might have influenced a guy like Quentin Tarantino in the conception of RESERVOIR DOGS. Great dvd!

Save 25% Off

No comments:

Post a Comment