Fox Film Noir: Somewhere in the Night, Whirlpool, The House On 92nd Street

Amnesia, hypnosis and atomic paranoia compel the desperate actions of the characters in 20th Century Fox’s most recent film-noir DVD releases. Three lesser-known thrillers in the canon, Somewhere in the Night (1946), Whirlpool (1949) and The House on 92nd Street (1945), together offer a perfect distillation of post-WWII American anxieties. In Somewhere in the Night, director Joseph L. Mankiewicz (All About Eve) transforms the identity crises of returning vets into a strikingly unhinged mystery that weaves, like a drunk on a binge, from Hollywood to San Pedro: After waking up with amnesia in a military hospital, a discharged soldier (John Hodiak) follows a trail of clues — including a scathing indictment of his former self in the form of an unsigned Dear John letter — to Los Angeles, where he finds his current self at the center of a deadly treasure hunt. It’s Dark Passage meets The Maltese Falcon, from Mankiewicz’s flirtations with first-person camera work to the devilish supporting cast (including Richard Conte, Lloyd Nolan and Fritz Kortner) that steps out of the shadows. Conte also appears in Otto Preminger’s Whirlpool, as a famous psychoanalyst (he wears a bow tie to take the edge off) married to Gene Tierney’s closet kleptomaniac. Preminger spikes the décor with a few atmospheric tricks from his previous Tierney-led noir, Laura — sinister porcelain masks, the looming portrait of a dead woman — but it’s José Ferrer, as a foreign-sounding hypnotist, who brings Tierney’s neurosis bubbling to the surface in this slate-gray melodrama of suburban discontent, blackmail and murder. The most standard film of the bunch, Henry Hathaway’s House on 92nd Street plays the police procedural straight in a nevertheless intriguing account of an FBI double agent working to bust a Nazi spy ring searching for plans for the nuclear bomb. Other recommended new releases: The Man Who Fell to Earth. Also released this week: Alone in the Dark; Bad Timing; Ben Hur: 4-Disc Collector’s Edition; Big Girls Don’t Cry... They Get Even; Black Torment; The Brady Bunch: The Complete Third Season; Cheers: The Complete Sixth Season; Da Ali G Show: The Complete Second Season; The Day My Parents Ran Away; Devil’s Island Lovers; Earthquake; Empire Falls; Everybody Loves Raymond: The Complete Fourth Season; Frasier: The Complete Sixth Season; George Lopez: Why You Crying?; Hero of Rome; The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; Latinologues 2; One Tree Hill: The Complete Second Season; Peep Show: Series One; Pooh’s Heffalump Halloween Movie; Richard Lewis: Concerts From Hell — The Vintage Years; Smallville: The Complete Fourth Season; Taxi: The Complete Third Season; Twin Sisters; USC Football Complete History; Weebles: Sharing in the Fun; Winter Solstice; The Work of Directors Anton Corbijn, Jonathan Glazer, Mark Romanek, Stéphane Sednaoui.

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