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.

LA Weekly