World Noir Vol 1 Blu-ray Boxset – Review
By Sarah Morgan
You’ve probably heard of Movember, the period in which men grow moustaches to raise awareness of male health issues, but what about Noirvember?
For the uninitiated, it also takes place in November, and sees fans of film noir spend as much time as they can watching movies from the genre. Unfortunately, this boxset from Radiance Films wasn’t released in time for 2023’s celebration, but smart consumers should get their hands on it regardless. If they don’t watch it beforehand (and they really should), at least it will mean they’re ready for next year.
“A compelling tale”
Film noir is, of course, a French term but is usually associated with American productions. However, other countries dabbled too. Three of them are represented here, beginning with Japan’s I Am Waiting from 1957.
While the works of Akira Kurosawa and Yasujiro Ozu have been widely acclaimed in the West, few other directors from the nation have received quite as much attention. Koreyoshi Kurahara might not deserve to be counted alongside the duo, but he’s created a compelling tale involving an ex-boxer, a waitress and the head of an underground criminal gang who wants to control her life.
Real-life couple Yujiro Ishihara and Mie Kitahara take the lead roles, and the chemistry between them is palpable, which helps lift the otherwise run-of-the-mill plot above average.
Italy is represented by 1959’s The Facts of Murder, directed by Pietro Germi, who later won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for Divorce Italian Style and the Palme d’Or for the 1966 comedy The Birds, The Bees and The Italians. He also takes the lead role here, playing a police detective on the trail of those responsible for a particularly puzzling robbery and a murder.
Look out for a young Claudia Cardinale and Nino Castelnuovo, who later found fame in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, among the cast, although it’s Germi’s inky black shots of a city’s streets that really catch the eye.
But easily the best offering in the set – I’d even argue it’s worth buying it for this film alone – is Witness in the City. Also released in 1959, it was based on a novel by authors Boileau and Narcejac, whose works had already provided the basis for Les Diaboliques and Vertigo.
Directed with style by Edouard Molinaro, who later became better known for his comedies, it’s the gripping, tension-filled tale of an aggrieved husband hunting down the one man who may be able to identify him as the killer of his dead wife’s lover.
Why it’s now largely forgotten is a mystery, because it’s a mini-masterpiece; I suspect if it was American, it would be regaled as a classic of the genre. The only reason I can think for its lack of acclaim is that it came out around the time the New Wave was taking hold in France, and so perhaps was regarded as old-fashioned. Whatever the case, here’s hoping it’s about to be rediscovered.
Each film has also received a sharp restoration ahead of its introduction on blu-ray, and is accompanied by various special features that offer valuable insights into the productions and their makers.
World Noir Vol 1 Blu-ray Boxset is available from Radiance Films – RRP £44.99