In the realm of film noir, ANGEL FACE is a pip. Directed by Otto Preminger, the master who brought the unforgettable LAURA to the genre, ANGEL FACE tells a lulu of a tale with the lovely Jean Simmons as the femme fatale that takes Robert Mitchum’s character on something of a wild ride. In ANGEL FACE, Mitchum portrays Frank Jessup, an ambulance driver, who has been forced by necessity to give up his aspirations with racing cars. An emergency call to the home of the wealthy and potentially suicidal Catherine Tremayne (Barbara O'Neil) introduces our brooding hero to her stepdaughter Diane (Simmons), who takes an immediate liking to Frank. Faster than you can say "she’s trouble" Frank has thrown over his fiancée and finds himself up to his neck in it with Diane, who may have played a hand in her step-mother’s "suicide attempt." The cast of ANGEL FACE also features Mona Freeman, Herbert Marshall, Leon Ames, Kenneth Tobey and Jim Backus.
MACAO may not rate as one of Robert Mitchum’s best films or even amongst his better film noirs, but it is a very likeable film nonetheless due to the star power of the leads. Mitchum, Jane Russell, William Bendix, Thomas Gomez, Gloria Grahame and Brad Dexter overcome a troubled Howard Hughes production, which involved difficulties with director Josef von Sternberg that necessitated uncredited re-shoots by Nicholas Ray. The noir-ish plot involves finds the paths of Nick Cochran (Mitchum) and Julie Benson (Russell) crossing on the ferry from Hong Kong to Macao. The duo become even more entangled, once they make landfall, as they fall under the shadow of Vincent Halloran (Dexter) a soft-spoken international crime lord who suspects an undercover cop is about. The cast of MACAO also includes Edward Ashley, Philip Ahn and Vladimir Sokoloff.
HOME FROM THE HILL
HOME FROM THE HILL is definitely one of my favorite overblown melodramas from director Vincente Minnelli. Set in a rural Texas community, HOME FROM THE HILL tells of the dysfunctional family life of Wade Hunnicutt (Mitchum), who just happens to be the wealthiest man in the area. It seems that prior to his marriage to Hannah (Eleanor Parker), Wade sired a bastard son named Rafe Copley (played in adult form by George Peppard), who was waiting on Wade and Hannah’s doorstep, upon their return from their honeymoon. This leads to the pregnant Hannah forever shutting her bedroom door to her husband, and her only agreeing to remain married to him, as long as she does not interfere with the raising of their son Theron (played in adult form by George Hamilton). Time passes, Wade becomes the equivalent of a local alley cat, thanks to all his indiscretions, while Theron becomes naïve mamma’s boy and Rafe grows into the kind of son Wade would like, but remains unacknowledged by his father. Everything spins out of control, when Wade decides to take a firm hand with Theron and tries to turn him into the kind of son he would be proud of. The cast of HOME FROM THE HILL also features Everett Sloane, Luana Patten, Anne Seymour, Constance Ford, Ken Renard and Ray Teal.
Although somewhat episodic in story and leisurely paced, THE SUNDOWNERS is a highly enjoyable film that benefits from a terrific cast and wonderful location photography. Set during the 1920’s, THE SUNDOWNERS finds Mitchum in terrific form as Paddy Carmody, a migrant sheep drover, who travels the backcountry of Australia with his wife Ida (Deborah Kerr) and teenaged son Sean (Michael Anderson Jr.). Although Ida and Sean come to long for a more settled existence with a permanent home, Paddy remains a vagabond at heart, with a disdain for remaining in anyplace for too long. What THE SUNDOWNERS lacks in plot, it more than makes up for by being character driven and beautifully acted. The cast of THE SUNDOWNERS also features Peter Ustinov, Glynis Johns and Dina Merrill.
THE GOOD GUYS AND THE BAD GUYS
THE GOOD GUYS AND THE BAD GUYS proves to be a mildly amusing western that you can’t underestimate, just like slightly over-the-hill lawmen or outlaws for that matter. The plot of THE GOOD GUYS AND THE BAD GUYS has Mitchum in the role of aging lawman Marshal James Flagg, who finds himself being handed a gold watch and his walking papers in the new age of the horseless carriage. On the other side of the coin is outlaw Big John McKay (George Kennedy), who has been unceremoniously put out to pasture by his own gang. Not surprisingly, the two find themselves joining forces for one last western romp, taking on the villainous Waco (David Carradine), who is plotting an old styled train robbery. The cast of THE GOOD GUYS AND THE BAD GUYS also features Martin Balsam, Tina Louise, Douglas Fowley, Lois Nettleton, John Davis Chandler, John Carradine, Marie Windsor, Dick Peabody and Kathleen Freeman.
For my money, THE YAKUZA is one of best films from the latter portion of Mitchum’s career. THE YAKUZA finds Mitchum in the role of Harry Kilmer, who remained in Japan after the war, when he fell in love with Eiko (Keiko Kishi) and rescued her and her daughter from a life of poverty. Harry eventually returned to America, when Eiko refused to marry him, despite her love for him. Fate plays a hand in Harry’s eventual return to Japan, when members of The Yakuza kidnap the daughter of Harry’s war buddy George Tanner (Brian Keith). For those who don’t know, The Yakuza are the Japanese equivalent of gangsters, but they guided by a strict code of honor- similar to that of The Samurai. As expected, Harry goes to Japan to rescue his friend’s daughter and to collect a debt from Tanaka Ken (Takakura Ken), a former Yakuza, master swordsman, and brother of the Japanese woman he still deeply loves. What follows is much bloodshed, as old scores are settled and debts of honor are repaired. The cast of THE YAKUZA also features Herb Edelman, Richard Jordan, Eiji Okada, James Shigeta, Kyosuke Mashida, Christina Kokubo and Eiji Go.
Warner Home Video has made all six films that comprise ROBERT MITCHUM: THE SIGNATURE COLLECTION ($60) in their various full screen and widescreen aspect ratios, with the widescreen films being 16:9 enhanced. ANGEL FACE and MACAO are offered in their proper 1.37:1 aspect ratios and the black and white presentations are truly fine looking, offering a great deal of detail, strong blacks and terrific grayscale. HOME FROM THE HILL is a CinemaScope beauty that greatly benefits from Vincente Minnelli’s meticulous compositions and art direction, so it should come as no surprise that Warner’s 2.35:1 transfer looks marvelous, with its nicely detailed image and strong colors. THE SUNDOWNERS is offered at 1.78:1 and is another winning presentation, with a clean image and vibrant colors that emphasize the film beautiful location photography. THE GOOD GUYS AND THE BAD GUYS is framed at 2.35:1 looks great, offering a fairly crisp picture, good colors and certainly won’t give anyone a reason to complain. THE YAKUZA is also framed at 2.35:1 and features another first rate transfer, with great levels of clarity and appealing colors. Film grain is generally minor across the board. None of the films ever demonstrate anything other than a modest number of blemishes. Digital compression artifacts are always well contained.
All of the films featured in ROBERT MITCHUM: THE SIGNATURE COLLECTION come with Dolby Digital monaural soundtracks. Although decades separate the oldest to the newest features in the collection, the monaural sound is always of good quality. Sure, fidelity is dictated by the recording technology of the time, but none of the films seem sonically brittle or particularly harsh sounding. As expected, dialogue is clean and easy to understand on each of the films included on the set. French language tracks are included on each of the films, except MACAO, while English subtitles are included across the board.
Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard film/scene selection and set up features as well as the extra features offered with each film. ANGEL FACE comes with a running Audio Commentary by Film Noir Historian Eddie Muller. MACAO comes with a running Audio Commentary by Jane Russel, Screenwriter Stanley Rubin and Film Noir Historian Eddie Muller, plus TCM Private Screenings with Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell, hosted by Robert Osborne. HOME FROM THE HILL comes with a Theatrical Trailer. THE SUNDOWNERS comes with a Vintage Featurette entitled On Location With The Sundowners, plus a Theatrical Trailer. THE GOOD GUYS AND THE BAD GUYS comes with a Vintage Featurette entitled The Good Guy From Chama, plus a Theatrical Trailer. THE YAKUZA comes with a running Audio Commentary by Director Sydney Pollack, plus a Vintage Featurette entitled Promises To Keep.
A colorful character off screen and on, there was only one Robert Mitchum. Sure, there were times during his career where it seemed he was sleepwalking his way through roles, but even then, Mitchum was interesting to watch. However, anytime Mitchum really put his back into his acting- he was an incredible screen presence. ROBERT MITCHUM: THE SIGNATURE COLLECTION is a highly entertaining package of films, and the presentations have the Warner Home Video stamp of quality all over them. Recommended.
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