Thriller fans are in for a treat with this boxset that brings together four very enjoyable – but also very different – examples of the film noir genre.
Slick whodunnit The Dark Mirror (1946) has Olivia de Havilland playing identical twin sisters involved in a brutal murder. With the sisters standing by one another, the cops bring in a psychologist (Lew Ayres) to deduce which of them did the deadly deed.
Director Fritz Lang updates the Bluebeard fairy tale with Secret Beyond the Door (1947), where newlywed (Joan Bennett) discovers that the previous wife of her secretive husband (Michael Redgrave) died in suspicious circumstances. And what's up with the mysterious locked room in their home that he forbids her from ever entering?
The uncompromising Force of Evil (1948) stars John Garfield as a dodgy lawyer involved in the illegal gambling trade, with his brother (Thomas Gomez) the only person standing in the way of his gangland bosses and their plan to consolidate New York's numbers rackets into a single operation.
Finally, the stylish and perverse The Big Combo (1955) finds a disillusioned cop (Cornel Wilde) becoming obsessed with the beautiful mistress (Jean Wallace) of the crime boss (Richard Conte) he's determined to bring to justice.
Picture: The first three films in the set are framed at 1.37:1, with The Big Combo sporting a 1.78:1 image. While they all exhibit some minor damage (flecks of dirt, small scratches), the overall quality is good and the greyscale palettes are expertly reproduced.
Picture rating: 4/5
Audio: There aren't any real problems with the set's four LPCM mono soundtracks. Nicely cleaned up, they're about as accurate a reproduction of the source material that you could hope for.
Audio rating: 3/5
Extras: This film noir quartet is accompanied by scholarly commentaries and video essays, vintage radio plays, poster galleries and trailers for related movies. The set also includes a marvellous book of essays.
Extras rating: 4/5
We say: Both an excellent primer for film noir newcomers and a must-own boxset for genre fans.
Four Film Noir Classics, Arrow Academy, Region B BD & R2 DVD, £60
HCC VERDICT: 4/5
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