Thursday, April 14, 2005

DVD: Call Northside 777 (1948)

The film noir floodgates are wide open. Now 20th Century Fox has released its own DVD collection. LAURA is the crown jewel of the lot, which I’ll get to eventually. I wanted to start with a film I hadn’t seen.

The noir label is a bit of a misnomer in this case. NORTHSIDE was shot in the semi-documentary style that director Henry Hathaway pioneered with THE HOUSE ON 92ND STREET. And it’s firmly in the ‘wrong man’ genre, with Chicago reporter James Stewart trying to clear Richard Conte for the murder of a policeman.

It’s a solid, engrossing film, powered by Stewart’s work as a cynic initially interested in Conte’s case for its publicity value only to become convinced of his innocence. In many ways it’s a pivotal role for the actor, marking the transformation of his persona from the aw-shucks Jimmy of the ‘40s to the haunted figure of VERTIGO and Anthony Mann’s westerns.

The film is based on a true story but leaves a number of questions unanswered. The commentary by noir experts James Ursini and Alain Silver ably fills in the gaps.

Miscellaneous: Links

David Thomson bids farewell to MGM. And Slate considers how the Internet killed Trivial Pursuit, and maybe the generalist in general.