Saturday, February 19, 2011

Phil Karlson's KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL now available on Hi-Def DVD

A fine example of a "B" movie from the 50s ('52 to be exact) that holds up better than most, KANSAS CITY CON-FIDENTIAL is also a good example of the smart, fast, no-nonsense work of director (and very occasional, uncredited writer) Phil Karlson (at left), who turned out over time a bevy of good noir-ish crime, western & action flicks (including the original Walking Tall), as well as comedies, musicals -- even some Charlie Chan and Bowery Boys films.

KC Confidential is one of Karlson's better movies, featuring a nice, twisty plot; an underdog hero (John Payne, above, right) for whom you can really root; a smart, curvy dame (Coleen Gray, above, center) who's cramming for the bar exam (yes, women did that way back in the early 50s!); and a good, thought-out story that contains equal doses of surprise and sense. Oh, and some crisp black-and-white cinematography, too (from George E. Diskant).

We're in the old armed-robbery genre, with some particularly nasty hoods -- Jack Elam, Lee Van Cleef and Neville Brand -- and a police officer (Preston Foster, below, right) who also happens to be the father of our soon-to-be-a-lawyer gal. That's it for plot because this one's too good to spoil.  I'll just say that practically all the stuff we see in todays' would-be neo-noirs can be found here -- in a movie made some 60 years ago. The pacing may be slower (it's actually pretty swift for its time), and the violence and bloodshed tamped down from our current level (though it was considered hard-boiled in its day).

You may want a bit darker an ending, though I found the way things work out to be pretty sweet, in both senses of the word. The new DVDs (one regular, the other Blu-Ray) in a single combo set and priced suggested retail at $15.99, hit the street this past Tuesday, February 15, from Film Chest/HD Cinema Classics and Virgil Films & Entertainment. Digitally restored in hi-def from original 35mm "film assets" in a full-screen aspect ratio of 4x3 and original sound, as well as a new 5.1 Surround Sound mix.  Overall the quality of the image and sound is good but not great.  Nothing'll take your breath away, but you won't mind viewing it, either.  The movie itself is also available via streaming from Netflix, though not in this new hi-def version.

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