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Case Number 13732

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Forgotten Noir: Collection 3

The Case Of The Baby-Sitter
1947 // 43 Minutes // Not Rated
Mr. District Attorney
1947 // 81 Minutes // Not Rated
Ringside
1949 // 63 Minutes // Not Rated
David Harding, Counterspy
1950 // 71 Minutes // Not Rated
Hi-Jacked
1950 // 69 Minutes // Not Rated
Danger Zone
1951 // 57 Minutes // Not Rated
Pier 23
1951 // 58 Minutes // Not Rated
Scotland Yard Inspector
1952 // 73 Minutes // Not Rated
The Big Chase
1954 // 60 Minutes // Not Rated
Released by VCI Home Video
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // May 30th, 2008

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All Rise...

Appellate Judge James A. Stewart forgot these noir films, but maybe you'll remember...On second thought, forget that.

Editor's Note

Our review of Forgotten Noir & Crime: Collection 4, published December 11th, 2008, is also available.

The Charge

MORE Hard-Hitting Heists, Murders and Espionage Than You Can Shake a Snub Nose at!

Opening Statement

When you remember noir, you probably tend to think of classics like Double Indemnity and The Third Man or strong B-movies like Dangerous Crossing. Of course, you should start any study of the genre by checking out the classics, but if you have, you may want "MORE Hard-Hitting Heists, Murders and Espionage Than You Can Shake a Snub Nose at!"

That's where a set like Forgotten Noir: Collection 3 comes in. It's heavy on second features from Robert L. Lippert (only David Harding, Counterspy and Mr. District Attorney come from other sources), known for filming fast and cheap. While that precludes an epic like Cleopatra, it doesn't mean you won't have fun.

Facts of the Case

Forgotten Noir: Collection 3 features nine movies on three discs:

Disc One: Vol. 7
David Harding, Counterspy

"I don't think I'm going to like you, Mr. Harding."
"My boy, you'll find very few human beings who do."

Spymaster David Harding sends Navy man Jerry Baldwin into a munitions plant to protect torpedo plans. When a box of popcorn is stolen at a movie, it provides a valuable clue. Really—and it's not even Cracker Jack. The movie's based on the Counterspy radio series.

Danger Zone

"There was a line of question marks doing a time step in my foggy brain…"

Denny O'Brien (Hugh Beaumont, Leave It To Beaver) is a hardboiled…boat rental operator. He's retreading cases from radio's Pat Novak For Hire. One involves sax and violence; the other involves a jealous husband who turns up dead. In both, he gets conked on the head.

The Big Chase

"Where were you? Why weren't you here?"

Patrolman Pete Grayson isn't at the hospital when his wife gives birth because he's chasing down a gang of armored car robbers that includes Lon Chaney Jr. This one was extended from the 3-D short Bandit Island.

Disc Two: Vol. 8
Mr. District Attorney

"Chief, I think you should close the office at least one night a month. It's only fair to the rats."

Adolphe Menjou (The Front Page) plays hardworking District Attorney Craig Warren, who watches protégé Steve Bennett (Dennis O'Keefe, Brewster's Millions) fall under the spell of devious dame Marcia Manning (Marguerite Chapman, The Last Page). The movie's based on the radio series.

Ringside

"Quiet, isn't it. Not like fight night, when the arena's jammed to the rafters with fans full of the lust of a good, fast fight, screaming for a knockout—or perhaps a murder…"

Pianist Mike O'Hara (Don "Red" Barry, I Shot Billy The Kid) takes to the ring to pay for an eye operation for his boxer brother Joe—and maybe get revenge on the champ, who blinded Joe in a fight. Heck, it's the only boxing story I know of in which Chopin plays an important part.

Hi-Jacked

"The cards are stacked against a guy on parole. I've got to be free in order to clear himself."

When hijackers target the same trucker (Jim Davis, The Quiet Gun) twice, an insurance investigator believes he's an accomplice. He has to find their warehouse to clear his name.

Disc Three: Vol. 9
Scotland Yard Inspector

"Mr. O'Dell, if you're entertaining any notions of playing private eye—don't."

Magazine writer Philip O'Dell (Cesar Romero, Week-End in Havana) is waiting for a plane when a woman asks him for help in proving that it was murder, not an accident, when her brother was run down by a car on a foggy night. It's based on a BBC radio serial called Lady in the Fog, and Lois Maxwell (Dr. No) plays a nightclub owner.

Pier 23

"I rent boats and do anything else good men pay bad men to do."

Denny O'Brien (Hugh Beaumont), back for more action, tries to help a priest stop an escaped convict from committing murder and gets involved in a shady wrestling match. A wrestler renders him unconscious with a hold instead of conking him on the head.

The Case of the Baby-Sitter

"I ain't gonna be a babysitter—even for you."

Detectives Russ (Tom Neal, The Hat Box Mystery), Harvard (Allen Jenkins, Destry Rides Again), and Susie (Pamela Blake, The Hat Box Mystery) reluctantly take on a babysitting assignment, but find that their royal clients are really a couple of fugitive jewel thieves.

The Evidence

There's one here you've gotta see. While, as radio host Joel Blumberg notes in his featurette, "This film has as much to do with a Scotland Yard inspector as the North Pole does with a game of golf," Scotland Yard Inspector has Cesar Romero, who's a real joker here. It looks like Romero had a ball clowning around, and everyone else involved came with him. His goofy amateur detective drives a Scotland Yard inspector (there is one, at least) and an airline reservation agent crazy, and seems more interested in making a Dusseldorf Detonator (a cocktail) and flirting with every lady in sight (and they seem interested in him) than in finding clues.

Next on my list of favorites is Mr. District Attorney. Adolph Menjou as D.A. Craig Wilson leads a strong cast as the hardworking, honest D.A. who goes out and gets conked on the head himself, if the case demands it. Watching Dennis O'Keefe gradually change his personality as his Steve Bennett falls under the spell of sultry femme fatale Marguerite Chapman makes the movie, though.

After that, you'll find three reasonably strong programmers: The Case of the Baby-Sitter is a farce, with Allen Jenkins' slow-witted Harvard getting most of the laughs; most of the action takes place in a hotel room, saving on budget. You may not buy the idea of a pianist risking his hands in the boxing ring, but Ringside kept my attention with a story that actually reflects on whether vengeance is just. Hi-Jacked is full of clichés—including an attack on the trucker that seems aimed at getting him angry and leaving plenty of clues. Jim Davis makes a likable hero with a past, though.

The Big Chase, expanded from a 3-D short called Bandit Island, lives up to its name; the cops chase the bandits—including Lon Chaney Jr.—by car, by helicopter, by boat, and on foot. As a 2-D release of a 3-D movie, it has curiosity value and is okay, but the first half of the movie is just padding. If you're doing a thesis on Robert L. Lippert and son Robert L. Lippert Jr., The Big Chase will be a must, though. David Harding, Counterspy is an acceptable time passer with serial-style action, but I wasn't impressed with the characters or performances.

The honor of low point in Forgotten Noir: Collection 3 goes to Hugh Beaumont's pair of Denny O'Brien movies. If you check out the radio episode added as a bonus on the disc, you'll notice that they seem to be a fairly close visual representation of Pat Novak For Hire episodes. You'll also be left wondering, "What's the point?" The radio actor makes a much more convincing tough talker than Hugh Beaumont, and the first-person narration changes from a necessity of the medium into a ridiculous deadweight. Worse yet, changing the name of the character takes away any name recognition.

As you'd expect, picture quality is iffy. There's nothing that makes it unwatchable, but you'll find lots of spots, flecks, and lines, not to mention the occasional freeze-up.

As for extras, a two-part interview, "Lord of the Radio," starts on Vol. 7 and continues on Vol. 8. It's a voice-only interview with Jean Greenlaw, the daughter of radio writer Phillips Lord, creator of Mr. District Attorney, Counterspy, and Gang Busters; period pictures fill the screen. The second part's fascinating, even though (or perhaps because) it concentrates on a show I've never heard of, Seth Parker. There's a re-enactment of an interview with Robert L. Lippert Jr., which explains how The Big Chase evolved from the short, Danger Island, also voice only. Radio host Joel Blumberg essentially does a review of Scotland Yard Inspector, with information added on the cast. Radio episodes from Mr. District Attorney and Pat Novak for Hire round out the package. Old-time radio fans—and I count myself in that category—could find the extras more interesting than the movies.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Low point? What do you expect for three bucks a movie, anyway? If you check your brain at the door, this big box of movies gives you enough action to while away a rainy evening.

Closing Statement

Overall, I found the package worth the time, but the movies on Vol. 7 within the collection were weakest. If you've sampled a lot of Lippert and know what you're getting, it's worth buying the whole set. If you haven't dipped this far into noir, however, you might want to sample one triple feature (either Vol. 8 or Vol. 9) instead of committing to the whole batch.

The Verdict

The cards may be stacked against bargain-basement B-movies, but Forgotten Noir: Collection 3 is free to clear itself. Not guilty.

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Genres

• Classic
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• Film Noir
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Scales of Justice, The Case Of The Baby-Sitter

Video: 80
Audio: 80
Extras: 0
Acting: 85
Story: 85
Judgment: 82

Perp Profile, The Case Of The Baby-Sitter

Studio: VCI Home Video
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 43 Minutes
Release Year: 1947
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, The Case Of The Baby-Sitter

• None

Scales of Justice, Mr. District Attorney

Video: 80
Audio: 82
Extras: 80
Acting: 90
Story: 80
Judgment: 82

Perp Profile, Mr. District Attorney

Studio: VCI Home Video
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 81 Minutes
Release Year: 1947
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Mr. District Attorney

• Mr. District Attorney Radio Episode
• Lord of the Radio, Interview with Jean Greenlaw (Part 2)
• Trailer

Scales of Justice, Ringside

Video: 80
Audio: 80
Extras: 0
Acting: 85
Story: 80
Judgment: 81

Perp Profile, Ringside

Studio: VCI Home Video
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 63 Minutes
Release Year: 1949
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Ringside

• None

Scales of Justice, David Harding, Counterspy

Video: 80
Audio: 80
Extras: 80
Acting: 75
Story: 60
Judgment: 73

Perp Profile, David Harding, Counterspy

Studio: VCI Home Video
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 71 Minutes
Release Year: 1950
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, David Harding, Counterspy

• Lord of the Radio, Interview with Jean Greenlaw (Part 1)
• Trailers

Scales of Justice, Hi-Jacked

Video: 80
Audio: 80
Extras: 0
Acting: 80
Story: 75
Judgment: 79

Perp Profile, Hi-Jacked

Studio: VCI Home Video
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 69 Minutes
Release Year: 1950
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Hi-Jacked

• None

Scales of Justice, Danger Zone

Video: 80
Audio: 80
Extras: 0
Acting: 70
Story: 70
Judgment: 74

Perp Profile, Danger Zone

Studio: VCI Home Video
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 57 Minutes
Release Year: 1951
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Danger Zone

• None

Scales of Justice, Pier 23

Video: 80
Audio: 80
Extras: 80
Acting: 70
Story: 70
Judgment: 74

Perp Profile, Pier 23

Studio: VCI Home Video
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 58 Minutes
Release Year: 1951
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Pier 23

• Pat Novak For Hire Radio Episode

Scales of Justice, Scotland Yard Inspector

Video: 80
Audio: 82
Extras: 70
Acting: 90
Story: 80
Judgment: 80

Perp Profile, Scotland Yard Inspector

Studio: VCI Home Video
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 73 Minutes
Release Year: 1952
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Scotland Yard Inspector

• Scotland Yard Inspector Featurette by Joel Blumberg
• Trailers

Scales of Justice, The Big Chase

Video: 80
Audio: 80
Extras: 80
Acting: 70
Story: 70
Judgment: 76

Perp Profile, The Big Chase

Studio: VCI Home Video
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 60 Minutes
Release Year: 1954
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, The Big Chase

• The Big Chase, Re-creation of an Interview with Robert L. Lippert Jr.








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