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Case Number 15210

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Forgotten Noir & Crime: Collection 4

Mr. District Attorney
1941 // 66 Minutes // Not Rated
Highway 13
1948 // 59 Minutes // Not Rated
Sky Liner
1949 // 49 Minutes // Not Rated
Treasure Of Monte Cristo
1949 // 77 Minutes // Not Rated
Counterspy Meets Scotland Yard
1950 // 67 Minutes // Not Rated
Motor Patrol
1950 // 66 Minutes // Not Rated
Radar Secret Service
1950 // 57 Minutes // Not Rated
Roaring City
1951 // 57 Minutes // Not Rated
Western Pacific Agent
1951 // 60 Minutes // Not Rated
Released by VCI Home Video
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // December 11th, 2008

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All Rise...

Appellate Judge James A. Stewart had the time, and this collection had the crime.

Editor's Note

Our review of Forgotten Noir: Collection 3, published May 30th, 2008, is also available.

The Charge

"If you've got the time, we've got the crime"

Opening Statement

It's not just noir this time. The title on the box reads Forgotten Noir & Crime: Collection 4, acknowledging that the latest package of previously unreleased B-movies, mostly from Lippert Pictures, covers the range of crime movie variations, tagging along with spies, motorcycle cops, district attorneys, and a railway agent, among others.

Cynics out there might be thinking, "Hey, these movies were forgotten for a reason!" True, these movies are largely forgettable. However, they're mostly decent diversions, and you could find a couple of gems in the package.

Facts of the Case

Forgotten Noir & Crime: Collection 4 contains nine movies on three discs:

Disc One
Counterspy Meets Scotland Yard: David Harding and his team descend on a desert research facility after their man there is killed. They meet a Scotland Yard investigator and a secretary (Amanda Blake, Gunsmoke) who is being pumped for information with a hypnotic drug.

Radar Secret Service: "And to think that Dick Tracy used it before it was invented." That's an inside joke, since Ralph Byrd, who played the copper, is one of the radar men who go after atomic materials hijackers with their nifty gadgets. Myrna Dell stands out as a waitress whose boyfriend faces the rap.

Motor Patrol: The hit-and-run death of a motorcycle cop is somehow tied to another hit-and-run fatality and a stolen car ring. The story is taken from actual LAPD traffic division files.

Disc Two
Mr. District Attorney: The marked money that's turning up could link a missing criminal (Peter Lorre) to a crooked politician. Meanwhile, a new assistant DA keeps having run-ins with a reporter (Florence Rice, whose dad was sportswriter Grantland Rice). Could these run-ins lead to romance?

Western Pacific Agent: Agent Rod Kendall looks into the murder of a station agent and a payroll theft with the help of a nearsighted witness (Sid Melton).

Highway 13: When the investigator sent in to probe a series of trucking accidents is killed, trucker Hank Wilson becomes a lightning rod, which could lead to a shock for his fiancee Doris.

Disc Three
Treasure of Monte Cristo: Seaman Ed Dantes (Glenn Langan, The Amazing Colossal Man), a descendant of you-know-who, finds himself falsely accused of murder. A devious dame could be the key to clearing his name in this modern reworking of a classic novel.

Roaring City: Denny O'Brien (Hugh Beaumont, Leave it to Beaver), who appeared in an earlier collection, turns up again, placing bets for a boxing manager and posing as a woman's husband to get rid of her ex-boyfriend in a reworking of stories from radio's Pat Novak for Hire.

Sky Liner: "One never knows with whom one is traveling," a passenger says. In this case, there are a couple of murderers on board, not to mention a foreign official with a lot of cash, suspected spies, and an FBI agent.

The Evidence

My favorite movie in this collection was Western Pacific Agent. It was a cheapie, but things just clicked. Kent Taylor (Boston Blackie) made a good hero as weary railway agent Rod Kendall. He had a good rapport with Sid Melton as a goofy witness and Frank Richards as a hobo informant. Mickey Knox (The Godfather: Part III) shines as the murderous robber who ends up riding the rails as a hobo after discovering the loot is marked. Morris Carnovsky (Cyrano de Bergerac) makes his expressions spot on as the father who fears his son has turned to crime.

Sharing a disc with Western Pacific Agent, you'll find some snappy comic exchanges between Dennis O'Keefe (The Lady Wants Mink) and Florence Rice (At the Circus) in Mr. District Attorney and a competent Robert Lowery (Batman and Robin) melodrama in Highway 13. If you just want to sample a couple of good cheapies, you might be able to find this disc (Volume 11) separately.

Elsewhere, Counterspy Meets Scotland Yard, a Columbia programmer, gets a boost from strong performances by Ron Randell (O.S.S.) and Amanda Blake. It's still hokey, with Randell's British agent making a really careless mistake to prompt a final confrontation. The same goes for Treasure of Monte Cristo.

Other than that, what you've got is time passers. Radar Secret Service and Motor Patrol are okay melodramas, with Radar getting ridiculous with its amazingly impossible gadgetry. Sky Liner is a whodunit in the one-set confines of a passenger plane. It would be the low point in the set if not for Hugh Beaumont's underwhelming turn in Roaring City. Would you believe there are at least two other films in the Denny O'Brien series?

Comic relief actor Sid Melton gets a lot of play in this set, with broad dialogue full of malaprops and non sequiturs. Look for him in Radar Secret Service, Motor Patrol, Western Pacific Agent, and Treasure of Monte Cristo.

Picture quality is uneven. One of the movies has a legend on the screen to warn of possible glitches, but you'll find grain, scratches, and lines in just about all of them, not to mention night scenes that are hard to read. That's understandable, but be forewarned.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

While VCI's collections are a bargain for people who've spent a lot of time watching old movies, if you have a low tolerance for black-and-white movies or low budgets, you won't get much out of Forgotten Noir & Crime: Collection 4. If you're relatively new to vintage noir, your time might be better spent checking out the classics.

Except for some trailers, extras are nonexistent here. Previous VCI collections have done better.

Closing Statement

That teaser on the box—"If you've got the time, we've got the crime"—is rather modest, and VCI succeeds in its modest goal of bringing a collection of obscure movies to light at a modest price ($3 a movie at Amazon.com). This collection lacks the features that add to the fun and put the movies in context that earlier VCI collections have had. Thus, you should take a look at earlier collections before making your purchase.

If some of those plots and casts above sounded intriguing to you, though, you'll probably enjoy Forgotten Noir & Crime: Collection 4, although there are a couple of dull ones in the mix.

The Verdict

Not guilty, although VCI is reprimanded for slipping on the extras.

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Genres

• Classic
• Crime
• Drama
• Film Noir

Scales of Justice, Mr. District Attorney

Video: 82
Audio: 82
Extras: 0
Acting: 86
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:
• English
Running Time: 66 Minutes
Release Year: 1941
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Mr. District Attorney

• None

Scales of Justice, Highway 13

Video: 78
Audio: 80
Extras: 0
Acting: 80
Story: 75
Judgment: 78

Perp Profile, Highway 13

Studio: VCI Home Video
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 59 Minutes
Release Year: 1948
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Highway 13

• None

Scales of Justice, Sky Liner

Video: 77
Audio: 80
Extras: 0
Acting: 75
Story: 72
Judgment: 76

Perp Profile, Sky Liner

Studio: VCI Home Video
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 49 Minutes
Release Year: 1949
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Sky Liner

• None

Scales of Justice, Treasure Of Monte Cristo

Video: 77
Audio: 80
Extras: 0
Acting: 83
Story: 80
Judgment: 80

Perp Profile, Treasure Of Monte Cristo

Studio: VCI Home Video
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 77 Minutes
Release Year: 1949
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Treasure Of Monte Cristo

• None

Scales of Justice, Counterspy Meets Scotland Yard

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

Perp Profile, Counterspy Meets Scotland Yard

Studio: VCI Home Video
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 67 Minutes
Release Year: 1950
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Counterspy Meets Scotland Yard

• None

Scales of Justice, Motor Patrol

Video: 78
Audio: 80
Extras: 0
Acting: 80
Story: 75
Judgment: 79

Perp Profile, Motor Patrol

Studio: VCI Home Video
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 66 Minutes
Release Year: 1950
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Motor Patrol

• None

Scales of Justice, Radar Secret Service

Video: 78
Audio: 80
Extras: 0
Acting: 80
Story: 70
Judgment: 77

Perp Profile, Radar Secret Service

Studio: VCI Home Video
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 57 Minutes
Release Year: 1950
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Radar Secret Service

• None

Scales of Justice, Roaring City

Video: 78
Audio: 80
Extras: 0
Acting: 75
Story: 68
Judgment: 75

Perp Profile, Roaring City

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, Roaring City

• None

Scales of Justice, Western Pacific Agent

Video: 80
Audio: 80
Extras: 0
Acting: 85
Story: 85
Judgment: 83

Perp Profile, Western Pacific Agent

Studio: VCI Home Video
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 60 Minutes
Release Year: 1951
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Western Pacific Agent

• None








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