Fox has done a really great thing with their Fox Film Noir line. There are tons of great film noirs from the 40’s and 50’s, and Fox has done an excellent job of grabbing those classic films and presenting them in great new affordable editions for modern viewers to experience for the first time. I Wake Up Screaming is one of 18 films currently in the series, and I am sure that number will only continue to grow over time.
Betty Grable shows up here in a starring role that is a departure from her u…ual flirty faire. Here she plays a secretary, the sister of a murdered model. The film is told in flashbacks through the police interrogation process, as the investigation into who murdered this mysterious woman slowly unfolds. We discover that Grable’s character has fallen in love with the prime suspect, and the more questions the police ask, the deeper the story goes. Plot twists, quick dialog and shady characters fill this film, and the whole sorted affair builds to a gutsy surprise ending.
Audio is presented in two formats here; the original mono, and a modern stereo track. Actually, I was surprised to find that I preferred the mono track to the stereo. The stereo track is mixed at a lower volume, which makes the overall soundscape slightly harder to hear. The mono track, on the other hand, presents everything much more evenly. Neither track has any sense of nuance or audio movement, so I would go with the more dynamic mono track under the circumstances.
The film is presented in its original full screen format. The quality is something of a mixed bag. Considering the fact that the film was shot in 1941, the images look surprisingly clean. There are none of those nagging problems with scratches and dust that you see so very often in films of this age. There is a noticeable problem with grain, however. The scenes are by no means sharp, but they are clean. Black levels are decent, which is so very important in a film noir due to the high contrast levels. I was also quite pleased to see that there are no problems with digital artifacts creating artificial colors, which sometimes happens in older black and white films. On the whole, I would say that I was pleased with this above-average transfer.
The main extra here is an audio commentary by film historian Eddie Muller. While Miller is certainly knowledgeable both of classic films and film noirs in particular, it kind-of seems like he is just rambling during his first viewing of the film. He has some very interesting insights and stories to tell about the actors, but much of his commentary is actually spent in silence as he watches the film.
There is also a deleted scene included here, which is really rare for a film from the 40’s. At the time, the point was to get the movie made, and all the “scraps” were usually thrown away. The fact that a deleted scene exists at all is surprising. There is also quite a large set of photographs included on the disc, including a poster gallery, a production stills gallery and a unit photography gallery. Clearly, Fox went all out to provide as much supplemental material as they could find for this disc, and for a DVD with a low price point, that is really a classy move on their part.
The extras wrap up with the opening title treatment for the film’s alternate title, Hot Spot, and the accompanying alternate-title promotional posters. Finally, there is the token theatrical trailer, which is always fascinating to see on classic films.
Fox is doing their best to give Warner Brothers a run for their money when it comes to their treatment of classic films on DVD. While Warner’s is still the reigning champ, Fox is doing some excellent work with their Fox Film Noir line. I Wake Up Screaming is no exception. A slick little mystery film, cool chicks, snappy dialog and racy subject matter makes this a disc worth picking up, especially at Fox’s discounted price. Throw in a great collection of special features, and the value is even greater. If you are a film noir fan, there is no reason to let this disc pass you by.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary by Film Historian Eddie Muller
- “Daddy” Deleted Scene
- Poster Gallery
- Production Stills Gallery
- Unit Photography Gallery
- Hot Spot Opening Title Treatment & Poster Gallery
- Theatrical Trailer