No, this isn’t the Patrick Swayze vehicle. Instead, it’s another golden opportunity for Richard Widmark to unleash his patented psycho act. Here he plays Jefty, playboy owner of the titular establishment. His right-hand man is Pete (Cornel Wilde), who is the serious-minded half of the partnership. Said partnership is strained when Jefty brings back the latest singer for the club, one Lily (Ida Lupino, in superb hard-boiled form). Pete thinks she’s bad news, and she is, only not in the way any of the three suspect. Jefty decides he’s in love with her, but she only has eyes for Pete, and he, despite misgivings, reciprocates. Jefty doesn’t take rejection well. Not well at all…
The cast is terrific, bouncing cynical zingers off each other with aplomb. Wilde does well as the world-weary Pete, but Lupino and Widmark own the field, and their final confrontation is one for the books. Enormous fun for noir fans, and especially for lovers of Widmark as a terrifying nutjob.
The original mono is the only option, and that’s probably for the best, given how oddly so many stereo remixes turn out. The mono is crisp, clean and essentially free of static and distortion. Not too much to add beyond that, but it certainly gets the job done, and all of that choice dialogue is perfectly reproduced.
The film is from 1948, so a certain degree of visible age is to be expected. And so there is, in a very minor way – very slight grain and damage if you really go looking for it, and a tendency for some scenes to flicker (again, in a very slight way). To all intents and purposes, though, it’s hard to imagine that the film looked any better in the theatres sixty years ago. I can’t imagine many viewers complaining with the work on display here.
Noir historians Kim Morgan and Eddie Muller have a fine old time on the commentary track, and their enthusiasm for the film is infectious. They are also dead right in emphasizing the ferocious sexuality that Lupino brings to the role. “Killer Instincts: Richard Widmark and Ida Lupino at Twentieth Century Fox” is a very solid featurette that is essentially a career retrospective for both actors. An interactive pressbook and still galleries round out the extras.
Plenty of violence and sex, 40s style, hear for your considerable viewing pleasure. Recommended.