• The Mamie Van Doren Film Noir Collection (Kino Lorber) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Kino Lorber
    Released on: November 20th, 2018.
    Directed by: Howard W. Koch/Edward K. Cahn
    Cast: Mamie van Doren, Anne Bancroft, Lex Barker, Lee Van Cleef, Gerald Mohr, Brad Dexter, Richard Coogan
    Year: 1957/1958/1959
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    The Mamie Van Doren Film Noir Collection – Movie Reviews:

    Curvaceous blonde actress Mamie Van Doren kept pretty busy from the early fifties through to the end of the sixties by appearing in B-movies like The Beat Generation, The Navy vs. The Night Monsters, Las Vegas Hillbillies and The Candidate, as well as the three crime thrillers included in this set from Kino Lorber. Those expecting ‘pure’ noir might be disappointed but if you’ve got a soft spot for quick and easy low budget crime pictures it’s hard not to have a good time with this material – and if you’ve got a soft spot for buxom blonde bombshells, so much the better. There’s no denying that Ms. Van Doren’s physical attributes were a considerable help in the marketing of these pictures, and while she may not have been the best actress to ever walk across the silver screen, if nothing else she’s plenty entertaining in this trio of pictures.

    The Girl In Black Stockings:

    The first film in the set stars Lex Barker as a prosecutor from Los Angeles named David Hewson who takes a little vacation to Utah and falls head over heels for a hotel desk clerk named Beth Dixon (Anne Bancroft). She’s in the employ of partially paralyzed woman hater Edmund Parry (Ron Randell) and his kindly sister Julia (Marie Windsor), the owners of the hotel. Why does Edmund hate women? He was left at the alter years back, and it clearly messed him up good. Julia does what she can to take care of him, but he’s a bastard to everyone around him just the same.

    Soon enough, David and Beth discover the dead body of a gold-digging harlot in one of the hotel rooms, clearly the victim of foul play. Sheriff Jess Holmes (John Dehner) soon makes the scene and figures pretty much anyone staying in the joint could have been the one to do the dirty deed... which doesn’t really help him much in terms of trying to solve the case. The arrival of a hard-drinking stranger soon gives the killer a second opportunity to practice his trade, and shortly after he’s found dead in the pool the lovely, sultry Harriet Ames (Van Doren) gets sloshed and meets her own untimely demise. Will Holmes, with some help from Hewson, catch the killer before he or she can strike again?

    “She was every inch a teasing, taunting, "come-on" blonde... and she made every inch of it pay off!”

    A decent enough murder mystery with some legitimately noirish overtones, The Girl In Black Stockings is a more than decent way to entertain yourself for seventy-five-minutes. If it trades the typical noir locations of darkened alleys and seedy inner-city streets for… Utah, so be it. It gives the movie its own bit of character and helps it stand out a bit from the pack. The cinematography is polished enough and there are some solid murder set pieces here (and one not so solid one, that pool death is ridiculous!) and the film delivers enough murderous mayhem to hold our attention.

    As to the cast? Van Doren is only in this for a few minutes, she doesn’t get nearly as much screen time in this one a she does in the other two movies in the set. When she does appear in the film, she’s doing even more of a Marilyn Monroe impersonation than you might expect, it’s pretty blatant, but she looks great. John Dehner is quite likeable as the Sheriff way out of his element. He has a nice, small town, folksy sort of charm that goes a long way towards making us side with this character. Ran Randell is fantastic as the insanely bitter hotel owner, stealing pretty much every scene he’s in and spitting out some great dialogue with an appropriate amount of venom. Anne Bancroft isn’t as memorable here as she would be in other movies like The Graduate, more because her character is underwritten than because of her performance, which is fine.

    Guns, Girls And Gangsters!:

    Up next is Edward K. Cahn’s 1958 picture. We open with an introduction to an ex-con named Charles “Chuck” Wheeler (Gerald Mohr of The Angry Red Planet). Sprung from the joint after doing his time, he delivers a message to sexy chanteuse Vi Victor (Van Doren) – her old man Mike Bennett (Lee Van Cleef), still in prison, isn’t going to give her that divorce she wants. After slapping her around a bit, it’s obvious that Chuck is into Vi and that she’s more than a little intrigued by him as well… but Chuck’s got bigger fish to fry! He and his pal Joe Darren (Grant Richards) are set on launching an elaborate scheme to rob an armored car. This involves blowing out the tire with a sniper rifle so that it’ll stop just in front of the hotel run by Steve (John Baer) and Ann Thomas (Elaine Edwards). This just so happens to be the place where Chuck and Vi decide to hide out for a while, and one of the first destinations on Mike’s list of places to visit once he busts out of jail!

    “Our cabins don’t include built-in blondes.”
    “She might not be built-in, but she sure is built!”

    The narration in this one is pretty hokey, filling in a lot of plot holes that, yeah, needed filling. Still, if nothing else Kahn keeps this seventy-minute pictures firing on all cylinders. It’s a bit on the predictable side but the cast bring their A-game here and Van Doren gets a pretty impressive set piece where we see her perform her nightclub act to an appreciative crowd and backed by a small army of poorly choreographed male dancers. She doesn’t have much chemistry with Mohr, we never buy her attraction to him, but Van Cleef is as awesome as you’d expect Van Cleef to be in a movie where he plays a pissed off con on the run!

    The cinematography is basic but effective and the score isn’t half bad. Bonus points for featuring some great footage of the old Fremont Street in the Las Vegas of 1958. This one might not be the most original picture and it’s definitely more of a crime film than a proper film noir, but it is pretty entertaining stuff and a whole lot of fun from start to finish.

    Vice Raid:

    Last but not least, Vice Raid, also directed by Cahn, promised viewers a ‘syndicate owned sin-center smash!’ but it turns out to be the lesser of the three pictures in the set. Still, at seventy-minutes in length it doesn’t ask much of us and it gives up enough entertainment value in return.

    When the story opens, vice cops Whitey Brandon (Richard Coogan) and Ben Dunton (Joseph Sullivan) have nabbed a nogoodnik named Muggsy (Shepherd Sanders) for transporting a woman across the state line. They know what he’s up to and they’ve caught him red-handed, but if he agrees to rat out the man in charge, one Vince Malone (Brad Dexter), they’ll let him off. There’s an interesting twist, however, when Dunton shoots Muggsy while Brandon isn’t paying attention!

    After talking things over with Captain William Brennan (Frank Gerstle), Brandon starts working on a plan to bring down Malone by busting the modelling agencies that he uses as a front for his racket. Dunton, whose criminality has so far gone undetected by his fellow cops, occasionally throws a monkey wrench into his partner’s plans. Meanwhile, Malone cooks up a scheme to get Brandon off his tail for good – bring in a hottie from Detroit named Carol Hudson (Mamie Van Doren), let her get busted and have her falsely accuse Brandon of extorting her! When Malone’s plan works and Brandon gets kicked off the force, he decides to take the law into his own hands and bring Malone down for good.

    The most tepid of the three pictures in the set, this one is worth seeing mainly for Van Doren’s presence. Again, she’s not really delivering anything all that amazing in terms of her performance, but she’s got sex appeal and charisma to spare and as such, she works well in the part she’s given. The movie isn’t as salacious as its subject matter might make it sound, as prostitution is more alluded to than it is actually shown in the film, but some of the dialogue is amusing in a clichéd type of hardboiled manner. It’s all a bit stagey (most of this looks to have been shot on a soundstage or studio lot) and light on both style and substance, but it still manages to make for an amusing enough time killer. Coogan is decent enough in the lead and like the second film in the series, we’re once again treated to some occasionally completely unnecessary narration but it is well put together and an interesting slice of vintage exploitation.

    The Mamie Van Doren Film Noir Collection – Blu-ray Review:

    The three films in the set are spread across two discs with The Girl In Black Stockings on the first 25GB disc and the other two films on the second disc 50GB disc. All three pictures are framed at 1.85.1 widescreen and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. The transfers are taken from new 2k restorations and generally speaking they look very good indeed. The black and white transfers show very good detail and only minor, sporadic print damage now and again, nothing major to complain about. The film grain you’d expect to see is there, each transfer devoid of any noticeable noise reduction. Edge enhancement and compression artifacts are never a problem, and we get strong, deep blacks and nice, clean whites throughout. Contrast also looks fine and there’s solid depth, detail and texture here.

    Each film in this collection is given the DTS-HD Mono treatment, in English. There are no alternate language or subtitle options provided. There’s some sibilance in the higher end of the audio but otherwise the tracks sound fine. Dialogue is clear enough and aside from a few mumbled words here and there, generally very easy to follow. The respective scores used for the three films sounds nice and the tracks are properly balanced throughout.

    The main extra is an interview on the first disc with Ms. Van Doren herself entitled Sex Kitten Confidential and running sixteen-minutes in length. Here she talks about her career in film and offer some interesting memories form the heyday of her career. It’s not super deep but it is pretty cool to hear her look back on this material.

    The first disc also includes trailers for each of the three films in the set. Both discs include menus and chapter selection. Kino has packaged this release with a slipcover.

    The Mamie Van Doren Film Noir Collection – The Final Word:

    The Mamie Van Doren Film Noir Collection doesn’t offer the type of shadowy suspense so often associated with the movement, but it more than makes up for that with plenty of thrills, chills and action! Each of the B-grade pictures in this set delivers plenty of entertainment and Kino Lorber’s presentation is strong across the board. The interview with Van Doren is the icing on the cake. Recommended!