Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Call Northside 777 |
Fox Film Noir
Actors: James Stewart, Richard Conte, Lee J. Cobb, Helen Walker, Betty Garde
Genres: Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Based on a true incident in which a reporter tries to prove that an innocent man was convicted of murder. Studio: Tcfhe Release Date: 03/15/2005 Starring: James Stewart Richard Conte Run time: 111 minutes Rating: Nr ... more »
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Martha H. from GENESEO, IL
Reviewed on 10/1/2013...
Love it love it love it! This has been one of my favorites since the first time I saw it!
Classic noir finally arrives on DVD
Wayne Klein | My Little Blue Window, USA | 03/07/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Once in a while the writer gets to be the hero. In Henry Hathaway's classic film noir thriller Chicago Times editor Brian Kelly (Lee J. Cobb) sends investigative reporter P. J. McNeal (Jimmy Stewart) to investigates a 1933 murder when he comes across a classified ad offering a reward for info on the case. Although skeptical at first about the innocence of convicted cop killer Frank Wiecek (Richard Conte), all the mysterious dead ends McNeal encounters convinces him that the might be something to the story. Never garnering the critical acclaim or following of other directors, Henry Hathaway ("True Grit", "Nevada Smith", "Kiss of Death") created a series of worthwhile thrillers, westerns and action films. Sadly much of Hathaway's work has been overlooked because he was viewed as little more than a workman-like film director. Although Hathaway doesn't fit into the French auteur theory that made stars of film directors like Orson Welles, John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock and Michael Powell, his films always feature strong performances, well written and intelligent scripts. "Calling Northside 777" ranks as a strong film noir based on a true story (much like Hitchcock's well regarded thriller "The Wrong Man") and many of the exteriors were shot on location a rarity at the time. This unusual film straddles the line between docudrama, Italian neorealism and film noir much like Anthony Mann's minor classic film "T-Men" (1947). The crisp, intelligent script by Jay Dratler ("Laura") and Jerome Cady ("Wing and a Prayer" sadly Cady died shortly after the film premiered) rings true with dialogue that doesn't sound dated despite the passage of nearly 60 years.
A sharp, crisp looking transfer highlights "Calling Northside 777" making it another outstanding release in Fox's Film Noir Series of vintage classics. The cinematography of Joseph MacDonald with its rich use of shadows and unusual lighting schemes looks exceptionally rich with solid blacks. The mono sound doesn't suffer from hiss or any of the usual problems from a film made in the late 40's. Fox has expanded the sound a bit using an artificial stereo mix that sounds quite good.
Fox has generously provided a "Fox Movietone News" for the film's premiere. Although it runs a little less than a minute this vintage peak into Hollywood's past is much appreciated. It would have been nice to have one of the A&E Biography segments on the actors involved in the production whether it be about Stewart or Lee J. Cobb. We also get the original theatrical trailer which is a blast to have and compare to the overblown theatrical trailers we have today. Finally we get film trailers for other Fox Film Noir Classic titles "House of Bamboo", "Laura", "Panic in the Streets" and "The Street with No Name".
Featuring a trivia filled commentary track by film historians and authors James Ursini and Alain Silver, we learn quite a bit about the real case that inspired the film and also quite a bit about the shortcuts the producers took to dramatize the story. What's most fascinating is to note how Jimmy Stewart's performance here changes compared to the two previous films he made; "Magic Town" and "It's a Wonderful Life" weren't big hits and they were also the last two films where Stewart played on his boyish persona. Here Stewart plays a much more hard bitten cynical character with compassion at the core of his character. This persona would be put to excellent use in the films that Stewart made for Anthony Mann, Hitchcock and other directors. "Calling Northside 777" was really the first major change that Stewart made to his screen persona in some time. As the authors point out what motivated Stewart to make the change were these film failure but also the fact that Stewart was about to turn 40. This mid-life/mid-career crisis shifted Stewart into some of his most rewarding film roles of his career.
A terrific and overlooked movie, "Call Northside 777" finally gets its due on this DVD. Although the extras could be a bit more generous with biographies of the main actors/production staff, the commentary track makes up for this short fall with trivia about the production of the film and the year it was made. The sharp image quality of the DVD and solid mastering make this an essential purchase for noir fans.
He don't do this thing.
Steven Hellerstedt | 08/02/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A poor woman, Tillie Wiecek (Kasia Orzazewski), runs a newspaper ad offering $5000 for the capture and conviction of the men who killed a Chicago policeman over a decade ago (`Call Northside 777.) Her son Frank (Richard Conte) was tried, convicted and sentenced to 99 years for the murder, but she's convinced of his innocence. City Editor Brian Kelly (Lee J. Cobb) reads the article and assigns beat reporter P.J. McNeal (James Stewart) to investigate the story. There are angles to be played.
And played they are. They liked to rip `em from the headlines back then, too. CALL NORTHSIDE 777 (1948) is an old school docu-drama, one of a number to emerge in the immediate post-war era. Armed with lighter cameras and faster film stocks, steeled with a passion for location and a love of verisimilitude, these movies boldly left the dressed set for the dirty street. In this case it's the Polish ghettos and the grimy prisons of broad-shouldered Chicago that are surveyed. Stewart, in one of his first non-boy ingenue roles, is given a chance to play a skeptic, an ambitious assignment reporter with a deep well of cynicism and an eye for the angle. Films like CALL NORTHSIDE 777 not only open with a title card telling us "This is a true story," they emphasize that all important point by assuring us that `real locations were used whenever possible.' The movie opens with an extended montage of Chicago from the Great Fire (I think that one, at least, must have come from a reenactment in another movie) to the Prohibition era, replete with Chicago's finest smashing casks of bootleg hooch and brief newsreel footage of such real-life notorati as John Dillinger and Al Capone. All this preface material blends seemingly seamlessly into the movie proper.
Stewart was always a relaxed and easy-going actor. The understated, naturalistic approach this movie takes suits him well. In fact, the highlights of the film are the scenes he shares with Kasia Orzazewski, who seemed to have little more to offer than naive sincerity. Understatement is the key word here, though, and Orzazewski's lack of actress-y affectations adds, rather than detracts, from things. Lee J. Cobb and Richard Conte come off well, too. I should mention poor Helen Walker, who plays Stewart wife and gets maybe ten minutes of screen time. She's more or less a sounding board, a film contrivance who's there only to give Stewart someone to share his humanizing doubts with. As James Ursini and Alain Silver point out on the commentary track - a pretty good one, although Ursini has an annoying habit of dropping his voice to a hard-to-hear whisper at the end of sentences - the Production Code forced the McNeals to sleep in separate twin beds. What they don't mention, at least I didn't hear it, was the rather anti-Code exposé of police corruption the movie investigates.
Also, as Ursini points out, this movie loves technology. Photo transmitting gizmos, miniature cameras, and sophisticated telephone relay stations are all lingered over. Most glaringly there is a really, really long polygraph session scene that features the non-actor inventor of polygraph technology Leonarde Keeler. It probably came across as cutting edge back then, but it reads `quaint' today. In fact, it's yet another `new' technology that director Henry Hathaway spends a good thirty minutes building up to that provides the vital piece in the movie's resolution. I won't give it away, but the `evidence', the one that the movie is so proud of, is totally bogus! If I was one of the half-dozen or so attorneys crowding into the frame during that nearly final scene I'd have been sputtering outrage. Still, it didn't quite wreck things for me. In fact, I loved CALL NORTHSIDE 777 as much for its flaws as I did for its strengths. It's not perfect or even all that convincing, but it gets a strong recommendation nonetheless.
Stop the Presses
Steven Hellerstedt | 04/18/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For my money this is the best film ever made about American journalism. James Stewart is a staff writer made cycnical over the years by the grubby sensationalism and shallow hackwork that fills most American newspapers. When he actually latches onto a case of genuine injustice it's an episode that transforms his life almost as much as that of the convict he's trying to free. This is certainly director Henry Hathaway's masterpiece and he has never been given sufficient credit for it. The straight-on realism he achieved filming on location in Chicago has rarely if ever been equalled in the American movies in my view, and no effort was made to clean up the untidy skeins of the story either as Hollywood was wont to do. For instance, nothing was done to free the man unjustly convicted along with Richard Conte's character, around whom the story revolves. If you were to make a list of Stewart's 4 or 5 greatest performances this would have to be on it. He uses methods both praiseworthy and ugly to get what he's after and no American movie actor ever brought home that kind of mixed morality better."