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Nightmare Alley Criterion Blu-ray Review

“Nightmare Alley” is a different sort of film noir.

1947’s “Nightmare Alley” (which is soon to have a new adaptation by Guillermo Del Toro) is a film noir based on the novel by William Lindsay Gresham. The story revolves around a carnival worker named Stanton who dreams of more. He’s a shady opportunist that will use people to further his career. That’s exactly what he does when he winds up scoring mentalist acts in the circus with Zeena and later with Molly (who he eventually marries) outside of the circus. Still not satisfied, Stanton winds up collaborating with a psychologist (Lilith) who may or may not have her own agenda.

A film noir largely set in a circus is a unique combo to be sure and it works wonders thanks to director Edmund Goulding and writer Jules Furthman. Not only is it visually appealing and artfully done, but it obviously stands out in the genre. From a story perspective, there are a lot of traditional film noir tropes here with the femme fatale and so forth, but this plays more like a dark morality tale. It doesn’t unfold like a standard film noir nor does it end like one. It’s more of an almost Twilight Zoneish story about fate, cons, dreams, and losing yourself. I don’t want to give too much away for those that haven’t seen it yet, but it feels like a fresh entry in the film noir genre even now.

The castis top notch. Tyrone Power (who was normally known for hero roles) played against type here and flexed his acting muscles as a greedy schemer. Although I wish the role of Lilith was developed a tad bit more, Helen Walker is exceptional as the mysterious Lilith. Coleen Gray is in many ways the heart of the movie as she has both a heart and a conscience in this world of murky characters. 


Presentation: 1.37:1 1080p. How does it look? With the 4K digital restoration, this B&W print looks positively pristine.

Audio Track: Uncompressed Mono. How does it sound? You can’t ask for a better Mono track. It’s a nice clean track through and through.

* 6 tarot cards (nice touch here).
* A booklet with photos, credits and an essay by Kim Morgan.
* “Nightmare Alley” trailer.
* A 1971 audio interview excerpt with director Henry King by Thomas R. Stemple.
* A 2007 interview with actor Coleen Gray who talks about her experiences in working on “Nightmare Alley.”
* A new interview with performance artist/sideshow historian Todd Robbins.
* A new interview with author/film critic Imogen Sara Smith.
* A 2005 commentary by film historians Alain Silver and James Ursini.

May 24, 2021 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , ,

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