I Walk Alone [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Kino Lorber
Review written by and copyright: Robert Segedy (31st July 2018).
The Film

"I Walk Alone" is the first of seven pairings of stars Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas would make together and the two would become huge box office stars, but this is a chance for fans to see them together for the first time. This was Bryon Haskin’s ("War of the Worlds" (1953)) directorial debut and as such this is a classic film noir with an interesting story slant towards the ex-con. The plot is based upon a play, “Beggars are Coming to Town” by Theodore Reeves, but the film does not appear to have any of the rigidness of an adopted stage play, with the characters speaking some excellent hard nosed lines.

The plot focuses on two rum running partners during the years of Prohibition and after a run in with some potential hijackers while transporting a load of illegal booze from over the border, a shootout occurs and a man is killed during the pursuit. The two men, Frankie (Burt Lancaster) and Noll (Kirk Douglas) are partners and best friends and they agree that Noll will abandon the truck to take it on the lam while Frankie will risk driving back to the states; the one that gets away promises a 50-50 split with the other from the profits of their speakeasy establishment, The Four Kings. Immediately after jumping from the truck, Frankie hears the sounds of distant sirens, and he knows that the jig is up. The film starts with him being set free after fourteen years in prison and at the train station he is met by his brother Dave (Wendell Corey); Dave is now the bookkeeper for the successful club that Noll owns, The Regent Club. Frankie is an angry and bitter ex-con that has a score to settle with his old partner but complications develop. Frankie visits Noll at the club and there he meets Kay Lawrence (Lizabeth Scott), a piano playing torch singer who’s Noll’s girl. Frankie sees that Noll has hired several of his old associates from his earlier days; Dan (Mike Mazurki) is now the doorman and several others are employed by Noll. Noll and Frankie meet after fourteen years, but Frankie’s bitterness is more than evident; a carton of cigarettes once a month and never a visit from his old pal, Noll. Douglas is very believable as a slick, conniving glad handing club owner and his angle is diplomacy. He states that he brought the club up from nothing and that it is successful because of his personality alone. Noll is stringing along Kay, but he also has his eye on a wealthy socialite Alexis Richardson (Kristine Miller) and plans on marrying her for the guaranteed wealth and social standing. Deciding to see what Frankie is really after; Noll talks Kay into having an intimate dinner with Frankie where he reveals his checkered past to her. Kay had thought that Frankie had been in the service, but he reveals the truth about himself; that for the past fourteen years he had been serving time for a murder rap. Kay slowly begins to understand what Noll is really up to and she begins to fall for Frankie because “he is the first man that ever told her the truth.” It is revealed that Dave had Frankie sign some legal papers thus cancelling his partnership with Noll; his share of the Four Kings comes to a measly three thousand dollars. When Frankie tries to attempt a violent takeover of the club with some hired thugs, he learns that the men that he thought he hired are on Noll’s payroll as well. Frankie attempts to have Noll sign over his options in The Regent Club, Dave begins to explain that everything is set up into three corporations and that no transferals of stock can happen without the board of governor’s permission. These scenes made me think of a similar scene in the British neo-noir "The Long Good Friday" (1980) where Bob Hoskins encounters the same type of situation; it seems that the days of the strong arm shakedown are long gone and only relics like Frankie currently remain. Noll tells Frankie "The world's spun right past you, Frankie. In the 20's you were great. In the 30's you might've made the switch, but today you're finished. As dead as the headlines the day you went into prison."

Lancaster is an amazing and versatile actor and halfway through the film his character suffers a beat down by three men, including Dan, who remarks afterward that he always liked Frankie. Kay leaves the club only to find a beaten and battered Frankie, his face cut and bleeding. They make plans to have Dave met them later at Frankie’s rented room, but after a confrontational scene with Noll where Dave threatens to tell all, he is brutally murdered by one of Noll’s men, shot twice in the back. Leaving Kay’s place the two walk down the street oblivious to the impending manhunt that is on the lookout for him; Noll has informed the authorities that Frankie killed Dave and he figures to just let the cops do their job. It isn’t until that a newspaper corner boy announces that Lancaster is wanted for murder that the duo realizes that once again Noll has taken advantage of the situation. The performance by Wendell Corey as Dave is very good, with him playing a man that was intimidated and beaten down, but nonetheless finds the inner resourcefulness to decide that he has had enough and decides to make a stand.

The climatic finish of the film is pure noir with the three main characters meeting at the closed night club; the place is enveloped in shadows and mood lighting. Frankie confronts Noll and fools him into thinking that he has a gun in his pocket (the oldest trick in the book) and makes Noll write a confession to the murder of Dave. At the last moment, the authorities bust in and instead of arresting Frankie, they lead Noll off to the station house, but not before the elusive Noll talks the detectives into letting him stop for a final drink. Reaching for an easy gun, he is shot down while trying to make his getaway. The final scene is the couple walking away into the incoming fog that envelops them, a satisfying conclusion to an oddly romantic film noir.

This film is a great addition to my film noir library simply because of the cast involved; Lancaster, Douglas, Scott, the wonderful Marc Lawrence as pal Nick Palestro, and the brooding hulk Mike Mazurki as Dan. Director Haskin manages to convey the uneasiness of Frankie being released into the new modern world of 1947 after a long time in stir. Cinematographer Leo Tover brings a casebook noir look to the film with his camera work and the costumes by Edith Head are wonderful. All in all this is a classic that you will definitely want to add to your film library.

Video

Presented in the film's original ratio, 1.33:1 full screen mastered in HD 1080p 24/fps using AVC MPEG-4 compression. The image has a bit of speckling is present here and there, but nothing to complain about, the film is visually enjoyable and watchable.

Audio

English DTS-HD Master audio 2.0 mono, the audio is pretty good and there is a lot of music in the film including some classic pieces by Hoagy Carmichael and Burton Lane. The background music blends in and does not overshadow the dialogue. There are optional subtitles in English for the hearing impaired.

Extras

The audio commentary by Troy Howarth is jammed packed with all types of film facts and noir notions and Howarth speaks throughout the entire feature.

There are also bonus trailers for:

- "The Devil’s Disciple" (2:55)
- "Valdez is Coming" (2:51)
- "Cast a Giant Shadow" (3:40)
- "Elmer Gantry" (3:17)
- "The Indian Fighter" (2:25)

Packaging

Packaged in a standard blu-ray keep case with artwork.

Overall

Described on the box as a “Brand New HD Master – From a 4K Scan of the 35mm Safety Dupe Negative by Paramount Pictures" this presentation from Kino Lorber is a delight with the extra added feature of audio commentary by film historian Troy Howarth that runs the length of the film. An obvious step up from the older run presentations of this film.

The Film: A Video: A Audio: A Extras: B Overall: A-

 


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