There's nothing like a nice, smoky film noir to keep you warm over the holidays. In recent weeks Kino Lorber's Studio Classics line has released a number of classic noirs on Blu-ray that are definitely worth your attention. Many of these films were previously available as part of the excellent Fox Film Noir line that helped bolster my collection about a decade ago.
Kino Lorber's new presentations of these films bring them boldly into the 21st century with great transfers and a combination of new and archival bonus material that any lover of film noir will definitely appreciate. Continue reading below for more details.
I ordered this list roughly from top to bottom, and Daisy Kenyon - while questionable as a film noir - is most certainly my favorite of these films. A large part of my enthusiasm for the film is reserved for the performance of one of my favorite actresses, the inimitable Joan Crawford. Her portrayal of the titular Daisy is one of fierce defiance toward the social and sexual mores of the time. There's a reason it's her face front-and-center on the poster, Daisy Kenyon belongs to Joan Crawford.
Daisy Kenyon is a working commercial artist torn between two lovers. Her heart belongs to the philandering Dan O'Mara (Dana Andrews), a married attorney with whom she's been carrying on an affair for some time. Her head, however, is trying to steer her toward military man, Peter Lapham (Henry Fonda), a sweet, fawning wisp of a man who falls instantly in love with this woman he cannot have.
As Daisy wrangles her emotions in an attempt to make the right choice, her two options grow increasingly unstable in their attempts to claim her as their own. However, she is no man's property and the men's machinations to wrest her from the hands of the other lead her to her own truth.
Otto Preminger's (Laura) Daisy Kenyon is a startlingly bold film coming from the late '40s. Daisy's control of her own destiny and sexuality while attempting to juggle the affections of two different men comes off as proof that she is a woman to be reckoned with. However, at no point does she surrender her femininity or grace while faced with this choice, she is the master of her own life, and the film presents her as such without submitting her to more demure stereotypes that would have weakened her.
Daisy Kenyon marks a modest upgrade in A/V quality from the previous DVD edition. The black and white cinematography looks wonderful, however, the transfer does show damage at numerous points. None of the damage is extreme, however, it's clear that the film hasn't been cleaned up. In terms of sharpness and clarity it wavers throughout the film, largely due to the beauty shots of Crawford, which cover the image in a vague vaseline glow.
Several archival featurettes appear on this disc discussing the history of film noir at Fox and the production with stars of such high caliber. Crawford, Andrews, and Fonda were all a handful separately, but together they were even more trouble. Add to that mix the dynamic and often volatile Preminger and it was surely a lively set.
I love Daisy Kenyon, and barring some miraculous restoration this is certainly the best edition of the film on home video for some time to come.