Sunday, January 24, 2021

Tonight's Movie: Calcutta (1947) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

One of my very favorite Alan Ladd films, CALCUTTA (1947), has been made available for home viewing for the first time thanks to Kino Lorber.

CALCUTTA was released last summer in Kino Lorber's THE DARK SIDE OF CINEMA IV collection, along with AN ACT OF MURDER (1948) and SIX BRIDGES TO CROSS (1955).  The latter film, starring Tony Curtis, was reviewed here last August, and with the pace of new releases slowing a bit recently due to the holidays, I'm now enjoying circling back to complete reviewing the rest of this set.

I first saw CALCUTTA via a "gray market" DVD in 2011.  I enjoyed it but my liking for the movie definitely grew when I revisited it in a beautiful new digital print at the 2017 Noir City Festival in Hollywood.  By the time I saw it again at the 2019 Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival in Palm Springs, I loved it.  I'm quite thrilled that it's now out on a lovely Blu-ray.

Ladd plays Neale Gordon, a pilot working the Calcutta to Chungking aviation route alongside his pal, pilot Pedro Blake (William Bendix).

When Neale and Pedro's fellow pilot and good friend Bill Cunningham (John Whitney) is murdered, they set out to investigate.  This includes looking into Bill's relationship with the quietly mysterious Virginia Moore (Gail Russell), to whom Bill had just become engaged.  

Virginia confesses to Neale that while she didn't love Bill, she was "devoted" to him, and assures Neale she didn't kill him.  Besides which, she seems way too fragile to be a murderess...

Jewels smuggled in the floorboards of the airline's planes are also involved, and all in all this is a highly enjoyable and atmospheric film which runs a quick 83 minutes.

Few screen actors were more attractive than Alan Ladd in the '40s, and he's at the zenith of his appeal in this film, including sharing a rather hot for its time love scene with June Duprez.  As I wrote of him after seeing CALCUTTA on the big screen for the first time, "Wow."  

And did anyone onscreen in that era have a better voice than Alan Ladd?  Some possible candidates come to mind, but I always land in favor of Ladd.

Every time I see the film I like Russell's performance more; she's the last person one would expect in this kind of "Is she or isn't she a femme fatale?" role, but that's part of what makes her so effective.  I love watching her eyes shift when she starts spinning stories, and her very last line to Ladd is an absolute killer.  I smile every time.

Duprez is effective in a small role as Neale's sometime girlfriend, a nightclub singer who openly carries a torch for him, hoping he might one day commit.

I tolerate Bendix in small doses, in part because of knowing that he was close friends with Ladd offscreen.  The film's director, John Farrow, also directed Bendix in his Oscar-nominated performance in WAKE ISLAND (1942), reviewed here last week.

The good supporting cast includes Lowell Gilmore, Edith King, Paul Singh, Benson Fong, Gavin Muir, Don Beddoe, Lee Tung Foo, and Marilynn Chow.

The movie was shot in beautiful black and white by John F. Seitz.  While much of the film was made on the backlot, IMDb indicates that the airport scenes were filmed at Gilpin Airport in Tucscon, Arizona.

As a side note, this film was made in 1945 but not released in the U.S. until 1947.  Some sources, including IMDb, list it as a 1946 film due to its release in the UK at the end of that year, but I'm using the U.S. release date.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray print is excellent.  There's one brief section midway through the movie when the picture turns darker and is more grainy, but it doesn't last long.  

The disc includes the trailer, two additional trailers for Alan Ladd films available from Kino Lorber, and a commentary track by Nick Pinkerton.

In addition to the Blu-ray release as part of this set, Kino Lorber has also released the previously hard-to-find CALCUTTA as a single-title DVD.  It's a "must buy" for fans of Ladd and Russell.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Blogger Vienna said...

An Alan Ladd film I haven’t seen - and I love Gail Russell. So I will get the blu Ray after reading your review. I do so agree about Alan’s wonderful voice. I’ve been enjoying his radio series Box 13.

2:02 AM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

A must-see. I agree with you wholeheartedly about Alan Ladd. His voice is a transporting instrument.

6:28 AM  
Blogger Margot Shelby said...

Great, finally I can see a good copy of it. I saw it a few years ago, probably on youtube, in a dismal copy, but loved it anyway. The copy was so bad that I had trouble keeping Russell and Duprez apart!

I really like Gail Russell in this role. So against type, with her Madonna appeal and doe-eyed innocence.

7:58 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

So nice to hear from all of you!

Vienna, if you love Ladd and Russell I think you will really enjoy this. I need to start listening to Ladd's radio work. What a marvelous way to enjoy That Voice.

Caftan Woman, I love that, "transporting instrument." Yes!

Margot, if you enjoyed it in a bad copy you will really love it the second time around on this Blu-ray. Very much agree with you on Russell. I think I've enjoyed her performance more each time I've seen it.

Best wishes,

10:17 AM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Alan Ladd's voice, and not just that, but his entire persona is winning at paramount, much less so in the Warner phase of his life and career. When he returned to Paramount for TheCarptebaggers, he was again, winning. make of it what you like, but it is on the money. Re Calcutta, a pretty good film, but I am deeply attracted to anything with June Duprez.

5:34 PM  
Blogger Hamlette (Rachel) said...

I just saw this for the first time over New Year's, and it really kept me guessing! You're right that Ladd is at his most-wonderful right in this era. Confident, comfortable, and achingly handsome. And my goodness, Gail Russell is luminous here!

7:38 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Interesting thoughts on Ladd at two different studios, Barrylane. I'll keep that in mind to see what I think as I watch his films in the future. He certainly was excellent in his early Paramount years.

Duprez makes the most of a smaller part and causes the viewer to want to see more of her, which is a feat given that the movie also stars the gorgeous Gail Russell.

Rachel, I'm delighted you got to see CALCUTTA recently and enjoyed it. Ladd and Russell are quite the team in this, aren't they? As a side note, Russell had an outstanding run of films in this era including ANGEL AND THE BADMAN, MOONRISE, and NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES. But really, her entire filmography is very solid, on top of her gorgeous looks. There are just a small number of her films I haven't seen yet, and I'm looking forward to them.

Best wishes,

1:10 PM  
Blogger Hamlette (Rachel) said...

I mostly know Gail Russell from Angel and the Badman, but I'm looking forward to seeing her opposite Ladd again in Salty O'Rourke at some point. They paired nicely!

6:16 PM  
Blogger dfordoom said...

It's got an exotic setting, it's got Alan Ladd and it's got an aviation theme? I'm definitely going to have to see this one.

7:10 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I agree, Rachel, Ladd and Russell were a good team. I found SALTY O'ROURKE pleasant, though nowhere near as good as CALCUTTA. Let me know what you think!

DforDoom, I think there's a good chance you'll like it!

Best wishes,

7:38 PM  

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