Monday, July 04, 2022

Tonight's Movies: High Tide (1947) and The Guilty (1947) - A Flicker Alley Blu-ray Review

One of the releases I've most looked forward to this year is the new Flicker Alley set containing a pair of Monogram films from 1947, HIGH TIDE (1947) and THE GUILTY (1947).

I first saw these films at the 2013 and 2015 UCLA Festival of Preservation, respectively. Although I was able to revisit THE GUILTY at this spring's Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival, this was my first time to see HIGH TIDE since I last saw it close to a decade ago.

Both films in the set were produced by Jack Wrather and star his close friend Don Castle; THE GUILTY also stars Bonita Granville, who married Wrather the month before that film's release. It was a happy, successful union which lasted until Wrather's death in 1984. Granville would live until 1988.

HIGH TIDE is a very enjoyable 72 minutes which begins with a memorable opening: Two men, Hugh Fresney (Lee Tracy) and Tim Slade (Castle), have been in a car wreck at the beach and are unable to move, with the incoming tide threatening to eventually drown them.

In flashback, we then see how the men came to be in that position. It's a tale of multiple murders, crime, and other skullduggery told against the backdrop of the newspaper business.

Julie Bishop plays the unfaithful wife of the paper's owner (Douglas Walton), Anabel Shaw plays the publisher's sweet young secretary, Francis Ford is an informant, and the always-great Regis Toomey plays a detective unraveling a series of murders. Toomey also plays the detective solving the murder in THE GUILTY.

THE GUILTY is equally fast-paced, running just 71 minutes. It's a haunting story about roommates, Mike and Johnny (Castle and Wally Cassell), mixed up with identical twin sisters, good Linda (Granville) and no-good Estelle (also Granville). Linda is strangled, and suspects include Johnny, a veteran who suffers from what we would now term PTSD, and Alex (John Litel), who boards in the sisters' family's apartment.

Both films, while not "classics," are solidly entertaining and have notable strong points, with particularly good work by Regis Toomey in each film. Viewers won't soon forget his description of how the murder was committed in THE GUILTY; it's strong stuff.

Veteran Lee Tracy gives HIGH TIDE much of its punch, while a double dose of Granville makes THE GUILTY special.

The screenwriter of both films was Robert Presnell Sr., who incidentally was the father-in-law of beloved actress Marsha Hunt. HIGH TIDE was based on a Raoul Whitfield story, "Inside Job," while THE GUILTY was based on "He Looked Like Murder" by the great Cornell Woolrich.

Both films were directed by John Reinhardt and filmed in black and white by Henry Sharp. I particularly enjoyed the location filming at L.A.'s Union Station seen in HIGH TIDE.

The restored prints of each film are excellent, including fine soundtracks.

The very substantive extras begin with a short joint introduction to the films by the Film Noir Foundation's Eddie Muller. Jake Hinkson provides a commentary track on THE GUILTY, with the Film Noir Foundation's Alan K. Rode doing the honors for HIGH TIDE.

There's an informative featurette on producer Jack Wrather which includes interviews with Wrather's son Chris, Don Castle's daughter Gretchen, and Alan K. Rode. The documentary explores Wrather's many contributions to pop culture history, including producing Lassie and opening the Disneyland Hotel, along with fond reminisces by those who knew and respected him. It's nice to hear such a positive personal story -- all the more in the context of film noir.

Two more excellent pieces are "Nightmare: The Life and Films of Cornell Woolrich" and "John Reinhardt: Direction Without Borders." Woolrich's sad, isolated life is a notable contrast from Wrather's "It's a Wonderful Life" story.

My very favorite piece in the set was a 20-minute "verbal essay" by Imogen Sara Smith on Lee Tracy and his creation of the "newspaperman" character in movies dating from early pre-Codes. I have a soft spot for Tracy and have sometimes wondered why, as his characters can be abrasive; Smith well describes the force of his personality and that the viewer wishes they could always be ready with a comeback or a quip like Tracy's characters. Smith never fails to impress with her highly articulate insights.

All of the extras combine to inform not just on this pair of films, but on film noir and movie history.

There's also a beautifully illustrated booklet by Brian Light. Half the booklet is on HIGH TIDE, then the reader flips it over for the half on THE GUILTY. Like everything else about this set, it's attractive and thoughtfully produced. The set is capped off with reversible cover art.

Along with the beautiful prints of rarely seen films, the set's attractive production design and outstanding extras make this release one of my top recommendations of the year. I class it as a "must buy."

Thanks to Flicker Alley for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray/DVD set.

The two-film set containing HIGH TIDE and THE GUILTY may be purchased through the Flicker Alley website as well as through retailers such as Amazon.


Blogger Margot Shelby said...

This set is great and The Guilty is officially now in my top 5 cheapo B Noirs.
Considering these movies were supposed to be nothing but "cannon fodder", quickly made and forgotten, we got ourselves some gems here.

Regis Toomey is great. My favorite Toomey role must be in I Wouldn't be in Your Shoes. Creepy.

8:04 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'm so glad you love this set too, Margot, thanks for adding your endorsement! Really enjoyed your comments on these films.

The Toomey part you mention in I WOULDN'T BE IN YOUR SHOES was definitely creepy! One of my favorites which first caused me to key in on him was CRY DANGER (1951) where he traded banter with his pal Dick Powell along with Dick Erdman. Great stuff.

Best wishes,

8:29 PM  
Blogger Elliot James said...

Eddie's Noir Alley on TCM is showing High Tide this weekend (July 9).

8:42 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you for mentioning that. I anticipate TCM will be showing the restored UCLA/Film Noir Foundation print.

Best wishes,

1:21 PM  

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