Monday, June 17, 2024

Tonight's Movie: Black Tuesday (1954) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Tonight I circled back to the Dark Side of Cinema XVII collection from Kino Lorber, which features three films starring Edward G. Robinson.

I very much enjoyed VICE SQUAD (1953) from this set several weeks ago, and then with three film festivals and many more discs arriving in the intervening time, this box was briefly pushed aside. I pulled it out tonight to watch BLACK TUESDAY (1954), and I'm very glad I did.

On the surface BLACK TUESDAY seems like it might be a standard prison escape drama, but it's creatively staged by director Hugo Fregonese and has some unique, memorable aspects.

One of the things which stands out is noticeable immediately, as a prisoner sings a striking, mournful tune over the opening credits. Also of note is the black and white cinematography by Stanley Cortez (NIGHT OF THE HUNTER).

Death row prisoners Vincent Canelli (Robinson) and Peter Manning (Peter Graves) are shortly going to be put to death, but Canelli's moll Hatti (Jean Parker) puts an audacious plan in motion to spring them from prison.

Manning is wounded by gunfire in the escape, but he's key to Canelli's plan, as he has $200,000 in stolen loot stashed away and no one else knows where it is.

Several hostages are taken during the breakout, including a reporter (Jack Kelly, MAVERICK), a prison guard's daughter (Sylvia Findley), and a priest (Milburn Stone), and when the police move in on the gang's hideout, Canelli threatens to start shooting his prisoners.

It's a brutal, violent 80 minutes in which the deranged Canelli kills with abandon; however, thanks in part to the movie's fast pace, it doesn't become too overwhelming to watch.

A couple sequences are absolutely brilliant, especially the location work when Hatti and Peter retrieve his stash out of a bank safe deposit box. Everything from the authentic locations to the nerve-wracking staging, as Peter starts bleeding in the bank, is marvelously done.

I'm still wondering, though, why Peter thought the key was hidden in a safe was still there, but he was lucky.

Jean Parker is a notable standout as Canelli's devoted girlfriend. Thanks to heavy makeup and a stellar performance by Parker, the haggard, ruthless Hatti looks and acts absolutely nothing like Parker's sweet Beth of LITTLE WOMEN (1933) two decades previously. For me her performance was the highlight of the film.

The cast is packed with great faces. In addition to those named above, the cast includes Warren Stevens, Russell Johnson, James Bell, Frank Ferguson, and William Schallert.

Kino Lorber's Blu-ray print is from a new HD master from a 2K scan of the 35mm fine grain. Picture and sound are excellent.

Disc extras consist of the trailer; two additional trailers for other films available from Kino Lorber; and a commentary track by Gary Gerani.

So far this set has two winners I really enjoyed. The last film in this collection is NIGHTMARE (1956), which I'll be reviewing at a future date.

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


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