Monday, March 21, 2011

KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL (Blu-ray & DVD)

"What's waiting for you, Harris? The chair, the gas chamber, or just a rope?"

Talented journeyman director Phil Karlson cut his teeth on Poverty Row chillers like the Charlie Chan mysteries THE SHANGHAI COBRA and DARK ALIBI, and the "Shadow" thriller, BEHIND THE MASK, for Monogram Studios before moving on to a solid run of well-made mainstream fare, including the original WALKING TALL, and a couple of Dean Martin "Matt Helm" flicks. Among his early successes was the quintessential Fifties noir, KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL (1952).

An ex-con delivery van driver (John Payne) is framed for a million-dollar bank robbery carried out by a quartet of masked criminals (Preston Foster, Lee Van Cleef, Jack Elam, & Neville Brand).  After being arrested and brutally "interrogated" by the police, he is  finally released for lack of evidence. Determined to clear his name - or at least get a cut of the heist's proceeds for his troubles - he tracks the real thieves to Mexico for a showdown.

Filled with great characters - and great character actors - and boasting a fast pace, tense atmosphere and engaging plot, KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL is a classic crime caper. Karlson's direction is assured, and the screenplay by Hollywood pros George Bruce & Harry Essex (IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE, CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON), is taut, twisty and rife with tough, hardboiled dialogue. Overall, it's a great, latter-day noir film, and worth checking out.

Long a staple of public domain video labels (and released in a nice edition by MGM about four years ago), this edition of KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL from HD Cinema Classics is pretty damned decent. The two-disc Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Pack offers the film on both standard DVD and 1080p HD Blu-Ray. The 1.33:1 transfer from 35mm elements is pretty solid and has been digitally remastered/restored to remove dust, scratches and other print damage. Contrast is very good, and detail is generally sharp. Overall, it's a fine transfer and probably the best I've seen of the film. The sound has been given a 5.1 Surround upgrade, but as the original film was mono, the audio range is not very deep. Still, it's clear and devoid of significant background hiss. The only extras are a  before & after "Restoration Demo" and a postcard insert.

HD Cinema Classics' edition of KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL is very respectable, and currently, the only HD version of the film available. Recommended. 

BUY: Kansas City Confidential Blu-Ray + DVD Combo Pack