Femme Fatales Collection (4 Discs) (R) product details page

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Femme Fatales Collection (4 Discs) (R)

Constance TowersHedy LamarrGeorge Raft

Director: Jack BernhardPeter GodfreyWilliam Wellman

rated: NR

released: April 13, 2010

Rating: Not rated: write a review
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Something of a warm-up for the later The File on Thelma Jordan, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers mixes obsession, desire, delusion, ambition, and fear into a fascinating and enthralling tangle. Unusual for a movie of its period, it's fairly sophisticated in dealing with what is, at heart, a "sick" relationship between Martha Ivers (Barbara Stanwyck) and Walter O'Neil (Kirk Douglas), and demonstrating how easily a person (Sam Masterson [Van Heflin]) can get sucked into one. Fortunately for Masterson, he gets out in time, but it's a pretty narrow escape. Ivers is a remarkably tense film, although it's a tension that tends to linger beneath the surface; this is appropriate, as it reflects the turmoil and anxiety that lies under the calm surface of Ivers' and O'Neil's lives. That tension gives the film its life and strange vibrancy, and gives snap to even mundane scenes. There are some problems, notably the fact that the creators don't really seem to have a grasp on Masterson's motivation after the idea of blackmail enters the picture. Is he really interested in the money or is it a plot to get to the bottom of the Martha mystery? But the compelling, multi-layered performances of the stars (including Lizabeth Scott) more than make up for the few flaws in the script. Craig Butler, All Movie Guide

Too Late for Tears is a low-budget film noir that, if not quite a real gem, is a mighty good cubic zirconia. Coincidence is a noir staple, a not surprising fact when you consider that so many of these films deal on one level or another with the inexorability of fate; but some may find the level of coincidence in Tears a little off-putting. The screenplay also gets a little talky in places; this in itself is not bad, but the dialogue just misses having that little extra punch and crackle that the best noirs pride themselves on. Still, these little deficiencies don't seriously damage the film; and the plot, basic set-up and characters more than make up for these flaws. Also of considerable help are the performances of crime film staples Lizabeth Scott and Dan Duryea. Deep-voiced and throaty, Scott can always be counted on to give a femme fatale her all, but she goes all out in the role of Jane Palmer, using her many considerable wiles to great effect and creating a character that the viewer can't help but root for, even as he waits for her to get her comeuppance. Duryea matches her as Danny Fuller, the tough guy who finds he's out of his depth with Jane. Arthur Kennedy is fine as husband Alan Palmer, but Don DeFore is a bit weak as Don Blake, the mysterious stranger claiming to be a friend; a stronger personality is needed to hold the screen against Scott. Byron Haskin directs with skill and creates fine tension and atmosphere, also making good use of location shots. Too Late for Tears is no Double Indemnity, but fans of such films will be delighted to come across it. Craig Butler, All Movie Guide

The Naked Kiss is a truly unique film that isn't easily classified as either "good" or "bad." Indeed, this movie is a mind-boggling collection of apparent contradictions. It's a lurid shocker with a tabloid sensibility that smacks the viewer right in the face (almost literally during the amazing opening sequence in which a bald-headed Constance Towers beats a pimp with her spike-heeled shoe); yet this moralistic film addresses serious issues and displays compassion and respect for some of society's outcasts. Although the film is an exploitative melodrama about a sexy prostitute who tries to "pass" in respectable society, Fuller's sympathy is clearly with this iron-willed, intelligent, self-reliant person; indeed, his film could be considered a strong feminist indictment of the way men abuse and exploit women. This hardboiled B picture attacks society's hypocrisy, although it seems to be rather sentimental at times; and while this low-budget flick has uneven acting, cheap sets, and gratuitous footage from the director's own home movies, it also features beautifully glossy cinematography by Stanely Cortez (whose other credits include both The Magnificent Ambersons and They Saved Hitler's Brain). Fuller confounds notions of quality so much that it's difficult to tell whether certain scenes (e.g., the singing crippled children) are intended to be sincerely sentimental or intentionally overdone. It does seem, however, that he was deliberately subverting at least some of the clichés that surface in this film. So the best way to appreciate The Naked Kiss is probably to keep in mind how much this independent film went against the grain of Hollywood movies of its time period. Todd Kristel, All Movie Guide

The ****** Kiss is a truly unique film that isn't easily classified as either "good" or "bad." Indeed, this movie is a mind-boggling collection of apparent contradictions. It's a lurid shocker with a tabloid sensibility that smacks the viewer right in the face (almost literally during the amazing opening sequence in which a bald-headed Constance Towers beats a pimp with her spike-heeled shoe); yet this moralistic film addresses serious issues and displays compassion and respect for some of society's outcasts. Although the film is an exploitative melodrama about a sexy prostitute who tries to "pass" in respectable society, Fuller's sympathy is clearly with this iron-willed, intelligent, self-reliant person; indeed, his film could be considered a strong feminist indictment of the way men abuse and exploit women. This hardboiled B picture attacks society's hypocrisy, although it seems to be rather sentimental at times; and while this low-budget flick has uneven acting, cheap sets, and gratuitous footage from the director's own home movies, it also features beautifully glossy cinematography by Stanely Cortez (whose other credits include both The Magnificent Ambersons and They Saved ******'s Brain). Fuller confounds notions of quality so much that it's difficult to tell whether certain scenes (e.g., the singing crippled children) are intended to be sincerely sentimental or intentionally overdone. It does seem, however, that he was deliberately subverting at least some of the clichés that surface in this film. So the best way to appreciate The ****** Kiss is probably to keep in mind how much this independent film went against the grain of Hollywood movies of its time period. Todd Kristel, All Movie Guide

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