Among the 50 titles here — yes, 50 — are some genuine classics, such as 1950’s D.O.A., Edward G. Robinson in 1947’s The Red House and Samuel Fuller's The Naked Kiss, but I don’t recommend picking up this massive set for those three, as much better prints can be found from, respectively, Image Entertainment, Film Chest and The Criterion Collection. No, I recommend Dark Crimes for the movies that will never see treatment any more special. This is all about quantity vs. quality.
Like 1936’s The Mandarin Mystery, an Ellery Queen whodunit, this one centered on a young woman having the "most valuable stamp in the world" stolen from her. It’s good to see a mystery centered on the philatelic instead of the philandering, for a change.
Like 1947’s Fear in the Night, which begins with Star Trek’s DeForest Kelley relating a dream he had in a mirrored room: "There was danger there!" The dream sequence doesn’t come close to rivaling Hitchcock’s, but hey, it's something. Trying to crack its code, he places a very specific classified ad, wanting to buy or lease a "house with octagonal mirrored-paneled room or alcove." Based on a short story by Rear Window’s Cornell Woolrich story, the film has a reveal that is unique, even all these decades later.
Like 1948’s Inner Sanctum, not to be confused with the radio show or its resulting Lon Chaney Jr. movies of the same name. It has a murderer hiding in a boardinghouse, where he has to share a room with an ugly kid who wears a propeller beanie. There are two drunk hobos for comic relief, and a good girl getting romantic with the murdered, who tells her, "You're very pretty … when your lips aren't moving."
Like 1939’s The Mystery of Mr. Wong, with the un-PC casting of Boris Karloff as the Asian detective others refer to as “Chinaman” (it’s not nearly as offensive as Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s). The murder here — during a game of charades, no less — is over a Chinese jewel that’s supposedly cursed. One character is named Strogonoff, pronounced just like the beef dish.
Like 1947’s Things Happen at Night in which a poltergeist takes over a stuffy family’s home. Like 1950’s There Was a Crooked Man, actually an episode of the TV anthology Studio One (several others exist here), complete with Westinghouse sponsorships. Like 1932’s Ten Minutes to Live, featuring an all-black cast.
Like, you get the picture. Actually, you get 50 of them, and if you have any love for early crime films and would rather see iffy transfers vs. perhaps not seeing them at all, buying this is a no-brainer. —Rod Lott
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