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DVD: Call Northside 777 (1948)
Review Rating:   Very Good  
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1 (NTSC)

March 15, 2005



Genre: Film noir / suspense  
A cynical newspaperman helps solve the mystery of a murder, and truth of a convicted killer, still claiming innocence after 11 years.



Directed by:

Henry Hathaway
Screenplay by: Jay Dratler,  Jerome Cady,  Leonard Hoffman,  Quentin Reynolds
Music by: Alfred Newman
Produced by: Otto Lang

James Stewart,  Richard Conte,  Lee J. Cobb,  Helen Walker

Film Length: 111 mins Process/Ratio: 1.33:1
Black & White Anamorphic DVD: No
Languages:   English (Mono),  English (Stereo),  French (Mono) / English & Spanish Subtitles
Special Features :  

Audio Commentary by Authors and Historians James Ursini & Alain Silver / Fox Movietone Newsreel: "Motion Picture Stars Attend Premiere of Call Northside 777" (0:55) / Standard (1.33:1) Theatrical trailers for "Call Northside 777," "Panic in the Streets," "Laura," "The Street With No Name" and Widescreen (1.85:1) Anamorphic Theatrical Trailer for "House Of Bamboo"

Comments :

Part of 20th Century Fox's film noir series (a genre many studios are finally exploiting on DVD), "Call Northside 777" is more of a docu-drama, although the stark visual style and obvious mystery twists - particularly the eerie apartment confrontation between converted reporter James Stewart and an unconscionable witness - are typical of the popular genre that's enjoyed continued devotion from film buffs over the years.

Based on an actual case of wrongful conviction, the film actually follows the plight of the better-known half of two men that were victimized by police corruption - a hot-button topic that's carefully dealt with in the film, without completely painting the city police department at fault for sending two men to jail for eleven years.

Commentators James Ursini and Alain Silver do an excellent job in citing factual drifts and creative license in the film's otherwise tight narrative, and amusingly dissect the production's peculiar fixation with procedural matters - like scenes involving a lie detector gizmo, and the transmission of new-found evidence that may improve Conte's chance at parole. The documentary style is what really grips the viewer, aided by classic, no-nonsense bridge narration; and superb locations that frequently dwarf the crusading reporter, and enhance the forgotten status of Conte's innocent man status (as seen in a marvelous prison sequence).

Ursini and Silver pretty much conduct an ongoing discussion as the film plays, giving the commentary track a leisurely pace. Often it takes a series of prodding statements before a topic is found and sufficiently unearthed for the benefit of listeners; the gaps and idle chatter are frequent, and while major topics are ultimately addressed, the overall flow is uneven.

Fox's print is very good, and while many of these film's aren't in impeccable shape, the studio actively maintains a good balance between digital noise reduction and filtration when mastering their back catalogue. The grey levels are excellent, and the original mono sound mix offers clean dialogue and sound effects tracks.

A gripping film from start to finish, and one of Stewart's best roles.

© 2005 Mark R. Hasan

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