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FILM NOIR CLASSIC COLLECTION VOL. 3 (1946-1952). Dipping into the RKO and MGM catalogues, Warner Bros.'s home entertainment division comes up with another worthy box set honoring those smoke-choked, black-and-white crime flicks that were as much about ambiance and attitude as anything else.

Based on the Raymond Chandler novel, Lady In the Lake (1946) is unusual in that director-star Robert Montgomery elected to shoot the movie with the camera serving as private eye Phillip Marlowe's point of view. It's a gimmick that works, as Marlowe (the only times we see him are during the framing sequences and whenever he stands in front of a mirror) investigates the disappearance of a magazine mogul's wife.

As timely now as then, Border Incident (1949) focuses on the issue of illegal immigration. An impossibly young Ricardo Montalban stars as a Mexican government agent who teams up with his American counterpart (George Murphy) in order to bring down the sleazy crooks exploiting Mexican laborers hoping to find work across the border. Directed by Anthony Mann (best known for his string of 1950s Westerns starring James Stewart), Border Incident is an atypical slice of noir that's startling in its brutality.

Speaking of atypical, His Kind of Woman (1951) practically defies audiences not to consider it film noir -- despite the fact that its hero doesn't smoke or gamble, the potential femme fatale is A-OK, and humor racks up as much screen time as menace. Noir leading man Robert Mitchum plays the marked patsy who gets mixed up with a ruthless crime boss (Raymond Burr), while Jane Russell costars as the beauty who looks out for his welfare. Yet the real ace in the pocket is Vincent Price, delivering one of his best performances as a hammy Shakespearean actor who relishes the opportunity to save the day. This one's a real treat.

The Racket (1951) finds Mitchum again tangling with gangsters, this time as an honest cop determined to nail a hot-tempered mob boss (Robert Ryan). Based on a play (though it's anything but stagy), the film mixes exciting action scenes with interesting dynamics between the good guys and the bad guys but also between the various factions of the crime syndicate.

Ryan returns on the other side of the law in On Dangerous Ground (1952), in which he plays a bitter, broken-down cop whose latest case takes him from the mean city streets to the countryside. There, he meets a blind woman (Ida Lupino) who's a far cry from the crooks and killers who command his attention back in the city. The performances are potent and the score by Bernard Herrmann (Psycho) is terrific, but a short running time (82 minutes), often a plus in compact noirs, proves to be a detriment to a movie that needed more time to flesh out its compelling storyline.

The box set also includes a sixth disc containing the new documentary Film Noir: Bringing Darkness to Light and five vintage shorts from the Crime Doesn't Pay series; additionally, each film's DVD includes audio commentary by a noted film historian.

Lady In the Lake: ***

Border Incident: ***

His Kind of Woman: ***1/2

The Racket: ***

On Dangerous Ground: **1/2

Extras: **1/2

SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959). Billy Wilder's immortal screen gem was voted the best comedy of all time by the American Film Institute, and you won't find many movie fans who don't at least agree that it's near the top of the heap. Caught in the wrong place at the wrong time -- specifically, front-row seats for the St. Valentine's Day Massacre -- musicians Jerry (Jack Lemmon) and Joe (Tony Curtis) evade the mobsters hot on their trail by disguising themselves as Daphne and Josephine, two members of an all-female jazz band. Leaving Chicago and ending up in Florida, both guys have their hands full trying to keep up the ruse; additionally, Joe decides to disguise himself as a millionaire in order to romance band singer Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe) while Jerry elects to marry a real millionaire (Joe E. Brown) who actually believes he's a woman. There isn't much to say about this masterpiece that hasn't long ago entered into cinema folklore, whether it's the offscreen troubles with Monroe, the endless barrage of classic quotes (the film's final line is legendary, though I have a soft spot for Jerry's description of a sashaying Sugar: "Look at that! Look how she moves. That's just like Jell-O on springs!"), the performances by all three stars, and the risqué double entendres that somehow slipped by the censors (presumably, they were too busy laughing to care). An Oscar winner for Best Costume Design, this earned five other nominations, including bids for Lemmon and Wilder (as both director and co-scripter with I.A.L. Diamond); inexplicably missing were the nods for Monroe (in the finest performance of her career) and, of course, Best Picture. Extras in the two-disc set include new features as well as material found on the previous 2001 DVD release; among the items are an audio commentary mixing new and past interviews with Lemmon, Curtis and others, three documentaries, and a "Virtual Hall of Memories" showcasing select scenes from the movie.

Movie: ****

Extras: ***1/2

TSOTSI (2005). Winner of this year's Academy Award for Best Foreign-Language Film, the South African import Tsotsi takes a sentimental view of what can largely be construed as unsentimental circumstances. Yet the movie's selling point is the subtlety by which it spreads around its empathy. Tsotsi has the potential to be viewed as button-pushing melodrama, yet writer-director Gavin Hood, adapting a novel by playwright Athol Fugard, steadfastly ignores the urge to overplay his hand -- this is most apparent in the affecting final scene, which offers guarded hope rather than the gun-blazing fury that would be found in most other similar climaxes (sadly, a more predictable finale is included in the DVD's Alternate Endings section!). Tsotsi is the South African word for "thug"; here, it's also the name used by a Johannesburg punk (Presley Chweneyagae) who leads a street gang skilled in robberies, beatings and even murder. Operating solo one night, Tsotsi shoots an upper-class woman and steals her car, failing to realize that an infant boy is resting in the back seat. Tsotsi decides to keep the child, but once he runs out of food, he forces a single mom named Miriam (Terry Pheto) to breast-feed the stolen boy. His contact with both Miriam and the toddler stir unfamiliar feelings within Tsotsi, ones that just might provide an escape from the brutal mindset that had guided his actions for too long. The sturdy performances by Chweneyagae and Pheto are as understated and manner-of-fact as the rest of the picture, signaling that Hood made sure everyone was on the same page right from the start. DVD extras include audio commentary by Hood, deleted scenes, a making-of feature and Hood's 1998 short film The Storekeeper.

Movie: ***

Extras: ***

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