Blu-ray slight return: Voices in the night

In the 1940s certain British films used a score that constantly repeated a piano concerto composed specifically for the movie.

A term was coined, the Denham Concerto, which indicted a tune’s popularity both in cinema and on record.

The template was “The Warsaw Concerto,” composed for the 1941 film “Dangerous Moonlight.” Along with “Cornish Rhapsody” from “Love Story” (1944) “A Voice in the Night,” composed by Russian émigré Mischa Spoliansky, made a commercial impact with its tense change in mood and vibrant piano riffs.

“Wanted For Murder” (1946) uses “Voice in the Night” constantly throughout both as its non-diegetic theme and as an actual recording in one scene where an employee at a music store plays the 78rpm in a listening booth. Later the vinyl disc becomes a plot point.

Victor has issues that include wanting to strangle women to death. A visit to the wax museum reveals that Victor’s father was the official royal hangman.

“Wanted For Murder” has a unique look accented by camera set-ups that are both old fashioned (lots of static shots, a holdover from silent era) and modern movement. Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a Train” (1951) would revisit a sequence from “Murder” set at a carnival that has boat rides to a nearby island to even greater effect.

“Wanted For Murder” has been given a 2K restoration along with the 1955 “Cast a Dark Shadow” with both available on Blu-ray as a double feature.

“Cast a Dark Shadow” features a young Dirk Bogarde as a dandy who marries elderly women who themselves end up dead. Director Lewis Gilbert, an above average director whose filmography includes three Bond films, portrays Bogarde in a creepy light. Gilbert made some great films but his reputation gets overlooked as he preceded the ’60s rebirth of British Cinema.

There’s a rocking chair. You’re hardly surprised that Bogarde’s a killer; his idiosyncratic fastidious manner would be a perfect match for Norman Bates five years down the road.

It Happened Tomorrow

René Clair had a career that extended from silent films to the 1960s writing and directing memorable films in France, England and Hollywood. His American films provided plots that would find their way to popular television shows.

“I Married A Witch” (1943) has a sorceress wed to a mortal, the basis for “Bewitched,” which ran for eight seasons in the 1960s.

Although less of a cultural phenomenon than Samantha Stephens the 1990s show “Early Edition” used the premise that a man receives tomorrow’s newspaper today. That’s exactly what happens to newspaperman Dick Powell in Clair’s fantasy “It Happened Tomorrow” (1944). The action is set in the early 1900s.

Powell uses the knowledge of a crime being committed in the future to prevent said crime from taking place. A wizened employee of the paper’s archive feeds Powell his info. Linda Darnell, a popular actress in the ‘40s, co-stars as Powell’s love interest.

Clair’s special touch was to give fantasy a tinge of realism. The characters and events of “It Happened Tomorrow” suggest a simpler time governed by the kind of populism that separates workers from the elite. It’s no surprise that Frank Capra was originally attached to the picture only to sell the rights when he enlisted in WWII.

A 4K restoration preserves the film’s soft period photography. When the film was made the creators were recreating events from 40-year previous. Watching the film now it like being thrust into the dawn of a less perilous century.

Man With A Camera

Charles Bronson was one of a few actors that made the eventual successful leap to movie stardom after starring in long forgotten television series from the late 1950s. Put Bronson on a short list with Lee Marvin (“M Squad”) and Clint Eastwood (“Rawhide”).

In “Man With A Camera” Bronson plays Mike Kovac, a former combat photographer retired and working freelance in the big city.

Kovac uses the traditional Speed Graphic, like the fictional “Casey Crime Photographer” in his radio show or the real life Arthur Fellig a.k.a. Weegee, but also has an arsenal that includes miniature hidden cameras, black light imagery and the ability to turn his automobile trunk into an instant darkroom.

A handful of eps feature Kovac’s father (veteran thesp Ludwig Stössel) as well as a police lieutenant as confidants. Most of the episodes show Kovac getting into trouble through spurious jobs that go south. There’s usually fisticuffs and gunplay in each outing. Perhaps not surprising, Darren McGavin starred in a series from 1952 called “Crime Photographer,” the kind of show that doesn’t currently exist in any format.

MPI Home Video offers all 29 episodes of “Man With A Camera,” released on DVD earlier this month, in a two-disc set.

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