KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL – The Film Detective -Blu Ray 99 minutes (original film release date November 28,1952, U.S.) $14.99. Available at
A dark, gritty film noir, KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL comes to Blu Ray thanks to the classic film lovers’ friends over at The Film Detective.
The print here opens without the U.A. symbol (who released the film within the U.S. and the U.K. where it was known as THE SECRET FOUR), starting with Associated Players and Producers title card. This was the only film from A.P.P., which was a one of the numerous companies formed by indie producer Edward Small (THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK,1939; and producer of the noir classics T-MEN,1947 and RAW DEAL, 1948.He was still producing films up until 1970, when he made THE CHRISTINE JORGENSON STORY,1970). Small created A.P.P. in conjunction with Sol Lesser (who began making films in the silent era and kept going until 1958 when he took over making Tarzan films) and Sam Briskin (who had produced two classics, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE ,1946 and STATE OF THE UNION,1948). Actor John Payne was said to also own a percentage of the film.
Director Phil Karlson made a variety of films, but his best work was in the action /mystery category. He put Charlie Chan through his paces in DARK ALIBI (1946) and would make the action crime drama WALKING TALL in 1973. Writer George Bruce had a long career in mostly B films (though he worked on Small’s MAN IN THE IRON MASK in 1939) and television, but co-writer Harry Essex is known for writing the short story “The Electric Man”, which became Lon Chaney’s MAN- MADE MONSTER (1940). Essex knew how to spin a yarn, with mysteries THE KILLER THAT STALKED NEW YORK (1950), THE FAT MAN (1951), THE LAS VEGAS STORY (1952), and I, THE JURY (1953) as well as some science fiction classics like IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE (1953), CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954) (as well as being writer/director of OCTAMAN,1971). The screenplay was based upon a story by Harold Greene and Rowland Brown. Cinematographer George E Diskant had prior to this film expertly lensed ON DANGEROUS GROUND (1951), THE NARROW MARGIN (1952) and BEWARE MY LOVELY (1952).
Composer Paul Sawtell scored a lot of films, usually uncredited, but he did two classic mysteries THE PEARL OF DEATH (1944) and THE SCARLET CLAW (1944), two of the Rathbone-Bruce Sherlock Holmes classics. You may best know his work from the 101 episodes he scored of the TV series VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA (1964-68).
The film involves Tim Foster(Preston Foster, tough guy actor from such classics as DOCTOR X ,1932 and THE INFORMER,1935) who gathers a gang (that includes such superb characters as Jack Elam as Harris (various westerns ,including T.V.’s GUNSMOKE,1959-1972,)Lee Van Cleef as Romano(later in IT CONQUERED THE WORLD,1956 and THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY ,1966 ) and Neville Brand as Boyd (decorated WWII hero who made his film debut in 1950’s D.O.A. , but perhaps best known to a generation of fans as Reese on T.V.’s LAREDO ,1965-7) to pull a bank heist. He knows all about them but they will learn nothing about him or each other due to him requiring them to wear masks when they interact. Therefore, no one knows anything about the others, and can’t tell the police should one of them be captured.
Foster has been watching deliveries from the bank as well as a local flower shop next door, noting that each leaves about the same time each day. When florist delivery man Joe Rolfe (John Payne, MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET ,1947) leaves on his rounds, the robbers pull up in an identical truck and rob the bank and take off. The robbers hide the truck and, still masked, are given half a playing card to identify each other, agree to meet up at a later date, hiding in other countries until contacted.
As assumed, the police pursue the real flower truck and arrest Joe Rolfe. Rolfe, a former WWII vet, had been arrested due to gambling problems, and so is a prime suspect. When the real escape vehicle is finally discovered, Rolfe is released. However, the arrest and the facts of Joe’s past result in him being fired.
Joe turns to Eddie (Paul Dubov) an old Army buddy whom he saved for help. Through connections they discover that Harris (Jack Elam), who likely was involved in such a caper, has fled to Mexico. Joe goes to Mexico and finds Harris. What happens next leads to deception, romance (in the form of Coleen Gray, later star of THE VAMPIRE ,1957 and THE LEECH WOMAN,1960) and murder. I do not wish to give too much away, as this is a crackling good thriller that needs to be discovered by yourself.
This Blu Ray release from Allied Vaughn/The Film Detective is incredibly sharp, which very rich blacks and whites, and marvelous graduals of gray tones. The sound is very clean and sharp and the optional subtitles for the hard of hearing are fairly accurate.
I cannot imagine the film looking any better than it does, which is a high compliment indeed for a budget line company release. Criterion would add a lot of bells and whistles perhaps but if you want a very good copy of this noir classic, you won’t go wrong buying this release.
Highly recommended. -Kevin G Shinnick