Skip to main content

Visual Wonders: Small Hobos and Murder

Two recent releases from Warner Archive made their way to my desk. If you’re unaware, Warner Archive is a branch of Warner Home Video that is dedicated to web only sales of the deepest of the deep in the Warner Brothers vault. Largely comprised of classic films, Warner Archive issues long out of print (and sometimes never ever in print) films and TV series on new masters to made on demand DVD, and they’ve even added Blu-Ray to their line up as well. It’s a film lover’s dream come true. This week, I’ll be talking about a DVD and a Blu-Ray. A funky little family picture dug up from their vaults, along with a cornerstone of Film Noir brought forth to Blu-Ray for the very first time. 1958’s “The Littlest Hobo” & 1945’s “Murder, My Sweet.” 

There’s a lot of strange elements to “The Littlest Hobo.” While watching the film it felt at times like a strange mix of Lassie, Homeward Bound, and an episode of Dragnet. It’s a film whose lead actor is a dog, and there’s no overdubbing of dialog on top of this. It’s really impressive just how skilled this dog is. If dogs doing heartwarming things are your go to, you need this movie in your life. The dog, who isn’t named in the film but the credits say is named London, hops off a train in a California town—hence he is the littlest hobo of them all. 

During his adventures the dog: saves a lamb from a slaughterhouse, teaches a wheelchair bound girl to walk, avoids hungry bums out to get the lamb, avoids the cops—after being called by the dock man at the slaughterhouse, the cops literally go on a 36 hour manhunt for the dog— and teaches an orphan boy about love and hope. All of this set to a jazz score that you wouldn’t expect for a film of this nature. It really is an odd duck of a family film. If you have kids who aren’t adverse to black and white, I could see it being a hit with them. If this has you curious, “The Littlest Hobo” is worth you time. 

On Blu-Ray for the first time comes “Murder, My Sweet.” One of the seminal film noir films, “Murder, My Sweet” is based off a novel by Noir stalwart Raymond Chandler. It features Dick Powell in the lead as Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe—Chandler himself would later cite Powell has his favorite screen Marlowe. “Murder, My Sweet” marked a chance of pace for Dick Powell, one he had been lobbying for. 

Powell was largely known to movie audiences for staring in musicals and light comedy films, casting him as hard boiled detective Marlowe was a complete 180—something Powell and the studio wanted to emphasize. The novel the film is based on is actually titled “Farewell, My Lovely” but RKO—who released the film—worried that it would sound too much like a title of one of Powell’s musicals. The posters and lobby cards for the film all had “Meet the NEW Dick Powell” stamped along the top of them. It worked, the movie was a critical and commercial success.

Everything that makes Film Noir what it is can be found here. Dark Shadows, stubble on faces, femme fatals, a mystery within a mystery at the center of it, hard boiled detective narration with lines like “Only reason I took the job was because my bank account was trying to crawl under a duck.” It’d be the perfect film to show anyone who has never seen a Noir before. In the film, Marlowe is hired by a thug to find his ex-girlfriend who hasn’t been seen in a few years. That simple job leads Marlow into a web of lies and all kinds tasty darkness that should only be seen in black and white. 

I’m sure some of you out there maybe wondering “How on earth can a 70 year old film be issued on Blu-Ray?” Well friends, kind hearts, and lovers—let me tell you how. I’ve been asked before how it’s possible that films made before the HD era—yet alone classics—can exist in Blu-Ray. Simple. Film captures everything it photographs (and is beyond 4K naturally)—we’ve only lately had the technology to extract all that visual goodness from the film. Warner Archive’s blu-ray of “Murder, My Sweet” is a textbook example of why classic films can and should be released on Blu-Ray. 

In a brand new 2K master made from new 35mm restoration elements created directly from the original nitrate negative, the rich and black and white photography simple dazzles and shines with a depth and clarity that can put films even 60 years its junior to shame. If there is one film I would say should be added to your library—even if you doubt my claims of a film of this era looking stellar in HD—it’s “Murder, My Sweet.” Frankly, if you haven’t figured it out yet, I simply can not recommend this one enough. 

Friends, theses dispatches of visual treats I sampled lately is all I have for you this week, I hope it has at least triggered enough curiosity to check one of the films out. Whichever speaks most to you, I think you will not be disappointed. 


Popular posts from this blog

Convincing Yourself You're Good.

I have Imposter Syndrome. Imposter Syndrome is that feeling that what you do isn't good enough, and that someone is gonna eventually figure out how woefully unqualified you are and kick you to the curb. One of the traits of my personality that I dislike is that I am way too hard on myself. Seriously, give my mind an inch and I will somehow figure out that I am the sole person responsible for the world's troubles.

Having Imposter Syndrome is kind of like playing the game Werewolf. My friends and I play a version of the game called One Night Ultimate Werewolf, in the game each player picks a card that gives them a specific role, either a villager or a werewolf, and the villagers all have distinct roles that they play on top of that--special abilities and the like. The object of the game is two fold, if you're a werewolf, you don't wanna be caught. If you're a village, you wanna catch the werewolves. Imposter Syndrome makes you feel like you're always in the role…

Where The Blues Are

I come to you again this week with another pair of blu-rays from those master celluloid handlers at Warner Archive. First up we have 1960’s “Where The Boys Are,” a defining teen picture of the era by MGM, and the film largely responsible for kicking off the whole cycle of 1960s beach films. The other is 1955’s “Pete Kelly’s Blues” a film starring, produced, and directed by Jack Webb--TV’s Joe Friday. Part of a deal Webb had made with Warner Brothers when he was setting up the original big screen version of “Dragnet” in the ‘50s. 
“Where The Boys Are” was set for the screen before the book it was based on had been released. Producer Joe Pasternak snatched up the rights to the book by Glendon Swarthout, which was originally titled “Unholy Spring.” Pasternak, strongly feeling “Where The Boys Are” would be the better title, persuaded Swarthout to change the book’s title. Pasternak also felt he could use the film as a starring vehicle for one of the stars of MGM’s record label, Connie Franc…

The State of The Andy

Greetings, Citizens.

I've been neglecting the "Hey There, Andy!" blog a little too much lately. It got a new design and I walked away like one of those spoiled couples on House Hunters. This blog started years ago as a way to give my work more of a "web presence," and to make individual columns easy to share. In the last year, "The Loafer--my main home for my word works--has gotten an incredible website redesign by the very talented people at Stellar Studios, and now I feel less motivated to double up on my columns being there and here as well.

So where does that leave "Hey There, Andy!?" Welp, this place needs more stuff on it. I'm going to from time to time share older Batteries Not Included columns that aren't archived on the web anywhere else, and maybe post some original work. Another reason in why this place hasn't seen much attention is that I've been overwhelmingly busy lately. At the end of the past three years I've …