A pair of Edward G. Robinson films have made their blu-ray debut thanks to Warner Archive. Both of these releases are notable as one film has been restored to it’s original theatrical length—after decades of the missing material being only available in poor quality—and the other is making it’s home video debut. 1955’s “Hell of Frisco Bay” is the one which has never been made available in any home video format, yet alone in it’s original CinemaScope aspect ratio. Whereas 1941’s “The Sea Wolf”—directed by Warner stalwart Michael Curtiz—has had about 20 minutes worth restored from recently discovered 35mm nitrate material.
Hell On Frisco Bay” is a noir-tinged color film shot in early CinemaScope. Produced by its star Allan Ladd, with Robinson, Joanne Dru, William Demarest, and Fay Ray in the cast, “Hell On Frisco Bay” is the story of an ex-cop, who is also an ex-convict. This ex-cop, Ladd, was set up for a murder he didn’t commit. He’s held a grudge about it during all of his prison stay, and now he wants to get who put him in the slammer.
At the center of all this is the crime boss in town, Vic Amato—Robinson—Amato is one of the more ruthless and completely unmoral characters in the vast cannon of mobsters Robinson has played. He will stop at nothing to protect his interests, even family can’t get in his way. “Hell on Frisco Bay” was an interesting watch, it’s a film that I”m sure many are thrilled to see get a home video release, especially for fans of Ladd and Robinson. I liked the film, but it didn’t knock me off my feet, it kept me engaged and focus, there’s much to enjoy here.
Warner Archive’s Blu-ray of “Hell on Frisco Bay” looks outstanding! If there is one thing you can always count on from Warner Archive, it’s reliability. They’re not going to put a film out on blu-ray unless they’re gonna do it right. You won’t see anything subpar from them. This is a fine example. Also for a film shot in the tricky WarnerColor process, the colors are solid all the way through, with no fading. The only detractions are some CinemaScope “mumps” due to being shot with he early version of the lens for the process. This one comes recommended.
1941’s “The Sea Wolf” was a major production for Warner Brothers, and a massive box-office hit as well. Directed by the studio’s top man, and the most celebrated “unknown” director, Michael Curtiz, the film is an adaptation of the novel by Jack London. The film was so popular that was given a re-release in 1947, but for that issue the movie was doubled billed with “The Sea Hawk” and cut down from it’s original running time of 100 minutes to 86 minutes. For years, this missing material only existed in a 16mm print that belong to one of the cast. Until last year, when original 35mm nitrate elements of the missing material was discovered.
With a cast featuring Robinson, Ida Lupino, John Garfield, and character actors Gene Lockhart and Barry Fitzgerald, “The Sea Wolf” has a lot going for it. The film has noir overtones as well. Curtiz could handle any script given him with great skill, and it shows on screen here. A fine effort from all involved. For a blu-ray restored from material that was thought lost until last year, “The Sea Wolf” is one of the finest looking HD restorations of a film from the ‘40s I’ve ever seen. Some shots look like the film could have been made yesterday. I was shocked by how rich and clear the film looked. Fans of the film who have longed for the missing material have much to be thankful for here.
These films are both fine additions to Warner Archive’s ever growing, ever impressive line up of blu-ray releases. These are two of their best looking yet, and the more titles they release in the format, the more we can share these films with younger generations and allow others to discover the lovely world of classic Hollywood. See you next week.