ByJames McDonald, writer at
James is a Movie Critic and Celebrity Interviewer with over 30 years of experience as an Award-Winning Filmmaker.
James McDonald

One of Film Noir’s defining movies, “Kansas City Confidential,” explodes on Blu-ray – transferred from 35mm archival film elements – Jan. 25th from The Film Detective (distributed by Allied Vaughn).

Director Phil Karlson worked with an array of Hollywood’s biggest talent – including Abbott & Costello, Marilyn Monroe, Dean Martin, Elvis Presley, Elke Sommer and Sharon Tate – and helmed the mega box-office hit Walking Tall (1973).

But it was his raw, unflinching filmmaking about disagreeable truths – punctuated by exaggerated and shadowy cinematography – that left his most indelible mark. Karlson helped define the stylistic, cynical and moody Film Noir genre with vulnerable protagonists, down-on-their-luck anti-heroes, hard-boiled characters, femme fatales, violent realism and blunt dialogue.

A gem from Film Noir’s golden era, “Kansas City Confidential” (1952) is a taught and gritty melodrama, reportedly an inspiration for Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs.

Ex-con Joe Rolfe (John Payne, “Tennessee’s Partner,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” “The Razor’s Edge”) is on the road to rehabilitation. Framed for a $1 million robbery, he gets off for lack of evidence … but with his face plastered in the headlines and still hurting from a brutal beating in police custody, he’s already lost all that he’s doggedly worked to achieve.

Embittered and with steely determination, he sets out to track down the real criminals and render his own justice. Clues trail over the border to a Mexican fishing resort … and straight into the path of an inconvenient beauty (Coleen Gray, “The Killing,” “Red River,” “Nightmare Alley”).

The seductress’ ties soon pit Rolfe – who has nothing left to lose – against a crooked ex-cop (Preston S. Foster, “My Friend Flicka,” “Annie Oakley,” “Doctor X”) and some of the ugliest, most-menacing thugs in the cinematic underworld, portrayed by Lee Van Cleef, Neville Brand and Jack Elam (all extremely well known to classic film fans as villains, henchmen, gangsters and tough guys).

Has the hunter now become the hunted? Digitally restored in high definition from original 35mm film assets, “Kansas City Confidential” is presented in full screen with an aspect ratio of 4 x 3 and original sound with English subtitles.

Available on Blu-ray January 25th

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