The Film (4.5/5)
The 1940’s was indeed the heyday for the Film Noir genre. Dozens of them were being made, many were good, several were great and some were essential viewing. I Wake Up Screaming easily falls into the “essentials” category. Also known as Hot Spot, this movie, which went in favor of the title I Wake Up Screaming is a gritty, dark, tense, suspenseful picture that doesn’t let up.
Betty Grable (Pin Up Girl) stars as Jill Lynn, the sister of small town waitress Vicky Lynn (Carole Landis, A Scandal in Paris) who became a model, and was murdered at what would have been the height of her career; she was leaving to find greener pastures in Hollywood. Jill is trying to track down the person that killed her sister. Vicky had been killed one night before she was going to leave for Hollywood. Told partly in flashback, each of the characters and suspects tell their tale of what led to the murder.
Inspector Ed Cornell (Laird Cregar, The Lodger) is on the case trying his best to pin the murder on promoter Frankie Christopher (Victor Mature, Cry of the City) including a frame up. Why is Cornell obsessed with trying to arrest Christopher? For one thing, Christopher was a suspect, as he wasn’t happy about Lynn leaving him for greener pastures in Hollywood. But there was another reason for Cornell’s crazy behavior.
It was also because the inspector was infatuated with Vicky Lynn, keeping his eyes on her through the window of the restaurant she had been working in. He wanted to marry her, but it was Christopher who took her away from the restaurant business and made her a success. She wouldn’t be interested in Cornell after becoming a glamourous celebrity or so he thought.
This is only just the tip of the iceberg as far as talking about I Wake Up Screaming goes. This is easily one of the best Film Noirs along with Out of the Past and Murder My Sweet. The performances by the actors are outstanding. Director Humberstone keeps this picture movie at a great pace; the tension never lets up. The scenes with Cregar and Mature together are as intense as you’ll see for 1941, and may keep you at the edge of your seat. These two characters just despise each other! Look for a startling scene where Christopher wakes up and Cornell is sitting on a chair right in front of him staring at him.
The cast for this film outside of Cregar, Mature, and Betty Gable is also filled with a quite a few wonderful character actors who popped up in many films in often small but entertaining roles. Elisha Cook(Rosemary’s Baby) has a great key role in the film; Alan Mowbray (Charlie Chan in London) was often found playing villainous parts, but here he had a good fun role as a friend of promoter Christopher and Morris Ankrum (Rocketship X-M) would became a major player in science fiction B movies and Westerns
I Wake up Screaming debuts on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber. The movie is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1:33:1, in 1080p with an MPEG 4 - AVC encode and the results are very good. The scenes in daylight are just incredible with a good black and white balance. The image is crisp and clear, with the boosted contrast you can clearly see more details on this release than the Fox DVD release. There aren’t any really major defect issues; but yes there are some scenes where there is print damage, a couple of frame jumps, but nothing that I would call a huge distraction. Overall this is much better than average. Film grain is present; no use of DNR has been applied.
The audio used for I Wake Up Screaming is the usual DTS-HD Master Audio English 2.0. The dialog, songs and other noises all come in loud and clear. It’s more than serviceable despite a couple of hisses and pops, again probably due to the age of the film.
The supplements for I Wake Up Screaming are mostly in part just a few extras ported over from the Fox DVD release which is the audio commentary by Film Historian Eddie Muller, the films’ trailer and the animated montage of image. The only new extras are a few more trailers for other Film Noirs: He Ran All the Way, 99 River Street, Daisy Kenyon and Boomerang
I Wake Up Screaming is an essential Noir to watch and a must for anyone that collects them. The new HD master provides a better viewing experience, with 99% of the extras being ported over; while not perfect, this is still a grand release and is a no-brainer to add to your collection.