Fallen Angel

Fallen Angel (1945)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Cast: Dana Andrews, Alice Fae, Linda Darnell, Charles Bickford
Extras: Commentary Track, Still Gallery, Trailer

In its line of "Fox Film Noir" releases, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has unearthed the 1945 thriller "Fallen Angel, " which gave me another great opportunity to go down memory lane and revisit a film I hadn't seen in a long time.

Otto Preminger's film shows us drifter Eric Stanton (Dana Andrews) as he ends up in a small town on the Californian coast, between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Down to his last dollar he enters a diner in hope to find something to eat and drink. Soon thereafter he cheats his way into a stranger's empty hotel room to sleep. After making a few bucks with a promotional stint in the small town he meets and falls in love with Stella (Linda Darnell) a waitress at the diner. He asks her to marry her but she agrees only if he can offer her a nice house and a god living. Stanton devises a devious plan how he could quickly make enough money to woo Stella and make her his. He is determined to marry a rich young local woman, get her money, divorce her and marry Stella. It all sounds so simple, but then something unexpected happens. Someone is murdered and Stanton quickly becomes the main suspect.

"Fallen Angel" plays a little weird these days. Here you have people who meet und within an hour decide that they want to get married. This happens not only once in the film, but twice and is somewhat bizarre in today's culture. Coming out of the depression era and World War II, in 1945 this may actually have been acceptable behavior – I would not know because that was way before my time. Also the way characters talk in the film is extremely "noir" to say the least. Dana Andrews puts on his best stone-face and delivers lines to show his affection to the woman he loves that would make every woman today kick him out the door before he were even finished. The same goes for some of the women as well, though, and so the cast of characters is rough and tough, always ready for a next verbal stand-off.

The presentation that 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has put on this DVD is pretty good. Given the film's age and limitations the image looks a bit harsh with deep blacks and highlights, but a gray-fall off that is not as smooth as was possible in later years. Still, the image is pleasing and contains a good level of detail throughout. No blemishes or defects distract from the presentation, which was truly surprising given the film's age. The compression is without flaws and artifacts.

The audio on the disc comes as a Stereo track, as well as the original mono audio track. It has a dated quality as a result of the limited frequency response – another technical limitation of the time. Consequently, dialogues sound harsh while ambient effects often come across as tinny and thin. There is a bit of sibilance evident in the tracks but it's never distracting or rendering dialogue indistinguishable.

As a bonus feature you will find a commentary track by Film Noir historian Eddie Muller and Dana Andrews' daughter Susan on the release. It is an extremely informative track that offers a lot of insight and anecdotal information about the production and the people in the film. Also included are a Photo Gallery and the movie's theatrical trailer.

"Fallen Angel" is another great entry in Fox's "Film Noir" library. It shows its age on many levels but is entertaining and cool nonetheless, and for $14.95 this is a wonderful presentation, flawless and complete with great extras.