The first of what would ultimately tally up to be seven feature films starring the talents of Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas ‒ a collaboration that would span nearly four decades, concluding with Tough Guys in 1986 ‒ I Walk Alone takes us back to when the two iconic performers were still essentially strangers to one another. In the case of this fine, slow-burning film noir from first-time (solo) director Byron Haskin (Robinson Crusoe on Mars, September Storm), the separation between the two leads only helps to add fuel to the fire.
Here, Mr. Lancaster plays Frankie Madison, a one-time business partner of Douglas' Noll "Dink" Turner. In the good ol' days of Prohibition, the pair were bootleggers with a lowly nightclub serving as their base of operations, until Frankie was captured by police and sent to the big house. Upon his release 14 years later, Frankie has become a bitter, jaded man; one with the utmost intention of having more than a few wrongs made right. Alas, things have changed considerably during his prison stretch: the illegal business he and Turner once controlled has since transformed into quite the legitimate ‒ and swanky ‒ establishment. Naturally, Frankie objects to the changes in scenery, and promptly demands his share.
Alas, things have changed more than Frankie could ever imagine. Rather than a substantial pile of dough, our fish-out-of-water anti-hero instead discovers a new world of "legal" annoyances: Turner's current business is divvied up betwixt an assortment of dubious corporations; the club they had once shared together was closed (by Turner) long ago, leaving the ex-convict a mere $3,000 to claim. Meanwhile, the nefarious Turner ‒ who intends to marry rich socialite Kristine Miller to save his business and himself ‒ asks his seductive, surly-voiced nightclub singer girlfriend Kay (Lizabeth Scott) to go out on a date with Frankie to find out what his unreformed former acquaintance is really up to.
While I Walk Alone is an enthralling noir in itself, there is an awful lot to be said for its supporting cast, especially if you grew up with an unyielding fondness for cult movies. First off, there's the great Wendell Corey (who appeared in everything from Hitchcock's Rear Window to The Big Knife, and to tepid, made-for-TV 007 rip-offs like Agent for H.A.R.M.), who rightfully received third-billing in advertising artwork, just above Kirk Douglas himself. Cast here as the one-time third partner from Lancaster/Douglas' old days ‒ a now-silent man ruled by an underlying sense of fear ‒ this may very well be Mr. Corey's most sympathetic role. And then there are great minor roles by movie gangsters extraordinaire Marc Lawrence and Mike Mazurki.
Even the European cult movie aficionado will find something to enjoy here. First off, there's the surprisingly prominent casting of Argentinean-born actor George Rigaud. Best recognized as "that old guy" who seemed to pop up in every other Spaghetti Western or giallo ever made (including Death Walks on High Heels), Rigaud is in fine form here as Kirk Douglas' maître d' and right-hand man. Lastly, we bear witness to a dynamic early role by Mickey Knox, an American-born tough guy who later moved to Europe after being blacklisted during the McCarthy Era. Why, there's even a cameo by Abbott and Costello jester Bobby Barber to be found in this Paramount release from producer Hal B. Wallis (Casablanca).
Making its High-Definition home video debut, I Walk Alone hits Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber Studio Classics. Mastered in 4K from an original 35mm safety dupe negative and presented in its original 1.37:1 aspect ratio, the MPEG-4 AVC 1080p transfer may not be as "immaculate" as some may expect, but it is nevertheless a beauty to behold, particularly if you've seen the film before via any of its older grey-market releases. The DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono soundtrack is accompanied by optional English (SDH) subtitles, and there are four trailers for other classic crime drama included here as extras.
Best of all, however, is the feature-length audio commentary by noir and giallo expert Troy Howarth. As he has proven time and time again in his previous commentaries, Mr. Howarth never has a shortage of information about his subject for his listeners, which means you won't have to "walk alone" on this somewhat forgotten beginning to one dynamic acting duo.