The Man Who Cheated Himself Blu-ray Review: You Can't Trust Anyone

Don't cheat yourself, film noir fans. Pick up a copy.
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Produced by the Film Noir Foundation, restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive, and presented by Flicker Factory, The Man Who Cheated Himself is much more interesting than its generic title implies since many a film noir lead character cheats himself in some form or another.

The film opens with Howard (Harlan Warde) and Lois (Jane Wyatt) Frazer heading towards a divorce after three years of marriage, and both having people on the side. When Lois (Jane Wyatt) finds a receipt for a gun sale Howard made recently, she calls her paramour, homicide detective Lt. Ed Cullen (Lee J. Cobb), in fear for her life. Ed is there when Howard returns and Lois kills her husband with the gun. Realizing a planned trip to Seattle was an alibi Howard set up, Ed plans to dump the body at the airport and throw the gun off the Golden Gate bridge.

Andy (John Dall) is Ed's young brother and new partner in Homicide. As fate would have it, Andy gets assigned the investigation of Howard. They work together on the case with Ed attempting to cover things up. A suspect comes to light when a murder in a robbery appears to have used the same gun. Ed drives the case that way, but Andy doesn't buy it, especially as Ed's behavior grows more suspicious.

At 82 minutes, director Felix E. Feist delivers a tightly paced crime thriller thanks in part to the script by Seton I. Miller and Philip MacDonald. Every scene has a purpose in moving the story along. The brothers have a compelling dynamic, but I wanted for information about Lois to better understand her character. She wants more of a relationship from Ed, but he is unwilling. Then as Andy gets closer to the truth, it's unclear if accidents that occur are intentional on her part. Is she a true femme fatale that is just using Ed to get by or does she only turn on him, if she does, because he denied them a future together? While interviewees in the “Revisited” extra knock her acting, some of the blame is shared by the writers and director as well since the difference between an actress' performance and a character's can be hard to parse.

Cinematographer Russell Harlan (who also shot Gun Crazy and earned one of his six Oscar nominations for To Kill a Mockingbird) and his team did a great job shooting the city of San Francisco, especially at Fort Point under the Golden Gate Bridge during the film's climax. He made very good use of shadows and light.

The video was shot in 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC at an aspect ratio of 1.37:1. There are white and blacks specks and marks throughout. Too often, the shots contain spots of soft focus, which diminishes the strong object details and is a tad distracting. Like when Alan questions the couple in his office. During their two-shot, the man is in sharper focus than his wife who is sitting next to him, slightly closer to the camera. Also happens when the brothers meet with the ballistics examiner. Blacks are rich, but can crush like when someone wears a black suit and tie. There's a variety of grays and whites are bright, contributing to a good contrast.

The audio is available in LPCM Mono. Dialogue is clear. The effects sound natural. Louis Forbes's score is balanced well, playing underneath the dialogue, or when a bit louder to help set the mood. There is a faint hiss on the track, but the other elements cover it.

The Man Who Cheated Himself: Revisited (HD, 22 min) - An informative discussion about the history of the film with Feist's son Raymond, and from FNF members Alan K Rode (Director/Treasurer) and Eddie Muller (Founder/President), and Twilight Time's creative director Julie Kirgo. The Man Who Cheated Himself: Locations Then and Now (HD, 7 min) - A visual comparison with text explaining things to viewers.

Restored Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2 min) - It certified that “this film has been approved as not suitable for children,” but it's not too bad 68 years later.

Don't cheat yourself, film noir fans. Pick up a copy of The Man Who Cheated Himself.

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