DirectorFelix E. Feist
Release Date(s)1950 (September 25, 2018)
Studio(s)Jack M. Warner Productions/20th Century Fox/Phoenix Films (Flicker Alley)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: C
For those who aren’t familiar with Flicker Alley, they are a boutique label specializing primarily in the restoration of silent movies, film noirs, and other forgotten classics. A few years ago, they were responsible for releasing two fully restored noirs, Too Late for Tears and Woman on the Run. Now, Flicker Alley has once again unearthed another classic: Felix E. Feist’s The Man Who Cheated Himself.
Lee J. Cobb stars as homicide detective Ed Cullen. After witnessing his wealthy lover, Lois (Jane Wyatt) shoot and kill her money-hungry and soon-to-be divorced husband, Cullen takes it upon himself to hide both the gun and the body to prevent her from serving a prison sentence. Coincidently, Cullen is assigned to investigate the murder case, which theoretically should make it easy for him to cover up the murder so they can be together, but as with all good stories, it’s not. Cullen’s younger brother Andy (John Dall of Gun Crazy fame) is also assigned to the case and is aggressively trying to solve the murder, much to Cullen’s chagrin.
The Man Who Cheated Himself is a thrilling, suspenseful, and gritty film, due to the brilliant direction of Felix E. Feist and the superb acting of the entire cast, including Lee J. Cobb, who is no stranger to playing hard-nosed tough guy roles on both sides of the law. Both he and Jane Wyatt are terrific in their respective roles. All of the noir elements are here to be had with rugged policemen, slimy characters, dark streets, a femme fatale, and a moody musical score by Louis Forbes; and as icing on the cake, terrific cinematography by Russell Hartan, adding a vast amount of atmosphere to an already compelling film.
The Blu-ray debut of The Man Who Cheated Himself, which has been restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive and funded by the Film Noir Foundation, is the best that the film has ever looked. While there are some imperfections during the presentation, such as vertical lines, scratches, and speckling, the image quality overall looks spectacular. Black levels and grayscale are well-balanced, while interior shots have plenty of natural textures to them. Grain is solid throughout and no DNR has been applied to make it appear unnatural. In the audio department, an English mono LPCM track is the lone option. Everything is balanced and stable without any dropouts, hiss, or distortion, leaving clear dialogue, score, and sound effects behind to be enjoyed. Optional subtitles are also provided in English SDH.
As with most Flicker Alley releases, there are some substantial extras available as well. The Man Who Cheated Himself Revisited, a highly informative behind the scenes look at the film which contains interviews with noir expert Eddie Muller, Julie Kirgo, Raymond Feist (the son of director Felix Feist), and film historian Alan K. Rode; The Man Who Cheated Himself Locations: Then and Now, another brilliant featurette with Brian Hollins leading a virtual tour around San Francisco in search of many of the film’s locations; a restored theatrical trailer; an insert booklet featuring rare photographs, poster art, original lobby cards, and an essay written by Eddie Muller; and a DVD copy.
The Man Who Cheated Death is an essential noir piece to have in your collection, especially now with the royal treatment that it’s been given by Flicker Alley. Needless to say, it comes highly recommended!
- David Steigman