One of the best parts of this job is when you're granted a look at some rescued or restored gem from the past. It's one thing to review a film when it's new, but it's something else altogether to be given a chance to weigh in on history. Seeing films like Beyond the Rocks (1922), Army of Shadows (1969) and Killer of Sheep (1977) and getting to write about them is very satisfying. A film that was once ignored or maligned can now be re-established as a classic, and established classics can also be debunked.
This past week I had the opportunity to see two out of 22 films that have recently been cleaned out of the Columbia Pictures vaults, dusted off, refurbished and re-struck. All 22 of them are classic examples of film noir, stories about femmes fatale, detectives, criminals, gamblers, lowlifes, killers, or just generally luckless souls who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time; the genre more or less officially started at the tail end of WWII, as soldiers returned home to find America a very different and not altogether friendly place. Some of these 22 films are cult classics that have remained tantalizingly unseeable over the years, and many others are virtually unknown and waiting to be discovered.