Welcome to this column dedicated to my appreciation of physical media supplements called: Feature Presentations. The goal of this column is not to say whether a film is good or bad and worth picking up or not—I would like to highlight the discs that go the extra mile and provide film fans with enough tasty tidbits to satisfy even the hungriest of cinephiles. With all that out of the way, today’s article will focus on Blue Steel from the After Dark Neo-Noir Cinema Collection Two box set from Imprint Films. My review of Blue Steel is the first part of my multi-part review of this box set.
As a disclaimer of transparency for this episode of Feature Presentations, my review of Blue Steel comes from a review copy that Imprint Films provided for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Kathryn Bigelow is a pioneer in the world of filmmaking. Cutting her teeth through a mostly male-dominated system, she clawed her way to the top, culminating in her becoming the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director with her 2009 Best Picture winner: The Hurt Locker. Getting to such majestic heights took plenty of time and effort as she cut her teeth through the Hollywood machine.
One of Bigelow’s earliest and oft-forgotten films kicks off the After Dark Neo-Noir Cinema Collection Two set: Blue Steel. Before the announcement of this set, it had been many years since I saw this cop drama. What better way to reacquaint myself than with this Blu-ray release?
Jamie Lee Curtis plays a rookie NYPD officer who kills an armed robbery suspect on her first shift. Still wet behind the ears, her inexperience in recounting the events properly nor following protocol results in a reprimand. Unbeknownst to her, a witness to the robbery, played by the underrated Ron Silver, takes the suspect’s gun and goes on a murderous rampage. These two characters collide into an unlikely romance before transitioning into a standard “cops chasing criminals” storyline.
As someone who didn’t recall much about the film before revisiting it, my second viewing didn’t elicit much else. There is a vibe that late ’80s and early ’90s thrillers offer that films of a different era do not, which Blue Steel taps for its runtime. Unfortunately, at about the halfway point, the movie loses the mood and thrills it’s looking to achieve and turns into a bland thriller that would litter the HBO schedule back in the day. Blue Steel isn’t awful by any means, it’s exquisitely shot and directed, but the talent in front and behind the camera offers more promise than the finished product.
For this Blu-ray edition, Imprint Films includes a smattering of supplemental material. The first feature, “A Hired Gun,” is a discussion with editor Lee Percy. Percy discusses how he came to work in Hollywood, using his background in acting to propel his editing career and how he came to join the Blue Steel production. There’s a balance between technical and education that Percy walks beautifully, which speaks well equally to those who understand film production and others unfamiliar with editing techniques.
“The Phallic Woman: Deconstructing Blue Steel” is a film breakdown with film historian professor Jennifer Moorman. Based on the title, one might assume this feature might focus on the usage of weaponry throughout the film. While “The Phallic Woman” does draw parallels with the gun as a phallic symbol, Moorman dives head first into analyzing themes and allegories. While I do not agree with some of Moorman’s analysis and feelings, she does offer plenty of insight from her point of view. These include both main characters appearing androgynous, use of police force, and her interpretations of the ending. Moorman’s details on her cinematic opinion were welcome—hearing others’ positions allows someone like myself to look at the film in a different light, even if my thoughts differ from hers. “The Phallic Woman” is a solid companion piece to enjoy after watching the movie.
“Staring Down the Barrel” is a sit down with production designer Tony Corbett. Corbett briefly touches upon his history in filmmaking before digging into the production aspects of Blue Steel. He talks about this film being the first he ever worked on in New York, the design of the opening scene and the villain’s apartment, and the usage of cinematic glass for the grocery store robbery sequence. “Staring Down the Barrel” isn’t as informative as “A Hired Gun,” but it’s worth a one-time listen.
“A Profound Emotional Response” is a video essay by film historian Chris O’Neill. O’Neill dives into the character’s backstories, motivations, and story moments. He includes drawing a parallel between Ron Silver’s villain and The Hitcher character from co-writer Eric Red’s earlier script, The Hitcher. As someone who didn’t feel the film pulled off everything it attempted, some of what O’Neill discusses are ideas that do not align with my feelings towards the movie. Like “The Phallic Woman,” “A Profound Emotional Response” is a solid feature; they make a one-two punch for those looking to digest more than just the feature film.
The disc closes out with the theatrical trailer.
And there you have it! The Imprint Films After Dark Neo-Noir Cinema Collection Two kicks off with a decent movie in Blue Steel. The disc offers a robust list of features, highlighted by “The Phallic Woman” and Lee Percy’s interview, “A Hired Gun.” While it would have been welcome to hear from Kathryn Bigelow or any of the cast, what we get here is plenty. Even if Blue Steel isn’t as strong of a film out of the gate that After Dark, My Sweet was from Collection One, this is still an excellent way to kick off Collection Two!