Two Low-Budget Features Find New Life in DVD/BluRay Set: The Guilty and High Tide

It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten a DVD where I loved the extras more than the film itself – but that was my experience with Flicker Alley’s double-movie DVD/BluRay set on The Guilty and High Tide, both released in what is arguably film noir’s greatest year, 1947.

In addition to their year of release, these films have a lot in common. Both were produced by John Wrather and released by Monogram. Both star Don Castle. Directed by John Reinhardt. Both featured Regis Toomey as a detective. Same screenwriter (Robert Presnell). Same cinematographer (Henry Sharp). Whew!

Bonita Granville and a grim-faced Don Castle in The Guilty.

Shot in two weeks with a budget of $150,000, The Guilty stars Bonita Granville as twins – one nice (Linda) and one nasty (Estelle). Unfortunately, we don’t get to see much of poor Linda, as she winds up dead, and it takes the rest of the movie to find out who killed her. Was it Johnny Dixon (Wally Cassell), a war-damaged vet who dated both twins? Or his roommate Mike Carr (Castle), who had eyes for Linda before her untimely demise? Or perhaps it was the police detective, Heller (Regis Toomey), who is investigating the murder?

High Tide, shot on a similar shooting schedule with a comparable budget, stars Lee Tracy as Hugh Fresney, an unscrupulous newspaper editor who lures an old reporter buddy-turned private dick Tim Slade (Castle) to Los Angeles by offering to make him beneficiary of a life insurance policy. Once in the city of Angels, Slade finds himself in a vortex of action involving a local gangster who’s at risk of being exposed by Fresney’s paper; the hot-to-trot wife of the paper’s owner Clinton Vaughn (Douglas Walton), who Slade used to date; and a life-threatening vendetta against Vaughn, Fresney, or both, by persons unknown.

Don Castle helps tend to an injured Lee Tracy in High Tide.

The most striking aspects of both films, for me, are the way they begin and the way they end. The Guilty starts with a slow, purposeful walk of a behatted, trench-coated man away from the camera as the opening credits roll. And as the last credit disappears from view, we hear the man speak in voiceover: “The old street. Wet. Dirty. Miserable . . .  Reeks of murder. Senseless murder.” It’s an intriguing and promising way to open the picture. And the end features a twist that I most definitely did not see coming – and that’s always a plus for me.

As for High Tide, it starts out with a crashed car on a beach, with Fresney in the car’s front seat with a broken back and Slade trapped underneath one of the tires. As the tide from the ocean slowly rolls in, threatening to kill both men, we’re treated to a flashback that shows us how the gents wound up in this precarious position. In the film’s denouement, we find out exactly why Slade and Fresney ended up on the beach and, as in The Guilty, the viewer is treated to an unexpected conclusion.

The wedding of Granville and Wrather.

As previously noted, it’s the extras that really make this set worthwhile. They include a documentary on producer Jack Wrather by Steven C. Smith and Alan Rode, and featuring interviews with Wrather’s son and Don Castle’s daughter; a documentary by Smith and Rode on director John Reinhardt; a documentary by Smith on the life and films of Cornell Woolrich, who wrote the short story upon which The Guilty is based; a profile on Lee Tracy by writer/film historian Imogen Sara Smith; and audio commentaries on The Guilty and High Tide by by author/film scholar Jake Hinkson and Alan Rode, respectively.

These extras are fairly brimming with interesting information – I learned, for instance, that one of the characters in High Tide was played by Francis Ford, the older brother of famed director John Ford, and that Jack Wrather and Don Castle were close friends who attended the University of Texas together. And that Wrather – who was married to The Guilty star Bonita Granville – was a savvy businessman who owned and operated the Disneyland Hotel, and bought the rights to the Lone Ranger, Sgt. Preston of the Yukon, and Lassie television series. While these two low-budget features are definitely watchable, I can’t say that they are anything to write home about, but the extras – which have a higher running time than two films themselves – are absolutely stellar. Check out this set. You’ll be glad you did.

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Thanks to Flicker Alley for providing me with this screener for review!

~ by shadowsandsatin on August 15, 2022.

6 Responses to “Two Low-Budget Features Find New Life in DVD/BluRay Set: The Guilty and High Tide”

  1. You’ve sold me! Must get the disc for the extras.

  2. This is indeed one of the best new boxsets out there. High Tide is good, but The Guilty is just fantastic and is now officially in my top 5 of best B Cheapo Noirs.

    As you said, the extras for this set are almost better than the movies themselves. Highly recommended.

    • Sounds like a great blog post idea — Best B Cheapo Noirs! Besides Detour, what are your other faves in this category?

      • My all-time favorite is of course Decoy, with the best femme fatale ever (cough, cough).

        Blonde Ice (1948) and Railroaded! (1947) are quite good, though the ending of Blonde Ice felt rushed. But then, we find that a lot with B movies.

        I just love the oddly titled I Wouldn’t Be in Your Shoes, again with Don Castle and Regis Toomey. It’s been restored and looks great.

        The Tiger Woman (1945) with Adele Mara is a fun little cheapo. Can be found on Youtube, but not restored. The copy is mediocre.
        Also on Youtube (unrestored) is Fly-By-Night (1942) with Richard Carlson. Worth watching.

        • Thank you for these, Margot! I have had Blonde Ice in my collection for years, and got through maybe 15 minutes or so. I will have to be revisit. I loved I Wouldn’t Be in Your Shoes, too — I’m definitely going to give it a rewatch, now that I know who Don Castle is! And I will definitely check out The Tiger Woman and Fly-By-Night!

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