Johnny Allegro Blu-ray Review


Mutual Distrust

Bond before Bond, Johnny Allegro’s noir/thriller trappings evoke the famous spy. George Raft stars, giving Allegro the smarts of Bond and cool demeanor of Bogart. A private island setting, a romance, and a fight against a madman with a bow & arrow offers the quirks of Bond’s traditional villains.

This isn’t all Bond though. Johnny Allegro is post-WWII Hollywood. Allegro is a disgraced war veteran who fought on the Japanese front. He’s working for the government – being a patriot – in an attempt to source currency printing plates left by the Japanese after Pearl Harbor. In 1949, those anxieties remained. Men like Allegro work clean-up.

Initially, Johnny Allegro moves with an expedient pace. There’s a hurried mystery of identity, a shoot-out, an escape; it’s madness. Soon it slows into a look-over-your-shoulder mystery where Allegro and company sit isolated off Florida’s coast. No one involved trusts the other, leading a flurry of back-and-forth verbal games. It’s expertly tense.

This becomes a war on a different front, a fight less to cure the world of Hitler’s regime than protect America’s regrowing economy. Allegro is the right fit, gifted with enough gusto to stare down an arrow pointed at his face while using wit to extract information organically. He’s an imperfect hero, working with the US Treasury to reduce his sentence. Not even the Treasury trusts him, keeping Johnny Allegro teetering on a will he/won’t he story see-saw. That’s smart scripting.

It’s not a story free of derivative elements. Between the swerves and uncertainty, Nina Foch returns to the genre under her Colombia contract to play another damsel role, submissive to men and used for her visual appeal. So these things went in the ‘40s.

Johnny Allegro existed to keep an IV of patriotism lighting up movie screens

By the climax though, that romance has stakes at least. There is some purpose. Johnny Allegro recalls The Most Dangerous Game in a rather weird if suspenseful chase through the island’s foliage. Men chase men, and Foch is given a chance to make her decision. Certainly not a character of depth, but Foch’s femme fatale role plays to type with a dab of intrigue.

More to the point, Johnny Allegro existed to keep an IV of patriotism lighting up movie screens. That still sold tickets, and Colombia did their duty in convincing audiences not to let their guard down. The war now isn’t fought with guns, planes, and bombs, but spy games. Trust no one unless they represent the flag’s colors.

Video

While giving a nice first impression, Mill Creek’s transfer begins show signs of struggle. Notably, grain pushes forward with a noticeable digital roughness. That’s caused by two things. One is edge enhancement, sharpening a transfer that doesn’t appear to need it given the resolution. Second is compression, with Johnny Allegro pushed onto a disc with two others in the Noir Archive’s second disc.

Those things weigh on this presentation. Backgrounds deal with banding, unable to cope with the source grain. This limits definition – which is often spectacular in close – robbing this film of some texture. Gray scale comes and goes, jumping between superb and lightened, possibly due to age. Those inconsistencies stand out at their peak when black levels display marvelous depth. When they fall, they do so hard.

Likewise, print damage comes and goes, as if this were assembled from multiple sources. Occasional scratches never reach a severe or unacceptable level. Compared to the other issues, this one is minor.

This all sounds harsh, and it likely is. Close-ups produce incredible textural detail for this period. While some of that is lost in medium shots, it’s a give-and-take. Overall, by 2019’s high standards for catalog Blu-ray, it’s middling. By standards of mostly forgotten noirs from 1949, it’s pretty.

Audio

Presented in DTS-HD mono, the score reaches a high point through violins. They stay controlled and clean. Drums lack that same perfection though, on the murkier side, especially in those key moments near the finale.

Dialog doesn’t suffer any damage or defects. All hissing, static, and popping is under control.

Extras

Sadly, the Noir Archive contains no bonuses.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Johnny Allegro
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Movie

A hero for the post-war era, Johnny Allegro is a story of patriotism and the continuing fears of possible homeland invasion.

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