Dark City (Olive Films, $19.99) "The cops have been here so often, it's beginning to look like a precinct station," Charlton Heston grumbles in his 1950 screen debut, playing a smooth-talking bookie-joint operator in this satisfying noir. Lizabeth Scott is a nightclub crooner, and Jack Webb and Harry Morgan, who went on to partner in TV's Dragnet, are in on the poker scam that results in a suicide and then revenge.
The Gambler (Paramount DVD, $5.97 and various VOD sources) The just-released remake of Karel Reisz's 1974 drama, from director Rupert Wyatt and starring Mark Wahlberg, follows the same trajectory as the original, but the two films - both very good - come at it from different angles. Here, James Caan stars as a New York college prof with a serious gambling addiction, digging himself into a deep, deep hole, and the film is very much about that: his addiction. Wahlberg, a Los Angeles college prof, burrows into just as ugly a pit of indebtedness to lowlifes and loan sharks, but he may be doing it for the rush of adrenaline, the thrill of putting his life on the line, rather than trying to feed some dark dependency. Lauren Hutton and Paul Sorvino costar in the original, with an autobiographically tinged screenplay from James Toback.
Inherent Vice Thomas Pynchon (Penguin Press, $16) Speaking of gambles - and gambols in a colorfully seamy SoCal scene, circa 1970, full of hippie chicks, playboys, potheads, mugs - one would be well-advised to read Pynchon's 2009 mystery before seeing Paul Thomas Anderson's long and loopy adaptation (opening here Jan. 9). It's the first of the hugely revered author's books to get movie-ized, and Anderson keeps as much fidelity to the convoluted Chandleresque plot as possible. The movie tie-in edition boasts a cool cover, with muttonchopped stoner detective Joaquin Phoenix's face bathed in neon.