The Films (4/5, 4/5)
Movie nerd confession, before this double feature, I had never seen a Douglas Sirk movie. But after seeing these two wildly different and entertaining films, I can see why he was such a big deal. This double feature Blu-ray set collects two very unusual movies that are a perfect blend of suspense and humor, as well as delivering two of George Saunders’ most enjoyable performances.
A SCANDAL IN PARIS (1946) loosely tells the story of how Eugene Francois Vidocq went from master criminal to the head of France’s Police Department. Vidocq is a very interesting man, who is known as the “Father of modern criminology”. Well it makes a good story, SCANDAL punches up the melodrama and doesn’t treat Vidocq seriously until the end. George Saunders plays Vidocq and with him is his assistant, the selfish Emile Vernet (Akim Tamiroff). The two get involved in some clever misadventures, until one day Vidocq falls for Minister of Police (Alan Napier)’s Daughter Therese (Signe Hasso). Can Vidocq change his ways or is he doomed?
Well not the best character study, A SCANDAL IN PARIS is a pretty impressive movie, that balances the comedy and the down side to criminal life. From the dry wit narration of Saunders recounting his life to the lavish production design, the movie is old fashion entertainment at its best. Sirk balances the high production with some great style and attention to detail. The cinematography from start to finish is very creative showcasing some excellent Dutch angles, pans, and lighting. Some of the highlights are the main characters running thru a storm and the ending fight at a park. Aside from Saunders’s witty performance, the rest of the cast is filled with some of the best character actors from the 1940’s including Carole Landis (TOPPER RETURNS), Alan Napier (BATMAN the series with Adam West), and Gene Lockhart (HIS GIRL FRIDAY).
LURED tells the story of a serial killer loose in London, calling himself The Poet Killer. He sends poems before he kills his beautiful female victims that he lures with newspaper ads. Sandra Carpenter (Lucille Ball), an American dancer living in London, joins the police to help find her friend, who may be one of the victims. With the help of Scotland yard and its head Inspector (Charles Coburn), Sandra is lead into the seedy underbelly of London and a group of odd men who could be the killer. Can she weed through the loose ends, or will she become a loose end herself?
LURED (1947) came as a huge surprise. It’s a remake of the 1939 movie PERSONAL COLUMN (aka PIECES). From start to finish, LURED is an excellent cinematic cocktail of sharp suspense, red herrings, lavish style, comedy, dry wit, and some dark psychological bits by the end. The movie changes so much over the 100 minutes, that the viewer is always kept on their toes. Just when you have it figured out, the plot surprises again. Some elements are pure 40’s pulp, while some of the character types and subtle sleaze foreshadow the giallo and krimi genres. Lucille Ball (TV’s I LOVE LUCY) is a gorgeous and hard boiled hero. Mixing sex, with humor and sarcasm. Rounding out the cast is some of the best thriller and horror movie talent of the time. Charles Coburn (THE LADY EVE), George Saunders (Shere Khan in Disney’s 1967 version of THE JUNGLE BOOK), Boris Karloff (FRANKENSTEIN), George Zucco (DEAD MEN WALK), Joseph Calleia (AFTER THE THIN MAN), Cedric Hardwicke (ROPE), and Alan Mowbray (TERROR BY NIGHT) are all unexpected in their roles and everyone is a suspect.
LURED is one of the hidden gems of the 1940’s. A well-crafted thriller that continued to surprise me around every corner.
Audio/ Video (3.5/5) *
Both films come with English LPCM Mono 2.0 Channel tracks. Of the two, LURED is the better and has only a few minor issues. Some scenes the audio drops down a little and the soundtrack becomes too loud and over bearing. But on the whole, it’s a fine track with clear audio. A SCANDAL IN PARIS on the other hand is a damn mess. For the first 40 or so minutes, the track sounds hollow with some minor crackles. But the biggest issue is at that 45 min mark, the audio becomes so muffled that I had to turn on the Subtitles to make out the dialogue. For the rest of the movie, the sound mix keeps changing pitch. ** Both movies come with optional English subtitles.
Both films also come with gorgeous 1080P HD Transfers. Both films have wonderful black levels that showcase the lavish production design and in the case with LURED, It’s noir lighting. Both movies have a light level of natural film grain and no print damage.
Extras are limited to a commentary on each film and trailers. For A SCANDAL IN PARIS we have Film Critic Wade Major discussing the film. The track is a little dry but still worth a listen. LURED has film historian Jeremy Arnold discussing the production, casting, comparison with PERSONAL COLULM (1939). There’s not much dead air and Arnold seems like a good speaker. Both movies come with their 2016 re-release trailers.
If every Douglas Sirk movie is as entertaining as these two, I think I’m a fan. LURED is a must see thriller for horror fans and both movies showcase the dry and sinister George Saunders. Kino has given these movies gorgeous looking transfers, but sadly the audio on SCANDAL is pretty distracting. But still the price is right and LURED is a must have. Highly Recommended.
Due to the audio problems with A SCANDAL IN PARIS, I had to deduct the disc a few points. SCANDAL should be around a 2 out of 5 at best, but the other movie helped keep it afloat. The Audio on LURED is 3.5, and the video quality on both films is around a 4. So that’s a happy comprise.
** I can’t say if this is a problem with the release in general or just my copy. I tried my copy on two different players, and the results were the same.