Devil in A Blue Dress
Director - Carl Franklin
Cast-Denzel Washington, Tome Sizemore, Jennifer Beals
Country of Origin-U.S.
It was supposed to be a simple job, with a quick payout that could take care of a few of his current problems. World War II vet Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins (Denzel Washington) has fallen on hard times after getting laid off from his factory job and he has a lovely little house in 1948 Los Angeles that requires upkeep. Possible salvation comes in the form of a proposal from DeWitt Albright (Tom Sizemore) that promises to reward Easy handsomely for his troubles if he is able to track down a missing woman by the name of Daphne Monet (Jennifer Beals). Albright believes that finding Monet should come pretty, ahem, easy for Rawlins as she enjoys “jazz and pigs’ feet and dark meat”. But once he commences with his unofficial investigation, Easy discovers that Monet might not want to be found for reasons that get him embroiled in politics, organized crime, and several frame-ups for murder. Realizing that the people he’s dealing with are prepared to play dirtier than he expected, Easy has no choice but to summon his old friend from Texas Mouse (Don Cheadle), but he soon comes to regret that decision because Mouse is one of the most dangerous men around and quick to solve a problem with a pull of the trigger.
Devil in a Blue Dress was supposed to be a pretty big deal when it first released theatrically in the fall of 1995. I fondly remember the pre-debut hype talking about how the film would establish Carl Franklin, a Roger Corman protégé still basking in the critical accolades that greeted his brilliant and intense 1992 breakthrough feature One False Movie, as a major league Hollywood director. There were even whispers about possible Oscar nominations. Unfortunately, the $27 million (a relative bargain for a glossy, star-driven vehicle) period crime drama only came away from its abbreviated box office run having made back little more than half its budget. Thus this underappreciated modern film noir gem was relegated to a quick afterlife on home video, where it would face stiffer competition to find an audience than it encountered on the big screen.
Based on Walter Mosley’s 1990 novel that introduced his most popular crime fiction hero in Easy Rawlins, Devil wastes no time in bringing us into a post-war Los Angeles where racial strife is still high and black Americans, despite being able to afford nice homes for a change, are still forced to battle the demon of institutionalized bigotry on a daily basis. Harassed by the cops, disadvantaged by white employers, they are barely safe in the neighborhoods they call their own. It’s a world that to this day feels all too real and director Franklin, who also penned the screenplay adaptation of Mosley’s novel, refuses to sugarcoat such troubling conditions with a thick cinematic gloss. Together with the great cinematographer Tak Fujimoto (who shot many of Devil executive producer Jonathan Demme’s finest films, including Something Wild and The Silence of the Lambs), seeps the conventional aspects of the film’s plot in a rich and authentic atmosphere of smoky jazz clubs, ramshackle corner grocery stores, upstairs taverns with bars carved out of marble, and sun-dappled suburban streets lined with luscious palm trees that represent Rawlins’ only safe haven from the complex web of intrigue in which he inadvertently becomes snared.
Franklin does such a wonderful job of bringing to life this landscape of violence and hope where the violence can happen for a black person the moment they walk out of their door in the morning and sometimes the only hope can be found at the bottom of a liquor bottle that it’s a shame the plot it has to support is pretty predictable and suffers under the weight of a massive casting misstep, which I’ll get to in a moment. First allow me to highlight what works about the cast, starting with its lead Denzel Washington, the perfect man to play Easy Rawlins. Washington brings the character right off the printed page and finds the right balance for his performance between the blue collar nobody Easy starts out as and the take charge hero willing to break the law and endanger both his future and his life to get the results he desires that he becomes by the story’s conclusion. The evolution thus feels organic rather than forced. Washington is supported well by a cast of great character actors, one of the best being Tom Sizemore. It’s hard to remember a time when Sizemore was a genuinely gifted screen presence instead of a walking tabloid punchline, but the man seems perfectly in his element as the charming yet fearsome Albright, a cool customer concealing a malicious edge that makes his performance all the more watchable.
But it’s Don Cheadle, giving a performance that rightfully earned the actor Oscar buzz that ultimately amounted to nothing but couldn’t take the edge off of what proved to be a career breakthrough, who almost steals the show as the loyal yet unpredictably deadly Mouse. Great at getting the toughest palookas to sing like canaries but helpless to desist in satisfying his every violent impulse, Mouse is a nightmare of an unlikely sidekick, albeit one that Cheadle transforms into a full-blooded anti-hero by allowing some dark humor to penetrate his cold, steely exterior. He allows us a brief glimpse into the character’s mindset, giving us enough to understand why Easy would call on Mouse at his most desperate hour even though he would be much better not doing so. The rest of the cast is rounded off by fleeting but terrific turns from Terry Kinney (Oz) as a besieged politico, the late Maury Chaykin (My Cousin Vinny) as his well-connected opponent, Lisa Nicole Carson (Love Jones) as a sexual conquest of Easy’s whose murder he gets set up for, Albert Hall (Apocalypse Now) as a neighbor of the newbie shamus, Barry Shabaka Henley (Miami Vice) as a woodcutter constantly giving Easy yard trouble, and Beau Starr (Goodfellas) as a hard-ass L.A. cop providing our reluctant hero with some unwelcome legal hassles.
Which brings us to the only real flaw in the entire cast, and that is Jennifer Beals. Her performance as the story’s femme fatale Daphne Monet is flat and virtually affectless, and whether or not this is a mistake on the part of the filmmakers, she is allowed to radiate nothing resembling a personality. Monet is barely in the film in the first place, and when she is she’s nothing more than a plot device. Beals can be a good actress in the right part, but here even she can’t do much with a part hat must have been cut down severely from its incarnation in Mosley’s original novel. Both the character and performance rank pretty low in the pantheon of film noir seductresses and a third act plot reveal attempts to give Monet some extra depth, but it fails miserably when compared to the shocking impact of Evelyn Mulwray’s “she’s my sister and my daughter” confession in Chinatown. Had the part of Monet been fleshed out better during the scripting process and a superior actress cast in place of Beals (was Julianne Moore busy at the time?), Devil in a Blue Dress might have been elevated into something more than a terrific detective story, but this flaw doesn’t prevent Franklin’s film from being considered as one of the 1990’s finest cinematic crime dramas.
Presented in its original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio, Devil in a Blue Dress looks excellent in its Blu-ray debut. The AVC encoded transfer looks to have been sourced from a pre-existing video master that was upgraded in 1080p high-definition, but Fujimoto’s moody cinematography and the lived-in, detailed production design by Gary Frutkoff (Out of Sight) are well-served by the gains in image clarity and depth and the sharpened improvement in texture. Colors are warm and accurate, and despite not having undergone an updated restoration, there doesn’t appear to be a trace of print damage remaining. The disc comes with two lossless 24-bit English DTS-HD Master Audio options in both 5.1 and 2.0. Both tracks offer a spacious and uncluttered presentation of the complete sound mix, with the soundtrack consisting of Elmer Bernstein’s lush, brooding music score and some upbeat jazz and blues songs from the period and the pulpy dialogue coming through every channel clear and free of distortion. Depending on whether or not you own a home theater, either option should suit your listening needs ideally. English subtitles have also been included.
With the exception of an isolated audio track spotlighting the Bernstein score in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, the extra features were ported over from Sony’s 2000 Region 1 DVD release. The best of which are a detailed and illuminating audio commentary from writer/director Franklin and the screen test that secured the role of Mouse for Don Cheadle (15 minutes), which also comes with an intro from Franklin. The original theatrical trailer (2 minutes), Twilight Time’s catalogue, and more informative liner notes from Julie Kirgo wrap up the supplements selection.
The Film: 4/5
Cast-Paul Newman, Fredric March, Richard Boone
Country of Origin-U.S.
Born a white man, but raised by the Apaches, John Russell (Paul Newman) has never assimilated into either world. His old friend Mendez (Martin Balsam) informs him that he has just inherited a boarding house in a small Arizona town following the death of his father, which Russell promptly decides to sell to buy some horses. The boarders are none too pleased to lose their only home, and as fate would have it, Russell ends up joining some of them on a stagecoach ride to the town of Bisbee. Among the passengers are the bigoted “Indian agent” Dr. Favor (Fredric March), his queenly wife Audra (Barbara Rush), an unhappily married young couple (Peter Lazer, Margaret Blye), and Jessie (Diane Cilento), the boarding house’s former caregiver. Also along for the journey is the loathsome lout Cicero Grimes (Richard Boone), and Grimes has set up his fellow passengers to be robbed by the very gang of bandits he leads. The primary target of the hold-out is the fortune in cash Favor purloined from Russell’s adopted people. Left to die in the desert, the same people who happily ostracized Russell for his Apache background now look to him to help lead them back to civilization, a task that is easier said than done when they once again cross paths with Grimes, holed up in a nearby town with the greedy Favor’s wife as a hostage.
“You can be white, Mexican, or Indian, but I think it pays you to be a white man for a while. Put yourself on the winning side for a change.”
“Is that what you are?”
“Well, a Mexican's closer to it than a White Mountain Apache, I can tell you that!”
John Russell is a man not without a country, but without a people. The Apache raised him, but they will never claim him as one of their own. He isn’t very welcome in the world of the so-called civilized either. By the end of Hombre, he becomes his own man, one who is defined by what he does and not by the company he keeps. Adapted from Elmore Leonard’s 1961 novel by the acclaimed screenwriting team of Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank Jr. (The Cowboys, Norma Rae) and brought to the screen under the direction of Martin Ritt (The Spy Who Came in from the Cold), Hombre is a western caught between the genre’s most influential eras: the elegiac stories of hope and heroism marshalled by the likes of John Ford and Howard Hawks, and the bone-deep cynical and bloody indictments of greed and Manifest Destiny that made the careers of Sam Peckinpah and Sergio Leone. Ritt lures you into Hombre’s world with imposing desert vistas and the inimitable screen presence of the iconic Paul Newman, then hits you with a quick blast of violence when you least suspect it.
Leonard’s source novel didn’t provide us with a microcosm of humanity in the central characters, but a small-minded group of prejudiced cretins with little or no redeeming value. Ritt’s film invites us to examine our own bigotry in the way he portrays the stagecoach passengers as supposed individuals with high ideals who are inherently more savage than the people they fear. Russell feels no loyalty to this group, nor does he sympathize with any of them with the exception of the strong-willed Jessie (marvelously played by Diane Cilento in one of the best multifaceted performances by a woman in a western), but he chooses to be their leader because he knows that without his assistance, the desert and the dangers (human, animal, and otherwise) it contains will devour them raw and wriggling. He does it because it’s the right thing to do, and that is what makes the character morally superior to the others and a great anti-hero made into flawed flesh and soul by an ideally cast Newman, underplaying his performance as necessary.
Ravetch and Frank successfully translate Leonard’s deliciously pulpy, pleasingly straightforward dialogue to the screen and the actors give it a poetic charge that does more to define their characters than their later actions. The casting is across-the-board excellent, with the top marks going to Richard Boone (The Shootist) chewing into his role as the repellent Grimes with theatrical relish, Martin Balsam (Psycho) as the Mexican stagecoach driver and sole friend to Russell who has done a better job of assimilating into white society than his Apache-raised compatriot, and Fredric March (Inherit the Wind) as the quietly hateful and petty Dr. Favor. Cameron Mitchell (Blood and Black Lace) and Barbara Rush (It Came from Outer Space) give smaller but no less interesting performances in integral supporting roles.
Twilight Time presents Hombre in a crisp and vibrant 1080p high-definition transfer framed in the original 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio. The film was one of the first Fox productions to be shot in Panavision after the studio’s groundbreaking Cinemascope process ran its course and the man behind the camera was one of film history’s best cinematographers, James Wong Howe. With a resume that includes such timeless classics as The Thin Man, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Sweet Smell of Success, and the earlier Ritt/Newman collaboration Hud, Howe is at his best bringing to the production of Hombre gorgeous and intimidating visuals that make amazing use of both the widescreen frame and the intimidating Arizona locations. Best of all, Howe excelled at capturing every crease, every wrinkle, and every bead of sweat on the actors’ faces, and the richness of depth and clarity he brought to Hombre has been preserved in this excellent transfer, which looks to have been sourced from the same master used for Fox’s 2002 Region 1 DVD release. The HD upgrade serves the film well, with improved details and a compelling color palette that favors light and dark browns and Newman’s power blue eyes.
The Blu-ray supplements the transfer with a hale and hearty English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (the packaging lists this as a 1.0 track, but my Blu-ray encoder read it as 2.0) mono track that provides an ideal showcase for the muted original score provided by noted television composer David Rose and is clear and free of distortion. The only flaw is that the dialogue is often spoken in hushed tones, thus necessitating manual volume adjustment that thankfully won’t cause any loud disturbances as the various components of the mix are balanced and never threaten to overwhelm each other. English subtitles have also been included.
Extra features include a fine commentary track exclusive to this edition with film historians Lee Pfeiffer and Paul Scrabo that strikes a warm and conversational tone early on and packs in plenty of background info regarding the film, the original theatrical trailer (2 minutes), an isolated score track in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, the Twilight Time Catalogue, and a booklet of liner notes written by Julie Kirgo. Fox’s earlier Region 1 DVD also had a stills gallery, but that did not make the cut for this Blu-ray.
The Film: 4/5
Kings Go Forth
Cast-Frank Sinatra, Natalie Wood, Tony Curtis
Country of Origin-U.S.
Reviewer- Jeremy G. Butler
It’s the closing days of World War II and while the major battles are being fought in Paris, a plucky little US Army unit finds themselves in the French Alps, trying to dislodge a stubborn group of Nazi soldiers. That unit is headed up by Sinatra’s 1st Lt. Sam Loggins. He’s a good dude, a good soldier, and a good leader, and Sinatra does an excellent job of taking his Copacabana charm and adapting it to the situation, as demonstrated by his short but lovely interaction with an elderly French woman during the title sequence. It’s not long before the new guys show up, though, and Loggins finds himself joined a short time later by Tony Curtis’ Cpl. Britt Harris. Where Loggins is mature, and cool, and responsible, Harris is younger, more flirtatious and prone to acts of impulsive heroics. A little reckless, a little showboaty, a little used to having everything go his way, and Curtis uses his own presence to fill the role well. And Loggins finds himself stuck somewhere between admiring the guy and not trusting him a single bit. The two do find themselves becoming friends, if rather reluctantly, and it’s from that friendship that a plan is developed to accomplish their mission once and for all. And it’s that plan, more or less, that sets the stage for the war movie aspect.
Later, while on pass to the French Riviera, Loggins meets Natalie Wood’s Monique Blair, a young French woman of American parentage, and suddenly the film takes a sharp turn into Love Story Territory as the two go on a series of lovely dates in which Loggins charms not only Monique but her mother as well (a small role but one that’s given a lot of weight by Leora Dana). But like with all love stories, nothing can ever be just sunshine and roses, and Loggins finds a couple of bumps in his road to RomanceLand – namely a big secret that Monique is carrying (Spoiler alert: She’s bi-racial) and the fact that after a chance encounter during a weekend pass, Harris ends up swooping in and charming Monique away. As far as love stories go, it all works really well – it does as fine a job of being that as it does at being a war story.
The problem, however, is that there’s hardly any connective tissue at all. When it decides to focus on the war, the love story takes a back seat, and vice verse; the gears just sort of switch without any real segue. And then, just to muddy the waters up a bit more, once Monique’s secret is revealed, it takes another detour into some seriously thoughtful territory about race relations, but then it has to set that down and switch gears back, and it does it so abruptly that if it weren’t for the ten or so minutes that it spent really examining these things, it would almost feel exploitive. And that’s disappointing, because for as well as both the war and the love story angles worked, I was never more engaged than when it became a story about what happens when love forces you to hold a mirror up and take a long hard look at your worst self.
Of course, that’s not the only revelation that happens, but I won’t spoil everything. What’s remarkable though is the way that all of these situations are developed. It would be easy to dismiss a lot of the plot beats as standard rote melodrama (and in a lot of ways they are) but there’s something really engaging (and maybe even progressive) about the way these characters are written. In the hands of a lesser writer (or lesser performers) Monique would just be a silly little girl who’s given to flights of fancy, Sam would just be a bitter jilted lover, and Britt…well, Britt would still be and do what Britt does, but without the texture and weight he’s given in little sprinkled moments here and there. It actually reminds me a lot of Breakfast at Tiffany’s in that way – it’s a script written by someone who really seems to understand people, even if he doesn’t entirely understand how to take all the layers and elements he’s created and weave them into a cohesive story.
But, for all the things it touches upon, and all the shifts it just sort of thrusts upon the audience along the way, once it wraps up it does finally makes its thesis clear – everyone has a burden to carry, but what’s more important than the burden itself is how you carry it. And that winds up being the film’s biggest success; examining the idea of how three very different people carry three very different burdens and through one larger shared experience, they can all converge upon one another and leave everyone changed at the end.
The 1080p, 1.85:1 transfer is legitimately well-done. There are still very subtle traces of tiny scratches in the print they used, but – subjectively speaking – I think those little touches can sometimes give a film some character; they certainly do here, on the rare occasion that they’re even noticeable. The sound guys didn’t do a bad job either; the 1.0 DTS-HD track isn’t anything that you’ll be using to demo your system, but it sounds good - everything is mixed well, and there was a lot of care and respect given to Elmer Bernstein’s great score (more on that in a bit).
Under the actual Special Features menu you got a couple of trailers; the original theatrical trailer for the film, and the image spot/sizzle real for MGM’s 90th anniversary. Those are fine, but really that’s pretty standard stuff for even the earliest days of DVD, so I don’t know that they count as ‘Special Features’ in this day of meticulously crafted and cared for Blu-ray releases, but ya know, c’est la vie.
The other listed feature – and the only one that could reasonably be called ‘Special’ – is an extra audio track that isolates that Bernstein score. Now on the surface it sounds like a fine idea, the score is indeed great, and hats off to Twilight Time for wanting to put it front and center. But the execution is a slightly different story as it’s basically just that – an isolated score track. Which means there are long stretches of unscored film where you see characters’ mouths moving but don’t hear anything at all. It’s an odd thing to watch because it neither does anything to enhance the experience of watching the film (say, the way The Mist’s black and white version did) *nor* listening to the score, unless you just sort of treat it like a soundtrack album and listen without watching, which, oddly enough, sort of simultaneously defeats and supports the purpose of the feature. So yeah, not sure what those dudes were going for there.
Now, I made a point to specify listed features because, while those cover what’s on the disc, I do have to mention Julie Kirgo’s liner notes essay. It’s comprehensive, well-written, and does an excellent job of contextualizing not only the film itself, but how it fits within each cast member’s respective points in their respective careers, and where studio filmmaking itself was at the time. It’s a breezy read but it’s solid.
So when it’s all said and done, Kings Go Forth is a film that tries to be and do a lot of things, and it is and does those things relatively successfully, but they always feel like parts of a whole that never quite seem to come together. But, even so, those parts are still really good. It’s definitely worth a watch however, and while it may not be an essential piece of Delmer Daves’ work (spoken by someone who’s only seen a handful of his films so take that for what it’s worth), if you’re already a fan of the film, you wouldn’t be going wrong at all by adding this disc to your library.
The Film: 4/5
Director- Bob Rafelson
Cast- Debra Winger, Theresa Russell
Country of Origin-U.S.
Reviewer- Andrew Bemis
Released in 1987 (the same year as Fatal Attraction), Black Widow was one of a number of ‘80s movies that were deliberate throwbacks to the film noir classics of the ‘40s, albeit with bigger hair and more explicit sex and violence. Director Bob Rafelson’s previous film, a period-set remake of The Postman Always Rings Twice, was upstaged by Body Heat, which was a stylish contemporary update of noir tropes like the femme fatale and the gullible male protagonist. Black Widow was Rafelson’s attempt at neo-noir, and yet it feels even more squarely old-fashioned than The Postman Always Rings Twice, although the offbeat chemistry between the two leads keeps it entertaining.
The Black Widow of the title is Theresa Russell, whose character sports multiple names and identities throughout the movie (for clarity’s sake, we’ll call her Catharine). Catharine specializes in assuming the persona of a wealthy guy’s dream girl, marrying him and, before long, bumping him off before collecting inheritance and moving on to her next mark. She’s pursued by Alex (Debra Winger), a federal investigator who struggles to convince her supervisor (Terry O’Quinn) or any of the other male authority figures she butts heads with that a series of rich guys who share an extremely rare cause of death might be related. Alex’s investigation eventually leads her to Hawaii, where she becomes close to Catharine and falls for her latest target (Sami Frey).
The scenes between Russell and Winger are the movie’s highlight. Both actresses are not only talented but seemingly incapable of making a false or dishonest choice, and they struggled in Hollywood at a time when there were even less substantial roles for women then there are now. Casting Winger in what would typically be a male role allows for an interesting dynamic between the two actresses, and it’s fascinating, even as they have to move the thriller plot along, to watch Winger and Russell play off each other. While their characters are adversaries, there’s a mostly unspoken mutual admiration between the two, and their performances contribute far more to the movie’s subtext than Ron Bass’s screenplay.
Black Widow is ultimately disappointing because, while it’s an entertaining potboiler, it hints at becoming a sexier and more complicated movie than it is. There’s an unmistakable sexual tension between the two leads, and the first half of the movie makes a big point of setting up Alex as a career-driven woman with little interest in a relationship with a man. As the movie has already cast a woman in the role of the hero, why not take it to its logical conclusion and make Alex and Catharine more than friends? And why not generate some tension over whether Alex will become complicit in Catharine’s crimes and, if she does, whether Catharine will double-cross her in the end? This movie is begging for the kind of unapologetic kink that Brian De Palma or Paul Verhoeven might have brought to it; instead, Rafelson plays it safe. Black Widow’s conclusion feels like the product of focus group screenings; it’s as safe as early Rafelson films like Five Easy Pieces and The King of Marvin Gardens were thrillingly unpredictable. It’s a shame when you consider that all the pieces were there to make a darker, sexier, more interesting movie - frankly, any movie that features Dennis Hopper and Mary Woronov in supporting roles should be anything but tasteful. As it is, Black Widow is fitting entertainment for a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Twilight Time’s Blu-ray of Black Widow presents the movie in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Cinematographer Conrad Hall’s work on the film looks great here, both in the shadowy interiors and the sunnier exteriors in the Hawaii-set second half. The DTS-HD 2.0 track is strong throughout, especially in highlighting Michael Small’s score. Along with an isolated track for the score, extras include a commentary by Twilight Time’s Nick Redman and Julie Kirgo, who have a lot of praise for Russell and Winger. The theatrical trailer and TV spots are also included, and an essay by Kirgo is included in the disc’s insert.
The Film - 3.5/5
Audio/Video - 4.5/5
Extras - 2.5/5
Director- James Hill
Cast- Virginia McKenna, Bill Travers
Country of Origin-U.S.
Reviewer- David Steigman
Raising a lion for a pet isn’t really a great idea. Having to say goodbye to a pet you are emotionally attached to is one of the worst feelings in the world. Born Free is a movie that is the combination of both, the premise raising a pet lion and then having to let it go and say goodbye.
Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers, as Joy and George Anderson, are a couple living in Kenya that raises three lion cubs. Joy becomes very attached to her favorite pet lion, Elsa, because she is the runt of the liter, the smallest of the three cubs. When the three cubs start to get older and grow, the Andersons decide it’s time to send them to the zoo. Because Joy has become emotionally attached to Elsa, they decide to keep her and raise the lion as a pet. George Anderson, whose occupation in Kenya is a game warden, gets a visit from his supervisor and gives him an ultimatum to send Elsa to the zoo to be with her sisters. Joy would rather not have Elsa locked up in the zoo and they decide to train her to live freely out in the wilderness, which means fighting, hunting and mating. They have three months to turn a tame lion into a free one.
Born Free is a nice Sunday afternoon adventure, a family film to a certain extent; let’s just call it a really mellow film
Twilight Time’s blu ray release of Born Free is presented in 1080p, letterboxed 2:35:1 with encode of MPEG4 – AVC; and it is just spectacular. The picture quality of this film is just outstanding. There are so many wonderful visuals as the film takes places almost entirely outdoors. The scenery in HD is really breathtaking. The colors are radiant, sharp, with good contrast and depth. Just brilliant!
The audio options are DTS-HD Master Audio Mono 1.0 and 2.0 , and also 2.0 for the commentary and all three audio options are excellent with no sound issues with the music or dialog.
There are also a few extras for this release, the obligatory isolated track score, a trailer, a teaser, a seven page booklet written by Julie Kirgo, essaying the film, and last but not least an audio commentary by featuring Julie Kirgo, Nick Redman and Jon Burlingame.
Born Free may be a film that will not be to everyone’s tastes, but the fans of this film can rejoice as this release is just stupendous. I can’t see this release ever being topped by another label. Very much highly recommended
The Film - 3/5
Audio/Video - 5/5
Extras - 3.5/5
Director- Gordon Douglas
Cast- Frank Sinatra, Lee Remick, Ralph Meeker
Country of Origin-U.S.
Reviewer- David Steigman
Frank Sinatra stars as hard-nosed Lieutenant Joe Leland in The Detective, a very much hard hitting (for 1968) Crime Noir thriller focusing on sex, drugs and homosexuality. A homosexual man, named Teddy, is murdered, and police detective Joe Leland is brought in to investigate the murder. It leads to him getting a promotion as a lieutenant when he forces Tony Musante (The Bird with the Crystal Plumage), playing Felix Tesla, Teddy’s insane roommate to confess that he killed Teddy.. or did he? Cut to a scene where a man falls to his death from the roof of a racetrack, who turns out to be the husband of Jacqueline Bisset (The Deep, Murder on the Orient Express) playing Norma McIver. She pays a visit to Joe Leland. Slowly but surely there is A LOT more to her husband’s death than meets the eye, and it also relates to the death of Teddy, the homosexual who was murdered in the opening scene. In the midst of this wonderful story, we can’t ignore the great sub-plot which is Joe Leland’s marriage to Lee Remick (the Omen), playing Karen. The marriage unravels as quickly as the film itself. Karen is basically a sex addict (putting it nicely) who has been involved in affairs before and during her marriage to Joe Leland. Sinatra as Joe Leland is just tremendous in playing the tough guy cop who is struggling mightily with his married life. The payoff to all of this is something I will not spoil, but if you read the novel by Roderick Thorp, you already know.
Some of the tidbits about The Detective are just as interesting in the film itself. Sometimes watching a movie and doing some research about afterwards can lead to some really interesting, even startling revelations. This is what happened after watching this movie for the very first time. I did some of my own detective work and learned that this film, The Detective, is in fact, the very first Die Hard film, made twenty years earlier. Roderick Thorp wrote a sequel to The Detective. The novel was called Nothing Lasts Forever, which then turned into Die Hard for the movies. There were some changes from the novel; the plot was altered a bit and the characters’ names had also changed, such as Joe Leland became John McClane. Try watching Die Hard knowing that’s a sequel to the Sinatra classic, two decades later; it’s pretty surreal. The characters are the same, the marital problems still exist, and of course Die Hard had much more blood, gore and action/violence. But don’t take The Detective too lightly. This has its share of shocking moments; again for 1968 it had to have been really disturbing to see a man getting the electric chair on screen, a man sitting naked in a police station, Lee Remick taking her top off and wrapping her arms around her husband, and also discussing her sexual excursions in several scenes. There were also some words and lines from the PG-13 to R rated category, which were all pretty controversial at the time and raised the bar to future filmmaking. Also, take notice of some of Joe Leland’s police force ; one of them is none other than a very young Tom (thrill me) Atkins, mostly known for starring in horror films including The Fog, Maniac Cop, and Night of the Creeps. And there is Jack Klugman from The Odd Couple television series playing Detective Dave Schoenstein.
Twilight Time has released The Detective in1080p, letterboxed 2:35:1 with encode of MPEG4 – AVC; the picture quality of the movie easily surpasses the DVD. The colors are bold, solid, with good contrast and depth. It is not super spectacular, but it does look really good overall.
The audio options are DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 and 2.0. I found the 1.0 perfectly suitable for this release. Good sound quality.
There are also a few supplements to this release of The Detective. There is an audio commentary with Film Historians David Del Valle, Lem Dobbs, and Nick Redman, an isolated score track, two original theatrical trailers. There is also an 8-page booklet by Julie Kirgo
The bluray is region free and can play anywhere!
The Detective is such a great film, with a great cast and I love films that focus on taboo (for its time) topics. The grittiness of the film, the pacing, and story just clicks perfectly. Add to it a great release in1080p, a few great extras; this is another splendid release from Twilight Time
The Film - 4.75/5
Audio/Video - 4.5/5
Extras - 3/5