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Category:    Home > Reviews > Mystery > Adventure > Literature > Detective > Thief > Rogue > Thriller > Psychological > Journalism > Satan > Arsene Lupin Double Feature (1932, 1938/MGM)/Chase A Crooked Shadow (1958)/The Crooked Road (1965/Seven Arts)/Eye Of The Devil (1966/MGM/Warner Archive DVDs)/The Mechanic (1972/United Artists/MGM/Twil

Arsene Lupin Double Feature (1932, 1938/MGM)/Chase A Crooked Shadow (1958)/The Crooked Road (1965/Seven Arts)/Eye Of The Devil (1966/MGM/Warner Archive DVDs)/The Mechanic (1972/United Artists/MGM/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)

Picture: C/C/C+/C/B Sound: C/C/C/C/B- Extras: C-/D/D/D/B Films: C+/C/C/C+/B

PLEASE NOTE: The Mechanic limited edition Blu-ray is only available from our friends at Twilight Time and only 3,000 copies will be made, while all four thriller DVDs is now only available from Warner Bros. through their extensive and growing Warner Archive series. All can be ordered from the links below.

This group of thrillers are all interesting ambitious films intended to have impact, often included major name stars and were well-backed in their original releases. Now all curios, some work better than others, but you should know about all of them.

The Arsene Lupin Double Feature offers MGM's attempts to adapt (if loosely) the six novel series by Maurice Leblanc (released between 1909 and 1925) among the early attempts to Americanize the character somewhat and have a hit. Edwin S. Porter (The Great Train Robbery) had tried first in a silent 1908 film, followed by Vitagraph in 1917, followed by a 1920 silent indie with Wedgwood Nowell, Wallace Berry & Laura La Plante, while the British gave it a shot in 1916. MGM would try two with sound first.

Jack Conway's Arsene Lupin (1932) actually brought together John Barrymore and Lionel Barrymore in one film, a big deal then, in a classy and somewhat comic based on a play adaptation of one of the novels (813 from 1910) that may show its age a bit, but is well-paced, has the two Barrymores in their first film together and is a solid 84 minutes. Karen Morley (Scarface (1932) and Mask Of Fu Manchu) makes a great female lead and the I enjoyed this despite its safe conclusion.

Being that MGM was not going to have the two leads together again, they tried out the character again in the 1938 mystery Arsene Lupin Returns. This time, we get Melvyn Douglas and Warren William as the dueling males and Virginia Bruce as the female lead based on the same book, but this is a new script and set-up that is different enough to work about as well. It takes a while to get started, but once it does, it is also entertaining. MGM decided to throw in the towel and after Universal took a shot remaking the same story yet again in 1944, Lupin disappeared from Hollywood. Sad.

A trailer the second film is the only extra.

Michael Anderson's Chase A Crooked Shadow (1958) is a latter attempt to have a Diabolique-type thriller with a wild twist at the end from a capable director and decent cast. Anne Baxter is a woman who had a decent life when a man (Richard Todd) shows up claiming to be her brother... who is dead. The more she tries to prove her claim that she is certain of, the more it looks like things have been rigged so something seems to be going very wrong. Herbert Lom is a detective who is not sure who to believe.

Produced by Douglas Fairbanks Jr., the film has some good moments, plus the locales and actors are good, but this pre-DNA thriller has plenty of other problems in its plotting that logic collapses early and anyone who loves the genre can see the seams stressed early on. Despite that, I was glad to see it again, made just before Hitchcock upped the ante with Psycho in 1960.

There are sadly no extras.

Don Chaffey's The Crooked Road (1965) has Robert Ryan as an American reporter in a foreign country (fictional) where his story could cause all hell to break loose there. A powerful man (Stewart Granger) has married a woman (Nadia Gray) who was involved with said reporter. This has some good moments too, especially with one of the exchanges of acting, but the story is mixed and as a mystery, it is on the weak side. Mauris Goring is a plus here, but that is not enough to save a problematic narrative. Still, I liked what hey did try and the attacks on journalists have only gotten worse since this was released about half a century ago.

There are sadly no extras.

J. Lee Thompson's Eye Of The Devil (1966) is a dark thriller in the tradition of Rosemary's Baby and Wicker Man before they were made, Deborah Kerr and David Niven as a high society couple with money, a son and daughter. When he discovers his vineyards are in trouble, he travels back to them, but she decides they will join him not knowing the real secret of what is going on there. We discover there is a big secret and worse, at least some of the people there are part of some secret society that looks at least somewhat Satanic.

Kerr's character stays a bit longer than she should for as intelligent as her character is, even with the help of an old friend played by Edward Mulhare, but creepy turns by Flora Robson, Donald Pleasence, David Hemmings and Sharon Tate keep this dark as Thompson shows his skills in creating suspense. Though not totally successful, it is a major curio everyone should see at least once. Director of Photography Erwin Hillier (Happy Go Lovely, Dam Busters, The Quiller Memorandum) delivers amazing shots and sites throughout.

There are sadly no extras, but nice to have this one out as The Innocents hits Blu-ray.

After some support roles, often in ensembles, got him attention, Charles Bronson spent some time establishing himself as a lead actor. After several films, including with James Bond director Terence Young, he found even more success with Michael Winner and the peak of their work commercially might have been Death Wish, but I would argue The Mechanic (1972) is a far superior film and some of the best work all involved ever made. Bronson is the title character, a for-hire assassin who has made big money for himself and is possibly the best in the business. He has been doing this for a while and when a big new job comes up, he teams up with a young, skilled hitman (Jan-Michael Vincent in his early prime hen it looked like he would be the next big superstar) as the hit becomes more deadly and complicated.

Today this would set up some phony, tired franchise, but we get a mature, intelligent, adult thriller instead that also manages to be a great send-up of the buddy film cycle going on at the time that started in the late 1960s and would last to the end of the decade. Scripted by Lewis John Carlino (Frankenheimer's Seconds, reviewed elsewhere on this site), it also tackles the other new wave theme of the young new guy not having what it takes yet versus older, experienced men. Smart and realistic throughout, it holds up well and has not aged as much as many films like it from its period or since. The supporting cast includes Jill Ireland, Keenan Wynn, Frank DeKova and Celeste Yarnall. The action is a big plus too, but get it while supplies last since only 3,000 are being produced!

Extras include an illustrated booklet with a solid essay by Julie Kirgo, while the Blu-ray adds an Isolated Music Score of the great work by Jerry Fielding, feature length audio commentary track by film scholar Nick Redmond and the film's Director of Photography, the great Richard H. Klein and the Original Theatrical Trailer.

The 1.33 X 1 black and white on the 2 Lupin films looks good for their age in this format, but could use some work a bit and are a little soft throughout. The anamorphically enhanced black and white 1.78 X 1 on Chase and 1.85 X 1 image on Eye have some good shots throughout as well, but also tend to be soft more often than one would like, but the anamorphically enhanced black and white 1.78 X 1 on Road outdoes them all with a more consistent transfer including in detail, depth and print quality. That easily leaves 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Mechanic the visual champ looking better than it has in a very long time with normal grain, color consistency and detail that proves once again to be one of the best-made, best-looking films Bronson ever made.

As for sound, all the films here are theatrical monophonic releases, but the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 1.0 lossless Mono mix on Mechanic is easily the best-sounding film here and not just because it is the newest. Instead, it was well recorded, mixed and thought out for its time, a quiet thriller that never wastes sound all the way down to Jerry Fielding's underrated score, which you can hear isolated and watch with the film. It also reminds us how important sound is to creating true suspense in a serous thriller. The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on all the Warner Archive DVDs are hearable, but all are also a bit weaker and softer than I would have liked and could use some work and/or new sonic transfers from the best available materials. Maybe for Blu-ray?

You can order The Mechanic limited edition Blu-ray among other great releases while supplies last at this link:


...and to order any of the four Warner Archive DVDs, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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