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Category:    Home > Reviews > Thriller > Murder > Mystery > Crime > TV > Horror > Vampire > Supernatural > Film Noir > Thieft > The Blacklist: The Complete First Season (2013 - 2014/Sony DVD Set)/Only Lovers Left Alive (2013/Sony DVD)/Quicksand (1950/Film Chest DVD)

The Blacklist: The Complete First Season (2013 - 2014/Sony DVD Set)/Only Lovers Left Alive (2013/Sony DVD)/Quicksand (1950/Film Chest DVD)

Picture: C+/C+/C Sound: C+/B-/C Extras: C/C/D Main Programs: C/C+/C+

Now for three very different kinds of thrillers...

The Blacklist (2013 - 2014) has an all too familiar premise of a criminal mastermind (bald and knowing it all these days) up to no good, but that the authorities have to deal with to solve their case(s). In The Silence Of The Lambs mode (at least at first), the series coup is having James Spader (Mike Nichols' Wolf) as that villain, one Raymond Red Reddington (deadly alliterations?) who turns himself in at the very beginning of the pilot as he is so confident he has all kinds of information that will help him negotiate against the crimes he is wanted for.

From there, I hoped the show would drop its derivative pretensions, but instead, it wallows in them and cannot stop playing on them throughout the 22 shows here. Spader easily out acts most of the cast, though a few surprises are in store and offers brief hope the show might pick up. It never does. Instead, it is silly, formulaic, lightly cynical and does not know what to do with itself. Universal (who did most of the Hannibal Lecter sequels) and Sony co-produced the show and seems to think people forgot the materials it rips off, but that material is still getting ripped off, so bad idea. It has made it to a second season, so we'll see where that goes then.

Extras include audio commentary on three episodes, 22 Beyond The Blacklist shows and The Insider behind the scenes of the show.

In Jim Jarmusch films, people are at a dead end and his films ask what do these people do there, where do they go from there when there is nowhere to go. They either imagine they have space to themselves (Ghost Dog), are not aware it is already gone or taken from them (Dead Man), might have a chance to enjoy space they happen to have (Broken Flowers) or are just plain doomed (all of his other films). Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) takes on the undead, specifically vampires as the terrifically matched Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston are old vampire lovers still hanging in there for more decades (centuries?) than they can remember, coming together again. He is a Rock-N-Roller who still loves his music and has some friends (including Anton Yelchin as a clueless, hip contact) keeping his so-called-life going.

Mia Waskowska is her with bad timing who disrupts there rekindled love, but the film is about much more. There are silent moments that work very well, including visually, while a motif of old vs. new technology haunts the story. The mortals use the latest gadgets, but the vampires are more than comfortable with the if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it approach and this tends to suggest their lives are more lived in, that they know more about who they are and are happier as if Jarmusch is suggesting the living are now operating more like the undead thanks to cell phones and the Net these days. That does have some validity.

Hiddleston's Adam even drives an older (but great) Jaguar XJ-S through the film (he is doing a promotion campaign for the company now, though that car is ironically also known as the car of Simon Templar (aka The Saint) on the 1970s TV show Return Of The Saint (reviewed elsewhere on this site) with Ian Ogilvy, so the jokes add up) and he uses an old analog TV to see at picture on a cell phone as if to recreate an old prototype Picturephone. However, the storyline is consistent, but cannot avoid all the overlap, repeating and even predictability of the actual genre. I liked what worked here and think this deserves a look by all interested, but it is not the home run it was onto being. Some scenes and moments even reminded me of the comedy Old Dracula (1974, also reviewed on this site), but I could never tell if that was referential or coy. John Hurt and Jeffrey Wright also star.

Extras include Extended & Deleted Scenes, a Music Video and long Traveling At Night With Jim Jarmusch making of featurette.

Finally we have Mickey Rooney in a Film Noir. With his MGM contract finally expired, he moved over to an independent production, Irving Pichel's Quicksand (1950) has Rooney as one of the workers at a local car garage who is one of the boys. However, he starts to have money issues and starts to make decisions he should not. Partly inspired by trying to get a gal (Jeanne Cagney as a femme fatale of sorts) and just wanting to get more ahead. This includes tangling with her old friend Nick (Peter Lorre, who is not in the film enough) and robbing people in a way he might not otherwise do.

Rooney's Noir voice-overs are amusing and this is about as dark as he ever got. The script cops out a bit at the end, but this has some amusing moments and unintentionally funny ones as well. I like the look of the film and Pichel had been an actor and voice over man in his career getting his directing career going here. His next film would be his most successful, Destination Moon later that year. This is an interesting curio worth seeing once and the rest of the cast tries their best to make things work. Look quickly for Jack Elam in a bar scene.

There are no extras.

Blacklist and Alive have been issued on Blu-ray and if you can play that format, you might want to go to those versions of each program instead, though the anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Blacklist and anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Alive are not bad for the DVD format versions. However, they are still a little soft and even strained at times. Both HD-shot, Blacklist is competently shot by has no look to it that is distinctive, while Alive is lensed by Director of Photography Yorick De Saux (Arbitrage) and does have a consistent look that is somewhat dark in line with vampire cinema. The 1.33 X 1 black and white image on Quicksand is restored to some extent, but detail issues and motion blur still plague the transfer. Director of Photography Lionel Lindon, A.S.C. (Grand Prix, All Fall Down, the original Manchurian Candidate) comes up with the most distinctive look of all with plenty of dark shots worthy of Film Noir.

In the sound department, Blacklist and Alive feature lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes, but Alive comes out on top with more activity and character than any of the episodes of the Blacklist TV show, then Quicksand offers lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono that has been cleaned up a bit, but is dated and shows its age. More restoration is needed.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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