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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Literature > Murder > Sexual Assault > Crime > Romance > Film Noir > Mental Health > Child Of God (2013/Well Go USA Blu-ray)/One Night At Susie's (1930/First National/Warner Archive DVD)/Possessed (1947/Warner Archive Blu-ray)

Child Of God (2013/Well Go USA Blu-ray)/One Night At Susie's (1930/First National/Warner Archive DVD)/Possessed (1947/Warner Archive Blu-ray)

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

PLEASE NOTE: The One Night At Susie's DVD and Possessed Blu-ray are now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and both can be ordered from the link below.

Here are three dramas with bold subject matter, then and now...

James Franco takes another shot at directing by adapting Cormac McCarthy's Child Of God (2013) set in Tennessee in 1960 about a mentally ill outcast named Lester Ballard (Scott Haze in a brave performance) not getting help, not well and very, very alone. We meet him pulling a rifle on a crowd when a house once belonging to him is up for sale, a scene that ends badly. He lands up elsewhere, but not getting the treatment or help he needs, if he could even be helped. Not getting well by any means, he starts finding new trouble as things get worse.

Determined to be as close to the book as possible to the point that some scenes are split by the artifice of words from the book showing up as large-titled text on the screen on occasion, Franco tries to find ironic distance in vein between the subjects and what they do. Yet he pulls no punches in what can often be a gross, even shocking film with one too many such moments that hold back what could have been a better film if it has more to say than just be a graphic visual reproduction of the book. I give all credit for boldly going in this direction, but it backfires and does not ass up as it might otherwise have. Tim Blake Nelson also stars.

There are no extras.

John Francis Dillon's One Night At Susie's (1930) is a pre-code drama about the odd title character (Helen Ware) whose home has become a place where gangsters and other criminals go to solve things, taking it as neutral ground. It also attracts lost men, other criminals and other trouble, but Susie herself wants to make sure that her foster son Richard (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. in his early movie star youth) does not follow in the same mode. She is suspicious when he meets a pretty young woman named Mary (Billie Dove) and they fall in love.

Susie lets her know she does not trust her, but the relationship goes on until soon, there is an incident that should send Mary to jail, but Richard takes the blame and the jail time. Even the hardened Susie is surprised, but does not retaliate against Mary, yet keeps tabs on her. From there, the plot has some interesting moments, including one where Richard writes a play for Mary that becomes a hit, but she has to deal with a sexually-harassing producer to get it made to keep his hopes up in prison. Things even get a little darker, but this is one of Dove's only surviving films and is worth your time just for her. This is definitely worth a look.

There are no extras.

Curtis Bernhardt's Possessed (1947) has Joan Crawford in one of her greatest roles as a woman whose life and fortunes have gutted out her soul and psyche, leaving her wandering the streets and needing mental health help herself. She quickly lands up at an institution where doctors try to help her and as she starts to talk, we see her story in flashback from the wild relationship with a man she loves who is not always nice (Van Heflin in a thankless role) to the others around her only helping so much, to her conflict with others and all as her mental health slowly deteriorates without anyone else realizing and she barely understanding what is happening to her.

Released two years after Hitchcock's Spellbound (reviewed elsewhere on this site), this was a bold, groundbreaking film with Crawford in work that is amazing and stands the test of time, including all the twists, turns and surprises we get. Even when the film gets a bit campy (especially decades after its release due to Crawford's later years of camp classic work, et al), Crawford's performance overrides any datedness or shortcomings, making Possessed a true Noir classic as Crawford delivers one of the great performances of her time. Everyone should see this great film once, especially in this fine Blu-ray release.

Extras include a solid feature length audio commentary track by the always-classy Dr. Drew Casper from a previous DVD release of the film, a Behind The Scenes/Making Of featurette entitled Possessed: The Quintessential Film Noir and an Original Theatrical Trailer.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image on Child is styled-down a bit and that's fine, but it does hold back performance throughout ultimately, so it is slightly disappointing. The 1.33 X 1 black & white image on Night is the only standard definition image here and being 84 years old and counting, is going to show its age. Some shots are soft and in a classic style on purpose, but the film needs some restoration and there is some print damage.

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer on Possessed can sometimes show its age, but this new HD transfer is impressive and the work of Director of Photography Joseph Valentine, A.S.C. (The Wolf Man (1941), Joan Of Ark (1948), Saboteur, Rope, Shadow Of A Doubt) is on full display looking very impressive in this very consistent transfer. Besides some demo shots and the excellent representation of Warner black and white in the Noir era, some moments do not look their age (even with the grain, which is not bad at all) at all with a few jaw-dropping moments as well. This is not all the time, of course, but it is as good as the film is going to look in this format and is the best entry on the list.

Since the older films were theatrical monophonic releases, the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Child is well mixed and presented, but is too quiet and refined on purpose at times, so the film does not total advantage of the multi-channel possibilities, so the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mixes on Possessed can compete more often than it should, especially as cleaned up and restored it is. The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Night is older, the oldest, a little brittle, a little rough and shows its age. Hope this gets some restoration attention down the line.

To order either of the Warner Archive releases featured in this review, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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