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Category:    Home > Reviews > Western > Drama > Comedy > Spaghetti > Italy > Murder > Crime > Journalism > Mystery > Deep Sea Diving > Norwa > Day Of Anger (1967 aka Gunlaw/MVD/Arrow Blu-ray)/The Murder Man (1935/MGM/Warner Archive DVD)/Pioneer (2013/Magnolia Blu-ray)/Ride The Pink Horse (1947/Universal/Criterion Blu-ray)

Day Of Anger (1967 aka Gunlaw/MVD/Arrow Blu-ray)/The Murder Man (1935/MGM/Warner Archive DVD)/Pioneer (2013/Magnolia Blu-ray)/Ride The Pink Horse (1947/Universal/Criterion Blu-ray)

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

PLEASE NOTE: The Murder Man DVD is now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.

These thrillers come from different genres, but tend to be unusual examples of them....

Totino Valerii's Day Of Anger (1967) is one of those few Spaghetti Westerns besides the Sergio Leone films that got a seriously good release in the U.S., in this case from National General. It has Lee Van Cleef in great form, arriving in a town with its share of corruption and meeting a young man named Scott (Giuliano Gemma) who cleans for one of the ingrates in town. He tells him to stop letting them treat him with disrespect, just in time for all hell to break loose in there.

Slightly comic, but not as much as the subgenre was about to sadly experience, this I essentially a Revenge Western with the dirt, grit and edge of the Italian cycle and has its moments. I like the longer Italian version than the short 'international' version or English dub, which makes it come across as poorer, so that is the cut I recommend and its nice this Blu-ray from the great company Arrow (now issuing some of their titles in the U.S.) has designed the disc that way.

Extras include an illustrated booklet on the film including poster designs and new essay on the film and a reversible cover with new Reinhard Kleist art, while the Blu-ray adds Original Theatrical Trailers, a Deleted Scene, a brand new interview with screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi, a brand new interview with Tonino Valerii's biographer Roberto Curti and previously unreleased 2008 interview with Tonino Valerii.

Tim Whelan's The Murder Man (1935) is an early MGM star vehicle for Spencer Tracy, a reporter who likes to drink and is wanted badly by his newspaper when a local rich man (so rich, the luxury convertible he is chauffeured in has a windshield for the very back seats!) is shot and killed. Who did it? Why? Many at the paper (including great early performances by James Stewart and William Demerest) are trying to find out about the killer and where Tracy's Steve Gray is.

This has a nice twist at the end, some good humor, some interesting moments and nice supporting turns by Lionel Atwill, Virginia Bruce, Robert Barrat and Harvey Stephens. The studio made this look good, but it is a tight 69 minutes, so it never wastes a moment in what it is trying to pull off. It may not be great, but it is definitely worth a look.

An Original Theatrical Trailer is the only extra.

Erik Skjoldbjaerg's Pioneer (2013) is based on a true story about how Norway teamed up with the United States to see if they could get to massive oil reserves deep in their section of the ocean. If they could make it, they'd become one of the richest countries in the region and it did, but there were problems along the way and this includes a death or two that might not have to have happened.

Petter (Aksel Hennie) is so upset about what happens, especially when they try to blame him that he decides he is going to find out the truth no matter what, which brings about strange behavior from some of the people around him. This especially goes for some of the visiting Americans (played by Wes Bentley, Stephen Lang and Jonathan LaPaglia), so he is onto something, but with so much money involved in the deep diving project and a giant payoff in the wings... might someone want to kill him?

This is a fine thriller made well, effectively and never lets up throughout, which is rare in the genre these days as so many hacks try the genre and cannot handle the basics. I liked both versions of Insomnia, but am still partial to this director's original version and he displays his same strong talents. The early 1980s setting is totally palpable and convincing, yet never feels distant, which is why the thriller elements work. Stephanie Sigman (Miss Bala, SPECTRE) also stars.

Extras include an AXS-TV look at the film, separate Behind The Scenes and Making Of featurettes on the film and separate on-camera interview clips with Stephanie Sigman and Stephen Lang dubbed Working On Pioneer. I'm stil waiting for this one to get discovered.

Robert Montgomery's Ride The Pink Horse (1947) has the Lady In The Lake star playing a former GI going after a deadly gangster in New Mexico for killing a best friend of his. However, it will not be so easy as he gets involved with hispanic locals, gets drunk and loses track of his intents. This includes meeting a young woman named Pila (Wanda Hendrix) who is naïve and gets involved when she should not, eventually taking him to the older, wiser Pancho (Thomas Gomez) who he meets in a bar without knowing who he is.

Hugo (a very effective Fred Clark) is still his ultimate target, more interested in the next big money gain than if anyone is beaten badly or to death and has the muscle to back him up. Too bad our GI has not forgotten his military training, but he is not at his best here.

Ben Hecht and Charles Lederer co-wrote the screenplay from Dorothy B. Hughes novel, making it effectively creepy, atmospheric and odd in ways that help the film. It has been a while since I have seen it and remember some parts of it simply not working, not due to its low budget (Universal made it, but just about all Noirs were low budget), but because some moments fall a little flat. Otherwise, it is a special Film Noir that more than deserved Criterion treatment and it is one everyone should see once. Rita Conte, Iris Flores, Richard Gaines and Andrea King also star.

Extras include an illustrated paper foldout on the film including informative text and an essay on the film by filmmaker/writer Michael Almereyda, while the Blu-ray adds a solid feature length audio commentary track by film scholars Alain Silver & James Ursini, on camera interview with writer Imogene Sara whose a Noir scholar and 1947 Lux Radio Theater version of the film (a short hour) with Montgomery, Wanda Hendrix and Thomas Gomez co-staring.

All four features are shot on 35mm film with the 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition Techniscope image transfer on Anger and can show the age of the materials used with grain outside of the tiny 2-perf frames, but this is far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film and comes from the original camera negative. The film was originally issued in dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor prints, but we don't get that kind of color all the time, though it looks great when we do. Pioneer is in the same frame and the makers purposely shoot for distortion and atmosphere very effectively, but that costs the fidelity and clarity a bit. Director of Photography Jallo Faber (of the newer Wallander TV series among other projects) is one of those all-too-rare cameramen who don't distort images to show off admitting they have no idea what they are doing. All enhancements actually enhance the narrative and suspense.

Both films use the very widescreen frame to its fullest extent and show what you can do with scope when you know how to use it outside of pompous 'I'm making a big film' idiocy we see way too often.

The 1.33 X 1 black & white image on the Murder DVD has some nice shots throughout, but is a little soft and the print itself is a little worn with slight scratches, et al. Otherwise, I found it watchable enough despite these limits.

The visual champ is the 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image 2K transfer for Horse from a combination of a fine-grain 35mm print and 35mm safety duplicate negative offering detail, depth and the true character intended. You will be impressed and surprised when you see how good this one looks.

As for sound, there may be some location audio issues, but the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Pioneer is the best presentation here with well mixed character and detail for the most part. Like the original version of Insomnia on Criterion Blu-ray (reviewed elsewhere on this site), Skjoldbjaerg proves once again he has some of the best, smartest and most advanced uses of sound on film of any filmmaker anywhere. Guess they did not have the time or money to correct the few flawed moments. The remaining audio on the Anger and Horse Blu-rays is PCM 1.0 Mono in keeping with the original theatrical sound. Anger sounds best in its Italian tracks versus the dubbed English, while Horse sounds a it cleaner coming from its 35mm optical positive soundmaster.

That leaves the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Murder a little low and noisy throughout, also a bit compressed and needing some work, but I like its sound design just the same.

To order The Murder Man Warner Archive DVD, go to this link for it and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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