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Category:    Home > Reviews > Mystery > Spy > Murder > Drama > Nazi > British > Thriller > Prison > Documentary > Crime > Cable TV > The Accursed! (1957 aka The Traitor/Allied Artists/Warner Archive DVD)/Escape From Alcatraz (1979/Malpaso/Paramount/Warner Blu-ray)/The Jinx: The Life & Deaths Of Robert Durst (2015/HBO Blu-ray Set)

The Accursed! (1957 aka The Traitor/Allied Artists/Warner Archive DVD)/Escape From Alcatraz (1979/Malpaso/Paramount/Warner Blu-ray)/The Jinx: The Life & Deaths Of Robert Durst (2015/HBO Blu-ray Set)

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

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

Here's a new set of recent crime drama releases, including an adaptation of a real life one and a documentary mini-series on another...

Michael McCarthy's The Accursed! (1957) had then-upstart Allied Artists picking up a small British spy thriller and seeing what they could do with it. Donald Woffit, Robert Bray, Jane Griffiths, Anton Diffring and Christopher Lee lead the mystery cast as British WWII soldiers reunite years later, but some have mysteriously died... or were not so mysteriously murdered. This is found out by a German Jewish doctor and with all stuck in the house, who will die next?

At 78 minutes, it is a tight, decent little thriller that is not great, but always interesting and I had not seen it for many years. The cast is solid, it has a good look going for it and is always at least smart. Those interested should give it a good look.

Don Siegel's Escape From Alcatraz (1979) is a loosely-based-on-a-true-story drama about the men who somehow managed to get away from the island-based prison that was deemed unescapable. Clint Eastwood leads the cast of those daring to get away, made harder by the great Patrick McGoohan as the not-too-nice prison warden who is more than a match for any of the toughest prisoners. Those who have never seen it, but liked Shawshank Redemption or are more familiar with the Sean Connery/Nicolas Cage hit The Rock (both reviewed elsewhere on this site) should go out of their way for this one.

Siegel, who taught Eastwood how to direct, was still able to create tension, suspense and a palpable dark sense of realism in his films decades after making his mark in Film Noir in a second career as director. He was a major editor at Warner Bros. before that, honing his narrative skills and abilities to construct with impact early on. There's very little humor here and little time is wasted in getting started or moving the story arc along. Richard Tuggle's script was so good here, Eastwood had him direct the underrated Tightrope a few years later. Look for Fred Ward, Danny Glover and Carl Lumbly among the cast of unknowns.

Jerry Fielding delivered a really good score and Director of Photography Bruce Surtees created a look for the film that has aged very well. See it!

Andrew Jarecki's The Jinx: The Life & Deaths Of Robert Durst (2015) tells the unbelievable (it was more so then than these days) story about how a man with money went around pretending not to have any and even be other people, all while possibly committing murder. Even the various ways he got out of jail, with huge amounts of money he didn't seem to have suddenly showing up to save him from incarceration. What was going on here? Was he innocent and just kept showing up at the wrong places at the wrong time?

That it took six-hours to show what was really going on tells you how bizarre Mr. Durst's life and behavior was and that as eccentric and suspicious as he was, he was not getting arrested or called on anything going on simply because he had money. The comclusion is as much a character study of him as it is of our justice system and as this arrived, he was finally charged with murder in an ongoing case. Cheers to the producers, Jarecki and HBO for yet again going the long way in investigative reporting to expose the truth and yet another scandal. Can't wait to see how the next parts of this tale play out.

The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 black and white image in Accursed has some nice shots, but can be soft and has more light debris and dirt throughout than it ought to have, but I like the look of the film. Someone should upgrade this one for HD.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image on Alcatraz is from an older HD master so fine detail and black crush can be seen throughout the disc, but it was a darkly shot film (not too much so) and this will do until a new HD master can be made. Thus, it can equal the 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Jinx due to a variety of old analog, regular definition clips and some similar low-def digital clips to tell the story over its 6 episodes, while the new HD shooting is not bad.

As for sound, the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Accursed is low and on the weak side, sounding as second-generation as it looks, so this again needs some upgrading. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 on Alcatraz tries to expand the original theatrical monophonic sound of the film, which was always a bit flat, but comes up with mixed results. Another attempt at upgrading is going to need the original sound stems with the latest transfer technology, but it would be worth it.

That leaves the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes on the Jinx episodes, which are often simple stereo in their interviews and often monophonic or problematic location recordings otherwise, so any added music or the better sounding material is the sonic highlight by default, but only expect so much sonically. The makers have done their best though.

None of these releases have any extras, but Jinx has Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and iTunes capable devices for a limited time, but we won't count that one as it eventually expires.

To order The Accursed! DVD, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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