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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Mystery > Murder > Crime > WWII > Character Study > Sex > Show Business > Filmmaking > Melodrama > Thr > Bad Day At Black Rock (1954/MGM/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/The Barefoot Contessa (1954/United Artists/MGM/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)/Quarry: The Complete First Season (2016/Cinemax/HBO Blu-ra

Bad Day At Black Rock (1954/MGM/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/The Barefoot Contessa (1954/United Artists/MGM/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)/Quarry: The Complete First Season (2016/Cinemax/HBO Blu-ray Set)/A Study In Terror (1965/Sherlock Holmes/Columbia/Sony DVD)/Suddenly (1954/United Artists/Film Detective Blu-ray)/Wait Until Dark (1967/Warner Archive Blu-ray)

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

PLEASE NOTE: The Barefoot Contessa Blu-ray is now only available from our friends at Twilight Time, is limited to only 3,000 copies and can be ordered while supplies last, while the Bad Day At Black Rock and Wait Until Dark Blu-rays are now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series. All of them can be ordered from the links below. The Suddenly Blu-ray and Study In Terror DVD can be ordered directly from Movie Zyng on our right hand sidebar or the buttons atop this review.

Here's a solid set of action/mystery thrillers...

John Sturges' Bad Day At Black Rock (1954) is one of the great widescreen films of its time as Spencer Tracy arrives in a small town to visit a man whose name affects anyone... everyone he tells it to. Why? Arriving by train, turns out the train has not stopped at that station in years. The people there know each other and don't seem friendly, or are they scarred by something? As Tracy's WWII veteran digs deeper, he experiences hostility and worse from the likes of a local man (Robert Ryan) and his henchmen (especially Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine) as others seem not to know how to act. Where will this lead?

This MGM classic has been restored for this Warner Archive Blu-ray and it is a gem that deserves it. Everyone is in top form, often young and early in their career, including Anne Francis and John Erikson, who a decade later would co-star in the TV detective/spy classic Honey West (reviewed elsewhere on this site) though you'd have no clue they would do anything like that from their older work here.

I like how this film just builds and builds and I think you will too.

An Original Theatrical Trailer and outstanding audio commentary track by film scholar Dr. Dana Polan are the extras.

Joseph L. Mankiewicz's The Barefoot Contessa (1954) may not be a murder thriller per se, but it is creepier than a mere melodrama as Humphrey Bogart attends the unexpected funeral of the title character (Ava Gardner as Maria Vargas) who was a lively, sexy, sexual woman who landed up in high society and circles with her exceptional beauty and charm as dancer and actress that changed lives and shook any caste systems. It is not that she was mysteriously murdered and this is a detective story, but it is a character study and look at the filmmaking business in conjunction with the mature, adult melodrama at hand.

Even I have some problems with the pacing of this 130 minutes film, but the leads are amazing, though the film can be awkward and it turns out some behind the scenes troubles contributed to this, yet supporting performances by Edmond O'Brien, Marius Goring, Rossano Brazzi, Valentina Cortese and Warren Stevens add to the density of the script and locations to make the film a very palpable experience. Gardner has some stunning moments and if you bring your attention span, you'll be rewarded with an often remarkable film that is ambitious, even when it runs into small problems here and there.

Extras includes another nicely illustrated booklet on the film including informative text and yet another excellent, underrated essay by the great film scholar Julie Kirgo, while the Blu-ray adds a new feature length audio commentary track with Kirgo and David Del Valle, Stills on the film from Del Valle's own archive, an Isolated Music Score and Original Theatrical Trailer.

Quarry: The Complete First Season (2016) is a new cable TV series from the Cinemax Network based on the work of longtime writer Max Allan Collins (Road To Perdition, Dick Tracy) about two Vietnam vets who come home to being hated, but particularly because they were part of a raid that turned into a massacre. Logan Marshall-Green is Mac Conway, not right from that event, happy to be back home to his wife Joni (Jodi Balfour) and finds getting a job tough due to his military duty, one he chose without a draft to return to. A mysterious man (Peter Mullan) offers him the chance to make big money by killing people, which Mac rejects strongly to, but it won't be long before he's drawn into this man's schemes by making a big mistake.

Taking place in 1972, the episodes have plenty of great characters turning up with enough twists and turns to keep the show going. A really pleasant surprise, I cannot imagine why this is not already a big hit and hope we get to see a second season, but it revisits the early 1970s with the authenticity and richness of the underrated and cancelled-too-soon Vinyl. This is a case where I won't say much more as not to ruin things, but the mystery, realism, great acting, fine writing, fine directing and the way the story keeps building makes it hard to stop watching once you start and it does this all without much formula. Definitely go out of your way for this show.

Extras include Digital Copy, audio commentary tracks on select episodes, promo clips, Music Videos, interviews, Deleted Scenes, Alternate Scenes and clips on each episode.

James Hill's A Study In Terror (1965) is an underrated Sherlock Holmes film involving the hunt for Jack The Ripper years before Murder By Decree, yet despite the fictionalized and unconvincing take on the real-life serial killer, is a very suspenseful, effective and even still shocking Holmes film that is much closer to the books and character than the recent Robert Downey, Jr. films as John Neville nails the Holmes role and Donald Houston makes a great Dr. Watson. Holmes quickly connects two seemingly unrelated murders in the newspaper and that leads him to a killer not even he's expecting.

Hill is a great director and this is one of the must-see Holmes films with great costumes, great sets, superior use of color and a remarkable supporting cast that includes Frank Finlay as Inspector Lestrade, Robert Morley as Mycroft Holmes, Judi Dench, Barbara Windsor, Anthony Quayle, John Fraser, Adrienne Corri, Barry Jones, Patrick Newell and uncredited turns by Corin Redgrave and Jeremy Lloyd. The Pop Art/Batman-inspired poster art suggests a comedy or spoof, but the humor that is here is incidental to the plot and storyline, so don't be fooled. This is very, very well done and worth going out of your way for.

There are very sadly no extras.

Lewis Allen's Suddenly (1954) is here yet again on Blu-ray for the third time, this time from Film Detective. The abduction thriller with Frank Sinatra leading a gang up to set up the assassination of a key figure by hijacking a small town family home is effective. Here are the previous reviews of the film on video...

Film Chest/HD Cinema Classics Blu-ray version


Image Blu-ray version


There are sadly no extras like the other editions, but the widescreen version debuting here might appeal to some over others. Its not a bad copy, but see more below in the tech section.

Finally we have Terence Young's great thriller Wait Until Dark (1967) from the Frederick Knott play (he wrote Dial 'M' For Murder that Hitchcock himself turned into a great film thriller in 1954, now on Blu-ray 3D from Warner) about a blind woman named Susi (a rightly Oscar-nominated performance by Audrey Hepburn) who gets through life the best she can, has a man (Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.) named Sam who loves her and good neighbors. He travels for work and is randomly given a doll at the airport by a lady stranger on one of his many travels.

He then brings it home to Susi not knowing it contains valuable hidden bags of heroin in it, which a group of greedy dealers (Alan Arkin, Richard Crenna, Jack Weston) would like to get it as quickly and quietly as possible, but Susi has to be tricked. Taking things in in the world differently, these manipulators may have unexpected troubles.

This remains a smart, excellent, claustrophobic thriller as good as anything the Diabolique/Psycho wave inspired and us another case where everyone is convincing and in excellent form, with the cast doing some of the best work of their career. This was a risk for Hepburn making such a dark film against type, but it payed off and remains one of the best films she ever made. Young had always been a good director, but had come off of three hit James Bond films by this time (3 of the first 4) and found himself helming event films for the rest of his career. This is easily the best of them. I always liked this film and am glad to see it arrive in such a fine copy.

Extras include a 'Warning Trailer' on the mode of Hitchcock's Psycho, the Original Theatrical Trailer and produced for DVD Making Of featurette Take A Look In The Dark.

Starting with the five Blu-ray releases, the new 1080p 2.55 X 1 digital High Definition image on Day looks great in its CinemaScope, Eastman Color glory, gritty, yet with interesting touches of color in what is a sandier, grittier color film for its time. The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Contessa can show the age of the materials used with some slight dirt and flaws in color registration here and there, but the slightly darker 35mm British dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor still comes through most of the time, as lensed by the genius Director of Photography Jack Cardiff. It could use some work, but I have never seen it even looking this good.

Tying both is a HD shoot of all episodes of Quarry in 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers that do a pretty good approximation of recreating the look and feel of the early-to-mid 1970s, better than most digital shoots have since HD overtook film for the worse.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Dark rarely shows the age of the materials used, is far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film on home video and was also a 35mm dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor film in its original theatrical release. Director of Photography Charles Lang, Jr.. (a Hepburn and Stanley Donen alumni, et al) juggles the color looking really good and naturalistic, while still having a dark, effective atmosphere that works and delivers. Thanks to Blu-ray and the better Video Black, you can see the depth intended and despite some flaws, you can now experience the look and feel intended pretty much throughout as if it were a film print. Those four releases tie for first place.

The 1080p 1.75 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer on this version of Suddenly is the grainiest of the three Blu-rays we have looked at and seems to be missing some slivers of image on the sides on top of cutting the top and bottom off for its widescreen 'soft matte' presentation, yet it is not digitally processed or over-processed and is a little more naturalistic. Its good and can compete with the other editions being possibly the most naturalistic of the three, but the grain and loss of information bothered me a bit, so we still do not have the definitive edition.

Finally, the anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Study comes from a great, clean, clear, color-accurate 'ColumbiaColor' print that looks HD and Blu-ray ready and just adds to how fine this film looks throughout.

As for sound, Contessa and Quarry are here in DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes, but only Quarry is originally designed as such and needless to say is narrowly the best sonic presentation here easily as expected being the newest production here. Contessa was originally issued with Perspecta Sound which split the sound by frequencies instead of by actual stereo and that mix is here in DTS-MA 3.0. The 5.1 takes the original sound stems, including the music, expanding them very effectively to a 5.1 mix. It also has DTS-MA 2.0 for purists.

Day was originally issued in 4-track magnetic sound with traveling dialogue and sound effects in its best 35mm presentations, but this disc only offers a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Stereo lossless mix that still sounds good, but is sadly missing some detail and depth. Dark has a fine DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix that is clean and clear enough to match Contessa and Dark (with its great, effective Henry Mancini score) for playback performance, though I always wished the film was in stereo.

Suddenly also has DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix like the Image Blu-ray, but it is no better and not bad, but not great either. I wish it were better, but the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Study does sound pretty good, as good as Suddenly and sounds closer to the original sound source of the film. If only it were lossless.

To order The Barefoot Contessa limited edition Blu-ray, buy it and other great exclusives while supplies last at these links:




...and to order either of the Warner Archive Blu-rays, Bad Day At Black Rock and Wait Until Dark, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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