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Category:    Home > Reviews > Mystery > Drama > Murder > Legal > Detective > Crime > Serial Killer > Gay > Noir > Relationships > Agatha Christie Collection (Witness For The Prosecution (1957), Ten Little Indians (1965), Appointment With Death (1988)/Umbrella Region Free PAL Import DVD Set)/Berserk! (1967/Columbia/Sony DVD)/Kiss

Agatha Christie Collection (Witness For The Prosecution (1957), Ten Little Indians (1965), Appointment With Death (1988)/Umbrella Region Free PAL Import DVD Set)/Berserk! (1967/Columbia/Sony DVD)/Kiss Me Kill Me (2015/Embrem DVD)/Mildred Pierce (1945/Warner/Criterion Blu-ray)/Nocturnal Animals (2016/Universal Blu-ray w/DVD)

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

PLEASE NOTE: The Agatha Christie Collection Import DVD set is now only available from our friends at Umbrella Entertainment in Australia, can only play on Blu-ray players that can handle the PAL DVD and can be ordered from the link below, while Berserk! is now only available online from our friends at Movie Zyng and can be ordered via the order button atop this review or on top of our right hand sidebar.

Next up are several thrillers, all usually involving murder...

The boldly entitled Agatha Christie Collection is actually an Region Free PAL Import DVD set of three films you mostly have not seen, but should once to be a completist. All are at least ambitious and two we have reviewed before, including a Blu-ray of Billy Wilder's Witness For The Prosecution (1957). See more at this link...


Then there's George Pollack's Ten Little Indians (1965)...


New to us is Michael Winner's Appointment With Death (1988) now a curio because Carrie Fisher appeared in it and with Lauren Bacall, Sir John Gielgud, Piper Laurie, Hayley Mills, David Soul, Jennie Seagrove and Peter Ustinov in his third theatrical feature film (after the mixed Death On The Nile and highly underrated Evil Under The Sun) as Christie's legendary detective Hercule Poirot. Though set in the period of the book decades ago, this ambitious for infamous studio Cannon Films release including an adaptation of the Christie book by Anthony Shaffer!

Unfortunately, the mystery of Bacall trying to get rid of her husband for his money is surprisingly stale and unsuspenseful, plus this is eight years after Sun did not find the audience it deserved, so a certain momentum was lost. At least it was not set in 1988.

There are sadly no extras anywhere here.

Jim O'Connolly's Berserk! (1967) is one of several 'killer in the circus' films especially being made at the time, but this one has Joan Crawford as the female ringleader who has to start to confront a series of 'accidents' killing her crew. As we wonder who and why, we meet all the people there, eccentric, different and otherwise, though some of the eccentrics are purely British. The murders are ghoulish and too many take place in front of families, yet the film is more suggestive than graphic.

Helping the good-looking Herman Cohen production (he and Crawford were friends) include Diana Dors, Ty Harding, Michael Gough, Judy Geeson, Geoffrey Keen, Robert Hardy, Peter Burton and Philip Madoc. Even when this gets flat, it gets interesting again, the film is at least trying and has enough fun moments to give it a look.

There are sadly no extras.

Casper Andreas' Kiss Me Kill Me (2015) is a murder thriller set in Hollywood and its gay community in part, entertainment industry otherwise with guys cheating on each other potentially as one flamboyant old flame unexpectedly gets a reality TV role. When a dead body turns up, real reality takes over. Dusty (As the World Turns four-time Emmy nominee Van Hansis) blacks out in all this, his boyfriend Stephen (Queer As Folk gay icon Gale Harold) may or may not be up to no good and thus, who done it. The cast of relative unknowns (save being known for gay-themed releases or support in more well-known releases) is not bad, but any mystery or suspense is killed by the comedy and melodrama.

Brianna Brown (Devious Maids), Yolonda Ross (HBO's The Get Down), Jai Rodriguez (Queer Eye), Matthew Ludwinski (Andreas' previous film Going Down in LA-LA Land), Craig Robert Young (The Last Ship), Kit Williamson (Mad Men), Jonathan Lisecki (Gayby), D.J. "Shangela" Pierce (RuPaul's Drag Race) and Michael Maize (Mr. Robot) make up the rest of the main cast, but they never mesh well here. Andreas took on too much and did not concentrate enough, but at least he tried something different.

Extras include a Music Video, Trailers, FilmOut San Diego opening night clip, Behind The Scenes featurette and feature length audio commentary track by Andreas and co-writer/co-producer David Michael Barrett.

Michael Curtiz's Mildred Pierce (1945) is one of Joan Crawford's great films, an interesting melodrama with some Film Noir and unintended camp humor as she plays the ever-suffering title character trying to raise her children and particularly trying to help and protect her daughter (a young Ann Blyth) well, but a mysterious murder in the opening Mildred may or may not have committed gets us off to a memorable start. Then we get the backstory as flashback throughout. Based on James M. Cain's book, this critical and commercial smash for Warner Bros. has aged very well and is a must-see for all serious film fans.

Criterion has issued this fine Blu-ray edition that is the one to get if you love or have never seen the film. With new interest in Crawford via the TV movie on the making of Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?, the timing is excellent. Jack Carson, Zachary Scott and Eve Arden also star.

Extras include a paper foldout on the film including an essay by critic Imogen Sara Smith, while the Blu-ray adds a new conversation about the film with critics Molly Haskell and Robert Polito, an excerpt from a 1970 episode of The David Frost Show featuring actor Joan Crawford, Joan Crawford: The Ultimate Movie Star, a 2002 feature-length documentary on Crawford's life and career, a Q&A with actor Ann Blyth from 2002, conducted by film historian Eddie Muller, a segment from a 1969 episode of The Today Show featuring novelist James M. Cain and an Original Theatrical Trailer. If only the brilliant Carol Burnett Show spoof were added.

For even more, read about the cable TV mini-series remake from HBO on Blu-ray at this link...


Tom Ford's Nocturnal Animals (2016) is last but not least of our ambitious mysteries, trying to do a book within a movie versus movie within a movie with Any Adams as a woman of means in higher society in an unhappy marriage that puts her at a crossroads. Her husband (Arnie Hammer) is in fact up to things with another woman, but before she can get into any of that, an old flame sends her a manuscript for an unpublished novel that is supposed to be fiction, but as she reads it, it starts hitting close to home. She actually dumped the author for her new husband and now might be regretting it, but the tale of a young woman and her husband (played by Jake Gyllenhaal, who might also be the author of the book) are driving along an isolated highway when a group of 'hick' types start messing with them in awful ways. This includes a daughter, then things go form bad to worse and he has to call a police officer (Michael Shannon) for help as things spiral out of control.

It is fiction enough that we know not all of it happened, but it sure upsets her, affecting her in ways we can only being to imagine why about. Thus, this is not only a mystery of what is the real story and not, but of the character of all involved. Though this has some lag and holes at the end (some open-endedness intentional), I liked what did work and definitely think it is one of the years better films. Ford can direct and even skipped doing any clothing to rightly concentrate on the narrative, plus the acting talent and look of the film are all a plus. To say anything else would ruin things, but you should definitely see this one all the way through with undivided attention to get the maximum impact out of it.

Isla Fisher, Laura Linney, Andrea Risborough and Michael Sheen also star.

Extras include Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and other cyber iTunes capable devices, while the discs add three Behind The Scenes/Making Of featurettes in Building The Story, The Look Of Nocturnal Animals and The Filmmaker's Eye: Tom Ford.

Starting with the picture quality, the two Blu-ray releases here look really good, even dealing well with darkness and Video Black as well as any films in the format. Both are also entirely shot on 35mm film. The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer on Mildred hardly shows the age of the materials used, is far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film on home video and comes from the original 35mm nitrate camera negative with a 35mm fine grain safety master when needed. The result is great and like never having seen the film before and has some of the best work ever from Director of Photography Ernest Haller, A.S.C., from his long career.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Animals was shot on Kodak's advanced Vision 3 color 35mm negative stocks offering all kinds of detail, range and nuance, even from the Super 35mm format. Director of Photography Seamus McGarvey, A.S.C., B.S.C., also delivers some of his best work to date. The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image DVD version tries to present a decent picture, but cannot come close to what the image should look like and is a bit soft too.

The three PAL format DVDs of Agatha Christie films are not bad, though the anamorphically enhanced 1.66 X 1 image on Prosecution looks like the same older transfer used for the Blu-ray we already reviewed, if not as clear. The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Death is not bad, but nothing special either, representing the decent shoot it is. That leaves the anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Indians looking like the same transfer and print that the U.S. Warner Archive DVD has, which is fine, but I bet it would look really nice on Blu-ray.

The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on Kill is an HD shoot that is not bad, but has some off shots and a few bad edits, but is fine otherwise.

Finally, the anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Berserk! was originally a dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor 35mm release and this transfer often Director of Photography Desmond Dickinson, B.S.C. (Horrors Of The Black Museum, City Of The Dead, A Study In Terror (all reviewed elsewhere on this site), Konga, Trog, The Alphabet Murders, Murder Most Foul) uses color and angles very effectively throughout, along with his usual compositions showing off the actors to best effect. This one needs a Blu-ray at some point too.

As for sound, Animals is easily the sonic winner on Blu-ray with its DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix that has its silent moments and kicking ones, well recorded, mixed and presented, but the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 often misses how well that works. The PCM 2.0 Mono on Mildred comes from the original optical soundmaster and is actually the second-best sonic performer here being pretty close to the original sound recording, offering more clarity and impact than you might expect.

The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on the Kill DVD matches that of Animals for all intents and purposes, though it has some off moments in the editing. That leaves lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on all three Christie films sounding as good as expected and on Berserk!, which comes form as clean a source, yet sounds slightly low and compressed as if the transfer was being done to conservatively volume-wise. There's more sound here and we should hear it, so be careful of volume switching or high playback levels.

To order the Agatha Christie Collection Umbrella import DVD set, go to this link for it and other hard to get releases:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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