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Category:    Home > Reviews > Thriller > Psychological > Murder > Mystery > Crime > Identity > Killer > Detective > Sex > Counterculture > P > Gaslight (1944*)/Klute (1971/Warner/Criterion Blu-ray)/Taking Tiger Mountain (1974/Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray w/DVD)/The Thin Man (1934/*both MGM/Warner Archive Blu-rays)/Transit (2018/Music Box Blu-ray

Gaslight (1944*)/Klute (1971/Warner/Criterion Blu-ray)/Taking Tiger Mountain (1974/Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray w/DVD)/The Thin Man (1934/*both MGM/Warner Archive Blu-rays)/Transit (2018/Music Box Blu-ray)

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

PLEASE NOTE: The Gaslight and Thin Man Blu-rays are now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.

Up next are some smart thrillers, including a lost film, three classics and a new entry...

George Cukor is best known for his musicals, melodramas and helping many an actor and actress behind the scenes in endless films (sometimes secretly) you know, but he was capable of other genres and Gaslight (1944) is a classic thriller that proves he was even more prolific than many thought. Ingrid Bergman is amazing as a woman who marries who she thinks is the man of her dreams (Charles Boyer) until the marriage very slowly turns into an odd trap. Why? What is wrong? Why is she being manipulated?

The film has a few mysteries, all tied in, with a few others suspect in the happenings, but a police detective (Joseph Cotten) finds himself drifting into the situation when following a seemingly unrelated case. In the meantime, Boyer hires a new maid (Angela Lansbury in her first film) and we too are often in the dark (figuratively and literally) as to what is going on.

Still referenced today, it is a smart remake of a British film and has been influential on many a psychological thriller since, but the cast is amazing, Bergman really shines (rightly winning the Best Actress Academy Award) and now the film has been restored for this exclusive Blu-ray release from Warner Archive. I had not seen it in a good, while but it holds up very well.

Extras include the 1940 British version worth looking at after seeing the later remake, the 1946 Lux Radio Theater version in lossless audio, 1944 Academy Awards Ceremonial Reel, Original Theatrical Trailer, Reflections On Gaslight featurette hosted by Lansbury and A Reminiscence by Pia Lindstrom About Her Mother, Ingrid Bergman featurette.

Alan H. Pakula's Klute (1971) is a thriller that was a big commercial and critical success, shocking all the more since Jane Fonda was at her controversial peak rallying against the Vietnam fiasco off-screen while still being a top international movie star on it, but she could also act and she gives one of the best performances of her career as the very trapped counterculture prostitute Bree, trying to have a better life, but not quite fitting into anywhere or anything within society. This happens to also make her the target of a killer.

Fortunately, she crosses paths early with the title character, Donald Sutherland as a police detective working on a case that involves a potential killer on the loose. The film also tells its story (like many a Pakula film) visually, with darkness and grit. Some have criticized the film for being potentially anti-woman since Bree is a hooker who is always trapped and at the mercy of a male in one way or another throughout the film, a contradiction of her supposedly progressive and frank attitudes, but I would argue that despite some of that ideas validity, she's actually stuck in the middle of her liberated self and a situation where she is trapped beyond her genre as many male anti-heroes and other men in cinema of the time (Robert Kolker's brilliant book A Cinema Of Loneliness (reviewed elsewhere on this site) addresses this with films like Taxi Driver, et al) just proves she is in the same situation so many men in these mature, adult films were at the time.

Some may argue she is the immediate flipside to Jon Voight's Joe Buck in Midnight Cowboy (see the great Criterion edition when you can), where he is trying to live a dream while reliving several nightmares, while Bree sees everything clearly, yet a new nightmare lurks.

Extras include another high quality, illustrated booklet with tech info, & an essay by critic Mark Harris and excerpts from a 1972 interview with Pakula, while the disc adds a newly recorded conversation between actors Jane Fonda and Illeana Douglas, new documentary about Klute and director Alan J. Pakula by filmmaker Matthew Miele, featuring scholars, filmmakers, and Pakula's family and friends, The Look of "Klute," a new interview with writer Amy Fine Collins, archival interviews with Pakula and Fonda, and "Klute" in New York, a short documentary made during the shooting of the film.

In 1974, Kent Smith directed Taking Tiger Mountain about a futuristic police state at least partly controlled by a group of educated women who take a young man, manipulate his sexuality, et al, and reprogram him to be an assassin. The twist here is that it is the big screen debut of Bill Paxton, boldly taking on the role with no hang-ups, wearing make-up at times, no clothes others and following Andy Warhol star Joe Dallesandro as one of the first men to appear in a non-X-rated hardcore sex film 'ready to perform' though nothing XXX graphic happens here.

Shot entirely in black and white (they made the whole thing apparently on left over 35mm film from Lenny, reviewed elsewhere on this site) and yet, the film never was completely finished. In 1983, with Director Tom Huckabee taking over, it was finally finished and released in the main version seen here. Paxton was just on the verge of becoming one of Hollywood's most popular character actors who occasionally got a lead role before his awful, too-soon, recent passing.

We get the 1983 version of the film that is not bad, but then a new 2019 'update'; is included that looks fake, waters down the film and looks bad. The biggest problem with the original is we keep hearing about things (usually bad) going on, but never see them, not even with stills, which is bad filmmaking for which even a low budget is no excuse (the 1997 Godzilla remake had this problem and they had tons of money, so this can happen anywhere). However, for its intelligence, ambition and surprising good performance from Paxton this early, its great to see the film saved and reissued. Even with some flaws and moments that do not work, you should definitely see the picture.

Extras include the also-included DVD, illustrated booklet with essay by Heather Drain, reversible cover, lame 2019 cut, two Huckabee interview segments and Interviews With Welshmen, a short film directed by Kent Smith.

In the 1930s and 1940s, all the movie studios were making movie series, like TV series, each film was a separate adventure (versus Saturday Morning Serials for children, offering an average 12 short films to make one adventure) and it made for some of the most interested commercial filmmaking of the time, plus turned out some great work. This included many mystery series featuring the likes of Charlie Chan, Mr. Moto and Sherlock Holmes, plus the series that did not succeed and only produced a few films each. MGM was the #1 studio of the time and when they had W.S. Van Dyke direct Dashiell Hammett's The Thin Man (1934)

The pairing of William Powell as Nick Charles and Myrna Loy as Nora Charles was an instant success and audiences were thrilled with their witty repartee in the tradition of Screwball Comedies and other city-based sound films, it followed the book very well and was a hit. This led to a series (unexpectedly or not) and is considered one of the best such detective series ever made, though on the short side like the Rathbone/Bruce Holmes films. Of course, they also had the Thin Man name in the title, but Nick was not the title character, though a possible dead man was.

Save the way Nick treated Nora at times, which I did not like then and has not aged well, the film is just fine and much imitated since (all the way to TV classics like The Avengers, Hart To Hart and even Moonlighting) has rarely been equalled and even spoofed by David Niven and Maggie Smith in the 1976 feature film version of Neil Simon's Murder By Death (all reviewed elsewhere on this site) so it is a key film and it should be added wit was already a part of the mystery genre to start with.

Warner Archive has issued this film for the first time on Blu-ray in an impressive restoration that looks as good as I have ever seen the film and extras include a 1936 Lux Radio Theater version of the film with Loy & Powell, the first episode of the TV series version that lasted for a few episodes with Phyllis Kirk (a Lois Lane from Superman of the time) and Peter Lawford form 1957 and an Original Theatrical Trailer that is particularly clever.

If you've never seen this film, this is the best way to do so outside of a mint film print.

Finally we have Christian Petzold's Transit (2018) taking place in a near-future (or current) Europe where fascism has returned and fascists are overrunning one city at a time. We join George (Franz Rogowski) in France, where he is a German refugee who has to leave as soon as possible. Like Children Of Men, we are not told how things got this bad (again!?!) joining the terror and murder in progress, trying to make sense of it all. He assumes the identity of a dead writer and tries to get papers to get to (supposed?) freedom in North America. It will not be easy and others have troubles as pressing.

Adapted from a 1944 (!!!) book by Anna Seghers, the film and book before it are suddenly more relevant than expected and though the film has flaws, it has some fine acting, good directing and other moments that reminded me of Children Of Men, but that's the film it cannot escape the shadow of. It is still worth a look, but it has a few too many moments of the same thing within its own storylines that hold it back and prevent it from being its own total work. Still, it is ambitious and intelligent, which is more than I can say about most releases we've seen in the last few years.

Extras include an illustrated Collector's Booklet featuring interviews and an essay by Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, while the disc adds a Making of Transit interview featurette with Franz Rogowski, Interview with director Christian Petzold, Franz Rogowski: Shooting Star, Filmmaker Q&A from the Film Society of Lincoln Center, press conference with the cast and crew from the Berlin film premiere and In Transit: Thrown Into the World a conversation with Christian Petzold and Barbara Auer.

Now for playback performance. The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfers on Gaslight and Thin Man can show the age of the materials used in parts, but these are new HD masters and show off the gloss of MGM's labs black and white lab work. Both offer a few demo shots and are first rate for the format.

The other three films are scope productions, but all achieve their image by different means. The 1080p 2.35 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image on Tiger looks great, one of the only films ever shot monochrome and in 2-perf Techniscope, but it works well (Lucas' THX-1138 was actually Technicolor, but shot as if it were black and white) and offers a few shots like little you've seen before. The anamorphically-enhanced DVD is passable, but not as impressive.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Transit is a decent HD shoot that is pretty consistent and fine throughout, with only a few flaws. It almost achieves a look of its own, but never quite completes that goal.

That leaves the 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Klute very rarely showing the age of the materials used, supervised by camera operator and Director of Photography in his own right Michael Chapman and emulating the darkness delivered unforgettably by Director of Photography Gordon Willis, A.S.C., that was actually issued in 35mm dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor prints that had the darkness, thick film black and ivory white that makes this film work so well. This is the most impressive transfer of the five releases here and that says something, another amazing HD master from Criterion that stuns and shows us how great those Technicolor prints must have been to see on a huge, big screen.

As for sound, Transit is the only film here to offer modern sound in its German/French DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix that has a decent soundfield throughout with good dialogue clarity, which we get enough of along with smart periods of silence. It never goes overboard to its credit and is well mixed and recorded overall.

The rest of the films were issued monophonically theatrically and are all presented here in DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mixes that sound pretty impressive in all cases, from the oldest two MGM films to the indie Tiger production (a good part of its audio was was prerecorded) and Klute has a magnetic mono soundmaster, so its transfer is as impressive as any of them.. This is a plus, since all the films look so good. The Tiger DVD has passable, lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono that is audible, but actually loses some of the interesting sound editing on the film.

To order the Gaslight and/or Thin Man Blu-rays, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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