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Category:    Home > Reviews > Film Noir > Drama > Laura (1944/Film Noir)

Laura (1944/Film Noir)


Picture: B-†††† Sound: B-†††† Extras: B+††† Film: A



Otto Premingerís classic film Laura puts the word noir in film noir.This is the quintessential film that defines the genre and is a keystone factor that includes all the necessary ingredients making it even more poignant with time.This is one of the few films that as watch and learn more you feel you know less about the events in the film.Constantly forging ahead scene by scene, yet at the same time taking steps backwards as we follow the hot trails of a detective out to solve what seems to be a normal murder case.However, the dialogue thickens quicker than the plot and whether you are seeing this film for the first or fiftieth time it never fails to disappoint or charm.What truly separates this film from the rest is that its so convincing that even once you have seen the film you let yourself be swept away in repeat viewings to the point that it seems fresh all over again.Hitchcock is one of the only other filmmakers who also had the unique gift to do so at this high level caliber.


Yes, there are really talented filmmakers who do have the ability to make memorable and downright masterful films, very few possess the ability to capture your first-time viewing experience each and every time you do view it, or for that matter make the material seems fresh no matter how much time passes by.


This is a film that knows precisely what it is doing down to every minute detail for its entire duration.Treating the film like a full course meal the active ingredients begin with razor sharp dialogue that make this one of the tightest and wittiest scripts ever written for the big screen.Getting down to the point of the matter with each syllable, but at the same time keeping its distance from ruining too much about its characters or the overall plot.We are given just enough information to lead us on, yet not enough to make us fully aware of the incidents.We are to some degree as vulnerable as most of its cast.Sometimes are we given information that we cannot even decipher its relevance or whether it truly matters or not.To some extent everything is important making this film nearly impossible to describe without ruining anything.The script is only made more delicious by the impeccable cast delivering it.


Beginning with detective McPhearson (Dana Andrews) right down through Gene Tierney as the infamous title character Laura we also have one of my all time favorite characters in cinema Waldo Lydecker played by the brilliant Clifton Webb.Vincent Price also stars as Shelby Carpenter a playboy who is hard to figure out despite being one of the simpler characters or at least pretending to be.


Fox has issued the long-awaited noir classic as part of their new series of film noirs and this film gets the prestigious honor of being number one in the series and rightfully so.Fox made the wise decision of bringing this film to DVD with all the well-deserved extras and extra time spent in developing a truly remarkable DVD edition, which gives fans a good transfer along with some bells and whistles.


Starting with the image transfer Laura is presented in a restored 1.33 x 1 full frame transfer keeping with the films intended original aspect ratio and looking brighter and more brilliant than ever.There are some minor instances of dirt or minor debris, which can be attributed to the films age.What I particular love about this transfer is that it never attempts to over blow the restoration and clean the film up to an unnatural pristine condition, usually this takes place and rids the film of any grain or focus.Laura was meant to have a nice rugged look with a full range of grayscale and grain to keep this mystery oozing with style.That style is fully enhanced by the camera work that using the full frame image captures some edgy camera angles and high-contrast lighting.That lighting is defined quite well in this transfer keeping shadows nice and dark, while concentrated light it never washed out.It would seem that Fox has done everything in their capabilities to bring this film to as much life as possible.


Audio is equally important as this film incorporates a stunning score to give the film its heartbeat wrapped tightly by dialogue and certain sound effects alike.The listener can choose between the original Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono audio option or a slightly more spread out 2.0 Stereo option.Basically itís a matter or preference here, as some people prefer sound from middle channel in a 5.1 configuration while others might prefer using their left and right speakers.Dialogue does seem to break through a bit sharper when itís in stereo mode, which is my preferred listening option.


As mentioned Fox also brought forth some extras to really seal the deal on this DVD including two commentary tracks, an alternate opening for the film, two documentaries, a deleted scene, and the theatrical trailer.Breaking these items down further lets begin with the commentary tracks.


Commentary one is provided by composer David Raksin and film professor Jeanine Basinger.I love the fact that a female film critic approaches this film alongside someone involved highly in the films successful elements.A female perspective lets us unravel some of the underlying themes that are thrown throughout the film and takes a hard look at what was happening during the 40ís and 50ís in filmmaking as well as certain implied and un-implied meanings behind the body language and dialogue in general.


Our second commentary track is film historian and author Rudy Behlmer who also provides the optional commentary for the deleted scene also found in the special features section of the DVD.While one commentary would have been enough, Fox went the extra few miles to deliver yet another nice gem with a second commentary to tackle the films influence and placement among film in general as this historian takes a different perspective from commentary number one. The extended/alternative opening scene is interesting to check out as well, but I think the film went with the better opening for its final cut. These are the heart and soul of the extras, while the two documentaries serve more as extra little goodies.


Those two goodies include the A&E Biography on Vincent Price, which really takes a look at the illustrious career that spanned over 50 years for Mr. Price.While he was well known for his dark mysterious characters the biography takes a nice deep look at the man himself and puts his career together in a tight little package worth unraveling.There is also a documentary for Gene Tierney that examines her life, which more people are probably unfamiliar with than Vincent Price.Both of these make for great viewing!


Sometimes it becomes difficult to find new things to say about a film like this, which has been discussed to such varying lengths in the past, although more people are unfamiliar with this film than other classics of its era.However, with its availability on DVD, this will hopefully change and perhaps make more people realize just how amazing filmmaking once was.There are seriously few films of its equal when you factor together all the components.While other films like Citizen Kane are recognized for their immediate influences, itís a film like Laura that really opens peopleís eyes for how clever, fun, witty, charming, and downright kick-ass a film can be.Even with time this sucker has aged to further perfection and will hopefully gain more clout with more viewers seeing this sweet DVD delivered by Fox.



-†† Nate Goss


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