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directed by Donald Cammell
UK 1987

 

Late director Donald Cammell's haunting formalistic approach to formulaic material, written by Cammell and his wife China (adapted from the Margaret Tracy novel Mrs. White), elevates what could have been routine '80s trash into that hazy realm of the art film. David Keith stars as Paul White, an audio installation expert whose idyllic life with his wife (Cathy Moriarty, as good as ever) and young daughter (Danielle Smith) is threatened when he finds himself the subject of an investigation into a string of local serial killings. While the first hour is too preoccupied with backstory and apparent minutiae to generate much suspense, attention is maintained by Cammell's often exhilarating stylization, which finishes the film's surface with a very late-1980s consumerist gloss. The movie frequently has the look and feel of a calculatedly "sexy" television commercial, which interacts perversely with the immensely creepy and sexually sadistic nature of the murders, which are filmed in the icy, yet spectacular manner of a Dario Argento film. Also in common with Argento is the usage of POV perspective in the murder scenes, employed to preserve the anonymity of the killer while underscoring the viewer's role as voyeur; here, it is done uncommonly well, as these scenes are uncomfortably voyeuristic in the extreme. Donald Cammell, a Brit (whose debut was as co-director of Performance, with Nicolas Roeg, whose own style is very evident in White of the Eye), brings an outsider's perspective to the Tucson, Arizona seen here. Like Jacques Demy with Model Shop, Antonioni with Zabriskie Point, and Wim Wenders with The End of Violence and Paris, Texas, Cammell is a European looking at a contemporary western region of the United States with an alien eye, revealing an imposing strangeness by rendering its natural and architectural landscapes cold, foreboding, and oppressively open, echoing the spiritual emptiness of a materialistic culture.

In its last third, the film briefly becomes quite horrifying and effective as a thriller before disintegrating into a daffy stalk-and-slash climax that doesn't seem to know where to go or how to conclude. Prior to this point, there emerges some interesting notions about regular sex within a domestic partnership, recalling Sam Fuller's The Naked Kiss. Alberta Watson is good as a neglected housewife with whom Keith's character is engaged in an affair, and Danielle Smith is an uneasy and fascinating presence in the role of Keith and Moriarty's daughter.

Paul Haynes

Posters

Theatrical Release: May 20, 1988

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Comparison:

Hollywood Classics Ltd. / Mælström - Region 2 - PAL vs. Arrow - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

1) Hollywood Classics Ltd. / Mælström - Region 2 - PAL LEFT
2) Arrow - Region 'B' - Blu-ray RIGHT

 

Box Covers

 

 

 Also available in Blu-ray Steelbook from Arrow:

Distribution

Hollywood Classics Ltd. / Mælström

Region 2 - PAL

Arrow - Region 'B' - Blu-ray
Runtime 1:46:24 (4% PAL speedup) 1:51:03.365
Video

1.85:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 8.17 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 47,118,463,392 bytes

Feature: 32,645,447,232

Video Bitrate: 34.87 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Bitrate Blu-ray

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0) LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Subtitles Dutch, None English (SDH), None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Hollywood Classics Ltd. / Mælström

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.85:1

Edition Details:
• Disc Format: DVD 9
• Removable Dutch subtitles

DVD Release Date: March 27, 2006
Transparent keep case

Chapters 15

Release Information:
Studio: Arrow

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.85:1

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 47,118,463,392 bytes

Feature: 32,645,447,232

Video Bitrate: 34.87 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Edition Details:

• Audio commentary by Donald Cammell biographer Sam Umland (author of Donald Cammell: A Life on the Wild Side)
• Donald Cammell: The Ultimate Performance – This feature length documentary by Kevin Macdonald and Chris Rodley looks over the life and career of the rebel filmmaker and features interviews with Cammell and his closest friends, family and colleagues including Nicolas Roeg, Mick Jagger, Kenneth Anger, James Fox and many more (1:13:23)
• The Argument – a 1972 short film by Cammell, gorgeously shot by Vilmos Zsigmond in the Utah Desert. Rediscovered and assembled by Cammell’s regular editor Frank Mazzola in 1999, it is viewable with optional commentary by Sam Umland (11:34)
• Rare deleted scenes, newly transferred from the original camera negative, with commentary by Sam Umland (5:22)

• Into The White: Filming White of the Eye (11:01)
• The flashback scenes as originally shot, prior to the bleach bypass processing that they underwent in the final film (11:40)
• Alternate credits sequence (2:27)
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Nathanael Marsh
• Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Brad Stevens and Sam Umland, and a previously unpublished extract from the memoirs of producer Elliott Kastner, illustrated with original archive stills)

DVD included

Blu-ray Release Date: March 31st, 2014
Black Blu-ray Case inside cardboard slipcase
Chapters: 12

 

Comments

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Arrow - Region 'B' Blu-ray - March 2014: Arrow's new Blu-ray (also available in Steelbook version) looks like a solid transfer in 1080P. It is dual-layered with a max'ed out bitrate and advances beyond the 2006 SD out of Holland. Colors are richer (skin tones warm), detail rises (notable in the many 'eyeball' close-ups) and grain is very prevalent - especially notable in the flashback scenes that, incidentally, went through a bleach-bypass treatment producing a thick, high-contrast appearance in those scenes (NOTE: there are 11-minutes in the extras of the appearance before this treatment). There is more information in the frame - on all 4 edges. The image varies -swinging quite extensively from the sharpness of the well-lit close-ups to the darker, grainy and a bit noisy flashback sequences. I can only feel it is totally accurate - or as close as we are ever likely to get. There are no speckles or damage.

Arrow provide a linear PCM 2.0 channel at 2304 kbps with some surprising effects exporting bass. The score is by Nick Mason and Rick Fenn with added music; The Grand Tour (performed by David Keith), some Hank Williams Jr., Booker T. Jones and Hot Chocolate's You Sexy Thing. It all sound very good, flat but clean and reasonably tight. There are optional English (SDH) subtitles (see sample) on the region 'B'-locked disc.

We get a very informative audio commentary by Donald Cammell biographer Sam Umland (author of Donald Cammell: A Life on the Wild Side). He fills in so much knowledge about the film, production and director. He can seem a bit dry at times as if he is reading from a prepared text, but it still flows exceptionally well. Very professional - Criterion-like. Arrow describe the supplements so well - I will use their descriptions. Another big extra is the 1 1/4 hour Donald Cammell: The Ultimate Performance feature length documentary by Kevin Macdonald and Chris Rodley (from BBC 1998) looks over the life and career of the rebel filmmaker and features interviews with Cammell and his closest friends, family and colleagues including Nicolas Roeg, Mick Jagger, Kenneth Anger, James Fox and many more. Included is The Argument – a 11-minute short film by Cammell in 1972, gorgeously shot by Vilmos Zsigmond in the Utah Desert. Rediscovered and assembled by Cammell’s regular editor Frank Mazzola in 1999, it is viewable with optional commentary by Sam Umland. There are 5-minutes worth of rare deleted scenes, newly transferred from the original camera negative, with commentary by Sam Umland. The scenes featuring John Diel's character were removed from release prints by Cannon, for reasons unknown. Unfortunately, the original audio is lost (in its place Umland's informative commentary).  A 'Making of...' entitled Into The White: Filming White of the Eye. It runs just over 11-minutes. As previously mentioned the flashback scenes, are here, as originally shot, prior to the bleach bypass processing that they underwent in the final film. Lastly, on the digital front are two minutes of an alternate credits sequence. The package is dual;-format with a DVD of the feature. The case contains a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Nathanael Marsh and a collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Brad Stevens and Sam Umland, and a previously unpublished extract from the memoirs of producer Elliott Kastner, illustrated with original archive stills.

Highly interesting film - quite unique and... progressively curious. Arrow create another incredible Blu-ray package with the extensive extras including the knowledge-filled commentary. It's kind of a must-have for film fans. I kept thinking of Antonioni, and, of course, Roeg. WOW. Strongly recommended!     

***

ON THE DVD: A serviceable release under the Dutch label Mælström, this is the barest of bare-bones editions, with no supplements whatsoever. However, having an anamorphic, dual-layer edition of this rather obscure title on DVD is a small cause for celebration. There's nothing wrong with the transfer itself, which is progressive and evidences few apparent artifacts. The print shows some minor wear that's really too negligible to infringe upon viewing enjoyment, and though there's heavy grain throughout the presentation, Janet Maslin's New York Times review of the film, written at the time of its original theatrical release, refers to the "grainy, high-contrast style" of the flashback scenes, which "is meant to look very different from the rest of the film," according to Maslin, "but does not." Given this, it's reasonable to conclude that the image on this disc is a pretty faithful representation of the way the film originally looked. out of

 - Paul Haynes


Menus

 

Hollywood Classics Ltd. / Mælström - Region 2 - PAL
 

 

Arrow - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 


CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Subtitle Sample

 

 

Screen Captures

 

1) Hollywood Classics Ltd. / Mælström - Region 2 - PAL TOP
2) Arrow - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Hollywood Classics Ltd. / Mælström - Region 2 - PAL TOP
2) Arrow - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Hollywood Classics Ltd. / Mælström - Region 2 - PAL TOP
2) Arrow - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Hollywood Classics Ltd. / Mælström - Region 2 - PAL TOP
2) Arrow - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Hollywood Classics Ltd. / Mælström - Region 2 - PAL TOP
2) Arrow - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Hollywood Classics Ltd. / Mælström - Region 2 - PAL TOP
2) Arrow - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) Hollywood Classics Ltd. / Mælström - Region 2 - PAL TOP
2) Arrow - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

More Blu-ray Captures

 


Box Covers

 

 

 Also available in Blu-ray Steelbook from Arrow:

Distribution

Hollywood Classics Ltd. / Mælström

Region 2 - PAL

Arrow - Region 'B' - Blu-ray


 




 

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