Leo C. Popkin + Russell Rouse
Made several years before To Kill A Mockingbird, this early examination of race relations in the US has tended to be overlooked in favour of its more famous successor, which is a shame, because it's a well-made, well argued piece of work. Morgan is a white drifter who comes into a racially mixed town. When a young black girl (Laster) goes missing, he becomes the prime suspect and the town divides along racial lines, and even when the child is discovered to have fallen down a well, the racial issues don't completely fade away. Morgan's performance is particularly impressive in a film already crowded with a lot of high points.
Rouse's first film as director (co-written with Clarence Greene, with whom he had scripted DOA the previous year). The first half is a vividly etched portrait of small-town unease as a black child is reported missing, the suspicions deepening a racial divide that threatens to escalate into racial violence on both sides as circumstances suggest that a white transient (Morgan) had something to do with her disappearance. The discovery that the little girl, scarcely more than a baby, has in fact fallen down an abandoned well, opens a safety valve; and the rest of the film is devoted to the rescue operation. It still grips, but in a more overtly crowd-pleasing way, what with even the most bigoted coming round to the side of the angels, and the hazards of the rescue milked for all they are worth. An impressive piece, all the same, brilliantly shot by Ernest Laszlo.
Theatrical Release: September 26th, 1951 - NY, NY
DVD Review: Image Entertainment - Region 0 - NTSC
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|Distribution||Image Entertainment - Region 0 - NTSC|
Average Bitrate: 6.5 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s
NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.
|Audio||English (Dolby Digital 1.0)|
A shamefully un-restored transfer with an excessive price by Image Entertainment. A single-layered (only 3.79 Gig), bare-bones DVD (with awful menu screens) taken from a very damaged print (see screen captures - frequent speckles and marks), with much of the first half the film marred by a consistently long vertical scratch - and they are asking as much as a lower-tier Criterion DVD. Unbelievable. No extras or subtitles and the mono audio is only passable.
The 'Film Noir' moniker may be arguable (although it does have many elements of the style), but the film's greatness is justifiably lauded. This is a strong drama seething with tense moments - a real gem that is expertly directed even with its apparent meager budget. It is quite sad that Image Entertainment was the company releasing the film-to-DVD and that they choose to invest nothing in their transfer. For budding Noirists though the film is must-have.