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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

(aka "Ministry of Fear" or "Espions sur la Tamise" )

 

http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/direct-chair/lang.htm
USA 1944

 

Suffused with dread and paranoia, this Fritz Lang adaptation of a novel by Graham Greene (The Third Man) is a plunge into the eerie shadows of a world turned upside down by war. En route to London after being released from a mental institution, Stephen Neale (The Lost Weekend’s Ray Milland) stops at a seemingly innocent village fair, after which he finds himself caught in the web of a sinister underworld with possible Nazi connections. Lang was among the most illustrious of the European émigré filmmakers working in Hollywood during World War II, and Ministry of Fear is one of his finest American productions, an unpredictable thriller with style to spare.

***

Lang had himself wanted to purchase the film rights for Ministry of Fear, as a long time admirer of Grahame Greene. As it turned out Paramount trumped him but asked him to direct from a screenplay adaptation by Seton Miller. As a consequence Lang continued to play down the value of this movie to whoever would listen. But it is in fact something of a "missing in action" gem. Nowhere does Lang so wonderfully set up a linear and compulsive atmosphere of unnerving paranoia in the opening sequences, save perhaps for the incredible opening of Testament of Dr Mabuse. And the movie forces the viewer to constantly take on Milland's POV in comprehending the succession of action and mistrust which advance the narrative. Although Lang may have been right about the casting of, say Marjorie Reynolds and Carl Hilfe as the German couple, these characters are more than amply compensated for by splendid bits from Allan Napier and Hillary Brooke as the "Mentalist". And Milland is perfect.


In odd ways the movie is like a variation of some aspects of Woman in the Window, released earlier the same year but made later. The theme of the Doppelganger (Edward G Robinson) which is played out in that picture as a literal examination of how a man might kill, is here supplanted by a man who has already killed but is - in typically Langian style - taken through even more ambiguities of guilt at the behest of narratively enforced espionage and war elements. In some ways both movies are perhaps Lang's most Hitchcockian, while still being pure Lang.

Ministry is also graced by the archetypal Langian villain in the form of Dan Duryea, wielding giant clothing shears in one critical scene.

For all Lang's dismissals Ministry is a highly worthy subject for much further study.

David Hare

Theatrical Release: 16 October 1944

Reviews                                    More Reviews                            DVD Reviews

Comparison:

Carlotta - Region 2 - PAL vs. Optimum - Region 2 - PAL vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

(Carlotta - Region 2 - PAL LEFT vs. Optimum - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray RIGHT)

DVD Box Cover

Distribution

Carlotta

Region 2 - PAL

Optimum

Region 2 - PAL

Criterion Collection - Spine #649  - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Runtime 83 minu (4% PAL speedup) 1:22:54 (4% PAL speedup) 1:27:08.848
Video

Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.5 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.6 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 30,862,904,195 bytes

Feature: 25,554,917,376 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

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

Bitrate:

 Carlotta

Bitrate :

 Optimum

Bitrate :

Blu-ray

Audio DD Mono English; DD Mono English; LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Subtitles French (Optional), none None English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Carlotta

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• Video Essay (15 minutes - no Eng subs)

DVD Release Date: 4 July 2007
keep in cardboard package

Chapters 11

Release Information:
Studio: Carlotta

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• Trailer

DVD Release Date: September 3rd, 2007
Transparent Keep Case

Chapters 12

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.33:1

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 30,862,904,195 bytes

Feature: 25,554,917,376 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Edition Details:

• New interview with Fritz Lang scholar Joe McElhaney (17:10)
• Trailer (2:06)
• PLUS: An essay by critic Glenn Kenny

Blu-ray Release Date: March 12th, 2013
Transparent
Blu-ray Case
Chapters: 20

 

Comments:

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

ADDITION Criterion Blu-ray - February 2013: The Criterion is significantly brighter, shows more information in the frame and has no artefact issues that are present on the SD version. The 1080P is housed on a dual-layered Blu-ray disc and the bitrate is max'ed out. There are some nice textures but minor damage and scratches still exist. A pleasing image is produced but I wouldn't describe it as stellar. I did gain new appreciation for Ministry of Fear and it was nice to see it in theatrical (NTSC) running time. Audio is via a linear PCM in original mono -dialogue is audible but the overall sound is limited by the original production values. There are optional English subtitles. Criterion offer a new interview with Fritz Lang scholar Joe McElhaney running over 17-minutes, a trailer (2:06), plus a liner notes booklet with an essay by critic Glenn Kenny. Lang fans should be very happy - absolutely recommended!  

***

ADDITION: Optimum - R2 UK - September 07': Short take - looks exactly the same - same audio. Progressive and single-layered again. Only difference is that it has no optional subtitles (Carlotta had French) and no French essay - only a trailer. We say - purchase the cheapest one!

***

Having only appeared previously on home video in a mid 90s US VHS this - along with Manhunt from Fox - has long been one of Lang's most anxiously awaited pictures.

I'm afraid the Carlotta is let down by a quite weak source print and telecine. IN fact the scratches, speckles and an electronic-like edit in a scene when Milland and Carl Hilfe enter the "Mentalist's" Parlor are completely identical to the VHS. The print used looks somewhat second gen-y - there's a gray pallor over the image that never allows for sufficient contrast or gray scale to make the most of the chiaroscuro palette (The MGM Woman in the Window is far superior in this respect.) Carlotta have done their best with a DL transfer, avoiding any additional artefacting or digital manipulation. But in the end it comes down to the print. A weak one I'm afraid with some minor but not bothersome surface damage. If I thought this was never going to get a better sourced release from Universal I would recommend the Carlotta (and the forthcoming Optimum which will be presumably be a port.) But unless you are a voracious Langian - as I am - I would suggest holding out a while longer.

The disc includes a 15 minute video essay of considerable interest (but no English subs) - "L'Esprit emiette" presented by Lang scholar Jean Douchet, and there's a (very ragged) trailer.

 - David Hare

 


Menus

(Carlotta - Region 2 - PAL LEFT vs. Optimum - Region 2 - PAL RIGHT)
 

 

 

 

Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 


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Screen Captures

 

(Carlotta - Region 2 - PAL TOP vs. Optimum - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM)

 

 


(Carlotta - Region 2 - PAL TOP vs. Optimum - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM)

 

 


(Carlotta - Region 2 - PAL TOP vs. Optimum - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM)

 

 


(Optimum - Region 2 - PAL TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM)

 

 


(Optimum - Region 2 - PAL TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM)

 

 


(Optimum - Region 2 - PAL TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM)

 

 


  (Optimum - Region 2 - PAL TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM)

 

More Blu-ray Captures

Damage (left side)

 


DVD Box Cover

Distribution

Carlotta

Region 2 - PAL

Optimum

Region 2 - PAL

Criterion Collection - Spine #649  - Region 'A' - Blu-ray




 

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