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directed by Charles Vidor
USA 1939

 

Best known for his role as "Boston Blackie," Chester Morris plays a cold-blooded killer in the original version of a story, later filmed as The Dark Past, which explores the psychological causes for psychopathic behavior in a fascinating and unusually complex crime/suspense film for its time. Ralph Bellamy plays the sympathetic psychologist Dr. Shelby, whose quiet weekend in the country is disrupted by a group of thugs, including an escaped convict (Morris) and his gun-moll gal (Ann Dvorak). The doctor senses that the brutal murderer is tormented by something buried deeply in his subconscious, and decides to probe the mind of the man to try to give him answers and protect the lives of his wife, young son and weekend guests. Using innovative photographic techniques and faith in science, the film dramatizes the interplay between childhood imagination and experience, and the adult subconscious mind, while making the suggestion that environment is a strong determiner of psychological stability. Director Charles Vidor (Gilda) brought this fascinating, ahead-of-its-time subject matter to the screen.

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Theatrical Release: 21 April 1939 (Los Angeles)

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DVD Review: Sony Pictures (Screen Classics by Request) - Region 0 - NTSC

Big thanks to Gregory Meshman for the Review!

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Distribution

Sony Pictures

Region 0 - NTSC

Runtime 1.09.00
Video

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 4.32 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.

Bitrate

Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Sony Pictures

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• Theatrical trailer (2:05)

DVD Release Date: February 1st, 2011
Keep Case

Chapters 7

 

Comments

Blind Alley is a superior proto-noir from Columbia Pictures that combines hostage crime drama of The Petrified Forest with the psychoanalysis of future film noirs like Hitchcock's Spellbound. Ralph Bellamy is very likeable as the film's hero and Chester Morris is ruthless as the killer on the run, but I was especially glad to see cult-favorite underrated Ann Dvorak as a gun moll standing by her man no matter what. The film was remade in 1948 as The Dark Past by Rudolph Maté - the remake is not available in region 1 yet, but we will be reviewing region 2 disc from Spain very soon. A comparison between two versions by David Kalat (HERE) makes a fascinating read, although be warned that it includes spoilers for both film.

The made-on-demand disc from Sony is very high quality, with very strong, progressive transfer on this single-layered disc. The grain structure is there and the film has minimal damage. The sound is adequate and there is a 2-minute trailer included as an extra. A recommended release for this little B picture that came out too early to be considered film noir, yet got much going for it to be considered one.

  - Gregory Meshman

 


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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

Distribution

Sony Pictures

Region 0 - NTSC

 

 




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