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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Damned aka Les maudits [Blu-ray]

 

(René Clément, 1947)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Spéva Films / Gaumont

Video: Cohen Media Group

 

Disc:

Region: 'A' (as verified by the Oppo region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:42:10.582

Disc Size: 46,528,960,523 bytes

Feature Size: 31,237,929,600 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.22 Mbps

Chapters: 11

Case: Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: August 13th, 2013

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

LPCM Audio French 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary:

LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit

 

Subtitles:

English, None (via remote, not menu)

 

Extras:

• Commentary with Judith Mayne and John E. Davidson

The Cinema of Sketches - Dominique Mallet's 2010 documentary (54:06)

Re-Release 2013 Trailer (1:37)

8-page liner notes leaflet with chapters, cast, crew and photos

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: Set during the closing days of WWII this gritty, claustrophobic mix of Film Noir and psychological suspense follows the doomed escape of a group of Nazi's as they flee for South America aboard a submarine hoping to evade their fate in Europe. Cannnes winner for Best Adventure Film and Crime Film.

This classic film is being fully restored and re-mastered and will be offered on Blu-ray for the first time. Includes a bonus documentary and feature length audio commentary/conversation between French and German film scholars.

 

 

The Plot:

At Oslo in 1945, a French doctor, Guilbert, is abducted by a group of Nazis and taken aboard their submarine. The Germans plan to evade capture by the Allies by steering a course for South America. Guilbert finds himself in the company of several unsavoury fugitives, including a Gestapo chief, a German general, an Italian industrialist and a French journalist who collaborated with the Nazis. When news of the armistice is received, mutiny breaks out aboard the submarine...

***

Having had more than a casual acquaintance with the heel of the oppressor during the war years, the French have been able to observe his mind with clarity if not with philosophical detachment. And in "The Damned" (Les Maudits), a melodrama with pronounced psychological overtones, which began a stand at the Rialto on Saturday, director René Clement and an excellent cast microscopically dissect the oppressor and collaborator under the harrowing duress of fear of impending retribution after the end of the conflict. The view is realistic—not pretty—but the end result is a film, which except for a somewhat flamboyant finish, is a taut, wholly believable and absorbing adventure.

The producers, apparently taking literally the old saw having to do with rats on a sinking ship, have set the tale moving in April of 1945 when a Nazi general, a high-ranking gauleiter and his aide board a U-boat in a pen at Oslo. Already aboard are an Italian Fascist industrialist, his wife, who also happens to be the general's mistress, a renegade French newspaper man and a timorous Scandinavian scientist and his 'teen-aged daughter. The voyage toward South America is halted at the outset by a depth-bomb attack which wounds the industrialist's wife and necessitates surreptitiously landing in France and kidnapping a doctor. The latter, cognizant that he is not long for this world, uses the only weapon at his command, his medical knowledge, to spread a false "psychosis of contagion" among the tense members of what he terms a "veritable Noah's Ark."

Excerpt from the NY Times located HERE

Alekan’s skill is not, alas, at full maturity in every frame of this often crudely lit, excessively shadowy production, but there’s an excellent, viscerally wobbly, Paths-of-Glory-trench-cam reverse tracking shot as Guilbert is lured down the full length of the sub to attend to Marly's flaky diva, little realising that the boat will pull away before he has the chance to disembark; he's thereby held captive for his continued medical expertise before the assembled fugitives grasp that his presence is potentially treacherous, if not disastrous. The other visual highlight is an on-shore episode involving negotiations with a turncoat agent (Marcel Dalio, top-billed for a virtual cameo) who plans to sell them all downriver now that Hitler’s death in the bunker has hit the airwaves: a wily young German adjutant (Michel Auclair) tries to strike a deal to make his getaway, hiding in a warehouse full of coffee-bean sacks which Alekan treats to a welcome touch of overhead expressionism. Otherwise, functional claustrophobia is the order of the day, with as many talking heads crammed into the average frame as possible, while morale frays and the less fervent buddies of the Führer start panicking about when to desert this figuratively sinking ship, and how.

Excerpt from MainlyMovies located HERE

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

The Damned arrives on Blu-ray from the Cohen Media Group. It seems to be a solid representation of the available source which unfortunately has some inconsistencies. About the first 1/4 of the film has some weak, hazy moments and contrast throughout wavers between solid black and white with other sequences having some green infiltration (compare the subtitles sample below with the next capture).  The last issue - again, not the fault of the competent dual-layered transfer with a max'ed out bitrate - is the notable difference between the majority of the feature and the heavily damaged and speckled stock footage (mostly naval based) - see sample below. Okay, throwing all that aside, I appreciate what Cohen have done in putting The Damned to 1080P. What the film required is a further restoration beyond anything that could have been done digitally. BUT the film itself doesn't lend itself to a brilliant, crisp image - there are frequent shadows and some obtuse angles. The 1.33:1 aspect ratio is preserved and I was able to enjoy the film. There is even a bit of depth. So, my advice would be - don't be deterred by the image quality - without extensive restoration ($$$) that may never come - THIS Blu-ray is the best we are likely to get of this Clément film. I got a lot out of the presentation.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stock Naval Footage sample

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

The audio is rendered via a linear PCM 2.0 channel track at 2304 kbps. It is about the same level as the video - at the mercy of the source. It's not poor - dialogue is distinguishable but there may be a few anomalies that drift by. The score is by Yves Baudrier - and it remains fairly unremarkable but for a few select scenes. The are optional subtitles (remote button - not on menu) and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A' although there is a French Blu-ray available HERE.

 

Extras :

Cohen offer a new, and excellent commentary with Judith Mayne (author of Cinema and Spectatorship - Sightlines) and John E. Davidson. It covers quite a lot of the narrative with many fine interpretations. It is in English via a linear PCM stereo track. We also get The Cinema of Sketches - Dominique Mallet's 2010 documentary running close to an hour plus a 2013 re-release trailer. The package contains an 8-page liner notes leaflet with chapters, cast, crew and photos.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Highly interesting premise (Nazis and supporters are escaping from Germany) and, although I knew very little of the film, was surprised and enjoyed by the claustrophobic submarine atmosphere. There is a lot going on here - quite a different film from Clement's Forbidden Games. The Cohen Blu-ray of The Damned adds does its job in allowing us to see the film, in its best possible presentation, and with the commentary and hour-long documentary add a lot of value to the experience. This is a great package and for those students of world cinema - we, absolutely, recommended! 

Gary Tooze

August 2nd, 2013

 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

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Gary W. Tooze

 

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