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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Stranger on the Prowl aka Imbarco a mezzanotte [Blu-ray]


Joseph Losey (as Andrea Forzano) , 1952



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Riviera Films

Video: Olive Films



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

Runtime: 1:22:01.917

Disc Size: 17,765,325,016 bytes

Feature Size: 17,692,882,944 bytes

Video Bitrate: 26.49 Mbps

Chapters: 8

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: April 22nd, 2014



Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 888 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 888 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 1.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 16-bit)






• None





Description: Upon its initial American release, Stranger on the Prowl's credits read: written and directed by Andrea Forzano. In truth Forzano was two people: screenwriter Ben Barzman (Back to Bataan) and director Joseph Losey (The Servant, The Lawless), both of whom had been blacklisted by Hollywood and were forced to work under pseudonyms. The film stars screen legend Paul Muni (Scarface) as a disillusioned vagrant who accidentally kills a shop owner. While on the lam he befriends a young street urchin (Vittorio Manunta) who suspects the police are after him for stealing milk from the same shop owner. The police pursue the two lost souls through the war-torn streets and buildings of an Italian port city. This neorealist film noir was based on a story by novelist Noel Calef (Elevator to the Gallows).



The Film:

The official credits for the Italian-made Stranger on the Prowl read: "written and directed by Andrea Forzano." In truth, Andrea Forzano was two people: screenwriter Ben Barzman and director Joseph Losey, both of whom had been blacklisted by Hollywood and were forced to work under pseudonyms. Essentially a two-person character study, the film stars Paul Muni as a down-and-out crook on the lam. Muni befriends a young street urchin (Vittorio Mazzunchelli, billed as "Manunta" in many prints) in an Italian port city. At first amused that the boy is a sneak thief, Muni tries to deflects the kid from a life of crime. Tipped off by a woman anxious to collect the reward for Muni (who is wanted for murder), the police pursue the two lost souls. Muni sees to it that the boy manages to escape, but is himself gunned down. A weak-tea imitation of the Italian neorealist movement, Stranger on the Prowl was cut by 18 minutes for its English-language release (in Britain it was titled Encounter). The full, original 100-minute Italian version, released in 1951, was known as Imbarco a Mezzanote.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

Since the absence of Paul Muni from the screen is to be deplored, the fact that he once again is appearing in a film should come as good news.

But his return to the movies in "Stranger on the Prowl," which turned up yesterday at the World, is something less than an important event. For this melodrama, filmed in Italy with a predominantly native cast (which speaks English) is, despite some philosophical innuendoes, a manhunt pure and simple. With the help of some solid portrayals, "Stranger on the Prowl" moves fairly swiftly against the authentic backgrounds of Pisa and Leghorn, but it is merely surface drama that is generally being enacted.

Excerpt from the NY Times located HERE

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

Stranger on the Prowl has some been compromised over time and the print used for the Olive's 1080P Blu-ray transfer can't hide the inconsistencies. There is damage, heavy speckling throughout much of the film and entire scenes are notably softer - almost out of focus - see samples at the bottom of this review. This is only single-layered and contrast reflects the wavering density of the print used. Textures as well vacillate from intense prominence to noise-like visuals. I doubt that dual-layering would benefit the appearance extensively. This needs, and the film deserves, restoration at the film-level.  Detail is modest but a few close-ups look quite remarkable. The Blu-ray is probably not to blame for the presentation flaws - but, regardless, they are present.















Compromised sequences




Audio :

The audio of the film suffers similar inconsistencies to the video. Olive have used a DTS-HD Master mono track at 888 kbps. There are failing in terms of drop-outs and background hiss. Giulio Cesare Sonzogno's score is left unremarkable by the limitations.  There are no subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.


Extras :

No supplements - not even a trailer which is the bare-bones route that Olive are going with most of their Blu-ray releases. I am sure there is enough interest to have a commentary and more for this 'fallen through the cracks' film.



The source condition is really a shame because this is a tremendous film. Certainly good enough to make a strong case for restoration - however, perhaps the surviving elements would make it impossible to get a serviceable version. I don't know. I am very grateful though to Olive as their Blu-ray allowed me to see the film in its, current, best, quality. For Losey fans - this is a must-own - and it should be seen. Despite the a/v - we still encourage you view Stranger on the Prowl

Gary Tooze

April 9th, 2014

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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