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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Mole People [Blu-ray]

 

(Virgil W. Vogel, 1956)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Universal International Pictures (UI)

Video: i-catcher Media (Anolis Film Entertainment)

 

Disc:

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

Runtime: 1:17:29.250

Disc Size: 22,557,413,544 bytes

Feature Size: 21,277,556,736 bytes

Video Bitrate: 31.34 Mbps

Chapters: 12

Case: Black slim Blu-ray case

Release date: April 17th, 2014

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.0:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DUB: DTS-HD Master Audio German 1627 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1627 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio English 1564 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1564 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)

 

Subtitles:

German, none

 

Extras:

• German Trailer (1:58)
• English Trailer (1:58)
• Poster and Stills Gallery (2:03)

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: The Mole People holds the dubious distinction of being the weakest of the Universal-International horror films. John Agar plays Dr. John Bentley, who leads a Middle Eastern expedition in search of a lost tribe of Sumerians. Bentley and his cohorts follow a tunnel deep, deep, deep below the surface of the earth, eventually coming across a tyrannical tribe of albino Sumerians, who use the semi-human Mole People as slaves. What follows is so dull and plodding that stars John Agar and Hugh Beaumont seem like Mel Gibson and Arnold Schwarzenegger in comparison. Some prints of The Mole People are minus the pre-credits "explanation" by 1950s celebrity egghead Dr. Frank Baxter.

 

***

 

A group of scientists discovered deep under the Earth a secret living civilization. The derived from the Sumerians albino people live according to the strict rules of their power-hungry high priest Elinu. The slave labor of albinos are fearsome mole people who are kept like animals.

 

 

The Film:

As a 13-year-old, I liked this low-budget Universal-International production (1956) about ancient Sumerians, but older people told me it was bad and, roughly a decade later, lots of others decided it was camp.

Excerpt from Jonathan Rosenbaum at the Chicago Reader located HERE

In Asia, archaeologist Dr. Roger Bentley leads a team, including Dr. Paul Stewart, Dr. Jud Bellamin and Etienne Lafarge, on a dig for Sumerian artifacts. They discover a 5,000-year-old stone tablet bearing cuneiform writing, which describes the dedication of a temple to the goddess Ishtar. During a sudden earth tremor, the tablet is broken, but the next day a worker uncovers an oil lamp whose inscription tells the tale of Sharu, who constructed an ark to rescue his people from a massive flood. The ark came to rest on top of the mountain Kuitara, and Sharu and his people built a civilization there. Ignoring his colleagues' misgivings, Roger arranges for an excavation on top of the mountain, and they set out on the treacherous winter climb. Led by guide Nazar, they struggle up the mountain, narrowly surviving an avalanche, and after finally reaching the summit, they encounter the ruins of a Sumerian temple. Just then, however, Paul falls through a crack in the ground, disappearing into a deep shaft. The others go after him and, after a long descent, find Paul dead. They prepare to climb out, but when Nazar taps a loose rope tether, a rock slide commences, killing the guide and trapping the other three inside the mountain.

Excerpt from TCM located HERE

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

Like The Monolith Monsters this is another Blu-ray from Anolis out of Germany. I'll be duplicating some of the comments from there. Duplicating that release this Blu-ray of The Mole People has the aspect ratio alteration from the 1.33:1 transfer in the The 6-disc Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection to SuperScope 2.0:1 widescreen (as was 1956's Invasion of the Body Snatchers Blu-ray). We've added a couple of capture comparisons below. You can see you are losing and gaining information (mostly losing top and bottom). This was the time of the ambiguous ratios - some theatres equipped for widescreen - others not. The 2.0:1 was considered an 'in-house' ratio used by Universal and although filmed 'full' was matted depending on each individual theater's projectionist. The 2.0:1 looks okay - well, I'm not going to quibble about composition in this film. The image quality shows a thick layer of textured grain and looks pretty good aside from some damage) scratches and occasional speckles) that are mostly frame-specific. This is single-layered but has a very high bitrate for the 1 1/4 hour film. Contrast is solid and I see no digital noise. The film's effects are pretty weak and they can look even more transparent in the higher resolution. I was appreciative of both the widescreen and the grain textures.

 

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

 

1.33:1 Universal DVD (reviewed HERE) TOP - 2.0:1 Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1.33:1 Universal DVD (reviewed HERE) TOP - 2.0:1 Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Audio is transferred via a DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel at 1564 kbps in original English and a similarly robust German DUB. Audio effects are strangely limited but there is a score - by uncredited combination of Heinz Roemheld (The Invisible Man), Herman Stein (This Island Earth) and Hans J. Salter (The Wolfman). Unfortunately, it is fairly generic but adds some flavor to the viewing experience. There are fully optional German subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'B'-locked.

 

Extras :

Not much - a slideshow gallery and two trailers (German and English). I'm sure there is something to be said about the heavy 'camp' quality of the film - but there is no discussion.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Yes, I'm a huge fan of the 50's science-fiction films - notably the Universal International Pictures efforts. This is one of the weaker ones - and I think it has more to do with pace.  A lot happens on the film but it still seems to drag. But I accept the limited effects budget. I enjoyed the widescreen ratio on the Blu-ray, and I got a kick out of seeing the film again. And I like Hugh Beaumont! It remains part of one of my favorite genre-periods and I will, undoubtedly, revisit it in this higher resolution.

 

NOTE: This Blu-ray disc is limited to 1000 copies - so if you are keen, best not to wait! 

Gary Tooze

April 26th, 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 3500 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.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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