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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Witness to Murder [Blu-ray]


(Roy Rowland, 1954)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Chester Erskine Productions

Video: Kino Lorber



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

Runtime: 1:21:48.904 

Disc Size: 16,675,474,359 bytes

Feature Size: 16,514,715,648 bytes

Video Bitrate: 23.87 Mbps

Chapters: 9

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: December 2nd, 2014



Aspect ratio: 1.75:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 1556 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1556 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)






• Trailer (2:08)





Description: A woman fights to convince the police that she witnessed a murder. One sleepless night, Cheryl Draper (Barbara Stanwyck, Double Indemnity) witnesses a young woman being strangled to death in an apartment across the street. She reports the killing to the police, but when the police arrive there's no body to be found. The policemen are convinced that Cheryl probably dreamt the murder and leave ignoring her pleas. Similar to Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window, which opened less than a month later and overshadowed this top-notch film noir featuring great direction by Roy Rowland (The Girl Hunters) and beautiful black-and-white cinematography by legendary John Alton (He Walked by Night). Co-starring George Sanders (A Shot in the Dark) and Gary Merrill (All About Eve).



The Film:

The witness of the title is Barbara Stanwyck, who insists she's seen a man strangling a girl in the apartment across the street. The murderer is George Sanders, an ex-Nazi with plenty of experience in covering his tracks. Deftly disposing of body and clues, Sanders is able to convince the authorities that Stanwyck is hallucinating. But Stanwyck persists, forcing Sanders to show his hand in a fateful climax. Witness to Murder is far beneath the talents of its stars, though both Stanwyck and Sanders, pros that they are, give the material the old "Academy Award" treatment.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

If the setup sounds at least a little like another movie released that year, Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window, there's a good reason for it. The picture, based on a script by Chester Erskine (who also produced the movie), was designed to compete with the film Hitchcock was preparing over at Paramount, so many of the similarities are perhaps intentional. Witness to Murder was released on April 15, 1954, and while it received moderately positive reviews (particularly for the performances), it of course ended up as an also-ran to Rear Window, which opened less than a month later. The latter picture was a box-office hit, and earned Oscar® nominations for director, screenplay (by John Michael Hayes) and cinematography (by Robert Burks).

But Witness to Murder, directed by Roy Rowland, brings with it its own set of shivery pleasures, not the least of which are the performances by Stanwyck and Sanders. Sanders appears to be having a great deal of fun with this character, rolling his r's with mischievous glee, making sure everyone knows how secure his place in the Universe is. (Don't miss the moment when he launches into a tirade about the inferiority of weakling human beings - in German, no less!) The performance is slightly cartoony, though perhaps that's just another word for "stylized." In his scenes with Stanwyck, Sanders displays a veneer of cool, vaguely sexual menace. His character is the kind of guy who's interested in women only as playthings, and he takes devilish pleasure into turning Stanwyck into his own tortured, cowering mouse.

Excerpt from TCM located HERE

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

Much to the delight of her fans, Barbara Stanwyck's Witness to Murder has made it to Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.  The image is drenched with grain textures almost resembling artifacts when there is a smattering of damage appearing in the frame.  This is only single-layered with a supportive bitrate for the shortish Noir film. I did see some inconsistencies at around 50-minutes and again at 1-hour, 12-minutes. It can look quite heavy - close to moiring but it passes in a reasonable time. The 1.75:1 ratio looks good but those unfamiliar with grain may perceive it as a weakness (where I view it as a strength!). I imagine this is why it has not made it to digital until now - the source could use some form of restoration and it would probably smooth out some of the rough patches. For me, this Blu-ray provided a very much appreciated 1080P presentation. I'm not complaining.




















Audio :

Audio is via a DTS-HD Master mono track at 1556 kbps. Dialofue is clear and I noted no pops or dropouts. The adept score with Herrmann-esque flourishes is by Herschel Burke Gilbert (Riot in Cell Block 11, The Thief, While The City Sleeps) and it benefits from the lossless transfer sounding quite intense at times. There are no optional subtitles on this one and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A' disc.


Extras :

Only a trailer. Certainly there is something worth saying with all the hints of similar classics in the film, but no supplements other than a rough-looking trailer. So be it.



I'm very happy that Witness to Murder has made it to Blu-ray (actually, I don't think it was on DVD previously!). It has a pulpy 'damsel-in-distress edge to it and Essential Noir-status. This presentation is exceedingly desirable for those who appreciate grain (like moi). It's short, but Stanwyck fans will forgive any imperfections and light damage in the presentation. And the price is right! I know I'll be watching this again... absolutely recommended! 

Gary Tooze

November 21st, 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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