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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

World For Ransom [Blu-ray]


(Robert Aldrich, 1954)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Plaza Productions

Video: Olive Films



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

Runtime: 1:22:17.974

Disc Size: 22,236,670,425 bytes

Feature Size: 22,106,984,448 bytes

Video Bitrate: 31.99 Mbps

Chapters: 8

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: January 20th, 2015



Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 2002 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2002 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)






• None





Description: An exotic film noir set against the backdrop of Cold War Shanghai, World for Ransom stars Dan Duryea (Scarlet Street) a roguish detective Mike Callahan, who is drawn into a plot to kidnap a nuclear scientist (Arthur Shields). But the deeper Callahan delves into the mystery, the more labyrinthine the conspiracy becomes, as military intelligence (led by Reginald Denny), a criminal mastermind (Gene Lockhart), and a cross-dressing femme fatale (Marian Carr) all vie to control his fate.

Directed (without credit) by Robert Aldrich, utilizing the resources of the TV series “China Smith,” World for Ransom was initially dismissed as a low-rent von Sternberg film (parallels to Macao and Shanghai Express are obvious). Since then, however, the film has earned a new appreciation, being considered a trial run for Aldrich’s influential Kiss Me Deadly, both films peeling back endless layers of deception and betrayal, while an atomic secret lies hiding at the core.



The Film:

World for Ransom is an unofficial extension of the popular 1950s TV series China Smith. Most of the Smith personnel, including star Dan Duryea, director Robert Aldrich and cinematographer Joseph Biroc, are on hand for this inexpensive but well-mounted melodrama. Duryea plays a mercenary adventurer who gets mixed up in a scheme by foreign spies (who wear baggy suits and speak with Slavic accents) to kidnap a nuclear scientist. Actually it isn't the whole world that's held for ransom--only the city of Singapore, which the spies threaten with nuclear annihilation. World for Ransom star Dan Duryea is solidly supported by old pros Gene Lockhart, Patric Knowles, Reginald Denny and Nigel Bruce.

A Monogram cheapie derived from the NBC TV series China Smith, this is a seminal Aldrich movie with Duryea, as private eye Mike Callahan, the first in a long line of compromised idealists who recur throughout the director's work. The plot concerns a kidnapped nuclear scientist - we're in Cold War country here - and the story's set in a Poverty Row Singapore. 'It was a parody on the usual exotic espionage adventure films' Aldrich remarked in an interview. He thought it 'interesting', indeed 'pretty good', but was sore about the excision of a scene which portrayed the girl Duryea loves as a lesbian (after Dietrich in Morocco). The whole point, he explained, was that Duryea could forgive her past life with men, but couldn't handle her love for women. Nor could the censors, it seems. Boy's Own material on the surface, maybe, but on the level of characterisation a compelling exploration of partnerships, brotherly bonds, and the fallibility of trust. 

Excerpt from TimeOut located HERE

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

World For Ransom has a far amount of softness in the 1080P, single-layered, bare-bones, Blu-ray transfer from Olive Films. It has an extremely high bitrate but the source has some issues that result in inordinate softness. The film has a few speckles but it is the inconsistencies that are the most troubling flaws. It is transferred in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The black levels appear acceptable - occasionally strong - but there is a softness that comes and goes depending on the scene. Overall it can tend to look less presentable than we have seen in the past - this is solely because of the compromised source, IMO. The 1080P Blu-ray is based on a unrestored print but it is not a film that will receive any extensive film-level work. I, still, suspect this is the best it will ever look for your home viewing pleasure.
















Audio :

Occasionally scattered audio through some of the film. Olive's DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel at 2002 kbps seems to export as well as could be expected with only minor issues. There are minor issues but nothing untoward.  Frank De Vol's (The Dirty Dozen, Kiss Me Deadly, The Big Knife (1955), What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?, McLintock) score attractively runs beside the film dark aura. There is a touch of depth in spots. 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.



World For Ransom is not A-list material but has rich atmosphere. I like Duryea well enough but this is not his best effort. The lesbian-angle, if existing at all, was never fully explored. Nor does the Noir-ish parody attempt seem to be fleshed out to any satisfaction. The bare-bones Olive Blu-ray does its usual unmanipulated presentation in 1080P, and the condition of the source was marginal. I'm going to suggest a 'pass' to all except the very keen (it probably bears deconstructing by serious cinephiles) - the value is not here, IMO. 

Gary Tooze

January 28th, 2015

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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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
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Gary W. Tooze






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