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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Executioner aka "El verdugo" [Blu-ray]

 

(Luis García Berlanga, 1963)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Zebra Films

Video: Criterion Collection Spine #840

 

Disc:

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

Runtime: 1:32:02.141

Disc Size: 47,813,931,646 bytes

Feature Size: 26,929,139,712 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.90 Mbps

Chapters: 19

Case: Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: October 25th, 2016

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

LPCM Audio Spanish 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), none

 

Extras:
New interview with filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar (3:56)
New program on director Luis García Berlanga, featuring interviews with his son José Luis Berlanga; film critic Carlos F. Heredero; writers Fernando R. Lafuente and Bernardo Sánchez Salas; and director of the Berlanga Film Museum Rafael Maluenda (56:38)
Spanish television program from 2012 on The Executioner, featuring archival interviews with Berlanga (28:21)
Trailer (3:36)
PLUS: An essay by film critic David Cairns

 

Bitrate:

 

 

 

Description: This masterpiece of black humor, beloved in Spain but too little seen elsewhere, threads a scathing critique of Franco-era values through a macabre farce about an undertaker who marries an executioner’s daughter and reluctantly takes over her father’s job so the family can keep their government-allotted apartment. As caustic today as it was in 1963, this early collaboration between Luis García Berlanga and his longtime screenwriter Rafael Azcona is an unerring depiction of what Berlanga called “the invisible traps that society sets up for us.” A furiously funny personal attack on capital punishment, The Executioner evaded the state censors who sought to suppress it, and today is regarded as one of the greatest Spanish films of all time.

 

 

The Film:

Regularly voted by its country's critics as the best Spanish film of all time, Berlanga's brilliantly dark comedy on the peculiar horror of the garotte has not lost its power over the years. Manfredi plays an undertaker's hapless assistant who marries the executioner's daughter, then discovers that they can keep their precious apartment only if he agrees to become his father-in-law's successor. Full of sharp and disturbing insights into the corrupt world engendered by the Francoist mentality, the film's build-up to its terrifying conclusion - when Manfredi, as the new executioner, is dragged literally kicking and screaming to perform his duty - is inexorable.

Excerpt from TimeOut located HERE

A darkly comic indictment of State violence (and, arguably, State bureaucracy), The Executioner (El Verdugo) is Luis García Berlanga's avowed masterpiece, one which it seems miraculous that he got past the censor (15 minutes were cut - most of them are now reinstated). Working as an undertaker ("your job is very secure") José Luis (Nino Manfredi) meets the unassuming executioner Amadeo (José Isbert) at the State prison during the course of carrying out their respective duties. Through a series of unfortunate events - namely getting Amadeo's daughter Carmen (Emma Penella) pregnant outside of wedlock - the young man finds himself enmeshed in the executioner's family and, when Amadeo retires, forced into the family profession in order to keep the new familial home (which is allocated by the State).

Excerpt from EyeForFilm located HERE

 

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

Cited as a 'New, restored 4K digital transfer' The Executioner looks impressive on Blu-ray from Criterion.  The visuals support a rich, and deep, representation sporting deep black levels and adept, layered, contrast. Perhaps not as much grain as I might have anticipated but in-motion it looks exquisite. This dual-layered Blu-ray, with max'ed out bitrate, reproduced a very strong 1080P presentation with occasional depth.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Typically flat, linear PCM mono track at 1152 kbps (24-bit) in the original Spanish - that actually sounds quite 'full' at times. The dialogue is clean and clear in the uncompressed. The score is by the Spanish composer Miguel Asins Arbó who is known for his popular songs in the Valencian music tradition and for the more than 70 sound tracks which he composed for Spanish films and television. It adds a lighter tone to the film and is pleasantly rendered. There are optional English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A' disc.

 

Extras :

Criterion add some excellent supplements. We get a new, brief, interview with filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar. In less than 4-minutes he explains why The Executioner is one of his favorite movies - also referencing Buñuel. We also get a new, 57-minute, program on director Luis García Berlanga, featuring interviews with his son José Luis Berlanga; film critic Carlos F. Heredero; writers Fernando R. Lafuente and Bernardo Sánchez Salas; and director of the Berlanga Film Museum Rafael Maluenda. It is entitled Bad Spaniard and it discusses Luis García Berlanga's consistently disruptive presence in Spanish cinema of the second half of the 20th century. There is a 1/2 hour Spanish television program from 2012 on The Executioner, featuring archival interviews with Berlanga as well as a trailer. The package contains an essay by film critic David Cairns.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
The Executioner is brilliant - an exceptional package from Criterion celebrating the film's rebirth with stellar a/v and some revealing supplements.  It really is Almodóvar-esque at times and exports that keen black-comedic sense you can occasionally get from Spanish - Catalan films. Almost 'wry' in a Dali sense coupled with familial entrapment/claustrophobia. Life often, amusingly, dictates our lack of control over our own destinies. This Blu-ray package is an easy recommendation. Even not being initially aware of the film - it is something I will definitely be revisiting and play multiple times. Our highest recommendation!

Gary Tooze

October 10th, 2016


 

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.

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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