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(aka 'The Twisted Road' or 'Your Red Wagon' or 'Les Amants de la nuit ')

http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/direct-chair/nicholas_ray.htm
USA 1948

 

Nicholas Ray's energetic first feature, THEY LIVE BY NIGHT tells the tragic story of two doomed lovers and of their short, fast life together before they are torn apart by the criminal world.

More than a standard cops-and-robbers tale, THEY LIVE BY NIGHT is a Depression-era saga about lovers on the run. Entangled in a fate they cannot escape, and over which they have absolutely no control, they love to the fullest before they are inevitably, tragically separated. Though based on the novel Thieves Like Us by Edward Anderson (later filmed by Robert Altman under Anderson's title), THEY LIVE BY NIGHT owes an equal debt to the Bonnie and Clyde myth, which, while it bears no resemblance to this film in plot, has permeated the cinema's image of lovers on the run. (It's an image that can also be seen in 1949's GUN CRAZY and the 1937 Fritz Lang picture YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE.) Ray undertook the project enthusiastically, bringing to his film a personal style and vision evident from its beginning. After Granger and O'Donnell's kiss at the opening, a getaway car carrying the three criminals is seen traveling down a dusty road, pursued by police. Rather than shoot with a standard camera set-up, Ray demanded that the scene be photographed from a helicopter, a highly unorthodox idea that has now become a standard element of the cinematic lexicon. Not only did this sequence open the film with a burst of un-harnessed energy, it also conveyed a sense of godlike fate, looking down on Granger and relentlessly pursuing him. Beautifully acted, THEY LIVE BY NIGHT stands today as one of the most poignant and unforgettable noirs ever made.

Excerpt from TV Guide located HERE

***

"This boy...and this girl...were never properly introduced to the world we live in." With this superimposed opening title, director Nicholas Ray inaugurates his first feature, They Live by Night. Farley Granger and Cathy O'Donnell play a "Bonnie and Clyde"-type fugitive couple, who in trying to escape their past are hell-bent down the road to Doom. Despite their criminal activities, Bowie (Granger) and Keechie (O'Donnell) are hopelessly naïve, fabricating their own idyllic dream world as the authorities close in. The entrapment -- both actual and symbolic -- of the young misfit couple can now be seen as a precursor to the dilemma facing James Dean in Ray's 1955 film Rebel Without a Cause. A box-office disappointment upon its first release, They Live by Night has since gained stature as one of the most sensitive and least-predictable entries in the film noir genre. The film was based on a novel by Edward Anderson, and in 1974 was filmed by Robert Altman under its original title, Thieves Like Us.

***

Legendary director Nicholas Ray began his career with this lyrical film noir, the first in a series of existential genre films overflowing with sympathy for America’s outcasts and underdogs. When the wide-eyed fugitive Bowie (Farley Granger), having broken out of prison with some bank robbers, meets the innocent Keechie (Cathy O'Donnell), each recognizes something in the other that no one else ever has. The young lovers envision a new, decent life together, but as they flee the cops and contend with Bowie’s fellow outlaws, who aren’t about to let him go straight, they realize there’s nowhere left to run. Ray brought an outsider’s sensibility honed in the theater to this debut, using revolutionary camera techniques and naturalistic performances to craft a profoundly romantic crime drama that paved the way for decades of lovers-on-the-run thrillers to come.

Posters

Theatrical Release: August 1948

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Comparison:

Warner Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Éditions Montparnasse - Region 2 - PAL vs. IVC - Region FREE - Blu-ray vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 

1) Éditions Montparnasse - Region 2 - PAL LEFT

2) Warner - Region 1,2,3,4 - NTSC SECOND

3) IVC - Region FREE - Blu-ray - THIRD

4) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray - RIGHT

 

Box Covers

  

   

Distribution Warner Home Video - Region 1, 4 - NTSC Éditions Montparnasse - Region 2 - PAL IVC
Region FREE - Blu-ray
Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray  Spine # 880
Runtime 1:35:28  1:35:24  1:35:46.657   1:35:43.904  
Video 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.61 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s
1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.61 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

1.30:1 Disc Size: 21,705,538,142 bytes

Feature Size: 21,593,192,448 bytes

Average Bitrate: 26.90 Mbps

Single-layered Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video 1080P

1.37:1 Disc Size: 36,089,654,588 bytes

Feature Size: 28,373,526,528 bytes

Average Bitrate: 35.16 Mbps

Dual-layered Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video 1080P

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate (FR):

Bitrate IVC Blu-ray:

Bitrate Criterion Blu-ray:

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0), English (Dolby Digital 5.1)   English (Dolby Digital 2.0), English (Dolby Digital 5.1) LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit

LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary:

Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbp

Subtitles French, None French, None Japanese, None English, and none
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Warner Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
All Original Aspect Ratios - 1.33 

Edition Details:
Commentary by Farley Granger and Eddie Muller
• Featurette: They Live By Night: The Twisted Road
Theatrical trailer  


DVD Release Date: July 31st, 200
7
5 standard cases inside a cardboard box
Chapters:
various

 

Release Information:
Studio: Éditions Montparnasse

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Featurette: 'I'm a Stranger Here Myself' (43:26 in English with optional French subtitles)
• Interview with author Bernard Eisenschitz (25:25 in French with optional French subtitles)
• Audio recollections with Farley Granger while viewing scenes of the film (10:34 in English with optional French subtitles)

• Listing of other Montparnasse DVDs
• 16-page liner notes booklet (in French)

DVD Release Date: November 16th, 2004

3-teired digipak inside cardboard case
Chapters: 15

 

Release Information:
Video: IVC (Japan)
 

1.30:1 Disc Size: 21,705,538,142 bytes

Feature Size: 21,593,192,448 bytes

Average Bitrate: 26.90 Mbps

Single-layered Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video 1080P

Extras:

• 11X18 folded poster (cover) with Japanese text on the reverse

 

Chapters: 8
Blu-ray release date: February 26th, 2016 

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

Aspect Ratio:

1.37:1 Disc Size: 36,089,654,588 bytes

Feature Size: 28,373,526,528 bytes

Average Bitrate: 35.16 Mbps

Dual-layered Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video 1080P

Edition Details:
• Audio commentary featuring film historian Eddie Muller and actor Farley Granger
• New video interview with film critic Imogen Sara Smith (20:53)
• Short piece from 2007 with film critic Molly Haskell, filmmakers Christopher Coppola and Oliver Stone, and film noir specialists Alain Silver and James Ursini (6:10)
• Illustrated audio interview excerpts from 1956 with producer John Houseman (6:36)
• PLUS: A new essay by film scholar Bernard Eisenschitz

Blu-ray Release Date:  June 13th, 2017
Transparent
Blu-ray Case
Chapters: 23

 

 

 

Comments:

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

ADDITION: Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - May 17': Predictably, Criterion's 1080P is decidedly improved from last year's Japanese Blu-ray that was obviously taken from an inferior source (one that uses the 'Your Red Wagon' title) not Warner's original elements. The Criterion is advertised as a 'new 2K digital restoration' and it gains a lot of information on the right edge but loses a shade on the left, top and bottom. The Criterion clocks in at a precise 1.37:1 aspect ratio. The big issue with the IVC Blu-ray was how faint it looked - presumably the source was compromised and had lost density. The Criterion black levels are rich, deep and inky supporting highly pleasing contrast. It's night and day with Criterion coming out the big winner. It looks wonderful in-motion.

A notable upgrade is the linear PCM 1.0 channel (at 24-bit to IVC's 16-bit) audio sounding predictably, flat with pleasing depth. The score by Leigh Harline (Pickup on South Street, 23 Paces to Baker Street, House of Bamboo, Broken Lance) certainly benefits - adding another valuable layer onto the viewing experience and in advance of the Japanese uncompressed audio transfer. There are optional English (SDH) subtitles and the Blu-ray is region 'A'-locked.

Criterion include the same worthwhile audio commentary featuring film historian Eddie Muller and actor Farley Granger, originally found on Warner's 2007 DVD package. Definitely worth listening to again. I enjoyed seeing the new, 21-minute, video interview with film critic Imogen Sara Smith, author of In Lonely Places: Film Noir Beyond the City, discussing They Live By Night. We also get a 6-minute piece from 2007, referencing the film, with film critic Molly Haskell, filmmakers Christopher Coppola and Oliver Stone, and film noir specialists Alain Silver and James Ursini as well as a 7-minute of an illustrated audio interview excerpts from 1956 with producer John Houseman on the radio program of Gideon Bachman's 'Film Forum'. Houseman addresses his work in motion pictures. The package also contains a liner notes booklet with a new essay by film scholar Bernard Eisenschitz.

One of my all-time favorite films and a Noir gem - one of the holy grails of dark cinema... I'm so happy with the Criterion Blu-ray transfer and the extras. It seems like a no-brainer purchase to me... and we give our full endorsement!

 

***

ADDITION: IVC - Region FREE - Blu-ray (July 2016): Firstly, Serge Bromberg of Lobster Films says that they bought the rights to the RKO catalog for the countries outside France (thanks Julien!). It means that all the RKO films released by IVC have been mastered by Lobster Films and won't be sold in France.

Our comments are similar to IVC's The Magnificent Ambersons, Cat People, Suspicion, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, etc as we keep in mind Warner's statement:

"Distribution rights to RKO films in Japan were sold off years before we ended up owning that library. We have no knowledge of what is being released there. We can only state that it does not involve the use of our original elements"

This HD presentation, that starts with the "Your Red Wagon' title, and has some positives but, like the others, is very 'faint' which can occasionally show more detail but never looks quite 'right'.  It does have a few speckles and very light scratches but it doesn't have the rich black levels of the SDs. This may be showing in the density (of lack of) of the Japanese source because the bitrate is quite high. The IVC shows some minor rounded corners (a positive to some - a negative to others.) Personally, I relish any opportunity to see the film again but it does te4nd to underachieve, although many sequences look pretty sweet in 1080P - generally improved over SD. You may judge for yourselves with the screen captures below.

Only a folded poster as an extra - so, it is pricey making it definitely only for hard-core fans of the film. I happen to be one - so I'm not totally unhappy. With the lossless audio - it does indeed give a new presentation - and that counts for something. Let's hope Warner can best this IVC Blu-ray edition soon!

NOTE: The question of whether the degree of improvement is worth the cost for a bare-bones Blu-ray - is your own - for many the answer will be 'no'. Others may see value in the a/v advancement not finding the, converted currency, price prohibitive. To each his own. IMO, Don't feel obligated simply because you love and appreciate these RKO films!

***

ON THE FRENCH DVD: The image shows evidence of slight combing and appears to be from a decent analog source. It doesn't look fatally poor but there is some contrast boosting and is best suited to tube viewing. The good news is the French subtitles are easily removable while viewing. Audio is fairly clear and consistent with one noticeable drop. More good news are the extras, with two segments (almost 1 hour worth), are in English. The featurette 'I'm a Stranger Here Myself' doesn't always show Ray's best side but its honesty is also its, and his, appeal. Nice to see some European acclimation of the man (Truffaut etc.) - and Houseman's (the producer) input - this is a must see for Ray fans. The package is a class one - its just a shame the image quality doesn't match - but I get the feeling it is the best material they could obtain and may be the reason there is no sign of it in Region 1.

The film is pure noir all the way. One of the best examples from the seedy-poverty-stricken-struggling-to-survive to the classic anti-heroes-on-the-lamb. I had reminiscences of Lang's You Only Live Once and Dassin's Brute Force (for some reason?!?). This film is a must-see and this DVD package is recommended!   

Gary W. Tooze


DVD Menus


 

IVC - Region FREE - Blu-ray

 

Criterion  - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 


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

 

 

1) Warner Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) IVC - Region FREE - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Éditions Montparnasse - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) Warner - Region 1,2,3,4 - NTSC SECOND

3) IVC - Region FREE - Blu-ray - THIRD

4) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

Subtitle Sample NOTE: Criterion has optional English (SDH) subtitles, but we cannot obtain a capture sample

 

 

1) Éditions Montparnasse - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) IVC - Region FREE - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


Screen Captures

 

1) Éditions Montparnasse - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) IVC - Region FREE - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) Éditions Montparnasse - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) IVC - Region FREE - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) Éditions Montparnasse - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) IVC - Region FREE - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) Éditions Montparnasse - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) IVC - Region FREE - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) Éditions Montparnasse - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) IVC - Region FREE - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) Éditions Montparnasse - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) IVC - Region FREE - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) Éditions Montparnasse - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) IVC - Region FREE - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) Éditions Montparnasse - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) IVC - Region FREE - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


Recommended Reading in Film Noir (CLICK COVERS or TITLES for more information)

Box Covers

  

   

Distribution Warner Home Video - Region 1, 4 - NTSC Éditions Montparnasse - Region 2 - PAL IVC
Region FREE - Blu-ray
Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray  Spine # 880
 

Essential Film Noir on Blu-ray (click review buttons to also see comparisons where applicable):

 




 

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Gary Tooze

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