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directed by Robert Aldrich
USA 1955

 

Mere months after delivering one of the definitive examples of film noir with Kiss Me Deadly, Robert Aldrich brought a noir flavour to Hollywood with his classic adaptation of Clifford Odets stage play, The Big Knife.

Charles Castle, one of Hollywood's biggest stars, looks like he has it all. But his marriage is falling apart and his wife is threatening to leave him if he renews his contract. Studio boss Stanley Shriner Hoff isn t taking the news too well, and he ll do anything he can to get his man to sign on the dotted line even if means exposing dark secrets...

Winner of the Silver Lion at the 1955 Venice Film Festival, The Big Knife also boasts a remarkable cast list including Jack Palance (Shane) as Castle and Rod Steiger (On the Waterfront) as Hoff, plus Shelley Winters (The Night of the Hunter), Ida Lupino (On Dangerous Ground), Jean Hagen (Singin in the Rain) and Everett Sloane (Citizen Kane).

***

Academy Award winners* Jack Palance, Rod Steiger and Shelley Winters deliver knockout performances in this vicious "poison-pen letter to the movie business" (American Cinematheque)that's an extreme close-up of greed, lust and murder! Hollywood superstar Charlie Castle (Palance) has it all except a way out. When he tries to leave show business, his tyrannical studio boss Stanley Hoff (Steiger) blackmails him with a lethal, covered-up secret that could land him in jail. A loose-lipped starlet (Winters) also knows too much, and when she starts talking, Hoff plans murder. Now Charlie is more cornered than ever on the brink of losing his wealth, his power and his soul.

***

A dynamite portrait of a man on the verge of total psychological and moral collapse, Robert Aldrich's 1955 indictment of Hollywood stars Jack Palance, Ida Lupino, and Rod Steiger. Adapted from a series of plays by Clifford Odets, Aldrich's film focuses on the ways in which a man's freedom is systematically denied him by the forces that control his world, whether that world is the arts, business, or politics. Palance is superb as the Hollywood star who now has to be blackmailed to continue starring in the dreadful films produced by Rod Steiger (in a magnificent portrayal of Harry Cohn, Louis B. Mayer, and Jack Warner rolled into one). Electric, exciting, and ultimately very depressing.

Excerpt from Don Druker at the Chicago Reader located HERE

 

Posters

Theatrical Release: 25 October 1955 (Los Angeles, California)

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Comparison:

MGM - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Arrow - Region FREE - Blu-ray

Big thanks to Gregory Meshman for the DVD Review!

Box Covers

 

 

 

   

Also on Blu-ray, from Arrow, in the UK:

Distribution

MGM

Region 1 - NTSC

Arrow

Region FREE - Blu-ray

Runtime 1:53:52 1:52:19.274
Video

1.33:1 Open Matte format
Average Bitrate: 5.4 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

Disc Size: 45,614,515,795 bytes

Feature Size: 34,465,653,312 bytes

Average Bitrate: 34.96 Mbps

Dual-layered Blu-ray MPEG-4- AVC

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

Bitrate

Bitrate Blu-ray

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)

LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary:

LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit

Subtitles English, Spanish, French, None English (SDH), None
Features Release Information:
Studio: MGM

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• Theatrical trailer (2:27)

DVD Release Date: October 15th, 2002
Keep Case

Chapters 16

Release Information:
Studio: Arrow Video

 

Disc Size: 45,614,515,795 bytes

Feature Size: 34,465,653,312 bytes

Average Bitrate: 34.96 Mbps

Dual-layered Blu-ray MPEG-4- AVC  

 

Edition Details:

• Commentary by film critics Glenn Kenny and Nick Pinkerton, recorded exclusively for this release
• Bass on Titles Saul Bass, responsible for The Big Knife s credit sequence, discusses some of his classic work in this self-directed documentary from 1972 (33:46)

• Television promo (4:59)
• Theatrical trailer (2:28)
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sean Phillips
• FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Nathalie Morris

 

Blu-ray Release Date: August 28th, September 5th, 2017
Transparent
Blu-ray case

Chapters 13

 

 

Comments

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

ADDITION: Arrow - Region FREE - Blu-ray August 2017: Firstly, this Arrow Blu-ray of The Big Knife is missing a scene (part of a scene) that is on the MGM DVD. It's around 1:35:30 into the film, when Nat Danziger (Everett Sloane) is sitting on the couch - he talks with Charles Castle (Jack Palance) and Marion Castle (Ida Lupino) for about 1-minute on the MGM DVD - on the Blu-ray he just departs. This is missing his whole speech about money and Charlie's response - it's about 66-seconds long. The other 20 seconds of longer running time appears to be the 'United Artists' logo at the beginning on the DVD. I don't believe they caught this omission in the commentary. I have informed Arrow.

The 1080P image is gorgeous - thick with luscious grain and beautiful contrast. It's incredibly impressive on a dual-layered disc with a max'ed out bitrate. The damage on the MGM, 1.37:1 DVD is gone and the, correct widescreen, in-motion presentation is wonderful.

Audio is likewise excellent - linear PCM (24-bit) that exports a clean, crisp sound for the dialogue-driven film. The score is by Frank De Vol's (The Flight of the Phoenix, The Dirty Dozen, Kiss Me Deadly), What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?, McLintock) and adds vital emotion to the film experience. There are optional English (SDH) subtitles and the Blu-ray disc is region FREE, playable worldwide.

Included is a commentary by film critics Glenn Kenny and Nick Pinkerton, recorded exclusively for this release and they cover a lot, working well together. They both state it is definitely NOT a Noir. Bass on Titles has Saul Bass, discusses some of his classic work in this self-directed documentary from 1977. It runs 1/2 hour and great to hear from the man whose titles we have loved for decades as he is interviewed by Herbert Yager. There is an interesting, 5-minite Television promo with Palance and a theatrical trailer. The package has a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sean Phillips and the fuirst pressing gets an illustrated collector s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Nathalie Morris.

I will publish Arrow's response to the missing scene here... stay tuned.

***

ON THE DVD: MGM's DVD release of The Big Knife dates back to 2002 and unfortunately, the print used for this transfer has seen the better days. The film is presented open matte so there is a lot of head room. A 1.85:1, or 1.66:1, aspect ratio with higher resolution and anamorphic enhancement would have probably improved the image detail. There are some marks and specks on the print and 2 sequences at 1:23 have some noticeable damage for about 2-3 frames (see the last capture).

The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono audio is fine and there are optional yellow subtitles provided in English, French or Spanish. In 2009 Optimum released this film on DVD in UK HERE and in 2010 MGM released it in Australia, but we don't have those discs to compare. The US disc was recently discontinued, so if you can find it for the right price, pick it up. But otherwise, this film deserves a better release.

  - Gregory Meshman

 


DVD Menus
 

Arrow - Region FREE - Blu-ray


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

 

Missing sequence from the Arrow - Region FREE - Blu-ray

 


Subtitle sample

1) MGM- Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Arrow - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) MGM- Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Arrow - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) MGM- Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Arrow - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) MGM- Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Arrow - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) MGM- Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Arrow - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) MGM- Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Arrow - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


  Damage on DVD

 

1) MGM- Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Arrow - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

More Blu-ray Captures


Box Covers

 

 

 

   

Also on Blu-ray, from Arrow, in the UK:

Distribution

MGM

Region 1 - NTSC

Arrow

Region FREE - Blu-ray

 





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