Roland Brissot bought for a nickel a talisman that gives him love, fame and wealth. The talisman is a cut left hand, and it works perfectly. But of course there is nothing free in this world, and after one year the devil comes...
Gaumont delivers another winning transfer of a French classic!
Maurice Tourneur's LA MAIN DU DIABLE (1943) (known in the USA as CARNIVAL OF SINNERS and in the UK as THE DEVIL'S HAND), arrives on Blu-ray in France courtesy of Gaumont. A newly-produced documentary on the film and its production company, Continental Films, is included as an extra. In French, without English subtitles for the main feature.
Note: As discussed below, this Blu-ray is not English-friendly. This was my first experience watching a non-English language film without the aid of English subtitles. Instead, I opted to use the included French SDH subtitles to aid me in understanding the film. Below, I will post some rough, brief thoughts on the film, however, as my French is extremely limited, please take them with the caveat that I may have misunderstood plot points or information explained by characters.
After intentionally watching only small portions of the film repeatedly, I ended up watching the last half all the way through. The most fascinating thing I took away from this viewing is how much of cinema is understood visually by an attentive audience. Indeed, I was very surprised by how much of the film I understood, not just through my very limited French and the aid of the French SDH subtitles, but through the mise en scene of the film. The easiest example of this is near the end of the film, where Roland Brissot enters a hotel room to find a court of spectres awaiting him. The spectres are all past owners of the talisman, and all relate their tales to Roland: One is a musketeer, one a juggler, one a magician, one a boxer, etc. There is also Mélisse, the restauranteur from whom Roland purchased the hand. All of them, upon purchasing the hand, encountered great success in their lives for a short period, but all eventually fell victim to the cursed object, and Tourneur illustrates this through a series of abstracted, almost minimalist staged scenes that show each owner of the talisman, their motivations for accepting it, their success, and their eventual fate.
I greatly enjoyed the film, and even though I might not have understood many of the details in the dialogue, I have still come away with a coherent idea of the plot and an appreciation of the work of Tourneur, and also of Roger Dumas, the man who composed the film's fantastic musical score.
Gaumont have produced an excellent Blu-ray for this classic French horror film from 1943. Working from materials close to 70 years old, that do not appear to be in absolutely perfect condition, the restoration is nonetheless quite excellent. The black and white cinematography and the sublime use of shadow come through perfectly, as does a healthy layer of film grain. There are some instances of flickering however, especially in darkly-lit indoor sequences.
The audio is a faithful DTS-HD MA Mono track which is very good overall. Dialogue always comes through clean and clear, but the audio has similarly worn over time, suffering from some hissing/crackling during loud sounds and music swells.
Note: This Blu-ray is not English-friendly. Gaumont have provided only French SDH subtitles for the film.
The lone extra, << La Continental, le cinéma français dans la main du diable? >> is a new documentary, produced for Gaumont in 2010, about Continental Films, the film's production company, as well as the film itself. Interviewed are Serge Bromberg of Lobster Films, film historian Pierre Billard, screenwriter Jean Cosmos, director Alain Choquart and director of photography Ricardo Aronovich. In French, not subtitled (46:07, 1080p).
Maurice Tourneur's LA MAIN DU DIABLE was a film I had never even heard of before Gaumont announced that they would be bringing it to Blu-ray in France. Indeed, it seems that this film has yet to receive an official release in any digital format in an English-speaking region, which is a great shame. Gaumont's Blu-ray offers an excellent restoration of the film, with excellent video and very good original audio, as well as a lengthy new documentary as an extra. Once again do note however, that this release is not English-friendly.
Lionsgate Films | 1992 | 96 min | Rated NC-17 | Region free
| Aug 31, 2010
A nameless New York cop is hopelessly addicted to drugs, gambling and sex. As he makes his way to various crime scenes, he is concerned only with taking bets from his fellow cops on the outcome of the ongoing National League...
A nasty, agonizingly powerful drama gets a surprise shot in 1080p
This isn't as much a review as it is a score to try and offset some of the very low rated "reviews". BAD LIEUTENANT was a film made for $1 million, with a small crew working in a frenetic, ad-hoc shooting style. Because of the filming methods and budget limitations, the film will always look gritty and unpleasant--as it should do. Remebering that this is a budget Blu-ray offered from release at Best Buy for a very low price, I think the value outweighs any technical shortcomings of the film or the transfer.
Lionsgate saw fit to release this film on Special Edition DVD in 2009, and this BD is a basically an HD counterpart, doubtless using the same master, encoded here in 1080p AVC, and the same, doubtless original, 2.0 audio, rendered here in DTS-HD MA. Seeing the results, I doubt BAD LIEUTENANT could, or even should look and sound any better than it does without an extensive, costly and unlikely restoration. No, many times this disc does not sport the "look" of HD; it can be soft, out of focus and grainy, but the film was simply shot that way. Night scenes especially are dark and grainy, yet I wasn't distracted by overt noise. Close-ups, in particular, are resolved to a clarity this film has not enjoyed before. Those still in doubt would be well-served to view the clips from the film presented in the SD production featurette from 2009, they look far less impressive than the 1080p film.
To those who would complain about the lack of 5.1 audio, BAD LIEUTENANT is not a 5.1 film, it was released in mono, and there is precious little in the film that would be "enhanced" by an artificial bump. Instead of lamenting, we should praise Lionsgate for rendering the 2.0 channel in lossless. Like the video, it too reveals various production limitations, such as echoing in the church scenes and mis-leveled dialogue as a result of live recording in New York City, but, in a way, this just adds to the grimy, realistic feel of the film.
The extras, ported over from the 2009 DVD edition, include a very good production featurette, with candid reminiscences from Abel Ferrara and the production crew, and an audio commentary with Ferrara and Director of Photography Ken Kelsch.
I must say, I am still amused that this film has been released on Blu-ray. Kudos to Lionsgate for covering all the bases so often skimped out on by other studios in niche catalog titles: full 1080p, lossless audio, and previous extras on the Blu-ray Disc--and releasing the title to Best Buy at less than ten dollars. Fans of the film will find good value at this low price point; for them I would highly recommend it; for others, the price may well be enticing enough to purchase outright.
A masterpiece of Soviet cinema is granted a fantastic HD debut
I still don't know how I feel about ANDREI RUBLEV. I saw the film years ago on VHS and I loathed it, even writing a very negative essay on the film in school. It would seem that on some level, the film demands your awareness of Russian history, and without such knowledge, the plot of the film, which is actually a series of episode in Rublev's life, can seem tedious and confusing. However, I admit that this film has e in its grasp: I have thought of it often every year since first seeing it, and I eagerly relished the thought of experiencing this new Blu-ray edition. The version presented here is the shorter, domestic U.S.S.R. cut of the film, which runs exactly 3:02:58 (Note: The feature is split into two files than run 1:24:49 and 1:38:09 respectively) and this is different to the longer version released by The Criterion Collection on DVD in the USA.
The end credits tell me that Mosfilm restored ANDREI RUBLEV in 2004 (they subsequently released a 2x DVD set) and that restoration was no doubt the source for this 1080p MPEG-4 AVC presentation. Having seen screencaps of the various DVD editions over the years, I feel safe in saying that ANDREI RUBLEV has never looked better. The black and white cinematography is crystal clear and beautiful, detail is quite good, and there is fine layer of grain that would indicate that the image has not been artificially manipulated with DNR. I was pleasantly surprised to see such a clear image without haze, dirt or print damage from a film that is approaching its 45th anniversary. For the record, Mosfilm have provided optional English subtitles in white font; when turned on they split the image and the bottom of the frame. While I have no reservations about their accuracy and did not notice any spelling or grammatical errors, I did feel that the subtitles could have been slightly more complete--several mumbled phrases and throwaway comments are not subtitled--however, this is a minor quibble and did not hinder my understanding and enjoyment of the film.
Mosfilm have provided three audio tracks: Russian: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Russian: Dolby Digital 5.1, and Russian: Dolby Digital 2.0. I used only the DTS-HD MA track, and the results were as I anticipated: dialogue is crisp and clear, but the surrounds are barely used and to minimal effect.
Extras: 0/5 (N/A)
Sadly, Mosfilm have not provided any extras for this release.
I am excited to see that Mosfilm has begun to release classic Russian films on Blu-ray, and I can only hope that other Russian companies follow suit in the near future. It is truly an exciting time for lovers of world cinema, now that the Blu-ray format is coming into the mainstream. For this release, Mosfilm have provided an excellent video transfer, and a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track that is adequate, but limited by the film's production. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
4dvd | 2000 | 89 min | Rated BBFC: 18 | Region B (locked) | Jun 15, 2009
Ex-con Gary "Gal" Dove has served his time behind bars and is blissfully retired to a Spanish
villa paradise with a wife he adores. The idyll is shattered by the arrival of his nemesis Don
Logan, intent on persuading Gal to...
I had highly anticipated this film's Blu-ray debut it the UK because I believed, what with "Sexy Beast" being a British film, that the Brits would do it justice on Blu-ray. Unfortunately, I have learned that this is a port of 4dvd's earlier HD DVD release (except the Blu-ray is locked to Region B), and I will be sending it back for a refund.
The film is encoded in 1080i with the VC-1 encode, and takes up less than 18 GB of space on this BD-25. The only audio track is an English 5.1 DTS-HD High Resolution track, which is not lossless audio, and neither are there any foreign DUBs that might excuse a lossless track for lack of space. Also, there will be a debate over whether the DVD Aspect Ratio of 2.35:1 suits the film better than the Blu-ray AR of 1.85:1; there is no clear answer at the moment but the general consensus leans towards 2.35:1, meaning that 4dvd have likely used an HD broadcast source for this release.
Finally, there are no new extras, just the same Ben Kingsley/Jeremy Thomas commentary that can be found on the DVD, and a seven and a half minute behind the scenes featurette accompanied by some trailers.
For those interested, here are the specs for this Blu-ray Disc:
Video codec: 1080i VC-1 @ 23.64 Mbps
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio codec: English 5.1 DTS-HD HR @ 2046 Kbps
Feature Size: 18,406,846,464 bytes
Disc Size: 19,571,669,180 bytes
Subtitles: English, None
Region coding: Region B
Film Four really need to get on the ball and take advantage of the Blu-ray format with dual-layered discs, full 1080p video at a high bitrate, and lossless audio. Until then, don't support this release with a purchase. Either keep your HD DVD a while longer, or buy the much cheaper SD DVD and upconvert it.
Sony Pictures | 2000 | 102 min | Rated R18+ | Region free
| Dec 10, 2008
Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) is a Wall Street yuppie, obsessed with success, status, and
style, with a stunning fianceé (Reese Witherspoon). He is also a psychotic killer who rapes,
murders and dismembers both strangers...
The Australian Sony release bests the U.S. Lionsgate disc in every way. It is a BD-50 encoded in MPEG-4 AVC as opposed to the MPEG-2 encoded BD-25 Lionsgate release. The result is that the Australian disc much more filmlike than the heavily processed American disc. Audio is a step up too, with Sony offering a lossless 5.1 TrueHD track as opposed to the lossy 6.1 DTS-ES Matrix track on the Lionsgate. Supplements are virtually identical except for extra trailers on the US disc, and all the video extras will play on a Region A PS3 or standalone unit. Oh, and the Lionsgate disc is locked to Region A while the Sony is Region-free!