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    The Disappearance Blu-ray Review

    Blu-ray Twilight Time

    Aug 24 2013 05:36 PM | Richard Gallagher in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    The Disappearance is a strange, sometimes confusing and relatively obscure thriller from 1977 about a professional killer who is haunted by the fact that his beautiful wife has left him. Directed by Stuart Cooper with a running time of 101 minutes, the film's distributor cut 30 minutes from the film, rearranged many scenes, and commissioned a new music score. Cooper has called the resulting theatrical release "incomprehensible." Somewhere along the line a third version began to be shown. It restored 20 minutes of footage and the scenes were arranged in a fashion which is more in tune with the director's intentions. This Blu-ray release from Twilight Time contains the 91 minute version in high definition and the 101 minute version in standard definition. Visually and sonically this Blu-ray release is watchable but not without flaws.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: Other
    • Distributed By: Twilight Time
    • Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
    • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
    • Audio: English 1.0 DTS-HDMA (Mono)
    • Subtitles: None
    • Rating: R
    • Run Time: 1 Hr. 31 Min.
    • Package Includes: Blu-ray
    • Case Type:
    • Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    • Region: A
    • Release Date: 08/13/2013
    • MSRP: $29.95

    The Production Rating: 3.5/5

    The Disappearance is a strange, sometimes confusing and relatively obscure thriller from 1977 about a professional killer who is haunted by the fact that his beautiful wife has left him. Directed by Stuart Cooper with a running time of 101 minutes, the film's distributor cut 30 minutes from the film, rearranged many scenes, and commissioned a new music score. Cooper has called the resulting theatrical release "incomprehensible." Somewhere along the line a third version began to be shown. It restored 20 minutes of footage and the scenes were arranged in a fashion which is more in tune with the director's intentions. This Blu-ray release from Twilight Time contains the 91 minute version in high definition and the 101 minute version in standard definition. Visually and sonically this Blu-ray release is watchable but not without flaws.

    Jay Mallory (Donald Sutherland) is a professional assassin based in Montreal who works for a mysterious organization called The Office. From time to time he is given an assignment to eliminate someone, a task which he typically performs with great efficiency. The film opens in the middle of winter, with Mallory returning from a job to his modernistic high-rise apartment, which has a beautiful interior but an exterior of cold concrete. When he arrives home he find the phone off the hook and his wife, Celandine (Francine Racette, who in real life has been Sutherland's wife for the past 30 years), is missing. In flashbacks we see that Celandine has often been unhappy and she has frequently threatened the leave Mallory.

    While preoccupied by the situation of having his wife leave him, Mallory is visited by Burbank (David Warner), who hands out assignments to Mallory and the other hit men who work for The Office. Burbank reminds Mallory that he has been given a sizeable advance to perform a hit (a hit is called a "shy" in the film) and he is expected to complete it. Mallory tells Burbank that he cannot do the job until he finds Celandine, a response which does not please Burbank. In the meantime, gaps in the back story are filled in by innumerable flashbacks, most of them involving Mallory and Celandine but some which show Mallory at work. The hit man reaches out to Celandine's sister, Melanie (Michèle Magny), but she has no idea what happened to her. "Was there another man?" Mallory asks. "There are always other men, Jay," Melanie replies.

    The "shy" which has been assigned to Mallory is to take place in England, but Mallory has no interest in leaving Canada while Celandine is missing. He goes to see Celandine's former lover, Edward (David Hemmings), who tells Mallory that his wife had a more recent lover, an Englishman named Deverell (Christopher Plummer). Mallory then decides to accept the assignment, because he believes that Deverell may know where Celandine is. While in England is he is given his instructions by an eager young man who is new to The Office, Atkinson (John Hurt).

    The plot of The Disappearance is intriguing, but the constant flashbacks sometimes create confusion about whether we are watching things which are currently happening or events which occurred in the past. Donald Sutherland is excellent as Mallory, although his character is difficult to care about because he is detached and humorless, and therefore difficult to empathize with. Francine Racette is fine as Celandine, the beautiful wife whose motivation remains a mystery which is not resolved until the end of the film. Confusion aside, The Disappearance benefits from the excellent performances of the supporting actors (Christopher Plummer is on camera for only a couple of minutes but he is particularly effective). The film also is beautifully photographed by John Alcott, who was Stanley Kubrick's favorite cinematographer.

    Those who are interested in purchasing The Disappearance should go to the Screen Archives website to order it. A limited edition of 3,000 units has been manufactured.

    Video Rating: 3/5 3D Rating: NA

    The Disappearance is shown at 1.85:1 1080p utilizing the AVC codec. This is the first Twilight Time Blu-ray I have seen which does not come from 20th Century Fox or Sony. The liner notes indicate that this transfer comes from Hollywood Classics, and it does not quite measure up to the quality of Twilight Time Blu-rays from Fox and Sony. The picture is free of damage, but the image is soft at times and shadow detail is lacking. The colors are muted but appear to be accurate - as noted, the action takes place during winter and the look of the film reflects that fact. There is one particularly striking shot of the Montreal Biosphere. This Blu-ray is certainly watchable but no one will mistake it for reference quality.

    Audio Rating: 2.5/5

    The English 1.0 DTS-HD MA mono soundtrack is acceptable. The dialogue is mostly clear and intelligible, although I sometimes had difficulty deciphering Francine Racette's accent (there are no subtitles available). The musical soundtrack by Robert Farnon is suitably evocative, although I detected some slight distortion at times. There is strong emphasis on the piano, including a rendition of Ravel's Piano Concerto in G performed by Leslie Pearson.

    Special Features: 4/5

    The primary extra on this Blu-ray disc is a standard definition, 1.33:1 director's cut of The Disappearance which has a running time of 101 minutes. The picture quality is reasonably good, but shadow detail is poor and the audio is a bit noisy. It does not seem to me that the director's cut is an improvement over the 91 minute version.

    A 15 minute excerpt from the theatrical cut demonstrates how the distributor rearranged many of the flashbacks to try to present the story in more chronological order, with disastrous results.

    A 10 minute interview with director Stuart Cooper helps the viewer to better understand the various changes which have been made to The Disappearance since it was filmed.

    As is always the case with Twilight Time Blu-ray releases, there is an isolated score track.

    Also included is an eight-page booklet with color still photographs from the film and an insightful and informative essay by Julie Kirgo.

    Overall Rating: 3.5/5

    The Disappearance is an intriguing but flawed thriller which ultimately has only a few thrilling moments, although those moments are impressive. Viewers who have the patience to work through a seemingly unending array of flashbacks will be rewarded by superb acting and memorable visuals.

    NOTE: Numerous requests have been made that in Twilight Time review threads members confine their comments to the film being reviewed. There are other Twilight Time threads in the Blu-ray forum where we can discuss the company's business model of limited editions.

    Reviewed by: Richard Gallagher
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    8 Comments

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    Charles Smith
    Aug 25 2013 05:49 AM

    Thanks for the review.  I'd never seen this, and was so intent on following the events of the story that I failed to notice anything lacking with image or sound.  I figured the stark, muted look was deliberate, and appropriate to its sort-of-Scandinavian-esque winter setting.

     

    In the end, I was very taken with the film and am very glad to have it.  These extra features definitely make this package worthwhile, and I look forward to returning to it soon.

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    Richard Gallagher
    Aug 25 2013 11:43 AM

    I downgraded the video primarily because of the lack of shadow detail. The music sounds a bit distorted to me at times. The lack of subtitles also goes into my audio grade, although I understand that Twilight Time works with what they are given and it isn't their responsibility to create subtitles. It is what it is.

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    haineshisway
    Aug 25 2013 03:57 PM

    Okay then :)  A few things from the likes of me: Stanley Kramer's had several favorite cinematographer's, none of whom were named John Alcott.  Stanley Kubrick used John Alcott - whether Mr. Alcott was his favorite I know not.  

     

    What is a reference transfer?  For me, one that replicates what the film should look like and this is what The Disappearance looks like.  The occasional soft shots are due to diffusion filters.  The transfer is, in fact, VERY sharp - just look at the detail in the very first scene when Sutherland goes to the phone box to make a call.  Color is perfect.  Shadow detail looks like what it's always looked like.  The director of the film, Stuart Cooper, was thrilled with the transfer - he made the film, he ought to know.  Not every film has the same shadow detail and there cannot be one standard from which you judge such things, IMO.  All a transfer can do is take the element used, have it authored at a nice bit rate and with wonderful compression, which this transfer does beautifully.  The source USED for the transfer is terrific - it may not look like something someone wants it to look like, but it accurately represents the look of the film, which is all we should ever want.

     

    So, that is my somewhat differing opinion on this disc.  I can't say whether anyone will actually like the film or not, but as transfers go this one gets the look of the film right.

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    Richard Gallagher
    Aug 25 2013 06:13 PM

    Okay then :)  A few things from the likes of me: Stanley Kramer's had several favorite cinematographer's, none of whom were named John Alcott.  Stanley Kubrick used John Alcott - whether Mr. Alcott was his favorite I know not.  

     

    What is a reference transfer?  For me, one that replicates what the film should look like and this is what The Disappearance looks like.  The occasional soft shots are due to diffusion filters.  The transfer is, in fact, VERY sharp - just look at the detail in the very first scene when Sutherland goes to the phone box to make a call.  Color is perfect.  Shadow detail looks like what it's always looked like.  The director of the film, Stuart Cooper, was thrilled with the transfer - he made the film, he ought to know.  Not every film has the same shadow detail and there cannot be one standard from which you judge such things, IMO.  All a transfer can do is take the element used, have it authored at a nice bit rate and with wonderful compression, which this transfer does beautifully.  The source USED for the transfer is terrific - it may not look like something someone wants it to look like, but it accurately represents the look of the film, which is all we should ever want.

     

    So, that is my somewhat differing opinion on this disc.  I can't say whether anyone will actually like the film or not, but as transfers go this one gets the look of the film right.

     

    Yes, it's Kubrick - I went into Stanley brain lock on that one. A correction is being made.

     

    Never having seen the film before, I can only report on what I am seeing now. But I appreciate comments from people like you who have a better handle on what the film looked like in theaters.

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    haineshisway
    Aug 25 2013 07:19 PM

    Yes, it's Kubrick - I went into Stanley brain lock on that one. A correction is being made.

     

    Never having seen the film before, I can only report on what I am seeing now. But I appreciate comments from people like you who have a better handle on what the film looked like in theaters.

    I've had Stanley brain lock for years :)  Glad you took my post in the spirit in which it was intended, which was just another opinion in the mix.

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    Richard Gallagher
    Aug 25 2013 08:31 PM

    I've had Stanley brain lock for years :)  Glad you took my post in the spirit in which it was intended, which was just another opinion in the mix.

     

    I try my best to be open to constructive criticism! And I did give the film 3 1/2 stars, which says that I believe that it is worth seeing.

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    haineshisway
    Aug 25 2013 08:49 PM

    I really like the film a lot - it's very different and I've always liked this sort of film - there are others like this that I wish would get released - highest on my list, The Night of the Following Day with Marlon Brando.  Completely weird little elliptical thriller and a real mood piece like The Disappearance.

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    Richard Gallagher
    Aug 26 2013 03:18 PM

    I have The Night of the Following Day on DVD but I haven't watched it. I need to move it into my queue.