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DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
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The Disappearance Blu-ray ReviewBlu-ray Twilight Time
Aug 24 2013 05:36 PM | Richard Gallagher in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
- 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: 3.5/5The 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: 2.5/5The 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: 4/5The 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.