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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: They Drive By Night (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED).



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#1 of 8 OFFLINE   Herb Kane

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Posted October 28 2003 - 02:17 AM

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They Drive By Night






Studio: Warner Brothers
Year: 1940
Rated: Not Rated
Film Length: 95 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: Standard
Audio: DD Mono
Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
MSRP: $19.98
Package: Snap case






The Feature:
November is a terrific month for fans of Humphrey Bogart. On November 4th, Warner Brothers is set to release four old classics all of which feature the legendary film icon. Released will be, They Drive By Night, High Sierra, To Have And Have Not and Dark Passage. Also available will be The Bogart Collection featuring Casablanca – Two Disc SE, The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre – Two Disc SE, The Big Sleep, The Maltese Falcon and To Have And Have Not. The MSRP for the gift set will be $99.98.

Though, all of these four new releases will be single discs in snapper cases, WB has again used the original poster art for the cases, all of which look fantastic.

In 1940, Bogart wasn't yet a well known star... although it was probably this film and the one that soon followed, High Sierra, that were instrumental in making him the icon he became. The Maltese Falcon was still a year away and while it's been said that The Petrified Forest may have been instrumental in determining his tough guy roles, They Drive By Night and High Sierra were his vehicles to stardom. In 1999 the American Film Institute named Humphrey Bogart the Greatest Male Star of All Time.

Brothers Paul Fabrini (Humphrey Bogart) and Joe Fabrini (George Raft) run a flailing independent trucking business in California mainly shipping fruit from farms to the markets in Los Angeles. The fundamental storyline showcases the difficulties within the trucking business, and the crooks they are forced to operate for. Often on the road for weeks at a time, neither is able to maintain much of a family relationship, earning very little and always trying to stay one step ahead of a persistent creditor, looking to repossess the truck for which they’ve fallen behind in their payments.

Cassie Hartley (played by Ann Sheridan in a wonderful role) is a down-and-out waitress looking for a break. Picked up by the pair during their travels, she ends up falling for tough-guy, Joe. For Joe, the feeling is mutual, finding the love of his life in Cassie. While en-route to Los Angeles the three, witness the death of two friends after a horrific accident occurs when the driver falls asleep at the wheel of the truck he is driving. This has a profound effect on Paul and it soon becomes clear, (after their own mishap) that a different job becomes more than a necessity.

When Joe finally goes to work for his good friend Ed Carlsen (Alan Hale), he must fight off the advances of Carlsen's unfaithful and treacherous wife Lana (played brilliantly by Ida Lupino). Lana knows that she cannot win over Joe and decides to kill her husband, Ed. After a decision by the District Attorney who rules the death accidental, Lana makes Joe a generous business proposition to run the firm and to share half of its worth. Joe agrees and accepts the position unbeknownst to him that his soon to be partner had a hand in his friend’s recent death. Still unwilling to fall for her advances, Lana goes to the District Attorney and claims she was forced to kill her husband and that she was coerced into doing it. Soon, they are both charged for the murder…

It’s interesting to note that Bogart (who had a fairly significant role) got forth billing for this film. Both Lupino and Sheridan stole the show. Their performances were absolutely outstanding. It should also be noted that it was also a rather atypical role for Raft. Though he was a tough-guy, he wasn’t a gangster type or a thug… just a hard working guy who we truly want to see succeed.



Video:
While this video presentation might not be quite as impressive as a few of the recent WB releases, it’s not likely to leave fans disappointed either.

Early in the film, there is some jitter and light instability. Image detail was rather sharp for the most part (with only a few exceptions). Typically for the period, many of the close-up shots on the actresses were soft and those of the actors were rather sharp and well defined. This shows through quite nicely.

Black levels were acceptable as were contrast levels and shadow detail. Traces of film dirt and scratches were present but never excessive or bothersome. There were no issues with regards to compression or enhancement.

Even though the film lacked that velvety smooth dimensional look, I found the overall presentation most impressive…!



Audio:
Again, the DD Mono track gets an impressive passing grade. Dialogue was always clear and detailed. Throughout the movie there were a few action scenes including a couple of accidents and the track did a good job of handling the dynamics (as admirably as it could from the period).

Again, always my biggest concern of movies from this era is hiss or popping and I’m happy to report that it is non existent. If there was any removal of such hiss, the track is free of any compression and sounds as raw as it should.

A very solid offering…!



Special Features:
Although not a plentiful group of features, they are interesting. First up is:
[*] Divided Highway: The Story Of “They Drive By Night”. This is a documentary which features Leonard Maltin who discusses the making of the movie and its comparisons to the film, Bordertown (1935). Also discussed briefly is legendary director Raoul Walsh. Great little documentary, just wish it was longer. Duration: 10:36 Minutes.
[*] The next feature is Swingtime In The Movies. This is a 1938 Technicolor short about the Warner Brother’s lot. There are many great cameo appearances from various stars of the period including Humphrey Bogart. Duration: 19:09 Minutes.
[*] Last but not least is the Theatrical Trailer which is in rather decent shape. Duration: 1:53 Minutes.



Final Thoughts:
Although, this might be thought of as a lesser known title, it’s certainly no less important. While The Petrified Forest, may have lead to the role Bogart would eventually be famous for, They Drive By Night and High Sierra would be responsible for the eventual fame that was soon to follow.

This is a highly entertaining film, beautifully acted by (in particular) Sheridan and Lupino which has quickly risen as among one of my favorite Bogart titles. The special features included aren’t plentiful but they are informative and interesting. That, combined with a presentation that is exemplary, should make fans of Bogart and classics very happy.

Highly Recommended…!!




Release Date: November 4th, 2003
My Top 25 Noirs:

25. 711 Ocean Drive (1950), 24. Odds Against Tomorrow (1959), 23. Desperate (1947), 22. Pushover (1954), 21. The Blue Dahlia (1946), 20. The File on Thelma Jordon (1949), 19. He Ran All the Way (1951), 18. The Asphalt Jungle (1950), 17. The Killing (1956), 16. I Walk Alone (1948),...

#2 of 8 OFFLINE   Bill Burns

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Posted October 28 2003 - 02:21 AM

Ah, the first of the new Bogart releases! Great review, Herb. Many thanks. Posted Image I caught this on TCM a few years ago and look forward to seeing it again -- it sounds as if Warner has done a fine job on the disc (no surprise there), and that Technicolor short puts it right over the top.
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#3 of 8 OFFLINE   ScottDombrowski

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Posted October 29 2003 - 01:48 AM

Thanks for the review! I rented this on video years ago and always wanted to see it again. I've never forgotten Ida Lupino's courtroom scene! This movie and High Sierra (again with the great Ida Lupino) are two of my favorite Bogart movies!

#4 of 8 OFFLINE   SteveGon

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Posted October 29 2003 - 02:01 AM

Thanks, Herb! All four Bogie films will be mine come Tuesday. Posted Image Nice to hear at least this one (and presumably the others?) has extras - I'd have bought 'em bare-bones. Posted Image

Now if they'd just give us The Petrified Forest, All Through the Night, etc., etc....

#5 of 8 OFFLINE   Blu

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Posted October 29 2003 - 10:15 AM

Now bring on African Queen!!!

#6 of 8 OFFLINE   John Hodson

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Posted October 29 2003 - 11:08 AM

Good work Herb; keep 'em coming!

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#7 of 8 OFFLINE   Randy A Salas

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Posted October 29 2003 - 03:35 PM

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#8 of 8 OFFLINE   Randy_M

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Posted October 30 2003 - 06:50 AM

This is my favorite pre Falcon Bogart film.

Quite looking forward to it!
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