The Day of the Locust
Length: 144 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English Restored Mono, English Dolby Digital 5.1 remix
Special Features: none
The Day of the Locust is based on Nathaniel West’s novel about Hollywood decadence in the 1930’s. Filmed in 1975, it is episodic in its storytelling, not having much in the way of plot. It is filled with inspired performances and great cinematography, giving the viewer a real feel for the seedier side of Hollywood during the period.
This is a breakout role for William Atherton as Tod Hackett, a production designer trying hard to make it in the biz, but what he really wants to do is paint. Burgess Meredith steals the show in an Oscar nominated role as Harry Greener, a washed-up actor / comic turned alcoholic door-to-door salesman. His manipulative daughter, Faye (Karen Black), lives with him, and seems willing to sleep with anyone to advance her career as an actress - or anyone who is good looking... or is rich... Donald Sutherland plays Homer Simpson, convenient yet inexperienced boyfriend to Faye, who seems to have a boatload of emotional problems.
The film starts off very slowly, building to a slow boil with a crescendo to one of the most shocking and disturbing climaxes put to film. It is difficult to describe this film, because there isn’t much in the way of plot, here. It’s a film that must be experienced to be appreciated. This film is required viewing for those interested in early Hollywood and its darker side. This is compelling and disturbing stuff, and is most certainly not for all tastes.
The Day of the Locust is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is enhanced for widescreen displays.
The transfer presents a soft image with a moderate amount of grain throughout. I imagine that this effect is true to the source. The picture is cast from warm hues, evoking a period feel. Black levels are ever so slightly lacking, but detail in the shadows is good and the contrast is acceptable.
There are a fair amount of dust and scratches on the print, but I’ve seen worse on films from the period. Short of a digital cleanup, I wouldn’t expect much better than this.
The original mono soundtrack has been restored for this DVD release, and there is also an English Dolby Digital 5.1 remix available, as well (which plays by default). The mono mix sounds nice, and seems faithful to the source. The remix, as usual, presents a clean, yet slightly “processed” sound which does improve spatial cues and adds a bit of oomph to the lower frequencies - but purists will likely opt for the restored mono track.
This is an interesting and disturbing film from Paramount’s catalog. It is given an adequate, if not impressive outing on DVD.