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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: Dead Ringer (RECOMMENDED).



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#1 of 5 OFFLINE   Herb Kane

Herb Kane

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Posted August 12 2004 - 07:02 AM

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Dead Ringer


Studio: Warner Brothers
Year: 1964
Rated: Not Rated
Film Length: 115 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Enhanced Widescreen
Audio: DD Monaural
Color/B&W: B&W
Languages: English & French
Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
MSRP: $19.97
Package: Single disc/Keepcase





The Feature:
On August 10th, Warner Brothers released a wave of titles that range from a once banned movie - to horror films - to classic crime drama thrillers. Slated for release, the once forbidden 1932 film, Freaks, the 1956 Mervyn LeRoy classic The Bad Seed, a double bill feature, Village Of The Damned (1960) paired with the follow up Children Of The Damned (1963) and the feature film, Dead Ringer (1964) starring long time Warner Brothers staple Bette Davis as well as Karl Malden and Peter Lawford. The film was directed by longtime Davis friend Paul Henreid who starred in such classics as Casablanca, Now, Voyageur (both from 1942) and Goodbye Mr. Chips (1939), although his directing career consisted mostly of TV shows from the 1950’s and 60’s.

The film starts off with Edie Phillips (played by Bette Davis) attending the funeral of a long time friend (and former boyfriend). It’s there we also get a glimpse of Margaret DeLorca (also played by Bette Davis) who is an identical twin sister to Edie. It’s Margaret’s husband who has passed away, but the siblings haven’t spoken to each other in almost twenty years due to Margaret having stolen Edie’s, then boyfriend and marrying him. Margaret’s marriage resulted in enormous wealth and luxury including a palatial estate complete with servants while Edie runs a failing cocktail bar at Figueroa & Temple in downtown Los Angeles.

Edie gets a visit from her landlord and after being behind in her rent by three months, gives her notice to vacate the building. Knowing there is no one else she can turn to, Edie calls Margaret over. Her request isn’t to ask her for financial help, it’s to ambush her. And that, she does. Realizing their appearance is virtually indistinguishable, she concocts a plan to stage the scene as a suicide and assume her sister’s identity to live the life of luxury, something she’s always longed for. As a matter of routine, Margaret (now Edie) is asked to come to police headquarters to answer some questions. Ironically, the cop in charge of the investigation is longtime friend, Detective Hobbson (played by Karl Malden), who looks like he’s seen a ghost when he first lays eyes on Margaret. Hobbson is absolutely astounded by the uncanny resemblance of the sisters and one can’t help but feel his suspicion of the sister’s true identity.

Obviously, Edie’s biggest obstacle in assuming her sister’s identity is becoming familiar with (her sister’s) friends and acquaintances and getting to know the daily routine of the estate so as not to tip off the servants who have been employed by the DeLorca family for decades.

Enter Tony Collins (played by Peter Lawford), a young playboy type whose relationship with Margaret was much more involved than Edie would ever have imagined. It doesn’t take long for Tony to determine that Margaret isn’t who she says she is, and he plays it for every bit it’s worth. He starts blackmailing Edie but soon, jewelry that he attempts to pawn is linked to Mrs. DeLorca bringing police right back to the palatial estate wanting to know why such a wealthy woman would need to hock her jewels. Inquisitive detectives search Tony’s apartment and make an interesting discovery; one that leads to a death and another that leads to a death sentence in California’s San Quentin Prison.

The film was a remake of the 1946 Mexican film, La Otra and it wasn’t the first time Bette Davis would appear in a film as an evil identical twin. In 1946 she appeared with Glenn Ford in A Stolen Life where she assumes her sisters identity after a boating accident.

The Feature: 4/5
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Video:
This transfer looks pretty good. Although black levels are at times deep, the level of grayscale is still not quite what it could be. Whites were mostly stark and clean if not just a tad gray at times. Contrast was just slightly high and the amount of shadow detail was better than average.

Image detail was nice, slightly soft throughout the film with infrequent instances of sharpness. Many of the Davis close-ups were purposely diffused, as expected. There was a moderate amount of medium film grain present throughout the entire film resulting in a very nice film-like image.

There were infrequent instances of dust and dirt blemishes, but the print was mostly clean. There was no shimmer or jitter as the image was solid and only a few sporadic moments of light speckle.

While there were no compression errors to speak of, I did notice haloing which was easily evident, particularly early in the film which could be seen around Margaret’s black dress while she was still in mourning. Not a big deal, but it was slightly noticeable.

A pretty solid effort – nice job.

Video: 4/5
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Audio:
Presented in its original DD monaural soundtrack, WB has again done a better job than you might imagine for a mono track.

The track is immaculate and free of any hiss or other crackling distractions. The overall tonality of the track was natural and never became shrill or edgy. Dialogue was always exceptionally bold and clear.

There are some jazz numbers that become elevated as to tie in with what’s happening in the movie, and they sounded great – much better than you would expect. The horrorish harpsichord music scored by Andre Previn also sounds pretty good and chilling.

My only observation was the entire track was mixed slightly on the low side, nothing increasing the volume level didn’t take care of – no big deal.

A better than average monaural soundtrack.

Audio: 4/5
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Special Features:
Surprisingly, the disc features several extras that are most complementary to the film. They are:
[*] Commentary By Charles Busch and Boze Hadleigh is an admirable venture in which Davis biographer Boze Hadleigh clearly takes the lead and offers up scads of information relating to the film and its star. Even though, much of the information offered up is rather historical, they do a good job at following the film keeping many of their comments specific to each scene.
[*] Double Take: A Conversation with Boze Hadleigh is a historical run-through of the star of the film as well as a brief bio on the major players of the film by Davis historian and biographer Boze Hadleigh. The feature was produced for the disc. Very interesting. Duration 12:45 minutes.
[*] Behind The Scenes At The Doheny Mansion is a super little feature which highlights the magnificence of the 57,000 square foot mansion which is called Greystone, built by wealthy oil man Edward Doheny in 1927. The mansion has appeared in countless films. The feature also shows many behind the scenes shots of the production. Duration 7:00 minutes.
[*] Finally, the Theatrical Trailer is included which is narrated by Peter Lawford and is in pretty good shape. Duration 2:39 minutes.

Special Features: 4/5
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**Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**


Final Thoughts:
“No one is as good as Bette when she’s bad”…

While I was watching this movie, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “where are all the Bette Davis movies, and why haven’t they been released”…? I can only imagine that Warner Brothers will eventually release a Davis Signature Collection containing many of the great films that still linger in their vaults – Lord only knows, she deserves it. Over the top and slightly camp…? Absolutely. But it’s still Bette Davis, who turns in one of her last great performances in a film with a better than average storyline that really is a lot of fun. And just in case you can’t tell, I really enjoyed this film. We need more Bette Davis. Remember to vote = The Letter.

Not only are the special features worthwhile, but the presentation is outstanding as well. Bette Davis fans should waste no time picking up this disc.

Overall Rating: 4/5 (not an average)
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Recommended…!!




Release Date: August 10th, 2004
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 5 OFFLINE   Al (alweho)

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Posted August 12 2004 - 07:11 AM

Great reivew Herb. I just watched this title last night and enjoyed the commentary track. Charles Busch does a better job here (you'll learn all about how to get a quick face lift with make-up shading, rubber bands, tape and a wig) than he did on the Bad Seed DVD which was also released on the same day. It was clear Boze Hadleigh did his homework on Dead Ringer and had plenty of material on hand to share with the viewer.
"Politics is the profession whereby the inevitable is made to seem a great human achievement" - Quentin Crisp

#3 of 5 OFFLINE   ArthurMy

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Posted August 12 2004 - 07:49 AM

I just wished it were a better movie. It's really not much of a thriller (the way in which it was sold, which is why it probably bombed) and nothing much happens of interest. Bette is good, as usual, but Malden and Lawford are pretty annoying, IMO. The Previn score is the best thing about it, really.

#4 of 5 OFFLINE   EricSchulz

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Posted August 13 2004 - 03:07 PM

I just got done watching this movie (literally!) and I can't believe we saw the same film! I was not familiar with the story (other than the fact the Bette Davis played twin sisters) and thought it was extremely well-crafted. Yes, it's a bit campy and melodramatic, but it works really well. With few exceptions, the dual role scenes are excellent (watch the shadows of the two characters in the scene in Maggie's bedroom after the funeral) although the "face-to-face" conversation was pretty weak. I can't wait to check out all the extras...I think your grade of four stars is right on the money!

#5 of 5 OFFLINE   Jefferson

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Posted August 22 2004 - 10:32 AM

This was always an over-the-top, campy fun flick. I hope that one day, more of her films are released... One that gets my vote is THE STAR, where she utters the famous line, "Come on Oscar...let's you and me get drunk", as she and her Academy Award go on a drunk driving spree.





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