Out of the Past, starring Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, and Kirk Douglas, and skillfully directed by Jacques Tourneur, is one of the most iconic and memorable examples of film noir. This beautifully photographed film has now been released with a stunning Blu-ray transfer courtesy of the Warner Archive.
Studio: Warner Brothers
Distributed By: Warner Archive
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English 1.0 DTS-HDMA (Mono)
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 37 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-rayStandard Blu-ray Keep Case
Release Date: 08/12/2014
The Production Rating: 4.5/5
Out of the Past opens in Bridgeport, California, a small town located at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, some 78 miles south of Lake Tahoe. We follow a dark convertible down Main Street until it pulls into Jeff Bailey's Service Station. The driver of the convertible is Joe Stefanos (Paul Valentine), a tall, swarthy figure in a black hat and trench coat. Stefanos is looking for Jeff Bailey (Robert Mitchum), but he learns that the station owner has gone fishing. He decides to wait for Jeff in the cafe across the street, where he hears some gossip about Jeff and a local woman, Ann (Virginia Huston). Jeff and Ann are in fact fishing at a nearby lake when he gets the troubling news that a man is waiting to see him.
It turns out that Stefanos and Jeff have a history together, albeit it in different capacities. Both had worked for a New York racketeer named Whit Sterling (Kirk Douglas). Stefanos is still one of Sterling's thugs, whereas Jeff, who was then known by his real name of Jeff Markham, was a private detective who was trusted by Sterling. Jeff changed his name and moved to Bridgeport in an effort to put his past behind him and start a new life, but now he can hide no longer. Stefanos tells him that Sterling now has a house overlooking Lake Tahoe, and he wants Jeff to drive up and meet with him.
Since arriving in Bridgeport Jeff has been secretive about his life, although he has warned Ann that there are things which he has done that he has not been willing to discuss with her. The knowledge that Sterling has found him changes everything, and Jeff promises to tell Ann everything if she will ride up to Lake Tahoe with him. He then tells her about how Sterling hired him to find his girlfriend, Kathie Moffett (Jane Greer), who had shot Sterling and fled New York with $40,000 of his money, and bring her back to New York.
Jeff follows Kathie to Mexico, where he finally sees her for the first time and almost immediately falls for her. She is smart and beautiful, and she denies that she stole any money from Sterling. Kathie quickly figures out that Jeff has been hired by Sterling, but she resists the temptation to run, at least in part because she finds herself attracted to Jeff. Before long their relationship blossoms into full-fledged romance, but a complication arises which forces Jeff to choose between Kathie and his obligation to his client.
One of the staples of film noir is the theme of a strong man being brought to his knees by a duplicitous female. Both Jeff and Sterling are strong men, but both allow themselves to be manipulated by Kathie, even after she has repeatedly demonstrated that she cannot be trusted. Even Stefanos allows himself to be used by her. Jeff, at least, has an alternative in Ann, his Bridgeport girlfriend, who is as honest as Kathie is deceitful. The problem is that Jeff's past has caught up with him, leaving him trying to survive in a morass of lies, blackmail, and double-crosses.
Out of the Past is not entirely without flaws. When the action shifts to San Francisco the plot becomes somewhat convoluted and confusing. Rhonda Fleming received fourth billing (just below Kirk Douglas) for her performance as Meta Carson, the secretary for Sterling's accountant, but she appears in only two scenes and her character then rides away in a taxi and is never seen nor heard from again. However, those are my only caveats. The script by Geoffrey Homes (a pseudonym for David Mainwaring) crackles with sharp dialogue and the story has many surprising twists and turns. Mitchum, Greer and Douglas are perfectly cast and provide thoroughly convincing performances. Mention also must be made of Jacques Tourneur's fine direction. It has been said that Tourneur had a tragic sensibility, and that sensibility certainly is on display in Out of the Past.
The 1.37:1 black & white image has been encoded with the AVC codec and has never looked better. The print is free of damage, an appropriate level of film grain has been retained, and the images are very sharp, all combining to do full justice to Nicholas Musuraca's exceptional cinematography. Strong contrast, inky black levels, and outstanding shadow detail combine to make Out of the Past the quintessence of film noir. Parts of the movie were filmed on location in Bridgeport, California and most of the buildings which are seen in the movie are still standing.
Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD MA mono soundtrack is very good. Dialogue is clear and understandable and the music by Roy Webb is delivered without as much as a hint of distortion. The audio is generally free of noise, hiss, and other age-related anomalies.
Audio Rating: 3.5/5
The only extra on this Blu-ray disc is an insightful commentary track by author and film noir expert James Ursini, who has co-written several books on the subject.
Special Features Rating: 2/5
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Out of the Past is welcome addition to the growing roster of film noir on Blu-ray, and it is highly recommended for fans of the genre. Readers interested in purchasing it should visit the Warner Archive website.
Reviewed By: Richard Gallagher
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