DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Behold A Pale Horse

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Aaron Silverman, Mar 7, 2005.

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  1. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

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    Behold A Pale Horse

    US Theatrical Release: August 14, 1964 (Columbia)
    US DVD Release: February 22, 2005
    Running Time: 2:01:03 (28 chapter stops)
    Rating: None
    Video: 1.85:1 Anamorphic (black & white)
    Audio: English DD1.0
    Subtitles: English, Korean, Spanish
    TV-Generated Closed Captions: English
    Menus: Not animated.
    Packaging: Standard keepcase; no insert.
    MSRP: $19.94

    THE WAY I FEEL ABOUT IT: 3/5

    Twenty years after the end of the Spanish Civil War, a great hero of the lost Republican cause is confronted with a decision. Will he continue his quiet retirement in exile, or return to his homeland and defy the authorities one final time? This is the question around which Behold A Pale Horse revolves.

    Manuel Artiguez (Gregory Peck) has spent the last two decades in a modest apartment in the Spanish quarter of the French village of Pau. The once-proud guerilla leader (“Everyone who loves Spain and freedom should know who this is”) has been reduced to the occasional bandit raid across the Pyrenees, a minor thorn in the side of the Guardia Civil. And now, it would appear that even those small adventures are a thing of the past.

    Enter Paco Dages (Marietto Angeletti), a young boy whose father once fought at Artiguez’ side. He has come to live with his uncle in Pau following his father’s death at the hands of Captain Viñolas of the Guardia Civil (Anthony Quinn). Paco hopes to convince Artiguez to return to their hometown of San Martin and take revenge on Viñolas, who has hunted Aritguez since the end of the war.

    At first, Artiguez shows little interest in confronting his old nemesis. But he soon learns that his beloved mother is on her deathbed. For her sake, he must return to San Martin. Unfortunately, Viñolas is well aware of her condition, and he will be ready. When she takes a turn for the worse, he locks down the hospital so that her death will, should it arrive before Artiguez, be hidden from the outside world.

    Artiguez’ mother enlists the aid of a young priest, Father Francisco (Omar Sharif, in a bit of a departure for him), to warn her son of Viñolas’ trap. Francisco is torn between his duty to obey the law and the wishes of the dying woman.

    Indeed, all of the main characters in Behold A Pale Horse are torn between honor and personal desires. Artiguez must decide whether to walk into the trap that has been laid for him. Paco is aware of the risk, but does not want to deter Artiguez from killing Viñolas. Artiguez’ friend, the smuggler Carlos (Raymond Pellegrin), is enlisted as an informant by the Guardia Civil – will he betray the old guerilla? For his part, Viñolas makes a habit of succumbing to temptation -- whether that will ultimately hinder his mission remains to be seen. All of these characters are greatly flawed, but most of them display positive qualities as well. The suspense lies in which of them will, when the time comes to lay their cards on the table, overcome their flaws.

    The film, based on a novel by Emeric Pressburger, never really builds up much energy. There is almost no action, and even the climactic shootout feels abrupt and perfunctory. (Two and a half minutes of what appears to be actual footage of the Spanish Civil War serves as a prologue, and for some viewers that may be this movie’s most interesting sequence.) While the characters are reasonably well-developed, I can’t help but feel that there could have been more to them. It’s a dialogue-driven story with dialogue that doesn’t quite shine. Still, the A-list cast and solid direction of Fred Zinnemann manage to carry Beyond A Pale Horse enough to make it a decent, if not great, piece of filmmaking.



    THE WAY I SEE IT: 2/5

    The image tends to the dark and shadowy, although black levels are not quite as deep as they could be. Some scenes, especially exteriors, are extremely contrasty. The source print is showing its age – relatively clean in some places, riddled with scratches and marks in others.

    An average level of edge enhancement is present through much of the film. Worse than that are the red and blue haloes that often show up, glowing irritatingly in the black and white picture. Their presence is quite unfortunate.



    THE WAY I HEAR IT: 3/5

    The Dolby Digital mono mix is basically fine. There is occasional distortion, and some of the dialogue is a bit echoey, but it’s not too bad. Interestingly, there is very little incidental music. To call Maurice Jarre’s score sparse would be an understatement. The lack of music gives the film a gritty, documentary-like feel.


    THE SWAG: 0.5/5 (rating combines quality and quantity)

    Previews:

    Four trailers are included. They may be selected individually from their own menu page.
    • Behold A Pale Horse (2:32) DD2.0 1.33:1 non-anamorphic B&W
    • The Guns Of Navarone (3:42) DD2.0 2.35:1 non-anamorphic color
    • Lawrence Of Arabia (4:42) DD2.0 1.77:1 anamorphic color
    • From Here To Eternity (1:04) DD2.0 1.33:1 non-anamorphic B&W

    SUMMING IT ALL UP

    The Way I Feel About It: 3/5
    The Way I See It: 2/5
    The Way I Hear It: 3/5
    The Swag: 0.5/5


    Beginning with the somewhat pretentious Bible quote that lends the film its title, Behold A Pale Horse aims a little higher than it reaches. It’s a decent study of a handful of characters, but not much more than that. The stellar leading players, Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn, Omar Sharif, and young Marietto Angeletti, do manage to make it work, so it may be worth a look. As for presentation, the sound is decent, but the picture quality of this DVD could have been better. “Watchable” is about the best I can call it.

    A couple of quick notes – the Guardia Civil caps worn by Viñolas and his men are a sight to behold. They resemble patent-leather dog bowls with Flying Nun-style wings. I’m not sure how else to describe them. Also, the blurb on the back of the disc case should be avoided – it manages to give away almost the entire story while at the same time getting several details wrong. It’s as though a group of marketing people played Telephone with the script and had the person at the end of the chain write a synopsis. Finally, see if you can pick out all the different accents spoken in the film, which was shot in France using actors from a number of different countries. There’s probably a drinking game in there somewhere!
     
  2. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

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