DVD Review HTF REVIEW: The Chase / Bury Me Dead - Film Noir Volume #2.

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Herb Kane, Oct 6, 2004.

  1. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

    May 7, 2001
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    The Chase / Bury Me Dead
    Film Noir Double Feature – Volume #2.

    Studio: VCI Entertainment
    Year: 1946/1947
    Rated: Not Rated
    Film Length: 153 Minutes Total
    Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Standard
    Audio: DD Monaural
    Color/B&W: B&W
    Languages: English
    Subtitles: None
    MSRP: $14.99
    Package: Keep Case

    The Feature:
    VCI has recently released its second volume of Classic Film Noir. VCI is a small company that cares about film and offers up a product that is a quality package often surpassing the quality of many of the other companies who release films that have fallen into the public domain. At a time when so many small companies are pumping out poor quality transfers of films that have fallen into the public domain, VCI, has, in many cases, performed some level of restoration.

    This Classic Film Noir – Double Feature Volume #2 package, includes both feature length films, a bevy of special features and a presentation that exceeds what we have usually come to expect (er, dread) with many of these long forgotten films. Aside from the standard Keep Case, similar to Volume #1 upon inserting the disc, we’re treated to a rather cool animated opening sequence where an old gangster style car pulls up in an alleyway and after only a cigarette heater is seen through the windshield, machine gun fire rings out, which is our introduction to the VCI Film Noir Collection. The menus are static and are rather simple and easy to navigate.

    This Volume #2 Double Feature includes The Chase and Bury Me Dead while the original Double Feature Volume #1 disc includes both full length films, The Scar and The Limping Man.

    The Chase
    Unemployed and hungry, navy veteran Chuck Scott (played by Robert Cummings), finds a wallet while gazing into the window of a restaurant as a scrumptious looking breakfast is being prepared. After removing only what he needs to eat, he returns the wallet and all of its contents back to its rightful owner, Eddie Roman (played by Steve Cochrane). Impressed with his honesty, Eddie hires him on the spot, offering him a job as chauffeur, although it appears to be more of a get-away driver in that Eddie seems to be more of a gangster than that of a legitimate needy businessman.

    Chuck isn’t long on the job when Eddie’s beautiful wife Lorna Roman (played by Michèle Morgan) enters the picture and convinces him to help her escape the clutches of her ruthless husband. Chuck agrees and they concoct a plan that eventually finds them in Havana, Cuba and deeply in love with each other. However, the chase is on when the love of Chuck’s life winds up dead – stabbed to death with a knife that he just purchased.

    The Chase is a thrilling film noir with good performances (particularly from the likeable Robert Cummings) and a better than average script written by Philip Yordan from the Cornell Woolrich novel “The Black Path Of Fear”. Peter Lorre is also present in another one of his creepy role specialties, playing Gino, Roman’s right-hand man. There are plenty of noir elements present such as numerous shadows and the interesting manner in which the story is told with plenty of unexpected twists and turns, much of which is played out in dreamlike sequences.

    Bury Me Dead
    After a huge inferno destroys a stable at a palatial estate, it is believed the wealthy heiress, Barbara Carlin (played by June Lockhart) perished in the fire. However, much to everyone’s shock and amazement, she secretly shows up as one of the mourners at her own funeral. On the ride home from the funeral, she reveals herself to family friend and attorney, Michael Dunn (played by Hugh Beaumont).

    Barbara is confident that someone is out to kill her and she sets out in an attempt to find her killer. Question is, who was killed and buried as Barbara…?

    There are a number of potential suspects including Barbara’s own husband, Rod Carlin (played by Mark Daniels). Barbara’s younger and emotionally troubled sister, Rusty (played by Cathy O’Donnell) is also suspected. As each of the suspects relate their stories and alibis to the police, their recollections are told in a manner of flashback sequences.

    Similar to the brilliant opening in D.O.A., the film starts off with an intriguing opening, but soon fizzles, as the investigation process seems to bring the film to a screeching halt very quickly. What I found somewhat irksome was the manner often seen in mid 30’s slapstick mystery films where a crime or murder film was infused with humor, during which the often lighter fare was more permitting (or even forgiving) of such quips. In this case, those quips seemed out of place, as the mood of the film maintained (or tried to) a more serious tone.

    As a special note of interest, longtime Anthony Mann collaborator John Alton was the cinematographer while blacklisted Bernard Vorhaus - Three Faces West (1940) & The Amazing Mr. X (1948), was the film’s director.

    The Features:
    The Chase 3.5/5 [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
    Bury Me Dead 2/5 [​IMG][​IMG]

    For those unfamiliar with purchasing older films that have fallen into the public domain, these can be quite frankly, hit or miss. There are a number of companies that strive to release a quality product such as Image, Kino, Roan and VCI. I have many titles in my collection from various companies that are satisfactory to even exceptional. Unfortunately I have many that are barely viewable at best.

    Remember, rarely do these companies have access to original elements and even if they did, they wouldn’t have the financial resources of a Fox, Paramount or Warner Brothers for any necessary restoration work. Thus, much of what’s released is ported laserdisc transfers or video presentations or even cable television broadcasted movies, hence the less than desirable results. I think it’s fairly safe to say, know going into these that you’re probably not going to get transfers that rival those of the major studios. In this case, I believe the elements that were used came from a private collector/restorationist, Jay Fenton and were transferred from 16mm.

    For those of us who purchase these films, we do so because of a specific film, or a favorite actor/director or perhaps a fondness for specific genres. My advice to those who demand flawless presentations and cannot tolerate anything less than perfection would be to avoid these releases as they vary quite radically from title to title. Unfortunately by doing that however, you will miss out on many great films that are never going to see the “restored look” light of day.

    Fortunately, I had the previous version of The Chase to make a comparison and the difference is quite staggering. The film commences with a short blurb about the restoration process which results in a significant improvement over the previous Alpha version. Even the original Nero Films Studio logo is included on this version which has been omitted on the Alpha. That’s not to say its perfect – its not. But it is a marked improvement. Black levels are very good while whites were reasonably clean, appearing muddied at times. Contrast levels and shadow detail were decent, while the level of grayscale was satisfactory.

    Image detail was satisfactorily pleasing, though mostly soft and sometimes looking dupey. There was a moderate amount of fine film grain that was present throughout the course of the film, though the film fell short on depth. There are traces of dust and dirt and no shortage of scratches but to be honest the print was cleaner than I expected, especially in light of how bad the Alpha version is.

    Bury Me Dead doesn’t fare quite as well, however, it is most certainly serviceable and shows better than your average PD title. Blacks were adequate but whites were usually gray. Contrast was just satisfactory while shadow detail was mostly lacking. The overall level of grayscale was limited.

    The level of image detail was, for the most part, disappointing. Sure, there were signs of decent definition but the majority of the film had a rather tiresome dupey look to it. There was a healthy amount of film grain present, although the film lacked any sort of dimensionality.

    Dirt and dust was noticeable as were a number of vertical scratches. Shimmer and jitter weren’t really an issue.

    While neither of these is on par with major studio releases, they are still superior to the sub-par PD releases we’ve become accustomed to.

    The Chase 3.5/5 [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
    Bury Me Dead 2.5/5 [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    As explained in the restoration intro, the audio seems to be where both of these films are lacking, both of which sound rather similar.

    In both cases, there is a significant amount of hiss present throughout the films, although the levels do tend to fluctuate. There are also audio dropouts and crackling although they are kept to a minimum. Keep in mind, that in the case of The Chase, the VCI version is still vastly superior.

    While dialogue was usually intelligible, the amount of hiss, at times, made speech with sibilance rather difficult to discern. The voice activated-like thumping was often troublesome and had a tendency to distract.

    The overall tonality of the monaural tracks was raw and harsh with little or no dynamic range.

    Again, similar to the video presentation in The Chase, the audio portion of the VCI version is vastly superior to its Alpha counterpart.

    The Chase 3/5 [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
    Bury Me Dead 2/5 [​IMG][​IMG]

    Special Features:
    Again, VCI has done an exemplary job, including a number of interesting special features surpassing many of those found on major studio releases. They are:
    [*] Four Biographies listed for the major stars of the films, Robert Cummings, Peter Lorre, June Lockhart and Hugh Beaumont. These are text pages and offer up a decent bio on each of the stars as well as a detailed filmography for each actor.
    [*] Next up is a grouping of Film Noir Trailers. Included are trailers from the following films: Slightly Scarlet, T-Men, The Scar, Raw Deal, The Limping Man, Impact, D.O.A. and Blonde Ice. Duration: 11:52 minutes.
    [*] The next feature is a collage of Movie Posters, as dozens of posters are shown. Duration: 1:25 minutes.
    [*] There is also an Animated Short on the disc, an old Paramount Technicolor Superman episode, “Showdown” (1942). Duration: 8:15 minutes.
    [*] The next feature is entitled Death By Proxy which is really just an abbreviated version of the film, although I’m not sure how or where it was used. Duration: 26:44 minutes
    [*] The disc is also complemented by two Commentaries featuring noir aficionado Jay Fenton who is also responsible for the restoration of the films. Jay offers up quite a few details pertaining to the films and its stars, although (and I’m sorry Jay), he’s not the easiest to listen to. He comes across in a rather dry and incredibly slowly paced manner which has its fair share of dead time. If you stick with it though, there is fruit worth the picking. Regardless of the dryness of the features, I discovered quite a bit about the films and I’m glad to have them.

    Special Features: 3.5/5

    **Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**

    Final Thoughts:
    While I was quite familiar with The Chase, my viewing of Bury Me Dead was a first and frankly, I was a little disappointed. As you might expect, the writing isn’t nearly on par with that of The Chase and the film seems to spend much of its time meandering, although it’s not a bad movie per se, just a rather forgettable one.

    VCI is a company I like to track. They are an industry leader when it comes to releasing lost gems and if it weren’t for companies like VCI many of these lost treasures would never see the light of day. These aren’t quite on par with what we’ve come to expect from the major studios but they are far and away as good if not better than what we get from average public domain releases. Kudos to VCI for once again, going the distance in their efforts at restoring these obscure noirs. I look forward to Volume #3.

    Overall Rating: 3.5/5 (not an average)

    Release Date: August 31st, 2004
  2. ArthurMy

    ArthurMy Supporting Actor

    Jul 27, 2004
    Likes Received:
    Can't wait to pick this up. I had another version of The Chase on one of those PD labels and it was totally unwatchable.

    Just a teeny correction: Philip Yordan wrote the screenplay to The Chase, from the novel by Woolrich. I don't believe Cornell Woolrich ever adapted his work for the screen or wrote for the screen period, unlike Raymond Chandler.
  3. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

    May 7, 2001
    Likes Received:
    Thanks Arthur. Bad wording on my part - changes made.

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