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Matt Hough

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Man in the Dark 3D Blu-ray Review

Shot in just a few days to get its 3D images on the screen before any other major studio of the era, Lew Landers’ Man in the Dark is only a mediocre noir drama but a wonderful 3D experience. Those looking for in-depth characterizations or trailblazing action won’t find a lot to recommend with this quickie thriller, but those looking for a first-rate 3D feature will enjoy all facets of its make-up: the depth of image, the always interesting placement of props and people within the frame, and the numerous forward projections some of which startle with their quickness and impact.



Studio: Sony

Distributed By: Twilight Time

Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC, 1080P/MVC

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Audio: English 1.0 DTS-HDMA (Mono)

Subtitles: English SDH

Rating: Not Rated

Run Time: 1 Hr. 7 Min.

Package Includes: 3D Blu-ray

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Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)

Region: All

Release Date: 01/21/2013

MSRP: $29.95




The Production Rating: 3/5

Career criminal Steve Rawley (Edmond O’Brien) and his gang have stolen $130,000, and Steve has hidden it where no one, not even his faithful girl friend Peg (Audrey Totter), knows where it is. In order to get out of jail long before his robbery conviction sentence is over, Steve submits to an experimental brain operation by Dr. Marston (Dayton Lummis) which will remove the part of the brain which controls his malevolent behavior. The operation is a success, but it leaves him with complete amnesia; he doesn’t even remember his real name. His former gang (Ted de Corsia, Horace McMahon, Nick Dennis), unhappy that he hasn’t shared the location of the stolen loot, abducts him and attempts to coax the information out of him not believing his protests of ignorance about his identity or the location of the money. Insurance investigator Jawald (Dan Riss) locates the gang’s hideout before the police and waits for Rawley and company to make a move. Sure enough, a series of nightmares gives Rawley enough clues to begin his own investigation for the money's location though Peg, ever the trusty companion, begs Steve to forget the ill-gotten gains and simply begin a new life with her.

A remake of the 1936 film The Man Who Lived Twice, Man in the Dark has interesting plot and character points that due to the small budget and hasty filming schedule simply aren’t developed in the George Bricker-Jack Leonard screenplay (for example: is it pure greed for the money or his true criminal nature reemerging that causes Steve to revert to the tough cookie he was before the operation in the film’s final reels; is it the love of a good woman or the lack of that criminal part of his brain that allows him to make the decision he makes in the final shots?). With the film being shot so quickly, director Lew Landers didn’t have much opportunity for visual imagination, but one of Steve’s nightmares is rather stylishly designed and shot with an off-kilter camera and the disturbing, garish images at a carnival which can sometimes rightly be relegated to one’s bad dreams making it not only the most visually interesting of the film’s sequences but also offering up some solid clues to the solution of the film’s mystery. The mystery of the hidden money is another facet of the story that isn’t milked for all it could have been, but it will hold one’s attention long enough to enjoy the numerous 3D tomfoolery that gives the picture its real distinction. The film’s climactic sequence on a roller coaster doesn’t manage to wring all of the dramatic and cinematic possibilities out of its setting (for one thing, we aren’t always sure who each of the characters is when the filming is done from below the actors), but it has its moments.

Though four years older than the character he’s playing in the movie (and actually looking a bit older than thirty-eight), Edmund O’Brien is by far the most impressive performer in the movie as Steve Rawley. He offers both a tough criminal type and a rather milquetoast alternative after the operation (though he certainly remembers how to use his fists quickly enough later in the movie), and his characterization is complex enough for the viewer not to really be sure where he’s going to land by film’s end. Audrey Totter gets to play tipsy in a bar scene but otherwise acts the faithful moll without much imagination. Ted de Corsia plays a stereotypical heavy without much flair either, but John Harmon and Ruth Warren have some good back-and-forth insult dialogue as a battling couple at the carnival.



Video Rating: 4.5/5  3D Rating: 5/5

The film’s original 1.33:1 theatrical aspect ratio is replicated in this 1080p transfer using the MVC/AVC codec (the disc offers both 2D and 3D encodes). The image is pristine with no signs of age anyway apart from some occasional lighter bands at the right edge of the frame. Grayscale is outstanding with nice black levels and levels of gray that are impressive even when viewed through polarized glasses. Sharpness is also excellent: details in facial features, hair, and clothes are easily seen. The film has been divided into 12 chapters.

As another of the Golden Age 3D films which found many opportunities to utilize the medium within the film’s story, the 3D here is terrific and features no significant problems with ghosting. Though the depth offered with the process makes Steve’s hospital room seem rather gigantic, the expansion of all of the indoor sets allows the director to place people and props in interesting arrays always offering a stereoscopic experience that makes the 3D transfer the go-to version of the film for home viewing. And the forward projections are numerous and fun: sometimes surprising (a man falling from a great height in your face will likely make you jump; spiders and birds, fists and guns and the surgical instruments used during the operation are all thrust forward) and sometimes just a matter of the photography (a tree branch unobtrusively protrudes outward near the film’s beginning). Some may call it gimmicky (a roller coaster sequence near the film’s climax using obvious rear projection tries to beat This Is Cinerama at its own game), but why else have 3D if you’re not going to offer something one can’t experience in the 2D version?



Audio Rating: 4/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 sound mix has been nicely engineered to remove any age-related hiss, crackle, or other audio artifacts. There isn’t much bass to the mix, but dialogue has been solidly recorded and is presented here without the music score or the sound effects intruding on the viewer’s understanding.



Special Features Rating: 2.5/5

Isolated Score Track: offered in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo.

Theatrical Trailer (1:39, HD): Edmond O’Brien himself introduces the picture to the viewer.

Six-Page Booklet: some excellent black and white stills, the colorful poster art on the back cover, and film historian Julie Kirgo’s interesting take on the film and its impact in 3D.



Overall Rating: 3/5

Man in the Dark may not rank high in the annals of film noir, but as a 3D experience, it’s a lark and for those with the at-home capability, completely and enthusiastically recommended.


Reviewed By: Matt Hough


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Doug Bull

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Another great review Matt.

I should get my copy in about a week and after reading your review I just can't wait.

Please keep these 3D titles from the golden age coming.

Doug.
 

Tina_H_V

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Interesting. This is something I can easily consider as a 3D title to bring in for my birthday. In fact, I will go ahead and add this to my birthday movie list. Thanks for this, Matt. Keep 'em coming, please!!!
 

Ronald Epstein

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I am intrigued by the 3D aspect of this film. Just did an Amazon search for
it and could not find the title.

Just want to see how expensive it is before deciding upon a blind purchase.
 

Ronald Epstein

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Aaaah, okay, I had thought for some reason this was a Criterion release.

My apologies. That makes sense. Thanks, Jose.
 

ahollis

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Ronald Epstein said:
Aaaah, okay, I had thought for some reason this was a Criterion release.My apologies. That makes sense. Thanks, Jose.
A Criterion 3D? Now that would be worth waiting for. Wondering if they are thinking about it. Warhol's Frankenstein would be interesting.
 

Matt Hough

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ahollis said:
A Criterion 3D? Now that would be worth waiting for. Wondering if they are thinking about it. Warhol's Frankenstein would be interesting.
They already issued a 3D disc within the last year or so - Pina. No, not your typical Hollywood blockbuster or Golden Era title, but the 3D was very effective.

I reviewed the disc in 2012. You can find the review here.
 

ahollis

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Matt Hough said:
They already issued a 3D disc within the last year or so - Pina. No, not your typical Hollywood blockbuster or Golden Era title, but the 3D was very effective.I reviewed the disc in 2012. You can find the review here.
Thanks. I was not aware of it.
 

Keith Cobby

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I cannot decide whether to get this. I have seen the film (it has its merits but is not a great film) but do not expect to have 3-D capability until next year. How does the image quality compare with The Big Heat which is my benchmark for a b & w blu-ray from TT.
 

Bob Furmanek

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MITD looks outstanding.

For a film that was done in nineteen days - six of them on location - with a new un-tested camera rig, the 3-D is excellent.

Outside of occasional left/right sizing issues, the new Blu-ray is very good. It's highly recommended.
 

Ronald Epstein

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Just finished watching Man In The Dark.

It's a fairly short film, coming in at 70 minutes.

Not a bad film. Not a great film. I sort of laughed at the exaggerated level of dialogue. The
effects look as if they were done on a shoe-string budget. You can clearly see the wire on
a bird that comes shooting outwards, and later, attached to a crawling spider.

The sequence where Steve Rawley is being chased by cops, first on the ground and then
across several rooftops, was clearly shot on the Paramount Studios lot. You can see the
tops of the sound stages and the Hollywood sign in the background. Found that kind of cool.

On the plus side, the quality of this transfer is just fantastic. Beautiful, razor-sharp B&W
imagery. Nice black levels. The film has been immaculately cleaned.

As far as the 3D is concerned, it excels in its level of depth, thanks in part to its placement
of objects. Depth wise, this is one of the best classic 3D releases I have seen.

However, as far as forward projection is concerned, it fails for me.

There are a few blatant attempts to move objects outwards at the audience. They include
things like surgical tools and a lit cigar. However, the objects never really seemed to break
the confines of the screen, and in an attempt to do so, became too blurred to have any
profound effect on the viewer. Faces of characters seem to poke themselves outwards more
effectively than the objects that are purposely lunged forward.

In all, just for level of depth, Man In The Dark is an excellent 3D film. On the other hand,
I have seen outward projection done much more effectively with other golden age classics
released over the past two years. Even some of the material from the golden age of 3D that
Bob Furmanek has shown me privately (and with the HTF meet group), does much better
with outward projection than what you see here.

The only reason I am harping on this, is because someone in another thread was raving
about the "In Yo' Face" aspect of Man In The Dark. Sorry...it just wasn't that good, or at
least, as effective as it should have been.
 

Ronald Epstein

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Since the studios are unwilling to do it themselves, for the most part, we really do
need more channels to get classic 3D content to the consumer.

Let's hope Twilight Time can accomplish this.

I love watching this stuff. The classic 3D releases are generally better than the
modern 3D titles.
 

Matt Hough

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Doug Bull said:
There are still plenty of good titles out there.

I'm hoping Warner gives us "Kiss Me Kate" some time this year.

Doug.
Me, too, but it bothers me we've not heard a thing about another 3D release from them. Didn't they practically announce the release a year ago of House of Wax when they released Dial 'M' for Murder?
 

Todd J Moore

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Ron, for the most part, the only real problem with the outward projections are that they are too fast. The gunfight during the car chase works best, though a couple of the surgery shots work pretty well. Realistically, they should have held on the gimmick shots an extra five seconds to make them effective. All in all, I liked the disc and, I too, want much more classic stuff. I, too, am really hoping Warner does Kiss Me Kate. Anyone know where we can write them and ask about it?
 

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