In 1966, French New Wave savant François Truffaut met the legendary director Alfred Hitchcock in what became an equally legendary interview between two master silver screen craftsmen. That year would also bring a longtime Hitchcock collaborator into Truffaut’s working world: legendary composer Bernard Herrmann. The union would produce two collaborations – the first being the film adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and the second being a homage to Hitchcock, The Bride Wore Black. Originally released on DVD by MGM and on Blu-ray by Twilight Time (HTF’s Matt Hough reviewed that release here), Kino has brought the film back into print with this latest Blu-ray release.
The Production: 4/5
Devastated by the death of her husband on her wedding day, Julie Kohler (Jeanne Moreau) attempts suicide, but is stopped by her mother. Rather than make a second attempt at ending her life, Julie instead takes a suitcase and a train out of town for parts unknown. It’s soon apparent that she’s looking for the five men responsible for the death of her husband, even though it’s soon revealed to be accidental. But Julie is determined to carry out her mission of revenge, proving that there’s truly no greater fury than that of a bride denied her chance at everlasting love…
As Deems Taylor once said in Fantasia (1940), “You know, it’s funny how wrong an artist can be about his own work.” That quote can be applied to The Bride Wore Black, which François Truffaut was unsatisfied with how it turned out, but – in retrospect – it has come to be one of his best efforts in the 1960’s. Based off of a novel by Cornell Woolrich – whose material was also adapted by Hitchcock to great effect, notably Rear Window (1954) – Truffaut and fellow screenwriter Jean-Louis Richard developed a puzzle like narrative of vengeance in reverse. A major plus here is the contributions of cinematographer Raoul Coutard and composer Bernard Herrmann, both of whom weave an atmosphere of suspense and looming fate for the men responsible for the death of Julie’s husband. Best of all, the quality of the performances here helps to propel the story along and also portrays its characters in shades of grey rather than just straight up black and white. Though not thought of highly by its own director, The Bride Wore Black is still one of Truffaut’s best works and one of the most successful and sustained homages to the Master of Suspense; the movie would also be a key inspiration to Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill movies – even though he has gone on the record to say he hasn’t seen it.
As the chameleon-like avenging angel, Jeanne Moreau gives one of the best performances of her career; this movie would also be the last of three collaborations with Truffaut. As the first of the ill-fated five, Claude Rich is decent as the womanizing member of the hunting group; playing the lovelorn Coral, Michel Bouquet – who also played a victim in another Truffaut film released the same year as this one, Mississippi Mermaid – gives a comprehensive supporting performance. Michel Lonsdale, who would become better known to international audiences in the 1970’s with films like The Day of the Jackal (1973) and the James Bond entry Moonraker (1979), is solid as the aspiring politician who also meets his end at the hands of Julie; Charles Denner might have the most notable performance of the ill-fated five as the artist whose sketches of Julie just might be her downfall. Rounding out the cast here are Dainel Boulanger as the fifth member of the group responsible for the death of Julie’s husband, Luce Fabiole as Julie’s mother, Alexandra Stewart as the schoolteacher caught in the middle of one of Julie’s murders, Christophe Bruno as the young son of one of the victims and Serge Rousseau as the one witness who might also have the key to stopping Julie from fully carrying out her mission of revenge.
3D Rating: NA
This release presents the movie in its original 1:66:1 aspect ratio, taken from what looks like the same HD transfer that Twilight Time used for their Blu-ray release. Film grain, color palette and fine details appears to be faithfully represented with minor cases of tears, scratches and dirt present here. This release is about on par with the previous Twilight Time Blu-ray in terms of visual quality.
The film’s original French mono soundtrack is presented on a DTS-HD Master Audio track with optional English subtitles for this release. Dialogue, sound mix and Bernard Herrmann’s suspenseful music score are all presented faithfully with minimal cases of clicking, crackling, popping, hissing or distortion present. This release is on par with the previous Twilight Time Blu-ray in term of audio quality.
Special Features: 3/5
Commentary by film historians Julie Kirgo, Nick Redman & Steven C. Smith – Recorded for the 2014 Twilight Time Blu-ray, Kirgo, Redman and Smith go over details of the film’s production, visual themes, as well as differences between the English dub and the original French version.
Theatrical Trailer (1:56)
Bonus KLSC Trailers – Mississippi Mermaid, The Wild Child, The Story of Adele H., Small Change, The Man Who Loved Women, The Green Room, Back to the Wall, Les Liaisons Dangereuses & Viva Maria!
Not carried over from the 2014 Twilight Time Blu-ray are an isolated score track, the English dubbed version of the movie and a bonus CD featuring a 1970 audio interview with composer Bernard Herrmann.
Despite a rather lukewarm reception from critics and an underwhelming take at the box office, The Bride Wore Black is still one of the finest Hitchcock homages of the 1960’s and also one of François Truffaut’s most underrated films of his career. Kino has done a nice job of bringing the movie back into print, with a decent HD transfer and the informative commentary track carried over from the Twilight Time Blu-ray (though not everything from that release was carried over here). Highly recommended, especially for those who missed out on the Twilight Time Blu-ray.
Amazon.com: The Bride Wore Black: François Truffaut, Jeanne Moreau, Michel Bouquet, Jean-Claude Brialy, Charles Denner: Movies & TV
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