The Long Wait UHD/Blu-ray Combo Review

3.5 Stars Forgotten film noir looks brilliant in ultra high definition.
The Long Wait Screenshot

Victor Saville’s The Long Wait might not have the lure of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer to draw one to the proceedings, but star Anthony Quinn does a fine job making his two-fisted protagonist a suitable replacement for the brutish tough guy antihero.

The Long Wait (1954)
Released: 26 May 1954
Rated: Approved
Runtime: 94 min
Director: Victor Saville
Genre: Adventure, Crime, Drama
Cast: Anthony Quinn, Charles Coburn, Gene Evans
Writer(s): Mickey Spillane, Alan Green, Lesser Samuels
Plot: An amnesiac finally learns his true identity...as a murder suspect. And he doesn't even know whether he is guilty...
IMDB rating: 6.5
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Studio Canal
Distributed By: ClassicFlix
Video Resolution: 2160p HEVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.75:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 34 Min.
Package Includes: UHD, Blu-ray
Case Type: clear keep case
Disc Type: UHD
Region: All
Release Date: 03/21/2023
MSRP: $39.99

The Production: 3.5/5

There is no Mike Hammer present in Victor Saville’s The Long Wait based on a Mickey Spillane novel, but its concentration on brutes and broads is just as evident as in any of his detective novels. This 1954 thriller which gave Anthony Quinn one of his richest early roles as a leading man may have been made on a shoestring, but there’s more than a little quality scattered throughout its 94-minute running time. Given the Production Code of the era, the movie goes as far as it could with the violence and the make-out sessions with a quartet of lovely ladies and emerges as a nifty piece of entertainment.

A tough-minded and ornery amnesiac (Anthony Quinn) is tipped off that the answers to his identity can be found in the town of Lyncastle. Arriving there, he learns he’s really Johnny McBride and that he’s wanted for the murder of a district attorney two years previously. Allegedly, Johnny and his girl friend Vera West robbed the local bank of $250,000 and then disappeared after killing the D.A. With his resurfacing, the police are eager to arrest him again, but a technicality with the fingerprints on the murder gun keeps Johnny out of jail and eager to find out what really happened. Along the way, the town hood Servo (Gene Evans) keeps making threats, Johnny’s former employer Gardiner (Charles Coburn) thinks it best he leave town before he’s killed, and four local women (Peggie Castle, Mary Ellen Kay, Shawn Smith, Dolores Donlon) all bear faint resembles to Johnny’s girl Vera West who obviously has many answers that he’s looking for if only he can figure out after plastic surgery which one she is.

The screenplay by Alan Green and Lesser Samuels has streamlined Mickey Spillane’s pulp fiction into a sleeker whodunit with hair-trigger tempered Johnny trying to solve not only the mystery of his missing girl friend but also turn up the killer of the district attorney and the whereabouts of the stolen money. Director Victor Saville keeps tension nicely present with a mysterious sniper who keeps firing pot shots at McBride, and he has an unusual way of filming scenes of violence: often from down below or at ankle level, but we are spared the sight of blood with a couple of shooting victims. The love scenes become rather tedious after a while though they always fade out before the bedroom is entered, but it doesn’t stop Saville from coming in close as Johnny orally explores the tonsils of all the ladies who to a person seem to be hiding something from him. There’s one truly impressive set in the picture: Servo’s Can Can Casino where Johnny has a nice run with the dice while he keeps Servo and his henchman Eddie Packman (Bruno VeSota) off balance with his lack of fear of their threats and hit men (it’s established early on that McBride was a war hero who earned medals for valor and cool ingenuity under combat conditions). Elsewhere, sets seem a little threadbare, though Saville evocatively shoots the climax in a vast space with a glaring spotlight on the main players as things play out to their grim conclusions.

Anthony Quinn’s stature and screen charisma are valuable assets in making his Johnny McBride a believably tough customer and as a character who wins us over eventually though his brusque and brutish ways are something of a turn off early on. He isn’t intimidated by anyone and roughs up quite a few characters on the way to finding all of the answers to his questions and clearing his name. Among the ladies, Peggie Castle is the true standout: she’s dressed the most glamorously and holds her own in scenes with Anthony Quinn. The other three ladies, Mary Ellen Kay, Shawn Smith, and Dolores Donlon, while fine, just don’t have that little extra something that sets them apart. Charles Coburn brings his usual low-key and appealing persona to the bank president role, and Gene Evans does well as pseudo tough guy Servo. John Damier as Alan Logan, a local reporter who’s working with McBride to help find answers to the mystery, could have used a few more scenes, but he’s fine with what he’s given. Barry Kelley as police muscle and Bruno VeSota as Servo’s right-hand man likewise perform solidly in small but necessary parts.

Video: 5/5

3D Rating: NA

The film in this combo UHD/BD pack has been framed at its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.75:1 and is presented in 2160/1080p resolution using the HEVC/AVC codec. The image is superb in detail and clarity with a film-like level of grain in evidence. The grayscale is marvelously captured with deep, rich black levels being particularly prominent. There is no evidence of age-related tears, splices, dirt, or debris. The movie has been divided into 17 chapters accessible through the main menu.

Audio: 4.5/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix on the whole is an excellent one. The song sung over the main titles sounds just a trifle muffled, but that’s really the only problem with an otherwise solid soundtrack rendering. There are no problems with hiss, crackle, pops, or flutter while the easily discernible dialogue, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s music, and the various sound effects have all been blended most professionally.

Special Features: 2.5/5

The commentary is available on both the UHD and Blu-ray discs in the package. The other bonuses are only on the Blu-ray disc.

Audio Commentary: Mickey Spillane expert Max Allen Collins provides a laid-back commentary with some vital facts about the original novel and film but an occasional tendency to describe what we’re seeing on the screen.

Animated Image Gallery (2:58, HD)

Trailer Gallery: Raw Deal, Black Magic, I, the Jury; Stand-In, T-Men.

Overall: 3.5/5

Victor Saville’s The Long Wait might not have the lure of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer to draw one to the proceedings, but star Anthony Quinn does a fine job making his two-fisted protagonist a suitable replacement for the brutish tough guy antihero. ClassicFlix’s wonderful UHD/Blu-ray combo package of the movie will give film noir addicts another fine outing for their collections.

Matt has been reviewing films and television professionally since 1974 and has been a member of Home Theater Forum’s reviewing staff since 2007, his reviews now numbering close to three thousand. During those years, he has also been a junior and senior high school English teacher earning numerous entries into Who’s Who Among America’s Educators and spent many years treading the community theater boards as an actor in everything from Agatha Christie mysteries to Stephen Sondheim musicals.

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Keith Cobby

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Thanks for the review Matt, looking forward to this, glad it's a good one. I'm a fan of Max Allan Collins commentaries, the first time I heard him was on the Slightly Scarlet DVD, wish ClassicFlix would release this, although unfortunately I think it's a Warner title (RKO).
 

lark144

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Thanks for the review, Matt. I've always been a big fan of the novel. Beyond the pulpy, two-fisted battering that is par for the course with Spilliane, the novel has a quirkiness to it, a haunted and phantasmal quality, as well as a focus on memory, that in the context of a hard-boiled detective tale, seems almost strangely Proustian, as well as poignant, and differentiates it from the typical Mike Hammer. I'm a little disappointed to find that aspect--and some of the plot revelations--was smoothed over a bit for the adaptation to film, but your review has convinced me to pick up the Blu-Ray.
 

Camps

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Just received my copy and it looks great. Here's my own brief review for (the likely many) folks unfamiliar with this title:

It's a crucial addition to anyone's '50s noir lineup... not to mention any Mickey Spillane fan's collection. It makes great use of light and shadow -- yes, that noir staple of chiaroscuro -- not to mention tough, Spillane-style dialogue, violence, plot twists & turns, cynicism .... and downright nihilism.

Victor Saville wasn't a great director, but he was a highly experienced one and a far better one than I, The Jury's neophyte director Harry Essex. And Anthony Quinn of course was a far more experienced and better actor than the nevertheless likeable and decent Biff Elliott. Of course, Quinn is a bit swarthy to be playing a guy named McBride (like Mike Hammer, merely another tough-guy-fantasy incarnation of Spillane himself)... but then again, if we didn't know him so well, would he look like a guy named... Quinn...? ;)

Depending on your vantage point, The Long Wait could be either a breezily enjoyable slice of pulp fiction... or a hilariously -- maybe appallingly, even infuriatingly -- misogynistic curio of a time capsule.

If you liked I, The Jury -- or, like me (as you can guess from my avatar), the sublime Kiss Me Deadly -- you're sure to like this. Me... I love it. (Mea Culpa... :))

Thanks, David at ClassicFlix, for completing the Spillane '50s movie canon on disc and enabling me to jettison my old muddy boot.

In terms of finally seeing this on blu ray, a Long Wait indeed... but it was worth it.
 
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Robert Crawford

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I liked this movie more than I, the Jury. It’s not great cinema, but I found it thoroughly entertaining. Classicflix produced a fine release. I’m looking forward to listening to the audio commentary. By the way, Peggy Castle just took a step up in my previous evaluation of her.
 

Camps

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Yes, I subsequently watched with Spillane expert/friend Max Allan Collins' once-again very informative & entertaining commentary and he (pardon the pun) pulls no punches.

You also learn what is Collins' favorite scene in any filmed Spillane adaptation. He compares the skill of lighting, camera work, framing, editing and downright surrealism in this scene favorably to not only I, The Jury, but the acclaimed noir great Kiss Me Deadly! I agree it's a standout scene. You'll know it when you see it even without Collins' commentary to guide you.
 

Bartman

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The regular Blu-ray has an acceptable picture quality. Anthony Quinn's performance was a bit wooden and one dimensional. His performance reminded me of Across 110th Street, where 20+ years later it worked better for him. Good to see Bruno Vesoto from Dementia!
 

Dan McW

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I watched this the other day and thoroughly enjoyed it. One thing I noticed, after having recently watched Donovan's Brain: the car-wreck crash-and-burn footage in DB appears to be recycled in The Long Wait.
 
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