Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Stubs Goes Blu(-ray) – Out of the Past

Stubs Goes Blu(-Ray) is an occasional series wherein we reexamine a favorite classic that receives an enhanced presentation. To celebrate TCM finally bringing back their celebration of Film Noir: Summer of Darkness, we’d thought we take a second look at one of the great classics of that sub-genre: Jacques Tourneur’s classic Out of the Past (1947). Our first review appeared in June 2012 as part of our own Summer of Darkness.

OUT OF THE PAST (1947) Starring: Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, Kirk Douglas, Rhonda Fleming, Richard Webb. Directed by Jacques Tourneur. Produced by Warren Duff. Screenplay: Daniel Mainwaring. Based on the novel, Build My Gallows High by Geoffrey Homes (aka Daniel Mainwaring). Music by Roy Webb. Run Time: 97. Black and White. USA. Film Noir, Drama, Romance

Any chance to see one of the great film noirs is always a good idea, but it is a better one to see it on Blu-ray. 

As I wrote in my first review, Out of the Past is one of the great film noirs. Not only is the story just convoluted enough to keep the viewer interested, the dialogue is truly great. While maybe not as quotable as say Casablanca, Out of the Past definitely has it's moments, thanks to the wonderful screenplay by Geoffrey Homes and the direction of Jacques Tourneur.

Additionally, the acting to top drawer as well. Robert Mitchum, who is always seems to give a good performance, is great as Jeff Bailey, the former private investigator turned gasoline station owner. There are several films in his film career that he’s remembered for, but this one would certainly be somewhere near the top of the list.

Likewise, Jane Greer, who put the femme in femme fatale as Kathie Moffat, the object of desire for both Jeff and Whit (Kirk Douglas) is never more appealing. Douglas is a real delight as the villain with a devilish sense of humor. He gets to deliver some of the best lines in the film. While this is a relatively small part, it is one of my favorite roles that Douglas has played over his career.

Recently, the Warner Archives released a Blu-ray version of this classic film. This was not a film in need of a major restoration, but every film can use sprucing up, especially when it's remastered in 1080p or the currently popular 4K remastering. 

There is only so much that can be done with mono sound recorded 68 years ago. No one envisioned a day when there would be something called stereo. For that matter, the studios didn’t even dream there would be a use for a movie once it had its theatrical run. So the sound is cleaned up and presented in Mono 2.0, with identical left and right channels.

But it is the visuals that really stand out here. While black-and-white films might seem an odd choice to some to receive the Blu-Ray treatment, they really seem to come alive. Their grayscale seems to be enhanced and shadows, so important to the genre, seem to get blacker. This is a movie which grows progressively darker as we move from the idyllic Bridgeport, where Jeff has tried to remake himself, to the darker side of his past, which has come back like a ghost to haunt him and pull him back down into the seamier world he thought he’d escaped.

No one symbolizes Jeff's dark past better than Jane Greer's Kathie. So to illustrate the difference between Out of the Past in Standard Def and the film in Blu-Ray, I'm using a scene with these two stars. (Blu-ray screeencap courtesy of

In nearly identical shots, the above in Standard Def looks good, but a little blurred and the shadows, in this case are a little darker than they should be, so some of the detail is lost.

Below, Mitchum's profile is a little sharper, the grays and blacks a little more separated, the background a little more detailed. 

This wasn't a case of a film that was crumpling at the corners, but rather a film brought to its best since it was first shown in theaters. There is so much to love about this film and now a visual presentation that matches the acting and dialogue.

If you would like to purchase the Blu-ray of Out of the Past, it is available through the Warner Archive:

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