Reel Reviews

The Red House (1947) - Blu-ray Review

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The Red House - Blu-ray Review

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4 stars

Writer/Director Delmer Dave’s eerie classic from 1947, The Red House, finally gets its just reward.  Long listed as a favorite film from many critics (but not often seen by the public), the suspense contained inside one abandoned farmhouse is murderously clever and highly enjoyable.  It also proves the point that forests at night are to be avoided.  Always.  Starring Edward G. Robinson and a young Julie London, there’s no kidding the absolute black-and-white risk this film took with content and subject matter.  The Red House is quite the quiet stunner.

Farmer Pete Morgan (a somewhat restrained Robinson) and sister Ellen (Judith Anderson) live quietly away some distance from the nearest town.  Their teenage stepdaughter Meg (Allene Roberts) hears all the rumors the kids at school say about her family and their ant-social ways.  It’s all trash; rubbish and hushed whispers anyway.  A local teenage boy (who Meg fancies) Nath (Lon McCallister) finds himself working part-time for Morgan and is warned about the traveling the nearby woods at night.  Screams follow a traveler.

Intrigued by this warning, Nath goes out of his way to prove Morgan wrong.  He can’t.  Screams really do follow you; at least something does.  Stay away from the mysterious red house that Morgan says is in the forest.  Another mysterious warning and the plot dives a bit deeper.  It’s a house no one has found.

Yet.

When Nath’s girlfriend, the deliciously curved London), and a dark-haired neighbor named Keller (Rory Calhoun) stumble into the pastoral narrative, things get twisted rather quickly.  Alliances are revealed and truths are uncovered and all happens under Morgan’s frothy mug.  Written by Daves and produced by Sol Lesser, The Red House might be a little long in the tooth for today’s audiences, but it’s bite is certainly memorable.

The staggering mood of The Red House is a thick tangle of roots and limbs that gets more interesting the longer you gaze into it.  Branches reveal the picture that been there all along nestled in the forest of warning.  You just didn’t know it.  Atmospheric and full of danger, the thick and hearty woods – aptly named Ox Head Woods – are cleverly revealed in the dynamic use of light and shadow from Dave’s camera.

Already established as a great director of mood and mayhem with minor classics like 3:10 To Yuma and Dark Passage, Dave adds a bit of tortured family dynamic and dysfunction to the robust film noir genre and creates a unique statement without dipping into stereotype.  Plotting right next to it is the wonderful score of Miklós Rózsa who, as composer for Double Indemnity and Spellbound, is no stranger to mood and mystery.  Turn the sound up, but don’t cover your eyes.

It might be buried deep in the woods, but The Red House and all its secrets are not easily missed…or forgotten.

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Red House - Blu-ray ReviewMPAA Rating: this film has not been rated by the MPAA.
Director
: Delmer Daves
Writer: Delmer Daves
Cast:
Edward G. Robinson; Judith Anderson; Rory Calhoun; Julie London
Genre: Classic | Horror | Mystery
Tagline:
What I cannot have... I'll destroy.
Memorable Movie Quote: "She's like an ornery heifer sometimes, hard to hold down."
Theatrical Distributor:
United Artists
Home Video Distributor: Film Chest
Official Site:
Theatrical Release Date:
March 16, 1947
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: April 24, 2012

Synopsis: Pete and Ellen have reared Meg as their own, ever since she was a baby and her parents took off. Now a teen, Meg convinces her friend Nath to come help with chores on the farm: Pete isn't getting around on his wooden leg like he used to. When Nath insists on using a short cut home through the woods, Pete gets quite agitated and warns him of screams in the night, of terrors associated with the red house. Curious, Meg and Nath ignore his warnings and begin exploring. Meg begins falling in love with Nath, but his girlfriend Tibby has other plans for him. Meanwhile they all get closer to real danger and the dark secret of the red house.

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The Red House - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
4 stars

4 stars



Blu-ray Experience
4 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - January 11, 2011
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles
: English, English SDH, Spanish
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD); BD-Live; Blu-ray 3D

Released from Film Chest, this blu-ray/DVD combo is handled nicely.  The 1080p transfer itself was digitally restored and transferred from original 35mm elements specifically for this release.  While some dirt and debris still appear from time to time, a side-by-side comparison (provided by the disc) shows just how involving the process was for this film.  Black levels are consistent and white levels occasionally shift in balance throughout.  The DNR processing is a bit heavy and things look too smoothed out.  Not too much film grain has survived.  The sound – presented here in a DTS-HD 2.0 Mono Master Audio track – is a bit muffled.  Of course, this is a public domain release.  There’s been no upgrade to the original recording.  It’s to be expected.  Shame, though.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • Yes, as a matter of fact, there is a wonderfully engaged commentary track from William Hare, a Film Noir expert.  It’s lively and full of information about the film and the genre and even its actors.  Damn good quality.

Special Features:

Highlighting the digital restoration effort seems to be Film Chest’s main purpose with their special features.  The side-by-side comparisons pan back and forth between the print they used (in its original state) and their restoration process.  It’s a better-looking print by far, just wish they could leave some film grain intact.  Also included is a look at the film’s original trailer and the original art for the film delivered here as a postcard and a DVD copy of the film.  For a public domain firm, Film Chest has a lot going for itself.

  • Before and After Restoration Demo (1 min)
  • Original Theatrical Trailer (2 min)
  • DVD copy

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