BluRay/DVD Reviews

THE CHASE (KINO Lorber)

By • Apr 17th, 2016 •

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BluRay review by Roy Frumkes.

Kino introduces us to THE CHASE the way it once looked, before it was absorbed into the public domain and what one witnessed was darkness (sounds okay for film noir, but don’t be fooled, it wasn’t the darkness the filmmakers intended), muddled image and sound, excessive wear…must I go on. There was utterly no way to honestly judge the film’s merits in this form although, amusingly, commentary provider and experimental filmmaker Guy Madden confesses to actually missing some the old VHS’s degraded look. I’ve experienced that myself, but in my case it was with pizza.

THE CHASE is a classic noir and comes with an astounding pedigree. The original book was by noir exemplar Cornell Woolrich. The screenplay was by the prolific, sometimes bogus, but always worth checking out, Philip Yordan. And the director was Hollywood oddball Arthur Ripley (wanna see weird filmmaking, check out Ripley’s VOICE IN THE WIND). In addition, Robert Cummings was no newcomer to noir, and the themes of amnesia, PTSD, convolution of plot, city as menacing character, odd secondary castings, on and on — it’s amazing that a noir this central to the genre was allowed to slip into disrepair.

Many hands went into restoring the film’s luster. And it’s lovely. Not without defects, but now it can really be appreciated in a form very close to its original surreal intent. There is a pulsating light flare for a while on the lower left side of the frame – possibly a sign of nitrate deterioration damage, possibly a lab error in the striking of this particular print. Hard to know. But it doesn’t ruin the experience.

Cummings is initially and until the third act, a cypher who lands a job with genetically-programmed sadistic tough guy Eddie Roman (Steve Cochran), whose ever-slimy lieutenant Gino is played by the deliciously suspicious Peter Lorre. Cochran’s kept-and-abused wife Lorna is Michele Morgan who, in the film’s first half, projects a cold, masculine presence. After enlisting Cummings’ help, she softens into something a bit more feminine and sexual. Still I question the sexual dynamics of the two stars. Its all subtext if in fact it even exists, but this is prime noir after all, so it well might. Plus, there seems to be a similar perverse sexual subtext going on between Cummings and Cochran (check out the scene where Cochran steps on the gas from a device in the back seat, right behind a bewildered, violated Cummings).

Cummings falls for Lady Roman without much motivation (a hasty montage of them being together fails to convince), and plunges into danger as they flee to lovely, seedy Cuba. Halfway through the film we are thrown for a loop by a certain key plot twist which I leave for you to discover. Commentator Madden barely addresses it and I don’t blame him because I found it to be a bridge too surreal. See what you think.

Speaking of Madden, let us praise good commentary tracks. They often make the difference between whether or not we pick up a disc for our collection. Madden is such a commentator. He comes to the game well-prepared with a pocket full of facts, as well as his often insightful take on them He loves Cornell Woolrich and Peter Lorre, and makes a plea for the restoration of Lorre’s FACE BEHIND THE MASK. He makes valid connections between this film and David Lynch’s work. He refers to Nina Koshetz, in her memorable cameo as an antique store owner, as a female Sydney Greenstreet. And he informs us that she was a fine opera singer. He does, however, identify a military shrink as being played by Bruce Cabot, whereas the actor is actually Jack Holt. Do we cut him a break, or does this throw everything he’s said into doubt? I’m inclined to rest somewhere in the middle…

He also characterizes Steve Cochran thusly: “He emanates a menacing douchiness. He’s the real deal.” Then he discusses Cochran’s off-camera life, which was pretty pulpy and well worth the diversion.

Good noir, good commentary. Pick it up.

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