Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|The Black Book|
Actors: Robert Cummings, Richard Basehart, Richard Hart, Arlene Dahl, Arnold Moss
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One of Mann's best films: one of the very worst DVDs ever
Trevor Willsmer | London, England | 02/19/2004
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Reign of Terror, or The Black Book, is one of the great Anthony Mann's very best pictures - a nightmarish tale of the French Revolution shot in the style of a film noir expressionistic nightmare with superlative production design from William Cameron Menzies. But I'm loathe to say any more that might encourage you to buy this disc simply because this is without doubt the very worst DVD I have ever seen - the poor contrast and appalling definition ruining John Alton's brilliant cinematography, while the variable transfer speed makes slurs of many of the witticisms. This is a neglected masterpiece crying out for the kind of treatment that MPI have given the Sherlock Holmes films, but whatever you do, don't make the mistake of thinking this terrible transfer from Alpha/Gotham is worth the low price - it isn't, and that's a real crime against cinema."
Great movie, VERY bad DVD
Montjovent Pascal | Geneva, Switzerland | 01/21/2004
(2 out of 5 stars)
"This movie is a gem, but to view it in these poor conditions (the frame is off-center, the blacks are light grey and the pictures fuzzy) is really an offense to the original material. Don't be fooled by the low price. Even if it was free I would still hesitate."
Butchered Print of a Great Film is a Disgrace!
Steven Baker | Dallas, TX, USA | 08/19/2008
(1 out of 5 stars)
"This is a comment on the Synergy Entertainment release of Anthony Mann's "The Black Book" (AKA "Reign of Terror"). This splendid film just can't get any respect on DVD! The running time of this version is 75 minutes, making it 14 minutes shorter than the version on Alpha Video! Critical scenes are missing, with Synergy imposing its own fade outs on entire sections. Even the previous reviewer who called this version "passable," noted the gaps in continuity. Visually, the print is much softer than Alpha's, with many jumps and splices, with much more of the picture area cropped off, and it goes in and out of focus. I previously thought that the Alpha release was the worst transfer of a movie I had ever seen, but this travesty put out by Synergy is a total disgrace, and should be avoided at all costs!"
Great Villains, Bland Hero, Poor DVD Transfer
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 01/05/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
""We're living in a perpetual state of violence. The people have become a bloodthirsty mob that thrives on human lives. Each day this monster must reach its quota. There is only one man who can control this beast and that man must be dictator Robespierre!" The man speaking is, of course, Maximilien Robespierre (Richard Basehart).
It's Paris, 1794, and for all practical purposes Robespierre rules France. He not only has sent his enemies to the guillotine, he keeps finding new enemies. He has a black book in which he lists his friends and his enemies and what they have done. He has marked those who will kiss the blade, and among them are many who think they are his friends. Then the book goes missing just 24 hours before he expects to be acclaimed dictator of France. He is determined to find the book.
But there are a few brave freedom-fighters struggling to bring Robespierre down. Among them are Charles D'Aubigny (Robert Cummings) and Madelon (Arlene Dahl), a woman who had cast Charles aside but who now must work with him. D'Aubigny takes on the role of Georges Duval, the butcher...the prosecutor...of Strasbourg who Robespierre has named to find the black book within 24 hours. There are many twists and turns before the truth comes out, before Charles and Madelon learn to trust each other again, and before France is saved...well, before France is saved for Napoleon.
Although the DVD picture and audio are in bad shape, even for a movie in the public domain, the film has a lot of visual style. Paris with its cobblestone by-ways, crowded hovels and turnip-strewn streets never looked more picturesque. Director Anthony Mann keeps things moving with a noir approach that features high angle shots, low angle shots, off-kilter close-ups and lots of mysterious shadows. There are plenty of howling mobs and unshaven soldiers.
Robert Cummings and Arlene Dahl make conventional leads. Cummings has little gravitas and Dahl, while gorgeous, was no actress. They are redeemed, however, by three first-rate heavies. Robespierre is a psychopathic, unsmiling politician in a powdered wig. He has no sense of humor. Robespierre's henchman, Louis de Saint-Just played by Jess Barker, is a vicious man who takes delight in the pain of those he dislikes, and he seems to dislike everyone. Best of all is Joseph Fouche, the head of the secret police, a wily, amoral pragmatist with a sly sense of humor. He's played by Arnold Moss, a thin actor with a wonderful voice, baggy eyes and a proud nose. When we last see Fouche he is making the acquaintance of a young soldier from Corsica.
The movie seems to have been released in the U.S. as "Reign of Terror" but took on the name "The Black Book" for its U.K. release. This Alpha Video apparently was made from a U.K. print. As mentioned, the DVD is barely watchable. Still, it's all there is. If the price is right and you enjoy historical adventures with some first-rate villains, why not try it? There are no extras."