Thursday, October 28, 2021

Val Lewton Double Feature! The Ghost Ship/Bedlam! Warner Archive Blu Ray Review

Val Lewton Double Feature (1943-46) 10/12/2021
The Ghost Ship, Bedlam 

Disclaimer: Warner Archive has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

Other Reviews: Frankenstein's Daughter HERE
Deep Red UHD Review HERE
TV Horror The Screaming Woman HERE

The Ghost Ship (1943)

Directed By: Mark Robson 

Starring: Richard Dix, Russell Wade, Ben Bard

      Though a hit for RKO The Ghost Ship (1943) was mixed with critics at the time. Indeed, this seems to sum up my feelings on the film itself: its a mixed bag. Mark Robson certainly viewed this as yet another vehicle for psychological horror that played with producer Val Lewton's signature bag of atmospheric tricks.  Here though, you start to see how this approach can both be extremely interesting but also misused. First what I enjoy about this movie. The film discusses how abuse of power that is left unchecked can lead to very dangerous situations. Its more interesting when you also consider this would have spoken to Americans still in the grip of WWII. Richard Dix with a screen career going all the way back to 1917 gets a really excellent later in life role as Capt. Stone. Dix really seems to have fun playing the role and he handles it I think quite well. 

    The thing is though, the voice over narration is jarring and pretentious and, it doesn't add anything to the overall story. I also think Robson doesn't do a very good job if I'm being honest in crafting tension. Hell, even in The Seventh Victim (1943) you can see Robson is able to ratchet up the suspense.  Here it seems rather tame. Speaking of, I think Russell Wade makes for a bland leading man. 

The Ghost Ship is interesting but flawed. It has a nice haunting atmosphere but not nearly as good as other Lewton films. 

Picture: The Ghost Ship looks great with a pristine looking transfer that, as always is a marvel. Some fog drenched scenes do tend to look a bit heavy grain wise but nothing that is distracting. Otherwise this is a very sharp and refreshed looking picture. Blacks are deep and the black-and-white photography is well balanced and contrasted. 

Sound: The Ghost Ship comes to port with a very nice DTS 2.0 track. Dialogue, sound design and score comes through quite crisp and clear. 

Extras: None 

Bedlam (1946)

Directed By: Mark Robson

Starring: Boris Karloff, Anna Lee, Billy House, Ian Wolfe 

      Bedlam from 1946 was marketed as a horror film yet, its actually a costume drama with psychological overtones. Where The Ghost Ship lacks tension and a stellar cast this movie thrives. Boris Karloff gives a career best as the stern Master Sims. His wry-delivery is exactly what the role calls for and adds a kind of sardonic humor.  Robson and Lewton's script crackles with black comedy that nicely balances out the serious subjects such as patient abuse, murder and mental health issues. The fact that this movie tackles such things and in a fairly thoughtful way is quite remarkable. The movie still has some dread-filled and haunting moments all shot beautifully. The Oscar nominated Nicholas Musuraca really gives this movie a polish, scale and scope that helps further elevate this to top-trier. The costume design Edward Stevenson (Citizen Kane, Out of the Past, Suspicion) does a fantastic job at crafting some really nice looking clothes.  

Bedlam has been a favorite of mine even though its not in my opinion the best of the Lewton produced cycle. Its a haunting and engaging 

Picture: I'm sorry if I sound like a broken record but, Warner Archive once again does this back catalogue movie justice. As always the film is totally free from noise, artifacts and scratches. There is an overall incredible pristine look with sharp details in the films lavish costumes, sets and locales. You can see the textures on the costumes which is just mind boggling for a movie that is over 70 years old at this point.  Having seen this movie previously on home video I can safely say this is the BEST it's ever looked. The black-and-white is as always well maintained both in balance and contrast. 

Sound: Bedlam has a nice DTS 2.0 track. The dialogue and Roy Webb's score is nicely showcased. 

Extras: Bedlam has a commentary by Tom Weaver that has been ported over from the previous home video release. 

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