In his film debut, Sidney Poitier is a newly minted doctor at a downtown hospital. Two patients arrive in the prison ward, shot in the leg by police. One is Richard Widmark, frothing racist. The other is his brother, who dies under Poitier’s care, not from the wound, but from a terminal brain tumour. Widmark blames Poitier, and sets about inflaming racial hatred in his quest to destroy Poitier.
This is far from being your typical Joseph L. Mankiewicz film – we’re a long way from th… mordant humour and blisteringly witty dialogue of the likes of All About Eve. But the film is groundbreaking, not least for having Poitier as protagonist (though he doesn’t get above-the-line billing). The issues of race suffuse every frame of the film, and Widmark, who could incarnate authority figures with the best of them, here is back in full Kiss of Death spooky sleaziness.
You guessed it: the usual choice between mono and a new stereo mix. The latter does face the usual issues of such remixes (indiscriminate placement, surround dialogue and so on and so forth), but the rear speaker volume is very low, and so these problems will not, for the most part, be that noticeable to the viewer. The sound is clean, with no hiss or static. So, for a 1950 film, it sounds pretty solid.
No qualms about the print at all, again especially factoring in the age of the film. The grain is absolutely minimal, and the image is sharp. Damage? Minimal to none. The black-and-white tones are strong, with none of the bleaching that can affect older films. A very handsome transfer, very much in keeping with the high standards set by most of the releases in this series.
And speaking of high standards, those are met again by historian Eddie Muller’s commentary, which is as lively and informative as ever. Here’s hoping Fox has this guy on a permanent retainer. The other extras are the original (and rather vague) theatrical trailer (plus trailers for other films in the series), two still galleries (photos and publicity) and two very short Movietone newsreel clips, one of Linda Darnell (who plays the dead brother’s ex-wife) hustling tickets at the movie’s premiere, and one of Widmark doing the prints-in-cement thing. The menu’s main screen is scored.
A strong film, whose issues are still relevant, and another great package in the Film Noir series.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- Still Galleries
- Movietone Newsreel Clips