If someone were to read my biography below, one would probably learn one of two things, I have an unhealthy obsession with Alyssa Milano movies, and I deeply appreciate Basil Rathbone, the man who popularized Sherlock Holmes films. While many would argue who the best Holmes would be (Downey, Brett, Cumberbatch, etc), my heart will always go to Basil. So naturally, when I saw the movie Rio with him in the starring role had come to Blu-ray, I jumped at the opportunity to review it. Let’s take a look.
We get a tight close-up of a sign that reads Paul Reynard & Associates Investment, Paris Branch. Here the board of directors are meeting and waiting for a phone call from the one and only Paul Reynard (played by Basil Rathbone). Where is Mr. Reynard? Why, he’s in London securing a loan. We soon see Paul’s friend, Dirk (played by Victor McLaglen) telling the board of directors to hold, Paul should be in soon.
Paul finally comes in, and the board of directors ask him what’s going on. He finally tells them that he did secure the loan, but he’s actually lying, since you can never tell “sheep” the truth. But what is Paul going to do to secure this money? Go to Paris. Wait, go back to Paris? Yes, there is always a way out.
Meanwhile, we see that the police bureau has caught wind of Paul’s return. On the plane ride, Mr. Reynard plays solitaire while he and Dirk talk. Dirk urges the flamboyant businessman to reconsider and not go back to Paris, but Paul insists on this path.
Paul ends up at LaMartine Bank where he has already been lent a sizable amount of money. But this time he appeals to them by telling them that the previous securities he gave them as collateral are largely forged and fraudulent. The idea is that if the bank wants to remain solvent, then they will give him the one hundred million francs that he needs. The bank needs to make the decision before midnight.
Reynard goes home to his wife, Irene (played by Sigrid Gurie). As it would turn out, the LaMartines are giving the Reynards a special wedding anniversary party. The party is a lavish affair with families turning out, and Irene even gets up to sing a song as only she can. However, much to the chagrin of everyone, when it’s over Paul Reynard is arrested for forgery and fraud. The swindler gets ten years in a work colony.
The question now remains, even after Paul tells Irene to forget him, will she actually move on with her life? And will Paul stay in the work colony or find a way to escape? First, this is pretty much an A-level cast. Basil Rathbone steals the scene every time he shows up, and the audience is drawn to him from the first few minutes until his very last. But there is much help from the supporting cast, especially from the likes of Robert Cummings, who plays Irene’s love interest, William Gregory, who also makes every scene count.
It’s a shame that there are all of these great performances, because the writing is unfortunately paper-thin, and the ending feels like it’s directly out of a B movie along with the rest of the production. If Rathbone or Cummings or even Gurie weren’t part of this film, it would be barely a footnote in a Wikipedia article. As is, the amount of information on the film is somewhat scarce. It’s also one of those films where it’s really hard to like any of the characters, as they all operate on some kind of gray moral concept as well.
The video is in its 1.37:1 original aspect ratio. As expected, this film is in black and white. With it being about 85 years old, Kino has done a pretty good job here, as it is particularly pleasing for most of the film. Occasionally, we will see a film strip mark or some other spot or crackle, but it’s very brief, which makes me think that the print for this movie was in reasonably good shape.
Even though this was made with B-movie sensibilities, the cinematography and locale choices clearly made for a better picture visually. I usually have issues with watching black and white movies, but here it didn’t seem so difficult. I know we’ll probably never see a true 4K restoration, but at least it got some work here with the overall good job.
The audio for this one is DTS-HD 2.0 in English. Subtitles are provided in English. The audio suffers a little bit, probably due to the age of the source. Dialog is fine; I didn’t have any real issues understanding any of the characters, and the subtitles are dead-on with no complaints.
The soundtrack dominates the center speaker (this might indeed be a Mono track, but it registered as a 2.0), and there is the occasional hiss or distortion, especially in any high-energy scenes. Any time there is a musical accompaniment, it overtakes the scene and doesn’t usually have any sort of richness. I mean, most purists won’t care, but there is little reason to celebrate it either.
- Trailers: The Mad Doctor, The Undying Monster, The Lodger, Singapore.
- Audio Commentary with Film Historian Samm Deighan: I know it sounds like a weird thing to say, but an actual female joins us to do the whole commentary for this one. Most welcome, but I’d say over 95% of the commentaries I have listened to have been male-dominated. Samm is an author and film critic, and from reading her history specializes in the 30’s and 40’s films. So to say she’s perfect for this one is putting it mildly. She does an excellent job here going over the film and giving us a lot of history in particular the director John Brahm and of course plenty about Basil Rathbone. Occasionally she will go off on a tangent about something not completely related to this particular film, but Samm provides a ton of information that most fans of Rio or especially Rathbone that they wouldn’t have known otherwise.
Rio runs a really tight 77 minutes. It does its best to not overstay its welcome and actually creates a somewhat sympathetic womanizing character in Robert Cummings’ portrayal of William Gregory. And who can’t be memorized by Basil Rathbone, who was about to enter one of the great roles of all time. So I do think that Rio is an important movie to see at least once, but I don’t think many will actually remember it.
The disc is an average production with decent above-average video and reasonable audio, at least one where you won’t have to turn it up by 50% just to make it audible. The highlight of the disc is certainly the commentary with Samm Deighan, who will teach you plenty about the film as well as Basil himself. I think my recommendation is mostly for the commentary, honestly, but a few will find interest in the film. If nothing else, it will probably make you want to pop in a Sherlock Holmes film with Rathbone afterwards. Enjoy.
Rio (1939) (Blu-Ray) Review
04/25/2023 @ 11:28 pm
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