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Mad Love and The Naked Spur Blu-ray Reviews

Peter Lorre shines in “Mad Love.” 

“The Naked Spur” is a quality character centric western.

Warner Archive continues to release classic movies on Blu-ray with “Mad Love” and “The Naked Spur” among their most recent titles.

1935’s “Mad Love” is a horror movie based on the novel “The Hands Of Orlac” (which has been adapted into other feature films as well). The story revolves around a Doctor (Gogol) who is obsessed with an actress (Yvonne) at a Theater Of Horrors attraction. Yvonne, however, is married to a pianist named Stephen. Yvonne reveals she is retiring and moving to England, but when Stephen ends up in a train wreck and is in need of new hands, she turns to Dr. Gogol for help. Gogol performs an operation in which Stephen gets new hands from that of an executed serial killer although Stephen is unaware of this fact. Stephen begins to mentally fall apart after the surgery as he is in financial trouble and struggles to play the piano again. Gogol, meanwhile, begins to unravel as he plots a way to get Yvonne into his life by any means necessary.

“Mad Love” is one of those underrated horror movies that deserves more attention. Directed by Karl Freund and penned by John L. Balderston and Guy Endore, the France set tale about obsession and lust is moody and atmospheric. It’s not a movie that relies on jump scares and violence but is instead a more psychological tale. Not only do we see Stephen losing it to the point where he doesn’t know if he has become a murderer, but we see the true villain in Gogol manipulating people and becoming more unhinged as he tries to obtain Yvonne for himself.

Speaking of Gogol, Peter Lorre is nothing short of excellent here. This is peak Lorre creepiness. Whether he’s staring at a statue of Yvonne or disguising himself as a man who was presumed dead, it’s a truly chilling performance. Frances Drake and Colin Clive (best known for “Frankenstein”) also turn in respectable performances.

Video/Audio:

Presentation: 1.37:1 1080p. How does it look? I love these classic film restorations. Once again, Warner Archive continues to crush it here with a splendid print of “Mad Love.”

Audio Track: 2.0 DTS-HD MA. How does it sound? Alas, the audio isn’t the best as it can be quite snowy in spots. It’s still a solid enough track overall though.

Extras include a “Mad Love” theatrical trailer and a commentary by Dr. Steve Haberman.

Interestingly, 1953’s “The Naked Spur” is also more of a psychological film only in a different genre- the western. Written by Sam Rolfe and Harold Jack Bloom, the story begins with a greedy bounty hunter (Howard) who is tracking down a wanted criminal (Ben). On his journey, he encounters an old timer (Jesse) and a discharged Lt. (Roy) who we later learn is on the run from something. The 2 men join Howard in finding Ben although Howard is none too thrilled about having to share the reward money. The 3 men find Ben who is with a female companion named Lina. The story doesn’t end there though as the men have to deliver Ben and collect the reward. Moreover, the talkative and manipulative Ben is trying everything in his power to turn his captors against one another and maybe escape.

From the opening moments, director Anthony Mann’s “The Naked Spur” wastes no time getting down to business and introducing characters. It’s a tight 91 minute western that is less concerned with plot and action and more focused on characters and the themes about greed, secrets, and trust. Mind games are the main action here as Ben tries to get into the head of his captors. Yes, there are a few shootouts and some real peril (it’s a western of course there will be deaths), but the bulk of the story is about the dynamic between the 5 characters. Seeing how it all plays out between them is what drives the movie. It can get a bit tedious (especially as it draws towards the conclusion), but it’s always thrilling.

It’s no secret that James Stewart is one of the finest actors of all time so it should come as no surprise that he’s in top form here. Whenever Stewart was paired with Mann in a western magic seemed to happen. The rest of the cast is aces too. Ralph Meeker (Roy) provides a great deal of intrigue as a shady character who lives on the edge. Millard Mitchell shines as the old timer Jesse. Janet Leigh brings a great deal of depth to the character of Lina while the always reliable character actor Robert Ryan plays a great slimy foil as Ben.

I couldn’t end this review without giving attention to the cinematography by William C. Mellor. Whether the lens is on the cast members, the lush forest greens or the raging rivers, the movie is always a visual triumph.

Video/Audio:

Presentation: 1.37:1 1080p. How does it look? I’m not being hyperbolic when I say this is one of the best looking discs I’ve seen all year. The Technicolor print looks so vibrant here. This movie has never looked better.

Audio Track: 2.0 DTS-HD MA. How does it sound? Whether it’s a quiet dialogue moment or a shootout, this track delivers in the audio department. 

Extras include a theatrical trailer, a cartoon titled “Little Johnny Jet,” and an MGM short titled “Things We Can Do Without.”

November 3, 2021 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , , , , , , ,

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