Written by: Michael Den Boer on September 11th, 2017
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1955
Director: Robert Aldrich
Writer: James Poe
Cast: Jack Palance, Ida Lupino, Wendell Corey, Jean Hagen, Rod Steiger, Ilka Chase, Everett Sloane, Wesley Addy, Paul Langton, Nick Dennis, Bill Walker, Michael Winkelman, Shelley Winters
BluRay released: August 28th, 2017 (UK), August 29th, 2017 (USA)
Approximate running time: 112 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: PG (UK), NR (USA)
Sound: LPCM Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Arrow Academy USA
Region Coding: Region A,B
Retail Price: $39.95 (USA) / £17.99 (UK)
The Big Knife was directed by Robert Aldrich whose other notable films include, Vera Cruz, Kiss Me Deadly, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and The Dirty Dozen. Key collaborators on The Big Knife include, cinematographer Ernest Laszlo (D.O.A., Stalag 17) and composer Frank De Vol (McLintock!, Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte). The screenplay for The Big Knife was adapted from Clifford Odets play of the same name.
Betrayal and blackmail are at the center of this melodrama about a man who is faced to choose between two equally destructive paths. The first of these two paths, involves a crime that he was involved in many years before and how said crime is being used as leverage against him. The second of these two paths, revolves around his deteriorating relationship with his wife and his only way to salvage their marriage involves him walking away from the other scenario.
The films narrative does an extraordinary job setting the foundation of these two conflicts. And the protagonists torment is perfectly captured as key moments are given an ample amount of time to resonate. With this film saving its most poignant moment for its tragic finale.
The characters are well defined and the entire cast are all very good in their respective roles. With this film’s standout performance being Jack Palance (Marquis de Sade’s Justine, Companeros) in the role of this film’s protagonist, an actor named Charles Castle. He delivers an extraordinary performance that perfectly captures the essence of turmoil that has engulfed his character.
Other notable performances include, Ida Lupino (On Dangerous Ground, The Hitch-Hiker) in the role of Charles Castle’s wife, Rod Steiger (Duck You Sucker, Last Days of Mussolini) in the role of Stanley Shriner Hoff, the studio executive that is blackmailing Charles Castle and Shelley Winters (Night of the Hunter, Gran Bollito) in the role of Dixie Evans, an aspiring actress whose knowledge of the crime being covered up puts her own life in danger.
This is a dialog driven film that was based on a stage play and the majority of what occurs takes place in one locations. And this film’s visuals are not in line with what one would normally associate with the Film Noir genre. With that being said, the visuals do a superb job capturing Charlie Castle’s state of mind.
The Big Knife comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. The 2k transfer created for this release was sourced from an original 35mm fine grain positive. Image clarity is strong throughout, black levels are solid, there are no issues with compression and grain remains intact.
This release comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix in English and included with removable English SDH subtitles. There are no issues with distortion or background noise. This is a dialog driven film and dialog always comes through clearly and everything sounds balanced.
Extras for this release include, a trailer for the film (2 minutes 28 seconds), an archival television promo (4 minutes 59 seconds), archival documentary about title designer Saul Bass, titled Bass on Titles (33 minutes 46 seconds) and an audio commentary with film critics Glenn Kenny and Nick Pinkerton.
Topics discussed in the audio commentary include, Saul Bass / the film’s opening credits, Robert Aldrich and his legacy as a filmmaker, the play verses the film, thoughts about the characters, background information about the cast, other production related topics and their thoughts about the film.
Rounding out the extras is a reversible cover art and a forty-page booklet with cast & crew information, an essay titled The Big Knife written by Nathalie Morris, an essay titled Odets in Hollywood written by Gerald Peary and information about the restoration / transfer. Overall The Big Knife gets a solid release from Arrow Academy.