Written by: Michael Den Boer on December 2nd, 2015
BluRay released: October 19th, 2014
Approximate running times: 94 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1 aspect ratio / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 12 (UK)
Sound: LPCM Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Arrow Academy
Region Coding: Region B / Region 2 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £15.99 (UK)
Thieves’ Highway was directed by Jules Dassin who’s other notable films include, Brute Force, The Naked City, Night and the City and Rififi. Key collaborators on Thieves’ Highway include, cinematographer Norbert Brodine (Kiss of Death, Road House) and screenwriter A.I. Bezzerides (On Dangerous Ground, Kiss me Deadly).
Though Thieves’ Highway has all the hallmarks that have become synonymous with the film Noir genre, it is a different kind of Noir that came about as a response to the Hollywood blacklist. This film starts off with a solid premise, a son seeking retribution against those who did his father wrong. And right from the get go the thing that most sets this film apart from its contemporaries is its everyman protagonist, in place of the all too familiar private eye character. Another area where this film plays against type, is in regards to the portrayal of its femme fatale character Rica.
Structurally this is a well-constructed narrative that does a superb job setting up who everyone is and what their motivations are? Also this film’s numerous twists and turns ensure that there is never a dull moment. And surprisingly when it comes to acts of violence this film is rooted more in psychological damage then psychological damage. With that being said, when it comes to establishing and maintaining tension this film does a remarkable job in this regard.
From a production stand point there is not a single area where this film is lacking. With Jules Dassin once again delivering striking visuals and employing the use of real life locations to maintain a sense of reality. And though there are many great moments in this film. It is safe to say that none leave there mark more indelibly way then the scene where Nick’s character gets trapped under his truck and narrowly escapes death, while trying to replace a tire.
Performance wise the entire cast are very good in their respective roles. With this film standout performances being Richard Conte (Call Northside 777, The Brothers Rico) in the role of Nick Garcos the short fused son determined to get his father what is owed to him and Lee J. Cobb (On the Waterfront, 12 Angry Men) in the role of Mike Figlia a crooked businessman who doubled crossed Nick’s father. Needless to say that the scenes where these two actors interact are by far and away this films strongest moments. Another performance of note is Valentina Cortese (The Girl Who Knew Too Much) in the role of Rica the hooker with a heart of gold.
Thieves’ Highway comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. This release has been flagged for progressive playback and the film is presented in its intended 1.37:1 aspect ratio. The source for this transfer is a brand new 4K digital restoration by Twentieth Century Fox. The image looks sharp, black and contrast levels look strong throughout and grain looks natural. Also there are no issues with DNR or compression.
This release comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix in English and removable English SDH subtitles have also been included.The audio in very good shape as dialog is always clear, everything sounds balanced and robust when it needs too.
Extras for this release include, a stills gallery, a trailer for the film (2 minutes 6 seconds), a documentary titled ‘The Long Haul of A.I. Bezzerides’ (55 minutes 42 seconds), a video essay with author Frank Kurtnik titled ‘The Fruits of Labour’ (33 minutes 39 seconds) and scene specific audio commentary with Frank Kurtnik for three key scenes.
The extra titled ‘The Long Haul of A.I. Bezzerides’ is essentially a career retrospective for screenwriter A.I. Bezzerides.
Topics discussed in the extra titled ‘The Fruits of Labour’ include, screenwriter A.I. Bezzerides, how Thieves Highway started off as a novel titled Thieves Market and both were written by A.I. Bezzerides, themes which reoccur throughout A.I. Bezzerides career as a writer / screenwriter, director Jules Dassin, locations featured in the film, censorship and why the film’s title was changed to Thieves Highway, casting choices, audience / critics reaction to the film and crime films made in reaction to the Hollywood’s blacklist.
There are three scene specific audio commentary tracks.
Delicious Gold: This track examines a pivotal scene that foreshadows events yet to come.
Rica: The track discusses the importance of this character to the story at hand.
Rounding out the extras is a reversible cover art option and a twenty page booklet with cast & crew information, a new writing on the film titled ‘Motion Means Money’ written by Alastair Phillips and information about the transfer. Also included with this release is a DVD that has the same content included on the Blu-Ray included as part of this combo release. Overall Thieves’ Highway gets a solid release from Arrow Academy.