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I was born when she kissed me.
I died when she left me.
I lived a few weeks while she loved me.
-- From an unfinished screenplay by Dixon Steele

For my money, IN A LONELY PLACE ($25) is one of the truly great noir thrillers, as well as being a film that allowed Humphrey Bogart to create one of his darkest and most disturbing screen characterizations. Although IN A LONELY PLACE was produced by Bogart’s own company, the film wasn’t the kind of material that a fifties era Hollywood leading man would normally seek out. However, as Bogart's choice to play this unflattering character would seem to indicate that the screen icon was an actor first and a movie star second. Working under Nicholas Ray’s assured direction, Bogart brings to life Hollywood screenwriter Dixon Steele, a man whose uncontrollable temper would seem to be at odds with his artistic genius.

Because Dixon’s temper has gotten him into more than a few scrapes within the Hollywood community, no one is beating down the Hollywood scribe's door to offer him a job. However, as the film opens, Dixon's agent has him lined up to write the adaptation of a trashy pulp novel for a second rate director. Because he has no interest in reading the novel himself, Dixon takes home with him a pretty hatcheck girl who just finished the book, so she can relay the plot to him. Unfortunately, after Dixon sends the hatcheck girl on her way, her body turns up in a ravine, which leaves the screenwriter as the last person to see her alive, and the prime suspect in her killing.


However, when Dixon’s beautiful new neighbor Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame) supplies the screenwriter with an alibi, the police reluctantly let him go. Naturally, things heat up between Laurel and Dixon, and while the police continue to keep him under their watchful eye, the writer’s violent temper causes even Laurel to suspect that Dixon may indeed be guilty of murder. As the IN A LONELY PLACE builds to its unforgettable climax, the screenplay, Bogart's performance and Nick Ray's direction gel flawlessly to create an unbearable sense of tension that keeps the audience guessing right up until the very end. The cast of IN A LONELY PLACE also includes Frank Lovejoy, Carl Benton Reid, Art Smith, Jeff Donnell, Martha Stewart, Robert Warwick, Morris Ankrum, William Ching, Steven Geray and Hadda Brooks.

Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment has made IN A LONELY PLACE available on DVD in a very nice looking full screen transfer that frames the movie in its proper 1.37:1 aspect ratio. The black and white film elements for IN A LONELY PLACE have undergone restorative work, from which the transfer truly benefits. Burnett Guffey’s stark noir cinematography looks quite good, with the image appearing crisp and well defined. Blacks are solid and inky, while the whites are clean and completely stable. Contrast is generally very good, with only a couple of shots appear slightly weaker. Additionally, the grayscale has terrific variety and nuance, which gives a nice sense of dimensionality to the image. There is a noticeable grain structure throughout the presentation and some very minor blemishes remain on the fifty-plus year old film elements. Digital compression artifacts are always well camouflaged throughout the presentation.

IN A LONELY PLACE comes with a Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack, which is relatively good sounding for a vintage 1950 film. The folks at Chase Productions have cleaned up almost all traces of background hiss and surface noise, which leaves IN A LONELY PLACE with a very crisp and clear sounding track. Dialogue is always fully understandable and the actors’ voices maintain a very nice sense of presence. There are certain limitations in the fidelity of these half-a-century old recordings, but the track does provide a pleasant aural experience even when a bit of amplification is applied. A French language track has also been encoded onto the DVD, in addition to English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean and Japanese subtitles.

The basic interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few rather choice supplements. In a Lonely Place: Revisited is a twenty-minute program hosted by noted director Curtis Hanson who looks back at the production of IN A LONELY PLACE and explains his affinity for this particular film noir classic. In a Lonely Place: Restoration Story is an informative five-minute program that looks at the yearlong effort put into restoring IN A LONELY PLACE for future generations, as well as its release on DVD. The Bogart Collection retrospective, featuring vintage advertising materials is also included on the DVD, as are theatrical trailers for IN A LONELY PLACE, THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI and THE BIG HEAT.

IN A LONELY PLACE is one of the truly great film noir thrillers and a movie that I am personally delighted to have available on DVD. Columbia TriStar has done a fine job with the DVD; giving it a really terrific presentation, as well as some solid supplements. If you are a movie buff, Bogart fan or Nicholas Ray devotee, IN A LONELY PLACE is a must own DVD. And if you are none of the above, IN A LONELY PLACE is still a must own DVD. Highly recommended.



In a Lonely Place (1950)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2003 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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