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Spotlight On A Murderer
SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.66:1 Widescreen
  • 1.85:1 Widescreen
  • 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • French Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • French PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 2 Discs
FEATURES
  • Vintage production featurette from 1960, shot on location and including interviews with Georges Franju and actors Pascale Audret, Pierre Brasseur, Marianne Koch, Dany Saval and Jean-Louis Trintignant
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork by Peter Strain
  • FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Booklet featuring new writing on the film by Chris Fujiwara

Spotlight On A Murderer

Dual-Format Edition
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Georges Franju
1961 | 95 Minutes

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: Arrow Academy
MVD Visual

Release Date: May 30, 2017
Review Date: June 8, 2017

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SYNOPSIS

When the terminally ill Count Hervé de Kerloquen (Pierre Brasseur, Goto, Isle of Love) vanishes without trace, his heirs are told that they have to wait five years before he can be declared legally dead, forcing them to devise ways of paying for the upkeep of the vast family château in the meantime. While they set about transforming the place into an elaborate son et lumière tourist attraction, they are beset by a series of tragic accidents - if that's really what they are... The little-known third feature by the great French maverick Georges Franju (Eyes Without a Face, Judex) is a delightfully playful romp through Agatha Christie territory, whose script (written by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac of Les Diaboliques and Vertigo fame) is mischievously aware of the hoariest old murder-mystery clichés and gleefully exploits as many of them as possible. They're equally aware of the detective story's antecedents in the Gothic novel, a connection that Franju is only too happy to emphasise visually at every opportunity thanks to his magnificent main location. A young Jean-Louis Trintignant (The Conformist, Amour) is amongst the Kerloquen heirs.


PICTURE

Arrow (through their Arrow Academy line) presents Georges Franju’s follow-up to Eyes without a Face, Spotlight on a Murderer, in a new dual-format edition. The film is presented on a dual-layer Blu-ray in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1 in 1080p/24hz. This new restoration was provided by Gaumont. The accompanying dual-layer DVD contains a standard-definition version.

The film appears to have fallen a bit by the wayside over the years (going through the included booklet it appears even Franju considered it a lesser work) but that hasn’t stopped the film from receiving a thorough restoration. The work done has just about obliterated all signs of damage and the image comes off looking crisp and new. There is also a lot of detail present, all of it sharp and crystal clear, with every small detail of the film’s central castle popping off of the screen. I was even blown away by the level of detail present in the gravel walkways that surround said setting. The image also retains a very filmic look thanks to the perfect rendering of the film’s rather fine grain structure. It’s stunning how clear this image really is.

What holds it back, though, are the blacks. I found contrast overall to be very splendid, with excellent, natural tonal shifts in the gray levels, lending a nice bit of dimension and depth, at least in the film’s brighter scenes. Unfortunately the blacks can be a bit muddy in places, weakening the details, and this can lend the film’s darker scenes a rather flat look, a stark contrast to those brighter sequences. The film builds on atmosphere and of course makes use of a lot of shadows, but the lack of depth in these scenes hampers that a little. Ultimately I suspect this may be just an aspect of the original photography more than anything else.

Still, the overall quality is good and I was pretty wowed by a good majority of the image.

8/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The French LPCM 1.0 mono presentation is fine but shows its age. I found music a bit harsh and edgy, even tinny, when it reaches for the higher moments. The rest of the track handles the range a bit better but dialogue can also come off fairly one-note. Still, can’t say I noticed any severe cases of damage.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Maybe Criterion has cleared out the available materials on director Geroges Franju with their two releases (Eyes without a Face and Judex) because Arrow only includes one significant on-disc feature, which is kind of a making-of presented on the French television program Le courrier du cinéma, which aired on January 1st, 1960. The program visits the set of the film and gathers interviews with Franju and then actors Pascale Audret, Pierre Brasseur, Marianne Koch, Dany Saval and Jean-Louis Trintignant. Unsurprisingly Franju takes up a good amount of time as the interviewers ask him about the film, how it compares to his previous one (Eyes without a Face), and his poetic sensibilities. Through its 27-minute runtime the episode then goes through the actors, who cover a wide range of subjects from how they got into acting to their thoughts on their characters. Surprisingly the piece actually spends most of its remaining time with Brasseur despite the fact his character dies right at the beginning (I’m not giving anything away as the film’s whole plot centralizes around this aspect that is already mentioned in the synopsis). I rather enjoyed his contribution, especially his concern about whether he can say the French equivalent of “buddy” on television. At heart it feels more like a promotional piece but it at least provides some insights into the film and Franju explains what he hoped to accomplish with it.

The film’s rather lengthy trailer closes of the disc. I was a bit shocked to see so little content on the disc (and was also surprised that the disc is dual-layer when there is less than 24GB worth of material on here) but as usual with one of Arrow’s releases the booklet comes with a lot of content itself. We get a couple of decent write-ups on the film, including a new one from Chris Fujiwara and then an the entire chapter on the film from Raymond Durgnat’s book Franju (Fujiwara’s is more favourable while Durgnat lumps it up as a “slight” Franju film). There is then a write-up on Franju and his work with the writers Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac. There’s also the inclusion of an interview/conversation involving the three, and the article is presented with a number of annotations. Despite the disc features disappointing a bit, at least in quantity, the booklet does provide some great material itself, so picking this up while the booklet is still around (it’s limited to first pressings) would be worthwhile.

3/10

CLOSING

It’s a slim edition in terms of supplements but the film gets a rather brilliant looking presentation.




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