has an average rating of 6.8 on IMDb
4×3 1080p in AVC on a 25gb disc
DTS-HD 2.0 Mono Master Audio
with DVD & restoration comparison
– 100 minutes
– HD Cinema Classics (Film Chest)
This uses 18.8GB for the movie out of 19.5GB total.
Overall Verdict – Great Film / An OK Restoration
— Review written by: Justin Sluss —
Don’t worry, it’s legal. This film is PUBLIC DOMAIN.
The Movie Itself is based on the original novel of the same title written by George Agnew Chamberlain from 1943. The screenplay was adapted by Delmer Daves who also directed the film. Delmer Daves is best known for directing films like “Dark Passage” also from 1947 and the original “3:10 to Yuma” from 1957. Daves other writing credits included the films “Destination Tokyo” from 1943 and “An Affair to Remember” from 1957 — both of which starred Cary Grant. Safe to say Daves wrote and directed some memorable films. Enough about the director and onto the actual film here itself.
Let’s first focus on the characters, a bit of their backstory and the actors who play them. The story to this film, “The Red House“, focuses on two main characters, both in their late teens. The two teens are a young man named “Nath Storm” (played by Lon McCallister) and a young lady by the name of “Meg” (played by Allene Roberts). Nath lives with his mother “Mrs. Storm” (played by On a Munson) who we assume is widowed — as Nath’s father is never mentioned and she has romantic involvement with another man. Nath’s mother runs the local general store. Nath is dating a girl by the name of “Tibby” (played by Julie London). The other character Meg lives with a man and woman who happen to be brother and sister. These folks, “The Morgans“, include “Pete Morgan” (played by Edward G. Robinson) and “Ellen Morgan” (played by Judith Anderson). The brother and sister have raised Meg since she was a baby. They tell her that her parents died when she was very young.
Nath, his girlfriend Tibby and Meg all three go to the same high school and ride the same bus home each day. One day after Tibby gets off at her stop Meg asks Nath if he’ll come home with her and talk to Pete. Nath meets Pete and is asked if he would mind working around the Morgans’ farm as Pete has an injury where he has a wooden leg. Pete offers Nath a decent hourly salary for his work and the two come to an agreement. Nath actually ends up starting to work on the farm that day until it has become dark. Pete warns Nath not to go through “ox head” woods that he owns since he claims they are very dangerous and he should take the long way home on foot. Nath refuses to listen to Pete’s warnings about “the screams” and such. Young Nath opts to take the shortcut home through these woods where Pete has told him to avoid and ends up getting scared and turns back, returning to the Morgans’ home. Pete and Ellen tell him it’s OK for him to spend the night there in the barn of sorts and notify his mother (Mrs. Storm) that he’ll be staying the night. This is the beginning of Nath’s refusal to take the long way home and curiosity about these woods where he eventually is told that “the red house” is.
Eventually even young Meg gets a bit curious about why her guardian Pete wants Nath and even her to stay out of these woods so badly. Both Meg and Nath decide to investigate the woods all they can and try to find this mysterious red house Pete has told them about. This sets up the basic plot here to the story (film). Thrown in you have Nath’s girlfriend Libby getting jealous he’s working on the Morgans’ farm, as she suspects he has “the hots” for Meg.
“The Red House” proved to be one of the most underrated old films I’ve seen in quite some time. It’s regarded as a decent film but nowhere likely as highly as I suspect it should be. The performance here by Edward G. Robinson was very memorable and was ALMOST right up there with his performance in “Little Caesar” in my honest opinion. The director (Delmer Daves) who also adapted the original novel did an excellent job here creating a seamless telling of the story via motion picture. The two main characters played by Lon McCallister and Allene Roberts give excellent performances here and solidify the film even more. This old black & white film is a classic psychological thriller of sorts I feel and the mystery about “the red house” and why Pete wants the teens to stay out of the woods proves to be very enlightening to say the very least.
Video Quality on this release is in full 1080p using the AVC MPEG-4 codec on a BD-25 (25 gigabyte single layer Blu-ray Disc) in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio — whereas it was originally in 1.37:1 aspect ratio. This is presented in a 4×3 “fullscreen” presentation with black pillar bars on the side. According to the folks at HD Cinema Classics this was “digitally restored in high definition and transferred from original 35mm elements” and they even offer up a side-by-side before and after comparison featurette in the bonus materials to show this off. They have made one SOMEWHAT impressive effort here “cleaning up” the original 35MM film print but at the very same time it seems they’ve used a bit much DNR (digital noise reduction) and eliminated a lot of that precious film grain you’d expect from a 1947 film. Still, this looks better than the film ever has on any previous home video releases. A few occasional pieces of dirt or hairs or scratches remain in the visual presentation which is nice as I like to see a little bit of that left. I just wish they’d went a little “easier” so-to-speak on the DNR and not smoothed things over as much. The way it turned out here it almost feels a bit too “soft” for my tastes. All and all this is impressive for a smaller distributor that isn’t a major motion picture studio with millions and millions of dollars to throw at a restoration. That being said this earns a decent “3 Star Rating” overall for video quality. The average consumer will be somewhat pleased with the visual presentation here, while purists will be a tad bit upset in regard to the excessive DNR use removing the film grain.
Audio Quality on this release is presented in DTS-HD 2.0 Mono Master Audio. Let’s first start off by saying that this is the weakest point of this presentation of the film but then again this is a 1947 film that is public domain and didn’t receive any real notable audio restoration just some “touch up” it seems on the mix. It comes from a mono source that had a lot of pops and hiss in it originally if you’ve ever watched it online (since it’s a public domain film) or on DVD, VHS or such. A good bit of the pops and hiss have been cleaned up but a considerable amount does still remain, which will make you reconsider cranking this up too much in terms of volume. It almost seems to distort during the intense music of the Score. Speaking of which, the original score featuring the beautiful and eery music of Miklós Rózsa isn’t by any means done the justice it deserves. I can’t honestly say this really benefits the most from a lossless (DTS-HD MA) mix but then again I’m just happy this distributor didn’t opt for a lossy AC3 (Dolby Digital) encode. The dialogue here which is very, very important in this dramatic little film proves to be clear and doesn’t get “drowned out” or anything by the sound of hiss or pops. This earns a so-so “2.5 Star Rating” for audio quality. Given what all I’ve said so far, it shouldn’t come as much surprise that I was NOT really pleased with what I heard here. I think it could sound A LOT better given the right amount of attention and further removal of hiss and pops. In no way do I want this to ever be put in a 5.1 surround mix, I just wish they’d done the audio justice in a Mono mix so it would have truly made use of the lossless codec.
Bonus Materials on this release are ALL presented in full 1080p Hi-Def (HD) video quality with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo @192kbps sound.
- Audio Commentary by William Hare (author of the books “Early Film Noir: Greed, Lust and Murder Hollywood Style“, “L.A. Noir: Nine Dark Visions of the City of Angels” and “Hitchcock and the Methods of Suspense“) is nice to see included and proves to be worth the listen. Hare is very informative and an expert on the older classics like this film.
- Movie Trailer (1:24 – HD) is included.
- “Before and After Restoration Demo” (1:05 – HD) offers up some nice side-by-side comparisons as well as pans across the screen as well showing the original 35MM footage versus the new digital restoration. It’s here you’ll see the lack of film grain due to excessive DNR use that I was referring to above in the video quality section. Still, it’s great to see these type of comparisons in the form of a demo like this.
- Original Movie Art Postcard is a physical bonus material included inside the packaging.
- A DVD of the film in standard definition is included with Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono sound. The same bonus materials listed above are included on this DVD.
Overall the bonus materials are short and to the point. You get an audio commentary, a before and after restoration demo offering comparisons and the movie trailer, as well as a physical set of bonus materials in the form of the original movie art postcard and a DVD of the film in standard definition. Pretty decent set of supplemental material for a smaller distributor but to most consumers they won’t know this and feel it comes up short so-to-speak in terms of bonus. That being said, for what it is and given what I know about the film and distributor, it works for me. I just doubt many other folks will feel the same.
Blu-ray Disc packaging:
NOTE: The full-sized 1920×1080 files are in a .PNG file format and uncompressed. Please be patient with the slow loading times, keep in mind these files are at least 1MB (1 megabyte) in size each.