• Rope Of Sand



    Released by: Olive Films
    Released on: December 23rd, 2014.
    Director: William Dieterle
    Cast: Peter Lorre, Burt Lancaster, Paul Henreid, Sam Jaffe
    Year: 1949
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    The Movie:

    Directed by William Dieterle in 1949, Rope Of Sand stars Burt Lancaster as a hunting guide named Mike Davis who was hired by a man for a job which found them both trespassing on land owned by a diamond company that was rich with gems. Shortly after this discovery, Mike was severely beaten by a local police official named Paul Vogel (Paul Henreid) in hopes that he'd be able to extract the whereabouts of this land, but Mike didn't speak a word as to where it was located. Some time passes and Mike returns to South Africa and things get complicated when a man named Martingale (Claude Rains) hires a beautiful woman named Suzanne Renaud (Corinne Calvet) to get Mike to spill the beans.

    Rope Of Sand starts off with a pretty sizeable bang that culminates with Henreid beating Lancaster's character quite severely in a surprisingly nasty scene that still packs a punch to this day. From there, however, the film runs into some pacing problems and turns into a slow moving and talky piece that, thankfully, finds its footing again in the last half hour or so. Even during the film's slower moments, however, there's enough to make this one worth a look. First and foremost is the cast. Lancaster is the perfect leading man in this film. He's handsome, he's dark and brooding, he's mysterious and he's tough. He fits the part well and his chemistry and rivalry with Henreid's sadistic power abusing police commandant is interesting and offers both of these fine actors a fair bit of good material to work with. On top of that, Lancaster's on screen relationship with Corinne Calvet (a gorgeous French actress unknown to US audiences before this film who would soon marry co-star John Bromfield who plays a guard in this picture) is fun and Calvet oozes sex appeal. A fun supporting performance from Peter Lorre as the aptly named Toady is welcome even if he doesn't add much to the film outside of his quirky screen presence, while Claude Rains delivers a typically dependable turn as well.

    The film also looks great. It's very well shot and makes great use of some exotic looking sets and locations. Shadowy interiors help pile on the atmosphere and some smooth camera work is nicely complimented by Franz Waxman's sophisticated sounding score. On a surface level, Rope Of Sand is top notch stuff.

    When you dig a little deeper, however, things don't hold up quite as well. There are some rather odd logic gaps in terms of how Lancaster's character deals with his foes. It seems unlikely that even if certain types are bent on returning to the scene of the crime that someone as intelligent as Mike would be so blatantly obvious about it. On top of that, during the big finish he opts not to use his gun but his fists and to 'fight like a man' when he could have been smart about things and used a gun to end his problem quickly - which seems like the type of decision his character would in fact make. There's some corny dialogue and ham-fisted exchanges and all sorts of macho strutting throughout the film that make it hard to attach ourselves to it in the way that the filmmakers might have wanted.

    Despite those flaws, however, Rope Of Sand turns out to be a pretty decent effort. If it's not a masterpiece it's still a pretty entertaining slice of classic Hollywood with an A list cast and some great production values.

    Note: Rope Of Sand was released in a boxed set Olive put out a couple of years ago called The Film Noir Collection. This individual release appears to be identical to the disc included in that boxed set (which also included Union Station, Appointment With Danger and Dark City).

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Rope Of Sand arrives on Blu-ray from Olive Films in a 1.33.1 fullframe transfer presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. Detail here is pretty solid and while some minor print damage is present in the form of some small scratches and specks throughout the film, the source used for the transfer was evidently in fairly good condition. Grain is present throughout the presentation but it never gets so heavy as to distract from the generally solid detail and texture that the HD transfer offers. Black levels are really nice, quite strong, and contrast looks spot on. All in all this is a sharp and crisp image offering surprisingly good texture and contrast along with strong shadow detail. The movie looks quite good in HD, there's nothing to object to here at all. Fans should be quite pleased with the visuals on this release.

    The English language DTS-HD Mono Audio track on the disc is pretty good. The score sounds quite strong here and helps to really ramp up the tension in the last twenty minutes or so. The hardboiled Dialogue stays crisp and clear, it's never a problem understanding any of the characters. Levels are well balanced and there's as much depth as you could reasonably expect from an older low budget picture. As it is with a lot of older movies, the limitations of the source material do come through, as they should, but this is a clean track that suits the movie just fine and which doesn't suffer from any serious problems. There are no alternate language options or subtitles of any kind offered on this disc.

    Aside from a static menu offering chapter selection, there are no extra features on this disc at all.

    The Final Word:

    A suspenseful and dramatic picture, Rope Of Sand is a well-made film that makes good use of an excellent cast despite some rather obvious flaws. Olive's Blu-ray looks great and sounds just fine, offering a nice improvement in those areas over the previously release DVD. While this is a title that really could have used some extras, well, that didn't happen – but at least the presentation is a good one and the disc comes recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!