Released by: Scorpion Releasing
Released on: December 13, 2016
Directed by: Joseph Losey
Cast: Vanessa Redgrave, Sarah Miles, Diana Dors, Patti Love, Brenda Bruce, Felicity Dean, Sally Sagoe, Anna Tzelniker
Year: 1985 Purchase From Amazon
A group of women meet regularly at the local Turkish bath, not just to soap up but also to share their lives. Violet (Diana Dors) runs the bath, which is utilized by quiet, introspective, and motherly Nancy (Vanessa Redgrave), sexy Sarah (Sarah Miles), and angry, abused Josie (Patti Love). The women talk a lot, though sometimes they shout at each other, mostly to relay information that isn't all that interesting and might, in some instances, put the viewer to sleep. Then, out of the blue, the ladies learn that their precious Turkish bath is going to be closed down, which means no more therapeutic shouting, moaning, or bitching sessions. That just won't do, so they decide to take matters into their own hands to save the place.
Steaming is an adaptation of Nell Dunn's play of the same name, first staged at the Theatre Royal, Stratford, in London, England in 1981. It won a prestigious award and not long after was adapted by Patricia Losey, wife of famed director Joseph Losey (These Are the Damned, 1962; The Servant, 1963; and Modesty Blaise, 1966, among others) to the big screen. Her husband directed the film version. Losey's usual flair is lacking, and instead he opts for a flat look, perhaps to imitate a voyeur peering in on a group of women as they lather, laugh, love, and lament. Adding evidence to this view is that Losey, while overseeing an ample amount of female nudity, never exploits it for sexual titillation. Rather, what we see is likely what one would see were they to visit a Turkish bath aimed at women. Regardless, Losey's directorial choices, while certainly subdued, do little to pique interest in the material. It's left to the stars to do that. Vanessa Redgrave is ostensibly the lead, while Patti Love gets the best and most dramatic dialogue. Diana Dors is afforded a smaller but no less important role. These women - as well as the others in the cast - do everything they can to make the most of the material, but there isn't a whole lot for them to work with, excellent though they may be.
Steaming proved to be the last film for both Dors and Losey. Dors died from ovarian cancer in May 1984, while Losey died the very next month after briefly battling an illness. The film had just been completed; it was released to theaters posthumously the following the year.
Scorpion Releasing has dropped Steaming onto Blu-ray with an MPEG-4 AVC encode in 1080p high-definition. The film is presented in 1.78:1, taken from a 'brand new 2016 HD master from the original interpositive,' according to the notes on the back of the case. The film is placed on a BD25, but given the lack of extras and relatively short length, there are zero problems related to compression. Detail appears good but not great; the entire film takes place in a few rooms within one location, and most of the detail appears in the walls of or decorations in that location. Color is decent, particularly greens and blues, though skin tones appear pale, as if just a tad bit faded, calling into question the accuracy of the other colors. The Blu-ray retains Steaming's filmic look, thanks to a minor amount of dirt and debris; it's never overpowering or distracting - or all that noticeable - but neither is the film airbrushed into visual falsehood. Even better, no sharpening or noise reduction tools appear to have been used, leaving a mild layer of grain intact. Neither is crush a problem; this isn't a particularly dark film with detail lurking in the shadows.
Scorpion has opted to use English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 for the film's soundtrack. This is a film that centers around women having conversations in a Turkish bath, so one shouldn't go into it expecting a showcase for one's surround system. The track is perfectly serviceable. It's well moderated except for one brief instant when one character begins screaming, which seems mixed particularly loud compared to the rest of the sound. There are few sound effects, and conversations are clear and easily discernible. There are no secondary tracks, commentaries, or subtitles.
The only extra for the main feature is a theatrical trailer, which runs 2:43 and is also presented in hi-def. Once that trailer has concluded, give your player a few seconds and the trailer for City on Fire (:32) plays, followed by trailers for Barbarosa (1:48), The Last Days of Chez Nous (2:06), and Angel Baby (2:02).
The Final Word:
Steaming is a rather dull film almost redeemed by good performances. If only it had been adapted from better source material. As it stands, Losey ended his career on a down note. Scorpion's presentation looks good enough that it shouldn't disappoint diehard fans and will probably outright please some. Still, detail levels are moderate while colors aren't quite as sharp as they should be.
Christopher Workman is a freelance writer, film critic, and co-author (with Troy Howarth) of the Tome of Terror horror film review series. Horror Films of the Silent Era and Horror Films of the 1930s are currently available, with Horror Films of the 1940s due out later this year.
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