• Spotlight On A Murderer



    Released by: Arrow Academy
    Released on: May 30th, 2017.
    Director: Georges Franju
    Cast: Pierre Brasseur, Pascale Audret, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Marianne Koch
    Year: 1961
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    The Movie:

    Revered French filmmaker Georges Franju directs this 1961 picture that introduces us to an aged and terminally ill maned named Count Herve de Kerloquen (Pierre Brasseur). Unbeknownst to many of the Count’s family members, he has a secret room hidden away, accessible only after twisting a decorative piece on his mirror. The Count does just that, wanders into the hidden room that closes behind him, and promptly dies.

    After his death, the Count’s attorney (Robert Vattier) gather’s the late Count’s eight descendants together and tells them that as there is no corpse, they must wait five years before they can have access to their inheritance. While they wait, they’ll also be required to not only keep up the massive castle the old man called home, but pay taxes on it as well. Understandably, there are some poor feelings about all of this, particularly as some of the Kerloquen’s are already in debt and were hoping that inheritance money might be of some help. It’s decided that the only way to make this work is to open up the castle to the public and charge admission.

    From here we learn of the different descendants. One of the would-be inheritors, Jean-Marie (Jean-Louis Trintignant) has an idea, however. He regales his fiancé Micheline (Dany Saval) with an old story about a knight who killed his wife’s lover in turn causing said wife to commit suicide by throwing herself out of a castle tower. Micheline talks him into staging a reenactment of sorts to draw the interest of the public. Christian (Jean Babilée) is talked into writing the script while Guillaume (Jean Ozenne) explores the castle in hopes of finding the hidden room and hopefully The Count’s corpse. While this is going on Henri (Gérard Buhr) explores the castle’s electrical wiring, sexy Edwige (Marianne Koch) flirts with an engaged man named Yvan (Serge Marquand) and Jeanne (Pascale Audret) becomes involved in a sticky relationship not only with her abusive husband Claude (Georges Rollin) but also his cousin André (Philippe Leroy).

    And then the various characters start dropping like flies, seemingly each the victim of an unlikely accident… clearly there is a killer in their midst.

    A quirky mystery that gleefully plays off of more genre clichés than you can shake a stick at, Spotlight On A Murderer is suspenseful, stylish fun. The black and white cinematography is never less than gorgeous while the main castle location used for the vast majority of the picture is pretty much perfect for this type of film. Lots of dark shadows hide one surprise after another, while the bizarre and somewhat unorthodox score from Maurice Jarre accentuates the drama, action and suspense in effective, albeit unexpected, ways. There’s a lot to like here as Franju keep the pacing quick and the audience involved – it’s a ‘whodunnit’ in the classic sense of the word, really, borrowing elements from Agatha Christie style mysteries and the like.

    Performances are a lot of fun across the board. It’s almost a shame that Pierre Brasseur’s character disappears so early in the film as he’s a blast to watch but the rest of the cast is also in fine form. It’s worth pointing out Jean-Louis Trintignant’s work here, it’s a fairly early role for him but even at this point in his career you can see that the guy had that ‘leading man’ charm that would go on to serve him well in the coming decades.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Spotlight On A Murderer arrives on a 25GB Blu-ray disc framed at 1.37.1, which appears to be the picture’s original aspect ratio. While occasionally some shots do look just a bit softer than others, this would appear to be how the picture was shot rather than an issue with what is otherwise a very impressive transfer. Black levels are solid while whites look nice and clean, leaving a richly detailed grey scale covering all points in between. The film’s grain structure remains intact, as it should, but the picture is never distracting in that regard. There’s very little print damage here at all worth noting, just the occasional white speck that, if you’re not looking for it, you probably won’t notice. Detail and texture are generally very strong throughout – really, nothing to complain about here, this is a very strong image.

    The only audio option here is a French language LPCM Mono track with optional subtitles provided in English only. The single channel mix is free of any issues, there are no problems with any hiss or distortion to note. The dialogue stays clean and well balanced and the score has nice depth to it.

    The main extra on the disc is a vintage production featurette from 1960 entitled Le Courrier du Cinema. This twenty-seven minute long piece was shot on location during the production of the film and surprisingly enough includes interviews with pretty much all of the film’s key players, including director Georges Franju and cast members Pascale Audret, Pierre Brasseur, Marianne Koch, Dany Saval and Jean-Louis Trintignant. It’s quite an illuminating piece with Franju discussing his thoughts on genre as well as some of his preferences while the cast members share some insight into their creative process. We also get a good look at some of the locations while they were being used for the shoot.

    Outside of that the disc also includes the film’s original theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection. As this is a combo pack release the clear Blu-ray keepcase also holds a DVD version of the movie. Also included alongside the two discs are some reversible sleeve art with original poster art on one side and some newly commissioned artwork by Peter Strain on the opposite side. With the first pressing of this release Arrow have also included a full color insert booklet that contains credits for the feature, credits for the Blu-ray release and an essay on the film by Chris Fujiwara.

    The Final Word:

    Spotlight On A Murderer is engaging, charming at times, occasionally macabre and always entertaining. It is stylish, tense and a whole lot of fun. Arrow’s Blu-ray is a little light on extra features but the presentation is as excellent as the feature itself.

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