• Quiet American, The

    Released By: Twilight Time
    Released On: June 13, 2017.
    Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
    Cast: Audie Murphy, Michael Redgrave, Claude Dauphin, Girgia Moll, Bruce Cabot, Kerima, Richard Loo
    Year: 1958
    Purchase From Screen Archives

    The Movie:



    Actually, it's more than a decade prior to Captain Willard heading up the river to find the defected and defective Colonel Kurtz. It is 1952 in Saigon, it's the Chinese New Year, and the currently warring Communists and French armies are enjoying a truce as the celebrations in the city centre kick up a notch. Booze flows, dragons dance, and the only artillery to be heard are the scattered explosions of fireworks. The peace doesn't last long, though, when the body of a young American (Audie Murphy) washes up on the shore, a victim of foul play. Inspector Vigot (Claude Dauphin) initially believes that his man is British war correspondent Thomas Fowler (Michael Redgrave), owing to the fact that the dead man had stolen Fowler's Vietnamese girlfriend, Phuong (Giorgia Moll) only a short time before. But although Fowler is definitely guilty of something, premeditated murder seems to be outside of the journalist's wheelhouse.

    Through a series of flashbacks, we get to know Fowler's history with Phuong, his live-in girlfriend while he's away from his longtime wife, and his introduction to the idealistic young American that materializes out of nowhere. A member of Americans For Free Asia, the American has plenty of ideas about how the war in Vietnam should go, who should be fighting, who needs to do what, and why their should most definitely be a third force in play to make everything right in Vietnam, discussions that he rails on about endlessly over his Lucky Strike cigarette smoke. His sentiments do in fact pre-date the rationale that would send thousands of young Americans to die in the jungle years later, but for the time being, Fowler has a larger problem; the fact that the American seems to have his sights set on Fowler's younger girlfriend.

    The strange triangle gets more complicated when Fowler has his suspicions confirmed while up north to witness the war firsthand; the appearance of the American, traveled all that way by cover of night to express his intentions over a drink and a smoke. But it's on the return trip when things really get dicey, as the two find themselves under fire, and Fowler relies on the American to save his life. The gratitude is short-lived, however, when the American makes good on his promise to show Phuong a better life, exposing Fowler's pledge to a secure future as lies. Hurt and alone, Fowler gets his shot at revenge when shown evidence that the American may in fact be a lethal strategist, using his connections back home to craft a series of deadly explosives. But with his sources being of the shady variety and the fact that he's just had his girlfriend plucked from his grasp, Fowler's credibility and apparent willingness to sell the American up the river at any cost leaves Inspector Vigot unimpressed.

    Based on the novel by Graham Greene, this film version of The Quiet American finds Greene's subtext all but eliminated by Director Mankiewicz in an effort to make the film more palatable for audiences. Wearing its politics rather obviously on its sleeve The Quiet American doesn't leave anything open to interpretation, a hindrance that has left it open to criticism, most often in comparison to the novel, for years. But that's not to say that the film itself is a bust; filming in Saigon, Mankiewicz has provided a beautiful backdrop for the story, allowing the dialogue-driven slow burn of a film to unfold in a picturesque environment that lends authenticity to the story. And while the ending itself is a serious letdown after investing in the film for the first 100-or-so minutes, there's enough subterfuge and well-crafted wordplay to entertain.

    Praise gets heaped on Audie Murphy, and rightfully so, due to the man's talent; but it is Redgrave who shines here, always Fowler, always convincing in his tone and mannerisms. Having a standout supporting cast doesn't hurt, to be sure, but Redgrave is the star here no matter whose name appears first on the marquee, and it's his abilities that carry The Quiet American into the closing credits as only an actor of his status can. There's a fair levelling of accusation that indicates that Mankiewicz's film misses Greene's point, entirely, but that doesn't mean that we can't enjoy this cloak-and-daggerish piece of political propaganda.


    The Quiet American comes to Twilight Time Blu-ray in a 1.85:1 AVC-encoded transfer that manages to look pretty stellar for most of the running time. Contrast is quite striking during many moments, even even scenes that lean a bit towards the softer side still manage to impress. No evidence of compression reared its ugly head for the two-hour running time, and although there was some mild strobing evident in one scene, other issues including dirt, debris, damage and speckling were kept to a minimum. All in all, The Quiet American looks great for a film coming up on 60 years old.

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 track is serviceable enough, though it does show it's age here and there; a brittleness can be detected during certain scenes, which presents as a mild harshness. Dialogue is clear throughout, however, and balanced nicely with the rest of the soundstage, allowing for pleasant listening experience.

    The usual Music Only Track (With Some Effects) is available as a supplement, as is a Trailer for the film and the Twilight Time Interactive Catalogue. Again, Twilight Time's Julie Kirgo provides an entertaining and insightful essay in the case insert.

    The Final Word:

    A slow burn of a film with some brilliant dialogue that doesn't quite pull it off at the end, fans of The Quiet American will nonetheless be pleased with this excellent transfer.

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