• The Leopard Man (Shout Factory) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: July 30th, 2019.
    Director: Jacques Tourneur
    Cast: Dennis O'Keefe, Margo, Jean Brooks, Margaret Landry
    Year: 1943
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    The Leopard Man – Movie Review:

    Jacques Tourneur ‘s adaptation of Cornell Woolrich's novel Black Alibi, which was produced for RKO by legendary producer Val Lewton, introduces us to a sultry chanteuse named Kiki (Jean Brooks). She and her manager Jerry Manning (Dennis O'Keefe) are currently making the rounds on the nightclub circuit in New Mexico when he comes up with a way to completely upstage with Kiki’s main competition, a beautiful castanet dancer named Clo-Clo (Margo). The plan? Have Kiki make her entrance with a leashed black leopard! This seems like a great idea until Clo-Clo’s castanet routine frightens the beast and it escapes into the general populace.

    At the same time, Teresita (Margaret Landry) is sent by her mother to get some cornmeal for her and is, tragically, killed by the wild animal on the loose. Jerry is legally cleared of any wrongdoing but rightly feels terrible about this. His attitude shifts but things get even worse when the well-to-do Consuelo (Tuulikki Paananen) meets up with beau Raoul (Richard Martin) and is found mauled to death in a nearby cemetery the next morning. Jerry, however, chats with zoologist Galbraith (James Bell) who says it would be unlike a leopard to stay in the city rather than head out into the less populated areas. Jerry starts to think that it might not be the leopard behind this rash of killings but instead a deranged man with something wrong upstairs!

    Not as good as the two prior Lewton/Tourneur collaborations (they being Cat People and I Walked With A Zombie), The Leopard Man is nevertheless a solid picture. Like the best of the director’s work, it’s a very atmospheric and moody picture, a quality of the film that is greatly enhanced by the shadowy cinematography of Robert De Grasse. The score from Roy Webb, who also scored Out Of The Past for the director, is also very strong and aids in building the proper amount of tension as the storyline progresses.

    The performances, however, as less than inspired. Dennis O’Keefe has been solid in pictures like T-Men and Raw Deal but here he just isn’t all that interesting to watch. Jean Brooks and Margo are both quite fetching, they definitely look their respective parts and the camera clearly loves them, but they’re only marginally more inspired than O’Keefe is. The romantic subplot in the picture falls flat and the reveal at the end in terms of ‘whodunnit’ really isn’t all that tough to figure out.

    But, the good definitely does outweigh the bad by a pretty big margin. There’s some very interesting and genuinely eerie set pieces in here, the movie is paced very well (at sixty-six-minutes in length it pretty much flies by) and even if the twist is easy to figure out the story is still a very enjoyable one.

    The Leopard Man – Blu-ray Review:

    Shout! Factory brings The Leopard Man to Blu-ray using an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer taken from a new 4K scan of the original camera negative and it looks excellent. Presented on a 50GB disc, the picture shows excellent detail and texture and is free of any compression artifacts. Black levels are nice and deep, reference quality most of the time, while the image consistently shows a lot more depth than it ever did on DVD. Contrast looks spot on, with clean whites and a nice gray scale noticeable throughout, while the transfer exhibits no problems at all with any noise reduction or edge enhancement, retaining a nice filmic amount of natural grain and showing virtually no print damage at all. Picture quality here is truly top notch.

    The English language DTS-HD Mono track on the disc is also of good quality. While understandably limited in range, the track is clean and properly balanced throughout. There are no problems to note with any hiss or distortion and the dialogue is clean and clear and easy to follow throughout the duration of the picture. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.

    There are two commentary tracks on this release, the first from film historian Constanine Nasr (who also directed Shadows In The Dark: The Val Lewton Legacy documentary that was included in the Warner Brothers Val Lewton Collection DVD boxed set). In this new track, Nasr spends a lot of time detailing the work that Lewton, Tourneur and Woolrich put into the picture, talking about the producer’s knack for projects like this and comparing the director’s work here to some of his other films. He covers the performances, the set pieces, the imagery used in the film, the score and RKO’s involvement in all of this. It’s a very well-researched and detailed track with a lot of great information contained inside.

    The second commentary, ported over from the aforementioned DVD release, is an archival track courtesy of filmmaker William Friedkin. This one takes a while to hit its stride, with Friedkin content to simply narrate what we’re already seeing for ourselves on screen (those familiar with his commentary tracks know that this isn’t the first time he’s done this!) but eventually he shifts gears and offers up some insightful observations about the picture’s effectiveness, the themes that it deals with an more.

    Aside from that we also get a trailer for the feature, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection.

    The Leopard Man – The Final Word:

    The Leopard Man isn’t the best of the Lewton/Tourneur collaborations but it is still very much worthwhile for those who enjoyed their earlier pictures together. If the performances are a bit flat the story itself is a fun one and there are some genuinely great set pieces in the picture. Shout! Factory has done a beautiful job bringing this one to Blu-ray – the transfer is fantastic, the audio quite strong and the two commentary tracks add value to the extra features department and also document the history of the film and those who made it. Recommended!

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