• The Passing (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: June 25th, 2019.
    Director: John Huckert
    Cast: James Carroll Plaster, Welton Benjamin Johnson, John W. Huckert Jr., Wade Carney
    Year: 1983
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    The Passing – Movie Review:

    A strange, obscure low-budget picture directed by John Huckert in 1983, The Passing follows Ernie (James Carroll Plaster) and Rose (Welton Benjamin Johnson), a pair of WWII veterans, both widowers at this point in their life. They share a rundown house in a less than perfect neighborhood located outside of Baltimore. They bonded while in the service together but these days, their relationship, while still solid, is starting to show signs of strain. They’re broke and as they’ve been getting older, they’ve been having health problems. They don’t really have anyone to help them out with this, for all intents and purposes they are alone.

    After introducing us to them, we meet a young man named Wade (played by Huckert himself). He’s got a lot more going for him in life than the other two men – he’s young, he’s got a decent job and he’s happily married with a kid. His life comes crumbling down when his wife is attacked and Wade loses his cool and kills the culprit. He is found guilty of murder and put on death row.

    How do their storylines connect? Ernie is starting to worry about death – worry a lot. It’s clearly eating away at him and when his doctor encourages him to join a strange program wherein some elderly test subjects have their minds and, yes, their souls transferred into young, healthy bodies he takes a chance on it. Who should be assigned to become Ernie’s new host body? Wade, of course, although this assignment has not been a willing one. What could go wrong? Well, we won’t spoil things from here on out but the movie, which takes its sweet time to get going, really turns things around in its last half and goes into some genuinely unexpected and eerie territory.

    Made over a seven-year span, The Passing is not a perfect film but it is a very good one. As noted above, the pacing is pretty sluggish but this is a movie that’s definitely worth sticking with. As the film progresses, it gets increasingly more unusual not just from a narrative perspective, but from a sensory perspective as well. The film makes great use of some unique sound design and some interesting and creative effects set pieces to build to a pretty impressive conclusion, one that you won’t likely see coming.

    Interestingly enough, parts of the film were assembled using material originally shot for a couple of short films that Huckert made – The Water That Is Passed and Ernie And Rose (both included in the extra features section of this release) – but it works. The movie doesn’t feel like it was put together piece meal, it’s quite coherent and there aren’t massively distracting differences in the look of the footage. Performances are decent enough as well. James Carroll Plaster and Welton Benjamin Johnson do a better job than anyone else in the movie, their genuinely sad state of life will resonate with anyone who has seen a relative grow old to the point where their health starts failing. The movie treats its subject matter with maturity and a seriousness that the audience can get into. Yeah, this is quirky and odd and, again, a very definite slow burn – but it works.

    The Passing – Blu-ray Review:

    The Passing arrives on Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome on a 50GB disc in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer ‘newly scanned & restored in 2k from 16mm archival elements’ and framed at 1.33.1. This is one grainy looking film, which isn’t surprising given the elements that were available, but the transfer is a good one. Detail isn’t bad at all given what was available to work with and while minor to moderate print damage shows up from time to time, the image is stable and boasts good color reproduction and black levels.

    The only audio option offered for the feature is an English language mono track in 24-bit DTS-HD format. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. No problems here, the sound quality is pretty solid. The film’s sound design is unique and decidedly weird, and the odd noises and strange tones that are used throughout sound quite good here. Dialogue stays clear, the levels are well-balanced.

    Extras start off with an audio commentary with director John Huckert, moderated by Tom Fitzgerald of EXP TV. It’s an interesting talk with Fitzgerald, clearly enamored with the picture, talking about how he came to discover the film and keeping Huckert engaged throughout. As they talk, we learn about the origins of the picture, what the cast and crew brought to the movie, the film’s arduous sounding production schedule, problems that arose on set, how his family helped him get the picture finished and more. Interesting stuff.

    As to the featurettes, Water Under The Bridge is a sixteen-minute interview with producer/co-writer Mary Maruca who talks here about how she got to know Huckert who brought her on boar to work on the picture without having any actual experience in the industry. She also talks about working on the script with him and how her schedule changed over the course of the production. In Passing Time we’re treated to a n interview with cinematographer Richard Chisolm that clocks in at just over twenty-two-minutes in length. He discusses in this piece about meeting Huckert when they were in school together and using school equipment on the low budget shoot. He talks about his experiences on the shoot and some of the projects that he took on after finishing it.

    Vinegar Syndrome has also included a trio of short films directed by John Huckert:

    - The Water That Is Passed (1976)
    - Quack (1976)
    - Einmal (1979)
    - Ernie & Rose (1982)

    Rounding out the extras on the disc is a promotional and article gallery. Menus and chapter selection are also included. As this is a combo pack release, we also get a DVD version of the movie and Vinegar Syndrome packages this with some nice reversible cover artwork.

    The Passing – The Final Word:

    The Passing is a very slow burn but the pay off and the interesting ideas at play here make it all worthwhile. Vinegar Syndrome has done a nice job bringing this to Blu-ray with a solid presentation and a nice selection of extra features as well.

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