• Whirlpool (Twilight Time) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Twilight Time
    Released on: September 17th, 2019.
    Director: Otto Preminger
    Cast: Gene Tierney, Richard Conte, Jose Ferrer, Charles Bickford, Barbara O'Neil, Eduard Franz, Fortunio Bonanova
    Year: 1949
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    Whirlpool – Movie Review:

    In 1949’s Whirlpool, director Otto Preminger teams up once again with the beautiful Gene Tierney, the actress he had used so well a few years earlier in Laura. The story concerns Ann Sutton (Tierney), a wealthy and materialist wife of Doctor William Sutton (Richard Conte), a prominent psychoanalyst well regarded by his peers. Ann has a problem, whoever – she’s a kleptomaniac.

    While out shopping one day at a high-class department store, she’s nabbed for shoplifting when she tries to swipe an expensive broach. A man named Korvo (José Ferrer) intervenes – he’s a hypnotist who claims that he has the ability to prevent her kleptomaniacal impulses from taking over, but there’s more to it than that, even if she doesn’t realize it yet. When a patient of her husband’s is found murdered and it looks like Ann might be the killer, Korvo’s true nature comes to light.

    Once again, Preminger stays on top of things in terms of the visuals. There are some really memorable shots here, be it Tierney in a cell clad in a black sweater that almost seems to meld with the bars themselves, or a sweaty face made all the more unsettling placed behind a magnifying glass. Again, shadow and light play a huge part in keeping our eyes darting across the screen, and even when the plot starts to slip and slide a little bit here, we’re only too happy to keep paying attention. David Raskin’s score for this picture is also excellent, accentuating the drama and the tension in the story line pretty much perfectly.

    Of course, the fact that the stunning Gene Tierney is the female lead here doesn’t hurt things either. While it’s possible that her character in this one hit a little too close to home (it’s been well documented that she battled severe depression and breakdowns brought about by problems in her personal life) she absolutely nails it. She was a stunning woman but she had the acting skills to back it up and was, when given the right material, much more than just a pretty face. Backing her up are strong efforts from Conte as her husband and an impressive turn from Ferrer as the snake-in-the-grass able to fool Ann and take advantage of her. Charles Bickford shows up in this one too, playing a cop and doing a very fine job of it, while another score from David Raskin adds to the film’s strong points.

    Whirlpool – Blu-ray Review:

    Twilight Time brings Whirlpool to Blu-ray on a 50GB disc in its original 1.33.1 fullframe aspect ratio in AVC encoded 1080p high definition, with the feature given plenty of breathing room, taking up just over 34GBs of space. Black levels are solid here too, and there’s pretty decent depth evident throughout the movie. Minor print damage shows up in the form of small white specks here and there but there’s nothing too distracting and there are no instances of noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression artifacts to note here. Fans of Preminger should be quite happy with the film’s presentation, it looks very good.

    Audio chores are handled by a 24-bit DTS-HD 1.0 Mono track in the film’s original English language. There are no problems here, the single channel track sounds just fine and perfectly authentic. Dialogue stays clean, clear and easily discernable and there are no problems with hiss or distortion. Depth is about where you’d expect it but the score also sounds quite nice here. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. A 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 track is also included, it’s also of good quality and it doesn’t really differ all that much from the single channel option.

    The main extra on the disc is an audio commentary with Film Historian Richard Schickel who starts off by talking about the screenplay and the two men who wrote it. He also covers the music used in the film, details the contributions of the different cast and crew movie and more. He gives us a fair bit of background detail on Preminger and the ‘Fox Quintet’ series of films that he made at this point in his career. He talks about the relationship between Tierney and Preminger, the themes that this and other Preminger noir pictures tend to explore, some of the more subtle moments of humor featured in the picture, Preminger’s infrequent use of close-up shots in the film, and more. It’s a good track, though it is plagued by frequent moments of silence that drag it down a bit.

    Aside from that, Twilight Time provides an isolated music track in DTS-HD format, the film’s original theatrical trailer (also with an isolated music track), menus and chapter selection. An insert booklet containing an essay on the film by Mike Finnegan is also included – definitely worth reading, some nice archival artwork is reproduced in the booklet as well.

    Whirlpool – The Final Word:

    Whirlpool is an excellent film, masterfully directed by Preminger and featuring top notch performances from Conte and especially the stunning Gene Tierney. Twilight Time’s Blu-ray release is a bit light on extras but the commentary is good and the presentation is quite strong. Highly recommended.
    Click on the images below for full sized Whirlpool Blu-ray screen caps!