• House By The River (Kino Lorber) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Kino Lorber
    Released on: January 14th, 2020.
    Director: Fritz Lang
    Cast: Louis Hayward, Jane Wyatt, Lee Bowman
    Year: 1950
    Purchase From Amazon

    House By The River – Movie Review:

    Stephen Byrne (Louis Hayward) toils away as a writer, never really having any hits or selling many books but somehow managing to support himself and his wife Marjorie (Jane Wyatt), if only barely. He drinks a lot and doesn’t seem to take his marriage vows very seriously – it’s accurate to call him a bit of a bastard, really.

    One night, while three sheets to the wind, Stephen gets a peek at his wife’s beautiful maid, Emily (Dorothy Patrick), in the bath. When she comes down the stairs later on, he gets fresh with her. Unimpressed by his unwanted advances, she pushes back and he overreacts and winds up strangling her to death. He needs help disposing of her body and he gets it from his brother John (Lee Bowman) after lying to him about how he wound up in the possession of a corpse. John and Stephen seal her in a body bag and throw her into a nearby river, hoping that once it sinks it’ll no longer be a problem for them.

    Not so surprisingly, Emily’s body washes ashore. When the cops start snooping around, unscrupulous Stephen pens the blame on John, who has been falling for Marjorie harder and harder as of late. The cops start snooping around, trying to figure out what really happened, and the publicity surrounding the scandal proves to be good for Stephen’s otherwise dismal book sales, giving him all the incentive he needs to do whatever it takes to stay out of jail…

    With Lang’s career having been on a pretty steep downward slope at this point in time, he made this low budget film for Republic Pictures. While working for a ‘poverty row’ production house might not have carried with it the prestige of some of the other studios he’d done work for when his star was still shining brightly, it did afford him the opportunity to make different films than the thrillers that his name was so closely attached to. House By The River is one of those films, a picture that starts off like a noirish suspense picture and that really grabs you with its intense opening but then gives way to something different, becoming much more of a gothic melodrama than you might expect it to be. But it works.

    Scripted by Mel Dinelli (of The Spiral Staircase) and nicely shot by cinematographer Edward Cronjager, House by the River makes up for what it lacks in A-list stars and nail-biting suspense with some solid acted from its less recognizable cast and a well-told, if slightly predictable story. It’s clear from the sets built for the film that Lang was working with less of a budget than maybe he needed to be to pull this off as effectively as he could have but the interiors of the house look great, nice and shadowy, full of mood. The opening sequence where Stephen winds up murdering and then disposing of poor Emily is also a stand out set piece, a genuinely eerie bit of work that’ll stick with you after the film shifts gears and delves more into the matter of relationships than consequence.

    House By The River – Blu-ray Review:

    Kino brings House By The River to Blu-ray taken from a new 2K restoration presented framed at 1.37.1 in AVC encoded 1080p high definition, with the feature taking up almost 30GBs of space on the 50GB disc. The picture quality here is very strong. Contract looks excellent, we get nice deep blacks, clean whites and a good grey scale covering everything in between. There aren’t any noticeable issues with compression artifacts and grain is handled well. Detail is quite strong here, there’s good depth and texture throughout – it’s pretty hard to find anything to gripe about here, the movie looks really good.

    The only audio option on the disc is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track. Optional English subtitles are also provided. No problems to note, the track is clean and properly balanced.

    Extras kick off with an all new audio commentary by Film Historian Alexandra Heller-Nicholas that begins by tackling the gender roles in the film and the way that certain actions of certain characters are tied into all of that. She explores the sexual politics of the story and the setting, how the involvement of the House Un-American Activities Committee around this time played into things and lots more. She also offers lots of details on Lang’s career up to this point as well as a lot of details about the cast and crew that he worked with on this picture. She also offers thoughts on the effectiveness of the cinematography, the costuming and the score. It’s a well-researched track with a lot of good information in it, a nice mix of trivia and personal insight.

    The disc also includes an interview with Producer and Historian Pierre Rissient that runs eight-minutes in length. Here he shares his appreciation for the film despite its flaws and talks about how he found a print that was used to bring it back into circulation. It’s an interesting piece carried over from Kino Lorber’s 2005 DVD release of the film.

    Rounding out the extras are trailers for a few other Kino Lorber properties, menus and chapter selection.

    House By The River – The Final Word:

    House By The River is not Lang’s best film but it is quite a bit better than it’s unjustly maligned status would have you believe. It boasts good cinematography, tense atmosphere and some pretty solid performances. Kino’s Blu-ray presents the picture in excellent shape and with a couple of nice extra features as well. Recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized House By The River screen caps!