Like most people I am pretty familiar with Edward G. Robinson as the tough (and sometimes soft hearted) gangster type and I had never really seen him in anything but those old gangster flicks other then the obvious titles like Soylent Green or The Ten Commandments. When I received a copy of The Red House and started looking it up on-line I kind of figured it would be interesting to see Robinson in a suspense/thriller/almost horror film but went in still not knowing what to expect.
The Red House starts off simply enough, a narration on the country life and a lead in on the teenage stars of the film (Allene Roberts and Lon McCallister) Meg Morgan and Nath Storm. Meg wants to ask Nath to come to her farm and talk to her Father Pete Morgan (Robinson) about a job. Meg’s father hasn’t been getting around too well these days on his wooden leg. Of course Meg can’t compete with Nath’s girlfriend Tibby (played by the late great beauty Julie London), but eventually she gets around to asking and of course Nath gets the job. All is well in this scenic countryside story.
The walk home from the Morgan farm is about an hour for Nath so he decides that he’s going to take a shortcut on his way home through the woods. The mostly docile Pete Morgan suddenly flips into a panicked flurry warning young Nath to stay away from the woods. Nath doesn’t listen and so begins his curiosity that is the secret of the woods and Pete’s warning about a red house located somewhere within, a curiosity that takes Meg along for the ride that will change her life forever.
All in all not too bad of a tale. I’m sure in it’s time The Red House was a fresh idea that brought chills and fears to the masses with it’s quirky odd Edward G. Robinson performance that bordered dementia and fury. Like most old black and whites I found it refreshing to revisit the old ways of making films, but as a whole the story wasn’t as powerful as it probably once was. Then again I’ve watched literally hundreds of films so for those of you out there that occasionally see a film now and then your probably going to be more prone to find its climax more interesting.
PICTURE AND AUDIO QUALITY:
I would first suggest having a look in the bonus features section to see the Before and After Restoration Demo. Obviously the picture has looked much worse and with the side by side comparisons you can see how far the picture has come with a digital restoration. No longer is it faded looking or scarred with a fair amount of imperfections on the film. Still, The Red House doesn’t quite look as good as other old black and whites that have come to Blu-Ray. Forest scenes should be the pinnacle of HD use but a clutter of branches and leaves looks slightly out of focus, some exterior night scenes have a bit of haloing as well as a light white fade, and when the stars are shown before a fake background it really stands out (not that it didn’t in the original). There are some pretty decent HD moments in the film but for the most part this release won’t wow HD enthusiasts or even the more common film watcher whose chelled out the cash for an HD experience. Not even the audio lives up to the HD tag. Dialogue is buried beneath a sometimes robust and overly amplified musical score and even when the dialogue is clear and present it often times exceeds the scale for pitch, mainly when the actors go into a fury and yell. A definite improvement over the original but not extraordinary.
~Audio Commentary with William Hare: Hare is the author of "Early Film Noir: Greed, Lust and Murder Hollywood Style".
~Spanish Subtitles: I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t have English subs. I had to keep repeating one scene where a character is dying and their voice is whisper soft.
~Original Movie Art Postcard: This is actually pretty cool.
~Before & After Restoration Demo