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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Hurry Sundown (Blu-ray)
Hurry Sundown (Blu-ray)
Olive Films // Unrated // December 23, 2014 // Region A
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted December 20, 2014 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Based on the novel of the same name and directed by Otto Preminger for Paramount in 1967, Hurry Sundown takes place after the Second World War where a canning company attempts to buy a massive swatch of farmland in rural Georgia. Julie Ann Warren (Jane Fonda) is the legitimate owner of the property but her husband, a draft-dodger named Henry (Michael Caine), has taken it upon himself to work out a deal whether she likes it or not.

In order to make all of this work, however, the company needs to buy up some of the surrounding properties, one of which is owned by Rad McDowell (John Phillip Law), who just so happens to be Henry's cousin. He lives there with his wife Lou (Faye Dunaway) and their kids. The other parcel of land is owned by a black man named Reeve Scott (Robert Hooks), the son of Rose (Beah Richards), who worked as Julie Ann's nanny from her younger days. While Henry is intent on making this deal go through, Rad isn't interested in selling and neither is Reeve for that matter. The two men decide to work together against Henry's intentions, and he's none too happy about that at all. When Roses passes away, Henry tries to rope Julie Ann into forcing Reeve off of the land, figuring that Judge Purcell (Burgess Meredith), a known racist, would have no problem with the legality behind any of this, this ensuring that Henry's plan will come to fruition. Of course, Henry's actions will have consequences he could not have foreseen…

Well, it would seem that Preminger had the best of intentions with this project but the end result is a fairly dull melodrama that long overstays its welcome and that muddles its own message in some bizarre ways. The idea is an earnest one: the poor white farmer played by John Phillip law working together with the poor black farmer played by Robert Hooks to stand up in racial harmony against the greedy, affluent Henry played by Caine, who would seem to have the other affluent (and racist) townspeople unanimously on his side. Given that this was made in the late sixties during the boom years of the Civil Rights movement it makes sense that Preminger would want to tackle this sort of subject matter.

The friendship that develops between Reeve and Rad is believable enough. The two actors do fine in this regard and work well together on screen. Preminger seems more interesting in portraying the ‘poor white trash' element of the film than in really going anywhere with Rad and Reeve's collective plight once it's established. By the time that Henry buys off a bunch of other poor white people in the area to do his evil bidding the film has started to dabble in unfortunate stereotypes from both sides of the racial spectrum of the day. On top of this, a lot of the performances here are, despite the fact that many of them come from A-list performers, ridiculously heavy handed and overdone. Caine in particular does not fare well here. Sure, he's capable of delivering wonderful work but his take on Henry, when combined with Fonda's take on Lou, is pretty terrible. It's fine that their relationship is established as a fairly nasty one but they're both so venomous at times that they come across as soap opera villains rather than believable characters. This doesn't stop them from hopping into bed and ignoring Julie's young son, born before Henry was in the picture.

Preminger had an obvious interest in trying to use film to provoke, and he tries that here, but the end result is so far removed from the actual issues plaguing America at the time that it's hard to get behind this one and see it as anything more than a massive misfire. Paramount seemingly dumped a bunch of money into it, given the names in the cast and all and the quality of the location photography (the movie, for all its faults, is very nicely put together) but for all intents and purposes, this Preminger picture is closer to his most famous disaster Skidoo than to lauded and critically acclaimed masterpieces like Laura or Advise And Consent.

The Blu-ray:

Video:

Hurry Sundown arrives on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.35.1 widescreen. This high definition transfer won't blow you away, at times it looks fairly soft, but this seems to be how the movie was shot more than an issue with the technical side of things. The picture is moderately grainy but free of any serious print damage, just a few white specks here and there. Skin tones appear warm and natural looking while color reproduction is decent if maybe just a little bit understated. Detail definitely surpasses what DVD would offer here, texture as well, and there is added depth thanks to the enhanced resolution offered over an SD presentation. This is a respectable showing, just not a reference quality one.

Sound:

The only audio option on the disc is a DTS-HD Mono track in the film's original English language, no alternate language or subtitle options or offered. The audio is clean and clear and easy to follow, the dialogue easily discernible and the score sounds fine. There are no issues here with hiss or distortion and the levels are properly balanced throughout the movie. Range is obviously limited by the age and format of the source material, so expect some flatness throughout the movie, but overall the movie sounds decent enough.

Extras:

There are no extras on the disc outside of a static menu offering chapter selection.

Final Thoughts:

Hurry Sundown will offer those fascinated by big budgeted studio disasters and bad movies ample opportunity to revel in the film's stench, but those looking for a more serious cinematic offering should quickly turn away. It's an interesting film to see, just to try and figure out for yourself where it all went wrong, but a good movie it is not. Olive's presentation is decent enough but devoid of any extras. Some interviews or a retrospective look back at this picture would have helped out a lot. Worth seeing, but more as a curiosity item than anything else. Rent it.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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