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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Strange Affair of Uncle Harry (Blu-ray)
Strange Affair of Uncle Harry (Blu-ray)
Olive Films // Unrated // March 31, 2015 // Region A
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted March 17, 2015 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Directed by Robert Siodmak (and based on a Broadway play by Thomas Job) in 1945, The Strange Affair Of Uncle Harry revolves around The Quincy family. Made up of Harry Melville Quincy (George Sanders) and his two sisters Hester (Moyna Macgill) and Lettie (Geraldine Fitzgerald), the family all share space inside the large family home that they inherited from their parents, both now long gone. Bachelor Harry works away at his job in the clothing industry while Lettie deals with her health issues and Hester meddles with things, never happy and always complaining about her lot in life.

Their fairly mundane life changes when Harry meets a woman from New York named Deborah Brown (Ella Raines), in town with some folks from a firm interested in checking out the clothing factory. Soon, Harry and Deborah have fallen fast in love and announce their plans to wed. Hester is happy for her brother and has nothing but kind words for the couple. Lettie, on the other hand, has a completely opposite reaction and hasn't the least bit of interest in hiding it. Deborah picks up on this, it'd be hard for her not to, but when Lettie has a fit on the day the two are to leave for Boston to seal the deal and Harry puts their plans on hold, Deborah leaves him. She knows he won't leave Lettie on her own. Months go by and Harry finally wises up and realizes that all this time, Lettie has been manipulating him using her supposed illness just to keep him around. Upon this realization, there's a remarkably drastic paradigm shift of sorts and Harry, now very much a changed man, sets out to get revenge.

A fairly twisted mix of pitch black comedy, noirish thrills and effective drama, The Strange Affair Of Uncle Harry doesn't quite end with the bang that it should (as the story goes there were censorship issues at play and rather than deal with those they studio went for a softer ending) but it still makes for a satisfying watch. The plot makes some interesting twists and turns as well as some rather hard to miss allusions to Lettie's true feelings for her brother. There are some welcome Hitchcockian elements at play in the film as well, the small town setting proving itself ripe with shifty characters and sinister plotting all of which would easily have come from one of the Master of Suspense's own pictures but Siodmak winds up taking this in his own direction. If it isn't as ‘text book noir' as some of his other pictures, The Killers comes to mind, it's close enough.

Performances in the film are strong across the board. George Sanders, here playing a more heroic or at least noble character than he's typically known for, does very fine work. His take on Harry creates a likeable character and when he and Deborah do seem to find happiness together, we have no problem whatsoever wanting it to work out for them. He's also quite good once he finds out what Lettie has really been up to. We see him bring Harry in a completely different direction at that point and he's a kick to watch here. Moyna Macgill and beautiful Ella Raines are also quite good but the real scene stealer in the film has to be Geraldine Fitzgerald as Lettie. She's quite obviously damaged goods and her performance here is both frequently intense and entirely convincing. There's a hint of sadness underneath the anger and the frustration and what may or may not be a broken heart once Deborah comes around. Watching Fitzgerald create such an interesting, bizarre and multifaceted character dealing with the depths to which obsession can sometimes send us is definitely one of the film's aspects that makes it stand out.

The production values for the film are also nice. The score and the cinematography both enhance the story and the acting the way they should and the film moves at a nice, brisk pace without feeling rushed or sloppy. Some will and do continue to take issue with the ending we can chalk that up to the period in which the film was made. Even if it is a softer finish than we're setup to want, it still brings things to a satisfying conclusion.

The Blu-ray:

Video:

Olive Films gives The Strange Affair Of Uncle Harry its Blu-ray debut in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed in the movie's original 1.33.1 fullframe aspect ratio. The picture obviously hasn't undergone any sort of extensive restoration as specks and scratches are pretty common throughout. Though this print damage is regular, it is at least minor and won't don't see a whole lot in the way of really big, distracting damage. The disc is well encoded and free of any compression artifacts. Black levels look good if just short of perfect and contrast looks quite nice here. There's a good amount of detail present, the close up shots show this off better than anything else, and if this isn't a reference quality black and white picture it's a perfectly watchable and quite obviously high definition presentation.

Sound:

The only audio option on the disc is an English language DTS-HD Mono track. There's a bit of hiss here and there but for the most part this is a clean sounding mix. Dialogue is easy enough to follow and understand and while it could have sounded a little bit cleaner than it does, it's not bad for an older single channel mix of a fairly obscure film made on a modest budget. The score has okay range and presence and the levels are properly balanced throughout.

Extras:

Aside from a menu and chapter selection there are no extras on this disc.

Final Thoughts:
The Strange Affair Of Uncle Harry is a really solid thriller with some great performances from pretty much all involved and some nice photography to properly set the mood. The story is entertaining, tense and even blackly comic in spots and fans of vintage thrillers and film noir pictures should appreciate this one, particularly now that it can be seen in high definition. Olive's film could have been cleaned up a bit more than it was and some extras would have been nice but this is a definite improvement over what fans have had to work with in the past. Recommended!

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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