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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Sudden Fear (Blu-ray)
Sudden Fear (Blu-ray)
Sony Pictures // Unrated // December 13, 2016 // Region A
List Price: $34.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted December 8, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Directed by David Miller in 1952 from a screenplay by Lenore J. Coffee and Robert Smith based on the novel of the same name by Edna Sherry, Sudden Fear introduces us to a woman named Myra Hudson (Joan Crawford). Middle-aged Myra makes quite a decent living for herself as a playwright. When it comes time to cast her latest Broadway production, she passes on a young actor named Lester Blaine (Jack Palance). She doesn't think he's right for the part, he doesn't have what it takes to convincingly play a romantic lead.

A short time later and Myra is travelling by train from New York City to San Francisco. It's a long ride and who does she meet on the trip by, of course, Lester. He figures this is his chance to prove to her, first hand, that he can play a romantic lead. He puts his money where his mouth is and soon enough has got Myra completely smitten with him. Before you know it, they're quickly wed. Romance takes a dark turn when Lester learns Myra is writing her will. When he finds out that she intends to leave her vast fortune to a charity, he and the girlfriend Myra doesn't know about, Irene Neves (Gloria Grahame), plan to take her out of the picture permanently. However, Myra is no fool. When she figures out what's going on, she takes it upon herself to plan Lester's murder and to frame Irene for it.

An enjoyable noirish thriller with a really strong cast, Sudden Fear is interesting for a few reasons, not the least of which is the casting of Crawford against type. While rather infamous for her strong and stern roles, here she's… vulnerable. There are moments where the more familiar Crawford appears and yeah, of course she's given a chance to scream her lungs out. However, her Myra is an easy target for Palance's Lester. She's not only quite sympathetic, at least to start with, but proves a very good casting choice. She was a striking woman, her piercing eyes giving her performance some seriously intense screen presence and making the movie all the better for it. She shows really solid range and emotion here, and she handles pretty much every aspect of her character perfectly. Her work contrasts nicely with Palance's turn as the male lead. If she is prey, he is predator. He's sleazy, deceitful and a total snake in the grass, but he wins her over on that train ride. Palance was often cast as villains or heavies, even early in his career in films such as this, but there's a good reason for that: he played those parts well. His work in Sudden Fear is no exception to the rule. We know early on in their meeting on the train that he's up to no good. It's almost painful to see Myra fall for it! Throw Gloria Grahame into the mix as the girl on the side, and you've got a really impressive cast. She isn't given quite as much to do as the other two but her role here is very important and as you'd expect, she nails it. Not only is she an absolute stunner in the looks department, but she's a very strong actress. The camera loves her and Miller is careful to ensure that she's framed ever so carefully. Her character is also a victim of sorts, again, Palance's Lester is definitely the predator, though Irene lets her greed get the better of her.

The storyline is good, however it does depend a bit too much on circumstance and convenience for its own good. It seems unlikely that Myra and Lester would meet on a train just by happenstance, and without wanting to spoil how Myra finds out about the murder plot, well, that plot device also seems fairly unlikely. However, if you're able to look past issues like this, Sudden Fear works quite well. The cinematography from Charles Lang (whose resume is quite impressive, containing titles like Charade, The Magnificent Seven, Lang's The Big Heat and plenty more) is consistently impressive. Elmer Bernstein's score helps to heighten the drama, tension and romance inherent in the storyline nicely. Miller's direction is solid, moving the film at a nice pace and putting focus on character development and mystery in equal amounts.

The Blu-ray:

Video:

Sudden Fear appears on a 50GB Blu-ray disc taken a new 2k scan of some unspecified elements. The film is presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.37.1and it shows strong detail and consistent black levels. All in all, the transfer is pretty solid. Print damage is minimal, really only occasional specks here and there, no massive scratches or damage marks to complain about. Occasionally contrast will bloom a little bit but this looks to stem back to the original photography and for the most part, it appears to be just fine. Grain is present throughout, but it is never distracting even when it is definitely noticeable. Thankfully there are no issues with noise reduction or compression artifacts. This is a good transfer, quite film-like.

Sound:

The only audio option for the feature is an English language mono track presented in LPCM lossless format. There is a little bit of hiss in spots but overall it is fairly clean sounding. The track features properly balanced levels and a fairly robust sounding score. Dialogue stays clean and clear and easy to follow throughout the picture. There are no alternate language options, although English language closed captions are provided.

Extras:

First up, a far as the extras go, is a commentary track film historian Jeremy Arnold. It's a well-informed talk that covers director David Miller's career as well as those of the various cast and crew members involved in the production. There are interesting observations made about the work that Palance, Grahame and Crawford provide as well as some of the supporting cast members. Arnold also offers up some interesting observations about the cinematography and the score and also gives up some welcome detail on some of the locations used for the picture.

Outside of that we get a 2016 theatrical re-release trailer for the feature, as well as menus and chapter selection.

Final Thoughts:

Cohen's Blu-ray release of Sudden Fear is a good one, presenting the film in very nice shape and with an interesting commentary as its main extra feature. The movie itself seems unjustly underrated. The story isn't perfect but it is compelling while the production values and acting on display are all top notch. Fans of vintage thrillers and film noir would do well to check this out. Highly 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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