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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Nightkill (Blu-ray)
Nightkill (Blu-ray)
Kino // R // November 14, 2017 // Region A
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted November 1, 2017 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie

When director Ted Post's Nightkill begins, Kathy Atwell (Jaclyn Smith) and her boyfriend Steve Fuller (James Franciscus), the business partner of her husband, are having a little grown up fun in the shower. What they don't know is that a tape-recorder hidden in the home records them in the act. Kathy's husband is an Arizona business man named Wendell Atwell (Mike Connors), he's quite successful at the office, but at home he's a louse. He treats his wife poorly, and is quite abusive to her. We understand why she plays around behind his back, despite the moral conundrum that it represents. At the same time, Wendell is intent on holding onto his wife, not just because she's beautiful, but because she's popular around town due to her charity work. Kathy is, for all intents and purposes, a kept woman. He just will not grant her a divorce.

Kathy's life takes a dark twist when, unbeknownst to her, Steve poisons Wendell. Unsure what to do about this, she lets Steve talk her into hiding the body in the freezer in their massive home. Steve, on the other hand, plans to head to the airport where he knows Wendell hid a suitcase full of money in a locker. The plan is to use the money so that he can Kathy can leave the country and start again somewhere away from prying eyes and potential legal problems after Steve takes care of the business trip Wendell was to go on. At the same time, Herbert (Fritz Weaver), the husband of Kathy's best friend Monika (Sybil Danning), makes a move on her. Unfortunately for both Kathy and Steve, when she wakes up the next morning Wendell's corpse is no longer in the freezer where she left it… but someone else's is! And it's at this point that a cop named Donner (Robert Mitchum) starts asking a lot of questions…

Ted post has made some legitimate classics. The man's filmography includes not only cult titles like The Baby but also big studio productions like Hang'em High, Beneath The Planet Of The Apes and Magnum Force. His work for television was also impressive, as he directed episodes of Gunsmoke, Rawhide and The Twilight Zone to name only a few. The guy knew what he was doing behind the camera even if much of his work was clearly done for the paycheck. You'd think, given the fact that Nightkill featured a genuinely strong cast, that it would rank up there with some of the man's better films. The fact of the matter is that it's pretty mediocre stuff. The noir elements at the core of the picture are played up nicely but the film is predictable and full of twists that fail to shock. As such, where there should be suspense there is only malaise and where they should be thick tension there is instead a feeling of bland familiarity.

The film isn't a complete waste of time, however. The picture is quite well shot and occasionally the cinematography lets us forget that we know where all of this is heading long before the characters that populate the picture seem to. The Arizona locations are nicely shot and help to differentiate the film from its many similar counterparts. Post's direction, however, isn't particularly exciting. It's workmanlike, it gets the job done, but it doesn't really stand out. Thankfully the cast are quite good here. Jaclyn Smith does ‘put upon' very well. Sure, she's quite attractive, but she's also a solid actress. She plays her part believably, we like her enough to want to know how her story is going to end. James Franciscus as her love interest is decent, while Mike Connors plays her bastard of a husband well enough to make an impression. The supporting players are more fun though. Fritz Weaver and Sybil Danning as well cast as Kathy's friends. Danning looks great and has a mysterious vibe about her that suits the part, while Weaver does a fine job playing a snake in the grass. And then of course there's Robert Mitchum. While in no way is his work here on the same level as classics like Out Of The Past or Night Of The Hunter, he's still fun to watch and well-cast as the cop. He's underused, to be sure, but the guy's screen presence is a big draw for a picture like this and he uses it well.

Video:

Nightkill is presented on Blu-ray in 1.85.1 widescreen in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer on a 25GB disc. It looks okay. Not great, not terrible, just okay. The image is frequently on the flat side, and detail can be soft. Much of this would look to have stem back to the film's lighting, it's a pretty dark looking picture, but fine detail never rises above mediocre. Better than DVD? Certainly, but don't expect this one to pop. There's some mild print damage here and there but for the most part the picture is pretty clean. There are no noticeable compression artifacts or edge enhancement related problems and the picture is devoid of noise reduction… but it still doesn't look all that impressive.

Audio

An English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track gets the job done without any trouble. Dialogue is clean, clear and nicely balanced. The levels are fine, there are no noticeable issues with any hiss or distortion. This track does what it needs to do. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.

Extras:

The main extra here is the inclusion of an audio commentary from Nathanial Thompson and Howard S. Berger. The track might not always be jam packed full of trivia and vital information related to its history, but the two commentators do what they can here. There's a lot of time spent comparing the film to other (frequently better) movies, but they also offer up some insight into how and why the various cast members who joined up for the shoot are here, Post's directing style and his work on this picture, the film's locations as well thoughts on the score, the script and the effectiveness of it all.

Also included on the disc is a fourteen minute video interview with leading lady Jaclyn Smith. Here she speaks about how she took on film work after her run on Charlie's Angels came to an end, her thoughts on Ted Post's directing style, what it was like acting alongside her co-stars in the feature, and what all was involved in doing her part in the film's big finish. It's an interesting look back at her work during this period of her career.

Additionally the disc includes a tape sourced teaser for the feature, bonus trailers for Stone Cold Dead, Heart Of Midnight, Still Of The Night and Night Angel as well as menus and chapter selection.

Final Thoughts:

Nightkill is by no means a great movie but it has its interesting elements, most of which stem around the cast. If the story is a bit predictable, it is at least reasonably well paced and occasionally tense enough to keep us watching. Not exactly high praise, but it is what it is. Kino's Blu-ray isn't going to blow anyone away as the transfer is less than ideal, but the commentary is alright and the interview with Smith well done. Mitchum comlpetists already know they want this. If you don't fall into that camp, rent it first.

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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