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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Grissom Gang (Blu-ray)
The Grissom Gang (Blu-ray)
Kl Studio Classics // R // November 27, 2018 // Region A
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted January 2, 2019 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

A remake of the British film No Orchids for Miss Blandish made by St. John Legh Clowes in 1948, the 1971 Robert Aldrich picture The Grissom Gang was released on DVD by MGM back in 2004 and now gets a welcome high definition upgrade from Kino Lorber.

The story revolves around the kidnapping of a wealthy heiress named Barbara Blandish (Kim Darby) by a trio of rather unprofessional hoods. Soon after she's been snatched, they're taken out by some men led by Eddie Hagan (Tony Musante). These guys are the titular Grissom Gang and they answer to a tough matriarch named Gladys 'Ma' Grissom (Irene Daily). While Eddie might, at first, appear to be the one to watch out for here, the real threat that the gang poses comes in the form of Gladys' dangerous son, Slim (Scott Wilson). He's clearly got issues with his mother and, well, with pretty much everyone and when he starts to fall in love with poor Barbara, things get complicated for everybody.

As the film plays out, the gang members find themselves an increasing amount if pressure, unsure if Barbara's millionaire father, John P. Blandish (Wesley Addy), will pay up or not. John hires Dave Fenner (Robert Lansing), a private detective, to track down the gang which he does with some help from a singer Anna Borg (Connie Stevens). Of course, tensions mount between Eddie and Slim as the latter's feelings for their captive make it tricky to keep this job ‘strictly business.' Matters of the heart can be complicated, after all. And then there's the matter of ‘Ma' herself, a bit of tyrant and not one to suffer fools lightly.

Owing a debt in equal parts to Bonnie And Clyde and Bloody Mama, The Grissom Gang is an interesting mix of period crime and gangster movie tropes and character development. It's a grim picture populated with scoundrels and bastards, nary a friendly face to be seen, but Aldrich keeps it interesting even when he's clearly going more than a little overboard with the melodramatics. The pacing of the picture is tight, the violence hits hard and carries some impact behind it, the production values are quite solid and there's a nice eye for period detail on display throughout most of the picture (the odd prison/apartment that Slim sets up for his new belle feels out of place but otherwise things shape up well in this regard). It's a very handsome film, nicely shot by Joseph F. Biroc and featuring a strong score from Gerald Fried. That said, there are pacing issues here and there and at over two hours in length the picture can feel bloated at times. Some more judicial editing could have helped here, quickening the pace and aiding in building the tension that a few scenes lack.

If The Grissom Gang is an imperfect film for that reason, there's no faulting the performances from the leads. Those familiar with the recently deceased Scott Wilson only for his turn as kindly Herschel in AMC's The Walking Dead might be a bit taken aback to seeing him play a maniac in this picture, but he does it and he does it well. He and Kim Darby have an interesting chemistry together here, and she's also quite good in her part. Tony Musante is charming and dangerous, he's a very good casting choice for the character of Eddie, while Irene Daily gleefully chews the scenery and steals a few scenes as the elder woman in charger of the gang. Connie Stevens is solid in her supporting role, while Lansing doesn't quite have all the charisma he needs to shine in his part.

Still, despite its flaws The Grissom Gang succeeds as entertainment. Fans of period gangster dramas like those that clearly influenced this picture should enjoy the film even if it isn't the most original entry in the genre.

The Video:

The Grissom Gang comes to Blu-ray from Kino Lorber framed at 1.85.1 widescreen in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer. There is some occasional speckling here and there, very minor print damage, but overall the image looks really good. Colors are lifelike and natural, warm without looking too bright or boosted, and skin tones look fine. Black levels are good and the image retains a nice film-like quality throughout. No problems with any noise reduction or edge enhancement to note.

The Audio:

The only audio option for the feature is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track. Optional subtitles are supplied in English only. No issues to note here, the quality of the audio here is solid. Dialogue stays easy to understand and follow, levels are properly balanced and the score sounds very good as do the sound effects employed in the film.

The Extras:

The main extra on the disc is an audio commentary with film historians Howard S. Berger, Steve Mitchell and Nathaniel Thompson. It's a good track with a lot of interesting information in it about how the picture came to be, the direction and how it compares to other Aldrich picture, what the film does and doesn't have in common with similarly themed films, information on the cast and crew, the locations and more.

The disc also includes a fifteen-minute interview with Scott Wilson in which he talks about how he wound up getting involved in the film, his experiences on set and what it was like collaborating with the different cast and crew members he worked with on the film. A trailer for the feature, trailers for a few other Kino Lorber titles, menus and chapter selection round out the extra features.

Overall:

The Grissom Gang isn't perfect, but it's good enough to seek out thanks to some stylish cinematography and a few really good performances. Kino Lorber's Blu-ray debut for the film looks and sounds quite nice and has a couple of solid extras as well. If this isn't an essential film, it's one that will appeal to fans of period gangster pictures and if you find yourself in that camp, consider it 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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