René Clément's 1970 film Le passager de la pluie (released in North America as Rider On The Rain, opens on the French coast with a scene where a young woman named Mélancolie (Marlène Jobert) who notices a man (Marc Mazza) spying on her while trying on a dress in a shop. When she heads home, he follows her and, after making his way into her home, he binds her and rapes her. When she manages to free herself and finds that he hasn't left the home, she gets a shotgun and shoots him dead. From there, she disposes of the body by tossing it off a cliff into the ocean. When her fiancée, Tony (Gabriele Tint), an airline pilot, returns home from his latest trip she says nothing to him about the ordeal that occurred in his absence.
The next day, she and Tony are to be married. Things take a strange turn when an American named Harry Dobbs (Charles Bronson) shows up at the wedding, uninvited, and speaks to her. A corpse was recently found, and he knows she was the one who killed the man. She, of course, denies all of this but when Tony goes off on his next trip, Dobbs sneaks into their home and roughs her up, hoping to get information or even a confession out of her. Eventually she tries to buy him off, to get him to go away, but he's not having any of it. When Mélancolie finds her deceased assailant's bag, left in the home, filled with cash she decides to do some snooping of her own and find out who Dobbs is and what he's doing here. A few twists and turns later, that we won't spoil here, and both Mélancolie and Dobbs are in Paris hoping to sort all of this out, which of course, will not be easy.
Made after the success of Farewell Friend wherein Bronson starred along French star Alain Delon, Rider On The Rain is the film that solidified Bronson's star power in Europe. It proved to be quite a box office hit when released, and led to the actor making quite a few films in Europe afterwards. And it's easy to see why. He's great in this film. He has the right mix of aggression and sympathy, he's plays his interesting character well. We're not sure if he's a good guy or not, or really what he's up to or why. This ambiguousness plays to Bronson's strengths as an actor and he is very well cast in this picture.
Marlène Jobert is also good here. Her character is understandably conflicted about everything that's happening and she's very effective in communicating all of the emotional turmoil that Mélancolie would be dealing with under the circumstances. Italian exploitation stalwart Gabriele Tinti is also solid in his supporting role, as is Jill Ireland, Bronson's wife, in her smaller part (although she doesn't really add much to the movie and was probably put into the film and the request of its leading man). Marc Mazza also stands out as the rapist, he's pretty intense here and creates a genuinely frightening character in this picture.
Production values are good across the board. Clément's generally paces the film nicely, though there are a couple of slightly slower spots here and there that could have been tightened up a bit more in editing. The cinematography from Andréas Winding is excellent across the board, this is a great looking film and quite atmospheric in its visuals, while the oddly effective score from Francis Lai does a nice job of heightening the drama and especially the tension in the film.
Note that Kino have included both the U.S and French versions of the movie on this disc. The French version does run a couple of minutes longer and plays as the better version of the picture. It's interesting to note that this isn't just a matter of the dub being different, but the movie itself features scenes in a different order and stretches where the dialogue is considerably different between the two versions as many of the scenes were shot twice, once for each version. Additionally, the credits and title card differ between the two cuts, as does the bulk of any text or writing that appears in the film.
The two versions of the movie included on the 50GB Blu-ray disc for Rider On The Rain differe significantly. The U.S. version is framed at 1.78.1, with the French at 1.85.1 both are presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition but were clearly taken from different sources (this isn't a case of seamless branching being used but two completely separate transfers). The U.S. version is a bit on the soft side and has a noticeably green tint evident on screen for much of its running time. It doesn't look terrible, but it doesn't look great. By comparison, the French version has much better color reproduction and stronger detail all around, particularly in close up shots with frequently look top notch. Both transfers move at a decent bit rate and avoid all but the most minor compression artifacts, and there doesn't appear to be any noise reduction or edge enhancement here to complain about. Still, the differences are pretty noticeable, with the French cut of the picture looking considerably better.
The U.S. cut gets an English track and the French cut a French track, with optional English subtitles provided. Both tracks are in DTS-HD Mono format and obviously dubbed in post. Still, audio quality is fine for the most part. It can sound a tad flat but given the age and the dubbing, it's never a problem. The tracks are both properly balanced, clean and clear and free of any noticeable hiss or distortion.
The main extra on the disc is an audio commentary track from Howard Berger, Steve Mitchell and Nathanial Thompson that is available only over the U.S. cut of the film. It's a good track, the guys have done their research here and offer up a good mix of analysis and interpretation as well as facts and trivia about the making of the picture. There's a lot of talk here about Bronson's part in the picture, where he was at career-wise during this time (including the impact that the success of this film had on his career) and how he comes off on screen but they also cover his various co-stars like wife Jill Ireland and Gabriel Tinti, some of the locations used in the feature, the score and director René Clément's life and times and not some obvious influences on this particular entry in his filmography.
Additionally, the disc includes two theatrical trailers, a radio spot, menus and chapter selection.
Rider On The Rain is a tense thriller, nicely directed with plenty of style by René Clément and featuring some solid work from all involved, Bronson in particular. It's an entertaining picture and one that will make a welcome addition to the Blu-ray library of any Charles Bronson fan. The transfers are decent, the French one in particular, the audio is fine and the commentary adds quite a bit to this release as well. Recommended.