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No Down Payment
No Down Payment is an ahead-of-it's-time biting social commentary drama which explores a community built around a marketing pitch of "better living" for the community. Taking place inside of a California suburbia during the 1960's, the film centers around the lives of several couples and families living inside of a new housing market which might look perfect on the outside but has more trouble on the inside.
The film sharply tackles the American dream of prosperity with sharp satire and drama. The characters in the film are looking for perfect homes and livelihoods which will present "better living" (as advertised to them in their own community's marketing) but those homes come with too-high-a-cost (which most can't afford) and the undercurrent of societal issues affecting the community at every turn.
Racism abounds in the neighborhood with many white Americans afraid of letting anyone inside the community of another race. This is highlighted by a hard working Asian American trying to get assistance in getting a home inside the community and not even being able to get support from his friend and co-worker, who says the community wouldn't be ready to have an Asian neighbor. This is a reflection of racism in American in the 1960's with many neighborhoods attempting to prevent African Americans and other racial groups from entering communities.
These characters lives are dark and murky. Take, for example, a husband who constantly speaks to his wife about ideas for businesses he could start while remaining unemployed for years and scraping by on debt without even looking for work. Another character, a car salesman, lives his "fine living" life while signing up many fellow neighbors for high-cost payment plans that they can't truly afford.
The film also explores the horror of domestic violence and the sexism that plagues the community. It explores alcoholism and other social issues. At every turn, the film is a exploration of ways in which American communities have faltered and could be better.
Considering when the film was produced, No Down Payment is all the more remarkable. While most television shows of the 1960's and cookie-cutter Hollywood productions wanted to portray America as a idyllic land without serious social issues, No Down Payment explores the ways in which America was struggling with its own identity: the goal of prosperity for all Americans to live out the "American Dream" of a better life is counter to the actual reality of discrimination, violence, and financial burdens preventing that dream for many Americans.
The cinematography for the film is absolutely exquisite. This black and white film almost feels like a film Noir at times with its silky black and white photography contributing to the film's atmospheric tone. Cinematographer Joseph LaShelle (Laura, The Apartment) brings great aesthetic depth to the storytelling.
The production design is similarly impressive and effective at adding to the aesthetic goals of the production. The film is also complimented by a great music score by the composer Leigh Harline (Pinocchio, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves). The music brilliantly accompanies the film at every turn.
With a screenplay by Philip Yordan (Detective Story, The Harder They Fall), based on the novel written by John McPartland, No Down Payment succeeds at crafting its story. In many respects, the film reflects back today's American society which is still suffering from the same types of issues in modern times (one only needs to look to the collapse of the housing market and the damage done by Wall Street to see that such issues remain in modern America). This is a great script.
Directed by the brilliant Martin Ritt (Norma Rae, Stanley and Iris), No Down Payment succeeds as another entry in his series of socially conscious films. The acclaimed filmmaker was well renowned for making dramas about social issues and this film a perfect example as to why he was so highly regarded for this type of production. He once more tackles social issues with his unique strengths as a filmmaker: exploring important issues with clear compassion, pathos, and intelligence. No Down Payment is a must-see film for fans of the filmmaker and for anyone who enjoys socially-conscious filmmaking.
No Down Payment is presented on Blu-ray in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 widescreen. This 1080p high definition MPEG-4 AVC encoded presentation, featuring a high bit-rate encode, has impressive clarity, contrast, and stunning black and white photography. This is a remarkably clean presentation which has been well preserved with crisp photography free of dirt, debris, and scratches. The image has good shadow details. It is remarkably sharp. There are no instances of banding or detrimental eye-sores on this crisp high definition presentation. Fans of the film will be quite pleased with this presentation.
The lossless quality audio is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio. The lossless surround sound presentation is impressive with strong clarity and fidelity for a film of its age. It has clean, crisp dialogue and a good reproduction of the music score. Though it lacks range in terms of sound effects, the surround presentation is distinctly enveloping and rewarding as a experience with the score having a great impact.
Despite the minimal surround sound usage, this new 5.1 mix is primarily about opening up the sound of the score and making it a bit more immersive, and it pleases in that regard. The HD audio presentation is true to the source material and doesn't have artificial sound effects.
Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing.
Isolated Score Track presented in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio
Booklet featuring an essay by Twilight Time's Julie Kirgo
No Down Payment is a brilliant film from director Martin Ritt. With an excellent story and a cast that includes the great Joanne Woodward and Tony Randall, this is a film well worth exploring. It's an exceptional drama told with great depth and precision.
Twilight Time's Blu-ray release features excellent audio and video and is worth a purchase for fans.
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.