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My Name Is Julia Ross
Directed by Joseph H. Lewis in 1945, My Name Is Julia Ross offers up all the thrills and twists you'd expect from the man who gave us classics like Gun Crazy and The Big Combo. Based on a novel by Anthony Gilbert and featuring a screenplay written by Muriel Roy Bolton, the film takes place in London, England. Here a lovely young woman named Julia Ross (Nina Foch) struggles to find a job. She's been down on her luck since the affair she was having with a lawyer named Dennis Bruce (Roland Varno) ended when he ran off and put a ring on the finger of another woman.
Still, Julia knows she has to try to find work, even if she's not really feeling so great about things these days. After finding an ad in a newspaper, she winds up heading to an employment agency and interviewing with Ms. Sparkes (Anita Sharp-Bolster). When it comes out in conversation that Julia is single and living alone in the big city with no real friends or family to fall back on, she arranges a position for her in the employ of the ridiculously affluent Mrs. Hughes (May Whitty) and her son Ralph (George Macready), both of whom seem quite happy to have her onboard working as their secretary. Mrs. Hughes, however, insists that Julia move out of the boarding house where she's been residing and take up residence in the Hughes home. When she heads back to pack her bags and let her landlady, kindly Mrs. Mackie (Doris Lloyd), she runs into Dennis and learns that his wedding plans fell through. They agree to give things another shot, and after heading back to the Hughes' place, she wakes up 48 hours later in the seaside town of Cornwall with no idea how she got there or why those around her are referring to her as Ralph's wife, Marion Hughs…
This is good stuff. Lewis directs this tightly paced thriller with enough style to keep us engaged in the plot even during a few of the movie's talkier scenes. Bolton's screenplay does a great job of pulling us into the storyline, building mystery and suspense, and in creating interesting characters ensuring that we want to find out how Julia's plight turns out. The cinematography from Burnett Guffey, the man who shot 1953's From Here To Eternity and Bonnie And Clyde in 1967 in the decades to come, helps quote a bit as well. The movie is nicely framed and there are some pretty memorable, even poignant, shots in the picture (a great example, without going into heavy spoilers, being a moment where a certain photograph is tossed into an active fireplace). The bulk of the picture takes place indoors but there are some interesting exteriors used once the action moves to Cornwall, giving the film a bit more scope than you might expect given that it was made on a modest budget.
Performances are good, if occasionally a bit stagey. Nina Foch is really strong in the lead. She's quiet fetching, and well-cast here, relaying her character's sense of befuddlement and confusion effectively and believably and handling the more dramatic aspects of the storyline nicely. Roland Varno is a bit flat here but he's fine for the most part, while Mary Whitty does a great job as the matron of the Hughes home, and George Macready does just as well in the part of her son.
Interestingly enough, the film was remade as Dead Of Winter in 1987 by director by director Arthur Penn with Mary Steenburgen playing Nina Foch's role.
Arrow's transfer of My Name Is Julia Ross is presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed in the film's original aspect ratio of 1.37.1 and the picture quality is quite strong. There are some minor specks here and there but otherwise the image is nice and clean, while retaining plenty of natural film grain. Detail is, generally speaking, quite strong though there are a couple of shots that look like they were shot a bit softer than the others. Still, there's nice depth and texture throughout. Black levels are solid and the image shows nice contrast. The transfer is free of noticeable compression artifacts, edge enhancement or noise reduction problems and overall, it looks like film.
Audio chores are handled by an English language LPCM 2.0 mono track that is mostly clean but that does exhibit some audible distortion in a few spots. It's minor, but it's there. Otherwise, no complaints, the dialogue stays clean, clear and easy to follow and the levels are properly balanced. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.
Extras start off with a commentary by noir expert Alan K. Rode that dives into the history of the picture, offering lots of detail about Lewis' career and directing style and making some interesting observations about how this particular entry compares and contrasts to his other work. There's also lots of info here about the cast and crew, the studio's involvement, the themes that the film deals with and more. Along the way Rode provides his own thoughts about the effectiveness of the writing, the directing and the acting. He knows his stuff, this is a solid track.
Identity Crisis: Joseph H. Lewis At Columbia is a featurette in which Nora Fiore spends twenty-two minutes exploring Lewis' work and style as well as providing some interesting critical insight and analysis into the themes and ideas that he explores in My Name Is Julia Ross.
A theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection round out the extras on the disc, though Arrow does includes a color insert booklet inside the keepcase that contains notes and credits for the release, credits for the feature and an essay from author and critic Adrian Martin. This release also comes with some nice reversible cover sleeve art.
My Name Is Julia Ross rises above its low budget, handily delivering some genuine suspense alongside impressive direction and quality performances. Fans of vintage thrillers and film noir will appreciate this one, and Arrow's Blu-ray offers a great way to see it with a fine presentation and some quality supplements as well. 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.