Odessa File (The) (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - United Kingdom - Powerhouse Films
Review written by and copyright: Rick Curzon (12th September 2018).
The Film

Hamburg 1963. German journalist Jon Voight (Midnight Cowboy, Deliverance, Coming Home) finds himself in possession of a diary detailing the unspeakable crimes of cruelty, torture and mass murder perpetrated by an SS captain, now veiled as a top industrialist. Neame’s compelling mix of conspiracy thriller and action-adventure, adapted from Frederick Forsyth’s bestseller, is a fine addition to the post-war spy thriller genre, and features an outstanding performance from Voight and glorious location photographed by the great Oswald Morris (Lolita, The Pumpkin Eater).

Video

November 1963: A young German reporter becomes obsessed with tracking down a Nazi war criminal who is running an electronics firm which is making a guidance system for missles to be fired at Israel by Egypt.

Excellent film version of the 1972 Frederick Forsyth novel changes the ending and re-writes history (ala Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds). Jon Voight is superb as the lead with many splendid German and English actors in support (including a young Mary Tamm as his stripper girlfriend). Andrew Lloyd Webber's score is a minus point, but Ronald Neame's assured, self-effacing direction is a plus.

This is disc is a definite improvement on the US Image Blu-ray; dual layered transfer with a maxed out bitrate that is almost double the size of the Image disc. The usual topnotch encoding job we’ve come to expect from David MacKensizie and Fidelity in motion is a given. Grain is handled superbly with none of the usual bugbears like clumping or holes.

The colour palette is typical of a studio grade A film from the era with rich colour values favouring primaries with rich greens and deep reds when appropriate. Flesh tones are warm and lifelike.

Black levels are luxuriant but shadow detail is present with no signs of crush that I could detect. Contrast is subtle allowing fine detail and textures to come to the for in most shots. I found this a most satisfying viewing experience with detail evident across the focal plane in closeups, midrange and deep background where applicable and in situations where shallow focus was applied.

There are no signs of digital tinkering and no print damage that I could see.

In motion this is a stunning transfer of a 2K mastered source. Oswald Morris’ cinematography comes over very well and fans will want to sell on their old US Blu-ray.

Bravo Powerhouse!

1080/24p / MPEG-4 AVC / 2.35:1 / 128:39

Audio

English LPCM 1.0
Subtitles: English HoH

A robust thriller soundtrack that has been carefully crafted with plenty of depth and range, especially considering that this is a mono track from 1974. Lloyd Webber’s score is never intrusive on what matters: dialogue, and thus everything is clear and easy to follow.

Subtitles are very welcome.

Extras

“The Guardian Interview with Ronald Neame: Conducted by Matthew Sweet at the National Film Theatre, London on 19 October 2003” plays as an alternate audio track over the film (66:31)

“The Guardian Interview with Oswald Morris Conducted by Anwar Brett at the National Film Theatre, London on 14 May 2006” plays as an alternate audio track over the film (61:28)


Two superb screen talks from the NFT archive; both are hugely informative being expert at what they do and chatty with both interviewers getting plenty of anecdotes out of Name and Morris. I’ve less experience of Brett’s prior work but on the strength of this I shall be looking out for more from him. Sweet has been at this game a long time and I’ve seen many documentary or featurette in which he deals with some tricky subjects. His recent Tom Baker interview was sublime and he works his magic on the venerable Neame.

“Safe But Real: Stuntman Vic Armstrong on The Odessa File” featurette (2:31)

Brief anecdote from Armstrong on his stunt work in The Odessa File.

“Foreign Friends: Continuity Supervisor Elaine Schreyeck on The Odessa File” featurette (6:17)

Schreyeck I know from her interviews on the Bond film extras over the years and she’s always a warm interview with plenty of fun stories from her film sets; no different here.

The Super 8 Version (16:48)

A great example of what film fans had to put up with back in the ‘70s before affordable home video made Super 8 virtually obsolete. Badly cropped from 2.35:1 down to 1.33:1 this is a hectic digest of the film and plays more like an extended trailer.

Theatrical Trailer (2:01)

Typical trailer of the period showing plenty of highlights.

The Odessa File Image Gallery: Original Promotional Material (17 images)

Brief but decent collection of images in HD.

40-page liner notes booklet by Carmen Gray and Keith Johnston, Ronald Neame on The Odessa File, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and film credits

The new essay by Gray does a great job setting the scene and context for this thriller, comparing it in the wider context of other films about the Holocaust. Johnston’s article was even more interesting to me because it focuses on the technical aspects of the colour process and cinematography. Director Neame had been a top notch DP himself and his comments are also fascinating. These booklets are priceless and easily the best in the business.

Overall

A classic if somewhat under rated film gets the deluxe treatment from Powerhouse with a stonkingly good transfer and robust sound. The extras could hardly be better and are the icing on the cake. This is easily one of THE Blu-ray’s of the year for this writer.

The Film: A Video: A+ Audio: A+ Extras: A+ Overall: A+

 


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