Psyche 59 (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - United Kingdom - Powerhouse Films
Review written by and copyright: Rick Curzon (17th March 2019).
The Film

Patricia Neal (fresh from her 1963 award-winning role in Martin Ritt’s Hud) stars as a woman suffering from hysterical blindness, and a blank in her memory which may hide the cause of her affliction. When she and her sex-addict husband (Curt Jurgens – The Enemy Below, The Spy Who Loved Me) move in with her younger sister (Samantha Eggar – The Collector, The Brood), she begins to piece together the events leading to her psychological trauma.

Ahead of its time in its discussion and depiction of all manner of taboo subjects (rape, child abuse, nymphomania, psycho-sexual disorder, masochism), Psyche 59 is one of British cinema’s most daring and provocative adult dramas.

Video

Exquisitely shot, beautifully acted psychological drama sets up it's characters well and then sets them loose in a big house to be at each other's throats with plentiful subtext of control and submission. An enjoyable, interesting film that provides the viewer with plenty of crumbs for the mind to mull over.

Performances are all superb but Beatrix Lehmann worthy of special mention and is brilliant as Neal's cold, unlovable grandmother. Neal is not an actress that springs to mind playing a sexually submissive, glamorous woman under the thumb of her husband, but she's a revelation.

One of those cutting edge films tackling a difficult subject that today seems naive and dated but meant well in it's day, which would explain it's obscurity. Until now hopefully with this very welcome disc remedying the situation because it's well worth seeking out. Director Alexander Singer does a bang-up job eliciting superb performances from everyone in the cast. Until now I was inly aware of his work on the classic Star Trek series, but will keep an eye out for more of his films.

Yet another on target release from Powerhouse Films as part of their Indicator series; a long forgotten film and one I'd not heard of before. Shot in black and white in the matted ratio of of 1.75:1 by Walter Lassally this has a wonderful image with beautifully crafted compositions with great contrast betwixt dark and light.

Blacks are deep and rich throughout with no signs of black crush or loss of detail. Contrast works in sympathy so detail is strong at all times; a remarkably sharp image. There is a fine grain field present at all times which gets courser in very dark scenes or in exteriors involving big sky.

This being taken from a typically superb Sony master means Little or no signs of print damage to be had; at least I didn't seen any worth mentioning although the technically picky may well find some. The image was also free from any artefacts of the transfer process such as DNR, mosquito noise, macro blocking; the encode is up to the stratospheric standards we've come to expect from maestro David MacKenzie and Fidelity in Motion. It's no wonder that he's considered one of the best in the business.

I was also impressed at how wonderfully inky and icy the black and white images were with no signs of colour bias encroaching; the images on my display seemed to be more pure in that regard to ones I looked at online. I could've sat a paused the image endlessly with this release.

1080/24p / MPEG-4 AVC / 1.75:1 / 94:03

Audio

English LPCM 1.0
Subtitles: English HoH

A crisp mono audio track typical of the era with no signs of distortion and minimal age related artefacts like hiss etc. Like the image, this has been lovingly restored and is as good a mono track for a film of this vintage that I've heard. Dynamic range is obviously limited but being primarily a human drama with people talking in rooms, this isn't a problem. Dialogue is always clear and the score never makes it hard to understand what the actors are saying. Subtitles are well done and essential.

Extras

"The British Entertainment History Project (BEHP) Interview with Walter Lassally: The Following interview was conducted by filmmaker Roy Fowler on 22 February 1988" plays as an alternate audio track over the film (94:03)

A fascinating, career-spanning interview with the great cinematographer. As with all of these screen talks unearthed by Powerhouse Films, invaluable. Especially as Lassally died in October 2017. He shot many films from the arthouse of The Ballad of the Sad Cafe (1991) to the likes of Private School (1983) an '80s style teen exploitation film.

"Come to Silence with Samantha Eggar" featurette (11:53)

An engaging raconteur, Eggar seems to be on top form discussing her career.

"Intangible Visions: Composer Kenneth V. Jones on Psyche 59" featurette (13:14)

I wasn't hugely impressed with the film's score - or rather I didn't notice it much - but composer Jones proves an interesting subject and I feel like I have to give the film another viewing to consider in more depth what he achieved.

"An Abstract Quality: Richard Combs on Alexander Singer and Psyche 59" featurette (10:26)

An appreciation of the film by the venerable Combs and also a discussion of the low key mainly television career of the Singer.

Theatrical trailer (2:44)

Pretty standard trailer for a prestige production of the era.

Psyche 59 Image gallery: Original Promotional Material (20 images)

Decent, if limited HD still gallery.

32-page liner notes booklet with a new essay by Josephine Botting, an overview of contemporary critical responses, archival articles, and film credits.

Botting's essay is a revelation adding great context and appreciation of the film. The remaining articles are also very worthwhile with the rather hilarious promotional stunts in the press-book being of note. Typically superb booklet from Powerhouse.

Overall

Another long forgotten film gets resurrected in another superb package. Image and sound are as good as can be given the already fine source master. Extras aren't as wide ranging as other Powerhouse Indicator releases but are very enjoyable and informative lending great context and appreciation of the film. Disc producers Anthony Nield and Michael Brooke ought to be proud. An essential release.

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

 


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