Escape in the Fog (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Powerhouse Films
Review written by and copyright: Rick Curzon (13th November 2020).
The Film

Six tough, no-nonsense noirs from six of the genre’s toughest, no-nonsense directors: Budd Boetticher’s Escape in the Fog, in which a nurse and a war veteran take on Nazi spies in San Francisco; Joseph H Lewis’ The Undercover Man, inspired by the real-life case against Al Capone; Richard Quine’s Drive a Crooked Road, which finds Mickey Rooney moving away from comedies and musicals to a tougher persona; Phil Karlson’s 5 Against the House, starring Kim Novak as a nightclub singer embroiled in a casino heist; Vincent Sherman’s The Garment Jungle, from which Kiss Me Deadly director Robert Aldrich was famously fired; and Don Siegel’s police procedural The Lineup, based on the radio and television series, and as brutal a film as he ever made.

All six films are presented for the first time on Blu-ray in the UK, with The Undercover Man and Drive a Crooked Road making their world Blu-ray premieres. This stunning collection also boasts a 120-page book, and is strictly limited to 6,000 numbered units.

Video

Escape in the Fog (1945)

San Francisco, 1945: A nurse (Nina Foch) gets involved in espionage in the final days of the war after she she dreams of an incident in which a man (William Wright) is murdered ... then she meets him in the flesh!

A brisk B-picture which fair cracks along at a helluva pace. Director Bud Boetticher was not too keen on this little wartime espionage film which he seems to have considered a minor work (he called it a "nothing" picture).

A moody monochrome noir which goes down painlessly and has plenty of deep and long shadows, a smokey ambiance and lots of fog at a couple of points. You know the score, lots of intrigue a smattering romance. Foch is great as the lead, Wright adequate and Otto Kruger as a villain is lots of fun.

It's been restored by Sony in a 2K restoration supervised by the great Grover Crisp. Monochrome with not a shred of colour bias creeping in the perfectly balanced gamma. Black levels are rich and deep with a stygian quality typical of the genre and nitrate film of the forties; lots of shadow detail comes through. Contrast is layered and and low key and given the generally dark visual nature of the cinematography allows for luminous highlights when they're present.

Detail is exceptional given the soft nature of the velvety textures on display. Obviously in foggy bits the image is softer but in well lit moments skin and fabrics have plenty of fine detail is in evidence. Grain is ever present and generally fairly fine but in foggy scene, like the opening are a challenge for the encode but are handled beautifully.

I saw no signs of noise or digital tinkering and no print damage; the encode by Fidelity in Motion as as good as can be with no clumping or digital splats. The Sony 2K restoration seems to be of a print but one close to the preprint source. Opticals are obviously a little softer but this is a remarkably good transfer ('A').

1080/24p / MPEG-4 AVC / 1.37:1 / 62:50

Audio

English LPCM 1.0
Subtitles: English HoH

The mono was restored at the same time as the image. A simple, basic mono track of the time which has limited range and is channelled purely through the front centre speaker. Dialogue is always clear, the score melodramatic but keeps it's place and sound effects are well rendered in the mix. The dialogue is the main thing and it's handled with skill and the lossless rendering does it proud. Obviously, it ain't gonna hold a candle to a modern Dolby Atmos track but only a fool would expect it to do so. I noticed no distortions, no sibilant issues. This is as good as this track can be given when it was made so full marks ('A+'). Techno freaks would probably only give it a 'C' when laid against a modern track.

Subtitles for the hearing impaired are top notch and very welcome.

Extras

Audio commentary with Pamela Hutchinson (2020)

Breathless, detailed commentary covers all the bases that you would expect and want from such a track. Hutchinson has a chatty style and obviously knows her onions.

"The Fleet That Came to Stay" 1945 short film (21:12)
"You Nazi Spy!" 1940 short film (18:02)


A couple of shorts more or less contemporaneous to the main film's production. The first is a US Navy document about war in the pacific with lots of real war footage. The second is a wartime Three Stooges short and was pretty funny. Image quality of the first was ropier and taken from a lesser source, the second is pristine and even looked a not better than the main feature. Sound is lossy Dolby Digital 1.0 but gets the job done.

Escape in the Fog Image Gallery: Original Promotional Material (23 images)

A solid HD image gallery.

120-page liner notes book

The book is a typically superb Powerhouse booklet that covers all six films. Escape in the Fog has fourteen pages devoted to it with a 2020 essay "It Came Out of the Fog" by Iris Veysey, a 1964 interview "Budd Boetticher on Oscar Boetticher Jr." with Boetticher and an extract from Boetticher's memoir - an afterward by William K Everson praising Budd Boetticher's early works that had previously been seen as lesser works. Pages 101-114 cover the various short films on the set.

Packaging

Hard card outer box with either six clear BD Amaray Keepcases or six mini digipacks; it wasn't clear at the time of review and Powerhouse Films have used both formats in the past for their boxed sets. When it becomes clear which format is being used this will be corrected.

Overall

A fairly run of the mill wartime B-picture that was decent enough with fine image and sound quality is given the deluxe treatment from Powerhouse Films as the first in their new, much anticipated Columbia Noir Boxed Set #1. Extras are not extensive but are choice with pride of place being the fine commentary followed by the booklet.

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

 


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