Night Porter (The) AKA Il portiere di notte (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Cult Films
Review written by and copyright: Rick Curzon (5th December 2020).
The Film

Max (Dirk Bogarde) is a night porter in a Vienna hotel in the 1950's. When beautiful Lucia (Charlotte Rampling) checks in, they recognise each other from a terrible past; Max was an SS officer in a Nazi concentration camp who had abused and tortured the then teenage Lucia, a prisoner. Lucia is traveling with her husband, an orchestra conductor and when he leaves to continue his tour, Lucia stays behind as she and Max find themselves compelled to renew their former, intense, sadomasochistic relationship.

Max is a reluctant member of a group of former SS who are ruthlessly covering up their pasts. They soon consider Lucia a threat and urge Max to hand her over. He refuses and hides out with Lucia, while his former comrades enact their threats.

This is the story of an obsessive passion, an 'amour-fou' which compels two lovers to be together - despite their lucid awareness of contravening all morality, even their own, and the certainty of their oncoming tragic destiny.

This is the newest 4K restoration supervised by the director herself, making this the most definitive version of THE NIGHT PORTER, finally doing justice to the filmmaker s extraordinary vision.

Video

Cult Films in the UK have acquired this venerable arthouse hit and it's based on a 2018 restoration supervised by director Liliana Cavani and as far as I can see this is a stunning restoration that removes the greenish cast the film has had in the past. No signs of print damage or digital tinkering to sully the broth.

This is the first time I've seen the film and the black levels struck me as especially strong and deep with that glorious stygian quality so beloved of technically minded collectors and film buffs. Shadow detail is exceptional with no signs of unintended crush to be seen. Contrast is also well handled with conversely no blown out highlights. This film has mostly a fairly dim and dark aesthetic by design both to emphasise the theme of power and abuse but also in concert with the films meticulous production design. Set dressing is shown off to great advantage and the sets and locations are also well served by plenty of fine detail on all focal planes.

Colour values are strong with an overriding sense of brown, black and green. Delineation is also very strong with no signs of bleed; the film probably looks better than it did on cinema screens back in '73. The values are also especially designed to support the central theme; a dark world of role play and power dynamics.

This is a very filmic presentation with a spot on appearance featuring a lovely sheen of photochemical grain at all times, getting courser in darker scenes and exteriors but it's always natural and well handled by the encode. Detail is never compromised although owning to production methods and film stocks there is a softness in overall look.

Looking at older transfers online it's obvious that in motion this os the disc to beat; I include the 2014 Criterion in that statement and the 2012 Anchor Bay UK can safely be sold on. This one gets my highest recommendation!

1080/24p / AVC MPEG-4 / 1.85:1 / 119:13

Audio

English LPCM 2.0 Mono
Subtitles: English for non-English language

The original mono is fairly typical of the time with limited range. However, it's a robust track that does it's job very well. Dialogue is the main thing and it's almost strong and clear. I could detect none of the tinniness that can plague older mono recordings occasionally. The only subtitles provided are those for the few moments of non-English dialogue, so a slight demerit. Folks who're hard of hearing should be catered for.

Extras

"The Porter of the Night: Liliana Cavani" 2020 featurette (37:20)

Excellent, life and career-spanning interview with co-writer / director Cavani. We hear all about her childhood and career with obvious emphasis placed on The Night Porter, her most well known and widely seen work.

"Charlotte Rampling: The Reality of Emotions" 2020 featurette (30:27)

Straightforward career interview with Rampling who was a pinup of mine when I was a lad; the epitome of the daring actress who'd throw herself into any role, usually challenging ones, gain plenty of plaudits but who was also savvy about her own allure and sexuality.

Startup Trailers:
- A Special Day (1:14)
- Battle of Algiers (1:51)
- The Postman (1994) (1:24)
- 8 (3:53)


A gaggle of promos for other Xult Films titles availbale on DVD and BD.

Packaging

Standard, clear BD case.

Overall

The film is not an easy view and it's fair to say has been divisive with both critics and audiences over the years; one of the most prominent artsploitation films of it's era. What isn't in question is the quality of Cult Films' new BD which presents the director-approved 2018 restoration with a strong encode and some chunky extras as icing on the cake. The consensus is that it's never looked or sounded as good; buy with confidence.

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

 


DVD Compare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, amazon.de, amazon.it, amazon.es and amazon.se.