Classic Movies

Adventures in Blu-ray: And Then There Were None (1945)

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Back in July of 2010, I did a brief pictorial series with the devastatingly clever title “What I’ll buy when I finally get a Blu-ray player.”  It didn’t last long; I did about five installments before relegating it to the Blogosphere dustbin because 1) I got bored with it very quickly, and 2) acquiring a Blu-ray player didn’t seem to rank high on my list of priorities at that time.  I received good advice from several confidantes that unless I had one of those HD television sets capable of vacuuming and walking up to the mailbox for the mail, my money would best be spent elsewhere.

I eventually acquired an HD TV set, and once again the thought of coaxing a Blu-ray player to propose marriage crossed my mind…but it wasn’t until I received a generous Christmas largesse of Amazon.com gift cards from the Double K’s and sister Debbie/bro-in-law Craige that I decided to make it so.  The only problem was: there was a Blu-ray devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other…and the cherub kept saying, “It would be more practical if you bought an external DVD writer, since the one that came with your computer no longer works.”  (Stupid angel common sense.)

So I thought long and hard about this dilemma, and with the help of neither devil nor angel came to this conclusion: “Why can’t I have both?”  And that’s what I did; the new writer handles both Blu-ray and DVD’s…and the benefit to the TDOY faithful is that I’m able to kick off this new semi-regular feature that will allow me to watch the latest technology and discuss same: Adventures in Blu-ray.  (Gad—is there no end to my ingenuity?)  I don’t have a huge Blu-ray library—hopefully some recent purchases will rectify that—but I did acquire a few Blu-ray discs through various and sundry means (all perfectly legitimate, I assure you, officer), including some Disney Movie Club purchases (The Mouse Factory’s pretty gung-ho on the DVD-Blu combo thing) and that Criterion edition of City Lights I got some time ago.

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Our inaugural Blu-ray disc comes from VCI Entertainment as a promotional freebie: the 1945 suspense classic And Then There Were None.  It’s fitting that this movie—based on the novel Ten Little Indians (yes, I am aware this is not what it was originally called—you need not remind me in the comment section) by Agatha Christie—is the kickoff disc only because I’m hesitant to give too much away about the film…it’s one of those “surprise ending” showcases.  But here’s a brief plot synopsis: eight individuals of various occupations and social stratas are invited to a home on an island off the coast of Devon, England as guests of a mysterious host identified only as “U.N. Owen.”  Along with a maid and butler, the guests learn that the classic nursery rhyme (“Ten Little Indians”) is a wryly ironic commentary on their situation when one by one, they are murdered in a variety of ways that mirror the events in the rhyme.  As the house’s population begins to deplete, the remaining guests attempt to dope out the identity of the killer.

Originally released by 20th Century Fox, And Then There Were None saw its copyright lapse and become part of the extensive collection of our good friend P. Domain.  As such, the film has been released by a number of companies—in essence, anyone with access to a print—in varying states of quality; VCI’s copy is pretty decent, but it’s not anything that would make you sit up in your chair and ask: “Hey—is this Blu-ray?”  None’s big draw is its incredible cast: Barry Fitzgerald, Walter Huston, Louis Hayward, Roland Young, June Duprez, Mischa Auer, C. Aubrey Smith, Judith Anderson, Richard Haydn and Queenie Leonard play the “Indians” stranded on Murder Island.  It’s directed by French filmmaker René Clair, and while Clair tries his best to make things cinematic (I particularly how he introduces us to the eight visitors as they struggle with seasickness and other discomforts on their way in) it’s ultimately unable to transcend its stage origins.  All of the performances are first-rate, but once you know how it ends I’m not sure if you’d want a second helping (unlike Witness for the Prosecution, which allows you multiple viewings because the acting is phenomenal).  (Leonard Maltin gives it 4 stars in his Classic Movie Guide—Len…it’s good, but it’s not that good.)

So next time on “Adventures in Blu-ray,” I’ll look at a disc that demonstrates just what delights Blu-ray has to offer.  (No, I haven’t decided what it will be yet.)

 

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