Deadfall Blu-ray Review
The Nine Lives of a Cat Burglar
Bryan Forbes' little-known 1968 Michael Caine vehicle Deadfall is a flawed but nonetheless engaging curio that's more film noir than heist thriller, trading in unexpected psychological beats.An atypical vehicle for the then-rising star, who'd just finished his excellent trilogy of anti-Bond movies as Harry Palmer, Caine plays a renowned cat burglar approached by a husband and wife team of robbers who need a younger man to replace the elderly safecracking husband's inability to complete the more physical demands of the jobs they have in mind. Falling for the young and beautiful wife (Giovanna Ralli) - which is no big problem given that her husband prefers men (Powell and Pressburger regular Eric Portman) - things get complicated by other revelations about his past, and with the elaborately staged robberies already desperately dangerous, the added emotional edge may just provide the tipping point that seals the fate of them all.Working from Desmond Corey's famously verbose 1965 novel, Forbes had Caine in mind from the get-go, and it was a good move for both of them, with the latter taking up increasingly diverse features following this, like the classic Get Carter and another underrated gem, Sleuth, where he stands his own opposite Laurence Olivier. Here he has an early taste of similar mind games, with the psych-drama understated but surprisingly effective, offering a twist on the usual romance, and distinguishing this feature somewhat. The noir vibes play particularly well with the Spanish backdrop, creating a very unusual mood for a very unusual movie, and whilst neither Caine nor Forbes can quite bring it all together into a perfected whole, it's certainly a memorable ride.
Picture QualitySignal One bring Deadfall to UK Blu-ray with a lovely 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.66:1 widescreen. Whilst no details are reported surrounding the work done on the release, it would be surprising if it wasn't culled from a relatively recent 2K remaster, with some often excellent detail evident, and a fine sheen of natural grain texturing the piece.
Detail, considering the vintage, holds up far better on close-ups, although that's somewhat expected, whilst medium shots fluctuate a little more and, perhaps more troubling, lighting interferes with some scenes (the early low-lighting meeting between the three criminals suffers from mood lighting in some shots). Daytime shots prevail, even on the broader sequences, and there's much to admire in the presentation, even if it isn't quite as consistent as perfectionists would have hoped for.
Certainly the best the film has ever looked
The colour scheme is well provided for, affording the feature some rich tones, dominated by wood browns but also a few more vibrant hues, and rounded out with strong enough black levels that are frequently quite impressive and provide for some nice shadow detail. It's certainly the best the film has ever looked - intermittent, more troubling shots notwithstanding – and for the most part the better-looking scenes remain largely demo for the era, even if the overall score is brought down to just below such status.
Sound QualityThe accompanying Linear PCM 1.0 Mono track does a commendable job despite the inherent restrictions, delivering up the elements with aplomb but occasionally smacking as slightly muted. Nonetheless it's a clean and reasonably polished offering which does the job fairly well and truly comes alive in several key moments.
The Bond-ish score from John Barry is the highlight of the soundtrack
Dialogue remains well prioritised, coming across clearly and coherently throughout, whilst effects - nominal as they may be - take in a few car and street sounds, and the sound of crashing waves, crafting some semblance of atmosphere, despite the odds. It's the score, however, which stands out - a striking, suitably Bond-ish offering from John Barry, who reportedly wrote it before the film was completed (the standout orchestral sequence being the exception), making you wonder whether it was not always suited to the material itself. Nonetheless, it's the highlight of the audio track and certainly elevates the film no end.
ExtrasFar from bare bones, there's quite the collection of extra features adorning the disc, including From the Page to the Screen: An Interview with film expert Chris Poggiali, who discusses the film's production and theme; The John Barry Touch: The Music of a Master, and an Isolated Score which highlights the memorable score. The disc is rounded off by a Stills Gallery and Theatrical Trailer, and the package rounded off with a booklet containing an article on the movie which, curiously, is rather critical of its shortcomings - perhaps the release would have been better complemented by a review from somebody who actually liked the film?
Blu-ray VerdictWhilst neither Caine nor Forbes can quite bring it all together into a perfected whole, it's certainly a memorable ride
Signal One's UK Blu-ray release of Deadfall presents the little-known Michael Caine curio with a very impressive video presentation that, intermittent softer sequences notwithstanding, is easily the best we'll ever see from this film, as well as a solid audio presentation and a decent collection of extras to round out the package. Those interested should certainly check it out, particularly if you like decent Caine movies.
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