Phantom Lady  – Blu-ray Review
Film Title: Phantom Lady
Release Date: 1944
Rating: NOT RATED
Runtime: 87 minutes
Region Coding: Region A
Studio: Arrow Academy
Audio Format: LPCM 1.0 Mono
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Formats Available: Blu-ray
Version Reviewed: Blu-ray Disc
Blu-ray Release Date: 3/05/19
Director: Robert Siodmak
Cast: Ella Raines, Alan Curtis, Fay Helm, Aurora Miranda, Franchot Tone, Thomas Gomez, Elisha Cook Jr., Andrew Tombes, Regis Toomey, Joseph Crehan
“Phantom Lady” was a 1944 film-noir crime drama directed by Robert Siodmak. Siodmak was known for directing a large number of films including “Son of Dracula” (1943),“The Suspect” (1944), “The Killers” (1946), “The Dark Mirror” (1946), “The Spiral Staircase” (1946), “Criss Cross” (1949), “The Crimson Pirate” (1952), and “The Devil Strikes at Night” (1957). In fact, over his career, the late filmmaker is credited for directing a total of 62 films – (according to IMDb).
The story here first revolves around a man named “Scott Henderson” (Alan Curtis) who walks into a bar and sits down. A woman (Fay Helm), or rather a phantom lady we shall call her, has been pacing around the bar long before Scott came walking in. The woman sits down next to Scott who is pondering over two tickets that he can’t bring himself to rip up. It’s slightly obvious that he’s been stood up for a date. Eventually, he asks the woman if she would like the tickets for herself, and not trying to ask her on a date. He thinks again about ripping up the tickets but still can’t bring himself to do it. So, he goes as far as to ask the woman if she would like to go to the musical performance with him. She actually agrees to come along with him just as friends and oddly doesn’t even want to exchange names.
Off Scott and this mysterious woman go to the show, where the drummer (Elisha Cook, Jr.) gets a bit flirty with her. Not only does this strike you a tad bit odd but when the female singer (Aurora Miranda) comes out to sing her musical number she is wearing the exact same designer hat as our mystery woman, which causes some anger. This whole encounter that Scott has with this woman just seems weird, and eventually, the two go their separate ways after the event. Scott arrives home to find that something terrible has happened and that police detectives are waiting, to question him. It’s no spoiler to tell you that Scott’s wife has been murdered, but as he explains to the lead detective “Inspector Burgees” (Thomas Gomez) he has an alibi as to where and who he was with. The only problem with Scott’s alibi is the fact he never got the name of the phantom lady he spent the evening with. He goes back to the bar where he met the woman with the detective to ask the bartender if he remembers to no avail.
Finally, this news gets to where Scott works and his secretary “Carol” (Ella Raines) finds out about it by reading a newspaper article. She’s quick to rush to see him in jail and sticks by his side all through the trial. Again, it’s no spoiler to tell you that Scott cannot prove the alibi and is wrongly convicted of murder and set to be put to death by electric chair in a short matter of time. Scott’s secretary Carol cannot sit back and watch an innocent man that she cares about being put to death. So, she does everything possible in ways of trying to find information to help prove his alibi and essentially innocence. Along the way, Carol will get some help from the police inspector who actually arrested Scott as well as from his old friend “Jack Marlow” (Franchot Tone). Jack will accompany Carol on some of the efforts to find clues about this mysterious murder and retrace the steps of the alibi. This is your typical film-noir and it has some great performances along the way.
Movie Rating: 4 (out of 5)
“Phantom Lady” is presented Black & White in the 1.37:1 aspect ratio, as it was shown theatrically, now with black pillar bars on the sides of a widescreen display. This movie was shot on 35mm film using a spherical cinematography process, according to the information listed on IMDb. Note: I’ll be using some screenshots here from the Blu-ray as an example of some issues with the video quality below, so if you see a bold word with a link in this section, click on it and it will take you to a screenshot specific to my talking point.
This comes to Blu-ray here in a very rough transfer from the original film elements. There’s a lot of scratches, dirt, spots, hairs, and vertical lines, and even at least one cigarette burn I spotted here. It does, however, come with a decent amount of film grain that has been left intact and a nice amount of detail for the most part. Admittedly there are some softer scenes or such but that was common for this time period and film genre. Close-ups really can offer up some detail here, despite there being the constant amount of visual imperfections left on the film print here in the video transfer.
For a 1944 film, “Phantom Lady” can look actually look decent for the most part and honestly comes across as fitting in ways for the type of movie it is. Still, it’s visually rough as all hell and some may argue that this could have used a better scan, clean up efforts or even a complete restoration. For now, this is a solid enough HD presentation that will likely be enough to somewhat please those who want to own the movie in higher resolution than the previous (2013) released DVD available.
Video Quality Rating: 4 (out of 5)
Audio here is presented LPCM 1.0 Mono. It makes sense to go with straight up mono here and as lossless as you can (Uncompressed Linear PCM), considering this was originally released in Mono and comes from a Westrex Electric Recording source, according to IMDb. Much like the video transfer, they haven’t really done a whole lot of work cleaning up the audio presentation here as it does come with a considerable amount of hiss, pops, and such. That is to be expected for a 1944 film-noir that didn’t receive any restorative efforts, let’s face it. For what it is, it works and it delivers the film’s crucial dialogue, sound effects and for the music. It’s not the most impressive lossless mono mix for a 1940s film I’ve ever heard, but it still manages to get the job done none-the-less.
Audio Quality Rating: 3.75 (out of 5)
Bonus materials here are presented in both high definition (HD) and standard definition (SD) video with uncompressed Linear PCM 2.0 Stereo (or Mono) sound.
- “Dark and Deadly: 50 Years of Film Noir“ (52:18 – HD) is an archival documentary that includes interviews with Robert Wise (Director), Dennis Hopper (Director), Edward Dymtryk (Director), Bryan Singer (Director), and others. This proves to be informative about the film noir (or rather film-noir) genre and is worth the watch.
- “Phantom Lady by the Lux Theatre” (59:33 – SD) is a rare hour-long radio dramatization from 1944 that featured the film’s primary lead actors Alan Curtis and Ella Raines. This was presented by Cecil B. DeMille.
- Image Gallery (HD) includes a total of 30 images that consist of lobby cards, posters, costume sketches, and stills from the film. You navigate through these images by using the chapter forward >>| (and backward) buttons on your remote control.
- Reversible sleeve featuring two original artwork options
- FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by author Alan K. Rode.
Overall the bonus materials here prove to be lengthy, almost 2 hours in total, and you also get some physical extras in the first pressing via the collector’s booklet.
Bonus Materials Rating: 3.75 (out of 5)
“Phantom Lady” was a good film-noir genre piece of work, that came with some very memorable performances from Alan Curtis, Franchot Tone, and especially Ella Raines. This film proves to be one of the most notable works by director Robert Siodmak. It’s a film that by today’s standards really wouldn’t work so much with modern technology but for its time period, it was a movie that left audiences somewhat captivated.
The video quality here is rough but it still manages to offer up enough detail to make it somewhat a solid presentation in ways in terms of HD and is an improvement over the standard definition version previously available. In terms of audio, it gets a little bit rougher around the edges than visually, but it (as said) gets the job done. The extras included here prove to be very worthwhile if you’re a fan of the film-noir genre, and it’s also nice to see the radio play in its entirety included here.
In terms of Blu-ray release, this gets:
4 (out of 5) for video quality
3.75 (out of 5) for audio quality
3.75 (out of 5) for bonus materials