- Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080p/24
- Audio Codec: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
- Region: A (Region-Locked)
- Rating: R
- Discs: 1
- Studio: Magnolia Home Entertainment
- Blu-ray Release Date: May 10, 2011
- List Price: $29.98
Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures
(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)
From Magnolia’s Magnet label comes this film from the cult director Christopher Smith (Creep; Severance; Triangle). A violent, somber piece of historical action-horror, Black Death is made of the stuff that haunts our dreams and is passed down as legend through children’s stories, as fairytales. It is taken from one of the darkest periods of European history. Set in the 14th century just as the plague has begun to ravage England, it tells of a novice monk, Osmund (Eddie Redmayne; The Other Boleyn Girl), torn between his faith in God and his love for a girl he grew up with. Falling to his knees and praying for a sign, he thinks that sign has arrived when a group of knights arrives at his humble monastery, led by the imposing Ulric (Sean Bean; TV’s Game of Thrones; The Lord of the Rings trilogy). On a mission from the Bishop to seek out a town rumoured to be immune to the plague, thought to be a punishment from God for man’s sins, Ulric and his men would need a guide, and Osmund, seeking a way out of the monastery to meet with his beloved, would be it.
Once beyond the sanctuary walls and amongst the uncouth warriors, Osmund would soon find that this was no ordinary mission, it would be a mission to find a supposed necromancer, a person who can raise the dead, in this mysterious village and bring them back to the Bishop for punishment before God. The longer their journey continues, the darker and eerier the world around them becomes, people becoming more like savages and witchcraft, becoming an ever more possible reality.
Smith does a fine job capturing the muck, mysticism, and superstition of medieval Europe through his well-paced interpretation of Dario Poloni’s screenplay aided by the atmospheric cinematography of Sebastian Edschmid. Black Death is a grim, fantastical tale weighted in reality. If there is one weakness, it is that its ending is rushed far too much, summed up in five-minutes in what could have been given another thirty. If this was perhaps another big budget Hollywood production, it would have been granted that, but, alas, it was not.
Gritty, grainy, and muted, Black Death doesn’t at once jump out at you as a great looking film, but that is not to say that this AVC transfer from Magnolia looks bad, not at all. Black Death looks textured and film-like with little in the way of any undesirable artifacts. Black levels waver just a bit as do grain levels, but it’s a strong showing nonetheless.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is a powerful one from the very beginning, offering deep low frequencies and active surround channels filled with atmospherics and discrete sounds that engulf listeners in a fully-enclosed soundscape. There is a lot of motion through the channels, clean dialogue, and a wide dynamic range.
The extras offer a hefty amount of interviews as well as the usual Magnolia glimpses of behind the scenes footage and a brief “making of” that is more a self-congratulatory pat on the back by the cast and crew than anything else.
The supplements provided with this release are:
- Deleted Scenes (2.40:1; 480i/60):
- Our Plan
- Interviews with Cast and Crew:
- Christopher Smith (Director)
- Phil Robertson (Producer)
- Jens Meurer (Producer)
- Sean Bean (“Ulric”)
- Carice Van Houten (“Langiva”)
- Eddie Redmayne (“Osmund”)
- Kimberley Nixon (“Averill”)
- Emun Elliot (“Swire”)
- Andy Nyman (“Dalyswag”)
- John Lynch (“Wolfstan”)
- Johnny Harris (“Mold”)
- Tim McInnerny (“Hob”)
- Behind the Scenes Footage (1.78:1; 480i/60; 0:10.42)
- HDNet: A Look at Black Death (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 0:03.51)
- Theatrical Trailer (2.40:1; 1080p/24; Dolby Digital 5.1)
- Digital Copy – Standard definition digital copy for transfer to Mac/PC or iTunes/Windows Media compatible devices can be accessed and downloaded through Magnolia’s website via a special code included in the package.
The Definitive Word
Black Death is an intense film. It’s gritty, horrific, filled with action and great actors perfectly cast. What more can someone ask for? It may have its weaknesses, but this bit of historical fiction will have you singing “Ring Around the Rosie” and praying for more. Recommended.
Additional Screen Captures