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The Murderer Lives at 21 [Masters of Cinema] [UK] Blu-ray Review

murderer-lives-at-21-moc-uk-blu-ray-coverUnited-Kingdom-Flag-Orb-Icon-32px

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (24Hz)
  • Audio Codec: French LPCM 2.0 Mono (48kHz/16-bit)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Subtitles Color: White
  • Region: B (Region-Locked)
  • Certificate: 12
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
  • Digital Copies: N/A
  • Run Time: 84 Mins.
  • Studio: Eureka Entertainment
  • Blu-ray Release Date: May 20, 2013
  • List Price: £19.99

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:2.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(The below TheaterByte screen captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray Discs and losslessly compressed in the PNG format. There should be no loss of picture quality with this format. All screen captures should be regarded only as an approximation of the full capabilities of the Blu-ray format.

 

The Film

[Rating:4/5]

Murderer-Lives-at-21-MOC-BD_01

French filmmaker Henri-Georges Clouzot (Diabolique), often referred to as the “French Alfred Hitchcock”, made his feature-length film debut with this 1942 murder mystery filmed under Nazi occupation. An adaptation of Stanislas-André Steeman’s novel, The Murderer Lives at 21 (L’assassin habite… au 21) is a set piece not unfamiliar to U.S. audiences familiar with the mystery genre —  a gathering of suspects in one location, one of them definitely the killer, but who could it be? The evidence points to any number of them, but, it also points away from all of them.

The story follows the wily Parisian Inspector Wens (Pierre Fresnay; La grande illusion) and his ambitious showgirl girlfriend Mila Malou (Suzy Delair) as they go on the hunt for a serial killer calling himself Mr. Durand. Their attentions turn to a seedy boarding house occupied by a motley group of characters including a magician, an old war veteran, a blind former boxer and his sexy nurse, and a man who can whistle various sound effects. Initially going undercover as a boarder and a pastor, the pair eventually end up dragging all the suspects in for questioning, but the murders perplexingly continue, until complex conspiracy is uncovered.

Clouzot’s debut has an off-kilter sense of humour about it and, surprisingly for the era, lots of subversive sexual innuendos. While the resolution of the murder mystery (not to give anything away) is far from satisfactory, feeling more like a cheat than a clever way to solve a case, the film’s atmosphere, visual thrills, and relaxed dialogue are undeniable. Clouzot already shows glimpses of his mastery of the genre here and L’assassin habite… au 21 is a clever mixture of mystery, comedy, and film noir.

Video Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

Murderer-Lives-at-21-MOC-BD_02

This AVC/MPEG-4 1080p encodement from the Masters of Cinema series isn’t flawless, but for a film from 1942 shot under the Nazi occupation, it looks damn good in this Blu-ray release. The original master has obviously been cleaned up nicely, but still retains a film-like appearance, with good textural information and fine grain structure layered over the image. Contrast is good, and black levels, though hardly inky, are stable throughout, and also produce nicely extended shadow details.

Audio Quality

[Rating:2.5/5]

Murderer-Lives-at-21-MOC-BD_03

Unfortunately, there is probably no amount of massaging that could rescue the soundtrack for L’assassin habite… au 21, which is one of the scratchier, boxier-sounding monaural tracks I’ve heard in a while. It arrives on Blu-ray in a French LPCM 2.0 track from Masters of Cinema. It does present clear dialogue, but that’s about all we get with this one.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:3/5]

Murderer-Lives-at-21-MOC-BD_04

On-disc supplements are very limited for this release, but it does include a video featurette from the always well informed Ginette Vincedeau giving a video essay on the film. The usually informative booklet from Masters of Cinema is also a must-read for further understanding on the film and its director.

The supplements:

  • Ginette Vincendeau (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:13:18)
  • Booklet: An extract from Judith Mayne’s 2007 book Le Corbeau (I.B. Tauris, ISBN: 1845113705) about Henri-Georges Clouzot’s 1943 film of the same name [aka The Raven], which Clouzot shot following L’Assassin habite au 21; An extract from Christopher Lloyd’s 2007 book Henri- Georges Clouzot (Manchester University Press, ISBN: 0719070147); A collation of quotes taken from interviews with Henri- Georges Clouzot, Stanislas-André Steeman, and Suzy Delair, conducted between 1953 and 1999; Blu-ray Credits, Cast and Crew Credits, and notes on viewing.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

Murderer-Lives-at-21-MOC-BD_05

A superbly acted mixture of light comedy, film noir, and murder mystery with a hint of subversiveness under a Nazi occupied France, L’assassin habite… au 21 marks a brilliant debut from the legendary Henri-Georges Clouzot. Gathered here in a breathtaking new restoration on Blu-ray Disc with excellent booklet and video essay, this is one that I recommend be scooped up by cinephiles pronto.

Additional Screen Captures

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Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:2.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3/5]

 

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