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The Black Panther [UK] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (23.976Hz)
  • Audio Codec: English LPCM 2.0 Mono (48kHz/24-bit), French LPCM 2.0 Mono (48kHz/24-bit)
  • Subtitles: English, English HOH
  • Subtitles Color: White
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Certification: 18
  • Discs: 2 (1 x Blu-ray + 1 x DVD)
  • Run time: 98 Mins.
  • Studio: BFI
  • Blu-ray Release Date: May 28, 2012
  • RRP: £19.99

Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:3.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(All TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:3.5/5]

The 1977 film, The Black Panther, from director Ian Merrick, caused a storm of controversy when it was released in the U.K. Based on the true story of serial killer and eventual kidnapper Donald Neilson, the film was released only months ofter Neilson, nicknamed “The Black Panther” by the press, was convicted and sentenced to a term of five consecutive life sentences in prison.

Rather than going the sensationalist route, however, Merrick opted for a strictly factual thriller using only court transcripts and facts that could be directly verified. The resulting film is one that is acutely chilling in its portrayal of the coldhearted yet bumbling Neilson, played here with aplomb by Donald Sumpter (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)). Neilson, a strict and meticulous ex-military man would plot out his crimes endlessly, yet they never seemed to go well. Escalating from house break-ins to armed robberies, we see Neilson getting away with chump change, killing his victims needlessly, and even spritzing himself in the face with his ammonia spray. Finally, Neilson would kidnap a 17-year-old heiress, which would end in grievous circumstances.

For all the controversy over this film and Neilson at the time, it seems time has relegated him to the trash heap of history, where he belongs. Neilson died in prison in 2011, with no more than a few short mentions buried deep in the newspapers. History, it seems, will look more kindly on this gripping, almost silent telling of the atrocities he committed and the people he victimized.

Video Quality

[Rating:3.5/5]

‘The Black Panther was remastered to High Definition under the supervision of director Ian Merrick. Originally shot “open gate” (full frame), the feature is presented here in its intended aspect ratio of 1.85:1. This new master was created on a Spirit telecine using the original 35mm colour reversal internegative (CRI) element provided…by the director. Instances of dirt, scratches, and “sparkle” were removed using the Phoenix Refine restoration system.’

While the overall image for The Black Panther does look impressively film-like and certainly is devoid of any excessive or obvious electronic manipulations, it is heavily grained, particularly in the plentiful dark scenes. This would not have been as distracting were it not for the additional issue with wavering of the blacks and gamma issues as well, where some areas of the source seem rather pale forming an almost frame around the inner image and a lighter bar down the right side of the screen. This is the second time I have seen this in a transfer, the first being in The Last Temptation of Christ from Criterion Collection. Otherwise, The Black Panther is enjoyable viewing, with a typically 1970s, desaturated look that somehow works to the advantage of this story.

Audio Quality

[Rating:3.5/5]

The original English soundtrack is offered in LPCM 2.0 mono (48kHz/24-bit) with a French dub also being provided in LPCM 2.0 mono (48kHz/24-bit). It is relatively clean with little crackle, but typical to the era and the material, there isn’t much going on here, especially since this film has little in the way of dialogue.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:3/5]

Bob Bentley’s film Recluse, about the infamous Luxton family murder/suicide case accompanies The Black Panther on disc, while the booklet offers up in-depth essays on both the film and the original controversy that swirled around it. It’s well worth sifting through.

The supplements:

  • Recluse (1979; 1.66:1; 1080p/24; 00:22:33) – The 1979 Bob Bentley film based on the true and infamous story of the murder/suicide of the three Luxton siblings.
  • Recluse: Recce Footage – with commentary (1978; 1.33:1; 1080p/24; 00:07:31) – Recently discovered 16mm location scouting footage for Recluse.
  • Original 1980s Video Release Trailer for The Black Panther (DVD Only)
  • Booklet: Illustrated booklet  with newly commissioned essays and contributions from Ian Merrick, Michael Armstrong, Bob Bentley, and James Oliver; original promotional artwork and full credits.
  • DVD

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:3.5/5]

The controversial 1970s crime/thriller and docudrama The Black Panther hits Blu-ray and DVD in this Dual Format edition from the BFI who continue their tradition of resurrecting long-forgotten cinematic gems and presenting them in the best way possible. Too bad, in this case, it also means reminding everyone about the low life the film is about.

Additional Screen Captures

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Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.co.uk

[amazon-product region=”uk” tracking_id=”bluraydefinit-21″]B007A0QTQC[/amazon-product]

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.co.uk

Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:3.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3/5]

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