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Pitfall

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    Mark Tolch
    Senior Member

  • Pitfall



    Released By: Kino Lorber
    Released On: November 17, 2015
    Director: Andre De Toth
    Cast: Dick Powell, Lizabeth Scott, Raymond Burr, Jane Wyatt, John Litel
    Year: 1948

    The Movie:

    John Forbes is a man displeased with his path in life. While his younger self dreamed of building a boat and sailing around the world, the truth is that he's settled into routine as he thought he never imagined he would, with a wife, a son, a house in the suburbs, couples bridge games every Tuesday, and a 9-5 suit and tie job at Olympic Mutual Insurance. John is one of those typical guys who has his eye on the greener grass across the pasture, ignoring how blessed he actually is; his wife and son adore him, he has a roof over his head and enough income to live freely, and his job does provide the occasional burst of excitement, like hunting down the ill-gotten gains of embezzlement cases.

    As a matter of fact, the most recent development in his line of work is the result of embezzler Bill Smiley, recently incarcerated for stealing a large amount of cash that Olympic Mutual has had to pony up for, and it's up to Forbes to track down the purchases that Smiley made with the loot. When MacDonald, the private investigator he usually hires for such tasks (played by Raymond Burr) comes up short on his findings, Forbes pays a visit to Mona Stevens, Smiley's beautiful model girlfriend to see what he can see. After some unusual small talk, Mona offers to relieve Forbes' unsolicited tale of boredom and dissatisfaction by offering him a spin in her new motorboat, which he eagerly takes her up on. Taken by her beauty, Forbes breaks his routine for the first time in years, blowing dinner off with his family to take Mona for a drink.

    Unfortunately for Forbes, the large and somewhat threatening MacDonald has become smitten with Ms. Stevens, and isn't too impressed when he finds out that Forbes has spent so much time with her. Even more unfortunate is that Mac has figured out that Mona's boat falls under the category of "ill-gotten gains" from Smiley's misadventures, and has decided that he's going to use that as leverage to weasel further into her life. Forbes decides to get the news to her first, and in a moment of weakness, submits to his weaker physical desires. He's about to learn that his wife finding out about his infidelity may be the least of his worries, though...with a furiously jealous private investigator and a violent convict in the mix, Forbes' actions may be fatal.

    Though the film has remained relatively unknown for a number of years, especially when compared to more famous "noirs", Pitfall is a gem of a movie with a whole lot to love about it. Andre De Toth does wonders with a minimalist style here, telling the story in as few moves as possible, and somehow managing to convey the most possible information in just about every frame. The look of the film is practically perfect, and owes a lot to the cinematography of Harry Wild. Though some of the rear-projection sequences stand out as more noticeable in the high definition environment, the aesthetic of the film is wonderful, giving the actors the space to work their craft.

    So...onto the actors. First off, as unpopular as this opinion may be, the weak link here is Dick Powell, who functions well only in conjunction with his co-stars. Powell got his start as a singer (not that there's anything wrong with that) and his status in Regal Films may have had something to do with his casting as lead; speculation, of course, but he doesn't do anything stupendous, here. Lizabeth Scott, however, is marvelous, not only looking fantastic but also jumping across a wide array of emotions effortlessly, and she is the one that makes the scenes with Powell believable. The real star here, though, is Raymond Burr, who is absolutely menacing, a characteristic that most viewers would later associate him with through Hitchcock's Rear Window. Sadly, his screen time is far too limited. The rest of the cast play relatively minor parts, but solid performances help fill the film out nicely. Despite an ending that comes off as just a little too neat, Pitfall is quite a nifty piece of work that manages to provide a noir fix without being definitive of the genre.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    With a transfer provided courtesy of a 35mm dupe negative from the UCLA Film and Television Archive, Kino brings Pitfall to blu-ray in an AVC-encoded 1.33:1 presentation. The picture is, for the most part, relatively stable and sharp-looking, but it does suffer here and there from some obvious damage and dirt. Still, for a film that's getting on to seventy years old, it looks fantastic with nothing too detrimental going on.

    The DTS HD Master Audio 2.0 track falls into the same category as the video, with some hiss, crackles, and pops evident throughout, but the dialogue and score remain nicely balanced and there's no muffling or compression happening. It's definitely more than adequate for the presentation, and the flaws don't take away from the enjoyment of the film.

    A commentary is included with Film Historian Eddie Muller, the "Czar of Noir" who covers every angle imaginable about the film, it's cast, and crew. Muller has a whole lot to say, and there are very few gaps in the conversation.

    Two Trailers are also included; He Ran All The Way and Bullet For Joey.

    No subtitles or captions are included on this disc.

    The Final Word:

    Regarded by some as an orphaned film, Pitfall gets a pretty swell release from Kino Lorber, and it's a mighty nice film as well.


    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!






















    • Mark Tolch
      #2
      Mark Tolch
      Senior Member
      Mark Tolch commented
      Editing a comment
      Originally posted by Andrew Monroe
      Very nice review, Mark. I totally disagree about Dick Powell though. I find him completely believable as a guy who's become unhappy and dissatisfied with his life. I think Powell brought a depth to his noir roles that gives his characters a complexity not always found in others. Much as I love Bogey, Powell is by far my favorite Philip Marlowe. Anyway, to each his own (even though you're dead wrong, haha). Love Love LOVE Eddie Muller's commentary here, he's aces at these and one of the few I take time for these days. PITFALL is one of my top BDs of the year for sure. Seasons Grievings you big lug!
      Haha, it's a Christmas SLAY for you, Andrew!

      I know I'm in the minority on Powell, lots of people like him. His chemistry with Lizabeth was just not there for me. Anyway, great flick, and Raymond Burr, sheeit. That guy is so amazing. Funny when I was growing up, it was just Perry Mason, Perry Mason, Perry Mason. I had no idea he was so intimidating, until I saw Rear Window...and now Pitfall. Fantastic screen presence.

    • Andrew Monroe
      #3
      Andrew Monroe
      Pallid Hands
      Andrew Monroe commented
      Editing a comment
      Originally posted by Mark Tolch
      Anyway, great flick, and Raymond Burr, sheeit. That guy is so amazing. Funny when I was growing up, it was just Perry Mason, Perry Mason, Perry Mason. I had no idea he was so intimidating, until I saw Rear Window...and now Pitfall. Fantastic screen presence.
      Yeah, Burr was a truly intimidating noir heavy. He's probably only remembered for PERRY MASON and IRONSIDE now but he really did his best work in those noir films. Genuinely creepy and intense!

    • Randy G
      #4
      Randy G
      Senior Member
      Randy G commented
      Editing a comment
      A very good noir and Powell and Mason are both terrific.
    Posting comments is disabled.

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